Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gamba book Emperor's Cup showdown with Nagoya

J.League.
Defending champions Gamba Osaka will meet Nagoya Grampus in the 2009 Emperor's Cup final, after the duo conjured nervy wins in a pair of tense semi-finals on December 29.

Just over 25,000 fans turned out at the National Stadium in Tokyo as Gamba's veteran Brazilian striker Lucas Severino gave the Kansai side an early lead against outsiders Vegalta Sendai.

The underdogs hit back through Takayuki Nakahara's strike just before the hour mark, however the reliable Lucas notched again soon after, as Akira Nishino's battle-hardened Gamba moved into another showpiece final.

Only a penalty shoot-out could separate Shimizu S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus in front of just under 20,000 fans in the day's earlier fixture at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi, as Dragan Stojkovic's gritty Nagoya outfit prevailed following a 1-1 draw.

Japan international Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring for Shimizu, however Nagoya hit back from the penalty spot, with Keiji Tamada slotting home from twelve yards after former S-Pulse man Alex had gone down inside the box.

With the scores still level after thirty minutes of extra-time, the match went to penalties - with Shimizu defender Daisuke Ichikawa missing the vital spot-kick, as his effort clattered against the crossbar.

There was high drama from the final kick of the shoot-out, as Keita Sugimoto smashed his penalty against the underside of the crossbar, only to see the ball cannon down off Shimizu goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto and in.

Nagoya's dramatic shoot-out win sees them move into their first Emperor's Cup final since 1999, when current coach Stojkovic inspired Grampus to their last major trophy with his exploits on the pitch.

The New Year's Day final brings to an end the 2009 Japanese season, with Gamba and Nagoya both looking to lay their hands on the final piece of silverware for the year.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Monday, December 28, 2009

Middle East Soccer News

Asian Cup 2011 update: Arabian Gulf Cup tournament now set for November 2010 in Yemen

Yemen will host the 20th Arabian Gulf Cup from 22 November until 4 December 2010, it was announced at the weekend in the Yemeni capital Sanaa at the closing session of a conference of the GCC Football Federations which also included Iraq and Yemen.
There had been speculation that recent internal strife in Yemen might impact on the ability of the Gulf country to host the biennial tournament.
Yemen;s President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Dubai Sport TV: “Yemen is ready, economically and security-wise to host this competition.”
Yemen’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Hamoud Abbad said that Yemen’s plans for the tournament were on track and his government were making exceptional efforts to meet all the requirements that would make the tournament a success.
The 2009 Arabian Gulf Cup, also known as Al Khaleeji Cup, was won by the hosts Oman in January. The tournament featured handball, basketball and volleyball for the first time in 2004 when hosted by Qatar.
The cup was founded at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico by Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the first tournament took place in Bahrain in 1970 and was won by Kuwait.

North Korea win Friendly Tournament opener

The four-nation International Friendly Tournament hosted by Qatar kicked off last night with a 1-0 victory for the North Koreans over Mali at the Qatar Sports Club.
Rest of the tournament schedule:
Monday – 28/12/2009
5:30 Qatar vs. Iran
Wednesday – 30/12/2009
4:00 Mali vs. Iran
6:15 Qatar vs. North Korea
Saturday – 02/01/2010
04:00 Qatar vs. Mali
06:15 Iran vs. North Korea


Australia.
Culina out of Australia's clash with Kuwait

Midfielder Jason Culina has been ruled out of Australia’s AFC Asian Cup 2011 qualifying clash with Kuwait on 6 January because of a knee injury sustained in a local A-league match on Saturday. Coach Pim Verbeek called up Central Coast Mariners Dean Heffernan as Culina’s replacement for the trip to Kuwait City. Kuwait and Australia are joint leaders of Group B, with both sides needing one more victory to book their place in the finals.
Thailand coach Bryan Robson has warned his team that a win against Jordan is imperative to keep alive their qualifying hopes for the AFC Asian Cup 2011. The two sides clash in the Group E encounter on January 6. "We know that we must beat Jordan to get a good chance to qualify for the finals. It is a very important game," said the former England captain.
Singapore are to play two friendlies against Oman in preparation for their crucial match against Iran in the same group. The first match is being played today, the second on 31 December, with coach Radojko Avramovic warning his side that they need at least four points from their last two matchs, even though Jordan beat Iran in the last qualifying round of matches.
Iran are currently in control of Group E with seven points while Singapore are second with six points. The Thais have five points and are in third place while their rivals Jordan are at the bottom of the table with four points. Only the top two teams from the group advance to the 2011 finals in Doha from 7-27 January.

Compiled by Francesca Camerano

Friday, December 25, 2009

Inshallah (Barcelona v Estudiantes Club World Cup Final)

The locals got their wish. Their very own superstar delivered the goods with a goal from his heart to proclaim Barcelona as FIFA Club World Cup Champions of the World.

The truth of the matter was that he, proclaimed World footballer of the year the following day, and he alone (well maybe not...remember the title of this piece) was the catalyst for Barcelona winning the trophy. An uninspiring display against Atlante was brought to life by his introduction and in the final he stood out for his intelligent use of the ball during the game and then elevated himself to immortal status. Normally you would describe this as head and shoulders better than the rest. Not Lionel Messi, he has to go one better. Head, shoulders and chest better than the rest.

Barcelona v Estudiantes Club World Cup Final

The day itself was firstly notable for the absence of the Congo fans, as for the first time since their introduction to the tournament I could hear myself think. Their non stop cacophony of noise and their lead dancer entertained us all, (but I do prefer it when the noise relates to the action on the pitch).

Estudiantes fans began the day in good voice and baited their opponents outside the ground as they had many more fans in evidence as they warmed up for the evening's match. They could be heard throughout the 3rd place play off game, which Pohang Steelers won on penalties.

Barcelona v Estudiantes Club World Cup Final

We waited for Barcelona fans to make themselves heard during the final but it was evident that Estudiantes were the ones whose passionate fans had made the trip in more numbers.

It wasn't till the end as Barcelona piled on the pressure that chants of Barza from the locals resounded around the stadium. Finally the Estudiantes fans were silenced as with just 1 minute and 45 seconds of normal time left Pedro equalised. From then on their chants got stronger as they knew what was going to happen. Chants of Messi were far louder than that of Barcelona as the locals' dreams were brought to life.

Barcelona v Estudiantes Club World Cup Final

As I left the stadium a local banging a drum chanted Messi's name......whilst wearing a Real Madrid shirt! I am sure the local will be back next year probably wearing a Messi shirt whilst watching Real Madrid.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lee's The Bee's Knees At Bolton

Korean soccer.
It was a shame that snow and ice caused Bolton Wanderers’ match with Wigan Athletic to be postponed earlier this week as Lee Chung-yong is currently red hot in his white shirt.

