Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marco Borriello - profil igrača

Novi talijanski bombarder

Je li stiglo vrijeme Marca Borriella?

Prisjećamo se samo jednog igrača prije Marca Borriella koji je toliko lutao prije no što je uistinu uspio. On je Luca Toni. Desetak je godina tražio sebe po klubovima od treće do prve lige, dok nije pogodio zlatnu žicu u Palermu. Kasnije je postao svjetski prvak, a danas je na pragu osvajanja Bundeslige s Bayernom.
Što je za Tonija bio Palermo, za Borriella bi mogla biti Genoa. Borriello, 25-godišnjak rodom iz Napulja, vodi na ljestvici strijelaca nakon 31 kola i zimus je zaradio prvi poziv u seniorsku reprezentaciju.

Odrastao je u napuljskoj četvrti San Giovanni a Teduccio, gdje mu još živi majka Margherita. Dok je bio srednjoškolac, umro mu je otac. Ima dva brata, starijeg Piergiorgija i mlađeg Fabija. Mlađi brat, koji igra braniča, zaradio je izvjesnu popularnost nastupom na reality showu Campioni (Prvaci).

Iza njega su četiri relativno neuspješna pokušaja u Milanu i posudbe nizu klubova. Formiran u Milanovim juniorima, 2001. je posuđen Triestini u četvrtoj ligi, gdje je stekao prvo profesionalno iskustvo. Iduće je godine preselio u trećeligaški Treviso, iz kojeg se, dokazavši se, vratio u Milan. Međutim, tamo nije pronašao prostora pored Ševčenka i Inzagija te je u siječnju 2003. opet poslan na posudbu, sada u Empoli, gdje je postigao prvi prvoligaški gol.
Cijelu je sezonu 2003/04 proveo u Milanu, okusivši i slast osvajanja naslova, ali opet u sjeni iskusnijih kolega. Stoga je 2004/05 iznajmljen Reggini, a 2005/06 Sampdoriji, da bi se nakon niza promjenjivih izvedbi četvrti puta vratio u Milan. I kad je napokon pronašao kontinuitet igara u matičnom klubu, 21. prosinca 2006. ispao je pozitivan na kortizon nakon utakmice 11. kola protiv Rome. Iako je tvrdio da je nedopušteno sredstvo u organizam unio slučajno, preko neke kreme za kožu, kažnjen je zabranom igranja do 21. ožujka, a kad je odradio suspenziju nije više našao mjesta u momčadi.
Uslijedila je još jedna posudba, ovaj puta Genoi, koja se zasad pokazala sretnim odredištem za Borriella. Iako su ga navijači primili prilično hladno, s obzirom da je nedugo ranije branio boje mrskog gradskog rivala Sampdorije, serijom je golova zaradio simpatije tribina. Osobito se proslavio 26. rujna hat-trickom u pobjedi od 3:2 nad Udineseom, dok je 2. prosinca obilježio stoti nastup u prvoj ligi. Na čelo je ljestvice strijelaca izbio 13. siječnja s dva pogotka protiv Lazija u Rimu, a 6. je veljače izborio prvi nastup u seniorskoj reprezentaciji u susretu protiv Švicarske u Zürichu. Tada je u 71. minuti ušao upravo umjesto Luce Tonija. Novo je priznanje stiglo 26. ožujka, kad je odigrao cijelo drugo poluvrijeme protiv Španjolske.
U strahovitoj konkurenciji koja vlada u Italiji punoj izvrsnih stranaca, napadaču nije lako pronaći mjesto pod suncem, no Borriello je vjerojatno ostvario upravo to u ovoj čarobnoj sezoni. S obzirom na to da je Milan suvlasnik (uz Genou) njegovih igračkih prava, nije isključeno da ćemo ga od ljeta i peti puta vidjeti među crveno-crnim vragovima na San Siru!

Osobna karta

Ime i prezime: Marco Borriello
Datum rođenja: 18. lipnja 1982.
Mjesto rođenja: Napulj
Visina i težina: 180 cm, 73 kg
Pozicija: centarfor
Momčad: Genoa
Broj dresa: 22

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Zri šport

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Interview: FC Seoul's Kiki Musampa

Musampa after training.

In terms of European football, Kiki Musampa may not have seen all that there is to see, but the dreadlocked Dutchman has treaded the boards in many of the continent’s big leagues. Starting out at Amsterdam icons Ajax, just as that team lifted the Champions League trophy in 1995, the attacking midfielder then moved to Bordeaux in 1997, not long before that the club became French champions.

He was then on his way to Spain with Malaga and then with Atletico Madrid. A two-season spell in the Premier League followed with Manchester City. After short spells in Turkey with Trabzonspor and back in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, Musampa finds himself in the K-League with FC Seoul.

It has been quite a story but a new chapter is about to begin and it is safe to say that it will not read like anything else that has gone before in the 30 year-old’s career.

How old were you when you joined Ajax?

I started when I was 12. Before that I was playing amateur football for a couple of years. I was lucky to be scouted by Ajax and then I joined the youth academy.

Some would say that you had the perfect football education…

Yes. I must say that it has been an education that I have used all the way through my career. There are so many things that I have always kept with me and used in different countries and different football cultures. I am very grateful to Ajax.

Is there any special thing that you remember from your time with Ajax?

The special thing is that football is first of all a team sport. Every player is part of a team; we were never allowed to forget this. It is the most important thing because sometimes you go somewhere and you see that some players have forgotten it. But it was precisely that which made Ajax a successful team. We had no real star players, we knew what we had to do and we knew that we always had to play for the team. That’s how we all became, in a sense, stars.

You were at the club when they won the 1995 Champions League. What do you remember of that time?

I was joining the first team, just 17 years old and without a contract but I was in the squad and training every day with the guys and for me at the time, it was like a dream coming true. Back in those days Ajax was a huge team and everybody wanted to play for Ajax, as a young kid that was all you dreamed about. So one day to be training with all these people was great.

Who was the best or your favourite player at the time?

They were all so good and all had different qualities. The best thing was the older players would help the younger ones, not leave them on their own but try to teach them. Danny Blind and Frank De Boer were especially good.

The Bosman Ruling destroyed that team, it was sad…

Yeah, in some ways. It’s sad for the team but on the other side, it was better for the players so it depends on how you look at it. There were a lot of players that benefited a lot though it was complicated for the teams.

Kiki Musampa in action for Seoul against Incheon United

Some in Holland say you left Ajax too early. Would you agree?

I was young when I left, that’s true but in view of the situation, it was the best thing to do. It was the time that Louis Van Gaal was leaving Ajax and the new coach Martin Olsen arrived with 11 new players.

You have to be realistic, you’re a young player with two years experience, there is a new coach who I didn’t think was waiting for young players to come through – he had 11 new players. It’s a big squad. You know you’re chances will be less and that you be spending a lot of time in the second team.

So then you have to make a choice. Do you want to take two steps back or are you prepared to go and play elsewhere? I chose the latter and I am happy I made that choice because when I look at the guys who stepped back, it was very hard for them and they never really came out of it.

Then you went to Bordeaux. They had a good team…

I went at a good time. A year later we were even champions of France, it was a good choice.

Then Spain. You spent a long time there, relatively. Do you think that was your happiest time as a player?

Yes, especially at Malaga at the beginning. I had to settle down and find my way in a new culture, a new language. I was quite young at the time so didn’t know what to expect. But I was enjoying the game more and more and had some good years at Malaga.

Spanish football suited you?

Yes, it was good for me definitely. I had a free role from the coach and he really knew how to get the best from the players.

Why did you then leave for Atletico?


Well, I think Atletico is a huge club. When you are playing at Malaga, it is a club that you can’t say no to. It is the third biggest club in Spain and I had no choice. I had been at Malaga for four years and it was a good time to move.

But for you, your time at Atletico wasn’t as successful?

No, definitely not. It’s quite a complicated club with many things going on behind the scenes, a lot of politics.

And then you went to England and Manchester City? How was playing in Manchester?

Playing in Manchester was great. I had always wanted to experience playing in England so when I got the chance to go to City, I just had to go. It is a good club and I really enjoyed my time there. It was frustrating because we wanted to play in Europe. On the last day we could have done it in a dramatic game against Middlesbrough.

The fans were great, they really respected the players and were supportive to me.

It has all changed there now, would it be a good time to be there again?

