Friday, August 31, 2007

Champions League Draw 2007

Champions League Draw 2007.
Group A
*Liverpool
Besiktas
Marseille
Porto

Group B
*Chelsea
Schalke 04
Rosenborg
Valencia

Group C
*Real Madrid
Lazio
Olympiakos
Werder Bremen

Group D
*AC Milan
Benfica
Celtic
Shakhtar Donetsk

Group E
*Barcelona
Glasgow Rangers
Lyon
Stuttgart

Group F
*Manchester United
Dynamo Kiev
Roma
Sporting Lisbon

Group G
*Inter Milan
CSKA Moscow
Fenerbahce
PSV Eindhoven

Group H
*Arsenal
Sevilla/AEK Athens
Slavia Prague
Steau Bucharest

*seeded team

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World Soccer News

Derby day looms as Urawa hold on to their lead

Derby day looms as Urawa hold on to their lead.
Urawa Reds have maintained their four point lead over Gamba Osaka, following their 2-1 away win at Vissel Kobe in midweek Round 23 action.

Recently recalled Japan international Tatsuya Tanaka scored twice to take his tally to seven goals in ten matches, with Keisuke Kurihara scoring a late consolation for Kobe.

Gamba Osaka kept up the chase by hammering third placed Kashima Antlers 5-1. Gamba were missing Brazilian striker Magno Alves through injury, so Ryuji Bando partnered Bare up front, and both scored a brace, with Yasuhito Endo also getting on the scoresheet.

Any illusions third placed Kashima had of splitting the Urawa-Gamba axis at the top of the table were ruthlessly shattered, as Gamba hammered the most successful team in J-League history with maximum efficiency.

Shimizu S-Pulse beat Yokohama FC 1-0 thanks to a late Cho Jae-Jin strike, while local rivals Jubilo Iwata were the latest victims of the Yokohama F. Marinos juggernaut, losing 4-1 despite taking the lead at Mitsuzawa Stadium.

JEF United thrashed Oita Trinita 6-0 - scoring four goals in the last seven minutes of the match, whilst FC Tokyo scored three in the final three minutes to overwhelm Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5-0 in Hiroshima.

The results mean that Urawa still lead the way from Gamba Osaka, with Kashima in third and Shimizu S-Pulse hot on their heels in fourth.

At the other end of the table things look hopeless for last placed Yokohama FC.

Second-from-bottom Omiya Ardija are yet to record a victory under new coach Satoru Sakuma, and they desperately need to take something from the Saitama derby against cross-town rivals Urawa Reds in Round 24. The first encounter between these two teams produced a 1-1 draw at a rain-soaked Saitama earlier in the season, and Omiya - who are missing injured goalkeeper Hiroki Aratani, would arguably settle for a point against their table topping local rivals.

Meanwhile Jubilo Iwata host Shimizu S-Pulse at Ecopa Stadium, seeking revenge for a 2-1 loss to their local rivals earlier in the season. That match was played amidst a white-hot atmosphere at Nihondaira Stadium, and with Jubilo experiencing mixed results since the J-League resumed after the summer break, the pressure will be on coach Adilson to achieve a positive result in this season's second installment of the Shizuoka derby.

In J2 Consadole Sapporo lead the way and look almost certain to achieve promotion, with Kyoto Sanga FC occupying second place. Vegalta Sendai, Avispa Fukuoka and Shonan Bellmare round out the top five.

Yokohama FC sack coach Takuya Takagi

Yokohama FC announced the sacking of coach Takuya Takagi on August 27, bringing in highly experienced Brazilian coach Julio Leal as his replacement.

Leal has his work cut out for him if Yokohama FC are to miraculously avoid the drop, with the port city minnows some six points behind second-from-bottom Omiya Ardija.

Japan National Team

A new look Japan beat Cameroon 2-0 in a friendly at the Kyushu Oil Dome in Oita on August 22, thanks to goals from Urawa defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yokohama F. Marinos midfielder Koji Yamase.

Defender Tulio opened the scoring with a firm header, however it took a late strike from midfield maestro Yamase to wrap up proceedings.

Urawa striker Tatsuya Tanaka and Vissel Kobe man Yoshito Okubo both received international recalls, and they looked Japan's most effective players going forward, although a spate of second half substitutions curtailed Japan's attacking instinct.

Japan Olympic Team

Japan limped to a 1-0 win over Vietnam after a tepid display in the opening game of the final qualifying round for the Beijing Olympics.

Shimizu S-Pulse defender Naoki Aoyama scored the only goal of the game just before the half-time break, as Japan missed countless opportunities to extend their lead against an overwhelmed Vietnamese side.

Japan's next match is against Saudi Arabia on September 8, with only the group winner progressing to the Olympic tournament in 2008.

Japanese Players Overseas

Shunsuke Nakamura : Celtic

Last year's Scottish Player Of The Season has started three of Celtic's four league fixtures and both of their UEFA Champions League qualifying fixtures so far, scoring twice in a 5-0 win over Hearts. The Glasgow club have been drawn against holders AC Milan, Portugese giants Benfica and Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donestk in the Champions League group stage, in which Nakamura is expected to play a pivotal role.

Daisuke Matsui : Le Mans

With conjecture suggesting that Daisuke Matsui would leave Le Mans over the summer brushed aside, the diminutive midfielder has had an excellent start to the season. He has started every game for Le Mans this season, and scored the opening goal in the club's 3-1 loss to Monaco.

Takayuki Morimoto : Catania

The Italian Serie A season kicked off on August 25 and Takuyuki Morimoto opened his campaign in spectacular style, curling home the opening goal of Catania's 2-2 draw with Parma.

Koji Nakata : FC Basel

Koji Nakata was another player expected to leave his club over the summer, however the defensive midfielder has stayed on at FC Basel and started in every league game so far. He has also been active in the UEFA Cup qualifying round, where his team booked their place in the first round proper with a comprehensive victory over Austrian outfit SV Mattersburg.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and Alex : Salzburg

Ex-Gamba Osaka defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and former Urawa Reds wing-back Alex have featured regularly for Salzburg this season. Both started the club's most recent 1-0 league loss away at Rapid Vienna, however Alex was absent from the team that was knocked out in UEFA Champions League qualifying by Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com


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Seongnam Stutter Then Slump As Suwon Soar

Seongnam striker Kim Dong-hyun in happier times

Things change quickly in football and the K-League is no exception. August 8 saw the first day of action after the mid-summer break. It also witnessed champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma defeat Jeju United 2-0 to stretch their unbeaten league run to 22 games.

On the same evening, closest challengers Suwon Samsung Bluewings crashed to a surprise home defeat at the hands of Asian Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to leave Seongnam a massive nine points clear at the top.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the top six teams qualify for the end-of-season championship play-offs, the season would have been written off there and then. The defending champions were far ahead of the others in terms of points, quality and form. Even with the injustice of having to negotiate a six-way play-off, few would have betted against Seongnam doing just that, just as they did last year.

Then it all started to go wrong. Suwon Samsung Bluewings were the ones who threw the spanner into the depths of the yellow winning machine. August 15 is Independence Day in the Land of the Morning Calm and in the evening, 30,000 Suwon fans went wild as they celebrated a 2-1 win over Seongnam at the ‘Big Bird’ Stadium.

Coach Kim Hak-beom wasn't overly concerned and gently reminded reporters that his team was still six points ahead and that Suwon was always a tough place to come. The wily Kim reminded reporters that Suwon that had been the last team to take three points from Seongnam the previous October and who, he asked, had triumphed when the two met in the championship final?

It wasn’t looking that simple. After a smooth season without injuries or problems, the fixture list was being a little unkind to the champions. The following game saw third-place Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I visit the Tancheon Stadium on a sticky Sunday evening. The Tigers snatched a win with five minutes remaining as Brazilian striker Leandro Machado suddenly unearthed shooting boots that had been buried for almost two years.

Not far away on the same night, over 40,000 fans saw Suwon defeat rivals FC Seoul 2-1 and suddenly the gap was down to four. It was a blip, they said just south of the capital, and no time to panic.

Bells started ringing however after another defeat, this time a 2-1 reverse at Pohang Steelers. At the same time, in the same south-eastern region of the country, Suwon defeated Daegu FC 1-0. From nine to one in the space of three games, Suwon was on a roll while the champs’ mid-season blip was taking on slump proportions.

It got worse. On Tuesday August 28, Suwon won their fifth consecutive game, a 1-0 turgid triumph at home to Chunnam Dragons courtesy of young striker Ha Tae-gyun, to go top of the table by a clear two points. 24 hours later, Seongnam lost again, a third defeat in four games.