His team-mates call him ‘Chungy’ which may cause a few pained expressions back home but the overwhelming emotion in South Korea at Lee’s English exploits is excitement.

The 21 year-old winger left FC Seoul in the summer to sign for Premier League club Bolton Wanderers. The team has struggled in the first half of the league campaign though there are signs that a corner is being turned. Amid the gloom just north of Manchester, the young Korean star has been a fairly constant bright spot.

Lee has scored three goals for the Whites and created more for others. His exciting skills, a willingness to run at defenders and his all round attitude and hard-work mean that Bolton fans have taken the Asian into their hearts.

Nobody at home doubted his ability. In the space of two short years he had become probably the most exciting talent in the K-League and established himself in the national team at an unusually young age. The only black mark against his Korean career was the fact that he occasionally lost his cool on the pitch. His lack of years was a mitigating factor but his immaturity suggested that a struggle to adapt to life off the field in the north-west of England. His slight frame also suggested that he may not be able to handle the rough-and-tumble on it.

So far it has not been a problem. Lee’s speed and quick feet often leave bigger opponents floundering in his wake and he is really starting to enjoy his football. In mid-December, the former FC Seoul star grabbed his third of the season as Bolton defeated relegation rivals West Ham 3-1. With the scoreline deadlocked at 0-0, Lee’s smart finish broke the deadlock and sent the team on the way to victory. He also created the vital second goal.

It followed another excellent performance four days earlier as Bolton held big-spending Manchester City to a 3-3 draw. For the second time in less than a week, Lee was named by much of the English media as his team’s best player in that game too.

“It is great to be playing regularly and I hope that I can score more goals over the rest of the season when the opportunities come,” Lee told Korean television after his West Ham performance. “I seem to be lucky as we have won all three games in which I have scored.”

The Seoul media are excited. Scores of articles appeared lauding the star and more were written about what the English media was writing. Lee’s success is a shot in the arm for journalists getting bored of Park Ji-sung’s absence from Manchester United’s starting eleven.

It would be a brave decision by Bolton head coach Gary Megson to leave out the youngster. The Englishman has much to thank Lee for. Megson has never been a popular figure among Bolton supporters and is he always just a couple of bad results away from serious pressure.

Lee has been a big success story. His exploits on the pitch have not only helped the Wanderers pick up valuable points, he has lightened some of the load on the shoulders of his boss. In return, Megson showered Lee with praise.

"He is getting stronger, his English is getting better and we are absolutely delighted with how he has settled in. He is getting very close to the other players - everybody likes him,” Megson said.

"He has terrific qualities and he is starting now to get a bit of recognition up and down the country. He is getting goals and hopefully his confidence will come more and more and he will become a really big player for us. For the risk he took and also we took when we came together, we couldn't be more pleased."

At the moment, everyone is pleased.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Football Books - December

New Football Books - DecemberNew football book titles out this month include El Nino: My Story, the autobiography of Liverpool's Fernando Torres, Glory Glory, Andy Mitten's interviews with Manchester United stars of the 1990s and 39 Days of Gazza, the sad story of Paul Gascoigne's ill-fated time in charge of non-League Kettering Town.

Other new books popular in December are the Manchester United and Liverpool 2010 annuals - the kids love 'em.

The top 3 selling football books in the UK at the end of the year are El Nino, The Goalie: My Story by ex-Rangers' keeper Andy Goram and Jellyman's Thrown A Wobbly by Jeff Stelling.

New Football Books October

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Be The Reds Korea World Cup Special Offer

It has been statistically proved that the more people that wear "BE THE REDS" t-shirts, the more chance the South Korean national soccer team has of winning matches.

South Korea reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup when 100,000s of people wore "BE THE REDS" t-shirts. Now both South and North Korea will appear at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Support the South Korean soccer team in the World Cup in South Africa

Support Korea with these Korean soccer specials. Be The Reds T-shirts and official Korean national team jerseys.

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Korean national team jersey

Korean national team jerseys

Red & White – Korean FA ‘Tiger’ logo on front - "home shirt".

White - Korean FA ‘Tiger’ logo on front - "away shirt".

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Red Dragon T-shirt

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Estudiantes v Pohang

At long last the FIFA Club World Cup tournament begins. 3,500 fans from Argentina have arrived and 4,000 plain clothed police boost the crowd to 22,000 for the first Semi Final.

After a promising opening when Estudiantes dominated possession the game had become lifeless, until in first half injury time a free kick is pumped into the box, the Estudiantes forward clearly (to me) was in an offside position and tries his best to get a touch on the ball. The ball goes in the net and a goal is given.

The Pohang Steelers coach stated that he did not see a referee on the pitch. I saw one. But he didn't appear to be watching the game. Worse was to follow as three sendings off followed. All of which appeared harsh. The Korean side played with determination for the final 13 minutes with just 8 men and tried to make a game of it even with the tournament's leading scorer, Denilson in goal. So 2-1 Estudiantes and one half of the FIFA jigsaw is complete. Remember FIFA prefers South America v Europe in these competitions.

Wednesday. Barcelona are in town and suddenly everyone is interested in the football. There was a constant stream of helicopters overhead in the morning as dignitaries arrived. There was no doubting who the U.A.E locals were supporting as during the 5th place place off game the video screen panned to the Barcelona players in the stand. Each time a loud cheer went up.

The stadium was silenced early on as Atlante took the lead. Both teams were putting together passing moves creating intricate patterns the likes of which I hadn't seen since that mornings visit to the Sheikh Zayed mosque. Barcelona scored and the locals were clearly relieved. Game on.

Messi was given superstar status before he even entered the field of play as the fans chanted for him to enter the fray. Within a minute he had delivered 2-1 Barcelona. From then it it was easy for Barcelona. After the match people were now looking forward to Saturday's final and asking for tickets. After disappointing crowds (only 4,200 for the earlier game that day) throughout the tournament at least the final will be sold out.

Dubai.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

Friday, December 18, 2009

Champions League Draw December 2009

Champions League Draw December 2009.
Champions League draw

AC Milan v Manchester United
Bayern Munich v Fiorentina
CSKA Moscow v Seville
Inter Milan v Chelsea
Lyon v Real Madrid
Olympiakos v Bordeaux
FC Porto v Arsenal
Stuttgart v Barcelona

Three Luxury Properties For Rent in South Africa

Looking for a property to rent for the World Cup in South Africa?

Choose from these properties

Zaganaga Lodge in Marloth Park near Komatipoort. Close to Kruger National Park’s Crocodile Bridge gate.
Bush Loerie a beautiful lodge to rent with swimming pool on the veld north of Pretoria.
Blue Valley Golf Accommodation Luxury accommodation located between Jo'burg and Pretoria on a Gary Player-designed golf course.