I’m the kind of player who likes to experience something and then move on. City are building something new and it has all changed.

As you say, you have lots of different experiences in different countries, do you feel that you have a responsibility to help Korean football and the players?

Yes, especially on the pitch –trying to guide the players, putting them in the right place and trying to help the young kids, There are a lot of talented players and sometimes they just miss this little tactical thing and this little tactical position. That’s where I can jump in and put them right.

So why did you choose Korea?

After Turkey, I went back to Holland to AZ with my old coach Van Gaal. I’m from Holland but things have changed there and I didn’t want to stay too long. I wanted to leave for a new challenge, I am still ambitious.

You went to Toronto?

I went to America. They were interested and I wanted to go and see. I’ve seen it and experienced it and it was not quite what I thought it would be.

In what way?

In all ways actually. Football is still not at the level that they want it to be or it is still not at the level that they are saying it is. Technically, tactically it is at quite a low level. It is a level that you can still play when you are 35. I had too much ambition to play there.

So you came to Korea.

Yes, Coach Gunes was interested. He is a name and a type of coach that is famous as he did a good job with Turkey at the 2002 World Cup. I had an idea that he was a good coach and has an idea of what he wants. He wanted to put something down, and he knew the way I worked so I thought ‘why not’?

Seongnam were also interested. Why did you choose Seoul?

Well, Seongnam was interested but I was actually waiting for people to make a move so I could see what is going on. I must say that maybe FC Seoul has a little more prestige and this is the capital. But you never know what will happen in the future (laughs).

Some may say think that you are now 30 and have come to Korea just for a payday. What would you say to that?

I came here because it is a new challenge for me. I want people to remember me in a good way. I am still 30 and still ambitious and came to do what I do all the time and make a difference.

Musampa is unveiled to the Seoul fans

You saw the big Seoul-Suwon match. You have played in many big games in Europe. How did the atmosphere and occasion compare?

The atmosphere was definitely one of a big game and the fans were loud and there was a lot going on, on and off the pitch. It was similar to other countries.

So when you watched that game, did you think ‘I can make a difference to this team’?

Yes, definitely. When I saw them play I know can try to help and give everything and then you never know how things will work out.

So basically playing football is the same job everywhere you go...

Yes, it is all the same principle. Nothing happens by itself, you have to go out there and make things happen and work hard. It is a job you have to do, it doesn’t matter where you play. It is the same job, the same dirty job and you have to work hard wherever you go.

How about communication?

It is more difficult on the pitch. There are a couple of guys who speak good English that explain things to me.

Do you feel the Korean players talk a lot on the pitch?

No, I must say they don’t talk at all. It is little details than can make a big difference. There is little communication and that is something that you can bring into the situation and give them messages when you pass the ball.

You said after your first match, you were impressed with the tempo and the skill levels. But in comparison to where?

In comparison to Spain and the Netherlands. One thing is obvious. The Korean players are faster because they are more agile. They move a lot and they run faster, this is something that we can’t deny. The tempo was quite high.

But by the end of the game, in the last 20-25 minutes, you can see that they slow down and then you get the space to play more.

I know it’s tough after just one game but can you say which country’s football Korean football is most similar to?

It is tough to say but teams seem to like to play the ball around like Holland, it’s all about the ball. Some teams seem to drop back and play the counter and long ball.

Interview: FC Seoul's Kiki Musampa.
Copyright: John Duerden and Soccerphile

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Monday, April 28, 2008

J. League Results 27/04/08

J. League Results 27/04/08.
Sunday, 27 April

Dragan Stojkovic's Nagoya Grampus remain atop the J-League despite losing 2-0 away to lowly Verdy.

Urawa Reds coach Gert Engels had a triumphant return to a former club when his team crushed Kyoto Sanga 4-0 in the ancient capital.

Shimizu S-Pulse had a decent result winning 1-0 over visiting FC Tokyo to pull a little further away from the mire at the bottom.

J1

Kyoto Sanga 0 Urawa Reds 4
Tokyo Verdy 2 Nagoya Grampus 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 1 FC Tokyo 0
Sapporo Consodole 0 Niigata Albirex 1
Oita Trinita 1 Yokohama F Marinos 0
Kawasaki Frontale 3 Kashiwa Reysol 2
JEF United 1 Iwata Jubilo 2

Omiya Ardija 1 Kashima Antlers 1
Vissel Kobe 2 Gamba Osaka 1



Leading Positions

Grampus P8 Pts 19
Antlers P8 Pts 17
Urawa P8 Pts 16
FC Tokyo P8 Pts 14
Marinos P8 Pts 13


J2

In J2, Sanfrecce still lead the league followed by Bellmare and Sagan in hot persuit.

Sagan Tosu 2 Tokushima Vortis 1
Yokohama FC 1 Cerezo Osaka 1


Montedio Yamagata 0 Avispa Fukuoka 0
Ventforet Kofu 1 Ehime FC 0
Roasso Kumamoto 1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2
Vegalta Sendai 3 Mito Hollyhock 3
Shonan Bellmare 4 FC Gifu 2


Leading Positions

Sanfrecce P8 Pts 17
Bellmare P8 Pts 15
Sagan P8 Pts 15
Yokohama FC P9 Pts 14
Vegalta P9 Pts 13

Last week's J.League results and standings

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Nagoya lead the way as the J. League goes Golden

Nagoya lead the way as the J. League goes Golden.
Nagoya Grampus lead the J. League standings by three points ahead of the traditional Golden Week rush. The Toyota-backed outfit are playing fast-paced, attacking football under new coach Dragan Stojkovic, however Nagoya fans are quick to point out that they were also leading the league at the same stage last season, only to limp home to an eventual eleventh placed finish.

Nevertheless Nagoya's confidence will be sky-high ahead of their visit to Ajinomoto Stadium where they take on the hapless Tokyo Verdy, who followed up a 5-0 thrashing by Shimizu S-Pulse in the League Cup with a similarly embarrassing 5-1 defeat by an injury-hit Kashiwa Reysol last weekend.

Shimizu S-Pulse take on FC Tokyo at Nihondaira Stadium, with these two sides having already met in the League Cup at the same venue this season. Shimizu won that game 3-1, and with the Shizuoka outfit hovering just above the relegation zone, they'll hope for a repeat scoreline in front of their passionate supporters.

A packed Nihondaira Stadium
Northern sides Consadole Sapporo and Albirex Niigata will slug it out at the Sapporo Dome, with both teams looking to pull away from the bottom three. Fourteenth placed Sapporo have made a shaky return to the top flight, but they'll feel confident of taking something from a Niigata side that is currently entrenched in the relegation zone.

The pick of the fixtures sees newly promoted Kyoto Sanga FC take on Urawa Reds at what will be a packed Nishikyogoku Stadium. These two sides have already met twice in the League Cup this season, with Kyoto outplaying their more fancied rivals on both occasions. They were unable to conjure a winner in a thrilling 3-3 draw in Kyoto, while the return clash at Komaba Stadium ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

Kyoto will hope that it's a case of third-time lucky when they meet Urawa in the league, however they are missing the suspended Ataliba, Sidiclei and Tatsuya Masushima - as well as coach Hisashi Kato, all of whom were controversially sent off by referee Ryuji Sato in Kyoto's most recent 1-0 loss away at Albirex Niigata.

On Sunday defending champions Kashima Antlers make the trip to Omiya Park to take on locals Omiya Ardija, while there's a hotly anticipated Kansai derby on the cards when Vissel Kobe host local rivals Gamba Osaka.

With the Golden Week holiday period heralding a jam-packed fixture list there is also a full round of matches on April 29. The pick of those games sees Urawa Reds take on last season's J2 champions Consadole Sapporo at Saitama Stadium, Yokohama F. Marinos host regional rivals JEF United at Nissan Stadium, while ex-Kawasaki Frontale playmaker Magnum faces up to his former club when Nagoya host Kawasaki in what should be an absorbing duel at Mizuho Stadium in Nagoya.

Kawasaki Frontale manager Takashi Sekizuka steps down
47-year-old Kawasaki Frontale manager Takashi Sekizuka has resigned, citing poor health for his decision.

The popular Sekizuka was the second-longest serving manager in the top flight behind Gamba Osaka's Akira Nishino, having guided Kawasaki from the Second Division into the upper echelons of the top flight.

