Monday, March 30, 2009

Serious Stuff On April Fool's Day

Korean soccer news.
April 1 is a time for playing practical jokes on friends, colleagues and neighbours but few were laughing at the Korean Football Association (KFA) in Seoul when the South Korean team was drawn in the same 2010 World Cup qualification group with North Korea for the second time in less than a year.

Any novelty has long since worn off. On the pitch the two teams have met four times in the past 14 months with four tedious ties to show for it. Off it, the KFA has grown weary of the preparations and negotiations involved ahead of any game with the team from north of the 38th Parallel.

There may not be much fun in store in Seoul World Cup Stadium tonight but officials will be smiling if South Korea finally defeats its northern neighbor. To do so would be a huge step in the direction of South Africa as this is the biggest meeting yet.

It is not going to be easy. The visitors arrive in fine form and are currently top of Group Two with ten points. South Korea are second with eight, though has played a game less than everyone else, Saudi Arabia are third with seven, Iran then have six with UAE cut adrift with a single point.

With South Korea inactive last weekend, the Chollima were busy defeating UAE 2-0 in Pyongyang. It was another solid performance. DPRK has lost just once in qualification, an unlucky 2-1 setback in Iran. The team are improving game by game and are full of confidence.

"Compared with before, North Korea is attacking more aggressively,” said South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo.“We have been playing well though and we just need to give our good build-up play the right end-product.”

The ultimate end-product is the World Cup but if that was not motivation enough, there is more. With relations off the field less than good, North Korea’s players would be hailed as heroes in Pyongyang should they win at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

It is possible, the UAE result not only put the team top, it has put the pressure firmly on the shoulders of the host. A draw would be accepted by the visitor and now the team can play its normal game, sit back, defend in numbers and counter-attack at speed and basically, see what happens.

Jong Tae-se is the spearhead of that attack and is another North Korean missile that is feared in Japan. He was born, raised and plays in the Land of the Rising Sun. Known as the ‘People’s Rooney’ in Seoul, after the tempestuous Manchester United striker, he has struggled for goals of late and is desperate to impress in the homeland of his parents. But if Jong is not scoring then the likes of Hong Yong Jo and Mun In Guk are becoming equally well-known.

If Jong is, though he refutes the comparison, similar to the Manchester United star, South Korea has a star that really does play for the English, European and World champions. Park Ji-sung was one of the first of seven overseas players to return home and played the first half of last Saturday’s friendly 2-1 warm-up win against Iraq in Suwon. It was a decent performance against a fairly disinterested opposition though Korea really should have scored more.

Park is not too concerned."The fact that North Korea are in first place is not something to be especially concerned about. More important is that if we can play in an organized fashion then we can get a good result,” Park said at the weekend.

Results are what it is all about. Performances are not important at this stage. Three points for either team would put them in sight of South Africa. That would be a seventh straight appearance for South Korea but North Korea has made it only once – in 1966.

Then, in England, the team shocked the world by defeating the mighty Italy. It remains as the greatest result in the nation’s football history.

A win on Wednesday would be a close second.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Manchester City’s European dream to end at Hamburg

Some would suggest that Manchester City were lucky to even qualify for the Uefa Cup this season after a penalty shoot-out victory over FC Midtjylland in the final qualifying round of this seasons competition. Well after sneaking through against Aalborg on Thursday night thanks to another spot kicks victory there can be no doubt that Mark Hughes' side are riding their luck.
 
Some betting companies are making Manchester City favourites to win the Uefa Cup  but after another poor display in the last-16 and a tough draw against Hamburg I feel City will be fortunate to make it past the quarter-finals. For those of you who missed the game at the Energi Nord Arena, Aalborg scored two goals in the last five minutes of the game to take it to extra-time after knocking at the door of City’s defence for much of the second half.
 
However the Danish side came unstuck on penalties and Hughes’ side somehow secured their passage through to the next round, but the draw for the quarter-finals has paired City with Hamburg who look to be dark horses to win the tournament after coming through against Galatasaray in the last round. Martin Jol’s side are enjoying a good season in the Bundesliga, sitting four points off top spot.
 
They have also already beaten English opposition in this seasons competition after over coming Aston Villa 2-0 in the group stages. Despite Villa putting out a much changed side for that game Hamburg looked good and are formidable at home this season. The German side have lost just once at home all season in the league and with City’s poor away form showing no signs of improving this tie could all be over by the time they travel to Manchester for the second leg.
 
Despite City’s array of talent they seem unable to come together as a team and with the likes of Robinho and Elano looking uninterested at this moment in time for me their can only be one winner of this quarter-final tie. As for the eventual Uefa Cup winners my pick has to go to Werder Bremen after their victory over AC Milan the German side look like they could be on a roll which could carry them all the to Istanbul.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Veliki svjetski derbiji: Juventus-Torino

Veliki svjetski derbiji: Juventus-Torino.
Veliki svjetski derbiji

Juventus – Torino

Samo je jedan imao sreće


Mogao je to i dan-danas biti derbi svjetskih razmjera, no sudbina je htjela drukčije. Juve i Toro, dva velika kluba, od kojih je samo jedan imao sreće da opstane na vrhu, dok je drugog na vrhuncu snage sasjekla tragedija, od koje se nikad nije oporavio.

Torino, grad u regiji Pijemont, imao je do 1949. dva nogometna diva. Juventus i Torino bili su, a i danas su, jedina dva talijanska kluba koja su osvojila scudetto pet puta zaredom, u tridesetim, odnosno u četrdesetim prošlog vijeka.

Međutim, baš kad je osvojio petu uzastopu titulu, cijeli je Il Grande Torino (Veliki Torino) izginuo početkom svibnja 1949. u avionskoj katastrofi na brdu Superga. Juventus je ostao kao jedini torinski velikan, no lokalno suparništvo nikad nije zamrlo.

Torinski je derbi najstariji gradski derbi u Italiji, rođen 1907., odmah nakon što je grupa pobunjenih članova Juventusa u prosincu 1906. utemeljila Torino. Među disidentima je bio i raniji Juveov predsjednik i sponzor, Alfredo Dick.
Uoči prvog derbija, netko se Dicku "osvetio" tako što ga je izvana zaključao u svlačionici pa nije mogao gledati razvoj događaja na terenu.

Torinski derbi često je uspoređivan s mančesterskim. Dok Manchester United ima vojsku navijača u cijelom svijetu te u svim dijelovima Ujedinjenog Kraljevstva, Cityevi su sljedbenici koncentrirani samo u gradu Manchesteru i okolici. Slično vrijedi i za Torino, gdje momčad u tamno crvenim dresovima ima više ljubitelja, ali je Juventus najpopularnija momčad Italije, s navijačkim klubovima po cijeloj Europi.

Kao što je opisao romanopisac Mario Soldati u djelu Priča o dva grada iz 1964., Juventus je privlačio imućnije građane, industrijalce, fakultetski obrazovane i filozofski nastrojene; za Torino je navijala radnička klasa, ljudi koji su završili tehničke škole, stanovnici obližnjih sela i – siromasi.

Prazan džep, crveno srce

Međutim, baš su u šezdesetima i sedamdesetima prošlog vijeka mnogi doseljenici s juga, većinom radnici u pogonima Fiata, počeli navijati za Juventus, znajući da im je gazda Gianni Agnelli ujedno i predsjednik Juvea.
Tako je u kasnijim vremenima dobar dio Juventusovog sljedbeništva dolazio iz redova proletarijata, dok su pravi Torinezi ustali u obranu urbanog identiteta svrstavši se iza kluba koji nosi ime grada.

Juveovi navijači ismijavaju suprotnu stranu povicima "drugorazredni" i "slabići", dok Torinezi ovima uzvikuju "prevaranti" i "smeće", aludirajući na Juventusov ugled momčadi koja kupuje naslove i suce.

Gledajući riznicu trofeja, ona je očigledno na strani Zebri, no ni Bikovi se nemaju čega stidjeti. Do tragedije na brdu Superga, oba su kluba bila podjednako uspješna, no od 1949. Torino se našao u velikim kadrovskim i ekonomskim teškoćama.

Nakon duge krize, Torino se tek sredinom sedamdesetih vratio na vrh talijanskog nogometa, osvojivši naslov 1976. i nekoliko drugih mjesta. Za scudetto je konkurirao samo još sredinom osamdesetih, da bi početkom devedesetih, sa svojom zadnjom istinski velikom ekipom igrao u finalu Kupa UEFA 1992. i osvojio peti talijanski kup 1993.

Budući da je veći dio povijesti proveo kao financijski slabija strana, Torino svoj nedostatak nadoknađuje povećanom borbenošću, koja i inače karakterizira momke u crvenom. Taj se borbeni duh naziva cuore granata, grimizno srce.

Osam godina bez derbija

Dok se Juve zadnja četiri desetljeća naosvajao domaćih naslova i borio za europsku i svjetsku prevlast, navijači Tora u odsustvu titula zadovoljavaju se sporadičnim pobjedama nad gradskim rivalima. Među najslavnijima je trijumf od 3:2 u ožujku 1983., kad je Juve sa sedam talijanskih reprezentativaca te Platinijem i Boniekom vodio s 2:0 do 75. minute.

Legendarni su i uspjesi crvenih 1985. s 1:2, golom Serene u 88. minuti, te 1995. s 3:2, oba puta protiv Juventusa krcatog velikim zvijezdama.

