Monday, July 31, 2006

J. League Results 29 July 2007

Kawasaki Frontale remain in top spot in the J.League after a 1-1 draw away to Oita Trinita. Nearest challengers Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka also drew. Gamba threw away a 2-0 lead at home to Avispa and Reds were held to a 1-1 stalemate away to Kofu. Cerezo Osaka are now 5 points adrift at the foot of the table after conceding two goals in the last five minutes to Kashima Antlers.

Saturday 29 July

Kashima Antlers 2 Cerezo Osaka 0
FC Tokyo 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2
Ardija Omiya 1 Kyoto Purple Sanga 0
Ventforet Kofu 1 Urawa Reds 1
Gamba Osaka 2 Avispa Fukuoka 2
Oita Trinita 1 Kawasaki Frontale 1
Shimizu S-Pulse 2 Jubilo Iwata 0

Sunday 30 July

Yokohama F Marinos 2 Albirex Niigata 0
Nagoya Gampus Eight 3 JEF United 2

Leading Positions

Frontale P16 Pts 34
Reds P16 33
Gamba P16 33
Antlers P16 Pts 31

J.League News

Tag

Friday, July 28, 2006

Philipp Lahm Profile

Philipp Lahm - Full Back From The Wildest Dreams

Lijevi bek iz najluđih snova

Philipp Lahm je jedan od samo dvojice Bayernovih igrača rođenih u Munchenu. Dapače, ponikao je u Bayernovom podmlatku, no budući da je Bixente Lizarazu bio standardni lijevi bek u seniorskoj momčadi, Lahm je posuđen Stuttgartu sa senzacionalnim rezultatom. Tijekom dvogodišnje posudbe zaradio je mjesto u reprezentaciji, debitiravši protiv Hrvatske u Splitu početkom 2004.

- "Ni ja nisam sanjao da će se ovo dogoditi", ushićeno je rekao. Na Europskom prvenstvu 2004. odigrao je sve tri njemačke utakmice.

U kratkoj je karijeri pretrpio nekoliko udaraca, od kojih su najteži bili prijelom potkoljenice u siječnju 2005. i puknuće ligamenata u svibnju iste godine. Unatoč ovim ozljedama, Bayern ga je prošlog ljeta vratio, a Lahm je radio punom parom da se vrati u formu.

Njegov je trener Felix Magath, s kojim je radio i u Stuttgartu, ostao iznenađen kad je mladić lakoćom prolazio i kroz najzahtjevnije treninge. Napokon je u prosincu prvi puta nastupio za seniore Bayerna u bundesligaškoj utakmici.

Dobar za oba boka

Lahm je jak na obje noge, no desna mu je malo jača. Među juniorima je igrao na desnom beku, no danas ga gotovo isključivo koriste na lijevom boku. Po tome je sličan Gianluci Zambrotti, koji također igra na "kontra strani". To mu omogućuje da s lijevog krila prodire prema središtu i dolazi u poziciju za udarac desnom nogom. Na taj je način postigao vodeći gol Njemačke na Svjetskom prvenstvu na prvoj utakmici protiv Kostarike.

Na toj je utakmici dao primjer izvanredne igre u oba smjera, zasluživši naziv najboljeg igrača susreta, što je ponovio i u dramatičnoj utakmici koju je Njemačka dobila protiv Poljske s 1:0. Ubacio je niz korisnih lopti u kazneni prostor, a jedno od njegovih nabacivanja Miroslav Klose zahvatio je glavom i pogodio gredu. Zamalo je osobno zabio pobjednički pogodak kad je prodro u kazneni prostor između dvojice braniča i pucao, no njegov je udarac krajnjim naporom obranio Artur Boruc. Ni u idućim utakmicama Lahm praktično nije napravio pogrešku, nikad ne ispadajući iz taktičke sheme unatoč čestom pridodavanju napadu, a impresivnu je partiju prikazao i u uzbudljivom polufinalu protiv Italije (0:2).


Osobna karta

Ime i prezime: Philipp Lahm
Nadimak: Lahmy
Datum rođenja: 11. studenog 1983.
Mjesto rođenja: München
Visina i težina: 172 cm, 63 kg
Pozicija: lijevi bek
Klub: Bayern
Broj dresa: 21

Klupska karijera:
2001-03 Bayern
2003/04 Stuttgart 31 1
2004/05 Stuttgart 22 1
2005/06 Bayern 20 0

Reprezentacija:
2004-06 Njemačka 24 2

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Thin Blue Swine...An Antepost Special

I’m no stranger to police attention. I was once driving along with the wife when the old bill pulled me over. The copper asked me if I’d been drinking.
“Not a drop” I replied, “Was I speeding?”
“No Sir, it’s the state of the bint in the passenger seat that aroused my suspicion.”

My run in with the Old Bill pigeon-holes me alongside young Wayne Rooney. The Scouse nutcase had his possessions lifted from his parent’s house recently; imagine that, a robbery in Liverpool. If anyone offers you a half-eaten Big Mac wrapped in losing betting slips, you should contact the filth immediately.

For Rooney, it’s been a summer to forget. The big lad’s temperament was called in to question at the World Cup, when after a couple of niggling challenges from the opposition players, Rooney decided to jump on Ricardo Carvalho’s testicles like they were a couple of hairy chicken nuggets.

Ricky ‘The Soprano’ Carvalho will have a thirst for vengeance as a result of his severe case of the ‘numb plum’ at the hands of the Roonatic. They say that revenge is a dish best served with two veg, depriving Wayne Rooney of a champion’s medal will be a little payback. Chelsea are 1/2 to retain their title; that’s a plum betting opportunity.

Luckily, there is a betting without Chelsea market, and I’m favouring Arsenal to pip Man U to the runners-up spot. It looks like Real Madrid have failed in their attempt to lure Fabregas from the Emirates (paying for Cesc is quite an appealing prospect), while United are set to lose Ronnie and the Ruud boy. 2/1 about the Gunners in a two horse race seems more than fair.

Ricardo Carvalho is not the first man to end up with an angry pair of plums, Neville Neville set the trend 30 years ago. Phil Neville’s Everton teammates look a decent bet at 14/1 to come out on top in the betting ‘without the big 4’.

One of the results of Chelsea’s ‘buy every good player in the world’ policy, is that the relegation battle has evolved into a ‘dolphin’ market; it’s more interesting than the title race for betting porpoises. Wigan performed miracles last season, but they’ve lost Chimbonda and bought Heskey, which is like swapping a Porsche for a wheelbarrow. Take 4/1 about Wigan dropping a division.

Paul Jewell managed to keep Bradford in the Premier League for a season a few years ago; before being relegated the following term, finishing rock bottom. Jewell may be a real character, but so is Homer Simpson, and you wouldn’t want him in charge of your football team. (Unless it was a straight choice between Simpson and Souness, then you’d have to seriously reconsider your position.) Wigan are worth a small nibble at 20/1 to finish bottom of the heap.

Thierry Henry believes that his appearance in the Champions League and World Cup finals prove that he is a winner, although technically, that makes him a double loser. It’s rare for an 11/4 shot to represent value in a 120 runner race, but you can’t look beyond the great man for the Golden Boot. Henry has topped the charts in four of the last five campaigns (he narrowly lost out to Van the man by a single goal four seasons ago); only a serious injury to the world’s greatest player will prevent you from collecting.

The following guide covers everything you need to know for the upcoming Premiership season, and in all likelihood, plenty more that you didn’t.

Arsenal

Winners 8/1
Relegation 1,500/1
Where they’ll finish – 2nd

Coming second is rarely enjoyable, but will represent a successful season for the Gunners.

Season Special – Arsenal to finish above Liverpool 10/11

Aston Villa

Winners 1,000/1
Relegation 5/1
Where they’ll finish – 12th

The Villa squad is one of the smallest in the Premiership, and as my wife always says, you can’t compose a symphony with a small organ. They could do with a billionaire to take over, I’m feeling Randy.
Season Special – Aston Villa to finish 15th or higher 4/7

Blackburn

Winners 350/1
Relegation 25/1
Where they’ll finish – 9th

Robbie Savage is on his way to Europe. God help those poor continentals.