He steered the Kanagawa club to a second place finish in J1 in 2006, before Kawasaki reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League a year later.

Sekizuka will be replaced by his assistant Tsutomu Takahata, who steps up to take over as manager of a side that has struggled in the new season so far.

Nabisco League Cup

The third round of Nabisco League Cup group-stage fixtures took place on April 16, with few surprises to speak of.

Nagoya Grampus lead the way in Group A after they beat Vissel Kobe 2-0 thanks to goals from Keita Sugimoto and a strike from veteran midfielder Toshiya Fujita, while Urawa Reds prop up the group after their 1-1 draw at home to Kyoto Sanga FC.

In Group B Shimizu S-Pulse thrashed a sorry-looking Tokyo Verdy 5-0, with midfielder Fernandinho scoring a first-half brace. The undefeated Shimizu top the group, with FC Tokyo and Jubilo Iwata locked in a tight battle for second place following their 1-1 draw in the capital.

JEF United may be propping up the J. League standings, but the 2005 and 2006 League Cup champions sit atop Group C, although they are level on points with Consadole Sapporo after the two sides played out a 0-0 draw in Chiba. Kawasaki Frontale thrashed Kashiwa Reysol in the other game, with Juninho scoring a hat-trick.

Yokohama F. Marinos are unbeaten in Group D, and they hammered a woeful Omiya Ardija 4-0 in their clash at Mitsuzawa Stadium, with ex-Cruzeiro striker Roni scoring twice. In the evening's other fixture Albirex Niigata drew 1-1 with Oita Trinita, leaving Oita in second place in the group.

The next round of fixtures are scheduled to take place on May 25.

AFC Champions League

Kashima Antlers crashed to their first defeat in the AFC Champions League on April 23, going down 1-0 to Beijing Guoan thanks to Tiago's solitary strike at Beijing's Fengtai Stadium.

The defeat will have left Kashima coach Oswaldo de Oliveira fuming after he complained bitterly of a fixture list that saw his side play domestic giants Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka ahead of the clash, while Beijing Guoan went into the match having enjoyed a ten-day break in the Chinese Super League.

Kashima lead the way in Group F on goal difference, with only the group winners progressing to the quarter-finals.

Gamba Osaka sit atop Group G of the Champions League after they comfortably disposed of A-League side Melbourne Victory, winning 2-0 at Expo '70 Stadium in the northern outskirts of Osaka thanks to a brace from striker Masato Yamazaki.

The next round of fixtures are set to take place on May 7.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

I’ve just about had an oeuf

At one time or another, we all make a mistake of gargantuan proportions. When the wife asked for a potential destination for a short trip, I foolishly answered ‘France’. I completely forgot that the place was almost exclusively full of the French.

As soon as we arrived I appreciated the gravity of my error, as the locals made absolutely no effort to speak any English. It appeared that they hadn’t been informed of our arrival.

The language barrier actually led me to be being deported. I popped into a café, but I didn’t fancy eating any strange French food such as ‘frites’ or ‘saucisses’, so I helped myself to a biscuit from behind the counter.

The owner went ballistic and called the police, and I was on the next plane back to England. I still feel embarrassed about being kicked out of Europe thanks to a simple ginger nut. Liverpool fans share my pain, they should console themselves with the 7/4 for a win over Birmingham.

The police were on the ball over there though, unlike their English counterparts. When a French person is reported missing, their filth launch an immediate search; but the Manchester police haven’t even begun their hunt to find poor Wayne. United are winless (and goalless) on their last six visits to Stamford Bridge, I’ll struggle to find a better bet than Chelsea at 6/4.

The North East of England is the one place on Earth that’s actually worse than France. The locals are equally as undecipherable, and they take up twice the room. 15/8 is absolutely massive for a Newcastle win over West Ham.

The North East does have its redeeming features; it remains a Redknapp-free area. Harry’s decision to stay in Portsmouth was warmly received by the Geordie Nation, as it decreased the probability of them ever bumping into Jamie. I’m particularly thankful for the 23/10 for a draw between Portsmouth and Blackburn.

Newcastle have taken a lead in the North East mini-league, which is a little bit like leading a race at the Special Olympics. Sunderland will beat Boro at 13/10 in the battle for the silver medal, but they’re all winners really.

There’s a real scrap going on at the bottom of the table, and Fulham are almost certainly relegated. The chairman will most likely blame Prince Philip, MI5 and possibly MFI. I’ve put together 9/10 for a Manchester City win over the doomed Cottagers.

Bolton have all the momentum in the relegation battle, but they won’t receive any favours away at Tottenham. I expect the 10/11 for a Tottenham win to last about as long as a Geordie in a beauty contest.

Graeme Murty should hang his head in shame after his dying swan act led to a three match ban for Alexander Hleb. Simulation is the unacceptable face of modern day football, alongside Steve Bruce. Wigan v Reading won’t be pleasing to the eye, a draw looks the correct call at 12/5.

If I was Robbie Savage, and I’m not (I’m quite good at football); I’d ask for Cesc Fabregas’ shirt after Derby’s ‘match’ against Arsenal. Such an item of memorabilia could potentially raise a tidy sum for when he upgrades his caravan. The 4/5 for Arsenal to beat Derby by two goals or more is remaining remarkably steady.

I genuinely feel that Aston Villa will be right behind Arsenal at the top of the table next season - certainly in early August. The Villans are on fire in their quest to make it into Europe; they’ll eat up and spit out the Toffeemen at 23/10.

To say I was happy about last week’s winning accer is an understatement; I felt like a Chelsea player after they practically booked their flight to Moscow. When Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal oblige for this week’s 10/1 accer, I’ll be happier than Ashley Cole after an invite into the cockpit.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mixed Bag For Korea's Exports To Europe

Mixed Bag For Korea's Exports To Europe.
The line between success and failure is a fine one, especially in the English Premier League, generally regarded as the world’s top football competition. In the case of South Korean striker Lee Dong-guk, that line was about as wide as a goalpost.

The Lion King moved to Middlesbrough in January 2007. His debut came a month later against Reading. Lee was introduced as a substitute with around eight minutes remaining. Seven minutes later, England international winger Stewart Downing fired over a perfect cross from the left side. Lee was unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box and let fly with his right foot. He wasn’t the only one in the stadium to put his head in his hands after the ball bounced off the post and rolled agonizingly away.

Though he wasn’t to know it at the time, that was the closest Lee was ever going to come to scoring a goal in the world’s richest league and things could have been a lot different. As it stands, the striker is about to be shipped out of England’s northeast. If there was any doubt about that, it was dispelled last week by head coach Gareth Southgate.

"… He has not played as well as we might have hoped,” said the former England captain. “For him and for the team I think it's been better to involve other players really.”

The softly-spoken Southgate has given the Korean ample opportunities to prove that he has what it takes. Eight starts and 15 substitute appearances may not be as much as the player wanted but in the modern high-pressure world of elite football where coaches can be fired after three or four poor results, it is more than many get.

With Lee’s contract finishing in May; it is now time to move to another club though finding one in the Premier League could prove to be as fruitless as his attempts to find the net. The 29 year-old may have to look elsewhere.

The player has already indicated that he has no desire to return to the K-League and former club Pohang Steelers. There will be possibilities however, there always are. Lee’s reputation has taken a bit of a battering in recent months but the striker has proven in the past that he can score against top-class international opposition such as Germany, Sweden and Mexico.

Lee could be best served by moving to the mainland, perhaps the Netherlands. He may not be the only Korean heading south across the North Sea. Tottenham Hotspur’s Lee Young-pyo has played more Premier League games than any of his compatriots but has recently fallen out of favor at the London club.

With time on the bench accumulating, it didn’t take the defender long to start thinking fondly of former club PSV Eindhoven, in the manner of a cheating husband who has realized that the grass on the other side of the fence may be green and glamorous but it quickly forgets those who don’t play on it. “ PSV are my team, I miss them a lot,” he said recently. For its part, the Dutch club is ready to forgive Lee who publicly demanded a transfer out of the southern Netherlands back in the summer of 2005.

According to reports, PSV technical director Stan Valckx said recently: "He was a good player for us and will always be welcomed here. His contract does not expire until 2009, so it is still a long way to go. But if he wants to leave before then, then we are very interested."

