Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Japanese Soccer News May 29 2007

Japanese Soccer News May 29 2007.
Japanese Soccer News
J-League News: Gamba open up four point lead, as Urawa stumble at home

2005 J-League champions Gamba Osaka have opened up a four point lead at the top of the J-League table, after they plunged JEF United further into crisis with a 2-1 win at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.

Former Sagan Tosu striker Tatsunori Arai opened the scoring for JEF United with an acrobatic volley, before Gamba midfielder Tomokazu Myojin equalised midway through the second half. With a minute remaining Gamba were awarded a contentious free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, and Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo made no mistake, smashing an unstoppable drive passed Tomonori Tateishi in the United goal.

The loss means that JEF United are now entrenched in the relegation zone, with Bosnian coach Amar Osim under intense scrutiny at the under-performing club.

51,829 fans turned out at Saitama Stadium, but home team Urawa Reds were unable to keep pace with Gamba at the top of the table, as they could only manage a 1-1 draw with visitors Yokohama F. Marinos.

Ex-Urawa midfielder Koji Yamase opened the scoring for Yokohama, before Brazilian defender Fabio Nene scored the equaliser - his second goal in as many league games.

The top five is rounded out by Kawasaki Frontale, Kashiwa Reysol and Shimizu S-Pulse but only Frontale managed to take anything from their most recent match, drawing 1-1 at home with lowly Omiya Ardija, while Kashiwa and Shimizu lost on the road to Vissel Kobe and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively.

At the foot of the J-League, Yokohama FC still prop up the standings despite a 2-1 win over Oita Trinita in their most recent match. Forty year old veteran Kazuyoshi Miuri opened the scoring against Oita, before influential midfielder Tomoya Uchida headed home a second. Shota Matsuhashi's goal for Oita was little more than a consolation, as the Kyushu club slumped to their seventh loss in thirteen games.

Nabisco League Cup

Group A

The 2007 League Cup group stage came to a thrilling conclusion on May 23, with several clubs still in contention to join Asian Champions League participants Kawasaki Frontale and Urawa Reds in the last eight of the competition.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima topped Group A, courtesy of a 1-0 win over two-time defending champions JEF United. They were joined in the quarter-finals by Gamba Osaka, who overcame a slow start in the competition to finish as one of the two best second-placed finishers.

JEF United coach Amar Osim is now under intense pressure, after the 2005 and the 2006 champions were knocked out of this season's competition at the group stage.

Group B

Group B was the tightest of all the League Cup groups. Amazingly, all four teams in the group finished level on eight points - while two teams scored and conceded the same number of goals.

Omiya Ardija finished bottom of a group that they had lead for the majority of the group stage, after losing 3-0 to Shimizu S-Pulse. Kashiwa Reysol hammered Yokohama F. Marinos 3-0, but neither Shimizu, nor Kashiwa benefited from their wins.

It was Yokohama F. Marinos who progressed to the quarter-finals on a tie-breaker rule, after they finished with an identical goal difference to Shimizu S-Pulse. Yokohama went through courtesy of possessing a superior head-to-head record against Shimizu, with the other three teams knocked out of the tournament.

Group C

Group C was a more straight-forward affair, with FC Tokyo booking their progression to the knock-out stages courtesy of a 2-1 away win over neighbours Yokohama FC. Jubilo Iwata beat struggling Oita Trinita 3-1 in Kyushu, but only the capital club went through to the last eight.

Group D

Group D was another tight affair, with three teams still in contention on the final match-day. Kashima Antlers won the group courtesy of a 3-0 win over Ventforet Kofu at Kose Sports Park Stadium, but the majority of the 8,844 fans in attendance were celebrating when news filtered through that Kofu had also qualified as one of the two best second-placed finishers.

Albirex Niigata were the unlucky team to miss out. They would have finished as the group runner-up, but Brazilian midfielder Marcio Richards saw his second-half penalty saved by Nagoya Grampus Eight goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, as the match finished 0-0 in front of 28,660 disappointed fans in Niigata.

The two-legged quarter-finals take place in July, and they will see Gamba Osaka take on arch-rivals Urawa Reds, Kawasaki Frontale meet Ventforet Kofu, FC Tokyo face a grudge match with giants Yokohama F. Marinos and 2006 runner-up Kashima Antlers meet Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Asian Champions League

Urawa Reds joined Kawasaki Frontale in the last eight of the Asian Champions League, when they drew 0-0 with Sydney FC in front of 44,793 fans at Saitama Stadium.

The point was enough to see Urawa advance to the knock-out stages, although they were pushed all the way by 2005 Australian champions Sydney FC. The two clubs drew 2-2 at Aussie Stadium in March, and they could not be separated at Saitama Stadium on May 23, although Brazilian striker Washington missed a glorious chance in the final minute of the match.

2007 JOMO All-Star Game

The 2007 JOMO All-Star Game between Japan East and Japan West will take place on at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi on August 4.

With team selections made according to public votes, several of the J-League's most popular players are vying to make their respective teams.

The match should see the likes of Shimizu S-Pulse's popular midfielder Jungo Fujimoto do battle with Kawasaki's Kengo Nakamura, while forty year old Yokohama FC veteran Kazuyoshi Miura is another player who can expect to take part in the match, which marks the resumption of football in Japan after the mid-season summer break.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Osim names squad for friendlies

Osim names squad for friendlies.
Osim names squad for friendlies
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Japan national team manager Ivica Osim on Sunday named two more old boys to his squad in the run-up to this summer’s Asian Cup.

FC Basel’s Koji Nakata (56 caps) and Nagoya Grampus Eight goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki (50 caps) join Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura and Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara as the latest everpresents from the Zico era to be brought back into the fold.
Osim named 27 players to his squad that will face Montenegro in Shizuoka on June 1 and Colombia in Saitama on June 5 as tune-ups for the continental competition being co-hosted by Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand this July.
Two-time defending champions Japan play Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam in the group stage of the competition.

SQUAD:

GK
Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata)
Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus Eight)
Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale)

DF
Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F Marinos)
Koji Nakata (FC Basel)
Keisuke Tsuboi (Urawa Reds)
Yuichi Komano Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Hiroki Mizumoto (JEF United Chiba)
Naoaki Aoyama (Shimizu S-Pulse)

MF
Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic)
Hideo Hashimoto (Gamba Osaka)
Naotake Hanyu (JEF United Chiba)
Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka)
Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale)
Keita Suzuki (Urawa Reds)
Yuki Abe (Urawa Reds)
Yasuyuki Konno (F.C. Tokyo)
Satoru Yamagishi (JEF United Chiba)
Jungo Fujimoto (Shimizu S-Pulse)
Koki Mizuno (JEF United Chiba)
Keisuke Honda (Nagoya Grampus Eight)
Akihiro Ienaga (Gamba Osaka)

FW
Naohiro Takahara (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Ryuji Bando (Gamba Osaka)
Seiichiro Maki (JEF United Chiba)
Hisato Sato (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata)

Copyright (c) C.G. Williams & Soccerphile

J. League Results 26-27 May 2007

J. League Results 26-27 May 2007.
Saturday / Sunday 26/27 May

Gamba Osaka increased their lead at the top the J-League from last year's champions Urawa Reds. Gamba beat JEF 2-1 away, while Reds had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home with Yokohama F Marinos.

Ardija's form under new coach Robert Verbeek continues to improve after a late equalizer earned a point away to Frontale. JEF, Ardija and FC Yokohama all have 10 points at the bottom of the pile.

In J2, Consadole now have a 10-point lead over the chasing pack of Sendai Vegalta, Montedio and Kyoto Sanga.


Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2 Shimizu S-Pulse 1
JEF United 1 Gamba Osaka 2
Yokohama FC 2 Oita Trinita 1
FC Tokyo 0 Nagoya Gampus Eight 1
Vissel Kobe 2 Kashiwa Reysol 1
Kashima Antlers 2 Ventforet Kofu 0

Urawa Reds 1 Yokohama F Marinos 0
Kawasaki Frontale 1 Omiya Ardija 1
Jubilo Iwata 2 Albirex Niigata 4

Leading Positions

Gamba P13 Pts 28
Reds P13 Pts 24
Frontale P13 Pts 22
Reysol P13 Pts 21
S-Pulse P13 Pts 21

J2

Consadole P17 Pts 39
Vegalta Sendai P17 Pts 29
Montedio P16 Pts 29
Kyoto Sanga P16 Pts 29

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Friday, May 25, 2007

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Future hangs in the balance

A-League.
Future hangs in the balance
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has a problem and, like so much in life, it boils down to a question of balance.

Not long ago, he was merely interim Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, the man tasked with plugging the unenviable gap created by Guus Hiddink's departure after the World Cup.