Season Special – Blackburn to finish 7th or lower 4/11


Bolton

Winners 500/1
Relegation 22/1
Where they’ll finish – 7th

While England are lumbered with Steve McClaren, Bolton get to keep hold of the miracle man Sam Allardyce. The best result of the summer.

Season Special – Bolton to finish above Blackburn 6/5

Charlton

Winners 2,000/1
Relegation 3/1
Where they’ll finish – 17th

Darren Bent misses the start of the season as he hasn’t mastered the art of sandwich making. They’ll miss the Curb.

Season Special – Darren Bent to be Charlton’s top scorer Evs

Chelsea

Winners 1/2
Relegation 10,000/1
Where they’ll finish – 1st

The Lamp failed to shine in Germany, but always burns brightly in the Premiership. Ballack and Shevchenko can both play, Paddy Power will probably pay out at the end of August.

Season Special – Shevchenko to score 17 league goals or fewer 5/6

Everton

Winners 500/1
Relegation 16/1
Where they’ll finish – 5th

Andy Johnson is a quality striker, Tim Cahill is a quality midfielder and Phil Neville is a defender. I like their chances.
Season Special – Everton to win ‘without the big 4’ 14/1


Fulham

Winners 1,500/1
Relegation 5/1
Where they’ll finish – 16th

The antics of Jimmy Bullard should entertain the Cottagers. Somewhere, there’s a psychiatric unit missing a patient.

Season Special – Fulham to finish above Wigan 10/11

Liverpool

Winners 17/2
Relegation 1,500/1
Where they’ll finish – 4th

I read that Craig Bellamy remains polemical, I’m not bilingual, I assume polemical is Welsh for a tool.

Season Special – Gerrard to score more league goals than Bellamy 7/4

Man City

Winners 750/1
Relegation 9/1
Where they’ll finish – 15th

City have signed Hamann from Liverpool via Bolton in the strangest transfer tale since David Unsworth’s wife told him he couldn’t stay in the Midlands. It won’t help.

Season Special – Samaras to score more league goals than Vassell 8/11

Man United

Winners 8/1
Relegation 2,500/1
Where they’ll finish – 3rd

Fergie may end up needing a taxi out of Old Trafford by the end of the season. He should have kept his Van.

Season Special – Man U to earn 75 league points or less 11/8

Middlesbrough

Winners 500/1
Relegation 16/1
Where they’ll finish – 10th

Even a novice manager such as Gareth ‘paint-dryingly dull’ Southgate inspires more confidence than Steve ‘what’s he ever done’ McClaren; they’ll improve on last year.

Season Special – Boro to finish above Newcastle 6/4

Newcastle

Winners 175/1
Relegation 40/1
Where they’ll finish – 11th

Roeder was given the job although he lacks the necessary coaching qualifications. Luckily, Duff-man will prevent a relegation battle. Oh yeah.

Season Special – Duff to be Newcastle’s top scorer 8/1

Portsmouth

Winners 1,000/1
Relegation 8/1
Where they’ll finish – 13th

Harry Redknapp is no stranger to a little punt, if he backs Pompey to stay up he’ll have landed another touch.

Season Special – Pompey to stay up 1/7

Reading

Winners 2,500/1
Relegation 6/4
Where they’ll finish – 14th

Steve Coppell once walked out of Manchester after 33 days, what took him so long? Reading can be last season’s Wigan.

Season Special – Reading to finish above Sheff Utd and Watford 5/4

Sheffield United

Winners 5,000/1
Relegation 4/6
Where they’ll finish – 18th

Neil Warnock will be an exciting addition to the Premiership, there’s a severe shortage of managers who want to break opponent’s legs.

Season Special – Sheff U to finish 18th 7/2

Tottenham

Winners 80/1
Relegation 200/1
Where they’ll finish – 6th
In Defoe and Berbatov, they have a pair of quality strikers. I like a nice pair.

Season Special – Tottenham to finish 6th or lower 8/11

Watford

Winners 5,000/1
Relegation 4/7
Where they’ll finish – 19th

Watford are like Big Brother’s Imogen, they’re not very attractive, they may go down at Christmas.

Season Special – Watford to finish in the bottom two Evs

West Ham

Winners 750/1
Relegation 9/1
Where they’ll finish – 8th

Lee Bowyer should be a good signing; now that’s what I call an attacking midfielder.

Season Special – Dean Ashton to be the top English goal scorer 20/1

Wigan

Winners 1,500/1
Relegation 4/1
Where they’ll finish – 20th

Bought Heskey to score goals, I’ll predict three.

Season Special – Wigan to finish bottom of the league 20/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com


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Gianluca Zambrotta

Lijevo ili desno? Svejedno!

Zambrottina sposobnost igranja na raznim pozicijama na oba boka doprinosi velikoj fleksibilnosti talijanske igre.

Svestrani talijanski bočni igrač profesionalnu je karijeru počeo 1994. u klubu iz rodnog grada, Como Calciom. Como je iduće godine ispao u treću ligu, no Zambrottino su napredovanje pratili šefovi velikih klubova. Na poziv trenera Eugenija Fascettija, Zambrotta je 1997. prešao u Bari baš kad je južnjački klub ušao u prvu ligu. U Bariju je igrao u ofanzivnijoj roli, na lijevom krilu, kao i u mladoj reprezentaciji.

U proljeće 1999. već je stekao mjesto u seniorskoj reprezentaciji, pod vodstvom Dina Zoffa, kao prvi igrač Barija nakon 50 godina. Dugo prije kraja sezone Juventus ga je otkupio za 15,9 milijuna eura, kao dugotrajno rješenje za bilo koji bok.

S Juventusom, Zambrotta je znao samo za uspjehe, osvajajući isključivo prva ili druga mjesta, no nažalost ti su se trofeji pokazali umrljanim zbog nedavno otkrivenih Juventusovih igara sa sucima.

Iduće je godine Zambrotta igrao naizmjence u seniorskoj i u mladoj reprezentaciji, no za Euro 2000. definitivno je prebačen među najbolje. Na Euru u Belgiji i Nizozemskoj odigrao je četiri od prvih pet utakmica, no u polufinalu protiv Nizozemske bio je isključen zbog dva žuta kartona pa nije nastupio u finalu protiv Francuske. To je finale završilo čuvenim preokretom, jer su Francuzi izjednačili na 1:1 u 90. minuti te potom dohvatili trofej zlatnim golom Davida Trezegueta u 97. minuti.

Pod Lippijem "kao kod kuće"

Novi je izbornik Giovanni Trapattoni zadržao Zambrottu u prvotimcima i poveo ga na Mundial u Japanu i Koreji, no teško je ozlijedio butni mišić na susretu osmine finala protiv Koreje i propustio početak sezone 2002/03. U to je vrijeme u Juventus stigao Mauro Camoranesi, kojeg je Marcello Lippi postavio na desni bok, pa je Zambrotta nakon oporavka prebačen na lijevu stranu. I na tom je mjestu zaigrao odlično te je kao prvotimac dočekao osvajanje drugog uzastopnog Scudetta i nastup u finalu Lige prvaka, u kojemu je Juve poražen od Milana na jedanaesterce.

Nakon povlačenja Paola Maldinija iz reprezentacije, Zambrotta je preuzeo mjesto lijevog braniča u reprezentaciji te je u pripremnoj utakmici za Euro'2004. protiv Tunisa zabio prvi reprezentativni pogodak.
Italija je potom u Portugalu ispala u prvoj rundi, zbog lošije razlike pogodaka u odnosu na Švedsku i Dansku, no Zambrottina je izvedba dobila samo pohvale.

Nakon Eura počela je Lippijeva era u reprezentaciji, a Zambrotta je kod svog bivšeg klupskog trenera zadržao mjesto u reprezentaciji, ali na desnom boku. U kvalifikacijama za njemački Mundial odigrao je osam od deset utakmica i lako osigurao poziv na Svjetsko prvenstvo.

Strah je u talijanskom taboru zavladao na treningu u Covercianu krajem svibnja, kad je Zambrotta zaradio ozljedu lijevog bedra, no oporavio se za susret protiv SAD-a u grupnoj fazi, zaigravši na lijevom boku. Za dvoboj s Češkom, Lippi je nalijevo uveo Grossa, a Zambrottu vratio udesno, sa zadovoljavajućim rezultatima.