Of the remaining two players in England’s top league, Seol Ki-hyeon is also very likely to be on the move. The mercurial attacker hasn’t played for London club Fulham since January 19. Seol has flattered to deceive in England and his time there looks to be running out.

It is not all doom and gloom because there is the small matter of Park Ji-sung at Manchester United. The 27 year-old has featured heavily in recent games for the club which is in touching distance of glory both in England and in Europe.

Games don’t come much bigger than a European Champions League semi-final against Barcelona and Park is likely to play at least some part in both legs, the first of which takes place Wednesday evening in Spain. A proud Korean media is hardly daring to contemplate the possibility of the Park playing in the biggest club game in the world in Moscow at the end of May.

Such an event would more than make up for the struggles of his three Premier League companions.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekly Soccer News 21 April 2008

Weekly Soccer News 21 April 2008.
World Soccer News for the week of 04/21

Standard Liege on top 25 years later

An old glory of Belgian soccer, Standard Liege, have finally managed to win the domestic championship, their first in a quarter of the century and indeed the first piece of silverware after 15 years.
It has taken a truly remarkable display throughout the season for Standard to emerge on top: a 31-game unbeaten run, which has culminated with a 2-0 win over archrivals Anderlecht in the decisive match.
This is the ninth League title for Standard, who also won five Belgian cups and played in the 1982 Cup Winners' Cup against Barcelona at Camp Nou back then in the times of Arie Haan, Benny Wendt and Simon Tahamata.

PSV make it four in a row

In neighbouring Netherlands, PSV have not had a shortage of trophies over the past decades. The Eindhoven team have snatched their fourth consecutive title, the 21st in their history, by winning 1-0 at Vitesse. PSV needed just a draw in their last game to stay ahead of Ajax, who demolished Heracles by 5-1 in hope their rivals would trip up in Arnhem.
The provincials have dominated the Dutch scene in the past nine seasons, winning seven titles and leaving just two to Ajax. Their successes include eight Dutch cups, seven Supercups, one Champions Cup and one UEFA Cup.

Olympiacos continue to frustrate rivals

Even more prominent than PSV's dominance in the Netherlands is Olympiacos' rule in Greece, as the red and whites have just added a 36th league title to their trophy room at the end of an emotional season that saw them shrug off a serious challenge from AEK Athens.
The crucial win for the Children of Piraeus came on the last day at home against Iraklis, well beaten by 3-1, only two weeks after Olympiacos got
thrashed by AEK 4-0 in the southern derby.
This has also been the fourth consecutive championship for Olympiacos, the three previous ones having come with the help of Rivaldo. The famous Brazilian played at AEK this season, but his magic has not been quite enough to turn the balance in favour of the Athens side.
How frustrating it must be for the rivals to know that Olympiacos, nicknamed Legend by their fans, have won eleven out of twelve championships since 1997/98.

Luca Toni makes good of Kahn's words

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said on the eve of the German DFB Cup finals that Luca Toni must be one of the greatest strikers in the history of the club. Toni has been the major force in this marvellous season for the Bavarians who may still wrap up all four available trophies.
After picking up the League Cup early in the season, Bayern made it a cup double against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday and guess who scored both goals for the winners: Luca Toni. The only goal for the losers was scored by the Croatian Mladen Petric, the man responsible for England's failure to qualify for this year's European Championships.

"He is one of the best I have ever seen playing here at Bayern in terms of striking qualities," said Kahn enthusiastically, days after the 193 cm tall Italian had achieved another double to put his team through to the UEFA Cup semifinals in the epic clash against Getafe.
"He is a predator and there are very few of those around. He is at home in the penalty area and he is always in the right place, so he doesn't need many chances to score."

Of course, Toni also racked up 20 goals in the Bundesliga, a tally destined to grow in the remaining five matches in which Bayern is expected to clinch the third season's trophy.

Eduardo da Silva continues rehabilitation in Rio

Arsenal's Eduardo da Silva, currently recovering from the terrible fibula fracture sustained in February, has arrived in his native Rio de Janeiro where he is expected to stay for about three months.
According to the doctors, the Gunner's condition is satisfactory and
his career is not in question. When exactly the naturalized Croat will be back in action is still early to say as only two months have passed since Martin Taylor's fateful tackle.
"I would like to stay in Brazil, with my family, until the end of my rehabilitaton, but I am not sure whether Arsenal will allow me or if they will ask me to return to England in July," said Eduardo, whose injury signalled the beginning of a dreadful spell for his team. Five points clear of Manchester United before the incident quickly melted away as the Gunners managed to win just two Premier League games in two months.
Croatia's coach Slaven Bilic and the fans fear that the national team might miss Eduardo just as badly as the final stage in Austria and Switzerland is due to start in six weeks.

Nereida Gallardo is new Cristiano's sweetheart

Her identity could not stay unknown for long. Cristiano Ronaldo's new girlfriend is Nereida Gallardo Álvarez and she is a Mallorca-born model.
The reporters spent a long time searching for her identity and they received some help from other Manchester United players. When the 23-year old Portuguese scored against Middlesbrough, he waved to someone in the box of honour. Seated there was Ronaldo's cousin Nuno and a glamorous beauty who the others had thought was Nuno's fiancé.
However, Ronaldo's mates indicated to the reporters that the girl in question is in fact their number seven's girlfriend.
She is a 25-year old brunette whose proportions read 94-62-94. It can hardly get any better and this may be the reason so many boys all over the world strive to become professional soccer players.
Previous Ronaldo conquests included tv-reporters Merche Romero and Carolina Patrocinio plus the British model Gemma Atkinson and the
Colombian actress Mirella Grisales – a highly exciting quartet but maybe, just maybe, our man prefers a scrubber in the pool!

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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J.League Results 21/04/08

J.League Results 21/04/08.
Sunday, 20 April

Dragan Stojkovic's Nagoya Grampus top the J-League after a come from behind home win over bottom club JEF United. Reigning J-League champions Kashima Antlers are second after a goalless home draw with Gamba.

Shimizu S-Pulse move out of the bottom three positions after a 1-1 draw away to Marinos.

J1

Nagoya Grampus 3 JEF United 2
Kashima Antlers 0 Gamba Osaka 0
FC Tokyo 4 Kawasaki Frontale 2
Niigata Albirex 1 Kyoto Sanga 0
Vissel Kobe 1 Sapporo Consodole 1
Kashiwa Reysol 5 Tokyo Verdy 1
Yokohama F Marinos 1 Shimizu S-Pulse 1

Omiya Ardija 0 Urawa Reds 0
Iwata Jubilo 1 Oita Trinita 1


Leading Positions

Grampus P7 Pts 19
Antlers P7 Pts 16
FC Tokyo P7 Pts 14
Marinos P7 Pts 13
Urawa P7 Pts 13

J2

In J2, Sanfrecce still lead the standings despite a first loss of the season 2-1 at home to Ventforet.

FC Gifu 2 Yokohama FC 3
Ehime FC 1 Vegalta 1

Thespa Kusatsu 1 Montedio 1
Cerezo Osaka 1 Roasso Kumamoto 0
Avispa Fukuoka 2 Sagan Tosu 0
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Ventforet Kofu 2
Vortis 2 Mito Hollyhock 0

Leading Positions

Sanfrecce P7 Pts 14
Yokohama FC P8 Pts 13
Bellmare P7 Pts 12
Vegalta P8 Pts 12
Sagan P7 Pts 12


Last week's J.League results and standings


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Friday, April 18, 2008

London coach crash claims two victims

Football news.
Two top coaches in the English capital crashed this week and are recovering from their injuries.

The first victim was a French national, Monsieur Arsene Wenger, whose vehicle 'Arsenal' (named after him), took the wrong turning from off a successful road to a league and European double, smashing into Liverpool in the Champions League, before being hit again by Manchester United in the Premier League.

Arsenal have for my money played the sexiest football around this season, but once more were outwitted by cannier clubs when it counted, teams who exploited the Gunners' perennial inexperience and lack of grit when under pressure.

A wonder goal such as that conjured up at Anfield by the irrepressible Theo Walcott and lethal Emmanuel Adebayor deserved to win any game, but only seconds later, Arsenal were outmuscled and shocked by an English-style counter and Liverpool scored via a questionable penalty.

United exploited their home advantage and experience to dismiss the Gunners from the title race the following Sunday, sending Wenger into new depths of madness, as he bleated about referees having a conspiracy against his club.