Now the interim tag has been binned, and the former international striker has his heart set on the long-term post of coaching Australia to the 2010 World Cup.

How does he snare the nation's top footballing job for the immediate future?

Well holding aloft July's Asian Cup would of course be excellent interview material for the man who hasn’t yet won all over his critics despite his approachable demeanour and a string of OK results.

But therein lies the heart of the problem. Despite a dose of swagger from Australia's leading lights, taking out the premier regional crown at the first attempt won't quite be the jaunt some are expecting.

Naturally, the region's current ranked No.2 nation has high expectations, but competing with the AFC's aristocrats, particularly in the sweltering conditions at their Bangkok base, is going to need an Australian squad close to its strongest - just as Hiddink enjoyed 12 months ago.

However, the dilemma is that if Arnold continues naming his strongest side, how are his peripheral squad members and local A-League players ever going to gain enough international experience to seriously compete for a place in South Africa in three years time.

Choices, choices.

"With the World Cup qualifying program coming up there's going to be a huge emphasis on A-League players," Arnold confirmed to reporters after announcing his 23-man squad for the June friendly against nemesis Uruguay.

"The short-term picture is obviously the Asian Cup but I'd rather look at the big picture as well.

"This is a good chance to look at A-League players to see who can step up to the mark because if I don't learn about them in (friendly) games when will we learn about them?"

Arnold's biggest concern is that up to 10 of the stars which shone for Hiddink in Germany won't make the trip to Southeast Asia.

Confirmed absentees include then-captain Craig Moore and German-based striker Josh Kennedy through injury while Zeljko Kalac, Stan Lazaridis and Tony Popovic have retired.

Arnold has this week also placed huge question marks over the availability of left-sided defender Scott Chipperfield and striker John Aloisi through personal reasons and injury respectively while goalkeeper Ante Covic has slipped from favour and Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill are returning from long-term layoffs.

That already leaves the Socceroos desperately lacking in depth without considering the possible international retirements of Aloisi, Josip Skoko and even talismanic striker Mark Viduka after the finals.

"I believe I'm a long way down the track of convincing him not to retire after the Asian Cup but if a player decides that there's nothing you can do to change his mind," Arnold said of the off-contract Viduka, who finished the English Premiership season in a hurry with 16 goals in 22 games.

"I definitely think he's got another World Cup in him. The way he's played this year convinces me that as long as Mark's happy off the field he takes that onto the field."

Pointedly, Arnold's squad to face Uruguay next weekend features just three of the heroes who defeated the South Americans on penalties in that famous World Cup playoff in November 2005.

But then this, Arnold admits, is a transitional era for Australia, although he also, somewhat hopefully, describes the squad picked to face their old enemy as 'the future of Australian football'.

"If I look at a backline, for example, of (Brett) Emerton, (Lucas) Neill, (Patrick) Kisnorbo and (Michael) Thwaite, that could be the backline for the 2010 World Cup," he added.

The problem, critics of the national team's development argue, is that those names are hardly likely send a shiver down the spines of prospective qualifying opponents.

At least, Arnold can rely on the likes of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Vinnie Grella, Mark Bresciano and Jason Culina as well as Cahill and Kewell for the charge to South Africa.

The speed at which he introduces the remaining starters is one he will doubtless spend many a sleepless night worrying about.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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You Do Thumb Thing To Me

In order to improve, we have to evolve. Way back in 1782, a Judge decreed that a husband may continue to beat his wife, as long as the stick with which he administers the castigation is not thicker than his thumb. Some called this political correctness gone mad, but I prefer to think of Judge Buller as a progressive idealist.

Football has also had its fair share of forward thinkers. In 1987, the football league introduced the antidote to dull end-of-season match-ups. It wasn’t a time-machine to talk Mrs Mourinho out of that extra glass of wine; but it was the next best thing; the play-offs literally revolutionalised the beautiful game.

With the possible exception of a stag-party in Amsterdam, or a minor operation for the wife, watching the play-off finals is as close to a perfect weekend as you’re likely to find. The only way to improve the experience is if a little profit can be made, and as luck would have it, a pearl of a punt has brazenly presented itself in the Championship finale.

If somebody offered you 7/5 on the outcome of a coin-toss, you’d rip their arm off; that’s why Jackiey Goody flopped as a bookmaker. Derby are trading at 2.40 on the exchanges to win promotion, even though they’re facing a West Brom side who finished a distant eight points behind them in the league. It’s time to stand up and bet like a man; I’m asking the wife for a few quid to get on.

Michael Jackson and Robbie Williams should both start for Blackpool against Yeovil; the league one play-off will either be a thriller or a camp useless sorry excuse for entertainment. The red-hot Seasiders are on a nine match winning streak; I’ll be getting involved at a balcony-dangling 13/10.

Saying goodbye to the Gay Meadow may sound like a sequel to Brokeback Mountain, but it’s a reality for fans of Shrewsbury Town. All Bristol Rovers are interested in is the taming of the Shrews, the Pirates will land the spoils at 7/5.

It’s 1/100 that the Scottish FA cup final proves a more entertaining spectacle than the dross served up in the English showpiece. A young lady actually fell asleep in the boozer where I watched the ‘action’, although that was my fault.

I normally avoid taking an interest in a match with a heavy Scottish contingent; you just can’t trust a footballer whose idea of lean cuisine is to lightly dip a Mars bar in a deep-fat fryer. Celtic have lost three of their last four matches though, the 10/1 for a Dunfermline upset is sitting on the verge of appealing.

The Republic of Ireland look a great bet in their International friendly. It’s been alleged that the Bolivian team are dismayed with this fixture; they were hoping to meet Scotland to get a little bit of business done on the side. Get your green on the Irish at 5/4.

The Welsh are also in action against New Zealand, and somewhat surprisingly, there’s not a rugby ball or a nervous farm animal to be seen. The following few words are rarer than a Robbie Savage appearance on QI; Wales should win this match. The 1/2 for a Welsh win is the prize lamb in the paddock.

I asked the wife if there was anything she would change about my body; she said there was just one little thing. Personally, I just want wider thumbs. This week’s accer is the actual definition of perfection; Derby, Blackpool, Real Madrid and Seville will all oblige at an impeccable 12/1.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Milan banish Istanbul nightmare while UEFA pens a Greek ticketing tragedy

Milan banish Istanbul nightmare.
A Pippo Inzaghi brace handed Milan their seventh European crown as the Rossoneri defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the Champions League final in Athens' Olympic Stadium.

Inzaghi deflected Andrea Pirlo's free kick seconds before half time and latched on to Kaka's delightful through-ball eight minutes before the final whistle. Dirk Kuyt headed a consolation for the Reds a minute from time.

Milan gained revenge for throwing away a three-goal lead against the same opponents in the 2005 final and completed a remarkable season which began with a 15-point penalty for their role in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, later reduced to eight points on appeal, and a fourth-place finish in Serie A, which city rivals Inter won by a huge 22 points.

The result of the final was harsh on Liverpool, who dominated the game and might have won had they been able to call on greater firepower up front. Dirk Kuyt was employed as a lone striker but drifted wide many times to support wingers Boudewijn Zenden and Jermaine Pennant, while Peter Crouch was brought on with only 12 minutes to go.

Crouch replaced Javier Mascherano, in whose absence at defensive midfield, Kaka was able to advance and pick out Inzaghi for Milan's killer second strike.

Liverpool's fans, despite having to travel over 1,300 more kilometers than their Italian counterparts, vastly outnumbered the Milanese supporters in the Greek capital, although there was widespread anger at the lack of proper stewarding and half-hearted monitoring of fake tickets, which left hundreds of fans with genuine ones locked out.

Riot police wielded batons and sprayed tear gas as disorder broke out before kick off outside the stadium, when it was announced the venue was full and nobody else would be allowed in.

While it would be unrealistic to expect a Southern or Eastern European country to organise a big football event as well as England, with its modern football stadia and police well-versed in the art of handling football crowds, UEFA once more are guilty for overseeing the chaos outside the Olympic Stadium.

Returning fans have mobbed the phone-ins this morning decrying the absence of rigorous ticket checks and proper policing outside the venue.

Former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, who was present, said, "Ticket checks were a joke. Many people with valid tickets were not allowed in."

UEFA's William Galliard blamed Liverpool fans for trying to barge in the stadium before kick off, and while some observers may note that the same stadium hosted the 2004 Olympic Games without problems, football crowds are certainly different in nature, and it should have been anticipated that several fans would try to gain entry with counterfeits.

That has been the case for years with big finals, which is why tickets now come with holograms and scannable bar codes. In light of this, there really can be no excuse for fans bearing fake tickets being allowed entry last night in Athens.