Blue Valley

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brazil World Cup 2010 Team Profile

Road to South Africa


The tournament’s ever presents reached South Africa with three games to spare as they secured a sweet victory on Argentine soil in Rosario to make sure of their place in South Africa. Dunga successfully implemented a no-nonsense approach to international football and axed many of Brazil’s star names in favour of building a more cohesive unit.


With only two defeats along the way Brazil’s route to the 2010 World Cup finals was always a procession. Although Dunga has been roundly criticised for taking much of the natural flair out of the Selecao the team still finished up top scorers in the CONMEBOL qualification series.


There were many memorable moments along the way in Brazil’s qualification for South Africa including their lifting of an old hoodoo with a thumping 4-0 win away to Uruguay and Luis Fabiano’s nine goals signalling his arrival as the real deal in front of goal. Brazil were also able to take some time away from qualifying to win the Confederations Cup and have a good look at the conditions they can expect when they return to South Africa for the World Cup.


Analysis


Things seemed to be going so well for Brazil when North Korea popped out as their first Group G opponents. Events took a turn for the worse however when the Ivory Coast and Portugal completed the line-up. Brazil have had some easy groups in the past but they will have to start early in South Africa if they don’t want to suffer an embarrassingly early exit.


Thankfully for fans of Brazil after nearly four years in the job Dunga has a well oiled machine at his disposal which trusts him enough to follow his instructions down to the letter. The World Cup winning captain of USA 94 knows what he wants from his team and has a way of getting his point across which has translated into the right results on the pitch.


Júlio César of Inter Milan is widely recognised as the best goalkeeper in the world right now and a string of near faultless displays have made him a shoe-in to wear the gloves for Brazil in South Africa.


The Brazilian defence houses one of the side’s most potent attacking forces. Júlio César’s team-mate at the San Siro Maicon is as close to you get to the complete footballer. His surging runs from right-back can frighten the life out of the opposition as he seems to be able to gallivant at will through anything thrown in his path. Alongside Maicon are the duel colossuses of Lucio and Luisão, as well as being assured in defence these two are also a real threat from set-pieces. The left-back position remains up for grabs but due to Maicon’s influence on the team his counterpart on the other side of the pitch is often asked to tuck in and provide protection.


The point which has the purists knocking Dunga is his unfaltering selection of Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo in the middle of the park. This duo offer little in the way of creativity but both can play the hatchetman role with unerring ease. Elano is able to cover Maicon on the right side of midfield while Robinho is encouraged to roam from his starting post on the left. In the middle they have Kaká whose growing understanding with Luis Fabiano usually translates itself into goals.


They sound fairly decent don’t they? Well, they are Brazil after all.


Key Player: Kaká


If you looked closely enough you will have seen Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite with his hands on the World Cup once already. As a 20-year-old he travelled to the Far East as part of Brazil’s World Cup winning squad of 2002 but only got on the pitch for 25 minutes against Costa Rica.


Since then he has fought his way to becoming the star man of the Brazilian set-up and owner of the much coveted number 10 shirt. Despite already being a regular in the team during the 2006 World Cup it was the appointment of Dunga which saw Kaká’s stock rise within the Selecao camp. With Kaká’s devotion to religion and family he was seen as the antithesis of the partying antics of Ronaldo and co which was identified as the root of Brazil’s poor performance in Germany.


With Kaká’s ability however he needs few favours or special treatment from managers, just the opportunity to take the field and do what he does best. His most recent moment of magic in the yellow of Brazil was a pin point throughball to Luis Fabiano for Brazil’s third against Argentina in the game which sealed their passage to South Africa. The pass was a carbon copy of his ball for Hernan Crespo in the 2005 Champions League final. If you miss a piece of sublime skill from Kaká don’t worry, he’s bound to do it again sooner or later.


One To Watch: Nilmar


Nilmar Honorato da Silva is very highly rated in his homeland after two prolific spells with Internacional. He first left Brazil aged 19 to play for Lyon but it was clearly a step to soon for the youngster as he struggled to get to grips with the French League. He returned to Brazil and the goals starting coming again, it was Villarreal who were brave enough to give the player a second chance in Europe.


Nilmar is currently in the process of repaying the Spanish outfit for the faith that they showed in him and his goals have seen him on the fringes of the Brazilian set-up. The one thing he has done whenever he has played for Brazil is looked dangerous and his international tally of eight goals in nine games certainly supports this.


He recently scored back-to-back goals in friendlies against England and Oman, anyone who saw his headed goal against the English will recognise this is a player not afraid to improvise. Nilmar plays on the shoulder of defenders, waits his moment and relies on his electric pace to take him away from his marker.


The only trouble for the 25-year-old is that he must get himself ahead of a long list of strikers including Diego Tardelli, Adriano, Alexandre Pato and O Fenômeno himself, Ronaldo, if he is to make it to South Africa.


Coach: Dunga


Results-wise things could not have gone much better for Dunga in the World Cup winner’s first management position. He has already started adding to Brazil’s overstacked trophy cabinet with victories in both the 2007 Copa América and the 2009 Confederations Cup. His only defeat at tournament level came during 2008 Olympic’s but he soon got revenge on Argentina by beating them 3-1 in their own backyard.


In fact Dunga is a man who takes defeat personally and after Portugal inflicted the first loss of his time in charge he masterminded a 6-2 demolition of the same opponents next time they played. He will no doubt be plotting something similar for when the two teams meet again in South Africa.


Dunga has interpreted his no-nonsense playing style into his role as manager. He inherited a side dominated by the Magic Quartet of Ronaldinho, Kaká, Adriano and Ronaldo. Dunga soon showed that nobody had a guaranteed place in the side and four years later it is only Kaká who is certain to feature if fit when Brazil play in South Africa.


These days you are just as likely to see flair in the dugout as on the pitch as Dunga continues to wear unusual matchday attire courtesy of his fashion designer daughter.


Recent Previous Tournaments


France 1998: Runner-up
South Korea/Japan 2002: Winner
Germany 2006: Quarter-finals



Soccerphile says...


As always Brazil has all the tools required to win the World Cup, they already have five triumphs to their name and of course a sixth in South Africa is not out of the question.


The Selecao have been on the top of their game for four years now under Dunga and are yet to play a game under their current boss where they looked overly suspect in any department. Personally though I just cannot see it being their year in South Africa.


I worry about the squad having to wait so long before taking the field for their first game and I worry about the possibility of an early meeting with Spain. I worry that they have looked so good since the end of the last World Cup that they will not know what to do when they find themselves up against it. I also worry that Dunga does not play Jugo Bonito and there are so many back home looking for the opportunity to get at him for taking the joy out of the Brazilian game.


Nobody will be asking for a game against the Selecao in South Africa but as the Brazilians say themselves, “The only team who can beat us is ourselves.”