A loss at home to Gyeongnam FC is no disgrace but it a surprise. Two points could be overturned this weekend when Seongnam take on Daejeon and in any event the team is already virtually guaranteed a top six play-off place. Worrying for Kim Hak-beom ahead of a quarter-final against Al Karama of Syria in the Asian Champions League next month, the start of a crucial phase of the season, Seongnam’s veneer of invincibility has well and truly gone - ripped off and trampled on by a stubborn Suwon side.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Girls Allowed? It’s Encouraged

I’ve recently learned the hard way that you should never discuss politics and religion. My lodger and I became embroiled in a furious row over the conflict in Iraq. Dave was very vocal in his condemnation of Bush; but he flew off the handle when I criticised Brown. It almost came to blows.

The day after our acrimonious political altercation, we fell out over his attempt to convert the wife into devout Christianity. I was less than pleased when I arrived home from work early to hear a chant of “Oh God” emanating from the spare bedroom.

As a result of our constant bickering, I had to ask Dave to move out. He didn’t react well to my decision; he tried to smash my back door in. The wife was extremely disappointed with the unpleasant outcome, as she’d literally bent over backwards to make him feel welcome.

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson can empathise with my predicament. Sir Alex had to offload the busy Irishman after he criticised a number of team-mates. I can understand why Fergie was so upset; only a mug would buy Kieran Richardson after Keane’s vitriolic volley.

The return of United’s prodigal son has added real spice to Sunderland’s trip to Old Trafford. A case can be made for backing the Mackems at 18/1, but it has more holes than Amy Winehouse. I have to side with Manchester United at 1/4.

Robbie Savage has his critics, but I’d happily place the Welshman alongside Keane, Vieira and Makelele; if I was creating an ‘odd one out’ question. The 5/4 for a Blackburn win over Manchester City stands out like a sore thumb.

When I heard that Kieron Dyer had broken his leg in two places, my immediate thoughts were ‘Lee Bowyer’s house’ and ‘Craig Bellamy’s golf club’. West Ham are a different side to the team that were on the end of a 6-0 shoeing at Reading last season, the Hammers can take revenge at 23/10.

Cheryl Cole surprisingly turned down a £150,000 Bentley from her wealthy husband, because she felt ‘she didn’t earn it’. The solution is pretty obvious. I’m going down the bookies to take 13/5 for a draw between Aston Villa and Chelsea.

I’d love to see Sammy Lee succeed at Bolton, but the only way he’ll still be employed at Christmas is if he finds six pals. An Everton win at the Reebok is available at 2/1; that’s plenty big enough.

How on earth were Fulham not awarded a penalty against Aston Villa last week? Craig Gardner’s handling in the area was so impressive; Petr Cech and John Terry both rang to congratulate him. Lawrie Sanchez is probably the unluckiest manager in the league at the minute, Spurs can take advantage at 11/8.

Pompey are set to release David Nugent a mere month after splashing out £6m on him. Such an eventuality would have been a 999/1 shot on the exchanges, but it wouldn’t have lasted long. The 8/15 for Arsenal beating Pompey is equally as attractive.

Liverpool v Derby may well prove to be the greatest mismatch since Kate Moss paired off with Pete Doherty. The master songsmith could have done a lot better. You won’t find a bigger banker than Liverpool at 2/9.

I was disappointed to see Mido react to inflammatory chants last weekend. A professional footballer is paid handsomely to ignore provocation from the crowd, and Mido makes good bread. All of our finances will receive a boost if we take the 11/10 for a Middlesbrough win over Birmingham.

The FA’s decision to launch an enquiry into the Newcastle supporters’ behaviour is typically over the top. If you ask me, it’s being blown out of all proportion. I’ll happily make a fuss over the 3/4 for a Newcastle win over Wigan.

Mido labelled the offending supporters as ‘drunks’ after the match, which I found quite offensive. I partake in the occasional swift few beers myself, but I’m not a drunk; I’m a connoisseur of the liquid bint-thinner. A 14/1 weekend accer of Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Man Utd, Arsenal and Blackburn will pay for enough lager to drop the wife down a few sizes.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

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US Women Begin Quest For World Cup Identity

The conventional wisdom is that despite the general disjunction between US sports fans and all things "soccer-philic", we at least take nationalistic pride in the great successes of our world-dominating women's national program.

Don't tell that to star US striker Abby Wambach.

Despite a no. 1 FIFA ranking and having achieved the semi-finals in the last World Cup only to be ousted by eventual champs Germany--now ranked 2d--the golden-clad US women's team departed this week for the World Cup finals in China with barely a whisper.

Why?

"It's the 'Mia factor'," Wambach told reporters two days before she helped her side to a warm-up win over Finland, 4-0, at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.

"You lose a lot when your best-known star retires," she said, referring to the retirement of Mia Hamm, the biggest star in the women's game for the past two decades.

"The 'Mia factor' [meant] others may have been left in the shadows," Wambach continued, trying to make sense of anonymity in the face of worldwide success. "While Mia was around it was hard to get know some of the other faces," she said about skipper, Kristine Lilly, and probably about herself as well.

"There's always more that you can do to promote the World Cup team," she said when asked about the dearth of media-, and fan interest in the US for her team's impending run at a world title. "We have shed blood, sweat and tears over our game," she went on, shifting from marketer to field leader. "We don't want people to watch because of the past, we want people to appreciate us for what we have [now]."

"This team is 180 degrees from [the World Cup finals team in] 2003," she said assessing the last "Mia-factor" team. "This team has newer faces, fresher legs, and a little bit of revenge factor for the loss in 2003."

"This team beats the '99 team," she added.

If Wambach can lead the US' golden girls through a tough group--including Nigeria, North Korea, and 3d ranked Sweden--then she will have gone a long way to not only proving that point, but overcoming the "Mia-factor" once and for all.

It remains to be seen if any one in the USA will notice.

US Women's World Cup squad:

1 Briana Scurry GK
2 Marian Dalmy D
3 Christie Rampone D
4 Cat Whitehill D
5 Lindsay Tarpley F
6 Natasha Kai F
7 Shannon Boxx M
8 Tina Ellertson D
9 Heather O'Reilly F
10 Aly Wagner M
11 Carli Lloyd M
12 Leslie Osborne M
13 Kristine Lilly (c) F
14 Stephanie Lopez D
15 Kate Markgraf D
16 Angela Hucles M
17 Lori Chalupny M
18 Hope Solo GK
19 Marci Jobson M
20 Abby Wambach F
21 Nicole Barnhart GK

Group B Schedule:
Sept. 11 vs. DPR of Korea
Sept. 14 vs. Sweden
Sept. 18 vs. Nigeria

Round of 16:
Sept. 22
Sept. 23

Semifinals:
Sept. 26

3d Place and Final:
Sept. 30

World Soccer News

Monday, August 27, 2007

J. League Results 25/08/07

J. League.
Saturday 25 August / Sunday 26 August

Urawa Reds increased their lead at the top of the J-League to four points over arch-rivals Gamba Osaka. Gamba were on the receiving end of a 4-1 draw hiding away to Kawasaki Frontale while Urawa beat FC Tokyo in front of 46,951 fans at Saitama Stadium.

Kashima Antlers stay third after a 2-1 home win over bottom club Yokohama FC.

Ardija, still without a win after the sacking of Dutch coach Robert Verbeek at the mid-season break went down 5-0 in Nagoya where veteran midfielder and former Japan international Toshiya Fujita scored his 100th J-League goal for Grampus.

The second largest crowd of the weekend, 39,912, saw Albirex Niigata slump 2-0 to Shimizu S-Pulse who leapfrog the hosts in the table going into 4th on goal difference.

In J2, Kyoto Sanga came back from a 3-1 half-time deficit to beat their nearest challengers for the second automatic promotion place, Avispa 4-3 and stay nine points adrift of runaway leaders Sapporo Consadole.

J1

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


Leading Positions

Reds P22 Pts 49
Gamba P22 Pts 45
Antlers P22 Pts 42
S-Pulse P22 Pts 38
Albirex P22 Pts 38
Marinos P22 Pts 36

J2

Consadole P33 Pts 71
Kyoto Sanga P33 Pts 62
Avispa P33 Pts 56
Vegalta P34 Pts 56

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Ding Dong, Merry Lee on High . . . . . . Aka . . . . . . For Poon the Bell Tolls

Technology is not always a blessing. The growth of industrial automation has led to a good friend of mine losing his job. I accept that the confectionary industry has every right to make the despatch of its products more cost-effective, but that doesn’t help the out-of-work fudge-packer.

Being a humanitarian, I’ve asked Dave to stay at my house for a while until he finds his feet; which coincidentally is a problem for the wife.