U sjećanju su i dvije utakmice sezone 2001/02, koje su završile neodlučeno. U prvoj je Torino izjednačio na 3:3 nakon 0:3, a još je Marcelo Salas promašio jedanaesterac za Juventine. U uzvratu, bilo je 2:2, a Juventusov je Enzo Maresca zabivši za izjednačenje izazvao navijače praveći s prstia rogove i oponašajući bika, Torinovog simbola.

Rivalstvo je pregrmjelo teško razdoblje između 1996. i 2007., kad je osam sezona prošlo bez derbija. Većinom je uzrok bio boravak Torina u drugoj ligi, ali jednom je "krivac" bio i Juve, koji je 2006. izbačen u niži rang zbog zloglasne afere Calciopoli. Napokon, derbi se na veliku scenu vratio 2007/08, a hoće li opet doći do prekida ovisit će prije svega o sposobnosti Torineza da ostanu u Serie A.

Nasilje nije strano susretima crvenih i crno-bijelih, kao što je pokazao prošlogodišnji, dugoočekivani derbi. Tada je u tučnjavi huligana i policije bilo 40 uhapšenih, dva ozlijeđena policajca, zapaljenih kontejnera za smeće i mnogo uništenih automobila i izloga. Možda je to bio način da pristalice oba kluba pokažu koliko su jedni drugima nedostajali svih ovih godina!


Osobna karta

Ime: Juventus F. C.
Nadimci: Vecchia Signora (Stara dama),
Zebre
Osnovan: 1. studenog 1897.
Stadion: Delle Alpi (72.000),
Stadio Olimpico (28.000)
Predsjednik: Giovanni Cobolli Gigli
Trener: Claudio Ranieri

Uspjesi:
* 27 naslova prvaka (+ 2 poništena)
* 9 talijanskih kupova
* 2 Lige prvaka (1985. i 1996.)
* 1 Kup kupova (1984.)
* 3 Kupa UEFA (1977., 1990. i 1993.)
* 2 europska Superkupa (1985. i 1997.)
* 2 Interkontinentalna kupa (1985. i 1996.)


Osobna karta
Ime: Torino F. C.
Nadimci: Granata (Grimizni),
Toro (Bik)
Osnovan: 3. prosinca 1906.
Stadion: Stadio Olimpico (28.000)
Predsjednik: Urbano Cairo
Trener: Gianni De Biasi

Uspjesi
* 7 naslova prvaka (+ 1 poništen)
* 5 talijanskih kupova
* 1 Srednjoeuropski kup (1991.)
* 1 finale Kupa UEFA (1992.)

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Nogomet

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Veliki svjetski derbiji: Marseille-Paris SG

Veliki svjetski derbiji: Marseille-Paris SG.
Veliki svjetski derbiji

Marseille - Paris SG

Povijest jedne mržnje

Pravo značenje riječi derbi (od engl. derby, po istoimenom gradu) jest susret klubova iz istog grada. Kad bismo željeli predstaviti pravi francuski derbi, ne bismo mogli napisati ništa, jer takvo suparništvo u zemlji Gala uopće ne postoji. Stoga, želimo li se pozabaviti s velikim suparništvima među francuskim klubovima, prisiljeni smo primijeniti proširenu definiciju pojma derbija - a to je veliki dvoboj između bilo koja dva kluba jedne države. A u Francuskoj je to Marseille - Paris SG.

Francuzi taj dvoboj zovu po uzoru na Španjolsku "clasico", s time da ga pišu "classico", po talijanskom pravopisu (tko će ga znati zašto, jer Talijani uopće ne koriste ovaj izraz kad govore o nogometu).

Razlog zbog kojeg u Francuskoj praktično nema više od jednog velikog kluba u istom gradu, čak ni kad se radi o golemom Parizu, milijunskom Lyonu i gotovo milijunskom Marseilleu, je političko-gospodarski. U Francuskoj klubovi uvelike ovise o javnim dotacijama gradskih i područnih vijeća. Budući da su ta sredstva ograničena i da njihovo dijeljenje ne bi donijelo većeg dobra nikome, mnogi su se gradski klubovi fuzionirali u jedan.

Bez gradskih derbija!?

Zadnji je gradski derbi u prvoj ligi odigran u sezoni 1989/90 između Paris SG-a i Racinga, no tada je Racing ispao i više se nije vratio.
Nekoć je Pariz osim ova dva kluba imao i veliki Red Star i Paris FC, koji su danas također u nižem razredu. Predstavnici istog grada mogu se naći u kup natjecanjima, no i to se događa rijetko. Zadnji je takav slučaj zabilježen prošlog desetljeća u Marseilleu.

Dakle, najbliže derbiju što imaju Francuzi jest dvoboj klubova iz dvaju velikih gradova suprotstavljenih po regionalnom principu. Pariz je glavni grad i pripada sjeveru, Marseille je primorska metropola i pripada ne samo jugu, već pokrajini Provansi, čiji stanovnici imaju vrlo jak regionalni identitet, a nekoć su govorili i zasebnim provansalskim jezikom, koji je danas blizu izumiranju.

Rivalstvo OM-a i PSG-a je relativno novijeg datuma te je staro tek dvadesetak godina.

- Jednostavno, kad je PSG ušao u vrh domaćeg nogometa, početkom osamdesetih, Marseille je bio u drugoj ligi. Tek su oko 1985/86 postali međusobni konkurenti za visok plasman, a prijelomna je sezona bila 1988/89, kad je Marseille osvojio naslov nakon 17 godina, dok je PSG bio drugi s dva boda zaostatka – priča nam francuski sportski povjesničar Jacques Swierczewski.
Navijači iz obje sredine jedva su čekali priliku da se počnu "kefati", pa je prilikom susreta sjevernjaka i južnjaka redovito dolazilo do incidenata na tribinama i u blizini stadiona Velodrome odnosno Park prinčeva.

Početkom devedesetih Canal+, tadašnji vlasnik PSG-a, počeo je snažno promovirati derbije ovih klubova, naglašavajući napetost između stanovnika matičnih regija. Uz medijsku podršku, ta je napetost dodatno rasla do točke mržnje.

Ovo rivalstvo ima i politički prizvuk, jer je Marseille tradicionalno ljevičarska sredina, dok Paris SG privlači desno orijentirane navijače.
Njihov se ekstremizam očitovao proljetos na finalu Liga kupa protiv Lensa, koji je doduše s krajnjeg sjeveroistoka zemlje, ali svejedno ne po ukusu Parižana: ovi su na stadion dovukli transparent s uvredljivim porukama za stanovnike Lensa i okolice, nazivajući ih primitivcima, neradnicima i degenericima.

Kako su OM-u uzeli naslov

Politika je uplela prste 1993., kad je pokrenula hajku na Marseilleovog predsjednika, socijalistički orijentiranog Bernarda Tapieja, zbog utaje i korupcije. Bila je to sezona u kojoj su opet OM i PSG vodili bitku na naslov i u kojoj su južnjaci izvojevali pobjedu, istovremeno osvojivši i prvu i jedinu Ligu prvaka za francuski nogomet u čuvenom dvoboju s Milanom u Münchenu.

Tek što je sezona završila, igrači Valenciennesa priznali su da im je Marseille platio da puste međusobnu utakmicu, bitnu za rasplet prvenstvene trke. Bio je to signal i sportskim i političkim vlastima da krenu u ofenzivu na Olympique, a prva je mjera bila zabrana nastupa u Ligi prvaka 1993/94, što je značilo i onemogućavanje obrane europskog naslova.

UEFA je Francuskoj ponudila da prijavi alternativnog predstavnika u Ligi prvaka te je nacionalni Savez ponudio drugoplasiranom PSG-u da zamijeni mrske rivale. No, uprava PSG-a imala je visoko razvijenu svijest te je odbila nastup zato da ne dolije ulje na vatru regionalne nesnošljivosti.

No, Marseilleove muke time nisu prestale, jer ga je 1994. Savez zbog visokih dugovanja izbacio u drugu ligu, dok je Paris SG kao za peh baš tada osvojio titulu prvaka.

Mora da su Provansalci bili vrlo bijesni što se najuspješnije razdoblje u povijesti PSG-a (šest trofeja u četiri sezone) podudarilo s najvećom krizom Marseillea i dvogodišnjim boravkom u drugoj ligi. U međuvremenu, Tapie je bio prisiljen napustiti nogomet te je osuđen na sedam mjeseci zatvora zbog korupcije i gospodarskog kriminala.

Kad se OM vratio u prvu ligu 1996., navijačka su neprijateljstva obnovljena, a 2000. je mladi navijač Olympiquea ostao paraliziran kad ga je pogodilo sjedalo bačeno s tribine gdje su bili pariški navijači.

U zadnjih deset godina, oba su kluba pala u sjenu Lyona, pa i Bordeauxa i Monaca, iako se i PSG okitio s nekoliko pokala u domaćim kupovima. Marseille je, međutim, bio uspješniji u Europi, igrajući dva finala Kupa UEFA i sudjelujući u Ligi prvaka, baš kao i ove godine.

Tekuću je sezonu Marseille počeo vrlo dobro, zauzevši vodeću poziciju nakon četiri kola, a i PSG je krenuo solidno, nastojeći u zaborav gurnuti prošlu godinu obilježenu borbom za opstanak do zadnjeg kola. Idući je francuski "clasico" na rasporedu 25. listopada na Velodromeu, a ako se sve bude odvijalo po planu te budu li obje momčadi pri vrhu tablice, eto prilike za novu tučnjavu predstavnika sjevera i juga, desnice i ljevice.