Additionally, with UEFA handing Liverpool only 17,000 tickets out of 64,000 on offer, the potential for a black market bonanza was there. Supporters' groups' studies have consistently shown the majority of tickets sold on the street come from corporate allocations, while such a small handout to a big-supported club like Liverpool inevitably meant thousands of fans would try their luck with touts.

Galliard pointed to the lack of problems at the Milan end of the stadium but that same club failed to fill their enclosure because their travelling numbers were far fewer than Liverpool's. If English fans are to blame by their nature, then how come 90,000 of them travelled to a neutral stadium last Saturday for a major final without any of the problems encountered in Athens?

While Liverpool fans must shoulder some of the blame for the disorder outside the ground, such a scenario should have been expected given the poor organisation.

The scandal of mean ticketing allocations for real fans at big games continues, and in this case the organisers, UEFA, must take the responsibility for engineering such a dangerous situation in the first place.

Liverpool lick their wounds, well aware they are still that one step behind the elite of Europe, while Milan, disappointingly lacklustre on the night despite their victory, can nevertheless toast their seventh European Cup, which gives their country the Champions League to add to their World Cup triumph over the past year.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

World Soccer News 05/22/2007

Soccer news.
World Football News 05/22/2007

Romário's suspect record

Romário da Sousa Faria has finally accomplished his lifetime goal. In the Brazilian championship match against Sport Club, the veteran scored a penalty for Vasco becoming the second Brazilian after Pelé with a 1000 goals.
"I thank God on heaven," said an elated Romário when the game was interrupted so that he could be honoured.
As the jubilant striker was running the lap of honour around the field of Sao Januário stadium, his mother Dona Lita put on the shirt with 1000 printed on the front, and the ball with which the legendary goal was scored ended in the hands of Romarito, one of his sons.
As far as his retirement is concerned, Romário still keeps people guessing. "I'll quit when no-one will expect it."
Still, Romário's 1000 goals is not a real figure since it includes exhibition games both for clubs and country, which FIFA does not recognize. The true figure, achieved in official competitive and friendly games is 886, as follows.

Team Goals

Vasco da Gama 324
PSV Eindhoven 165
Barcelona 53
Flamengo 204
Valencia 14
Fluminense 48
Miami 22
Adelaide 1
Brazil 55

Unofficial club games 98
Unofficial Brazil games 16


Real Madrid: blind faith in victory

Barcelona's 6-0 win at Atlético Madrid on the 35th matchday sounds fantastic, but the real story in Spain is yet another Real Madrid late win.
Fabio Capello's team collected three points for the fifth time in the past seven weeks at Recreativo Huelva, which has enabled them to hold on to the top spot ahead of Barcelona thanks to a superior head-to-head record (Barcelona have a far better goals difference and would be leaders in England, France or Germany).
Real have also achieved their eleventh away win this season, which constitutes a new team record. They will have to improve the record and score another, at Zaragoza, to clinch the championship.

Real's late wins

* Celta 1-2 Real: Robinho's winner came in the 83rd minute
* Real 2-1 Valencia. Sergio Ramos decider in the 73rd minute
* Real 3-2 Sevilla. Real was losing 0-1 until the 61th minute.
* Real 4-3 Espanyol. The visitors were 2-0 and 3-1 up. Huguain scored with a minute to go.
* Recreativo 2-3 Real. Roberto Carlos did it again in the 91st minute.


Stuttgart champs, Schalke just can't do it

Bayer Leverkusen used to be called Neverkusen after finishing runners-up four times in six Bundesliga seasons between 1997 and 2002. The new perennial losers are Schalke, three time runners-up since 2001 (to be fair, unlike Bayer they have at least won a couple of Cups).
This time around, the Miners dropped a seven point advantage in the last eight Bundesliga rounds and saw Stuttgart overtake them with one game to go on the way to their fifth German championship.
Schalke's 2-0 loss at Borussia Dortmund proved crucial as Stuttgart won both of their last games against Bochum and Energie after coming from behind.
Werder will acompany the top two into the Champions' League, while Bayern have been "relegated" to the UEFA Cup for the first time since 1996/97.


Most people happy as spoils shared in England

Manchester United may be the champs, but Chelsea have just made it a League and FA Cup double. Didier Drogba's late goal which culminated a delicate one-two with Frank Lampard enabled the Blues to end the season on a high note after Premiership and Champions' League frustrations. Liverpool, on the other hand, started the season with a win in the Community Shield and finished it as the best placed English team in Europe. How exactly their attempt at the sixth European Cup will turn out will be known in a matter of hours, but the Reds' season may already be qualified as a success.


Pelé calls for a war on corruption

The Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has stepped up and claimed his country does not see the best soccer in the world.
"Whenever I have insomnia, I search for foreign soccer on the satellite. Do you know what I like best? European soccer, because it is better than Brazilian. We may produce the most stars, but they leave and give their best elsewhere."
Pelé, the "soccer king", has concurred with his president, but has also offered an explanation and a solution.
"We still have a strong league and the status of Brazilian soccer is good. Still, it is true that our best players live abroad and our fans can only see them on television. The biggest problem is the corruption which exists in the clubs. Let the president try to defeat it, as I tried when I was the minister of sports."


Giuly lost the World Cup over SMS to coach's wife

Barcelona's right winger Ludovic Giuly has played in a great shape for years, but he was not called up by Raymond Domenech for last year's World Cup in Germany to many people's surprise.
Now we know why: the little Frenchman sent a text message to Domenech's wife Estelle Denis, and the husband found it.
"I spoke to the coach explaining him that nothing happened and that I did not even know they were married," explained the player in his recently published biography. It did not help. Domenech called up Franck Ribery and left Giuly at home.


Platini renounces Champions' League reform

Michel Platini now knows better. There will be no comprehensive Champions' League remodelling, not in favour of the smaller clubs anyway. The UEFA chairman won many East European votes on the basis of his promise to give more chances to the clubs of less affluent countries, but a couple of months later this is no longer an option.
"I spent five years considering the modifications of the formula. I spoke, I listened, I understood many things and finally gave up," said Platini to France Football.

Doubtlessly, the big clubs and their Federations raised an obstacle too high for Platini, who is now contemplating minor changes.
"Next month I'll present to the Executive Committee a project to balance the competitions, which would be implemented some time between 2009 and 2012."
The most likely changes concern the UEFA Cup and its group phase, which will probably be expanded from eight groups with five clubs each to twelve groups with four clubs each to play six games instead of only four.


Rivaldo's goodbye to Piraeus

The Brazilian Vítor Borba Rivaldo bid a farewell to Olympiacos after failing to agree to a contract extension. In his last game with the red-and-whites, the 35-year old scored two goals against Ionikos in Olympiacos' 5-3 win.
The 1999 FIFA player of the year came to Piraeus in 2004 and went on to win three League titles while scoring 36 goals in the Greek championship. Sadly, his final months have been spoiled by the fact that the Greeks owe him 350,000 euros and by their proposal of a 50% cut for next season, something the 2002 World Cup winner could not swallow.


Season of records for Inter

Thanks to Hernán Crespo's three goals, Inter defeated Lazio 4-3 and established a new record for the number of Serie A points with 93, overcoming Juventus' total of 91 set last year.
At the same time, the nerazurri recorded their 29th win, levelling Torino's exploit from the 1947/48 season.
If they can win at least a point in their last game, Roberto Mancini's team will set a new record for the percentage of points in one season, beating their own 82.36% achievemet from the 1988/89 season.
Still, there will be no double for Inter, as Roma finally managed to win a piece of silverware. In the third consecutive final between the same two teams, Roma won 7-4 on aggregate, collecting their first trophy since 2001 and the team's first Coppa Italia since 1991.


Marseille's "Munich curse"

By losing in the French cup finals on penalties to Sochaux, Olympique Marseille missed another chance of winning a trophy since their Champions' League triumph in the infamous 1992/93 season. On that occasion, they won the coveted European title by beating Milan 1-0 in Munich, but had their domestic title revoked because of having bribed Valenciennes' players to secure a fifth consecutive French championship.
The police investigation into the club's operations uncovered numerous financial irregularities which led the FA to kick OM out into the second division for two seasons. After returning to the top flight in 1996, OM had several opportunities of winning another trophy, but they always stayed second best.
The "Munich curse" started with the run-in to the 1998/99 championship race, which Marseille lost as Bordeaux beat Paris SG in injury time on the last day. Then followed four defeats in various cup finals, the last one to Sochaux.

Marseille's failures

1999 Lost League title in the last minute
1999 Marseille 0-3 Parma (UEFA Cup finals)
2004 Marseille 0-2 Valencia (UEFA Cup finals)
2006 Marseille 1-2 Paris SG (French Cup finals)
2007 Marseille 6-7 Sochaux (French Cup finals)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Gamba still top, but Urawa are closing in

Gamba still top, but Urawa are closing in.
J-League News: Gamba still top, but Urawa are closing in

There is a familiar look to the top of the J-League, where Gamba Osaka and Urawa Reds currently occupy the top two positions.