World Cup 2010 squad

TBC


© Tim Sturtridge & Soccerphile.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Argentina World Cup 2010 Team Profile

Argentina World Cup 2010 Team Profile.
Road to South Africa

Was it ever really in doubt that the two time World Cup winners were coming to South Africa? The answer is yes, towards the end of Argentina’s qualifying campaign they came within one game of missing out on their first World Cup since Mexico 1970. In the end an away 1-0 win over their neighbours Uruguay booked the Albicelestes’ trip to Africa. As the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief coach Diego Maradona let out an expletive laden tirade on anyone who ever doubted his powers.

Argentina’s troubled qualifying campaign started a long time before El Diego took over. Back in October 2007 Alfio Basile was in charge as Argentina took their first step on the road to South Africa. The 2-0 win over Chile with both goals from Juan Roman Riquelme seemed to suggest that it would be plain sailing for Argentina to book their seat at the top table of world football. In fact they won their first three qualifiers under Basile but things turned sour with just one win in the following seven CONMEBOL qualifiers.

With qualification slipping out of their hands the Argentine public called for a change and Diego Maradona made himself available for the post. El Diez won his first competitive game with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Venezuela but followed it up with an embarrassing 6-1 defeat away to Bolivia. The form in qualifiers remained patchy but a single goal from Mario Bolatti eventually stamped their World Cup ticket in Uruguay’s Centenario Stadium.

Analysis

Argentine could not have hoped for a kinder draw as they prepare to play Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in Group B. The trouble for the Albicelestes is that their first round opponents at the World Cup are the only certainties for the squad ahead of the tournament.

Time is ticking for Diego Maradona not only to decide on his final squad but also his preferred system. Over 70 players have represented Argentina during the last two years and the gaffer has experiment with a number of different shapes. We’ve seen the whole gambit of five man defences, six man midfields and four pronged attacks during Diego’s time in charge.

It seems likely that Maradona will field a fresh faced keeper behind a backline full of aging legs in South Africa. Hardly the ideal defence for a good run in the tournament but the trademark of Argentine play has always been flair in the final third and again they have no shortage in that department. They have the current holder of the Ballon d’Or in Lionel Messi and a lot will be expected of the mercurial talent at the World Cup. He has rarely been at his best in the blue and white of Argentina but his commitment to the cause cannot be faulted after he jetted home for every single one of Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers. Further firepower is available in the shape of Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Milito, Carlitos Tevez and a host of others.

One problem which has to be solved is the supply line to these players capable of turning a game with a single moment of magic. A very public falling out with Riquelme left Maradona with a very challenging question to answer but it turned out the solution was under his nose the whole time.

Key Player: Juan Sebastián Verón

Juan Sebastián Verón is playing his football like a man possessed at the moment and at time of writing his performances for his home town club Estudiantes de La Plata have booked them a place in the final of the Club World Cup against Barcelona.

After playing every minute of Argentina’s 1998 World Cup campaign he was handed the captaincy in 2002. The midfielder was then made the scapegoat by the whole country for the nation’s dismal showing in the Far East.

After failing to make the squad for the 2006 World Cup it looked as though the player’s international career had come to a premature end. However he defied the boo-boys to put in a stearling performance against Brazil in the 2010 World Cup qualifier and despite his team falling to a 3-1 defeat he left the pitch with the fans cheering his name.

Verón will be the go-to man in Argentina’s World Cup team as he links midfield and attack and dictates the side’s play in the final third. If he shows the kind of form he producing for Estudiantes then it looks like Maradona may not be as tactically naive as his current record suggests.

One To Watch: Jesús Dátolo

When Jesús Dátolo is on the pitch expect the unexpected as the left winger has a tendency to produce something out of nothing. After a successful time with Boca Juniors the player was snapped up by Napoli and although he is currently having a less than spectacular season he is still held in very high regard in his homeland.

He may have only bagged once for Napoli this season but he has already found the net twice for Argentina in just three appearances. His first came within 20 seconds of his debut against Russia and his second was a 30 yard thunderbolt against Brazil.

A disappointing team performance from Argentina as a whole saw him withdrawn at half-time against Paraguay in his third appearance for the Albicelestes. However Maradona keeps a keen eye on Napoli and a strong second half of the season will see Dátolo cement his place as Diego’s surprise package.

Coach: Diego Maradona

Diego Armando Maradona answered his country’s call in their hour of need to take the reins of the national team and steer them towards the 2010 World Cup finals. There are still many in Argentina who feel he may not be up to the job but nobody who would be willing to tell him to his face.

Maradona has already written his own story at the World Cup and if the previous chapters are anything to go by then this latest instalment promises intrigue at the very least.

After making his debut for Argentina aged 16 in 1977 he was overlooked for his nation’s World Cup winning squad of the following year. He was a fully established international by the time Spain 82 rolled around but his tournament ended in disgrace after he was sent off for violent conduct against Brazil as Argentina crashed out.

During Mexico 86 he produced some of the finest individuals displays the World Cup has ever seen as he captained his country to triumph. Four years later he broke the hearts of his adoring public in Italy as he knocked out the host nation with a penalty in Naples. Argentina were eventually beaten by West Germany in a drab final which saw little magic from Maradona.

Maradona played his last World Cup in the USA and after two games he was sent home after failing a drugs test. It is fair to say that when Maradona heads to a World Cup he generally makes something happen.

Recent Previous Tournaments

France 1998: Quarter-finals
South Korea/Japan 2002: 1st Round
Germany 2006: Quarter-finals

Soccerphile says...

Navigating their way out of Group B should not present too many difficulties for the Argentines and having their first game nice and early will benefit them a great deal. History shows us that to be drawn in one of the first groups is a great advantage as you get your first round games out of the way nice and early and have plenty of time to rest ahead of the knock-out rounds.

After the group stage Argentina’s luck appears to run dry. It is a lottery who they will face in the second round but South Africa, France, Mexico and Uruguay all present a different set of challenges. If they make it Argentina look set to face Germany in the quarter-finals and Brazil in the semi-finals.

As much as I would like to see the Argentines go all the way I just cannot see them clearing these back-to-back hurdles which have proven their downfall so many times in the past.

World Cup 2010 squad
TBC

© Tim Sturtridge & Soccerphile.com

Fifa World Rankings December 2009

Fifa World Rankings December 2009.
Spain stay in top spot in this month's Fifa world rankings. Brazil are second followed by the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal.
Spain and Brazil are favorites to lift the World Cup trophy next summer.
If you feel for placing a bet, you should take advantage of a generous online betting bonus, that most operators offer to attract new customers before the World Cup.

Odds around 5.5 is offered on Spain, if you fancy the favorites!

England are in 9th place. Argentina are 8th. There are no changes in the top 11 places.