The gleaming new Emirates Stadium is thanks largely to that man, who has transformed London's top club into regular European contenders for the first spell in their long history. But Wenger, for all his tactical and inspirational genius, shames himself by his frequently one-sided post-match rants.

It ill-behoves a coach of his talent to claim refs are out to get his team, when replays prove the Gunners benefit from at least as many 50-50 calls as anyone else. Equally, can there be anything more ridiculous than the comical 'I didn't see it' defence he trots out whenever the press needles him on such calls in Arsenal's favour?

The second victim is Chelsea's Avram Grant, who under withering pressure from success-bloated 'fans', reported player dissatisfaction and above all the tabloids, 'lost it' with the press on Thursday evening.

Grant answered in almost monosyllables alone to the press after his team won 1-0 at Goodison Park against Everton. It was terrific entertainment and I say Bravo, Avram! Managers should repay the contempt the press lob at them.

Memories are extremely short at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho was too combustible a personality for people to work with for much longer, and was fired because the results were poor at the start of the season.

Grant has done a fine job in taking over from such a legend and keeping Chelsea in contention for both the league title and Champions League. Anti-semitism has reared its ugly head this season amid the Chelsea-haters, but the Israeli coach may yet have the last laugh.

Another coach trying to keep the wheels on the road is Rafael Benitez at Liverpool. It seems crazy that the two American owners, who have fallen out incidentally, were gunning to replace the Spaniard with the untested Jurgen Klinsmann.

Benitez works miracles in the Champions League and like, Wenger, revitalised a big club which seemed to be running out of steam.

All three of the above managers, whose clubs are in the top four in the league and all reached the Champions League quarter-finals, have had their names mentioned in the UK press this week as possible summer axings.

That any of Benitez, Grant and Wenger should be facing dismissal is ridiculous, but also a telling comment on the insatiable and utterly unrealistic demands of the new breed of soccer investor-operators, who have no feel or real understanding for the game.

Only Sir Alex, high in his Old Trafford castle after 22 years of fortification, seems safe.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

There Ste Goes Again

As a society, we’re obsessed with appearance. I blame teen magazines for perpetuating the myth that skinniness equals beauty. If I had to choose between a thin girl and a lady with a fuller figure, I’d choose the one with the better personality. Obviously, if they’re equally pleasant, then fatty’s out of luck.

Men are far less uptight about how they look. Petr Cech was happy to return to work when half of his face was hanging off; he wasn’t concerned that he looked like Steve Bruce’s better looking brother.

Cech was back between the sticks within no time, as he managed to borrow the necessary protection from Ashley Cole. Not many people own chin guards, but Cashley is always wary of bouncing balls. I’ll be jumping up and down when Everton beat Chelsea at 14/5.

Juande Ramos believes that his players should take pride in their appearance, and has banned cakes and sweets from the canteen. I agree with Juande on this one; I’ll only consider a muffin once a year. If Wigan get their head down against Tottenham, they can take a point at 5/2.

Gareth Southgate is far more relaxed with his players’ diet. In Mido and Alves, he has the fattest pair up front since a heavily pregnant Jordan. Bolton are about as pleasing to the eye as Peter Andre’s often visited partner; a relatively attractive Boro will overpower them at 11/10.

Thaksin Shinawatra is taking a real gamble in considering Phil Scolari as a future coach. Big Phil once punched an annoying player at the end of a match; there’s a real chance that he might raise a fist to Ashley Cole. Pompey haven’t won away at Manchester City since 1963, I’m going in deep on Sven’s men at 11/8 to gain revenge for being tucked up on the Benjani deal.

Steven Gerrard has suffered panic attacks ever since a gangster threatened to break his legs; he now collapses without warning roughly every 30 minutes. The precipitating midfielder and his pals have lost on their last two trips to the Cottage; current circumstances dictate that we back Fulham at 3/1.

Arsenal’s season can be compared to putting your hand up Lily Allen’s blouse: it’s been exciting, but the end result is a disappointment. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Gunners laid a marker for next season by pounding Reading at 4/11.

Paul Jewell’s move to Derby is officially the greatest mistake since I fell for the ‘I’m on the pill’ line. After a six goal humiliation at home to Aston Villa, the Rams travel to West Ham to face a side who beat them 5-0 at ‘Pride’ Park. Derby have two hopes in this one, Bob Hope and no hope; and Bob Hope’s dead. The Hammers are the weekend banker at 2/5.

Many people believe that Mark Hughes will be the next manager of Manchester United. I’m not sure if Hughes is ready to succeed Sir Alex just yet, he needs to work on his referee-haranguing. I’d consider offering the position to Fergie’s son; he would soon knock them into shape. United will pile in to Blackburn at 8/13.

I was shocked to receive an email suggesting that I was out of line for calling Karen Brady unattractive. I guess the old adage is true: one man’s meat is another man’s poison, unless you’re Ashley Cole. Aston Villa are one win away from their second straight double over the Brady bunch, and they’re guaranteed a goal start if Ridgewell plays. I’ve seen worse bets than the 5/6 for a Villa win; I tipped them up last week.

If Freddie Shepherd is to be believed, and why wouldn’t he, the women of Newcastle are not the best looking breed. No wonder Jimmy Nail, Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley left the area. It could get real ugly when the Toon Army host Sunderland; I’ll side with Newcastle at 5/6.

If, like me, your partner is less than pleasing aesthetically, feel free to use my adage to help them feel a little bit better about themselves. ‘Beauty fades, but a solid ironing technique will last forever’. I’m not sure how long the 13/1 will last about this week’s accer: Arsenal, West Ham, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Manchester City are the quite stunning selections.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Interview: China International Li Weifeng

Li Weifeng warming up
Former Chinese captain Li Weifeng has been a well-known figure in Asian football for a number of years. He is soon set to notch over 100 caps for his nation and, as the new Chinese Super League season gets into its stride, is hoping to lead Shanghai Shenhua to a first title since 2003 and China qualify to the 2010 World Cup.

He found time to talk about China, Shanghai and his short stint with Everton.

What happened in the recent World Cup qualifier against Australia?

It was a really good chance to defeat Australia, half of their starting eleven didn’t come to China. Our target in the game was to get three points and we tried our best to win, but we were unlucky. It not the fault of one person, the whole team is responsible.

Does China have to win the next game? Will China qualify?

We should win and we will. If we end up with three draws from three games, it would mean that we have lost six points. If we win the next game, we will have a good chance qualifying. If we don’t win, it won’t be the end of the world. We will fight to the end.

What were your thoughts on Australia?

They are very strong physically and many of them play in Europe. Australia is a strong team.

Can Shanghai win the title this season?


Shanghai has always been one of the teams that challenges for the title. If we win the games that we should win, then we will have a good chance.

How can Chinese football improve?

More and more of our talented players should go to Europe. There they can improve their skills, gain some experience and get the most important thing of all --confidence.

The China national team seems to be getting a reputation as a physical team. is this correct?

No, I don't think so.

You also have the same reputation...

The physical condition is the basic element of playing football. Besides I think I also have good skill and, actually no one thinks that I'm a piece of wood in the defence line.

What happened at Everton? Why did you only play one game?

You know, it is often hard for a foreigner to communicate with the coach of the team and this is such an important aspect. I once studied football in Brazil, learning some Portuguese, but no English. At Everton, the coach and myself couldn’t communicate properly or exchange ideas.

And then I picked up an injury which didn’t help matters. When I first went to the club, I said to myself: ‘If I can't get a starting position in three months, I will leave without any hesitation.’ Mr Moyes wanted me stay, but he all he could do was keep telling me to ‘wait.’ But you know it's hard for a coach to change his defence...

Do you have happy memories of your time in England?

Of course. Beside the result, I don't think my experience in UK was a waste of time. I still think the style I play is something that learning from England. I felt I grew up there, experiencing more and more. It's was a good experience!

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Seoul Still Sing Suwon Blues

 Seoul World Cup Stadium
“This is like deja vu all over again”, said baseball legend Yogi Berra once upon a time. A quick glance at the top of the current K-league table certainly brings a host of memories flooding back for football fans around the nation.

Suwon Samsung Bluewings are in first place after winning four and drawing one of the five games so far. That single blemish came when Suwon faced old rivals Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma earlier in the season. Seongnam are now in second. The two Gyeonggi Province teams spent all of 2007 fighting at the top and are once again out on their own.