The two clubs clashed in front of 55,258 fans at Saitama Stadium on May 13, where the shares were spoiled in a 1-1 draw, after Bare's early opener was cancelled out by Washington.

Washington endured a frustrating afternoon against Gamba, first seeing a goal chalked off for a foul on thirty-seven minutes, before Gamba goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigaya saved Washington's spot-kick after sixty-four minutes. The temperamental striker finally got on the score-sheet after seventy-six minutes, as the honours were shared in Saitama.

Gamba got back to winning ways on May 19, beating Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 in wet conditions at Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka. Ex-Ventforet Kofu striker Bare scored his seventh goal of the season to open proceedings. Midfielder Takahiro Futagawa then produced an early contender for goal-of-the-season, with a stunning thirty yard strike that rocketed passed Yuta Minami in the Kashiwa goal.

On the stroke of half-time former Bayer Leverkusen front-man Franca played in strike partner Tadanari Ri, and the Japan under-22 international produced a clinical finish to beat Fujigaya in the Gamba goal. That's how the scoreline stayed, as the second half failed to match the excitement of the first.

In Aichi-ken 34,347 fans turned out at Toyota Stadium, but the home fans left disappointed as Urawa snatched a 2-1 win over Nagoya Grampus Eight. With Marcus Tulio Tanaka missing through a thigh injury, Brazilian defender Fabio Nene stepped in, and he opened the scoring by heading home Robson Ponte's twenty-seventh minute corner.

Norwegian international Frode Johnsen equalised when he ghosted in behind the Urawa defence to volley home Shohei Abe's left-wing cross, as the two teams went in level at the break. It took until the eighty-fourth minute for Urawa to conjure a winner, when Washington stabbed home from twelve yards to maintain the pressure on Gamba Osaka at the top of the table.

The match between Omiya Ardija and Yokohama FC was delayed for twenty minutes as a ferocious storm swept over Komaba Stadium, drenching the 9,466 fans in attendance. It was the home side who ultimately came out on top, with an eighty-third minute Daisuke Tomita winner relieving some of the pressure on new coach Robert Verbeek. The win lifts Omiya above Yokohama FC, although Omiya are still second-from-bottom on the J-League table.

JEF United turned in a diabolical performance at Fukuda Denshi Arena, losing 3-1 to visitors Sanfrecce Hiroshima, for whom Ueslei scored a hat-trick inside half an hour.

The problems began for United when veteran goalkeeper Tomonori Tateishi raced towards the corner flag to intercept a stray ball. Ueslei arrived first, and his cross was handled on the goal line by Koji Nakajima. Referee Yuichi Nishimura was lenient in showing Nakajima a yellow card, but Ueslei was less generous, and he converted the spot-kick after just six minutes of play.

Ueslei's second goal was another comedy of errors, as his weak left wing cross eluded everyone in the United defence and crept inside Tateishi's near post. The thirty-five year old Brazilian could hardly be described as one of the faster players in the J-League, yet after thirty-six minutes he managed to shake off defender Hiroki Mizumoto and race onto a through ball, before expertly finishing passed the hapless Tateishi to complete his hat-trick.

Koki Mizuno managed a late consolation goal, but the worrying sight of Naotake Hanyu being stretchered from the field after a sickening head clash ensured that JEF United's day went from bad to worse. The players were booed off the pitch by sections of the United faithful, and Bosnian coach Amar Osim is now under pressure to keep his job.

In the Sunday fixtures, Jubilo Iwata twice came from behind at home against Vissel Kobe, only to fall 3-2 to a late Leandro winner. Yusuke Kondo opened the scoring for the visitors at Yamaha Stadium, and Leandro added a second after just fourteen minutes of play.

Jubilo stormed back through goals from Robert Cullen and Sho Naruoka, however Leandro's seventy-sixth minute winner ensured the points went back to Kansai, as Kobe move up to ninth place in the J-League, one point behind eighth placed Jubilo.

Ex-Jubilo favourite Takashi Fukunishi scored the only goal at Nissan Stadium, as FC Tokyo beat hosts Yokohama F. Marinos in a match between teams from Japan's two largest cities.

Consadole Sapporo are five points clear at the top of the J2 standings, after their recent 3-0 home win over bottom club Mito Hollyhock.

Vegalta Sendai missed a chance to close the gap on second placed Montedio Yamagata, when they were beaten 2-1 by Tokushima Vortis at Yurtec Stadium.

Cerezo Osaka have dropped down to eleventh place in J2, after they were beaten 2-0 at home by second-from-bottom Ehime FC.

Asian Champions League

Kawasaki Frontale booked their passage to the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League with a 3-0 win over Arema Malang at Todoroki Stadium on May 9 - becoming the first Japanese team to qualify for the knock-out stages since the tournament was revamped in 2003.

Captain Kengo Nakamura scored twice for the home team, before Taku Harada wrapped up proceedings for Kawasaki. Last season's J-League runner-up travel to Thailand for their final Group F encounter on May 23, where they will take on Bangkok University.

2006 J-League champions Urawa Reds are having a tougher time sealing qualification. They currently top Group E, but they face 2005 A-League champions Sydney FC in a do-or-die showdown at Saitama Stadium on May 23.

Urawa must avoid defeat in that match to seal their progression to the quarter-finals. Things could be worse for the defending J-League champions, with Sydney FC midfielder Ufuk Talay having hit the crossbar from a penalty in Sydney's most recent 0-0 draw at home to Shanghai Shenhua United.

That means that Sydney FC trail Urawa by a point in Group E, and they will need to overcome a hostile home crowd at Saitama Stadium if they are to book a passage to the last eight of the competition.

Japan National Teams

Japan National Team

Japan recently completed a twenty-four man training camp in preparation for the upcoming Kirin Cup.

The biggest surprises were call-up's for Yokohama F. Marinos defender Takanobu Komiyama and Kawasaki Frontale's Masaru Kurotsu. Kashiwa Reysol's Naoya Kondo, Jubilo Iwata's Shinji Murai and Keita Sugimoto of Nagoya Grampus Eight were also called up for the camp.

Japan take on Montengro in the first match of the 2007 Kirin Cup at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi on June 1st. They then meet Colombia at Saitama Stadium on June 5.

Japan Olympic Team

Japan had already advanced to the final qualifying round for the Beijing Olympics, however they still managed a comfortable 4-0 win over Hong Kong to seal top spot in Group B of the qualification tournament.

Kashiwa Reysol striker Tadanari Ri opened the scoring in Hong Kong on May 16, before tall FC Tokyo striker Sota Hirayama added a second for Japan, shortly before the break.

Second half goals from Nagoya's Keisuke Honda and JEF United's Koki Mizuno wrapped up the points for Japan, who face Malaysia at the National Stadium in Tokyo in their final group match on June 6.

Japan Under-17 National Team

Japan have been drawn in Group D for the upcoming FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Korea Republic, where they will face Haiti, Nigeria and France for a place in the knock-out stages of the tournament.

Japanese Players Overseas

Masashi Oguro : Torino

Former Gamba Osaka striker Masashi Oguro has reportedly refuted suggestions that he could be on his way to Omiya Ardija, after a poor first season in Italian football. Oguro has made just seven appearances for Torino in Serie A, with his club still not mathematically safe from the drop going into the final game of the season.

Mitsuo Ogasawara : Messina

On-loan Kashima Antlers midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara is another player rumoured to be on his way back to the J-League. He is out of the first team picture at Messina, with the Sicilian club having already been relegated to Serie B. Despite earlier claiming that he would try his luck with another team in Italy, Ogasawara could be on his way back to Kashima for the second half of the J-League season.

Daisuke Matsui : Le Mans

Daisuke Matsui is another Japanese player likely to be on the move, after falling out of favour at French Ligue 1 outfit Le Mans. Matsui scored in Le Mans' 1-1 draw at home to Nantes on May 6, before setting up the winner for Brazilian striker Grafite in Le Mans' 1-0 away win over Toulouse on May 10. Despite his good form Matsui is reportedly heading for the exit door, with several Ligue 1 outfits having reputedly tabled offers for the former Kyoto Sanga FC star.

Junichi Inamoto : Galatasaray

Galatasaray suffered another blow as their disappointing season winds to a close, when they were recently beaten 2-1 at home by bitter rivals Fenerbahce. Ex-Fulham and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Junichi Inamoto has been a virtual ever-present for Galatasaray this season, and he looks set to extend his stay at the Turkish giants.