Neporažena je Italija osvojila prvo mjesto u grupi i potom bez primljena gola preskočila Australiju, Ukrajinu i Njemačku na putu do finala, a Zambrotta je dobre igre začinio svojim tek drugim golom za Azzurre u 6. minuti dvoboja s Ukrajincima. Dok je u toj utakmici obavio i obrambeni dio posla, spasivši vrata čišćenjem s golne crte, u polufinalu protiv domaćina izvanrednim je udarcem u gredu u 93. minuti najavio pobjedu Italije i šesti nastup Azzurra u finalu.



Ime i prezime: Gianluca Zambrotta
Datum rođenja: 19. veljače 1977.
Mjesto rođenja: Como
Visina i težina: 181 cm, 76 kg
Pozicija: desni ili lijevi bek
Klub: Juventus
Broj dresa: 19

Klupska karijera
1994/95 Como 1 0
1995/96 Como 14 2
1996/97 Como 33 4
1997/98 Bari 27 2
1998/99 Bari 32 4
1999/00 Juventus 32 1
2000/01 Juventus 29 3
2001/02 Juventus 32 1
2002/03 Juventus 26 0
2003/04 Juventus 30 1
2004/05 Juventus 36 0
2005/06 Juventus 32 0

Reprezentacija
1999-06 Italija 57 2

Uspjesi

Četiri naslova prvaka Italije (2002., 2003., 2005. i 2006.)
Finale Lige prvaka (2003.)

Copyright Ozren Podnar/Nogomet/Soccerphile

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stan chooses chaos over order while Paul sneaks in the backdoor

Following a rally cry from FFA chief John O'Neill, expect Europe to repatriate more and more current and former Socceroos in the next 12 months.

This week O'Neill reckoned up to half a dozen Australian internationals will elect to finish their distinguished careers in the blossoming A-league before season three kicks off in a year's time, among those World Cup star Craig Moore and Spanish-based striker John Aloisi. But for now, season two has been bolstered by the captures of two players with substantial international pedigree - three if you count the return from loan of Melbourne's Archie Thompson.

The Stan and Paul in question are Messrs Lazaridis and Okon. The pair have agreed deals to play for Perth Glory and the Newcastle Jets in the forthcoming A-League season which starts the final weekend in August. Both are players who started out in the now-defunct national league before seeking greater exposure in Europe. And both, you can be sure, would never have even considered a return home before the inception of the new league under O'Neill and Frank Lowy.

However, what's interesting about these similar stories is the conflicting levels of media interest arising from their signings.

The transfer battle between Perth and reigning premiers Adelaide United for Lazaridis' signature has been chewed over for months. It became common knowledge before the 33-year-old was called up for the World Cup - after news broke of his release from Birmingham City - that he would be heading to one or other destination. The only question was which.

In May, the newspapers were chock full of Lazaridis gossip. Then, the player admitted Adelaide were leading the race for his services, a move also preferable to his South Australian-born wife and a return to the city where Stan spent three seasons with West Adelaide in the early nineties. But, as the governing body gained greater control of ownerless Perth, news filtered though that a return to his hometown club had ultimately proved too enticing. Lazaridis signed a two-year contract with the Glory on July 6.

He has since become a marker for the league's progress in Australia. When players are asked about the season ahead, their responses are clinical: it will be better because a player like Lazaridis - a Socceroo of some 70 caps - has come home. He is proof to them of the league's rapid improvement, and of the bright future ahead.

But there's been no such fanfare for Okon. There was no press release when he signed a one-year contract, not even the club's website carried the story of his return home after successful stints in Serie A and the Premier League among others. Okon's competitive debut for the Jets rated barely a mention. The former Oceania player of the year, often talked about as one of Australia's greatest exports, has barely spoken to the media in the month he's been back.

Why is a mystery.

Perhaps the relative lack of interest in Okon is the truest signal of football's development here. The 34-year-old last played for the Socceroos in 2003 and is widely regarded to be past his prime. He signed for Newcastle after one season at Apoel Nicosia in Cyprus before which he played at KV Oostende in Belgium, hardly an inspiring recent record despite his resume including spells at Lazio, Fiorentina and Middlesbrough in his pomp.

On the other hand, Lazaridis, by all accounts, had a dozen or more offers tabled from England, continental Europe and the Middle East but chose the distinctly tricky prospect of carrying Perth through the second season. A brave decision, but the local scene will be richer for his gentlemanly involvement.

In any case, Lazaridis' snub might just work in Adelaide's favour. Coach John Kosmina was forced back into the transfer market for a big-name player to replace departed Chinese striker Qu Shengqing - and reports suggest the charismatic coach has convinced Qu to return to Adelaide for another season.

With all indications also pointing to the arrival of South Australian striker Aloisi in 12 months time, Adelaide fans might be tempted to ask who needs Stan Lazaridis anyway.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

Australian Soccer News

Japans alternative World Cup stats

Some (alternative) stats from the World Cup.

A brief glance at the figures for Japan shows the following:

1. fewest fouls committed in competition
2. top of the league in not bullying the referee
3. fewest tantrums (only one apparently ... don't remember the culprit who brought shame on the nation)
4. Equal 15th in faking injuries
5. 15th again in the not singing the anthem league
6. 13th in the diving league


Copyright (c) jh & Soccerphile.com

Monday, July 24, 2006

J. League Results 23 July 2006

Kawasaki Frontale lost 0-2 at home to Urawa Reds, while last year's champions Gamba Osaka thrashed Nagoya Grampus 5-1 at home to retake top spot in the J.League. Cerezo Osaka stay rooted to the foot of the table with only 6 points.

J. League Results 23 July 2006.


Sunday 23 July

FC Tokyo 2 Kashima Antlers 4
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2 JEF United 4
Kawasaki Frontale 0 Urawa Reds 2
Gamba Osaka 5 Nagoya Gampus Eight 1
Ardija Omiya 3 Ventforet Kofu 1
Jubilo Iwata 3 Cerezo Osaka 1
Yokohama F Marinos 0 Avispa Fukuoka 0
Kyoto Purple Sanga 2 Shimizu S-Pulse 1
Oita Trinita 4 Albirex Niigata 0

Leading Positions

Gamba P14 Pts 32
Frontale P14 Pts 30
Reds P14 29
Antlers P14 Pts 25

J.League News

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Summer Sales In Korea

Seoul stadium
After the excitement of the World Cup, it is back to business in the Land of the Morning Calm though the K-League doesn’t restart until August 23rd.

Instead fans are treated to the ‘K League Cup’ – a 13-game competition in a league format that separates two 13-game stages of the K-League - a rather pointless exercise but it’s football nonetheless.

FC Seoul are about to win the thing and only need a point from their last two games in order to do so. They should get that at Suwon on Wednesday night as the Bluewings have been in foul form in 2006.

All has not been too well at the Big Bird Stadium recently. After a disappointing first stage to the K-League, Suwon coach Cha Bum-keun decided to leave his team to fend for itself in the early stages of the cup by heading to Germany to commentate on the World Cup. He was joined in the commentary box (I saw him often in Germany and it is a desk not a box) by son Cha Du-ri the now FC Mainz star who was excluded from Advocaat’s final list of 23.

The father and son act was a huge hit during the competition in Germany and broadcasters MBC were left smiling as rival networks KBS and SBS were left standing.

Suwon fans weren’t quite so happy as the team continued to struggle and questions were naturally asked why their coach would spend a month overseas when there was obvious work to be done just south of Seoul. Only in the tenth game of the cup did the Bluewings manage a win and if matters don’t improve in the second half of the league, Cha’s head will roll.

However, things are looking up as the three-time champions have recently signed FC Seoul’s international midfielder Baek Ji-hoon – whose boy band-like features have earned him the nickname ‘Flower Handsome Guy’. Baek is a promising midfielder with 12 caps to his name. The $1.5 million signing had a seat on the plane to Germany but continued to sit on the bench for Korea’s three games.

Baek will be joined by ‘The Outstanding Technician’ – Lee Kwan-woo of Daejeon Citizen who cost a similar amount of money. Suwon have always had problems defeating Daejeon so have taken the Citizen’s talisman and best player in order to try and end the jinx. Lee, 28, is a skilful playmaker and impressed Advocaat the first time he saw Daejeon play - though not enough to feature in any of the squads.