The evil one nearly fainted when he moved his belongings in, as he was accompanied by a nine-foot long python. Even the fact that the reptile was visually impaired failed to calm her nerves, I had to constantly reassure her that she was in no danger from Dave’s one-eyed snake.

My pal has always had a soft spot for animals; he even cries when Blackburn have a player sent off. The wild Rovers face a tough trip to Goodison Park; I’ll be in tears if it doesn’t end in a draw at 9/4.

Dave should try to get a job with the Premier League, as they abhor technology. Middlesbrough aren’t complaining though; they managed to pull off the most blatant robbery at a Cottage since Fred Barras. If the officials are kind enough to allow Newcastle a goal when they put the ball over the line, they can leave the Riverside with three points at 19/10.

Rafa Benitez deserves praise for the signing of Torres and the repositioning of Gerrard, but I remain wholly unconvinced by the goatee. I can’t quite put my finger on what it reminds me of, but I know my mate Dave doesn’t like it. I’m loving the 11/4 for a draw between Sunderland and Liverpool.

It’s not often you’ll see ‘Sven Goran Eriksson’ and ‘clean sheets’ in the same sentence, but it’s three wins out of three for the Manchester City manager without conceding a goal. Bookmakers have priced up Arsenal at a huge 4/6 as a result of Sven’s perfect start: that’s nap bet material.

Chelsea players are being a little bit naughty in constantly haranguing the referee. John Terry is the worst culprit, he’s definitely the master baiter. You have to like the 3/10 for a Chelsea win against Pompey; they’ll win with a little something in hand.

Antti Niemi is set to return for Fulham after recovering from a wrist injury; presumably picked up while playing against Robbie Savage. I don’t think he’ll enjoy his first game back, it’ll prove something of an anticlimax. The Villa are a confident call at 5/6.

It’s been an awful start to the season for Bolton; they’re as pointless as a salad bowl in Chez Lampard. Things are finally going their way now though; El Hadji Diouf wants to leave. Sammy Lee will be ecstatic if Bolton pick up their first points of the season at home to Reading. At 7/5, I’m priced in.

Derby v Birmingham was a Championship match last season: there’s a fair chance it will be a Championship match next season. I can’t see past a draw at 9/4.

Craig Bellamy withdrew from the Wales squad in midweek as his bint was dropping a little cash-grabber. On reflection, he probably should have withdrawn a little earlier. The even money for West Ham beating Wigan is worth staying in for.

Manchester United are unmissable at 8/15 at home to Spurs. United have had an astonishing 61 shots on goal in their three Premiership matches this season and Tottenham have Paul Robinson in goal. The prosecution rests.

Spurs can consider themselves fortunate that Ronaldo received a three-match ban for violent conduct. My mate Dave thought the Portuguese winger got off lightly; he wanted to see his butt more severely punished. My cheeks will be red if this week’s accer fails to oblige: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bolton, West Ham and Manchester United will come to my rescue at an ostentatious 20/1.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boycotts, Busan and Betrayal

It’s hard to get excited about any Olympic qualifier and a home game against Uzbekistan certainly wasn’t one to send pulses racing just south of the 38th Parallel. South Korea had already defeated the Central Asians in the second round of qualifying in March then went on to complete the double in Tashkent in April. If that wasn’t enough, the senior teams met in Seoul for a pre-Asian Cup friendly in July with another victory for the hosts.

At the end of a hard-fought game, Korea made it four wins out of four to get off to a winning start in the final round of qualifying and with the rest of Group B comprising of Bahrain and Syria, Beijing is becoming ever more visible just across the murky Yellow Sea.

The game was notable as it was Park Song-hwa’s first game as coach. Park has been involved with various national team set-ups over the years and after Andy Egli resigned as Busan I’Park boss at the beginning of July, Park moved into the hotseat on the south coast. It was a welcome move for the fans of the one-time giants of Korean and Asian football. Park has a decent reputation as a coach and those who know him speak of his open mind and a willingness to listen to others, not always abundant qualities among K-League coaches.

Fifteen days later he was gone, his smile beaming out of the front page of every sports daily in Seoul as he became the Olympic coach. Busan fans were less happy, speechless at the sight of the Korean FA poaching their coach of just one game.
Languishing near the bottom of the K-League, the departure was as one fan said "a kick in the teeth."

Despite a preference for baseball over football, there is still huge potential in the city of five million. The glory days are long gone however. It is ten years since Busan won the last of its four titles and the Asian championship came more than two decades ago in 1986.

The club provides its foreign coaches, Ian Porterfield a recent example, with great accommodation located in the swanky hills above Haeundae Beach on the eastern outskirts of the city. There were a couple of genuinely big European names interested in the job before Park was appointed though one of them has since found alternative employment in Europe. It is unlikely however that Busan has the money. The company behind the club, I-Park, pumps concrete on a daily basis as it constructs apartments up and down the peninsula but is less keen to pump money into the club’s coffers.

Good players have come but have often been allowed to leave. Ahn Jung-hwan, Song Chong-guk and Sasa Drakulic all sported the red and white and more recently Popo, one of the best foreigners in the K-League, was allowed to sign for nearby Gyeongnam. With the help of seven goals and nine assists from the Brazilian, Gyeongnam, who entered the league 23 years after Busan, are now nine places above I'Park.

Also higher are the attendances of almost every other club. The move to the 55,000 World Cup Stadium has not been blessed. The veruca-shaped bowl may look good but it lies far north of the city centre and is hard to fill. Worse, it is getting emptier by the year and these days crowd figures rarely cross the five-figure threshold.

Park may not have changed any of that but now we will never know. It has been left to assistant Kim Pan-gon to step forward as caretaker for the third time while Park made the journey north to the capital.

The Red Devils, the famed national team supporters group, called for a boycott of Park’s first game and made a number of demands. These included such requests as an official apology to Busan, the resignation of the KFA’s technical committee and a new plan for the future of the K-League. It remains to be seen how successful they are but the boycott wasn’t completely effective. Although the flags and drums were absent, there did seem to be a healthy number of red-shirted fans in the usual devils’ den and while it took a little longer than usual, the singing started early in the first half and didn’t stop.

A few Busan fans let their feelings known and unfurled a banner that read ‘Clueless KFA, deceitful Park Sung-hwa.’ As you can see in the link below, even though the game was about to finish, the authorities moved quickly to remove the offending article from the battle-hardened hooligans obviously intent on wreaking havoc.

De-bannering Busan fans

It is not a good time to be a Busan fan.

Copyright: John Duerden and Soccerphile

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

MLS Cup Playoffs Minus 60 days: Moreno Marks Most and Denilson Does Dallas

MLS Cup Playoffs Minus 60 days: Moreno Marks Most and Denilson Does Dallas
With the MLS playoffs looming just 60 days away the league's focus finally has begun to shift from the galactic starpower of David Beckham to the Cup final which is set for Washington, DC on Nov. 18.

DC United midfielder Jaime Moreno scored a second half penalty against New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night (Aug. 22) to bring his MLS career total to 109. Moreno takes over first place on the list of the league's all-time leading scorers, just ahead of the recently retired Jason Kreis.

"For me, in the back of my head the main thing is the team," said the Bolivian-born Moreno after his record-setting performance. "Anything you do is because you work hard at it," continued the 33 year old. "I'm proud, and now I'm just going to keep working, keep scoring, and we'll see what happens." Moreno is also the league's lifetime leader in spot-kick goals with 33.

Meanwhile, FC Dallas, looking to make a run at finally capturing a Cup title for its growing legion of fans, has acquired the rights to field Brazilian star Denilson. The 29 year old Denilson was a member of Brazil's "penta-campeon" at World Cup 2002; his professional career has included time with São Paulo FC, Real Bétis, Flamengo, Bourdeaux and Al-Nasr of Saudi Arabia.

"Now, I am anxious to get started playing," he told reporters at a press conference announcing his signing on Thursday (Aug. 23). "[And happy] to join a team that is in a good position in the league," he continued, "I hope that through my work I will be able to contribute to this team and have success in this league." FC Dallas is in second place in the Western Conference behind Houston Dynamo, last year's champ, with just 12 games to go in the regular season.

The playoffs include the 8 clubs with the best regular season records in two-leg series; the winners move on to conference championships and then the single, final match in Washington.

Denilson was acquired as FC Dallas' "designated player". In MLS, teams have a limited amount of league funds to use for player salaries, but each club is allowed one "designated player". The "designated player"-, or "Beckham" rule provides that one player's salary per team will not be counted against that club's allotted amount. In that way, the "designated player" may be payed quite a bit more than the others.