Naohiro Takahara : Eintracht Frankfurt

Japan international Naohiro Takahara finished the season as Eintracht Frankfurt's top goal-scorer, having hit the back of the net eleven times in the Bundesliga. Frankfurt narrowly managed to avoid relegation, and they will miss Takahara during pre-season training for the 2007-08 season, when he represents Japan at the Asian Cup.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

World Soccer News

J. League Results 19-20 May 2007

J. League Results 19-20 May 2007.
Saturday / Sunday 19/20 May

Gamba Osaka still top the J-League from last year's champions Urawa Reds. Gamba beat Reysol 2-1 at home, while Reds overcame Grampus away by the same score.

Ardija and new coach Robert Verbeek had something to celebrate as a late goal secured a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Yokohama FC. Ardija remain just above Yokohama but stay in touch JEF and Trinita just above them.

In J2, Consadole still lead from the chasing pack of Montedio, Vegalta and Sanga.

Omiya Ardija 1 Yokohama FC 0
Gamba Osaka 2 Kashiwa Reysol 1
Oita Trinita 2 Kawasaki Frontale 0
Nagoya Gampus Eight 1 Urawa Reds 2
Albirex Niigata 1 Kashima Antlers 1
Ventforet Kofu 0 Shimizu S-Pulse 1
JEF United 1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3

Jubilo Iwata 2 Vissel Kobe 3
Yokohama F Marinos 0 FC Tokyo 1

Leading Positions

Gamba P12 Pts 25
Reds P12 Pts 23
Frontale P12 Pts 21
Reysol P12 Pts 21
S-Pulse P12 Pts 21

J2

Consadole P15 Pts 33
Montedio P14 Pts 28
Vegalta Sendai P15 Pts 26
Kyoto Sanga P15 Pts 26

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mixed Season For Korea's English Quartet

As the referee blew his whistle at the end of Saturday’s FA Cup final between Manchester United and Chelsea ended, he also called time on the 2006/07 English season.

So what better time to take a quick look at how the English Premier League’s quartet of South Korean football stars have fared?

Park Ji-sung (Manchester United)

Korea’s Premier League pioneer Park has been unlucky.

The midfielder was solid rather than spectacular in his first campaign at Old Trafford and his legion of fans were hopeful he would hit the heights in the second.

He didn’t at first. An ankle injury sustained in September kept him out of action for three months. Upon his return in at the end of the year, the former PSV Eindhoven star started to find his rhythm. As United battled for glory in England and Europe, Park started to add the one thing that had been missing since he joined the club in July 2005 – goals.

Two of them came against Bolton in March. One more was added in the next game against Blackburn which took his return for the season to an impressive five goals in 14 games. That was Park’s last contribution to United’s title challenge as the knee ligament damage that he picked up during that game on March 31 necessitated surgery in April and recovery in the summer.

Despite the injuries Park should be pleased with his contribution to the United cause and the fact that he is the first Asian player to win a Premier League championship medal.

“Park has been a great player for us. His energy and his work rate are great. He always makes space for the players and runs for the team. I have played a few times with him in computer games.He's a good player but a bad loser. He tends to shout a lot when he loses” – Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney.

Lee Young-pyo (Tottenham and South Korea)

Like Park, Lee’s season was going well before it also came to a premature end on the operating table.

The left-back almost left Spurs last August. Only a last-minute change of mind prevented him from joining Italian giants Roma.

It was a brave decision as, at that point, Lee had lost his place in the starting eleven to Cameroonian rival Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The Korean fought his way back into the affections of coach Martin Jol and made a total of 31 appearances before damaging his knee ligaments against Sevilla on April 6.

Lee remains a player that divides opinion among Tottenham fans. Some feel he is lacking as a defender while others believe he is under-rated and consistent.

“I will not join Roma. I changed my mind for personal reasons. I will explain in more detail when I arrive in Korea but it had nothing to do with religion.” – Lee Young-pyo.

Seol Ki-hyeon (Reading and South Korea)

Seol’s season has been the proverbial roller-coaster ride.

The attacker joined newly-promoted Reading FC last summer and, like the team, he adjusted to life in the top tier with the minimum of fuss. So much so that he was named as the club’s best player for both August and September.

As autumn faded, so did Seol’s form. This is hardly a new phenomenon as fans of previous clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers and Anderlecht would confirm.

From the end of December to the end of March, “The Sniper” failed to start a single game. There were rumours of moves to other teams, there still are, but as the season entered its final leg, Seol was recalled to the line-up and scored his fourth goal of the season on the final day.

Unfortunately however, the player is due to have an ankle operation and will probably miss the Asian Cup in July.

“It takes time to get used to the Premier League and playing in a new team, but I feel that I've fitted in well,” Seol Ki-hyeon.

Lee Dong-gook (Middlesbrough)

The Lion King is the newest of the quartet and the only one currently injury free, though that could be because he has had little playing time since heading to England’s north-east in January.

Lee has yet failed to score despite hitting the post in his first game. In his defence, he has only made three starts and it is next season when the pressure will be on the former Pohang player to start performing.

"He just needs time on the field to get used to the game here. But he has got clear quality, you can see that in training. We know he is really going to come through more next season." Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

FA Cup Final Quiz

Win a Free Soccerphile T-shirt

Win a Free Soccerphile T-shirt

Just choose the correct answers to the questions below and email your answers to Soccerphile. The first 5 correct entries will win a FREE Soccerphile T-shirt

1) The wife of Chelsea coach, Jose Mourinho is called

A) Josina B) Tami C) Leya

2) Jose Mourinho's pet dog is called

A) Tami B) Gullit C) Leya

3) Jose Mourinho previously managed

A) Real Madrid B) Porto C) Benfica


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Thursday, May 17, 2007

My French is just Shocking

The FA cup final is a great British tradition, like a one shot tennis rally or stitching up the Irish.

This year, the top two teams in the country will go head to head in the greatest exhibition since Lady Godiva whipped out her milk dispensers in a brave bid to flee Coventry on the back of one on the Van Nistelrooy clan.

Most bookmakers are treating this year’s showpiece as a ‘Wolverhampton brother and sister match’, they just can’t separate them.

For my money, Manchester United have a definite edge. The Red Devils have looked hotter than a vindaloo-eating, three sweater-wearing, fever-riddled Anna Kournikova all season long; the 10/11 for United to lift the trophy is practically unmissable.

I refuse to shy away from the difficult questions. Why is it that Jose Mourinho can be arrested for harbouring a potentially dangerous dog, yet Lenny Henry roams the streets with impunity? There is no greater lover of dogs than Mourinho, with the possible exception of Park Ji-Sung. I find the 9/5 for a Manchester United win in 90 minutes completely barking.

Chelsea will have their supporters at 9/5, but the vibes emanating from the Bridge are far from positive. Uncertainty surrounds the future of Lampard, and John Terry’s contract talks break down more often than my old escort. I sometimes wish that Wayne Rooney had never given me her number.

Rooney, Ronaldo and Giggs are all match-winners on their day, but Paul Scholes holds the key to a United victory. Gattuso recently suggested that Scholes likes to take his little matter into his own hands; in fairness to Gattuso, it was an educated guess from the ginger evidence. The 14/1 for a Scholes opener is my best attempt at finding value in the first goalscorer market.

Chelsea’s injury crisis may well be a blessing in disguise. As Carvalho knows only too well, Wayne Rooney has previous for walking all over a Ballack. Correct score betting is always a tough nut to crack; I’ll take a small interest in a 3-1 win for Man U at 25/1.

Gary Neville looks likely to miss the match, so referee Steve Bennett may well be the busiest person on the pitch. Bennett once sent off Tim Cahill for lifting his shirt when celebrating a goal, Ashley Cole is said to be seething with the appointment. This match will be fiery; backing a red card to be shown may pay dividends at 3/1.

The new Wembley may well be pleasing to the eye, but their prices are an absolute disgrace. Cheeseburgers are £5 and a hot dog is £4; maybe Ashley was right all along. Bookies are offering odds on the first player to be carded; Ashley Cole is worth a small punt at 14/1.

The Scottish Premier league is not so different from its English counterpart, apart from the blood alcohol level of the supporters. The in form Hearts have peaked at the business end of the season; they look a great punt at even money to see off Kilmarnock.

I’ve promised the wife a curry if the weekend accer obliges, as long as she sits opposite Chris Tarrant. Manchester United, Hearts, Rangers and Real Madrid are the selections, the payout is a spicy 22/1.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

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Seoul Score, Seongnam Soar, Suwon Solid

Seoul Score, Seongnam Soar, Suwon Solid
After going for almost 700 minutes of K-League football without scoring, FC Seoul’s coach Senol Gunes would have tried anything to break the drought. It is unknown however if it was the Turk who booked the half-time entertainment for the game against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on May 12.

It could be a coincidence that the team scored shortly after the FC Seoul shirt-sporting saxophonist belted out ‘Dancing Queen’ though maybe not.