Last weekend certainly brought back some bad memories for FC Seoul. Watched by more than 44,000 fans in the capital, the club once again saw an early-season good start ended by Suwon. Last April, the 1-0 defeat inflicted by the Bluewings stopped the Seoul season dead in its tracks. It remains to be seen how the 2-0 defeat on Sunday affects Senol Gunes and his players.

Seoul and Suwon take the field

Those players were unlucky as they controlled much of the match against Suwon. Especially in the first half, a number of chances came Seoul’s way and they all went begging. Dejan Damjanovic, Jung Jo-gook, Park Chu-young and Lee Chung-yong all could have done better.

While Seoul’s superiority was real, it was also fragile. As poor as Suwon looked in the first half, the team, roared on by thousands of travelling fans, still carried an air of sleepy menace and a constant threat that Seoul would be made to pay for its profligacy. That is exactly what happened six minutes into the second half.

Young striker Shin Young-rok let fly from 25 meters more in hope than expectation and somehow Seoul goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun let the ball soar over him to send the massed ranks of Suwon supporters behind the net into raptures. Those fantastic fans were celebrating once again 11 minutes later as young Shin fired a low shot into the net from the edge of the area and it was as good as game over.

Suwon celebrate

“This is a game that we really should have won, but the result was a defeat. We just didn’t take our chances” said Seoul coach Senol Gunes after the match. “It sounds like an excuse but I can’t blame my players as it was a good performance.”

His opposite number Cha Bum-keun couldn’t stop smiling.

“The first half was really tough for us but we recovered well. Our defence held firm so we there were opportunities for us in the second half.”

Suwon players celebrate with their fans

Not too far to the west, Incheon United was suffering the same fate as Seoul – a 2-0 home loss ending an unbeaten start to the season. Seongnam’s Brazilian duo of Mota and Dudu did the damage for the seven-time champions who are now on the coat-tails of the Bluewings.

Now Suwon and Seongnam have positioned themselves at the front of the pack, it remains to be seen if they break away in much the same fashion as 2007. It certainly is possible as the two teams look to be a level above their competitors.

Before the season started, it was expected that those competitors would include Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors but the 2006 Asian champions have had a shocking start. The signing of international striker Cho Jae-jin was supposed to push the Jeonju team into the upper echelons of the table but the team is in last with four defeats in five matches. The latest was a 3-0 home setback at the hands of a stylish Daegu FC. Champions Pohang Steelers are also struggling with just one win so far this season.

Suwon fans take their banners home

Perhaps it is at the bottom of the table where we will see some surprises in 2008 because at the top, it is the same old story.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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J.League Results 14/04/08

J.League Results 14/04/08.
Sunday, 13 April

Reigning J-League champions Kashima Antlers lost for the first time this season away at Urawa Reds. Nagoya Grampus 0-2 winners away at Shimizu now top the league.

J1

Sapporo Consodole 2 Iwata Jubilo 1
Yokohama F Marinos 2 Kashiwa Reysol 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 0 Nagoya Grampus 2
JEF United 0 Omiya Ardija 4
Tokyo Verdy 1 FC Tokyo 2
Oita Trinita 0 Kawasaki Frontale 0

Kyoto Sanga 2 Vissel Kobe 1
Urawa Reds 2 Kashima Antlers 0
Gamba Osaka 2 Niigata Albirex 0



Leading Positions

Grampus P6 Pts 16
Antlers P6 Pts 15
Urawa P6 Pts 12
Marinos P6 Pts 12
Sanga P6 Pts 11


J2

In J2, Avispa Fukuoka under new coach Pierre Littbarski continue to struggle. The imported Australians in the team yet to settle. Sanfrecce lead the standings and hope to bounce back to J1 at the first time of asking.

Avispa Fukuoka 1 - 5 FC Gifu
Montedio Yokohama 1 Yokohama FC 0
Vegalta Sendai 1 - 1 Tokushima Vortis

Mito Hollyhock 2 - 2 Roasso Kumamoto
Sagan Tosu 1 - 1 Thespa Kusatsu
Bellmare 1 - 0 Ventforet Kofu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4 - 1 Cerezo Osaka



Leading Positions

Sanfrecce P6 Pts 14
Sagan P6 Pts 12
Bellmare P7 Pts 12
FC Gifu P7 Pts 11
Vegalta P7 Pts 11

Last week's J.League results and standings


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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shimizu S-Pulse v Nagoya Grampus

The best thing on display in a Shimizu S-Pulse shirt yesterday at pretty Nihondaira Stadium was the pre-match entertainment dancers.

Listen to the sounds of the Shimizu fans

Shimizu S-Pulse v Nagoya Grampus pre-match entertainment

On the pitch, Shimizu were poor again and lost 2-0 to an improving Nagoya Grampus. The loss of ace marksman Korean Cho Jae-jin seems to be key to the Shizuoka Prefecture club's poor form this season.

The tall Cho Jae-jin, who has returned to the K.League with Jeonbuk Motors after a move to the English Premier League fell through, has been replaced with a 1.65 meter Brazilian, Marcos Aurelio, plucked from his country's third division in a piece of ill-advised transfer activity by a literally short-sighted board.

Shimizu S-Pulse fans

Over 14,000 supportive fans saw the match but crowds are slipping as the team continues to slide in to the bottom three of the J-League.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

UEFA Cup semifinals preview

UEFA Cup report

Adios Getafe, only big guns remain

After all, the UEFA Cup semifinal setup will be worthy of the illustrious tradition of this competition. After the elimination of Getafe, whose best-ever Spanish league standing was last year's nineth, only the teams worthy of European glory have remained.

The big hit of the current edition are the Russian champions Zenit, who kicked out Villarreal, Marseille and Bayer Leverkusen in the past three rounds. Led by the respectable Dutch coach in Dirk Advocaaat and a handful of Russian internationals, Zenit reached their first European semifinals, and it is possible that they have not said their last word although their next opposition are Bayern. The ease with which they demolished Leverkusen

Bayern, by far the winningest team of the last four, had not seen a semifinal action since 2001, when they eliminated Real Madrid on the way to their fourth Champions League title. Despite a certain anonimity on the continental field after that achievement, Bayern are still one of the world soccer giants with shelves packed with silverware: four Champions Leagues, Cup Winners' Cup. UEFA Cup, Supercup and two Intercontinental Cups. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld says he sees Bayern in
the finals, but after toiling so much against a modest side like Getafe, the Bavarians had better approach their next obstacle with more humility.

Fiorentina and Rangers own just one European trophy, a Cup Winners' Cup each. The Italians won the first edition of the competition in 1961, beating who else but Rangers by 2-0 and 2-1. They were on the losing side in the following year's finals against Atlético Madrid and in 1990 they lost a UEFA Cup finals against Juventus. Their last appearance in the semifinal stage came eleven years ago when Ronaldo's and Figo's Barcelone proved too powerful for the Violets.

Rangers collected their only continental honour in 1972, after losing two previous finals in 1961 and 1967. In the scandalous final held in Barcelona thousands of Rangers' fans fought with the police, which cost the club one year suspension. After that tarnished triumph, the Blues came close to a final game only once, when they finished second in the semifinal group of the 1992/93 Champions League, behind eventual winners Marseille. Since this year's finals is to be played in Glasgow, Rangers believe the trophy is destined to end up in their hands, but before that happens Fiorentina's in-form man, Adrian Mutu, will have to give his approval.

UEFA Cup quarterfinals 2007/08

Bayer L. vs Zenit 1-4 1-0
Bayern vs Getafe 1-1 3-3 (a.e.t.)
Fiorentina – PSV 1-1 2-0
Rangers – Sporting L. 0-0 2-0

Copyright Ozren Podnar and Soccerphile


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Champions League semifinals preview 2008

Champions League semifinals preview 2008.
Champions League report

Old acquaintances meet again

The semifinal clashes in this season's Champions League have joined old foes who have run against one another many times in the European competitions.

Manchester United and Barcelona have played seven games in the UEFA's competitions while Liverpool and Chelsea have met on six occasions, all of them in the last three years.

United and Barcelona have a very evenly balanced score with two wins for each team and three draws. The Red Devils have been a bit more successful as they achieved a better score on two occasions, with one tie and one loss.