Osobna karta

Puno ime: Paris Saint-Germain
Nadimak: PSG
Utemeljen: 1970.
Boje: Plava i crvena
Stadion: Parc des Princes (46.480)
Predsjednik: Charles Villeneuve
Trener: Paul Le Guen

Trofeji:
Dva francuska prvenstva (1986. i 1994.)
Sedam francuskih kupova (1982., 1983., 1993., 1995.,
1998., 2004. i 2006.)
Tri Liga kupa (1995., 1998. i 2008.)
Dva francuska Superkupa (1995. i 1998.)
Jedan Kup kupova (1996.)


Osobna karta

Puno ime: Olympique de Marseille
Nadimak: OM
Utemeljen: 1899.
Boje: bijela i svijetlo plava
Stadion: Stade Velodrome (60.031)
Predsjednik: Pape Diouf
Trener: Eric Gerets

Trofeji:
Osam francuskih prvenstava (1937., 1948., 1971., 1972.,
1989., 1990., 1991. i 1992.)
(plus jedno poništeno 1993.)
Deset francuskih kupova (1924., 1926., 1927., 1935., 1938.,
1943., 1969., 1972., 1976. i 1989.)
Jedna Liga prvaka (1993.)

Jeste li znali?

Prvi je derbi sjevera i juga odigran 1971., a Marseille je bio bolji od Paris SG-a s 4:2. U Marseilleu je tada igrao Joško Skoblar, kasnije izabran za trećeg najboljeg igrača ovog kluba u 20. stoljeću.

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Veliki svjetski derbiji: Barcelona-Espanyol

Veliki svjetski derbiji

Barcelona – Espanyol: Kad Katalonija plamti


Dvoboji Barcelone i Espanyola uvijek su nabijeni emocijama, a navijačima obje momčadi stalo je vidjeti drugu stranu na koljenima. Ipak, Espanyolu je pobjeda nad Barcelonom važnija zbog golemog zaostatka u uspješnosti kroz povijesti. Dok se Barcelona redovno natječe za trofeje, Espanyol ima manja očekivanja, ali uvijek se nada da može iznenaditi velikog i starijeg brata u jednoj utakmici.

Barcelona je osnovana prva, ali samo par mjeseci ranije od suparnika, koncem 1899. Statut kluba je zabranjivao da član kluba bude bilo koji Španjolac osim Katalonaca, ali su članovi mogli biti stranci. Primjerice, sam osnivač, Hans Gamper, bio je Švicarac.

Iduće su godine studenti s Barcelonskog sveučilišta utemeljili Sociedad Espanola de Futbol (Španjolsko nogometno društvo), kako je glasilo prvo ime plavo-bijelih. Oni su otvorili vrata svim Španjolcima, neovisno o etničkoj pripadnosti. Kad je 1912. kralj Alfonso XIII dodijelio Espanolu kraljevski naslov, bilo je očigledno da će taj klub postati svojevrsno uporište madridskog centralizma u sjeveroistočnoj pokrajini. Nasuprot tome, Barcelona je jačala kao tvrđava katalonskog nacionalizma.

Suparništvo je ojačalo 1919. kad je legendarni vratar Ricardo Zamora, zvani Divino (Božanstveni) iz Espanola prešao u Barcelonu. On je bio prva velika zvijezda španjolskog nogometa i prvi sportaš koji je postao medijska ličnost.

Espanol kao šaka u oko

Za vrijeme strahovlade profašističke desnice pod vodstvom Francisca Franca, koja je trajala od 1939. do 1975.), na Espanol su Katalonci gledali kao na instituciju koja poštuje vlast središnjice u Madridu, dok je Barcelona simbolizirala ideal autonomije.

Sam je naziv kluba, Real Club Deportivo Espanol (na kastiljskom Španjolski kraljevski sportski klub) snažno iritirao Katalonce, jer bilo je to kao da je za vrijeme Jugoslavije u Zagrebu djelovao klub pod imenom FK Jugoslovenski.

Ne zaboravimo da su Katalonci zasebna nacija u multinacionalnoj španjolskoj državi te da imaju svoj književni jezik, koji je uz kastiljski (španjolski) službeni i u Kataloniji i još nekoliko istočnih regija zemlje.

Katalonski derbi ima i danas politički prizvuk, ali za nijansu manje nego u ranijim desetljećima. Naime, 1995. je Espanol preimenovan u katalonski Espanyol, pa puno ime glasi Reial Club Deportiu Espanyol. To je kompromisno rješenje i mali pomak prema uklapanju kluba u lokalno patriotske vode.

Na domaći je jezik osim imena prevedena i klupska himna, ali i dalje su živa sjećanja na razdoblje kad je Espan(y)ol bio kao šaka u katalonsko oko okupljalište doseljenika iz drugih, "pasivnih" krajeva Španjolske.

Dvaput minirali Barcu

Ako ništa drugo, lokalni su patrioti najčešće dobivali zadovoljštinu jer je Barca uglavnom pobjeđivala Espanyol, koji je samo tri puta završio prvenstvo iznad plavo-crvenih. Čak je i jedino finale kupa između ova dva kluba pripalo Barceloni, na razočaranje generala Franca, po kojemu je to natjecanje nosilo ime Generalov kup. Ipak, Espanyol ima utjehu da je ostvario najvišu pobjedu u derbijima, 6:0 davne 1951. Barcelona je pak slavila dvaput s po 4:0, 1981. i 1992., oba puta u gostima na starom stadionu Sarria.

Dok je na svom terenu, Nou Campu, a ranije na Les Cortsu, Barca mnogo uspješnija, na stadionima Espanyola bilanca je upravo začuđujuća: 75 susreta, 25 pobjeda domaćih, 25 neriješenih i 25 pobjeda gostiju!

Pored toga, najdraža sjećanja s derbija ljubitelji Espanyola vezana su za dvije utakmice, obje na Nou Campu. U proljeće 1982. Barca je imala gotovo siguran naslov u rukama i samo je trebala pobijediti Espanyol, no poražena je s 1:3 i naslov je pripao Real Sociedadu iz San Sebastiana. Jednako je dramatično bilo u lipnju 2007., kad se rasplet prvenstva odlučio u 15 ludih sekundi na dva odvojena terena – na Nou Campu i u Zaragozi!

U predzadnjem kolu, Barcelona je vodila protiv Espanyola s 2:1, a Zaragoza protiv Reala istom rezultatom. Nedostajala je minuta do kraja i s tim je rezultatima Barca bila prvak. Nevjerojatno, prvo je u Zaragozi izjednačio Van Nistelrooy, a 15 sekundi kasnije u Barceloni je Tamudo zabio za 2:2!
Real je ostao na čelu i u zadnjem kolu osvojio naslov.

Jednom je i Espanyol morao pozdraviti Barcelonu u trenutku proslave naslova: u travnju 1998. na svom su Montjuicu igrači Espanyola, prema običajima, napravili Barcinima špalir prilikom istrčavanja na teren!



Osobna karta

Puno ime: Reial Club Deportiu Espanyol
Nadimak: Periquitos (Papige)
Osnovan: 1900.
Boje: Plavo-bijele pruge
Stadion: Montjuic
Predsjednik: Daniel Sanchez-Flores
Trener: Mane
Domaći uspjesi: četiri španjolska kupa (1929., 1940., 2000. i 2006.)
Međunarodni uspjesi: finala Kupa UEFA (1988. i 2007.)


Osobna karta

Ime: FC Barcelona
Nadimci: Barca, blaugrana (plavo-crveni), cules (guzonje)
Osnovan: 1899.
Boje: plava i crvena
Predsjednik: Joan Laporta
Trener: Josep Guardiola
Španjolski uspjesi: 18 prvenstava, 24 kupa, dva Liga-kupa, šest Superkupova
Međunarodni uspjesi: dvije Lige prvaka (1992. i 2006.), četiri Kupa kupova (1979., 1982., 1989. i 1997.), tri Kupa sajamskih gradova (1958., 1960. i 1966.), dva europska Superkupa (1992. i 1997.)


Espanyolova crna točka

Iako vječno u sjeni Barcelone, Espanyol je zabilježio zanimljivih rezultata i u Europi. Dvaput je igrao u finalu Kupa UEFA, ali je oba puta poražen na jedanaesterce. Prvo je 1988. ispustio velikih 3:0 iz prve utakmice protiv Bayera, izgubivši s 0:3 i jedanaestercima 2:3 u Leverkusenu. Prije dvije sezone pokleknuo je pred Sevillom u Glasgowu nakon 2:2 u 120 minuta igre.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Nogomet

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Qatar Stars League Week 25

Qatar Stars League Week 25
Qatar Stars League’s reigning champions Al Gharafa are likely to retain their title this season as well. With just two rounds left, they are six points clear at the top of the League table. The team has peaked at the right time and their 3-0 win over Al Khor should help Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta heave a huge sigh of relief.

Al Rayyan and Al Sadd, who two weeks earlier posed a serious threat to Al Gharafa’s title hopes, share 48 points each. However Al Sadd, who received a boost through the return of their injured Ecuadorian striker Carlos Tenorio, are ahead on better goal difference.