Almost two months and seven games since last hitting the back of the net, Lee Sang-yeop swept home a spilled shot from close range against the Asian Champions.

The Jeonbuk net rippled six minutes from the end and, as one would expect, it caused a great deal of excitement among the goal-starved fans and players. So much so that just 30 seconds later, the Asian Champions equalized.

The scoreline stayed 1-1 which sees Seoul slip to sixth, ten points behind unbeaten leaders Seongnam.

Seoul Score, Seongnam Soar, Suwon Solid.
The seven-time champions are relentless. Seongnam are unbeaten not only in this K-League season so far but for the last seven games of 2006. Three more points came on Sunday evening with a 2-1 win that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests against a struggling Busan I’Park team. The visitors’ late consolation was only the sixth goal that Seongnam ‘keeper Kim Yong-dae has conceded this season.

Just as solid these days, if not quite as dynamic in attack, are last-season’s runners-up, Suwon Samsung Bluewings. It is fortunate for the league that the Bluewings are managing to keep the yellow machine in sight at the top of the table.

Suwon’s defence is a miserly one, always giving the three-time champions a chance to collect three points. They have been doing without Ahn Jung-hwan who has played little part in recent games. The Lord of the Ring has been given more time by coach Cha Bum-keun to adapt to life back in the K-League but the striker may need more than time.

Cha has steered his team, not always smoothly but very effectively, into a winning run that now stretches to six games in both league and cup. Momentum is a powerful ally and it is something that currently resides in both Seongnam and Suwon.

If it is to be found anywhere else in the 14-team competition then it is in Gyeongnam FC. Three wins out of three in the league has sent the team into third.

It has been something of a surprise. The southerners only entered the league in 2006 and endured a predictably difficult first season. There was optimism that the second campaign would improve after coach Park Hang-seo managed to prise Popo from Busan I’Park but the team’s transformation is one of the stories of the season so far.

Popo helped Busan last season with 13 goals and seven assists and since the Brazilian joined Gyeongnam, he has been just as good – five goals and five assists from the first ten games.

Unlike at Busan, Popo has someone to play with. Coach Park pulled off a master stroke in picking up the hitherto unknown Brazilian striker Everaldo Cabore. The 27 year-old has taken to the K-league like few imports before him have as his place at the top of the scoring charts suggests.

Pohang Steelers are perhaps a little fortunate that the goal drought in the capital has been occupying much of the media in this Seoul-centric nation. Until a midweek win in the Hauzen Cup on May 16, the title hopefuls had gone 12 games without a win.

Like Seoul, Pohang had a good start with ten points from the opening four games to fall back on but the team currently stands in tenth – not what was expected from the team tipped to challenge for the title.

Veteran midfielder Kim Ki-dong is also surprised.

“It’s the first time to have this run of bad form in my professional life,” the 34 year-old said. "The atmosphere at Pohang at the moment is one of confusion. Even in the cafeteria it is hard to eat.”

K-League Standings:

1: Seongnam 24 2: Suwon 21 3: Gyeongnam 17 4: Ulsan 15 5: Jeonbuk 14 6: Seoul 14 7: Jeju 13 8: Daegu 12

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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FiFA World Rankings May 2007

FiFA World Rankings May 2007.
FiFA World Rankings May 2007
Italy stay top of the FIFA World Rankings. Brazil leapfrog Argentina to move in to second. England are in 8th after poor Euro 2008 qualifying results.

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

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Neill brave but ignorant

Neill brave but ignorant.
Lucas Neill is no stranger to going out on a limb.

Neill, a regular in the Socceroos backline and one of Australia's star turns in last year's World Cup, has been hammered from all quarters following his well-documented decision in the transfer window to snub Liverpool - and what turns out to be a possible appearance in the Champions League final - in favour of a relegation battle at cashed-up West Ham.

Before that his name was central to the debate of diving in modern football after conceding a stoppage time penalty to Italy's Fabio Grosso in Australia's heartbreaking second round World Cup loss to the eventual champions 11 months ago.

And now Neill's at it again, this week boldly predicting an unblemished Australian success at July's Asian Cup finals.

Critics might suggest the 29-year-old, in the midst of a relegation dogfight at the foot of the English Premier League table, is hardly in the best position to judge the relative merits of Group A challengers Thailand, Oman and Iraq.

But when asked about his expectations for Australia's maiden AFC adventure, Neill responded by confidently boasting he expects Graham Arnold's Socceroos to remain unbeaten throughout the tournament.

Then, just for good measure, Neill also noted that they wouldn't even need a fully fit Tim Cahill or Harry Kewell to breeze through the group stage although conceded the recovering pair would have to be back to their best in the knockout stage to negotiate the likes of Japan and South Korea (Neill's tips for success).

Australia could face a possible quarter-final clash against Japan, a repeat of the World Cup opener which the Socceroos won 3-1 last year.

"I really think we've got a squad that can handle the conditions, enough of us have played on the biggest stage now that we won't be intimidated by the teams we're going to play against and I really see the standard we're expecting to set taking us all the way to the end," Neill said in a teleconference with reporters on Thursday.

While on Cahill and Kewell he added: "There might be a couple of games where they might not have to be 100 per cent fit or 100 per cent on their games. We might be able to get away with them being 90 or 95 per cent of their best."

But how could Neill know?

Speaking on the eve of West Ham's crunch match against Manchester United on the final day of the English season, surely Neill's immediate thoughts revolved around how to control the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo and preserve the London club's Premiership status.

But even without that significant distraction, you have to wonder whether the Australians are being caught up in their own hype.

It could be devastating to the chances of the Socceroos, currently ranked second in Asia behind Iran, if they blindly assumed that being the sole AFC nation to progress past the group stage at the World Cup makes them heavy Asian Cup favourites.

Much of Neill's absolute faith in Australia's chances of going undefeated comes from last year's pre-World Cup build-up under departed coach Guus Hiddink, a program which resulted in Australia being considered among the fittest and most prepared sides in Germany.

He also said that the conditions across co-hosts Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam will be a 'leveller', hinting that Australia's vital acclimatisation camp in Singapore during June would be preparation enough for the extreme climate expected in Bangkok around kick-off time (90 percent humidity and a 50 per cent chance of rain on matchdays).

Of course, Australia's almost wholly European-based squad is not foolish enough to believe that playing on variable pitches at extreme temperatures will not provide its share of challenges, and time will reveal any degree of overconfidence from Neill and his colleagues.

Local followers only hope that two warm-up matches - against arch-rivals Uruguay on June 2 and Singapore on June 30 - is sufficient to avoid any embarrassment when they come face-to-face with Oman, Gulf Cup finalists in January remember, in their group opener.

It might just not be the walk in the park some are predicting.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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World Soccer News 05/11/2007

World Soccer News 05/11/2007.
World soccer news
05/11/2007

Levski Sofia top European defences

There is no doubt now: the best soccer is played in countries where attack rules over defence. Only one club from the top-leagues - Chelsea - feature among the best defending teams in a list ruled by Bulgarian, Czech, Ukrainian, Romanian and Serbian squads.
By far the best defence this season is that of Levski Sofia, who have conceded just 7 goals in 26 games, 0.27 goals per game. The Bulgarian leaders also head the best goals difference chart with an amazing 79-7 (+72!) ratio.

Team Goals/games Per game

1. Levski 7/26 0,27
2. CSKA Sofija 11/26 0,42
3. Sporting Lisbon 15/28 0,54
4.-5. Slovan Liberec 15/26 0,58
Shakhtiar Donetsk 15/26 0,58
6. Salzburg 19/32 0,59
7. Dinamo Bucharest 18/30 0,60
8. Vojvodina Novi Sad 18/29 0,62
9. Chelsea 23/63 0,63
10.-11. Hajduk Split 20/31 0,64
Porto 18/28 0,64

Joey Barton could leave England, and he should

Manchester City's Joey Barton may be offloaded to a foreign club in the summer as a consequence of the series of incidents perpetrated by the one-time capped midfielder. It is just as well and perhaps Barton should search a country without an extradition treaty with the UK.
His teammate Ousmane Dabo is considering pressing charges against Barton for causing him severe injuries to his eye, nose and lip during an altercation at City's training ground last week.
"I thought it was over and when I wanted to turn away he hit me with a terrible punch that knocked me out. He acted like a coward, it wasn't a fair fight."
Dabo's left eye has been taped closed and he has swellings and facial marks following hospital treatment.
"When I woke up this morning I looked at myself in the mirror with my face all swollen up and I looked like the Elephant Man," he told The Sun.
City suspended Barton, an experienced troublemaker who has been fined a couple of times over incidents like putting out a cigar in a teammate Jamie Tandy's eye during the 2004 Christmas party or fighting with a teenage Everton fan in Bangkok and then with his teammate Richard Dunne who tried to intervene. Last march he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a taxi driver.
According to Barton's agent, there are plenty of teams interested in his client, whose price is set at 5.5 million pounds, not including insurance policies for his future teammates.