Always in the reckoning was one of Advocaat’s favourite players, Kim Dong-jin of FC Seoul. As the Dutchman left his home of eight months in north-west Seoul, he took the wing-back with him to Zenit St. Petersburg. To soften the blow for Seoul fans, the LG-backed team recruited one of his international team-mates.

Midfielder Lee Eul-yong spent the last two years in Turkey with Trabzonspor but the 30 year-old has decided to come home. His stated reasons were that his wife was ready to leave the Black Sea port and he was concerned about his son’s education though the more cynical of reporters mutter that a lack of interest from England were the reasons he returned home. There had been rumours that West Ham and Wigan were interested in the tough-tackling Turkish Warrior but the reality is that he is back in the Korean capital and was introduced to the crowd before Seoul’s clash with Incheon United.

Lee Eul-yong


United have struggled in the cup but claim that they are focusing on the resumption of the league. In contrast to most K-League teams who go Brazilian when they look for outside talent, last season’s runners-up have connections in the Balkans and have added a couple of new players from that region.

Dragan Mladenovic is a former Serbian international who Rangers fans may want to forget as he failed to impress in Glasgow. After joining the Scottish giants in the summer of 2004, he was loaned out to Real Sociedad just six months later. However, if the tall ex-Red Star Belgrade midfielder settles on the west coast of Korea, he may find the K-League more to his liking. Even more so if he can become friends with the headline writer’s dream that is Blaze Ilioski – a 21 year-old Macedonian international striker.

Champions Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I have seen a few changes but unfortunately for fans of the Tigers, they have not been welcome ones. The exciting title-winning team is slowly being stripped of its talent.

The midfield has gone. Hyun Young-min left for Zenit St.Petersburg long before Advocaat did but he has now been joined on the banks of the Neva by national team star Lee Ho – another of the Dutchman’s favourites. That followed the departure of Kim Jung-woo who went to Japan and Nagoya Grampus Eight at the start of the year.

To make matters worse, 2005 K-League MVP Lee Chun-soo is planning to return to Europe in August. The scorer of Korea’s first goal against Togo in the World Cup claims that Ajax have approached him as well as two unnamed “medium level” Premier League teams- a term that has nicely described Aston Villa and Manchester City who, according to the Korean media, are the interested parties.

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma are the favourites to take Ulsan’s crown after winning the first stage at a canter. So it is bad news for the league’s other teams that the six-time champions splashed out a million dollars to pry former Romanian international Adrian Naega from Chunnam Dragons’ claws. The ex-Steaua Bucharest star impressed last season on the south coast but has found goals a little harder to come by this season – however, he is still a quality act.

It is unfortunate for Seongnam fans, though perhaps not for the others, that he will not be able to link up with Brazilian striking sensation Mota, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle.

Jeju United couldn’t find the net in the first stage of the league so they have signed Bosian international defender Nikola Vasiljevic who recently in Korea. He played the last three minutes in the Seoul friendly between Korea and Bosnia the day before the Asian team left for Europe.

Copyright © John Duerden and Soccerphile.com

Korean soccer

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Soccer Babes

Soccer babes

Some good memories from World Cup 2002 & Euro 2004

soccer babe


© Kjeld Duits


soccer babes


© Kjeld Duits


soccer babe


© Dias dos Reis


soccer babe


© Dias dos Reis

Friday, July 21, 2006

J-League Results 19 July 2006

J-League Results 19 July 2006
The J.League resumed on 19th July after a two month break for the World Cup and surprise leaders Kawasaki Frontale thrashed Kashima Antlers away to stretch their unbeaten run to 10 games.

Kashima Antlers 2 Kawasaki Frontale 4
JEF United 1 Gamba Osaka 2
Albirex Niigata 2 Urawa Reds 1
Nagoya Gampus Eight 2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3
Avispa Fukuoka 0 FC Tokyo 0
Ardija Omiya 2 Jubilo Iwata 1
Ventforet Kofu 3 Kyoto Purple Sanga 1
Cerezo Osaka 0 Oita Trinita 2
Shimizu S-Pulse 1 Yokohama F Marinos 0

Leading Positions

Frontale P13 Pts 30
Gamba P13 Pts 29
Reds P13 26
Albirex P13 Pts 23

J.League News

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

K-League In Crisis?

K-League In Crisis?
“C U @ K-League” read the famous banner unfurled by the Red Devils as South Korea finished in fourth place in the 2002 World Cup. The feel good factor generated by epic wins over Portugal, Italy and Spain continued into the start of the domestic season. K-League clubs enjoyed unprecedented popularity as crowds flocked to the new World Cup stadiums to watch their heroes in action.

Fast forward four years and Australia seems to be the new South Korea. The Socceroos’ performance in Germany was somewhat similar to Korea’s in 2002 and not just because of the presence of a certain Guus Hiddink. The passion, aggression, never-say-die attitude of the players and the sheer delight of the fans was enough to generate a few wistful expressions on Korean faces in June. The party is set to continue Down Under and football bosses are rubbing their hands in glee in anticipation of bumper attendances in the A-League’s second season in existence.

A few thousand kilometers to the north, the Korean equivalent of the Australian domestic competition is not looking quite so hale and hearty. The talk in the Korean media is of a “K-League in crisis”. The charge goes that the league is not of a sufficiently high standard to support a competitive national team with overly defensive teams, a lack of creativity, goals and excitement witnessed by a steadily decreasing number of fans.

The post-mortem started immediately after the Taeguk Warriors’ defeat at the hands of the Swiss on June 23. Dick Advocaat told reporters at the press conference that “the K-League has to improve if the national team is to be successful.” The St. Petersburg-bound Dutchman had a point but had already made plans – hardly designed to increase the strength of the league - to take two of the K-League’s biggest stars, Kim Dong-jin and Lee Ho, with him to Russia.

After World Cup exits, it is natural to look for reasons or excuses, especially if the departure comes at the first hurdle. Often the blame falls on the coach, players or referees and while, in this case, it may not be wide of the mark to question the domestic setup it should be kept in mind that there are no easy answers.

It should also be remembered that although the K-League is the oldest professional league in Asia, it is still a baby compared to the big European competitions. When the five teams contested the inaugural season in 1983, the English league was only five years away from its centenary celebrations. It would be miraculous indeed if Korea could compete with such well-established football nations.

There are now fourteen teams and standards, organization and the stadiums have improved dramatically in the two decades but there is a feeling that a plateau has been reached. The next level looks far away at the moment and with an absence of dynamic leadership, there has yet to be a concerted and organized push to get there.

Possible ways to improve standards would fill a great deal of column inches but the fact that there are the first stirrings of a debate at all is as welcome as it is long overdue.

Such discussions would surprise more than a few people abroad. Scores of scribes were genuinely shocked and delighted at the performance of the Red Devils in Frankfurt, Leipzig and Hanover - seasoned old hands that waxed lyrical about how Korean fans are the best and most passionate in the world. They were right as far as the World Cup goes; no other fans came close in Germany. It always seemed unnecessarily cruel to shatter illusions that the same excitement and passion was common back in the Land of the Morning Calm.

It is important however that there is no knee-jerk reaction. There is no doubt that the K-League has problems but these didn’t suddenly appear last month, they have been apparent for some time and it will take more time to solve them. Hopefully, attention will not have wandered before that happens.

Fans should not hold their collective breath. With a few notable exceptions, it is only now that the Korean media, one that devotes more column inches to the Premier League exploits of Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo than the games between the fourteen teams in its own backyard, is talking about how to raise standards in the K-League. It remains to be seen what happens when the English season gets underway.

It is understandable that football journalists who returned to Korea to witness games played in front of small crowds are comparing those negatively with the festival of football that they had been a part in June. The K-League Cup (the competition taking place at the moment) is a pointless one and should be scrapped but regardless, but a number of worthier competitions would feel like an anti-climax when compared to the scenes in Frankfurt and Leipzig.

The K-League restarts in August and can only benefit if there really is a collective will to improve it and compete with the Japanese league that has become the best in Asia. It remains to be seen whether the attention that the competition is currently receiving continues or if it is merely something to talk about until the rain stops.

Copyright © John Duerden and Soccerphile.com

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Berlin Love Parade

The party continued in Berlin after the World Cup has packed up and gone home.