France are in 7th. Cameroon are the highest African team in 11th. Russia are 12th, with the USA two back in 14th.


1 Spain
2 Brazil
3 Netherlands
4 Italy
5 Portugal
6 Germany
7 France
8 Argentina
9 England
10 Croatia
11 Cameroon
12 Russia
13 Greece
14 USA
15 Chile
16 Côte d'Ivoire
17 Mexico
18 Switzerland
19 Serbia
20 Uruguay

Full world rankings

Last month's Fifa World Rankings

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jeonbuk Race Away With First Title

Jeonbuk Race Away With First Title.
The 2009 K-League season was a special one for a certain southwestern region as Jeolla Province welcomed the golden championship trophy for the first time ever. No longer can Jeonbuk Motors claim to be the only team on the continent to have won the Asian title without ever winning the domestic prize.

The car metaphor can be driven too far but the Motors were well-oiled from March to December. The team from Jeonju accelerated into top gear quickly, maintained top speed for most of the journey and despite a couple of bumps in the road and slippery patches, the engine was in just as good a condition at the end of the journey as it was at the beginning.

A late goal from Lim Sang-hyub gave Jeonbuk a draw at Gyeongnam on the first day of the season back in March and from then, the team never looked back. Six wins came from the next seven games with the only ‘failure’ a 1-1 tie at the home of Asian champions Pohang Steelers. Seven-time champions Seongnam were thrashed 4-1 and Jeju lost 5-0 at home while the favourites for the title, FC Seoul also came off second best.

Battling it out with Seoul and Pohang for first spot, Jeonbuk ended in identical fashion, collecting 19 points out of a possible 21 in the run-in. Such form enabled the team in green to finish top of the standings at the end of regular season. That didn’t mean the title however as in Korea, there are still championship play-offs to negotiate. They proved no problem as Jeonbuk defeated Seongnam Ilhwa in the final in early December – recording a 3-1 win that kept 37,000 fans warm in chilly temperatures.

There is no doubt as to which player grabbed the headlines. Lee Dong-gook did not have the best of times from 2006 to the start of 2009. ‘The Lion King’ missed the 2006 World Cup through injury, and then moved to England at the start of 2007. Those 18 months in the English Premier League with Middlesbrough didn’t go well and Lee returned to Korea in the second half of 2008. His subsequent short spell with Seongnam did not go well either and he headed to Jeonbuk before the start of the new season.

The 30 year-old may have failed in England’s northeast but he has been a big success in Korea’s southwest with 20 goals coming from Lee’s feet or head in 27 games.

It is great to be here and scoring goals,” he said just before the season ended. “I am enjoying my football and playing with some very good players.”

His words were as accurate as his feet in this case. Lee has the headlines but the supporting cast was impressive. Just like Jeonju’s famous dish of Bi Bim Bap, Jeonbuk’s offence has contained a healthy mix of different ingredients with Lee’s goals providing the kochujang, the hot pepper sauce that gives the dish the kick it needs.

A glance of the list of the players who recorded the most assists during the season reveals that Jeonbuk players occupy the top three spots. Choi Tae-wook and Brazilians Luiz Henrique and Eninho have contributed greatly to Jeonbuk’s success as well as the club’s easy-on-the-eye style of play.

At the back, Kim Sang-sik, jettisoned by Seongnam at the end of last season, was impressive for his new club while goalkeeper Kwon Soon-tae and fellow defender Choi Chul-soon were the model of consistency despite rarely grabbing the headlines
Jeonbuk has never grabbed the league title until now.

Things are changing in Korean football and Jeolla Province now has its seat at the top table of soccer powers in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

U.A.E. Premier League

The U.A.E. Premier League is in only it's second season. As such it is a remarkable achievement that they have managed to host the FIFA Club World Cup at a time when the hosts are guaranteed a place for a team from their country. This is a major coup, which unfortunately this year they have failed to capitalise on.

Dubai

FIFA requested that all leagues be professional and this gave all countries a chance to remarket their competitions. It is also possibly the reason that Michael Rodosthenous is here, he is the first non Emirati in such a role, and his expertise could move the game forward in this country, however he has a host of issues to deal with in order to achieve this, noticeably the mindset which is to be the best. Look at the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building (on 4th January next year when it opens) the Emiratis did not release details of its actual height so no one could beat it and then have added a spire to claim the title. They were determined that this would be the tallest.

Dubai

Clearly the U.A.E. cannot be the best in terms of football and they must learn to accept this, and realise that they can play a part, and they shouldn't give up because they are not number one.

I mentioned Abu Dhabi was easy to navigate as it is set up on a grid system. Well the one thing they forgot was to align the grid system with Mecca, and so all the mosques are at a slight angle.

Michael is in a similar position he hopes to transform the game in the U.A.E. but is working with hands tied and doesn't quite fit as Emirati society is a closed one. However his appointment with Al Nasr has also given him a role as the middleman in contact with the western world for the U.A.E. football authorities. Don't be surprised if we see former stars playing out their remaining days in the U.A.E. League in future years.

I spotted an interesting piece of fair play in their rules when teams from different leagues meet. "The FA has permitted the Premier clubs to register three foreign players with only two for the First Division clubs and thus in a match that pairs together a club from the Premier division against First division clubs in the President's Cup competition, the Premier clubs will field only two of their three foreign players".

In Spain it is not unusual for ex-pats to have close affiliation to their adopted clubs. Here it seems like they do not want outsiders involved. There is no advertising of fixtures in the press or even around the stadiums, and I couldn't find any information about local games in any of the English speaking newspapers. Of course part of the problem is that only 20% of the population are from the Emirates. Trying to find out about a game on Sunday saw me head to Bani Yas to meet Saeed, that evening they would be hosting Al Ain.

Or so we thought.

It had been raining now for two days and the streets of Abu Dhabi had turned into rivers. Arriving at the stadium I would not have been surprised to hear that the game had been postponed. It hadn't been postponed just moved to Al Ain. The information I had clearly stated that Bani Yas were at home and Saeed from Bani Yas wasn't aware of this change. (Bani Yas are in the process of building a new stadium and have stopped playing games at the old one).

So we went back to Khalidya, in Abu Dhabi and watched the game on TV in a sheesha bar with Liverpool v Arsenal on at the same time. I understand that Abu Dhabi is made up of over 200 islands, during half time Saeed went to find a cashpoint, he gave up as we were marooned.

Not put off the next day I headed north to Ajman, where I was confident they would be hosting Al Shabab that evening. First thing I did arriving in town was head to the stadium to confirm the kick off time. I managed to do this with the groundsman and I checked the conditions would be playable. The rain had now stopped and the sun had reappeared for the first time in days.