Their first encounter took place in the Cup Winners' Cup quarterfinals in 1983/84, when United performed a sensational comeback against total favorites that Barcelona were at the time with Diego Maradona and Bernd Schuster in their ranks. The first leg on Camp Nou ended 2-0 for the Catalans, but a young Mark Hughes helped United towards an unlikely 3-0 at Old Trafford in the return match.

After surviving infamous episodes at Barcelona and Bayern, Hughes returned to Manchester in 1988, in time to lead his old club to another unexpected triumph. With two goals the Welshman knocked down Cruyff's Barcelona in the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup finals.

Hristo Stoichkov and Romário gave Barça a wonderful 4-0 win over United in the 1995 Champions League group stage, which ultimately cost the English side a place in the quarterfinals.

Finally, in 1998/99 these two teams played two spectacular 3-3 draws in the group stage, but these scores favoured United, who went through together with Bayern, and in the end beat no other than Bayern in the finals at Camp Nou.

In the previous three seasons Liverpool topped Chelsea twice in Champions Cup semifinals and between those matches other two encounters ended with goalless draws. Amazingly, in the six games only three goals were scored, two for Liverpool and one in Chelsea's favour. One of these goals, scored by Liverpool's Luis García in 2005, was in fact illegal, which makes the two teams' scoring output even more miserable.

Quarterfinals 2007/08

Schalke vs Barcelona 0-1 0-1
Roma vs Manchester Utd. 0-2 0-1
Arsenal vs Liverpool 1-1 2-4
Fenerbahce vs Chelsea 2-1 0-2


Previous matches

Manchester Utd. vs Barcelona 1st 2nd

1998/99 Champions League 3-3 3-3
1994/95 Champions League 0-4 2-2
1990/91 Cup Winners' Cup 2-1
1983/84 Cup Winners' Cup 0-2 3-0


Liverpool vs Chelsea 1st 2nd

2004/05 Champions League 0-0 1-0
2005/06 Champions League 0-0 0-0
2006/07 Champions League 0-1 1-0 4-1 (pen)

Copyright Ozren Podnar and Soccerphile

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Friday, April 11, 2008

World Soccer News Croatian Cruyff

World Soccer News Croatian Cruyff.
World Soccer News for the week of 04/11/08

Liverpool after "Croatian Cruyff", Luka Modric

Dinamo Zagreb have received the first formal offer for their star midfielder
Luka Modric. The offer came from five time European champions, Liverpool, according to leading Croatian daily, Vecernji list.
The Croatian press recently published reports that Newcastle, Tottenham,
Chelsea and Arsenal all expressed interest in the 22-year-old midfield schemer,
but Liverpool seems to have made the first concrete move to seize Modric. The
player carries a 23 million euros price tag, but Dinamo may be willing to offload him for a mere 20 million.
Should the prospective buyers wait until the end of the European Championship, the price could rise in accordance to Modric's performance.
The youngster bearing an uncanny physical resemblance to Johan Cruyff is a creative, goal-scoring midfielder who has won so far two League titles, one FA Cup and one Croatian supercup, and a third consecutive league championship is virtually secure, as well as a second successive place in the FA Cup finals.
"I am truly honoured if it is true that Liverpool want me. I watched them break Arsenal. That was a magnificent game. Only the biggest teams can play so well against an opponent as strong as Arsenal," said Modric.

World Soccer News Croatian Cruyff.


Porto celebrate title, but is it too early?

FC Porto have become the first team from a major European soccer league to have secured this season's title...unless the Portuguese FA strip them of six points as punishment for attempted corruption.
Porto have already celebrated their third consecutive title after beating Estrela Amadora 6-0 last Sunday, but the celebrations could prove premature if the disciplinary procedure within the FA is finalized during the next couple of weeks. It seems that during the 2003/04 season Porto arranged for certain referees to direct two of their League games, which in the eyes of the FA constitutes an attempt at corruption.
Maximum punishment for this is the subtraction of six points, but Porto are certain to clinch the title even without these points seeing that their advantage over Benfica and Sporting is so huge.
The club's chairman Pinto da Costa on the other hand faces a two year suspension.

Playing at high altitude could be fatal, say doctors

The Brazilian side Flamengo of Rio de Janeiro claim to have collected evidence of the dangers of playing at high altitude. The red and blacks received a facsimile from a group of Bolivian and Mexican doctors who had concluded that playing
high above sea level could prove fatal. The doctors reached this conclusion after studying the death of a 23-year-old soccer player last year during a game in the Bolivian mountain city of Potosí.
The physicians performed all sorts of heart and blood tests on various players who had played at altitudes of above 2500 meters and determined that athletes indeed can die in such conditions.
The Brazilian media claim the Bolivian authorities tried to prevent the publication of the said report since their country's FA is struggling to persuade FIFA to withdraw the ban on playing international matches above 2700 meters. Other countries involved in the struggle against FIFA are Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, while Brazil and Argentina largely support the ruling.
According to the medical science, athletes should have to spend two weeks adapting to high altitude before playing a soccer match, which is impracticable due to the condensed playing schedule.

Mijatovic tries to lure Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid


Real Madrid's sports director Predrag Mijatovic travelled to Manchester last week to discuss a possible transfer with Cristiano Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes.
According to Spanish tv station Sexta, Real Madrid are prepared to play
no less than 125 million euros for the magnificent Portuguese player,
which is five million more than the Spaniards had previously offered.
Last summer Manchester United were unwilling to accept 120 million
euros, so it is unclear how five million more could make a difference.
Still, Real Madrid hope Cristiano could be theirs for much less in two
years time, when he would be able to invoke UEFA's controversial
Webster ruling, allowing players over 23 to buy off their contract by
simply paying the club their remaining wages.


Getafe protests over favouritism towards Valencia


Angel Torres, chairman of Madrid giant killers Getafe, is furious over the Spanish League's treatment of his team in view of the forthcoming Cup finals to be held on April 16th.
What angers Torres is the fact that the League allowed Valencia to bring forward their League game against Rácing from next Sunday to Saturday.
Curiously, the League also said it would allow Getafe to play against Zaragoza on Saturday, but that change of date would not mean anything to the Madrid team.
In fact, it would complicate their life rather than make it easier.
The reason is Getafe played their UEFA Cup quarterfinals second leg against Bayern on Thursday, so meeting Zaragoza on Saturday would be a terrible ordeal for them.
"A solution would be fielding juniors against Zaragoza, but we are not going to do that in order not to hurt other clubs. Therefore we shall ask for the resignation of the League chairman José Luis Astiazaran," said Torres.
Since Zaragoza is a relegation threatened team, Getafe vows to field a full team to guarantee the regularity of the competition.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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The cherry blossoms may be over, but the title race is just beginning

Cherry blossoms outside a wet Nihondaira Stadium
The sixth round of the J. League throws up two significant clashes, with the eleventh Tokyo derby competing for headlines along with the eternal classic between Urawa Reds and Kashima Antlers.

Fallen giants Tokyo Verdy host their Ajinomoto Stadium co-tenants FC Tokyo on April 12, with Verdy having only just registered their first win in the league since winning promotion back to the top flight. They won away at Vissel Kobe in Round 5 thanks to 18-year-old Hiroki Kawano's volley, but it is the return of striker Hulk that could prove key to Verdy's chances of maintaining their top flight status.

The 21-year-old Brazilian propelled Tokyo Verdy to promotion by scoring 37 league goals in 42 appearances in J2 last season, but after failing to settle at Kawasaki Frontale, Hulk has made a permanent switch across the Tama River for a reputed fee of around 500 million yen.

On Sunday the highlight clash of the day undoubtedly takes place at Saitama Stadium, when bitter rivals Urawa Reds host defending J. League champions Kashima Antlers.

There is plenty of history between these two clubs, but another chapter was added on an extraordinary final day last season when Kashima pipped Urawa to the post to lift the league trophy in thrilling circumstances.

The Reds will be aching for revenge against their arch-nemesis, although they will have their work cut out for them against a Kashima side that has won all five of their league fixtures at a canter this season.

In other highlight Round 6 fixtures, Consadole Sapporo look to crack their first home win of the season in the league when they host Jubilo Iwata at the Sapporo Dome, struggling JEF United welcome Omiya Ardija to the Fukuda Denshi Arena, Tokai rivals Shimizu S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus face off at Nihondaira Stadium, while there's a Kansai derby between Kyoto Sanga FC and Vissel Kobe at what will be a packed Nishikyogoku Stadium in Kyoto.