Berlin Love Parade

Berlin's "Love Parade" festival was back after a two-year hiatus under the banner of "The Love is Back"

Revelers packed the Brandenburg Gate area, which just over a week ago was the World Cup's Fan Mile, as 40 decorated floats with DJs and sound systems drove through the streets.

Images Copyright © Vinh Phung

Saturday, July 15, 2006

In-demand Kennedy ready for Socceroos starting berth

The irony surrounding the eternal logistical problems of representing Australia is not lost on new Socceroos super-sub Josh Kennedy.

Kennedy, one of two uncapped call-ups for the World Cup squad, came from the depths of second-tier German football to stamp his mark on Australia's journey to the knockout phase with a handful of striking displays upfront.

However, now he's reached the stage of nailing down a regular international place, the inevitable club versus country conundrum is ready to rear its ugly head.

Kennedy will receive plenty of sympathy from the likes of superstars Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, players who between them have amassed just 60 Socceroo caps in part because of the constant headache of international travel.

But resolving the discrepancy of the striker's twin goals is really no closer despite Australia moving into the Asian confederation earlier this year.

And representing your country hardly gets any easier when you become a high profile signing for a top-flight club preparing an assault on a UEFA Cup place this season.

That's exactly the situation Kennedy finds himself in.

Having served his apprenticeship in Germany since age 17, the long-haired hitman penned a three-year contract with ambitious Bundesliga side Nuremberg before the World Cup.

It was an offer too good to resist after patiently building a solid reputation as a goalscorer in the lower leagues with Stuttgart Kickers and latterly Dynamo Dresden after fruitless spells with VfL Wolfsburg and FC Cologne in the top division.

However, now six painstaking years of steady progress have paid off, how can the amiable Kennedy reward his new employer's faith with continuous trips down under to represent his homeland?

"It's definitely a touchy situation," Kennedy admitted to Soccerphile during a two-week break in Australia after the World Cup. "We'll definitely have to weigh up what's the best thing at club level and at the same time keeping my Australian commitments without making either side angry.

"I'll talk to the coach (Hans Meyer) when I get back to Nuremberg and no doubt will be in contact with Australia as well. Hopefully we can balance it pretty well.

"[But] the hardest thing to do is to balance both at the same time and keep everybody happy.

"I've made it clear to the Football Federation that I'd love to play every game. Obviously they know I can't, so it's just a matter of finding that right balance."

But what is the right balance for Kennedy, Nuremberg and Australia's governing body of football?

At club level, his importance to Nuremberg will rocket should Slovakian striker Robert Vittek, who had a fantastic finish to the 2005-06 season, move to pastures new.

While internationally, the expected retirements of Viduka, 31 in October, and 30-year-old John Aloisi add greater pressure.

Indeed, temporary first-team coach Graham Arnold believes up to 12 players from the World Cup squad could announce their retirements and that a whole new group of players will be involved in qualifying for next year's Asian Cup.

Kennedy clearly isn’t part of the departures and at 23 represents the immediate future of the Socceroos forward line along with A-League based strikers Archie Thompson and Alex Brosque, Motherwell's Scott McDonald and Brett Holman who plies his trade at Dutch club Excelsior Rotterdam.

But whether he will be involved in Australia's August 16 clash with Kuwait in Sydney remains to be seen.

The Asian Cup qualifier is scheduled on a FIFA-sanctioned matchday but also clashes with a time Europe's top-flight clubs will be reluctant to have their stars journeying long distance.

You have to think that Melbourne's Thompson, who travelled to Germany but played no part, and Sydney FC's Brosque are hot favourites to lead the line in the Socceroos' next outing, but that doesn’t put Kennedy off his long-term aim of spearheading the Aussie attack.
"That's definitely been my goal," Kennedy says. "It is my goal to one day have that starting position.

"But as long as Mark Viduka is there, I can definitely learn a lot of things from him, so I'm in no rush for him to stop playing international football because it makes me a better player as well.

"But hopefully in the future I'll be ready to take over that role."

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fifa World Rankings July 2006

The first fifa world rankings post-World Cup 2006 has lead to some significant changes.

Brazil remain top but Italy have risen to second, while Germany have forced their way in to the top ten as Mexico and the USA drop out.

Both Japan and South Korea have seen their rankings plummet. England move up to fifth.

1 Brazil
2 Italy
3 Argentina
4 France
5 England
6 The Netherlands
7 Spain
8 Portugal
9 Germany
10 Czech Republic

11 Nigeria
11 Cameroon
13 Switzerland
14 Uruguay
15 Ukraine
16 USA
17 Denmark
18 Mexico
19 Paraguay
20 Côte d'Ivoire



Fifa World Rankings on Soccerphile

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Only Four Years Away

Only Four Years Away.
I don't know about you but I am feeling down. No, make that miserable since the World Cup ended. Nothing comes close in life to the month-long euphoria of that tournament, especially if you went to Germany to imbibe the World Cup 24/7.

The post World Cup stress disorder has hit millions worldwide so at least I am not alone. An internet poster described it quite succinctly today as akin to having a four week fling with Kate Moss only for her to dump you for Bernard Manning. I'd liken it to her disappearing without trace with your wallet, passport and broken heart.

I am scrabbling around looking for crumbs of comfort but there are not any. Cricket, the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the Inter-Toto Cup? I don't think so. I went to one or two domestic games almost every week last season but I can't feel excited about the new season remotely. I have awoken from my dream and I am not happy.

I don't want to hear club fans mouthing about how great players like Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard are when they manifestly fell flat on the game's biggest stage. You can bet those three will be banging them in again for their club sides come August, which makes their failure for their national teams that bit more irritating. Whatever Arsene Wenger might say, international football is more important than club football.

I felt the same back in 2002 after returning from the Far East with 'Daeghun Minguk!' (Republic of Korea!) ringing in my ears. It took me a while to recover. These past few days I have deliberately tried to continue my holiday back in London by drinking German beer and eating Turkish kebabs but to no avail - I feel a deep sense of loss at the same time. Out in Germany every beer was a cause for celebration and it felt like wearing an England shirt meant you would be smiled at and you could strike up a conversation with random foreigners everywhere.

But here every beer is a melancholy one and everyone seems so cold and unfriendly once again :( . Life will go on and already the four-year hour glass for South Africa has been upended. At least I was there. We all were there, wherever we watched the games. Football unites and gives reasons for living like nothing else. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be following the World Cup was very heaven. The Americans just don't know what they are missing.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Why You Must Go in 2010

Why You Must Go in 2010.
There are two broad types of fans, those who attend matches in the flesh and those who don't. OK, it is impossible to get tickets these days to Premiership games so one is forced back into the armchair with the remote control and a PC to mull over the media coverage of the sport.

But there is a third type and that is the fan who travels to away games but not the match. A scarce species in the domestic game and at qualifiers but found in huge numbers (e.g. 80,000 English fans in Cologne) at a World Cup or European Championship Finals.

What made this World Cup for me were the legions of travelling fans, the vast majority without a cat's chance in hell of a ticket, who came to the host country to cheer their team alongside thousands of others in the same boat. Previously travelling to a World Cup entailed having a ticket or attempting to obtain one, but no longer.

If someone says they are going to a World Cup now one automatically does not assume it is to get inside the stadium, or even near the host city.
This has been a phenomenon I have only noticed previously with Welsh rugby fans, who, when the dragons are playing in Dublin for instance, will travel to a random Irish city to watch the game and then sail home the day after.

At this World Cup I witnessed several such 'odd' gatherings such as legions of Croatian fans, bedecked in their tablecloth flag and with replica shirts, scarves and face paint on the occasion of their nation's match with Brazil in Berlin, but they were stood in front of a big screen in Hamburg.

Some of the best fans left the tournament too early - the Australians, Koreans, Polish and Dutch and once again it was confirmed to me how the fun level diminishes after the first round.

It really was a supporter's World Cup, as the fan fests confirmed. Let's face it the footy wasn't that memorable. Take away Italy's classy execution of the host nation in Dortmund, Zidane's thuggish au revoir to the sport and that Argentina goal against Serbia that let every man on the field plus the groundsman and a few ball-boys have a touch before it crossed the line and it was not a WC to remember on the field.

Australia's comeback against Japan was somewhat memorable, as was Custer's last stand when a nine-man USA held off the eventual winners Italy, plus the card-fest of Portugal v Holland but overall it was more an Italia 90 than a Spain 82.