So it's all back to the bendy one in the end, isn't it?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Beckham LA dream begins to crack

Becks.
At the final whistle in the Home Depot Center last night, the Beckham bandwagon in America first began to lose its sheen.

Only a few days ago it had all looked so rosy. Having impressed in the few weeks since he moved to the West Coast of America with LA Galaxy, pulling crowds of up to 66,000, Beckham last night appeared less than fit and less than happy as his sub-par team stumbled to a miserable 0-3 defeat to local rivals Chivas USA.

The Galaxy is far from stellar - LA have won only three of their 17 games so far and have a goal difference of minus 7. Eight of the 13 clubs in MLS qualify for the end of season playoffs but it looks like Beckham's will not now be one of them after this thumping by their mid-table local rivals. The Galaxy have still to win away and boast the second to worst home record in the league.

The former England captain had of course played 90 minutes for England at Wembley a day earlier, jetting across eight time zones back to California."I'm not going to deny there comes a point when your body can't do it anymore," Galaxy CEO Alexi Lalas told the BBC on Friday. "If at any point we felt it was detrimental to his health or ability to help our team we would take action."

These comments come in stark contrast to Lalas' previous insistence that he would personally drive Beckham to the airport when he had England games to play in.Combining MLS with England duty will be an even bigger ask for Beckham in October when England have two key European Championship qualifiers and the Galaxy will be making a final push for the playoffs.

That is assuming the Galaxy can improve on their current malaise. Second to last in the Western Conference, LA would be 12th out of 13 if MLS had a single table, although they have played up to five fewer games than some of their rivals.Beckham insisted on playing two games in two days with an 11-hour flight over eight timezones in between to appear the model professional, but no footballer can reasonably be expected to maintain such a schedule for long.

Jet lag is a fact of life for all human beings, millionaire celebrities or no. Beckham has been brave in tying to combine both roles, but after this week's double-header it is evident he will have to choose. To further complicate the situation, the MLS season runs March to November, meaning an all-year cycle of soccer for European internationals like Beckham.

Beckham never expected to encounter such a dilemma when he agreed to join MLS because he was convinced his England career was over; his unexpected recall by Steve McClaren complicated his new life in California.

He still has the generous remuneration, his happy wife and children and his celebrity circus in Hollywood to fall back on, but it looks like David Beckham's England career, after a brief resurrection, really could be ending soon for good.

Unless of course he abandons his US adventure having barely begun it. But given the media supernova which has accompanied his coming to America, and his wife's long-stated desire to be among the superficial stars in LA, it seems he will have to grin and bear it for four more years.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

World Soccer News

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fifa World Rankings Aug 2007

Fifa World Rankings Aug 2007
Brazil are top of the FIFA World Rankings after beating Argentina in the Copa America 2007. Argentina are second, followed by Italy. England are down in 12th place below Euro 2008 qualifying opponents Croatia now up to 6th. Portugal are 10th.

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

11 Mexico
12 England
13 Romania
14 Greece
15 Ukraine
16 Cameroon
17 USA
18 Serbia
19 Sweden
20 Poland

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The A-League in numbers

A-League.
13: Number of Brazilians signed by the eight clubs this season

Around three times the number of Brazilians in the league last season, every club bar the Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory have signed at least one Samba superstar. History suggests somewhere around 50 per cent will be duds meaning up to half a dozen of football's entertainers might make the grade.

Sydney FC marquee man and former World Cup winner Juninho looks a certainty to stand head and shoulders above the rest. Meanwhile, first impressions indicate that Adelaide's Cassio, a left-back in the mould of Roberto Carlos, has what it takes to succeed while Queensland has high hopes of playmaker Marcinho and Daniel's going down a storm over at Wellington Phoenix.

2: Number of Englishmen signed by the eight clubs this season

They used to be the prevailing import but English recruits are diminishing to such an extent they could be extinct within the next 12 months. Britain's brand of blood-and-guts football has taken a hammering in Australia over recent years. The country that gave the game Charlton, Gascoigne and Rooney hasn't exactly helped itself by sending Deane, Gemmill and Devine over to the A-League.

This season former Chelsea midfielder Joseph Keenan has turned up at the champions and will most likely play as a left wing-back while Perth Glory have agreed terms with former Victory striker James Robinson (who was already playing semi-pro football in Australia anyway). But that's your lot.

12: Size of Melbourne Victory's lead at the top of the table last season

Melbourne were only not leading the A-League table for two rounds right at the beginning of the season and showed their complete and utter dominance by trouncing Adelaide United in the grand final.

This year, though, all indicators point to a tighter affair, especially with the Victory losing Fred to the Major League and classy defender Adrian Leijer to the Premiership. Sydney and Adelaide have recruited well while Queensland have former Socceroos head coach Frank Farina steering the ship from the outset.

Even the league's token New Zealanders - Wellington Phoenix - might not finish bottom.

6: Amount of Socceroos to have jacked in the high life in Europe for a chance to 'give something back' to the local game

It's an impressive rollcall when you consider Queensland marquee signing Craig Moore was captaining the Socceroos this time last year and Melbourne's Ljubo Milicevic remains right in the frame for a national team recall.

Tony Popovic, Paul Agostino, Danny Tiatto and Hayden Foxe all count themselves in the former Socceroos bracket nowadays but that doesn’t mean supporters of Sydney, Adelaide, Queensland and Perth respectively aren't lipping their lips ahead of the upcoming campaign. Football Federation Australia are pretty chuffed too.

3: Number of mandatory players aged 20 or under in every squad

The game's governing body - under constant haranguing for not having already implemented some type of reserve or junior league - have at least increased the compulsory quota of under-20 players per club from two to three.

Of the teenage tyros, Melbourne again seem to have come up trumps with the loan signing of Kaz Patafta. Now it might just be because of his instantly recognisable name but Patafta is one of those players that tends to dominate conversations of this kind.

He joined Portuguese giants Benfica 18 months ago and even played in their first team last season before being loaned back to the A-League for the next nine months. A silky playmaker, Patafta could have Victory fans questioning Fred who? by the end of the year.

1,000,000: Reported yearly salary in Australian dollars of Sydney marquee Juninho

Worth every cent.

20,000: Melbourne Victory membership target for 2007/08

Let's put this in context. It's not just Melbourne's rapid growth in membership - they've mushroomed from 5000 members in 2005 to targeting four times that this season - but their capacity to make a loud statement in this Australian Rules Football-crazed city.

The champions are hot on the heels of the AFL's North Melbourne Kangaroos who have 22,000 members according to latest club reports, but have been in existence since 1869.

Furthermore, the Victory last season smashed Australian football's all-time attendance record when 55,436 fans watched them demolish Adelaide United 6-0 in the A-League grand final.

Soccerphile predictions (despite everything said above)

Champions: Sydney FC
Runners-up: Melbourne Victory
Wooden Spoon: Newcastle Jets

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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Monday, August 20, 2007

J. League Results 18/08/07

J. League Results 18/08/07
Saturday 18 August / Sunday 19 August

Urawa Reds are the new leaders of the J-League by a single point from arch-rivals Gamba. Gamba Osaka were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom club Yokohama FC while Urawa beat Ventforet 4-1 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Tatsuya Tananka with a brace, Yuichiro Nagai and Keita Suzuki scored for the Reds in an entertaining game. Antlers stay third after a 2-1 win away to Ardija, for whom the hasty dismissal of Dutch coach Robert Verbeek has not brought a change in Omiya Ardija's fortunes.

Albirex are in 4th after an impressive 1-0 win in Kobe.

In J2, Consadole surprising lost at home to Bellmare while nearest challengers Kyoto Sanga drew 1-1 away to Verdy.

J1

Yokohama FC 1 Gamba Osaka 1
Ventforet Kofu 1 Urawa Reds 4
JEF United 3 Jubilo Iwata 2
Omiya Ardija 1 Kashima Antlers 2
Vissel Kobe 0 Albirex Niigata 1
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2 Oita Trinita 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 3 Kawasaki Frontale 1
FC Tokyo 0 Kashiwa Reysol 1
Nagoya Gampus Eight 0 Yokohama F Marinos 2


Leading Positions

Reds P21 Pts 46
Gamba P21 Pts 45
Antlers P21 Pts 39
Albirex P21 Pts 38
Marinos P21 Pts 35

J2

Consadole P32 Pts 68
Kyoto Sanga P32 Pts 59
Avispa P32 Pts 56
Vegalta P33 Pts 53

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The full house signs go up, as the J-League grinds on

The traditional O-bon holidays in Japan signal bumper crowds for many J-League teams, with several clubs throwing up full house signs during an action-packed fixture list.