Umm Salal, ever since their promotion to the first Division two seasons ago, have been unpredictable. Last season, they emerged surprise champions in the Emir’s Cup, thus assuring themselves of a place in the Asian Football Confederation’s Champions League. They put up a commanding display against Al Rayyan, beating them with a strong 3-1 display. Bahrain international Ala Hubail, with two goals, did the star turn for them.

Al Rayyan, trained by Paulo Autouri de Mello who once headed the Peru national team, sorely lacked a few good players. Defensive problems have always plagued them and their game against Umm Salal was no different. They started the season in grand style, but failed to sustain the momentum. Al Rayyan’s think-tanks need to work overtime to put the team back on track in time for the Heir Apparent’s and Emir’s Cup competitions.

Al Sailiya’s hopes of an upset away draw were dashed when Al Sadd’s Carlos Tenorio hit an injury time goal to snatch victory. The Ecuadorian, who played in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, had recently returned from a career-threatening injury. Al Sailiya tool a shock lead in the 42nd minute through Cameroonian Emmanuel Eifa before Al Sadd’s Ebrahim Majed equalised in the 57th.

Qatar Sports Club are well on course to finish fourth in the League so as to ensure a place in the Heir Apparent’s Cup competition. Only the top-four teams from the Qatar Stars League qualify for the event. Al Kharaitiyat stunned them through Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi in the 37th minute. However, Qatar fought hard for a draw and found their saviour in Abdulla Al Kuwari, who equalised in the 87th minute.

Al Arabi scored a comfortable 2-0 win over Al Wakra. Al Arabi, who are famous for their bright red uniforms, were unstoppable at home. Al Wakra continued their heavy fluctuations in form. They could not withstand the Al Arabi onslaught and succumbed meekly.

At the end of the 25 weeks of the Qatar Stars League, Al Gharafa leads the table with 54 points. Al Sadd and Al Rayyan are six points behind (48 each) while Qatar Sports Club (41), Al Khor (34), Umm Salal (32), Al Wakra (27), Al Arabi (25), Al Sailiya (19) and al Kharaitiyat (15) follow.

England v Brazil in Doha

Qatar Stars League Week 24

© Soccerphile.com

World Soccer News

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saitama showdown as Japan face nemesis Bahrain

Japan.
Bahrain - the small Arabic state in the middle of the Persian Gulf, is hardly a hotbed of world football.

With a population of around 1.2 million - almost half of whom are expatriate foreign workers - it's a state that tends to fly under the radar for much of the western world.

However, Japan coach Takeshi Okada must be sick of the sight of the Bahraini national team, with the two teams set to face off for the umpteenth time in Japan's quest to reach a fourth successive World Cup finals.

Okada came in for heavy criticism when Bahrain beat Japan 1-0 in an Asian Cup qualifier in Manama in January, and coupled with defeat at the same venue in an earlier round of World Cup qualifying, Japan's recent record against Milan Macala's team makes uncomfortable reading for Japanese fans.

Nevertheless the Blue Samurai will go into their crucial World Cup qualifier with Bahrain at Saitama Stadium on March 28 as hot favourites - not the least because Japan possess one of the most impressive home records of any team within the Asian Football Confederation.

Having recorded two wins and two draws in Group A qualifying so far, Japan can temporarily go top ahead of the midweek clash between group leaders Australia and Uzbekistan in Sydney on April 1.

Okada has made no major changes to his squad following Japan's most recent scoreless draw with Australia in Yokohama, although veteran goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki returns from injury, while dynamic Oita Trinita midfielder Mu Kanazaki and experienced Albirex Niigata striker Kisho Yano have also earned call-ups.

Japan's European contingent is lead by Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic, while the likes of VfL Wolfsburg duo Makoto Hasebe and Yoshito Okubo and St. Etienne midfielder Daisuke Matsui have also been called up - although an injury to in-form Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto means the former Tokyo Verdy youngster was not considered.

With Japan lying four points ahead of third-placed Bahrain going into this clash, Takeshi Okada's men are expected to cruise through as one of the top-two finishers to earn a place in South Africa in 2010.

But with Okada having claimed that Japan are strong enough to reach the semi-finals in South Africa, there is plenty of pressure on the Blue Samurai to excel during qualifying - something critics suggest they have so far failed to do.

Tickets for this clash have been sold-out for months, and roared on by a capacity crowd at Saitama Stadium, the hosts are expected to take all three points against a tenacious, albeit technically limited Bahrain side.

Whether they do so with style is the burning question on everyone's lips.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kewell and Viduka ranked among Leeds' best-ever

Kewell and Viduka ranked among Leeds' best-ever.
Two of Australia's greatest football exports have been ranked among the finest Leeds United players of all time.

A well-received article in The Times newspaper placed controversial pair Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka at numbers 13 and 14 in the list of the 50 best-ever Leeds stars.

The lofty ranking was met by surprise by a handful of respondents, but clearly illustrates the standing of the Socceroos duo in the eyes of Leeds supporters despite mixed receptions after leaving Elland Road.

Viduka, again absent for Australia's vital home World Cup qualifying clash against Uzbekistan next Wednesday, is not expected to remain with Newcastle at the end of his current deal after only a fleeting comeback following Achilles and groin injuries.

But Kewell's renaissance at Turkish side Galatasaray has banished his injury-blighted spell at Liverpool to distant memory.

"Ignore the inflated ego, the farcical exit and the failure at Liverpool and remember just how good Kewell was in his pomp. He was such a beautifully balanced runner with the ball and the goals he scored were astounding," praised The Times.

"In terms of natural talent, Kewell was as good as anyone on this list."

Viduka scored 16 goals in 72 appearances for Leeds after joining David O'Leary's side from Celtic.

His arrival in 2000 coincided with a golden period for the club and he was one of the cornerstones of the side which reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2001 and topped the Premier League for long spells the year after.

But Viduka failed to recreate that prolific form in subsequent stints with Middlesbrough and Newcastle and hasn’t always lived up to his billing in an Australia shirt.

"Neutrals may now have him painted as a double barrel-chested Aussie with the mincing gait of a stuffed sloth, but Viduka was, and probably still is, lustrously talented," said The Times.

"His lofty position here should not be judged by what happened afterwards."

Former Sydney FC striker Michael Bridges came in at number 49, principally for scoring 21 goals in his first season following a record-breaking transfer from Sunderland.

Bridges, 30, spent the second-half of the 2007/08 A-League season on loan from Hull City, scoring twice for Sydney in eight appearances.

"Bridges could have been one of the best strikers in the club's history - he was the record signing when bought for £5 million and scored a memorable hat-trick at Southampton - but there was a meningitis scare, drilled bones and no end of failed comebacks," said The Times.

Melbourne-born Tony Dorigo. the full-back who played 15 times for England and featured under Bobby Robson at Italia '90, was ranked at number 24.

The 10 greatest Leeds United players
1. Billy Bremner (1959-76) 771 appearances, 115 goals
2. John Charles (1947-57 & 1962) 327 apps, 157 goals
3. Peter Lorimer (1962-78 & 1984-85) 703 apps, 238 goals
4. Allan Clarke (1969-78) 364 apps, 151 goals
5. Johnny Giles (1963-75) 525 apps, 114 goals
6. Gordon Strachan (1988-96) 311 apps, 57 goals
7. Eddie Gray (1965-84) 577 apps, 68 goals
8. Jack Charlton (1952-73) 772 apps, 95 goals
9. Bobby Collins (1962-67) 167 apps, 25 goals
10. Gary McAllister (1990-96) 294 apps, 45 goals

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Referee dominates Kansai's clash of the Koreans

Referee dominates Kansai clash of the Koreans.
The Kansai derby between Kyoto Sanga and Gamba Osaka may have featured an intriguing clash of Koreans at Nishikyogoku Stadium on Sunday, but referee Nobutsugu Murakami stole the show with a performance that had Gamba coach Akira Nishino spitting chips.

"No J. League match should ever be refereed the way it was," an exasperated Nishino claimed - after seeing his side earn five yellow cards and concede a dubious penalty against their regional rivals.

Murakami's performance overshadowed a clash of the K-League stars, as former Suwon Bluewings defender Lee Jung-Soo lined up for Kyoto against Gamba defender Park Dong-Hyuk - once of Ulsan Hyundai  - and former Jeonbuk Motors striker Cho Jae-Jin.

It was Lee Jung-Soo who came out on top, and he opened the scoring with a thunderous header in first half stoppage time, after Kyoto striker Paulinho had been stretchered from the field early on - following some hefty treatment from Park Dong-Hyuk and co.

Kyoto were aided by a contentious penalty decision ten minutes after the restart, as Gamba keeper Yosuke Fujigaya was adjudged to have brought down veteran striker Atsushi Yanagisawa. 

Brazilian playmaker Diego kept his cool to beat Fujigaya from the spot, and substitute Shinichi Terada's late strike - which ironically took a hefty deflection off Lee Jung-Soo - came too late for reigning Asian champions Gamba.

In the other Sunday games, Japan international Shinzo Koroki came off the bench to score a late winner for Kashima Antlers in their hard-fought 2-1 win over last season's J2 champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Nagoya Grampus thumped Tokai rivals Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 - with Brazilian striker Davi scoring twice - while JEF United held highly fancied Kawasaki Frontale to a 1-1 draw in Chiba.

The Saturday fixtures were largely low-scoring affairs, although fans in Europe will have been delighted to have tuned into a 3-3 draw between Yokohama F. Marinos and Kashiwa Reysol on cable network Eurosport.