Relegated Sanfrecce Hiroshima lead the way in J2, although they are level on points with Sagan Tosu as the early jostling for promotion places kicks off in earnest. Yokohama FC and Vegalta Sendai are hot on their heels, but it has been a disappointing start for Pierre Littbarski's Avispa Fukuoka, with the Kyushu outfit currently lying in ninth following their latest 3-1 loss away at Tokushima Vortis.

This weekend Fukuoka host newcomers FC Gifu at Hakata no Mori, while the other highlight clashes see Vegalta Sendai take on Tokushima Vortis, Shonan Bellmare welcome relegated Ventforet Kofu to Hiratsuka, while there's a clash of the big guns when Sanfrecce Hiroshima take on Cerezo Osaka at Big Arch Stadium in Hiroshima.

AFC Champions League

Kashima Antlers look set to cruise beyond the group stage of the AFC Champions League, after the Ibaraki side maintained their one hundred percent record with a 1-0 victory over Beijing Guoan FC on April 9.

Former Sao Paulo midfielder Danilo scored the only goal of the game as Kashima notched up their third straight win in the competition, although there was a blow for coach Oswaldo de Oliveira as Japan international Atsuto Uchida was forced to leave the field with a back injury late in the second half.

Meanwhile a last-minute winner from substitute Lucas Severino saw Gamba Osaka beat Melbourne Victory 4-3 in a thriller watched by 23,857 fans at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne.

The A-League side raced out to an early lead through Danny Allsopp, however Gamba pegged back the hosts thanks to goals from long-range specialist Takahiro Futagawa and the predatory Bare.

There was controversy when Gamba captain Satoshi Yamaguchi appeared to be fouled in the build-up to Melbourne's equaliser - which Roddy Vargas headed home, and Bare then had a goal ruled out after officials judged that his header had not crossed the line after bouncing down off the crossbar.

Melbourne retook the lead midway through the second half through the ubiquitous Allsopp, but Gamba roared back as Yamaguchi equalised with a trademark header. The stage was set for a winner, and Gamba duly conjured it as teenager Michihiro Yasuda crossed for substitute Lucas Severino to head home in the final minute.

The victory leaves Gamba three points clear of Chonburi FC at the top of Group G, with Melbourne Victory and Chunnam Dragons both locked on three points at the bottom of the group.

The next round of fixtures scheduled to take place on April 23.

Japan National Team

Japan slumped to a 1-0 defeat in hot and humid conditions in Bahrain on March 26, in their second qualifying game for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Takashi Okada spared Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura the trip to the Middle-East, while Urawa Reds striker Naohiro Takahara picked up an injury on the eve of the match.

Their absences failed to mask a desperately poor showing from the Blue Samurai, with many questioning why not a single Kashima Antlers player was used despite the Ibaraki side lifting last season's J. League trophy.

Japan now turn their attention to the annual Kirin Cup, where they will face the Ivory Coast at Toyota Stadium on May 24, before taking on Paraguay at Saitama Stadium three days later. Their World Cup campaign resumes on June 2 when they take on Oman in Yokohama.

Japanese players overseas
Takayuki Morimoto : Catania
19-year-old Takayuki Morimoto has spent most of the Serie A season on the sidelines through injury, but the former Tokyo Verdy starlet could feature in Catania's upcoming Sicilian derby away at Palermo.
Tsuneyasu Miyamoto : Salzburg
Former Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto will miss the rest of the Austrian season after tearing his hamstring in two during a training session with his club Salzburg. Miyamoto's side are just a point behind Rapid Vienna, despite suffering a recent 7-0 home thrashing at the hands of their league leading rivals.
Makoto Hasebe : VfL Wolfsburg
Ex-Urawa Reds midfielder Makoto Hasebe has found his opportunities limited at an-inform VfL Wolfsburg, where he continues to battle for a place in Wolfsburg's cosmopolitan midfield with Paraguayan international Johnathan Santana.
Shinji Ono : VfL Bochum
After making an excellent start to his Bundesliga career, the highly-experienced Shinji Ono has since struggled in a Bochum jersey. He came off the bench in Bochum's recent 3-3 draw with local rivals Borussia Dortmund, but did not feature in Bochum's subsequent defeat away at Bayern Munich.
Takayuki Suzuki : Portland Timbers
Former Japan international Takayuki Suzuki has signed for second-tier US side Portland Timbers. After a failed spell at Red Star Belgrade, the lanky Suzuki was equally disappointing at Yokohama F. Marinos last season, where he featured in just three games.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Red Bull – It Gives You Wins

I do enjoy a moral dilemma. An intellectual friend asked if I would kill a chicken to save a chicken’s life. I honestly replied that I’d happily slaughter a chicken if I missed breakfast.

He went on to ask if I would ever use inside information to profit from gambling. I once again answered in all honesty that I have never been involved in such a practice; but then again, I don’t know Harry Redknapp.

There is still uproar amongst the betting community whenever the controversial ‘next Portsmouth manager’ market is discussed. I must point out that there is no evidence to suggest that Harry Redknapp was involved in a scam, or in fact that a scam actually took place. I will just say that the 11/4 for a Newcastle win over Portsmouth should be investigated further.

David Bentley has admitted to being a former gambling addict. ‘Bents’, or to use his more familiar nickname, ‘the vastly overrated David Bentley’ has an addictive personality, and is currently obsessed with DIY. This did not come as a shock. Liverpool will pull off a win over Blackburn at 8/15.

My wife is a stereotypical female; she doesn’t understand the offside rule. She thinks that a player should be penalised if he receives the ball in an offside position, even if the last touch comes off a defender - as long as the attacking side intended to play the fall forward to the player in the advanced position in the first phase of play. What a doughnut. The betting proposition between Derby and Aston Villa is also perfectly clear: the Villa win at 8/13.

I was quite shocked to read that a male is due to give birth. I just hope that Frank drops it in time for Chelsea’s game against Wigan. Bookmakers have delivered 1/4 for a Chelsea win - I shall be babysitting.

West Ham were once embroiled in a betting furore when Paul Kitson kicked the ball straight into touch from the kick-off. Harry Redknapp was the manager of West Ham at the time, but there is no evidence to suggest that he was involved in a spread betting scam, or in fact that a scam actually took place. I prefer to believe that Paul Kitson is just not a good passer of a ball, like the Bolton players. The Hammers will add a final nail to Bolton’s Premier League coffin at 13/5.

When injury-prone C-list-celebrity romancer Jonathan Woodgate labelled Juande Ramos a ‘proper manager’, it would be safe to assume that he was having a sly dig at Gareth Southgate. Ramos may edge Southgate in experience, but how many pizza adverts has he starred in? I shall be topping up on the 9/2 for a Middlesbrough win over Tottenham.

Alex McLeish is a frustrated thespian; he wishes his players luck before each match by saying “Break a leg”. Damien Johnson is the latest player to see red for a career-threatener; Everton will punish the weakened Brummies at 6/4.

Emotions always run high when Arsenal meet Manchester United, but that does not excuse the food-fight that broke out after a particularly fiery encounter. Such actions are morally reprehensible when there are starving children in this world; I can’t even begin to imagine what Dawn French’s kids were thinking. I’ll make a small donation to the needy when Arsenal beat Manchester United at 4/1.

Manchester City have been heavily linked with Ronaldinho, but I remain sceptical. It reminds me of the time when Birmingham City were linked with Maradona, but he turned the move down as his two-footed over-the-top tackle was lightweight at best. We should all get stuck in to the 6/5 for a Sunderland win over Manchester City.

People have been emailing me to ask if I know the identity of the player who allegedly had a £50,000 gambling debt written off in exchange for getting himself sent off. I honestly have no idea who this player is, I just know that there is no evidence to suggest that Harry Redknapp was involved in a scam, or in fact that a scam actually took place. I am reasonably sure about the value in taking even money for a Reading win over Fulham.

In a week where the morality of football has been questioned, the filth have now arrested senior figures at Birmingham City. At the time of writing, no charges have been filed, but it’s expected that David Sullivan will be charged with ‘outraging public decency’, presumably for allowing Karen Brady to enter the public arena. I’ll be outraged if Aston Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle and Chelsea fail to land an incorruptible 15/1 accer.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com