The full house signs go up, as the J-League grinds on.


Round 19

A crowd of 53,916 turned out at Nissan Stadium on August 11, as Yokohama F. Marinos clashed with Yokohama FC.

Port city minnows Yokohama FC had beaten their illustrious cross-town rivals 1-0 at Mitsuzawa Stadium earlier in the season, but Yokohama F. Marinos inflicted a terrible vengeance, winning 8-1 in the return fixture.

Striker Hideo Oshima scored four goals in that match, before later declaring that he was "too old" to figure in Japan coach Ivica Osim's national team plans.

Urawa Reds drew 1-1 with Kashiwa Reysol in front of 47,359 fans at Saitama Stadium - a result that momentarily saw Urawa slip four points behind Gamba Osaka, after Gamba beat fellow high-flyers Albirex Niigata 3-1 in front of 18,112 fans at Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka.

14,316 fans crammed into Kose Sports Park Stadium, but the home fans left disappointed as Kashima Antlers snuck a 1-0 victory over hosts Ventforet Kofu, thanks to midfielder Takuya Nozawa's neatly taken finish.

In Hiroshima, the largest gate of the season turned out but 12,595 fans failed to inspire the home team, as Sanfrecce slumped to a 3-1 loss to fellow mid-table battlers Nagoya Grampus Eight.

Norwegian international Frode Johnsen was the architect of the victory, scoring twice, while substitute Keita Sugimoto also struck late on for Nagoya.

Round 20

Another full round of midweek fixtures took place on August 15, where Sanfrecce Hiroshima recorded their third defeat in a row, this time losing 2-0 to Kashiwa Reysol in front of a packed Kashiwa Hitachi Stadium.

Kashima Antlers' officials will have been delighted with the midweek crowd of 19,600 that turned out at Kashima Stadium to roar the Antlers on to a 3-1 victory over the hapless JEF United.

The return of prodigal son Mitsuo Ogasawara from Italian outfit Messina appears to have rejuvenated Kashima and he scored twice against United, with Toru Araiba also scoring, to leave JEF United hovering just above the relegation zone.

A capacity crowd of 42,015 packed into Big Swan Stadium in Niigata, and the home side didn't let their fans down, winning 4-0 over Nagoya Grampus Eight.

Isao Homma got the scoring under way with a header for Niigata, before Japan international Kisho Yano volleyed home. Brazilian striker Edmilson then scored twice, to leave Nagoya coach Sef Vergoossen furious with his team's abject defending on the night.

For the second time this season Kawasaki Frontale lost the Kanagawa Derby, going down 2-1 at home to an in-form Yokohama F. Marinos in front of 18,095 fans at Todoroki Stadium.

A healthy crowd of 14,854 fans packed into Yamaha Stadium to witness Jubilo Iwata's 5-2 thrashing of FC Tokyo - just days after Jubilo had been thumped 4-0 by Vissel Kobe in Kobe.

Jubilo's local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse clawed their way back from two goals down against Oita Trinita, to triumph 4-3 in a thriller in front of 20,391 fans at the Kyushu Oil Dome.

The match-of-the-round undoubtedly took place in Osaka, however, as a capacity crowd of 20,982 fans flocked to 'Banpaku' to witness Gamba Osaka take on Urawa Reds.

Both Gamba and Urawa were missing their star strikers Magno Alves and Washington through injury, and their respective replacements Ryuji Bando and Yuichiro Nagai were in the thick of the action.

Bando had a first half strike ruled out for offside, and Gamba were left to rue that decision as Yuichiro Nagai snatched the only goal of the game just after the hour mark, to hand Urawa a precious win.

The victory throws open the 2007 title race and cuts Gamba's lead at the top of the table to just one point. Gamba coach Akira Nishino claimed that his side "must improve" in the wake of the defeat, if they are to wrestle the J-League title from Urawa's grasp.

Round 21

Healthy attendances should be the order of the day when Round 21 kicks off on August 18, with a capacity crowd likely to descend upon Nihondaira Stadium as Shimizu S-Pulse do battle with Kawasaki Frontale.

Last season Shimizu ended Kawasaki's hopes of winning the J-League, when midfielder Jungo Fujimoto scored a superb hat-trick to fire Shimizu to a 4-3 win.

Elsewhere two of the most passionately supported clubs in Japanese football go head-to-head when struggling FC Tokyo take on Kashiwa Reysol at Ajinomoto Stadium in the nation's capital.

Another fixture taking place in Tokyo this weekend is the clash between Ventforet Kofu and Urawa Reds.

Kofu would have been guaranteed a full house had they play this match at the 17,000 capacity Kose Sports Park Stadium in rural Yamanashi Prefecture, however the game has been switched to the National Stadium in Tokyo - mainly to accommodate Urawa's horde of travelling fans, who will also swell the coffers for 'home' team Kofu.

Omiya Ardija and Vissel Kobe have also switched their games on August 19 to Kumagaya Athletics Stadium and Kobe Universiade Stadium respectively.

Omiya Ardija sack coach Robert Verbeek

The end result may have been predictable but the timing certainly was not, as Omiya Ardija finally sacked their Dutch coach Robert Verbeek.

They did so just days before the J-League resumed after the long mid-season break, with many Omiya fans stunned left at the timing of the decision.

They were left positively aghast at the news that the widely unpopular Satoru Sakuma had been promoted from back-room staff member to the role of head coach.

In his previous roles as chief scout Sakuma had been responsible for a serious of disastrous signings for the club - recently departed strikers Alison Barros and Mauricio Salles among the latest, which have seen the club struggling in the relegation zone for much of the season.

Omiya battled to an impressive 2-2 draw away at Shimizu S-Pulse in Sakuma's first match in charge, but any doubt as to Sakuma's unpopularity was removed when only 6,440 fans turned out to watch Omiya's 3-1 home defeat to Vissel Kobe in midweek, just two months after a record crowd of 16,795 turned out at Omiya's temporary home of Komaba Stadium to see them beat Albirex Niigata 2-1.

Japan National Team

Japan coach Ivica Osim has come under fire once again, this time for his decision to call up just 12 players in a nominal squad named for Japan's up-coming friendly with Cameroon.

Japan face Cameroon at the Kyushu Oil Dome in Oita on August 22, but Osim told reporters that he would name the rest of his squad after he had seen his players in action in midweek Round 20 J-League fixtures.

Significantly not a single JEF United player was named in Osim's preliminary squad, after grumblings of favouritism towards his former club - now managed by his son Amar Osim, following Japan's unsuccessful defence of the Asian Cup this summer.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Friday, August 17, 2007

J. League Results 15/08/07

J. League Results 15/08/07
Wednesday 15 August

J. League Results 15/08/07.


Urawa Reds closed the gap at the top of the J-League to just a single point after a 1-0 win away to Gamba Osaka. Yuichiro Nagai scoring the only goal on the hour mark. Antlers are now third following a 3-1 home win over JEF United.

With temperatures hovering around 35 degrees centigrade August is a tough month for the players and Yokohama FC will be sweating more than most as they are now seven points adrift at the bottom of the table.

The sacking of Robert Verbeek has not brought a turn-around in Omiya Ardija's season and they are second from bottom after their latest reverse - 3-1 at home to Vissel, for whom Yoshito Okubo netted to confirm his position as the leading Japanese scorer in J1.

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

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

Leading Positions

Gamba P20 Pts 44
Reds P20 Pts 43
Antlers P20 Pts 36
Albirex P20 Pts 35
Marinos P20 Pts 32

J2

Consadole P31 Pts 68
Kyoto Sanga P31 Pts 58
Avispa P31 Pts 53
Vegalta P32 Pts 52

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Beckham Makes His Mark as MLS Tries to Turn "Soccer" Into "Football" in USA

MLS news.
David Beckham finally took the field last night (August 15) as captain of the Los Angeles Galaxy at the club's Home Depot Center in California. Playing at something approaching full speed for the first time in his new "kit", the bendy one scored once from a free kick at 20 meters and placed an assist at the feet of linemate Landon Donovan for a second half clincher. The Galaxy advanced, 2-0, to the first ever finals of the brand new SuperLiga tournament featuring MLS and Mexican league clubs.

Beckham's heroics come just one month into his MLS career and one day after former league star Freddy Adu debuted with Benfica of Portugal. Adu, entering the league as barely a teenager in 2004, had been touted as the star who could bring US soccer some star power and some devoted fans. After helping DC United win MLS Cup in his first season he made clear his intention to play professionally in Europe. He departed Real Salt Lake City, his last MLS club, for Portugal at nearly the exact moment that Beckham arrived from Madrid in July.