The hosts twice blew a two-goal lead, as bleach-blonde striker Kenta Kano headed home a pinpoint Takanobu Komiyama cross just two minutes in, before veteran defender Yuji Nakazawa took advantage of Kashiwa's non-existent defence to double the Tricolore's advantage.

Kashiwa responded when Kota Sugiyama's deflected strike wrong-footed Tetsuya Enomoto in the Marinos goal, but the Kanagawa giants restored their two goal lead when youngster Kazuma Watanabe headed home in stoppage time just before the break.

Two minutes after the restart the outstanding Komiyama sent a twenty-five yard piledriver crashing against the upright, and that miss was to prove costly as Brazilian veteran Franca opened his account for the season midway through the second half. 

With Reysol pouring forward and Marinos looking decidedly edgy at the back, it was no surprise to see the visitors conjure a late equaliser - but what a goal it was, as substitute Popo registered his contender for goal-0f-the-month with a screamer from the edge of the area.

FC Tokyo registered their first win of the campaign as they laboured to a 1-0 victory over promoted Montedio Yamagata, while the other games all ended in draws.

Jubilo Iwata were unfortunate not to beat Urawa Reds as diminutive striker Gilsinho struck the base of the post in the dying minutes with the scores locked at 1-1, while Omiya Ardija and Vissel Kobe played out a forgettable 1-1 draw. Albirex Niigata moved to the top of the table despite being held to a scoreless draw away at Oita Trinita.

In J2, Ventforet Kofu beat Consadole Sapporo 2-0 in front of 11,252 fans at Kose Sports Park thanks in part to two superb strikes from Yohei Onishi.

He caught Sapporo keeper Yuya Sato off-guard by blasting a thirty yard free-kick straight into the top corner in the first half, and soon after Onishi doubled his team's advantage with a peach of a finish, as he picked the bottom corner of Sato's goal following a free-flowing counter-attack.

The visitors hit back on the hour mark through defender Hiroyuki Nishijima's header, but despite Kofu striker Maranhao's inability to add to the scoreline late on, it was the mountain men from Yamanashi who deservedly held on to the points.

Elsewhere Vegalta Sendai beat Sagan Tosu 1-0 in front of 16,372 fans in Sendai, while 7,297 fans were on hand to see Thespa Kusatsu beat Yokohama FC at Shoda Stadium.

Thespa are one of four teams to have won their opening three league fixtures, with Shikoku side Ehime FC the surprise league leaders from Cerezo Osaka, while Kusatsu and Shonan Bellmare round out the top four.

Copyright© Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

World Soccer News March 2009

World soccer news for the week of 3/21

Mancini not seeking to replace Mourinho after all

Although Inter are again the runnaway leaders in Italy, the fans are fondly remembering José Mourinho's predecessor Roberto Mancini. At the same level of success, he has a far more pleasant personality.

Last summer Mancini was removed from the bench by president Massimo Moratti despite winning seven trophies in four years. Mourinho was brought in order to take Inter to international glory, but the hopes lasted just until the visit to Old Trafford in the Champions League round of 16.

After Mancini and Moratti met last week, the Italian press started to speculate on a new personnel change in Inter's coaching staff, but the old coach denied his return was among the topics of the conversation.
"Moratti and I met for completely different reasons. I don't believe Inter currently needs a new coach, although if I were to be recalled I would have to accept since I still have three years' contract with the club," explained Mancini, who claims to have forgiven his boss for replacing him for no valid reason.
"I am pround of one thing, of having been the coach who put Inter back on the winning track, and I am grateful to Moratti for having enabled me that."
A seven-figure annual salary for not doing any work may also have helped Mancini to forget the old grudge.


Rafael Benitez to stay at Anfield for five more years

The most successful Liverpool manager of the past two decades is poised to work at Anfield for further four and a half years. Rafael Benítez has extended his contract untll 2014, ending months of speculation which placed him, among other places, in Real Madrid.

"My heart is with Liverpool Football Club, so I'm delighted to sign this new deal," said the Spaniard, who took the Reds to their first Champions League in 21 years in his first season at the club in 2005.

Should he complete his contract, Benítez will spend full ten years at Liverpool, in the tradition of other long-standing managers like Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.

Benítez's prolonged stay in the most successful English club in history is said to have been enabled by the forthcoming departure of chief executive Rick Parry, with whom the Spaniard fell out over the failure to
close several transfers deemed important by the manager.

World Soccer News March 2009.


In the following four and a half seasons Benítez's main objective will be bringing the League title back to Liverpool for the first time after 1990, back in the time when the English top flight was called First Division.

FIFA oppose all-year-round doping tests

World football's governing body FIFA is not happy with the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) demand for surprise drug testing at any time, asking for special treatment for soccer players.

FIFA announced it would demand footballers to be exempted at least one day per week and in off-season periods. FIFA also opposes WADA's proposed rule stating that every athlete should provide his or her whereabouts for every day of the year. According to FIFA, only the location of a team, rather than of individual players, should be given to WADA.

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter said he was surprised by WADA's intransigence, calling the new rules "witchhunt" rather than an articulate fight against doping.

UEFA's boss Michel Platini has joined Blatter in his resistance against the anti-doping lords and other team sports like rugby also defy WADA's exaggerated requirements.

Italian keeper concede a "physically impossible" goal

The third division game between Juve Stabia and Cavese will forever be remembered in Italy because of an amazing goal taken in by the local keeper Soviero.
The visitors won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Favasulli, even though the left midfielder hardly planned to shoot on goal when he struck the ball from about 35 meters close to the touch-line.
The ball launched by Favasulli took a steep rising trajectory and looked very much as if it was going to end at the terraces behind the ball. The keeper must have thought the same, because he turned his back on what looked like a terrible cross and strolled slowly along the goal-line.
He looked back only when he heard the characteristic sound of the contact between the ball and the net: the ball suddenly plummeted and landed the right lower corner of the goal.
"I most certainly recognize my blunder, but this goal cancelled out all the laws of physics. It was a paranormal goal," said the goalie for whom the Juve-Cavese game was the first this season. Maybe the last, too.

The footage of the goal can be viewed on YouTube at:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlvfJrs6dYQ


Hiddink might return to Chelsea in less than a year

Guus Hiddink has been doing sensationally ever since he took over Chelsea, but his tenure is not meant to last beyond the last game of season. However, the Dutchman may return to Stamford Bridge within a year, depending on how Russia will fare in the World Cup campaign.

In fact, he will be available to Chelsea as early as late November, should Russia fail to qualify for South Africa. If they do, then Roman Abramovich will have to wait until the end of the World Cup final tournament, but not any further.

"My contract expires at the end of the 2010 World Cup. But we also said that if we don't qualify and the Russian Federation choose to go in a different direction, then we will talk about how to end the contract sooner," said the Dutchman.

Another solution for Hiddink would be to agree to coach both Chelsea and Russia for as long as Russia's World Cup campaign lasts, as he did during the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Leading up to that tournament, the Dutchman parallely managed Australia and PSV Eindhoven. Still, those two jobs appear a bit less demanding in comparison to working in the Premiership plus trying to reach the World Cup through the wilderness of the European qualification zone.


Death threats shock Croatian soccer scene

Although the current championship race between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split can hardly be more exciting, with both teams level on points, the events off the field have overshadowed anything the players could offer.
The recently sacked Dinamo's coach Marijan Vlak revealed this week that previous to his dismissal he had received an anonymous phone call from a man telling him he would be assasinated if he did not leave the club.
The experienced striker Tomo Sokota was also called and threatened with assasination in case he stayed at Dinamo.
Both Vlak and Sokota reported the incidents to the police who at the moment have little clue as to the perpetrator, since it is highly unlikely that the threats came from Dinamo fans.
Vlak has coached Dinamo in four spells, mostly with success, and has been very popular with the fans ever since serving as a goalkeeper in a championship-winning squad in the old Yugoslavia.
Sokota on the other hand is one of Dinamo's top scorers in the last decade and is also held in highest regards by the faithfuls.
Any threat with violence against soccer players and coaches is taken seriously in Croacia because over the past four years several of them were attacked and brutalized by local mobsters, apparently for refusing to participate in illegal betting schemes.
In the said period, a noted soccer agent, Dino Pokrovac, was shot dead by a gunman in Zagreb, Dinamo's coach Josip Kuze had his car torched in the capital city, while Hajduk's coach Luka Bonacic was beaten and severely injured by baseball bats wielding thugs in Split.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Qatar Stars League - Week 24

Fortune favours the brave. Qatar Stars League defending champions Al Gharafa fought bravely and lady luck smiled indulgently on them. Despite being reduced to 10 men early in the game, they earned a nerve-wracking 3-2 win over Al Rayyan. With just three rounds remaining, the win helped them recapture first place in the Qatar Stars League.

Clemerson Soares has been in great form throughout this season. He scored twice, once from a penalty. Al Gharafa’s fortunes will hinge heavily on the goal-scoring abilities of this Brazilian import.

Al Khor, who has been playing well for the past few matches, extended their unbeaten run at home to eight games. They played a brilliant game to beat a battling Al Wakra 3-0 in front of vociferous home supporters. The revamped Qatar Stars League, which aims at building fan support for various teams in the country, started playing League matches on a home and away basis this year. And Al Khor, with their huge support base, has been one of the biggest success stories.