The game finished 5-3 to the hosts but the standard was very poor. It left me thinking that if this is the standard there is no point in star names coming here in a bid to promote the U.F.L. (the U.A.E. Football League) unless they are just here for the money. The process must start with the homegrown players. It is easy the coach to say that the foreigners did not play well, but they need to start to produce their own players and in order to do this they need to listen to the expertise that they are capable of buying in to.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

Emperor's Cup consolations for J. League also-rans

Emperor's Cup consolations for J. League also-rans.
When the dust had settled on another gripping J. League title race, many wondered whether anyone could stop Kashima Antlers after they picked up their third straight Japanese crown.

They got an answer - of sorts - after Gamba Osaka dumped the Antlers out of the season-ending Emperor's Cup at the quarter-final stage.

Gamba's belated victory came courtesy of a brace from ex-Oita Trinita striker Masato Yamazaki, who scored either side of a goal from Kashima front man Yuzo Tashiro.

The Osakans march on to a semi-final showdown with promoted side Vegalta Sendai, who shook off any ill-affects from their recent J2 title celebrations to beat a star-studded Kawasaki Frontale.

In front of a packed house of 18,340 fans at Yurtec Stadium in Sendai, the hosts prevailed thanks to a 2-1 extra-time victory.

Yuki Nakashima opened the scoring for the hosts, and Vegalta looked to be cruising to a place in the final four until Kazuhiro Murakami drove home a stoppage-time equaliser.

There was to be no monumental fightback from Frontale, however, as Vegalta striker Tomoyuki Hirase scored a late winner to seal Sendai's place in the semi-finals.

The other semi-final will be contested by Tokai rivals Shimizu S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus, although both sides experienced contrasting fortunes in their quarter-final matches.

Shimizu required a dramatic extra-time winner from veteran defender Arata Kodama to seal a 3-2 win over a plucky Albirex Niigata, with Kodama's goal coming just a minute from full-time.

Meanwhile, Nagoya cruised past cash-strapped local rivals FC Gifu courtesy of a 3-0 win in front of 12,211 fans at Mizuho Stadium, with Australian international Josh Kennedy scoring a hat-trick.

The win sets up an intriguing final four clash with regional rivals Shimizu S-Pulse on December 29, with Shimizu set to enjoy the lion's share of support as the two sides run out at Ecopa Stadium.

The other semi-final will take place at the National Stadium in Tokyo, as the four remaining Emperor's Cup combatants fight for their place in a New Year's Day showdown.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Monday, December 14, 2009

Photographs of South Africa

See what awaits you on a visit to South Africa with a look at our images of South Africa.

Photographs of South Africa

© Soccerphile.com

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Football in Soweto

Soweto, near Johannesburg, is a heartland of South African soccer and has produced many of South Africa's best players.



World Club Cup Part V

Whilst at Al Nasr, I found out about a football exhibition taking place in Abu Dhabi - "Footie." It would be a get together of all corners of the football world, with competitions, freestyle shows, auctions and....... lots more beside. What's more it would be the first even of its kind in the Middle East.

Dubai

Michael was considering having his club represented at the event, but worries over whether their display would be the best meant that they decided not to bother. It was interesting to see the mentality behind the decision. The Emiratis clearly were interested in doing this only if they were going to be the best.

Their decision was probably the right one as I was possibly the only visitor paying that day. Bernard Lama was the only one of a host of football stars who were due to attend. Lauren Robert was due to make an appearance but was apparently last seen shopping in Dubai.

Heading to the stadium for the first quarter final light rain started to fall.

The crowd for the game between Pohang Steelers and Mazembe cowered under whatever shelter they could find as the rain grew heavier during the match. The roof (remember what there is of it) was put to good effect as the evening's entertainment was provided by the Mazembe supporters in the main stand, the brass band and dancer were regularly displayed on the large screen and their presence gave the match a better atmosphere. Song 2 was blasted out as goals were scored. It was noticeable that this didn't happen at the first game. was this because the wrong team scored?

Pohang won but wasted numerous good chances whilst Mazembe failed to mark Denilson, the one player they knew who would cause them problems.

The next day saw the action switch to Zayed Sports City, a larger stadium further out of town. Free buses have been laid on to take fans from the centre of Abu Dhabi to the stadiums. I commandeered one from the Abu Dhabi mall and had it to myself until we were virtually at the venue. There was certainly enough buses to cope with a 50,000 crowd. Obviously no one told them how many tickets had been sold. The crowd was a mere 7,000, and once again the entertainment was provided by the Mazembe supporters who, given the top tier to themselves, kept the noise going all game.

Atlante dominated possession and it was no surprise when they scored. Auckland did create a couple of good chances on the break but Atante were too strong for them. Auckland's reward - they get to play Mazembe for the 5th place in the tournament.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009

World Club Cup Part IV

I mentioned earlier that I would try and find my way to any local games taking place, my quest started the moment I arrived at my hotel where I asked for their help in checking the fixtures. I believed there were two games taking place in Dubai, and that the following morning there would be camel racing at 7a.m.

Dubai

They confirmed the first game as I thought but told me the second game was actually due to take place here in Abu Dhabi at the Zayed Sports stadium, one of the venues for this competition. As for the camel racing they knew nothing about it. I was clearly up against it as I was sure that FIFA would not allow a stadium being used by them to host a local game. So now I knew I could not rely on the hotel for information.

Whilst collecting my tickets I spotted someone in an Al Ahli shirt, knowing that he must be from Dubai, I asked him about the fixtures the next day. Immediately he phoned a friend and confirmed that Al Nasr would play at 16.45 and Al Wasl would play at 20.00, in Dubai, at grounds just 10 minutes apart. Unfortunately the camel racing wasn't on in Dubai but it was in Abu Dhabi.

So my second day in the Emirates and I was off to Dubai, the Al Nasr website is one of only three that I had found with English content and kindly provided a location map for the ground. I spent the afternoon in Bastikaya before heading in the direction of the stadium. Meeting yet more roadworks on major roads meant navigation had become impossible. Jumping in a taxi I was soon at the ground.

I phoned my friend, who had said he might accompany me to the games, but he was still at work. Judging by the crowd, so was everyone else. It was hard to imagine that this was a stadium where recently crowd trouble had seen supporters banned. This was only a cup game and I was assured that there is more of a crowd, firstly for evening games and for the actual league games.

Without my friend I wasn't sure how I would get to Al Wasl later so I asked around and worked out that the ground was 10 minutes away, by car.

Al Nasr was the club that Don Revie managed after laying the foundations as U.A.E. national manager, where he had an unsuccessful reign but correctly predicted that they would appear in a World Cup finals in the next 15 years. They made their debut at Italia 1990, losing to Colombia, West Germany and Yugoslavia.