MLS has become the most successful professional soccer league in the history of the USA over the eleven years of its existence, but soccer still has yet to achieve the same status here as it does in those countries where it is known as "football". In the US, "soccer" is associated with moms driving minivans, and co-eds (mostly female) kicking the ball around at private colleges.

If Beckham can change that image, and give the US game the same kind of street-cred that Tiger Woods has given golf, or that John McEnroe gave tennis in the 1980's, MLS is hoping that fans and advertisers will naturally follow.

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Carling Cup 2nd Round Draw

Carling Cup 2nd Round Draw.
Matches to be played from August 27

Birmingham City v Hereford
Bristol City v Manchester City
Bristol Rovers v West Ham United
Burnley v Oldham Athletic
Cardiff v Leyton Orient
Carlisle v Coventry City
Charlton Athletic v Stockport County
Derby County v Blackpool
Luton v Sunderland
Middlesbrough v Northampton
MK Dons v Sheffield United
Newcastle v Barnsley
Nottingham Forest v Leicester
Peterborough v West Bromwich Albion
Plymouth v Doncaster
Portsmouth v Leeds United
Rochdale v Norwich City
Sheffield Wednesday v Hartlepool
Shrewsbury v Fulham
Southend v Watford
Swansea v Reading
Wigan Athletic v Hull City
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Morecambe
Wrexham v Aston Villa

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why fight the hand that kneads you?

The mobile phone has been heralded as a great invention, but I automatically frown upon any tool that encourages spousal interaction.

I remember my feeling of angst as my circle of friend embraced the technological breakthrough. Even my old man joined in, and he’s a complete technophobe; he once sold his television because a little fellow in the corner of the screen was making hand signals towards him.

The wife shares my disdain for this evil apparatus. I really felt for her when she realised her fingers were too chunky for the keypad: she wasn’t too upset though, she has the same problem with the landline.

After several years of steadfast resistance, I finally caved. I’m now the proud owner of a phone that can take photos, record video, play music, cook dinner and nip down the offy; the only thing it can’t do is make a telephone call without crackling like a pensioner.

My decision to join the mobile revolution has paid off handsomely as I now have access to ‘Frank TV’. I’m a real Lampard fan; I even subscribe to his popular video hosting website, YouTub.

I’m looking forward to watching Frank strut his considerable stuff at Anfield on Sunday. Chelsea are an outstanding bet at 2/1 as Liverpool will be without their star performer from last week’s win over the Villa; they’ll really miss young Riley.

Losing Wayne Rooney to a long term injury would normally be catastrophic, but when you have Carlos Tevez waiting in the wings, the blow is considerably softened. Tevez is almost a clone of Rooney, only without the excess fat; although I should congratulate her on landing her own TV show. Carlos is big enough and unquestionably ugly enough to nullify the loss of Rooney and Ronaldo, United must be backed at 4/5 to take the derby day honours.

Jens Lehmann will still be seething after his opening day gaffe. The excitable German couldn’t have looked more like a clown without a pair of giant shoes, a ginger wig and Fergie’s nose. I’m raising a smile to the gargantuan 5/4 for an Arsenal win over Blackburn.

Even though Bolton are pointless after two matches, the wife is convinced that Sammy Lee will stick with the same team for the trip to Fratton Park. I overheard her on the phone to her mother complaining that he’s not big enough to touch the side. Pompey are a great shout at 10/11 to take advantage.

I had to laugh when I heard Lawrie Sanchez accuse Arsenal players of simulation. Baird’s challenge on Hleb was probably the most gratuitous trip since the Tony Blair era. I’m falling over the 5/4 for a Fulham win over the Boro.

Roy Keane has launched an astonishing tirade against footballers’ wives for wielding too much influence. What Roy fails to realise is that modern day relationships are a true partnership, where ideas are exchanged in a frank and open manner until the male gets knocked out. The 11/5 for a Sunderland win over Wigan is particularly tasty.

Tottenham’s transfer policy has left me decidedly perplexed. To spend £16.5m on what should be your 4th choice striker is particularly puzzling, especially when your midfield is in worse shape than Amy Winehouse. Derby have to be backed at 3/1 to take a point from the Lane.

It’s been announced that Joey Barton’s trial for an alleged attack on a former team-mate will commence on October 4th. I’m guessing the six-week delay is to allow the prosecution enough time to catalogue his previous form. I can’t wait to take the evens for a Newcastle win over Villa.

I remember when Craig Bellamy found himself in the dock after a nightclub ruck with a young female reveller. One witness testified that he was so out of control, she struggled to pull him off: we’ve all been there after a few ales. A little punt on the Hammers leaving St Andrews with a point at 9/4 will prove uplifting.

For Steve Coppell, an outbreak of ‘2nd season syndrome’ is the greatest threat to the dressing room since ‘bird flu’, although in the interest of fairness, Bellamy was acquitted. Reading can repel the manger’s fears by taking a point off Everton at 9/4.

If my source is to be believed, Frank Lampard will be the next high profile footballer to be arrested. Senior police officials are considering charging him with possession of an offensive relative. Portsmouth, Fulham, Manchester United and Arsenal form a 15/1 weekend accer that will raise funds for my campaign to free the Chelsea 1½.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Samba madness down under

They are inimitable nicknamers, are loved the world over for their seemingly peerless brand of individual brilliance and have, finally, arrived en masse down under.

It's taken two seasons for the fledgling league to finally wake up to the unique combination of attributes Brazilian footballers of almost any standard can deliver to a new competition.

Like any nationality, Brazilians vary enormously in playing power - but they almost never fail in generating an unrivalled marketing hype and booming interest from the footballing fraternity.

With the A-League's kick-off less than a fortnight away, season three will be the judge of just how good the dozen or so new South American arrivals are, particularly as the bulk have been awarded just single-year contracts despite champions Melbourne Victory falling foul of such a decision during the close season.

Melbourne's Fred - full name Helbert Frederico Carreiro da Silva - was undeniably the player-of-the-year last season, only missing out on the league's official award by virtue of the competition small print which disallows players who've served a suspension from being nominated.

But he subsequently switched to the Major League at the end of last season - after snubbing a three-year contract with the Victory - thanks to the bulging wallets of DC United where he reportedly became the club's third-highest earner.

The disappointment surrounding the departure of Fred, a cult hero with the Melbourne faithful, was tempered considering his countrymen who arrived in Victoria at the same time - defender Alessandro and striker Claudinho - failed to reach the same playing standard.

But many believe that even if only one-in-three of the new Brazilian recruits make a similarly meteoric impact as Fred this coming season, the league will have taken a definite step forward on all measures.

Particularly, of course, given the marvellous pick-up by Sydney FC of 2002 World Cup winner Juninho, the little magician who originally burst into consciousness during his first Premiership spell with Middlesbrough.

Little needs to be added of Juninho that hasn't already been said about a career which has taken him from Sao Paulo to Palmeiras via Boro, Athletico Madrid and Celtic and bought 50 national team caps including a winner's medal in the Far East five years ago.

Sydney have tempted the 34-year-old to the Harbour City with a marquee deal reportedly worth in the region of a million Australian dollars for his one-year stint.

On the other hand, his compatriots couldn't have arrived in a more contrasting manner.

If pre-season form acts as an accurate barometer of what is to come, Adelaide's free-kick taking left full-back Cassio, or Jose de Abreu Oliveira if you will, is making Australian football fans take notice with goals in each of his past three games.

The 27-year-old defender, who has also enjoyed brief spells in the Mexican and Paraguayan domestic league, is understood to have been recommended to Adelaide by former Brazilian national team coach Marcos Paqueta.

Queensland Roar playmaker Marcinho is also being touted as pivotal to the club's ambitions of breaking into the top four for the first time.

Partnered by countryman Reinaldo in Queensland's frontline, the 26-year-old former Sao Paulo junior has bragged to local reporters that his best mate is Real Madrid's Robinho and that he wants to claim Fred's mantel as the league's premier overseas recruit.

Another classically-skilled Brazilian No.10, Daniel Lins Cortes, is a veteran of the Campeonato but has also played in Europe and, briefly, the national team with a friendly appearance off the bench against Saudi Arabia during the 2002-03 season.

Daniel is one of a quartet of Brazilians signed by canny coach Ricki Herbert for newcomers Wellington Phoenix with perhaps Cleberson, a central defender who's represented PSV Eindhoven, the other likely first team candidate.

But the signing which has polarised local opinion is that of striker Mario Jardel who has turned up at the Newcastle Jets on a one-year deal.

Everyone knows the quality of Jardel's scoring record (he has twice been the recipient of the European Golden Boot award but then again so has Kevin Phillips) but it is his continued off-field troubles which marks his acquisition as a huge gamble.