Qatar Sports Club is a side which never truly realised its full potential. It boasts of numerous Qatar national team players, the most prominent being Sebastian Quintana. He is their most charismatic striker and a ball-controlling wizard. However, even his exploits were not able to save his team from losing two vital points against a steely Umm Salal. They played out a goalless draw in front of disappointed home supporters.

Al Sadd are the strongest side in the League after defending champions Al Gharafa and Al Rayyan. They played a terrific game against Al Arabi and completed a 5-1 rout. For Al Arabi, who enjoy a huge fan following, everything they did went wrong. Their players lacked cohesiveness and the strikers failed to click. It’s high time they pulled up their socks to finish respectably in the League.

Al Sailiya has never posed much of a challenge for the competition’s main teams. They played mostly the role of a supporting actor in the bigger arena. They increased their chances of staying in the First Division with a 1-0 win over promoted side Al Kharaitiyat, who in all probability, will get relegated.

At the end of 23rd week of the Qatar Stars League, Al Gharafa leads the table with 51 points. Al Rayyan (48), Al Sadd (45), Qatar (40), Al Khor (34), Umm Salal (29), al Wakra (27), Al Arabi (22), Al Sailiya (19) and Al Kharaitiyat (14) follow them in the overall standings.

Qatar Stars League Week 23

© Soccerphile.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No crap, Spurs could be heading for Europe

Tottenham's win at Aston Villa, combined with seventh-placed West Ham's failure to beat cellar dwellers West Brom on Monday night, has given Spurs fans a glimmer of hope that European football could return to White Hart Lane next season.

Manchester United winning the Carling Cup means seventh place in the Premiership will seal a spot in the revamped Europa League, next season's jazzed up Uefa Cup.

Spurs are now eleventh, just five points off European qualification with nine Premier League games remaining including clashes with fellow challengers West Ham and Everton.

There's been plenty of talk about Europe in north London over the past week.

Harry Redknapp, who said his buoyant side had demonstrated 'top-seven form' since his October arrival, has always maintained he fancies Arsenal to snare the final Champions League place but responded to the suggestion Tottenham's 2-1 win at Villa Park had done the club's bitter rivals a favour with a swipe.

"Some Tottenham fans said to me, 'I hope we don't win at Villa'," he chuckled after winning in the West Midlands. "I have never heard such crap in all my life."

The view that the Gunners will grab fourth place, however, was reinforced at an insipid Villa Park where the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the withdrawal of goal-shy Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor.

As home fans were mocking one of their own, Spurs derided their opponent's Champions League credentials.

O'Neill had predicted Tottenham would become proper Premier League forces in the build-up to Sunday's game, but clearly didn't foresee the immediacy of his forecast.

Many pundits now reckon the only way for Villa is down after Jermaine Jenas and Darren Bent scored early in each half to send O'Neill's side spiralling from the top four for the first time this year.

Villa, winless in seven, face Liverpool at Anfield, then Manchester United at Old Trafford in their next two league games.

But the more worrying scenario is that their chance of breaking into the top four on a more permanent basis also appears to be disappearing.

Wherever they finish up, Spurs, who spent £15m bringing Robbie Keane back to the Lane during the transfer window, and moneybags Manchester City look set to finish higher up the ladder next year.

Indeed Villa, who paid Wigan £3.5m for Emile Heskey in January, might not get close to any kind of European place next season barring significant investment in the summer.

Their problems stem from attack. Heskey's partnership with Agbonlahor should be a match made in heaven, but the England pair too often drift into the same channels to the growing frustration of Ashley Young, Villa's pre-eminent threat on the left.

The contrast with Tottenham's front two is stark. Keane is a natural organiser and dictates the shape of Spurs' attacking play, allowing Bent to focus simply on scoring as proved by Tottenham's decisive second.

For all his silverware with Celtic, O'Neill's biggest managerial test might just come between now and mid-May.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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Seoul Back Down To Earth Before Gamba Game

Seoul Back Down To Earth Before Gamba Game.
South Korea's two best teams had nights to remember in the opening round of Asian Champions League and face very different tests on matchday two this week. FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings have also had mixed fortunes in the fledgling K-League season so far.

Seoul’s early season form got the headline writers in Korea far too excited. The capital club did impress by winning the first game at Chunnam Dragons by six goals to one. No K-League team scored six in the whole of 2008. Here was Seoul doing it on the first afternoon of the season.

Then coach Senol Gunes took his team to deepest Sumatra to play Sriwijaya of Palembang on Tuesday in the Asian club competition. In front of a passionate local crowd and temperatures a good deal higher than those left behind, the Koreans won 4-2. In truth the game was a little easier than the scoreline suggests. Only at 3-0 and with the end in sight did Seoul’s concentration waver.

Ten goals in two game led to headlines that were premature even by Gwanghwamun’s standards. “Gunes’ magic” went some and others were equally complimentary. The coach was quick to say that there was still a long way to go.

The last time he was lauded so early in the season was in 2007. Just after his arrival he led Seoul to three successive wins at the start of the season. Finally, the media said, here is a foreigner who can make a difference. Seoul then scored just one goal in the next nine matches.

If Gunes wasn't keeping feet on the ground before last weekend, he is now. New K-League team Gangwon FC shocked the host by winning 2-1 on Saturday in a very chilly Seoul World Cup Stadium. The late goal caused scenes of unbridled joy among the orange-clad followers of the eastern club and also put the team on top of the league.

Gunes may be regretting his decision not to start with stars such as Ki Sung-yung, Lee Chung-yung, Kim Chi-woo and Adilson. "Ahead of the game against Gamba we decided to rest some of our players for what is a very important game for us,” he said. “Of course we still wanted to win but we didn’t play well. Tuesday will be a different match.”

Not far to the south, Suwon Bluewings were flying high last Wednesday. Defeated and deflated by an opening day defeat at the hands of Pohang Steelers, six-time Japanese champions Kashima Antlers came to town. The Ibaraki club left with Antlers well and truly twisted after a 4-1 defeat.

Chinese defender Li Weifeng was the star of the show, scoring the first. ‘Li Weifeng jjayo’ sang the fans, the Chinese equivalent of ‘Li fighting’ and on a night when Chinese clubs lost to their Japanese opponents, Li was hailed in the Chinese media that has often criticized the star for his disciplinary problems. Suwon is a new start for him and if things continue the way they started, he could be a great addition to the team and the league.

Suwon’s form in that league isn’t great. The Pohang loss was followed by a goalless draw at lowly Daejeon Citizen – though Daejeon World Cup Stadium has never been a happy hunting ground for the Bluewings.

Maybe Singapore will be better. Suwon travels to the city-state to face Singapore Armed Forces for its second match of the Asian Champions League. It is expected that Cha Bum-keun’s men will take the three points against the weakest team in the group but Suwon can’t afford to take the Warriors lightly. The Armed forces have fighting spirit and despite their 4-1 defeat in Shanghai last week, Singapore played most of the match with ten men and only succumbed to a flurry of late goals.

Pohang drew 0-0 in its opening Asian Champions League game in Australia against Central Coast Mariners and host Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday. It is the turn of Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I to head down under as the southeasterners, who lost 3-1 at home to Nagoya Grampus last week, takes on Newcastle Jets.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com


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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Carlos Tevez saga: They think it's all over

The Carlos Tevez saga: They think it's all over.
It may have hung over the Premier League like a bad smell for nearly two years but the Carlos Tevez transfer saga appears to have finally been resolved.

A tribunal was due to convene today to decide the amount of compensation due to Sheffield United for West Ham United illegally fielding Carlos Tevez in the 2006/07 season.

The proceedings are no longer required as both clubs have settled on a figure of just over £15 million.

Sheffield United maintained that they were relegated as a direct result of West Ham playing Tevez whilst fully aware his contract was in breach of Premier League rules.

The specific statues in question cover the murky area of third-party ownership of players. During the season in question Tevez’s registration was shared between West Ham and MSI Sports Management.

Sheffield United’s outspoken chairman Kevin McCabe is pleased with the eventual outcome even if it did take 22 months to come to fruition.

“We are happy and satisfied with the settlement with West Ham.

“Throughout the finalisation of the terms for the agreement, the discussions were friendly, co-operative and in the best of spirit with both the Blades and Hammers advisory teams.

“We are two clubs with a fantastic footballing history who now want to move on and focus on the business of playing football, hopefully for us against the Hammers in the Premier League next season.”

For his part the West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury is also relieved the protracted wrangling has been put to bed.

“For everyone concerned, the time was right to draw a line under this whole episode.

“We have had very positive discussions over a number of days with Sheffield United and acknowledge their willingness to resolve this in the best interests of both clubs.”

It is understood that the £15 million or thereabouts is due to be paid in instalments over the next five years.

West Ham United could have ended up paying more if the matter had gone before the scheduled tribunal. On the other hand Sheffield United are keen to get some cash as soon as possible to cement their assault on promotion back to the Premier League.

This payout by the Hammers comes on top of the £5.5 million they were fined by the Premier League back in April 2007. On this occasion West Ham were found guilty of breaking third-party ownership agreements from the moment Tevez and his compatriot Javier Mascherano arrived at the Boleyn Ground.

Although fined West Ham did avoid a points deduction which would have lead to the club finishing below Sheffield United and being relegated in their place.

This seeming injustice prompted Kevin McCabe to push the Blades grievances through the courts. It was Tevez’s crucial goals at the tail end of the season which took West Ham above Sheffield United in the final Premier League table.