No double for Inter Milan

Roma hope to clinch its first trophy in its fourth successive Cup final against Inter Milan. Francesco Totti's team thrashed the reigning champions, a resounding 6-2, edging closer to their eight Italian Cup, and first since 1991.
In the return leg next Wednesday Inter hope to repeat their own performance against the same rival in last summer's Supercup, when they overturned a 0-3 deficit with four second half goals. Since 2005 Inter and Roma have met in two Coppa Italia finals and in a Supercup, with Inter winning every time. Inter's coach Roberto Mancini holds the nickname of "King of Cups" having won six Italian Cups as a player and other four coaching Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter.

Sevilla: a treble or a collapse?

After Chelsea and Manchester United dropped out of the race for a treble, Sevilla is the only European team that retains the possibility of winning three trophies. In spite of losing 2-3 to Real Madrid in last Sunday's big match in Madrid, Sevilla is within four points of a faltering Barcelona at the top of the league, while in both cups they have reached the finals. In the UEFA Cup, Juande Ramos's team will defend the trophy against Espanyol on May 16th in Glasgow, while in the Spanish Cup they will meet Getafe on June 23th at Santiago Bernabeu. The remaining schedule for Sevilla is gruesome, as the Andalusians will have to play two games a week until the end of May.

Eto'o closer to leaving Barcelona

Samuel Eto'o has only a 40% chance of staying in Barcelona and just as much for joining Milan, claim the Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport. The same source believe that Arsenal have the remaining 20% of snatching the Cameroonian striker.
Although his playing contribution is doubtlessly enormous, Eto'o has become a liability in the dressing room after making several enemies. Barca, who is reportedly attempting to sign Thierry Henry and the Brazilian Alfonso Alves from Heerenveen, may be willing to sell Eto'o dear, although at a lower price than the 150 million euros, the amount of the player's buy-out clause. After recovering from knee injury, Eto'o has been scoring at the rate of a goal every 102 minutes and shares second place among Barcelona's scorers this season with a total of 12 goals, behind Ronaldinho with 20.

For Deschamps, Juve's title dream is a "utopia"

Juventus are on their way to the Italian Division 1, but they are not going to win the league right away, says their coach Didier Deschamps.
"I'm an ambitious person, but it is important not to lose a sense of reality. Much will be down to next summer's reinforcements, but for now I think that dreaming of an immediate scudetto is a utopia," said the Frenchman.
As far as Inter's championship win, Deschamps has been fair:
"Good for them, they won fair and square, but we'll meet next season."
Inter are the team that were awarded Juventus's 2006 title after the exposure that Juve's directors had maintained illegal contacts with match referees.

Nantes go down after 44 years

One of the French greats, Nantes Atlantique, have been mathematically relegated with two games to go in spite of beating Bordeaux away 1-0. Wins by Nice and Valenciennes have made it certain that the Canaries could not be saved, alongside Sedan, level on 36 points.

Nantes have won eight championships, the last time in 2001, just before Lyon's six-year winning run. One of the traditional French powerhouses, Nantes have had a chaotic season, having used four coaches and continuously shuffling the starting lineup. Not even the legendary keeper Fabien Barthez, brought as a saviour in December, could help extricate the team from their plight. In fact, with his erratic behaviour and less-than-convincing displays, the former World and European champion contributed to Nantes's downfall.

Dinamo Zagreb break all records

Dinamo Zagreb have retained the Croatian title ahead of Hajduk Split in a season marked by several new records which will be tremendously difficult to break in the future.
Coached by Josip Kuze until the 13th round and by Branko Ivankovic since the end of October, the Zagreb Lions have registered 28 wins in 31 matches played so far, including 18 consecutive wins, all of them under Ivankovic's guidance.

If they collect four or more points in the remaining two games, Dinamo will also establish a new record regarding the percentage of points won, which currently stands at 90.9% and has been held by the same team since the 1996/97 season.
The team's top player, the naturalized Brazilian Eduardo da Silva, has scored 29 goals, equaling Goran Vlaovic's mark from 14 seasons ago.
How high Dinamo's standards are is reflected by the fact that the board of directors dismissed Kuze despite losing only a single league game in the first 13 rounds.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

64 Seconds in Paris

I’m not one of those parents who wrap their children up in cotton wool; I refuse to even pay for pyjamas. I do try my best to keep little Goliath away from television that he may find disturbing though, which normally involves avoiding programmes with Noel Edmonds.

Manchester United’s title winning celebrations at Eastlands caught me completely off-guard. The sight of a topless Rio Ferdinand should have set alarm bells ringing, but as he was next to a bare-chested Ronaldo; all I could think of was grabbing a can of Tango from the fridge.

Before I could reach the kitchen, the camera switched to widescreen to show Wayne Rooney with his hands gently caressing the bottom of his shirt. As Rooney’s intentions became clear, i lurched for the remote control in a desperate yet futile attempt to save Goliath from the grisly spectacle.

The wee man was left traumatised by the ensuing pictures, and he’s visited the sea-life centre on many occasions. Manchester United were in a similar state in ’95 when the Hammers cost United the title; the Red Devils will finally take revenge at 3/5.

Jose Mourinho has rightly apologised for his over-the-top personal attack on Ronaldo. Judging a man as a result of his background is completely out of order; that’s the kind of thing a Frenchman would do. I’m surrendering to the 8/13 for a Chelsea win over Everton.

Reporting a crime to the filth has a certain stigma attached to it, like being seen in public with a Sweaty, but few would argue with Dabo’s decision to tuck up Joey Barton. Michael Ball’s stamp on Ronaldo would suggest that Barton has been a real influence on his team-mates; I’m putting my foot down, get on Spurs at 1/2 to see off Man City.

Charlton may have suffered the ignominy of relegation, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’ll be back, probably harassing women. I’m getting my hands on the 2/5 for a Liverpool win over the Addicks.

I’m not one to point fingers, unless I see an overweight ginger-haired kid with glasses, but Freddie Shepherd should shoulder the blame for Newcastle’s awful season. A draw between the disappointing Watford and Newcastle will come as no surprise at 12/5.

Paris Hilton has found herself looking at a prison sentence, or to use the correct term; she’s gone for a Barton. (It’s heartbreaking when your favourite movie stars let themselves down.) That young lady needs to be scared straight; it would take me just over a minute. I’m currently getting stuck into the 11/10 for a Blackburn win over Reading.

Cesc Fabregas is a quality footballer, but I suspect that he may also lead a secret life as a superhero. Fabman’s noble quest is to mildly annoy tubby midfielders. An Arsenal win over Pompey is the call at an absolutely fabulous 6/4.

I have to take my hat off to Neil Warnock. The Sheffield United manager has only found himself in one touchline ruck this season; that’s a remarkable show of restraint from the combustible northerner. Sheffield United can put the nail in Wigan’s Premiership coffin at a placid 13/10.

Sammy Lee has always been a winner. The Bolton manager once played a starring role in Liverpool’s FA youth cup winning team; but he was 37 at the time. The wife is also a little person, but it doesn’t hold her back; I just put a chair by the sink. There’s nothing small about the 3/1 for an Aston Villa win over Bolton.

I’ll try anything once, except enter a pie-eating contest with Mark Viduka. I must have a go on Middlesbrough at 10/11 against Fulham.

Paris Hilton and I have a lot in common, we’re both reluctant to do a little bird. Aston Villa, Chelsea, Man Utd and Middlesbrough form a weekend accer that I am genuinely excited about; the payout is a salacious 18/1.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Japanese Soccer News Gamba's Golden Week

Japanese Soccer News Gamba's Golden Week.
J-League News: Gamba's week golden, as they still top the table

May 3
It was a tale of two weather fronts, as Golden Week came to an end in Japan with two contrasting rounds of matches.

Thursday, May 3 was Constitution Memorial Day in Japan and fans responded to the public holiday by filling J-League stadiums across the country.

16,279 fans packed into Kose Sports Park in Kofu, and the majority of them went home delighted with Ventforet Kofu's 1-0 win over struggling Yokohama FC. Defender Tatsuya Masushima scored the only goal of the game, to send Kofu well clear of the relegation zone.

At Saitama Stadium, 57,440 fans turned out to witness Urawa Reds take on JEF United. The match marked the first time that former JEF United fan-favourite Yuki Abe had taken on his former club, but the shares were spoiled in this game, as Hiroki Mizumoto cancelled out an early Washington strike, with the end result a 1-1 draw.