The 33-year-old has not played a full season since the disappointment of missing out on a place in Brazil's squad for the 2002 World Cup and has a notorious tale of poor fitness and suspect self-discipline.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Foreign Stars Shine Before Independence Day

top five K-League goalscorers

With South Korea preparing to celebrate independence from Japan on August 15, it is, perhaps, a little ironic that the K-League relies upon foreign players for a sizeable percentage of its goals.

It has been well-documented that South Korea scored a measly three times in six Asian Cup games last month. Departing coach Pim Verbeek blamed the goal drought partly on the scarcity of Koreans scoring goals domestically.

The Dutchman has a point. The top eight goalscorers in the K League all hail from South American and south-eastern Europe, not from Seoul or Busan. The highest ranked Korean is Daegu's Lee Kun-ho way down in ninth.

The top five can be seen in the graphic above (put together by Sports Chosun). From left to right they are Cabore (Brazil –Gyeongnam), Stevica Ristic (Macedonia –Jeonbuk), Dejan Damjanovic (Serbia –Incheon), Mota (Brazil –Seongnam) and Denilson (Brazil –Daejeon).

Below is a graph that shows the percentage of total goals scored by overseas players. Own goals are excepted as are any scored by military team Gwangju Sangmu who aren’t allowed any foreign players –though their need is greater than most.

percentage of total K-League goals scored by foreign players

Top Two To Meet

Those wonderful waegookins will be in action on Wednesday night as 14 teams in the K-League do their thing on the pitch.

Since the end of the midsummer break last week, two rounds of games have suggested that spectators up and down the southern half of the Korean peninsula could be treated to a feast of fine football, excitement and perhaps even goals in the coming weeks.

It is unfortunate for Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma that the team which finishes top of the standings after 26 games doesn’t automatically win the title, though that fact will bother the other 13 clubs a little less. As the regular season ends, the top six teams will enter the championship play-off series in November.

After the resumption of the league, Seongnam have moved even further ahead at the top of the league and the seven-time title-winners are now nine points clear of Suwon Samsung Bluewings in second.

The two meet at Suwon's 'Big Bird' World Cup Stadium in front of what should be a large and passionate crowd. A win for Suwon will keep faint hopes of replacing Seongnam on the summit alive. A repeat of the 3-1 defeat suffered in the first meeting between the pair in April however, will virtually seal top spot for the yellow machine that has not tasted defeat in the K-League for 22 games.

While the clash of the big boys takes top billing, there is still a good deal of action on offer a little lower down the table as the battle to gain a foothold in the top six increases in intensity.

FC Seoul went ten games without a win in the first stage but has started the second half of the season brightly. A home game against bottom club Gwangju Sangmu tonight provides an excellent opportunity for another victory. Just to the west, Incheon United has also collected four points in the last seven days and three more at home to fellow play-off hopefuls Chunnam Dragons will be welcome.

Asian champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have looked sharp since the break, picking up an impressive 3-2 win at Suwon last Wednesday and will be looking for another victory at Pohang Steelers. The Jeonju outfit traded Yeom Ki-hoon for fellow winger Chung Kyung-ho in the summer and look to have got the best of the deal and not just because Yeom has a broken heel and will likely miss the rest of the season. In the 180 minutes Chung has played since moving to the south-west city, he has already shown the form that made him one of Korea’s brightest prospects two or three years ago.

With Chung wreaking havoc on the wing, the sublime Kim Hyeung-bum returning to fitness after a long-term injury and the energetic Kwon-jib returning to form in midfield, Jeonbuk look well-placed for the play-offs as well as an Asian Champions League quarter-final with Japanese champions Urawa Reds in September.

The rest of the action takes place in the deep south-east. Gyeongnam FC has so far struggled to reproduce its performances of earlier in the season and faces a tough task at home to a resurgent Daejeon Citizen, now coached by old warhorse Kim Ho. The former national team coach saw his new team shock usual contenders Pohang Steelers with a 3-0 victory on Sunday. Elsewhere, third-placed Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I face coachless Busan I’Park and Daegu FC take on Jeju United.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Friday, August 10, 2007

The pressure is back on Gamba as the J-League resumes

The pressure is back on Gamba as the J-League resumes.
The J-League resumes on August 11 after a long mid-season recess and all eyes will be on Nissan Stadium for the clash between Yokohama F. Marinos and Yokohama FC.
The J-League attendance record could be broken for this fixture, with around 55,000 tickets having already been snapped up by eager fans.

Yokohama FC shocked their more illustrious rivals to record a 1-0 victory at Mitsuzawa Stadium earlier in the season, so Yokohama F. Marinos will be eager to avenge that humiliating defeat.
Elsewhere in the J-League, current table-toppers Gamba Osaka face an intriguing clash with third placed Albirex Niigata. Niigata have rocketed into the top three mainly on the basis of their home form, but they will nevertheless fancy their chances in what should be a packed Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka.

Omiya Ardija are a "club in crisis" according to their Chairman Seigo Watanabe, after he sacked coach Robert Verbeek just four days before the resumption of league football. Verbeek's dismissal was widely predicted, but the appointment of the highly unpopular Satoru Sakuma in his place has displeased many Omiya fans, ahead of their crucial clash with Shimizu S-Pulse at Nihondaira Stadium.
In the weekend's other main fixtures, Urawa - who are now just two points behind Gamba Osaka after they thumped Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4-1 in a rescheduled Round 14 fixture earlier in the month, take on Kashiwa Reysol at Saitama Stadium.

Struggling JEF United face a tough looking home fixture against Kawasaki Frontale, while a resurgent Kashima Antlers travel to Kose Sports Park Stadium, where they beat hosts Ventforet Kofu 3-0 in the League Cup earlier in the season.

In J2 current table-toppers Consadole Sapporo take on fallen giants Cerezo Osaka at the Sapporo Dome, whilst the in-form Avispa Fukuoka will hope to pull away from Vegalta Sendai with a win over Ehime FC at Hakatanomori Stadium in Fukuoka. Sendai are on the road at Tokushima Vortis.

Japanese National Teams

Japan

The head of the Japan Football Association, Saburo Kawabuchi, has called for an investigation into Japan's poor showing at the recent Asian Cup.

Kawabuchi stopped short of blaming Bosnian coach Ivica Osim for Japan's semi-final exit to Saudi Arabia, but criticised the coach for leaving the bench during Japan's drama-charged penalty shoot-out victory over Australia in the quarter-finals.

Kawabuchi also criticised Osim's training regime, and hoped that the fiery Bosnian might make changes to his team routine ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Japan Women's Team

Nadeshiko Japan qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics by thrashing Vietnam 8-0 in their penultimate Olympic qualifier.
Hiroshi Ohashi's team had far too much quality for their mis-matched counterparts, with seven different goal-scorers getting on the scoresheet in Haiphong.

Japan Olympic Team

The Japanese Olympic Team ended the recent four-team friendly tournament held in China with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Botswana.
Japan defeated DRP Korea 2-1 in their opening fixture, but a controversial 0-0 draw with hosts China - in which Japan were penalised thirty-seven times for alleged four play, meant that Japan's under-22 team had little to play for in their final match.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Egli Stakes Claim For Korean Job

Egli Stakes Claim For Korean Job.
Andy Egli recently resigned from K-League club Busan I'Park after a year in South Korea. That experience didn't put the ex-Switzerland international defender and FC Thun coach off the country however and, as he told Soccerphile's John Duerden, he wants to become the next coach of the South Korean national team.

You left Busan over a month ago. Why did you resign?

There were two main reasons. First of all, the results were not that good. Secondly, there were too many differences with the management of the club and I couldn’t continue like that. I offered to resign and after thinking about it for a week, they decided to accept my resignation. That was Ok for me.

What kind of differences?

I don’t want to go into specifics. In any relationship with any people –friends, couples, it is the same thing. With the management of the group, the development of the group, eventually, you have to decide whether to stay together, to try and find a compromise or to stop.

Were any problems regarding the departure of Brazilian players Popo and Somalia?

Not at all. Of course, there were a lot of questions regarding the improvement of the squad and the quality of the squad. There was not one reason.

If you had a chance again, what would you do differently?

This is the kind of question I don’t like. You can’t make the same situation happen twice. I would like to return to Korea because it is a very interesting country in football. I have no problems with the mentality of the people, with dealing with things. I would welcome the opportunity for a new challenge in Korea.

What kind of job would you like?

On a federation level or professional club level there are always possibilties. If there are people who want to build something with a lot of will, determination and patience and passion then I would be delighted.

When you mention federation, you are talking about the national team?