Al Nasr had lost their previous game 5-1 and their website announced that they were standing by their German manager, Frank Pagelsdorf, but their assistant coach and fitness coach would be leaving.

Al Nasr strolled into a 3-0 half time lead, as a lethargic Emirates defence watched. The second half saw the Emirates wake up, but a quick two goal burst from Al Nasr saw them run out 5-2 winners to restore some much needed pride.

Whilst watching the game I met Michael Rodosthenous, the Deputy Executive Director of Al Nasr. A former W.B.A. player who found his way here via Cambridge United and Adelaide Raiders. He explained the circumstances surrounding the crowd trouble. Al Nasr were hosting city rivals Al Ahli. Al Ahli were having a torrid time and were told they must not lose this game. Their was a lot of hype surrounding the game and Al Ahli were outplayed but winning 2-1 with five minutes to go. Al Nasr equalised, but the a dubious offside flag was raised. Spectators vented their anger and a sandal hit the linesman.

Michael showed me behind the scenes before driving me to the game at Al Wasl. We decided to take the scenic route as he showed me Dubai by night, passing the Emirates Towers and the tallest building in the world the Burj Dubai. Dropping me off I could hear there was a little more atmosphere, as expected for the evening kick off.

The game itself was a close affair with away side Al Jazirah winning 1-0. After the game a taxi back to Dubai saw me catch the bus back to Abu Dhabi. Now the camel racing was apparently due to take place 45km away from Abu Dhabi at 7a.m. As it was now 1a.m and I couldn't confirm where the track was or how to get there I decided to give it a miss.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster On Sale

The simple but powerful 2010 World Cup poster has a bright yellow background, symbolizing the sun and the warmth of the African continent and its people. The colors of the South African flag: red, green, blue, black, white and yellow are also present in the design.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

The image is of a black African heading a soccer ball. The head of the figure is in the shape of the African continent.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

World Cup posters are much sought after items which retain their value for collectors.

South Africa World Cup 2010 Poster

Soccerphile also offers original Germany World Cup 2006 posters and replica 1930 World Cup posters.

Friday, December 11, 2009

World Club Cup Part III

My route this time took me to Muscat, Oman and then to Dubai, where a flight of 22 minutes saw me arrive back in Abu Dhabi at 13.40 on Matchday 1.

Dubai

The first difference I noticed was that this time there was a bus available for passengers to get to the city centre. So after numerous enquiries I was sent outside to search for the elusive bus stop. Sure enough I found a stop but there were no signs (in English) indicating the times or the route. So I waited ...and waited. Eventually other people arrived but they wanted to share a taxi, so as time was getting on I decided to join them. My companions both worked at the airport and were from Mauritius and Egypt. Both were keen on football but had little idea about the competition that was due to start in their adopted city in around 5 hours time.

Arriving in downtown Abu Dhabi I was confident I would be able to find my way about as the city is laid out in a grid system. However I didn't take into account the massive reconstruction taking place to the main road in Abu Dhabi itself. At first I was told the work was to do with the laying of a Metro (keeping up with Dubai, who have recently opened a 30 km route), I believe the work is actually to build a major underpass right into the heart of the city. So with a lot of help from my Egyptian friend I found my hotel somewhat further out from the centre than I was last time, and apparently cut off with the nearby 4 lane highway desolate.

My next task was to collect my tickets, I showed the address to a number of people who couldn't help. Jumping in a taxi, was my only option. I had seen on my map there was a football stadium near where I believed the address was so I asked the driver to head for that area. My taxi driver was from Nepal, and although he knew the roads, he wasn't aware of the event taking place, as soon as he understood what was happening he asked if "oomey" was playing. Minutes later I realised he meant Rooney.

Eventually spotted Football House, with FIFA banners and joined a small throng of anxious supporters waiting to collect tickets. Everyone seemed to be having problems. They couldn't find their envelope or the tickets they received were not what they expected. A bit of patience would be asked for by the staff and a few minutes later everything was miraculously put right. Eventually it was my turn. Seconds later I received my envelope complete with the set of tickets I had requested. Enquiring on how to get to the Stadium where kick off was now less than two hours away I was told it was less then 10 minutes, in my car. Overhearing a fellow supporter offered me a lift. He was Indian and lived right next to the Stadium.

Having a spare ticket, I decided to see if I could find someone who needed one. My original idea was to visit the Adidas shop in the centre and to give it to one of the staff there as they had provided me with tickets for my last visit here to the Gulf Cup in 2007, but time was against me as the roads were busy.

Supporters were channeled through security searches and into the Fan Zone, before they would enter the stadium, I watched with interest as various chancers tried their luck at breaching the security. They weren't the ones I was looking to spend an evening with. Half an hour before kick off I meet Saeed, dressed in his dishdasha. At last a local, I thought. He needed a ticket and was happy to join Me in my Category 1 (the best seats!) position behind the goal 8 rows up in the corner.

Saeed of course was not an Emirati, but he was the nearest I had met as he was from Yemen. He had a great love of football and also knew about the local league. He told me he was from Bani Yas, and I told him I would be there on Monday for their game against Al Ain. We exchanged emails and agreed to meet at the bus station Monday night.

The stadium itself is magnificent, I was interested to see a note in the official programme that the roof had been special constructed so that it could reflect crowd noise. Surely this along with the 'UAE make some noise" slogan evident around the city would make for a good atmosphere.

Well the stadium in in Abu Dhabi where the weather is hot all year round, now a roof to provide shade would be great, but the stadium with the extra tier added to the three sides where the majority of spectators are seated has no roof. The only roof is on the main stand where the journalist's and VIPs were housed.

The home team support for such an event was disappointing, contrasting markedly with the enthusiasm I had seen in Japan two years earlier. The teams display matched that of their fans lethargic and not totally committed to the cause. They deserved to lose.

Reading the paper the next day the foreign stars were blamed and the papers made it clear that there would be changes to the team.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

Green Fields of England

Green Fields of England was written in support of England at the World Cup in 2010. In the lyrics we hoped to capture and celebrate, the pride that an Englishman has for England, its character, and its football team.

This song is for England, not the UK or GB. My late Grandfather did serve in both world wars, and that line is for him.

You can go to and hear the song for free.

Play it loud!