There were no Cameroons of 1990 or South Koreas of 2002. Only T&T's draw with Sweden had a whiff of the plucky underdog heroism we eagerly anticipate each World Cup. And Zidane apart, whom we knew rather well already, were there any real stars to savour this time?

But if you had been there you would have come away beaming at the memories. For me it was Japanese & Trinidadians in Frankfurt, Tunisians in Stuttgart, Spanish in Cologne and Germans in Munich. And some of those were on days when their countries were not playing there.

Forget the expense, the corporate takeover, the disappointing games and travel headaches, there really is nothing compared to attending a World Cup Finals in person. Once you get the bug your life will come to be defined by four-yearly cycles. I met a man at his eleventh WC for instance, and I am sure he was not alone. He was not a nerd either, but an apparently normal guy with a wife, kids and career.

You might need a bullet-proof jacket for 2010 if the scare-stories are correct but what the heck, paint it in your national colours and come along. A television in your own country is simply no comparison.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Italy's tragic triumph invevitable?

Italy sit on the verge of a remarkable triumph amid the most explosive scandal to hit European football for decades.

In only a few days Juventus could be relegated to Serie C and Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina to Serie B for their roles in trying to arrange referees for Serie A matches.
The board of the Italian F.A. have all resigned, the national manager has been questioned and former Italy midifielder and still Juve employee Gianluca Pessotto has attempted suicide. Stirring stuff on the eve of the World Cup Final.

Against this backdrop it seems almost ordained that gli azzurri will lift the trophy, a pyrrhic victory given the domestic game is in shambles.
The fact the police are banging on the door back home has conversely not upset but inspired Marcello Lippi’s men to perform superbly, no less than in their expert derailing of the host nation in the semi finals with two killer strikes of sublime quality.

”I think the scandal will affect the Italy players,” Italian soccer journalist and co-author of Gianluca Vialli’s latest ‘The Italian Job’ Gabriele Marcotti told Soccerphile before the tournament, “but perhaps not in the way you think. First and foremost, the vast majority of them seem to view this as good news, a cleansing of the system, if you will. None of them liked Moggi and even fewer liked GEA, even some GEA clients (the principal player agency implicated).” Italians live amid corruption on a daily basis, so this came as no surprise.

Paolo Rossi cam back from a ban imposed for match-fixing to be the star of the 1982 World Cup, an important omen for Italy, for whom Fabio Cannavaro and goalie Gianluigi Buffon have performed heroics.

“With regard to Buffon it's quite simple,” says Marcotti: “He either did bet AFTER it became illegal to do so (November 2005) or he did not. If he did, it will come out and, I think, he knows that, in which case it will unsettle him. If he did not, and his conscience is clear, he knows he has nothing to fear.
Cannavaro's name comes up time and again. The transcripts I saw don't suggest he did anything wrong, but he seems uncomfortably close to Moggi and I think it could tarnish his image. Certainly, knowing the kind of guy he is, I don't think he is enjoying the scrutiny: he has done a lot to cultivate a well-deserved reputation as a nice guy.”

But there are different perceptions at play here and the mega-scandal that was broken by Gazzetta dello Sport may not be viewed back in Italy as badly as it is here. As Marcotti explains:
The way it will affect Italy is at a political level. It's the kind of thing some countries (like England) never worry about, but which others (Brazil and Spain first and foremost) are very concerned over.

With a very weakened federation and no credible people on FIFA's important committees, there is a fear that Italy will be an after-thought when it comes to assigning referees. As a general rule of thumb, if you're stronger than you're opponent, you want one of the better refs, if you're weaker, you'd rather have a poor ref (who might make a mistake in your favor).

In 2002, the Italian FA was blamed as much as anyone after we got Byron Moreno in the knockout game against Korea. It was felt they should have done more to get an established official, one who would not make the kind of mistakes that Moreno made.”

Paul Foot, author of “Calcio – a history of Italian football” rated the azzurri as “favourites or second favourites” before the tournament and I for one doubted him.

But as he explained, “Italy already has the best defense and goalkeeper in the world and they tend to get stronger as tournaments go on. Totti needs to be fit too as he is crucial but I don't see any weaknesses in them apart from maybe at right back.”

When I analysed the draw and the permutations in early June I came up with a final of Brazil v Italy although I would not have said Italy were the second best team in the tournament before the start. If one suspected they had had a favourable draw to begun with and then advanced courtesy of some old style histrionics and an inept referee against Australia, the Italians certainly earned their stripes in the semi final beyond any doubt.

As Marcotti concluded, “All things said, our record in World Cups is actually very good.” Tonight should see Lippi's men achieve more stunning glory against a backdrop of criminal disgrace and complete an amazing tableau of the Italian game.

Copyright © Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile.com

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Friday, July 7, 2006

Germany An Exemplary Host

An Exemplary Host.
I am back in England after three weeks or so at the World Cup, a pilgrimage I vowed to make every four years for the rest of my life after I met an Irishman in Seoul in 2002 at his tenth finals (I think he was wearing the same tweed jacket back in 1966).

The first I travelled to was Italia '90 and compared to that, Germany's organisation was light years ahead. Germany's rail network was excellent and although its ICE trains were not quite as fast as France's TGVs in 1998 or Japan's Shinkansens (bullet trains) four years ago, they were very frequent and reliable. I found the city transports almost faultless, with the exception of the near fatal crush on Gelsenkirchen's trams, which appeared to be running a Bank Holiday service before the USA v Czech Republic match.

Accommodation was readily available although I did fall foul of one of the many establishments that took your money and allowed no cancellations once travel plans changed, as they invariably do for fans in knock-out tournaments.
The fan fests were great ideas and worked very well, except for the draconian ban on bringing water in despite the searing temperatures, and the hard sell from the sponsors at every opportunity.
This leads me to another gripe with FIFA.

Given the indefensible ticketing policy that gave England an official total allocation of 14,700 and a company called Avaya 25,000, and saw dozens of people with "Suche karten" (want tickets) signs in every host city, why did we have to sit there and listen to the stadium announcer at every match triumphantly announce the game was sold out, with the same words in block capitals on the big screens? It was a sell-out all right.

Throughout I marvelled at the folly of England's efforts to stage the 2006 World Cup. For a start England's transport network is some years behind Germany's, where trams, cycle lanes and double decker trains are the norm, not the rarity. One could argue that England's stadia are better, though the modern arenas in Munich and Gelsenkirchen are streets ahead of anything the home of football has, until perhaps the new Arsenal and Wembley stadia open.

I thought the choice of three venues with running tracks, Stuttgart, Nuremburg and Berlin, also meant three venues with subdued atmospheres however renovated the buildings were, and at least England would have hosted the finals with soccer-only arenas. But the 'smaller' stadia such as Cologne and Hannover had top drawer atmospheres and superb sightlines. My favourite remained Leipzig, the most spectacular of the venues from the inside and so grand and imposing from outside, with a monumental approach redolent of the 1930s.

Hannover


I would question the choice of small and inaccessible Kaiserslautern as a host city although Moenchengladbach might well have replaced it had their stadium renovation plan been in place by the time of the initial bid. One could argue that Derby, a venue touted for an English World Cup bid, has similar shortcomings.

But I do not wish to moan. The World Cup was at home in a great host nation and was a superb fan experience all things considered.
The best two things about the decision to give the World Cup to Germany were the amount of space in the country available for visitors and the positive reaction of the host nation's people. Germany's cities were so visitor friendly, boasting wide streets, many of them pedestrianised, and extensive beer gardens to make all the fans feel happy and relaxed.

The Germans were relaxed too. Even when thousands poured into the streets of Berlin or Munich after German victories the atmosphere was hugely celebratory, not aggressively tribal as it would have been in England.
There were TVs everywhere, even in the river (in Frankfurt) and the fan fests proved they had got it right in welcoming fans with or without tickets (most people saw none).

Cologne.


Above all it seemed the authorities were welcoming the influx, not worrying about any possible problems that could result. Unofficial merchandise was everywhere and there were no problems finding flags, scarves and shirts with the country of your choice, far cheaper and more attractive than the perenially overpriced and ugly official FIFA souvenirs.