A joint inquiry between the Premier League and the English Football Association launched earlier this year will further investigate some West Ham employees’ actions in the saga.

Meanwhile Carlos Tevez finds his future up the air at Manchester United, again as a result of his unique ownership arrangement.

Copyright © Tim Sturtridge & Soccerphile.com

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Two shot as another weekend of violence mars football in Buenos Aires

Two shot as another weekend of violence mars football in Buenos Aires.
Football in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires was once again blighted by violence this weekend as a man and a women were shot.

A clash between fans of the same team in and around a McDonalds restaurant escalated from wooden sticks to gunfire in a matter of moments.

The fighting was perpetrated by rivals factions of Boca Juniors’ barras bravas group, a hardcore element dubbed ‘La 12’.

Their name comes from the advantage they give their team as they act like an extra player from the stands. Although they can behave a little differently sometimes than the 12th man Delia Smith talked about wanting at Carrow Road.

The man who was shot is currently fighting for his life in Buenos Aires’ Cosme Argerich hospital.

"One man who is about 55 years old has a serious craneoencephalic trauma, is in a coma and his health condition is critical," Alberto Crescenti, director of the federal emergency services SAME, told cable news channel C5N.

The women has been named as Delia Campos, aged 85, and is said to be in a stable condition. A bullet hit her in the leg but passed out the other side, making it easier for the medics to deal with her injury.

It has been reported that the two victims were innocent bystanders as the ‘La 12’ turned on itself four hours before Boca’s game with Argentinos Juniors.

The ruck took place in Parque Lezama, an area known for is amusement park, about one kilometre away from Boca’s La Bombomera stadium.

Police were able to make six arrests following the shootings and recovered a gun from the scene. Eyewitnesses have said that at least one man opened fire and four or five shots were heard.

At its climax the fight itself is said to have involved over 100 people.

Tensions have been running high within ‘La 12’ for weeks and police made substantial arrests the previous week before Boca’s 1-0 defeat to Independiente.

With Boca fans too busy fighting among themselves this weekend their opposition’s barras bravas had to find their sport elsewhere.

A coach load of Argentinos Juniors fans on their way to Boca passed by a bus carrying fans of Racing Club. Missiles were thrown from each vehicle until the police stepped in an made around 100 arrests.

Despite the day’s events authorities did not see any need to postponed the evening’s game and Boca eventually ran out 3-0 winners.

Copyright © Tim Sturtridge & Soccerphile.com

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Shocks continue as Albirex Niigata take share of J. League lead

Shocks continue as Albirex Niigata take share of J. League lead.
The shocks continued in the J. League last weekend, with Albirex Niigata beating Kashima Antlers on Sunday afternoon to snatch a share of the J. League lead.

It was a slightly disappointing crowd of 37,808 that turned out at Big Swan Stadium, but the stay-away fans who preferred the comforts of home to the cold climes of Big Swan missed a famous victory for the home side.

Kisho Yano opened his account for the season with an early header, before mercurial midfielder Marcio Richards played in compatriot Pedro Junior for Niigata's second.

Daiki Iwamasa scored a scrambled effort some six minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game, but it proved little consolation for a Kashima side that was humbled 4-1 by Suwon Bluewings in their AFC Champions League opener last week.

The other Sunday fixture saw Omiya Ardija beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2 in a thriller at Big Arch Stadium in Hiroshima - former Suwon defender Mato Neretljak scored twice in that game - and there were several points of note in the Saturday fixtures.

Yokohama F. Marinos battled to a scoreless draw away at Shimizu S-Pulse, as a near-capacity crowd of 19,172 at the newly renamed Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira saw the two teams cancel each other out.

Marinos were missing captain Ryuji Kawai through injury, but with recalled playmaker Koji Yamase in dangerous form for the Tricolore, they enjoyed the better of proceedings in blustery conditions in Shimizu.

Yamase came closest to a winner when his thunderous first-half drive was clawed away by Yohei Nishibe, while S-Pulse talisman Jungo Fujimoto made his long awaited return from injury - only to see a late effort cleared off the line after coming off the bench for the hosts.

Despite picking up their first point of the campaign, Marinos fans won't have been overly impressed with a display that suggests they are desperately lacking a goal scorer.

Whether Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura is the answer to coach Kokichi Kimura's attacking woes remains to be seen, especially since Marinos already possess a creative force in the form of Koji Yamase.

Elsewhere, Urawa Reds impressed in a 3-1 defeat of regional rivals FC Tokyo.

50,802 fans braved a chilly afternoon at Saitama Stadium, and the home fans were rewarded with coach Volker Finke's maiden J. League win.

Former Bundesliga star Robson Ponte was in irresistible form, setting up the first two for Yuki Abe and Edmilson respectively, before adding a late third himself - after the capital club had equalised in the first half through a Keisuke Tsuboi own goal.

Vissel Kobe pulled off a surprise 2-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale, with lesser lights Daisuke Sudo and Shota Matsuhashi both getting on the scoresheet, after new Kobe coach Caio Junior lost his Brazilian recruits Alan Bahia and Marcel to injury during the week.

Defeat for Kawasaki marks a repeat of their disastrous start to the 2008 campaign, and coach Takashi Sekizuka has some serious problems in defence, where former Japan midfielder Satoru Yamagishi looks out of his depth as a makeshift right back.

Kashiwa Reysol and JEF United battled to a 1-1 draw in the Chiba derby, with Tadanari Lee taking advantage of Australian defender Eddy Bosnar's failure to cut out a dangerous cross, with Lee heading home the opener.

JEF United equalised through veteran Masataka Sakamoto early in the second half, but neither side showed enough to suggest that they can battle for a top half finish this season.

Gamba Osaka cruised to the top of the standings with a 4-1 demolition of struggling Jubilo Iwata, with Yasuhito Endo converting two penalties in front of 16,128 fans at Expo '70 Stadium, as referee Masaaki Iemoto took centre stage by awarding three hotly disputed spot-kicks in the match.

Crowd concerns in J2
Meanwhile, J. League officials will be concerned with attendances over the first two rounds of the new J2 campaign, with not a single fixture attracting a five-figure crowd last weekend.

The largest crowd was the 9,378 turn-out at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, as fallen giants Tokyo Verdy lost 2-1 to fellow big guns Cerezo Osaka.

Only two games have attracted crowds in excess of 10,000 this season, with 21,908 turning out under the roof of the Sapporo Dome to see Consadole Sapporo go down 1-0 to fellow northerners Vegalta Sendai on the opening day, while 10,525 fans showed up at Fagiano Okayama's J. League debut as they held Ventforet Kofu to a scoreless draw in their first ever professional match.

J. League officials will hope that warmer weather attracts fans back into J2 grounds, particularly with gate receipts likely to prove crucial for newcomers Okayama, Kataller Toyama and Tochigi SC - not to mention debt-laden strugglers FC Gifu.

Snow storm ends debate on re-aligning J. League calendar

The J. League announced last week that a proposal to align the fixture list with the European calendar had been unanimously turned down by J. League clubs.

That decision was punctuated by a snow storm that lashed Yamagata on Saturday, as Montedio's first ever home game in the top flight was marred by treacherous conditions.

The home side managed to hold Nagoya Grampus to a 0-0 draw in front of 12,370 hardy fans, but it was hardly the kind of advertisement that Motoaki Inukai was hoping for.

The newly installed Japan Football Association chief continues to insist that playing through the winter months is a viable option.

But with northern clubs Albirex Niigata, Yamagata and Vegalta Sendai all playing in open-air stadia - while Consadole Sapporo's "indoor" pitch is tellingly grown outdoors - the snowy mid-March conditions will surely end the debate over re-aligning the calendar.

Meanwhile, Yokohama FC striker Kazuyoshi Miura became the oldest goalscorer in J. League history when he converted a penalty in his club's 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Roasso Kumamoto on Saturday.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekly soccer news March 14 2009

Weekly soccer news March 14 2009.
World Soccer News

for week of 3/14

Ronaldo now wants to stay at United

Cristiano Ronaldo may not press for a transfer to Real Madrid at the end of this season, in spite of earlier report that Alex Ferguson already agreed to the deal last autumn.

The Portuguese superstar now claims Manchester United is the best possible place to be for him since no other club can match United's quality and ambition.

"I feel very happy where I am now. I like to do what I do, it's my dream and this is my life," said Ronaldo to Daily Mirror.
"Manchester are playing very well, I feel very happy here. I don't want to go anywhere, I want to stay here."
Ronaldo feels that United is even better than last season, when they won the famous double.
"We are top of the league, in the Champions League and we are in all competitions. The team is more mature, more experienced and when you go to the pitch you know what you are going to do and this is why we have a good team."
The continued success of Premier League clubs in the Champions League certainly plays a role in Ronaldo's reborn love for his current tean. All four English representatives will be present in the quarterfinal draw next week alongside Barcelona, Bayern, Porto and Villarreal.


Manchester Utd. and AZ Alkmaar can't stop winning

Early last autumn it looked as though Manchester United could not follow the pace set by Liverpool and Chelsea on top of the Premiership, but with 33 points won in the last 11 matches it seems there is no stopping Red Devils.

Alex Ferguson's team boast the longest winning run with 11 consecutive wins this season. The run started with a 1-0 at Stoke and has continued through last week's 2-1 win over Newcastle.