Verbeek has quit. I don’t know the thoughts of the KFA, how they want to deal with the challenges with coaching Korea. I have sent an application to the KFA because when I heard that Verbeek resigned, I wanted to them to know that I would really like the job.

If you have an interview, one question would be about the fact that when you left Busan were next-to-bottom in the league, how can you persuade people in Korea that you can be a good national team coach?

During that year in Busan I proved that I am able to build up the structure within a club and help develop tactical aspects. I think people enjoyed watching Busan play. The results were not as good as we expected but the football we played was exciting. We tried to go forward and we coached the players in a way that they could easily improve.

I think that it was just a question of time to see the results that everybody expected. People who came to watch Busan in Busan or anywhere else saw a team that tried to go forward and this is the way for all Korean teams to improve.

What are the problems of the national team and how would you solve them?

In the Asian Cup, the number of players that were not there was important. Statistically, there were three games with no goals. It is obvious what the problem is. It is also a K-League problem, Korean players have to improve in the box, they have to take attacking positions. Compared to the highest levels in Europe and South America, they are not that good. I think over the next years, coaches in Korea have to work on those things.

Koreans can defend well but this shouldn’t take away from the team’s attacking capabilities. A good balance between defending effectively and attacking in a way to create chances and socre goals is what they need.

That’s quite general. Is there anything specific you would change quickly that would help the national team?

The tournament showed that Korea could have won the semi-final and final on penalties. If Korea would have won for the first time in 47 years, then anybody would have been happy.

In the short term, you can't change. It’s constant work, coaching, supporting players, in order to give them self-confidence that they can take good positions at the highest level. It is a process that will not change today or tomorrow.

Korean football in general and individual players will continue to improve and they will win the Asian Cup again, the next World Cup they can get good result. The condition is that they continue to work on their coaching skills and their mental skills and a lot of work in both penalty boxes.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Live Free or Pie Hard

When the wife was pregnant with little Goliath, she asked if I’d still find her attractive when she put on weight. “More weight,” I instinctively corrected.”

It’s perfectly understandable if a lady’s weight yo-yo’s after such a stressful event, but with the wife, it merely yo’d. There’s no excuse for a Premiership footballer to ‘tubby up’ in such an outlandish fashion, so I hope there’s no truth to the rumours emanating from Ewood Park.

It’s alleged that a number of senior pros became hooked on pie and mash during the summer break. If the word on the street is correct, the players were so fixated with this culinary abomination, they stored a substantial amount of Fray Bentos pies in the club canteen.

Mark Hughes was understandably livid when he discovered the secret stash and immediately placed a lock on the freezer.

Robbie Savage considered the manager’s act a blatant violation of his civil liberties and threatened to leave the club if he wasn’t granted immediate access to the forbidden pastries. Mark Hughes stood his ground though, and refused to release the pie-key.

The 6/4 for Middlesbrough to open their campaign with a win over Blackburn is as delicious a treat as anything locked away in Sparky’s freezer of shame.

I was quite surprised when the news broke that Robert Earnshaw had joined Derby; the little Welshman obviously misunderstood when asked if he would like to join the Rams. Earnie can help Derby take a point off Pompey at 9/4.

Roy Keane was a fierce competitor on the pitch: he went through more footballers than Gemma Atkinson. He’ll need the same fighting spirit from his team when they face a formidable Tottenham side; I’m tucking in to the Spuds at 13/10.

Newcastle have gone down the multinational road in their search for new signings. Big Sam has signed a Brazilian, a Spaniard, a Cameroonian, a Czech, an Aussie, an Englishman and a Scouser. It wouldn’t surprise me if he made a move for the promising Russian international, Ivan Terbungoutofit. The Premier League computer has mischievously sent Newcastle to Bolton for their opening fixture; Big Sam has it in the bag at 2/1.

I have a lot of faith in Andy ‘Magic’ Johnson, even though he’s yet to master the ‘staying on his feet’ trick. I’ll be making the 8/11 for an Everton win over Wigan disappear.

If given the choice to play for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge or represent a George Bush 11 in Iran, I’d probably plump for the latter as the risk of injury diminishes significantly. Jose must be cursed; I’m taking Birmingham at 11/2 to snatch a shock draw.

I’m finding it hard to pick a winner in the West Ham v Manchester City match. I asked the wife for her opinion, but she’s also sitting on the fence. I’m now praying for the draw at 9/4, as I need funds for a new fence.

Aston Villa supporters could not be happier with the progress made by Randy Lerner and Martin O’Neill. The giant may still be sleeping, but he’s being poked with a pointy stick. Villa are overpriced at 3/1 to kick the season off with a win over Liverpool.

Fulham fans must be devastated. Mohammed Al Fayed gave his manager the green light to sign established internationals; and Sanchez tucked him up on a technicality. The Cottagers have never won away at Arsenal; the Gooners are the weekend banker at 4/11.

I was disturbed to read that Wayne Rooney has outrageously had his chest waxed. There’s nothing wrong with connecting with your feminine side, but only when you’re trying to find shelter for the little beard-hunter. There’s nothing camp about the 1/4 for a Manchester United win over Reading.

I just hope Ryan Giggs doesn’t follow Rooney’s lead, as the repercussions of dwindling wax reserves could prove catastrophic for small businesses. A little accer on Tottenham, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Manchester United at 13/1 will offer a lifeline to those most under threat.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Here we go again

Here we go again.
Fans of the South Korean national team and the Korean Football Association (KFA) have been here before.

Korea is now looking for a sixth post-Hiddink coach. Pim Verbeek's resignation at the end of the Asian Cup means that five coaches have now come and gone in the Land of the Morning Calm since the 2002 World Cup.

After three spells with the Korea national team, the first two as the assistant at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, Verbeek is a familiar figure in modern Korean soccer and has been a good servant. Taking the reins last summer, the tall 51-year-old had a long-term vision for Korean soccer, up to and beyond the 2010 World Cup. In the global game however, things rarely go according to plan.

The Asian Cup was one of those things. Verbeek led the team to third place in a continental campaign that ended in a bizarre fashion as his team defeated Japan in a penalty shootout to finish third.

Banished to the sidelines by an overzealous referee for protesting the dubious sending off of Kang Min-soo, Verbeek was forced to sit among the spectators as his team battled until the end.

The win means that Korea will now not have to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup, and if that is a positive legacy then there are one or two others.

Following the retirement of the much-heralded back-line of 2002, the team has gone through defenders in an attempt to find a settled and competent back four.

At the end of the trip to Southeast Asia, however, it looks like an answer has finally been found. Oh Beom-seok, Kang Minsoo and Kim Jin-kyu and Chiwoo went seven hours without conceding a goal and, even better, the quartet are all under 24.

The experienced stars were absent, however. After the withdrawal of Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Seol Ki-hyeon and Kim Nam-il through injury, it was going to be tough for Korea to end its 47-year-long continental drought.The team stayed positive and an Asian Football Confederation official remarked that it was the first time he could remember a Korean team taking the competition with the utmost seriousness.

Unfortunately, scoring three goals in six games is going to win neither points nor plaudits. Verbeek was unable to solve the team's problems. As the defense tightened, fewer chances were created and the strikers rarely looked like they could score. Unrest in the Korean media grew - not to severe levels - but enough to question the leadership off the field and the lack of diversity in attack on it.

The knockout stage was a slog with all three games lasting two hours with no goals scored or conceded. Those six hours were more than long enough to demonstrate the fighting spirit and fitness of a team, but also showed little in the way of creativity and initiative.

It should be mentioned that such qualities are in short supply in a low-scoring K-League with overseas stars responsible for most of what does exist. Goals are not just a national team problem, they are a commodity not abundant domestically and only two out of the top 10 marksmen so far this season hold Korean passports.

That is another issue and not one that Verbeek will have to deal with. Soon, it will be the responsibility of someone else.

The early front-runner is Jorvan Vieira. The Brazilian led Iraq to the Asian Cup title. Before he did so, he confirmed that not only will he step down from that post but that he has been contacted by the Korean Football Association. The fact that he did so before Verbeek announced his departure was not appreciated in Seoul and does not reflect well on Vieira.

There is no need for the KFA to rush as little will happen for the next few months on the national team level and it is important to find the right person.

There is always the inevitable talk of big-name coaches, but with the World Cup three years away, tempting, as well as paying, such people is difficult. This is not a bad thing as perhaps it is time to avoid the stop-start effect that is in danger of becoming the norm.

It is all very well appointing famous coaches who become more attracted to Korea the closer a World Cup becomes, but as soon as the competition ends, they take their talents elsewhere and Korea finds itself almost back at square one.

For now however, it's time for a new start - again.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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