I remember Euro '96 as a tournament with unreliable transport connections, police and local authorities afraid of putting up big screens because of the public order risk and the centre of London oblivious to the tournament that was taking place on its doorstep. Add to the fact England is a cramped and awkward country where football fervour too often leads to ugly nationalism and you can see why Germany was so much the better choice.

I salute them for hosting a terrific party where it was hard to see what more the Germans could have done to live up their motto of 'Die Welt Zu Gast Bei Freunden' - the world as a guest among friends, or, as they translated it, 'A Time to Make Friends'.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Thursday, July 6, 2006

There’s a bad moo on the rise

To be a successful bettor, you have to understand probability. If you toss a coin in the air there’s a 50% chance that it will come down on heads, throw a dice in the air and there’s a 16.6% chance that it will land on a 6, throw a cat in the air and there’s a 100% chance that it will be a right good laugh.

But occasionally, even if you’re an expert in the field of probability theory, with an encyclopedic knowledge of football and the greatest staking plan since ‘The Bride of Dracula’, you can still do your proverbials if poor value teams like Italy keep on winning.

Amazingly, the Italians are a short as 4/6 to lift the World Cup, and that’s the most ridiculous investment since the wife had the cheek to pay for beauty products. The French have the necessary tools to lift the trophy; at odds of 11/10, stat nerds, value hunters and football anoraks will all be eating cheese, snails and various frog appendages, in a show of solidarity for our French brothers.

To say that the Italians have had the luck of the draw throughout the competition is like saying that John Motson is annoying; it’s so obvious that clarification is not just fluous, it’s superfluous. The French are good things to wrap the game up in 90 minutes at 23/10. Correct score bettors need look no further than a 2-0 scoreline at 14/1, but perming 1-0 and 2-0 together at 7/2 is a little bit safer/camper.

You can sum up the difference between the teams in two words, ‘Thierry Henry’. The Gallic genius is the most complete player in the tournament, although the Spanish would probably call him a complete tart. Henry missed the final in ’98 even though he was their top scorer at the time; if patience is a virtue, then Henry is on the path to righteousness. It’s time for King Henry to ascend to the throne; it’s 6/1 that he bags the opener.

The Golden Shoe may sound like an item that one of the WAG’s would buy, but it’s actually the award for the competition’s top scorer. (Personally, I don’t allow the wife to go shopping for anything other than cleaning materials, but i’m far more flexible with the girlfriend.) Thierry Henry needs two more goals to potentially grab a share of the coveted award (the wife will also be receiving a shoe on Sunday); Henry is a 13/2 shot to net two or more goals.

If all the rumours are true, Juventus players just have to turn up to win matches in Italy, which might explain Paddy Vieira’s indifferent season. It’s great to see Vieira look back to his thundering best, another commanding performance from the resurgent Vieira will see the French ease to victory. Man of the match betting is available, I’ve seen worse 10/1 shots that the mighty Patrick Vieira.

The Italians have constantly surprised me throughout the competition. Their transformation from an over-hyped collection of show-ponies to an over-hyped, lucky collection of show-ponies has bordered on the extraordinary. The same accusation has often been thrown at Zinedine Zidane, but the reality is that Zizou remains the definition of greatness. A bet on the sublime Zidane for the ‘man of the tournament’ award (The Golden Ball) at 1/2 is money for old rope.

Luca Toni had a massive reputation for his Serie A goal scoring exploits, but looks to be suffering from a serious case of Lamparditis, he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. On a related note, I once tried to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo, at least that’s what I told the police officer, although the lack of the banjo aroused some suspicion. Toni will not score, the French have a clean sheet in Le Bag, help yourself to 6/4.

Franck Ribery may look like something that Dr Frankenstein knocked up after a heavy night on the ale, but it’s not physical looks that make the footballer (otherwise I’d have 150 caps under my belt), pace, skill and grace are the key attributes and Ribery has all three in abundance. The youngster has improved from game to game and the 9/2 on offer for Ribery to score at any time should attract support.

Whoever wins, I’ll be walking in to the bookies with a big smile, asking if they’ll pay me out on Argentina, as they’re the moral winners of the competition. Although, there is a valuable lesson to be learned here; sometimes in life, it’s not the winning that’s important, it’s the taking apart the betting shop if they refuse to pay.

Weekend Betting:

Italy v France Sunday 9th July 19.00

Italy 13/8
Draw 15/8
France 23/10

Get on: France

Match Specials:

“Top Totti” – Totti to score with a header 10/1
“Two Tone” – Luca Toni to score two or more goals 7/1
“Gattu blaster” – Gattuso to score from outside the area 20/1
“Caught on Camora” – Camoranesi to be sent off 33/1
“Gross misconduct” – Grosso to be booked 2/1

“Zid vicious” – Zidane to be booked 5/2
“Daylight Ribery” – Franck Ribery to score two or more goals 16/1
“De Gaulle of him” – Henry to be booked for diving 12/1
“Franck Butcher” – Ribery to be sent off 33/1
“Pat Butcher” – Vieira to be sent off 16/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Euro 2008

Germany Weeps After Italian Smash & Grab

Germany Weeps After Italian Smash & Grab.
So the German dream is over. A nation awash in a party mood for the past three weeks sits in stunned disbelief at the cruel way Italy snatched two goals at the death in Dortmund.

The schwarz-rot-gold clad millions had finally come to believe that the team of apparent no-hopers led by a novice coach living in California could actually lift the trophy. As Jurgen Klinsmann's team advanced and especially after they overpowered Sweden and then won a penalty shoot-out with the powerful Argentinians, the public fervour became a tidal wave capable of carrying the team all the way to the cup.

Had the Nationalmannschaft managed to hold out only another ninety seconds they probably would have had at least a finger on the trophy, given Germany's prowess at penalties and the ever increasing tsunami of home support.

But for all the pints of smudged face paint, the resonating chants of 'Wir fahren nach Berlin' (We're going to Berlin) echoing through the nation's undergrounds, the noisy carnivals in the street that went on long into the night, the bare breasts glistening with black, red and yellow poster paint (you should have been in Munich), the fluttering flags on speeding cars and the saturating 24/7 media hyping of the German team, in the end the hosts were fairly and squarely undone by a better football team.

No one could dislike Italian football's cynical gamesmanship more than I, but gli azzurri deserved their semi-final victory. Marcello Lippi's men played stoutly in defence like Italians always do, but also knew how to turn the screw when it mattered with sustained pressure from an impressive midfield.

Their explosion at the start of extra time when they hit the woodwork twice was proof of their potency and the two goal salvo at the death came courtesy of improvised moments of superior individual technique. In attack they looked the more honed and more incisive of the two teams, producing passing triangles with rapier thrusts on the edge of the German box and they understood how to manage the rhythms of the game better than the hosts, for all their passionate endeavour.

Italy dominated possession almost 60 - 40, no mean feat against the home nation playing a World Cup semi-final at such an intimidating venue as the Westfalen Stadion, where 65,000 are perched right on top of the field.

The Germans I know were utterly speechless after the final whistle. Football can be so cruel and so painful, but we will always come back for more. In the tearful, inconsolable aftermath of another host nation crashing out following a remarkable ride of euphoria, let us hope we can see more of Klinsmann's heroic team, who had to endure universal scorn before the finals yet almost pulled off the greatest prize of all before their lack of class was finally exposed on a stifling night in Dortmund.

Let us hope too that we have not seen the last of Klinsmann as a coach following his remarkable playing career. Above all, let us wish the wonderful scenes of jubilation across Germany for the past three weeks give birth to a more positive view of that nation within and outside its borders, a reinvented land that is friendly and open to allcomers. Danke schon, Deutschland.

(c) Sean O'Conor and Soccerphile

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Monday, July 3, 2006

Ich bin ein Deutschlander

Ich bin ein Deutschlander

The English grow up in an atmosphere of mild and generally accepted racism towards the Germans (and French, Italians, Argentinians etc.). We all know - whether we have actually met a German or not - that the Germans are ruthlessly efficient, arrogant and desperately lacking in humour. It's common knowledge that when we go on holiday we can't get a lounger by the pool because the Germans will have got up early to hog the best spots. Everyone in Germany owns at least 10 David Hasselhoff CD's and keeps a little shrine of him at home.

Ich bin ein Deutschlander.