The Dutch leaders AZ Alkmaar have also won their last 11 games, starting with a magnificent 2-0 over Ajax until a 3-1 over Willem II. In fact, Louis van Gaal's boys have been unbeaten in 24 matches this season, after suffering two losses at the start of the competition.

Two Spanish teams achieved 10 matches winning streaks. The first to knock out ten consecutive rivals were Barcelona, from Sevilla in the 13th round until Sporting in the 22th matchday. Slightly later in the season Real Madrid repeated Barca's feat launching the perfect run with a 1-0 over Valencia in the 16th round. The run came to an end last week with a 1-1 draw against Atlético Madrid at Bernabeu.

In Croatia, leaders Hajduk Split have a chance to make it ten in a row if they overcome Cibalia at Vinkovci on Sunday. Last Sunday Hajduk equalled their longest run by beating Croatia Sesvete 1-0, but they are still far behind Dinamo Zagreb's record run that lasted for 28 straight games in 2006/07.


Mourinho not so "special" in Italy either

José Mourinho used to call himself special, but after his team went down to Manchester United in the Champions League last week, some Inter's fans begged to differ.
Last Thursday he was welcomed by an unpleasant surprise upon arrival at Inter's training ground.
"Portuguese bluff, go away from Inter", said on a piece of canvas hanged from the external side of the fence of the ground where Inter practice.
The fans and the media were bitterly disappointed by the 2-0 aggregate defeat of the Italian champions and were outright incensed by Mourinho's traditional arrogance displayed at the press conference.
On that occasion the controversial coach told the reporters he did not have to explain to them the way Inter played.
Channel4.com has claimed that Mourinho is close to leaving Italy for Spain (Real Madrid) or England (Liverpool, Manchester City or even his former club Chelsea).


Italy faces a reduced quota in the Champions League

The elimination of most of the Italian representatives from the Champions League and the UEFA Cup means that Italy could lose one place in the premier European competition starting from next season.

In the Champions League, Fiorentina failed to progress from the group stage while Juventus, Roma and Inter could not go past Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, respectively. In the UEFA Cup Udinese have remained the sole Italian presence on the international stage after Werder kicked out Milan.

"We are just one step of losing the third place on the UEFA ranking and consequently the fourth club in the Champions League," worries Milan's vicepresident Adriano Galliani.

As of next season, the three top nations will have three guaranteed spots plus one in the last qualifying round. Countries from the fourth through the sixth place will provide two clubs plus one in the qualifiers.
England leads the ranking with 76,7 points followed by Spain with 73 and Italy with 62,4. Germany on the fourth place has 54 points, but still has three teams in the competition (Bayern, Werder and Hamburger) and a fair chance of ovetaking Italy by end of May.


Russia announces the bid for a World Cup

The Russian Soccer Federation has sent a letter of intent to FIFA's Zurich headquarters, announcing the bid to organize one of the future World Cups.
The bid refers to the 2018 or 2022 Cups, said the spokesman Andrei Malasolov.
The deadline for presenting bids expires on Monday, March 16th and FIFA will determine the hosts in December of 2010. The host to the 2014 Cup will be Brazil, who organized one previous turnament back in 1950.


Capello slams Italian soccer mentality

After painful elimination of three Italian teams by the English opposition, the coach Fabio Capello attributed the disaster to the differences in mentality between the two nations.

"The English soccer is characterized by a more physical and combative play. Our teams have less of these characteristics with respect to the English rivals," said the current England manager.
"When Milan defeated Manchester United it was made possible because they had players of quality and strength. And this is one aspect we have to improve on if we want to return to the highest levels of the European game."

Capello also slammed the Italian habit of playing "with nine defenders and one forward, who is supposed to send the ball home" and the cynical tactics which include diving and simulations in order to stop the flow of the game.

"There are so many interruptions during a match in Italy. The referees should allow the play to to on and curb the tendency of playing a 'blocked' soccer," said Capello to Dribbling tv show.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oh brother Aussie Champions League debutants disappoint

Oh brother, Aussie Champions League debutants disappoint.
The displays in this week's AFC Champions League openers have prompted much speculation about whether Australian clubs can reproduce Adelaide United's 2008 form and progress all the way to the '09 final.

In fairness neither the Central Coast nor Newcastle convinced in their maiden continental outings.

The Mariners served up an uninspiring scoreless draw against Korea's Pohang Steelers while the Jets, who finished stone cold last in the recent A-League season, lost 2-0 to Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan.

A fraught domestic campaign from Newcastle was never likely to provide the ideal preparation for a shot at the higher level and the opening half-hour in Beijing proved as much for Gary van Egmond's much-changed side.

Van Egmond handed debuts to overseas signings Donny de Groot and Fabio Vignaroli in a rearranged attacking system which also included Sasho Petrovski, formally of Sydney and the Central Coast.

But the story of the match was always going to be the unforeseen scenario which pitted two of Newcastle's famous Griffiths brothers against their hometown side - especially with Joel Griffiths only technically on loan at Guoan from the Jets until the end of the year.

Ryan, the youngest, even scored the opener as Beijing controlled matters having only joined the side from Liaoning at the conclusion of the 2008 Super League season. Joel, meanwhile, set up an injury time second for substitute Du Wenhui.

That left Adam, the soon-to-be Gold Coast United defender, as the only Griffiths sibling starting for the Jets, who Van Egmond maintained dominated the second 45 minutes and could take plenty of positives from the opening round defeat.

Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna clearly took heed of the warning served up the night before but his negative tactics against Pohang were called into question as his side generated little in front of goal against the Korean cup holders.

McKinna's line-up, featuring just one new inclusion from the side which bombed out of the finals series last month, looked well short and were comfortably kept scoreless in the Gosford rain.

It was a dismal result for the Mariners considering the Steelers won just once in six Champions League group matches last time around to finish nine points behind table toppers Adelaide.

Indeed, Adelaide began their 2008 campaign with a 2-0 win in Pohang and followed that result up by beating them at home.

Melbourne also won on their ACL debut - against fellow Koreans Chunnam Dragons - and still failed to progress to the knockout stage.

But McKinna still defended his side's defensive tactics following the disjointed stalemate.

He said: "I'd much rather the ball was in the air than take a chance at the back like Newcastle did in the first-half (against Guoan).

"You can't take chaces with the Asian teams because on the break they can kill you. Any time we turned the ball over in midfield they really put us under pressure."

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fifa World Rankings March 2009

Fifa World Rankings March 2009.
Spain stay top of this month's Fifa world rankings followed by Germany and the Netherlands in 3rd. England drop one and are in 9th place.

Brazil are in 5th. Cameroon are the highest African team in 16th. Russia are 8th, with the USA up again to 17th.

1 Spain
2 Germany
3 Netherlands
4 Italy
5 Brazil
6 Argentina
7 Croatia
8 Russia
9 England
10 Portugal
11 Turkey
12 France
13 Czech Republic
14 Ukraine
15 Paraguay
16 Cameroon
17 USA
18 Israel
19 Greece
20 Romania

Full world rankings

Last month's Fifa World Rankings

Qatar Stars League Week 23

Qatar Stars League Week 23.
The Qatar Stars League has left its fans bubbling with excitement. Defending champions Al Gharafa and dark horses Al Rayyan are locked in a heated battle that could well be stretched into the final round. Although both teams stand on equal points, 48, Al Rayyan lead the table on a better goal difference.

The razor-thin margin and rivalry between the teams mean that exciting times are here for football aficionados in the country. The sport’s enthusiasts will be treated to a special fare on Saturday when the champions and the pretenders to the throne come face to face in a match-up of epic proportions.

Both teams played out their games in contrasting fashions. While Al Gharafa toiled hard for a controversial 2-1 win against Umm Salal, Al Rayyan decimated League newcomers Al Kharaitiyat 5-1. The weaklings, who do not yet have a home stadium, were overawed by their opponents and missed many chances. Al Rayyan has been playing magnificent football and they show no signs of letting up.

Al Sadd, who were touted as a potential third candidate for the revamped Qatar Stars League’s inaugural title, disappointed big time. They were held to a 1-1 draw by a relatively weaker Al Khor. Al Sadd may still be under the influences of their ‘dream match’ against Italian giants AC Milan, who played in Qatar in a testimonial match for Al Sadd captain Jaffal Rashed Al Kuwari last week.

The 23rd week of the Qatar Stars League belonged to the underdogs. Al Sailiya, who were widely expected to be soundly thrashed by Al Arabi, turned the tables on their hosts with an upset 2-1 win. Although Al Arabi missed a few key players from their line-up, Al Sailiya played with heart to beat the reds at their lair. It also helped the team to get out of the bottom rung of the Qatar Stars League (16 points), and temporarily scamper away from relegation threat. Two points now separate them from bottom-side Al Kharaitiyat (14pts)

The final game of the week, between Qatar Sports Club and Al Wakra, proved to be exciting. Qatar Sports Club, who have not won a title in quite some time, took advantage of a weak Al Wakra defence and scored twice to win 2-1. Al Wakra’s form book has shown constant fluctuations and inconsistency has been their biggest threat.

At the end of 23rd round, Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa share 48 points at the top. Al Sadd (42pts), Qatar SC (39pts), Al Khor (31pts), Umm Salal (28pts), Al Wakra (27pts), Al Arabi (22pts), Al Sailiya (16pts) and Al Kharaitiyat (14pts) are the other teams.

Qatar Stars League Week 22

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