FC Tokyo lost again, to the chagrin of many of the 30,436 fans that turned out at Ajinomoto Stadium. Costa Rican World Cup star Paulo Wanchope gave Tokyo the lead in the fifty-seventh minute against Kashima Antlers, but the club from the capital soon crumbled. Masaki Chugo and substitute Chikashi Masuda both scored for Kashima, to hand the Antlers a 2-1 win and ease the pressure on new coach Oswaldo de Oliveira.

In the Kansai derby, referee Yoshitsugu Katayama's controversial decision to send off Gamba Osaka's star striker Magno Alves after only eight minutes meant that Gamba had to play almost the entire match with only ten men, when they took on neighbours Vissel Kobe. Nevertheless 22,236 fans were still treated to an entertaining spectacle.

Japan international Yasuhito Endo opened the scoring for the visitors after sixteen minutes, but Kobe striker Yoshito Okubo equalised barely sixty seconds later. Kobe then took the lead through defender Hiroyuki Komoto just after the re-start, but Brazilian striker Bare levelled proceedings after sixty-four minutes, as the match ultimately ended in a 2-2 stalemate.

The Kanagawa derby saw Yokohama F. Marinos triumph 2-1 over Kawasaki Frontale, in front of 33,498 fans at Nissan Stadium. Yokohama took the lead after Hideo Oshima seized upon Yoshinobu Minowa's weak back-header, to fire F. Marinos into the lead after only four minutes. The mercurial Koji Yamase added a second for F. Marinos on sixty-six minutes, and Magnum's seventy-seventh minute goal proved nothing more than a late consolation for Kawasaki.


Shimizu vs Jubilo, Nihondaira, Shimizu fans
The final match of the round took place at a jam-packed Nihondaira Stadium in Shimizu, where 20,318 vociferous fans created a white-hot atmosphere for the first Shizuoka derby of the season.

Shimizu S-Pulse took the lead through their South Korean international Cho Jae-Jin, after he turned to fire home a cross from strike partner Shinji Okazaki.
Jubilo Iwata levelled when thirty-nine year old veteran Masashi Nakayama stayed the coolest man on the pitch to drill a spot-kick passed Yohei Nishibe, after young Shimizu defender Naoki Aoyama was adjudged to have hauled down Jubilo midfielder Sho Naruoka in the box.

Shimizu vs Jubilo, Nihondaira, Nakayama penalty
Shimizu had the last laugh, however, when Cho Jae-Jin converted Daisuke Ichikawa's right-wing cross with a spectacular flying volley, to wrap up a 2-1 win to Shimizu and send the Jubilo fans home disappointed.

Shimizu vs Jubilo, Nihondaira, Jubilo flag
May 6

Another full round of fixtures took place on Sunday, May 6 but driving rain sweeping across most of the country kept attendances down and ensured difficult conditions for the players.

There was a controversial clash at the Kyushu Oil Dome, where home team Oita Trinita succumbed to a 2-1 loss to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

The visitors opened the scoring after Oita's highly-rated keeper Shusaku Nishikawa could only parry a stinging long-range drive, and Japan striker Hisato Sato was on the spot to smash the rebound into the top corner of the goal.

Oita pulled themselves back into the match when substitute Mu Kanazaki stooped to head home, but the outcome of the game was shaped by Oita captain Takashi Miki's late lunge on Hiroshima striker Ueslei.

Although Miki's challenge was a rash one, it appeared as though Ueslei could have easily avoided it, but instead the Brazilian striker took a tumble in the box. Referee Kazuhisa Osada pointed to the spot and then strangely showed a second yellow card to Oita midfielder Yoshiaki Fujita.

Oita's protest that the referee had booked the wrong player fell on deaf ears and after the commotion had died down - fully three minutes after Hiroshima had been awarded the penalty, Ueslei stepped up to bury the spot-kick and send Hiroshima home with a contentious 2-1 win.

The rain didn't keep the fans away from either Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka or Big Swan Stadium in Niigata respectively. 18,223 fans packed into 'Banpaku' in Osaka to witness home team Gamba draw 1-1 with Shimizu S-Pulse - for whom on-loan Gamba midfielder Fernandinho scored a late equaliser.

In Niigata, 39,507 fans turned out to witness home team Albirex Niigata erase the disappointment of their recent 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Yokohama F. Marinos, by beating Ventforet Kofu 3-1. Kofu have a chance to avenge that loss immediately, when they host Albirex in the League Cup in midweek.

13,344 fans braved atrocious conditions at Kashima Stadium, where Kashima Antlers were held to a 1-1 draw by Yokohama F. Marinos, while the Tokai derby ended in a 1-0 win for Jubilo Iwata over Nagoya Grampus Eight, in front of 23,142 fans at Ecopa Stadium.

Kawasaki Frontale produced arguably the best performance of the day, hammering a hapless FC Tokyo 5-2 at a rain-soaked Todoroki Stadium. Masahiro Ohashi scored twice for Kawasaki, and further goals from Masaru Kurotsu, Kazuhiro Murakami and Juninho saw off a sorry Tokyo side, who could only respond through late consolation strikes to Lucas Severino and Naohiro Ishikawa.

Omiya Ardija's biggest gate of the season was ruined, as only 33,162 fans braved driving rain to watch the Saitama derby. Omiya were the better side on the day, but they could only manage a 1-1 draw against cross-town rivals Urawa - a result that leaves Omiya second-from-bottom on the table.

Yoshikatsu Kobayashi opened the scoring for the hosts, but Washington equalised for Urawa, and then threw a petulant fit of rage when he was denied a penalty late on.

The Chiba derby was also marred by rain, as 11,969 hardy fans braved the downpour to witness JEF United hold Kashiwa Reysol to a 1-1 draw. As so often this season, United only began to click after they had gone a goal behind. Tatsuya Yazawa opened the scoring for Kashiwa, only for Satoru Yamagishi to equalise midway through the second half.

J2

There was a change at the top of the J2 table, as Montedio Yamagata took advantage of two wins over lowly opposition to consign Consadole Sapporo to second place on goal difference.

19,033 fans turned out at Yurtec Stadium in Sendai on May 3, but they went home disappointed as Kyoto Sanga FC snatched a 1-0 win over hosts Vegalta.

The surprise result of the day undoubtedly took place at the National Stadium in Tokyo, where more than 9,000 fans were stunned as bottom club Mito Hollyhock smashed fallen giants Tokyo Verdy 5-1, to the embarrassment of Verdy coach - former Japan international Rui Ramos.

Verdy turned things around when they beat Kyoto Sanga FC 4-1 at Nishikyogoku Stadium in Kyoto on May 6. Although Consadole Sapporo beat Vegalta Sendai 1-0 in front of 12,070 fans at Atsubetsu Stadium in Sapporo, it was Yamagata who claimed top spot, courtesy of 2-1 and 1-0 wins, at home against Sagan Tosu and away at Ehime FC respectively.

After fourteen rounds, Yamagata and Sapporo are now locked on twenty-seven points at the top of J2. Avispa Fukuoka are in third, while Vegalta Sendai and Shonan Bellmare round out the top five. Former top flight clubs Kyoto Sanga FC, Tokyo Verdy and Cerezo Osaka are all struggling. Kyoto are in sixth, Tokyo seventh and Cerezo Osaka are in a lowly ninth place on the thirteen-team J2 table.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

J. League Results 6 May 2007

J. League Results 6 May 2007.
Sunday 6 May

After ten rounds of the 2007 J-League season Gamba Osaka despite being held 1-1 at home to S-Pulse. Urawa Reds were also held by lowly Ardija 1-1, so may be life is looking up for Omiya's new Dutch coach Robert Verbeek.

In J2, Montedio are the new leaders just above Consadole. Verdy produced an unexpected 1-4 thrashing of Sanga in Kyoto to keep coach Rui Ramos in employment.

Yokohama FC 0 Vissel Kobe 3
Gamba Osaka 1 Shimizu S-Pulse 1
Oita Trinita 1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2
Omiya Ardija 1 Urawa Reds 1
Albirex Niigata 3 Ventforet Kofu 1
JEF United 1 Kashiwa Reysol 1
Jubilo Iwata 1 Nagoya Gampus Eight 0
Kashima Antlers 1 Yokohama F Marinos 1
Kawasaki Frontale 5 FC Tokyo 2

J. League Results 6 May 2007.



Leading Positions

Gamba P10 Pts 21
Reds P10 Pts 19
Frontale P10 Pts 18
Reysol P10 Pts 18
Jubilo P10 Pts 18


J2

Montedio P13 Pts 27
Consadole P13 Pts 27
Avispa Fukuoka P12 Pts 24
Vegalta Sendai P13 Pts 23
Bellmare P13 Pts 21
Kyoto Sanga P13 Pts 20