At best these are the sort of pointless stereotypes every country engages with one of their neighbours/rivals. Americans make fun of Canadians, Aussies laugh at New Zealanders and so on. At worst the result is hatred and violence or more commonly just plain stupidity as witnessed in the numerous English 'fans' in Germany who delighted in singing 10 German Bombers or Two World Wars and One World Cup. Fortunately the German police displayed considerably more humour than their stereotype suggests in dealing with these idiots.

Personally I don't subscribed to any of these theories but life and football are different and I've never had much time for the German football team, who are pompous, boring and, worst of all, the kind of ruthlessly efficient winners we always hope the England team will be.

I'm too young to have seen the 1966 final but I know the ball went over the line because it has been repeated hundreds of thousands of times on English television. Great though it was that final has haunted English football ever since not least by giving us the delirious idea that we are better than the Germans at football. History strongly suggests otherwise.

Since the '66 final Germany have won the World Cup twice and been to the final on four other occasions. On the way they have tortured England more than any other nation. Knocking them out of Mexico '70, Italy '90 on penalties and Euro 96 again on penalties - they do earn that ruthless stereotype - and winning the last game at Wembely. When England beat them at Euro 2000 or a 5-1 thrashing in 2002 qualifying it didn't seem to matter. Both teams went out at the group stage at Euro 2000 and both qualified for 2002 with Germany, of course reaching the final while England were again bundled out in the quarters. the Germans don't even consider us their rivals saving that spot for the Dutch.

Ich bin ein Deutschlander.


So, when it comes to football we've got a reasonable of a grudge to bear against the Germans. And in this respect surely it's not just us. Great footballers though they were it was hard to like sneering Mattaus, or the diving Klinsman - at least before his rebirth as a comedian when he moved to England. Even the Germans couldn't tolerate the arrogance of Steffen Effenberg who they sent home from USA '94 for swearing at his own fans. When Frank Rijkaard spat in Rudi Voller's bubble perm it felt like he was getting one back for all of us.

Most of all English don't like the German football team because they play with the virtues we want our own team to play with. They are strong and courageous, working with a collective purpose and controlled energy that England aspire to but can never achieve. They don't play the champagne football of Brazil but they defend with lion hearts and move the ball effectively from defence to attack striking with precision at clinical moments. They win on penalties. They win the World Cup. The truth is English don't hate the Germans, we're jealous of them.

This year though something has changed. Germany went into this World Cup facing the fear of humiliation. The team looked average thrashed by Italy and scraping a draw with Japan in the build up. The nation was divided in by the Kahn-Lehman debate (Sven Goran-Erikkson would probably have picked them both), Klinsman lived in California and was babbling all sorts of new age nonsense about positive energy. Germany faced the real prospect of disaster.

Then the team started to play. The arrogance was gone but the confidence was still there. They looked a bit vulnerable at the back but they attacked with venom and energy. Where other teams haven't wanted to lose Germany have wanted to win. A weak group was brushed aside and the Swedes were blown away with some fearsome attacking. Then, the Argentians, lacking the courage of their convictions, succumbed on penalties, and somehow I found myself roaring with delight as every one went in. Klinsi smiled and the nation rejoiced. Thoughts of humiliation replaced with thoughts of Glory.

The players are young and engaging, strong but vulnerable. Even Kahn seems to have mellowed out. Their most symbolic player is not the teutonic Ballack but the left-back Philip Lahm. He bombs up and down the wing like a dashund and defends like a German Sheperd. All the while he innocently holds on to the edges of his long-sleeves looking for all the world like a little boy.
I'll might as well just say it - I LOVE THE GERMANS and I hope they thrash the negative Italians and go on to take the cup. I have only one fear - What if I support the Germans and they lose?

copyright © Will Marquand and Soccerphile

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One man and his log Berlin

One man and his log
Friday 30th June Berlin

After two days when you would not have known there was a Football competition going on, the supporters are back, the city of Berlin was packed and everyone was wearing their colours. The streets would soon be packed with the masses and they would gather wherever they could to see the game as apart of a crowd.In addition to the Fan fest and the TV's in bars I also noticed that several cinemas were showing games live on big screens for free.

Went to the game early as we needed a ticket for one member of our party. The price at the main station was €500 earlier in the day but now in the early afternoon it was down to €300. Just as well because we wanted a ticket for €150. The Germans have a more realistic view, than supporters from other countries, of the prices paid for football tickets and will not pay ridiculous sums. Thanks to this the price indeed comes down and the ticket is ours.

After the match people declared that they were nervous about Michael Ballack taking a penalty, but then someone added ".... but he is not Chris Waddle or Gareth Southgate". After the discussion about the game it was time to party (so Mene told me). We headed for Berlin Zoo and the Breitscheidplatz the former centre of West Berlin. As we poured out of the S-Bahn we could hear the cars on the street below. The area was almost at a standstill as every car appeared to have someone hanging out a window waving a flag. The party consisited of drinking lots of bottled beer on the streets as the Germans launched into one song after another, while the traffic was motionless but the cars rocked from side to side as the occupants joined in.

After spending some time in East Berlin, I headed to my digs to pick up my belongings in time to make the train for my final game of this trip.


Saturday 1st July Berlin. Frankfurt.

After a few hours sleep on the train, it was time to find accomodation in Frankfurt. feeling tired I decided to use the tourist information office to find somewhere to stay. Apparently Frankfurt had been busy for the last few weeks, and it was proving impossible to find reasonably priced accomodation in the centre. And so I was despatched towards the stadium I was told there was a guest house near the stadium and that I should go to the stadium train station and ask for directions from there. Off I went, only to find that when I got to the train station no-one had a clue where my accomodation was. The stadium is situated in a forest (hence the name Waldstadion!) so it wasn't easy to work out which way to go, but I was confident it was nearby from what I had been told earlier.

I found someone who had a satellite navigation system and they offered to help. It showed my accomodation as being 2.5km away!!! Not happy about this I tried to work out what was going wrong. I realised that the GPS was going by road and that we were right next to the railway line. Therefore my accomodation should be on the other side of the railway line and would not be more than 10 minutes away. My friend in the car was confused as I walked off in the opposite direction.

Sure enough after 10 minutes I came accross a clearing, and found my accomodation. Sellotaped to the door was a note saying that reception was closed and that I should call a number for help. Having chosen, still, to avoid mobile phones I now looked rather silly as I had no way, stuck in the forest of making the call.

I walked round the building and found a door open. Entering the building I found a pay phone and dialled the number. No answer!! I knew it would make no difference not having a mobile!

Five minutes later as I waited innocently outside, a car drew up and my lodgings for the night were secured.
Now It was back to the city centre to watch the afternoon's game. I headed for the Fan Fest which was on the banks of the river Main which runs through the city, with two large screens floating on the river.

As I got there the signs were just being put in place to say that the area was full. So I decided to move round watching the game from various vantage points during the afternoon. As the game ebbed and flowed it was clear that the whole city was breathing football. The streets were quiet, even the police in their green and white party van (as the germans sing) were watching on portable TV's. The only noise to be heard coincided with the action in the game.

During the evening game France got their rewards for a positive display of football, it is this type of display that Sepp Blatter has been encouraging and it has been a feature of this tournament that apart from the Ivory Coast, teams that have played positively have done well.

FIFA have talked about changing the ticketing, but how can I complain, when I got to see the games I wanted. Ok so, I became addicted to my computer in search of tickets and I had to pay a little bit more sometimes but I accept this. The lesson FIFA can learn is that too many tickets have this time gone to sponsors whose guests are impressed by lavish hospitality. I think I have the solution.

Following on from the massive gatherings of people in Korea to watch their teams games, the Fan Fests have been a resounding success and over 10 million people watched the opening round of games at these events. Some of which have...V.I.P. areas. Why not let the sponsors have their own screening where they can show their own products at half time or every time the action stops and leave the match tickets to the actual supporters.

I can foresee that in future FIFA may introduce these events worldwide as they could then attract even more sponsorship!!! Also official merchandise is available at these sites and there must have been a huge increase in the revenue received from merchandising.

Mein hosts have been excellent , and a big thank you to all. I have thoroughly enjoyed travelling all over the country, and although at times it has been hectic I wouldn't change things too much.

Vierundfunfzig, vierundsiebzig, neunzig..............zwei tausend zehn?


Copyright (c) Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com