Green Fields of England by George and the Dragons
[©M.Charles]

Verse 1
Never underestimate the love of an Englishman,
Love of an Englishman for England
Deep within his heart he feels such pride for his country
The precious country, that he loves

Pre-chorus
From the Angel of the North to the Cornish coast
From Charlton, Hurst and Moore to a Sunday roast

Chorus
`Till I die I`ll love the green fields of England
Green fields of England that is home
Deep in my soul you find the things that I stand for
Grandfather fought for in the wars

Verse 2
And when they're under fire, we`ll lift them higher
So get behind the Boys,
Come on and make some noise, for Eng---LAND
From the Beatles and the Stones to the Fawlty Towers
We gave the world football and this time its ours

Chorus
'Till I die I'll love the green fields of England
Green fields of England that is home
Deep in my soul you find the things that I stand for
Grandfather fought for in the wars

Pre-chorus
From a sense of fair play to a pint of beer
The best league in the world you're gonna find it here
From the fish and chips to strawberries and cream
We gonna get behind Capello`s Eng-lish team

Chorus
`Till I die I`ll love the green fields of England
Green fields of England that is home
Deep in my soul you find the things that I stand for
Grandfather fought for in the wars

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Steelers Set For World Challenge

Steelers Set For World Challenge.
Barcelona and Pohang. One is a seductive Spanish city by the deep blue sea of the Mediterranean where locals and tourists alike wander down La Ramblas and gawp at Gaudi’s Cathedral, the other is an industrial city on the south-east coast of South Korea dominated by POSCO’s massive steel factory.

It is a harsh comparison to be honest. Few places on this planet compare favorably to the host of the 1992 Olympics and in Pohang’s defense, industrial backdrops often provide foundations for success in the beautiful game.

Barcelona and Pohang’s paths haven’t come close to crossing on the football field but that is about to change. There is a chance that two teams could meet in Abu Dhabi over the next few days at FIFA's Club World Cup. The annual tournament, which runs from December 9 to 19, sees the champions of each continent do battle for the prize of club world champions.

Pohang’s head coach Sergio Farias, who led the K-League team to the Asian title in November, is looking forward to the competition but not making any wild predictions.
"We’ve managed to win at least one trophy each year so far. Now that we’ve won everything in Korea, the Asian Champions League, and we’re taking part in the Club World Cup," said the Brazilian last week.

"Honestly I don’t think we’re capable of winning the competition at the moment, but I think it’s possible for us to win it someday. Nobody knows the limit in football, and anything can happen. In Pohang, we have a very good side and we’re aiming at a higher level. It would be foolish to underestimate us, because we are the champions of Asia.

Such a match would end what has been a very good year for Korean football and it is a game that all Korean fans and the nation’s media are desperate to see. If so, it would be the third successive year that the Asian champion met its European counterpart.

In the 2008 version of the annual competition, Manchester United took on Gamba Osaka to win 5-3. Last May, Barcelona defeated Manchester United to win the 2009 UEFA Champions League and the Catalonia club is largely recognized at the best in the world at the moment.

Messi.


With players like Argentine star Lionel Messi, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, French forward Thierry Henry as well as Spanish internationals such as Xavi Hernandes and Andres Iniesta, this is a team that inspires fear, for its prowess, and affection, for the way it plays the beautiful game, in equal measure.

The problem for Pohang is that it can’t meet Barcelona until the final and while the road to that game isn’t far, it is also not easy.

The champions of Africa and then South America stand in the way. The Steelers start out against Congo club TP Mazembe on December 11. If the team from Lubumbashi is defeated then comes a semifinal against South America’s best club team Estudiantes de La Plata.

If the Steelers can put the Argentines to the sword then a chance to face Barcelona, assuming the Spanish team makes it through its semi-final (which will be against either Auckland City of New Zealand or Atlante of Mexico)

One thing is Pohang’s favour is that if it makes the final, the number of games that Barcelona has played recently - and another journey far from Spain, after chilly trips in the Champions League to Russia and Ukraine - could count against the European team.

It is probably a vain hope but for Pohang, it is all about getting there. Playing Barcelona in a meaningful game and not in a commercial exhibition match would make headlines all over Korea and Asia.

"Our South American and European counterparts may enter the tournament at the semi-final stage, but we’ve got some players who are more than capable of competing in the leagues in South America and Europe,” added Farias.

"We don’t want this big opportunity to pass us by. We will give our all to achieve as much as we can."

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Monday, December 7, 2009

World Club Cup Part II

Preparations for this tournament were somewhat easier than my last visit two years ago. The FIFA website allowed me to purchase tickets, saving me the problems I faced last time when I arrived unsure of how to obtain them, they even said they would deliver the tickets to my home address before the tournament started . If you have followed my travels you will know that collecting the tickets is never straightforward and, sure enough, a week before the competition I received an email asking me to collect my tickets in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai

I am due to arrive at lunch time on the day the competition starts with the first game kicking off at 8 p.m. Last time I would have been in danger of not being able to get in due to the fans arriving hours before the kick off. Surely this time with it being a FIFA event and the fact that I have officially paid for a ticket there will be no such problem. We'll see.

The U.A.E. comes to a halt for two weeks whilst the championship takes place, however I have spotted that there are some Cup competitions taking place whilst I am there, and so I have been scouring the web to find out more.

Studying the websites of the clubs it was interesting to find that supporters were awarded free away trips with their clubs by entering poetry competitions.

Unfortunately the poems were in Arabic and so I was unable to translate them.

Mmm. So maybe they went like this.

Six foot two,
Eyes of azul,
Carlos Puyol's after you

And I wanna be
U. A. E.
(With thanks to FC United and The Sex Pistols)

Guess it's a good job I bought my own tickets.

I also noticed fans being informed in advance of the strip there team would be wearing and that the away team would post a notice that so many tickets would be left for supporters free of charge at the away end. (Are you Wigan in reverse?)

Finally, found a game that is taking place whilst I am there Al Nasr will play Emirates in the Emirates Cup on Thursday 10th December. Excellent. I already knew that they were based in Dubai and had just lost 5-1 at home to Al Jazira, looking at photographs of the game I noticed the empty stands (...completely empty stands). My first thought was of Don Valley, where it could appear the same from a wide variety of angles. However I was surprised to find the following article

Ruthless Al Jazira Rout Al Nasr
Dubai – Five beautiful goals from Oliveira, Tony and Salem Masoud handed Al Nasr a humiliating 5-1 home defeat from ruthless Al Jazira at Al Wasl Stadium here on Saturday night.

Al Nasr have been forced by the football governing body to play two of their league games at neutral venues without fans following the unnecessary misconduct of their fans during their match against city rivals Al Ahli.

Guess I will wait until I arrive before setting out on any adventures.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

Sunday, December 6, 2009

FIFA Club World Cup Abu Dhabi

The FIFA Club World Cup is about to take place in Abu Dhabi between 9th and 19th December. The competition sees the champions of the six continental federations compete for the title and the honour to wear the FIFA Club World Badge until the next Championship.

Dubai

This will bring back memories of my visit in 2007 when U. A. E. won the Gulf Cup. The games will be played at two stadiums Zayed Sports City(49,500) and the stylish Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium (42,056), which has added an extra tier to three sides since my last visit.

One of FIFA's improvements to the format of the competition has been the introduction of a team from the host country competing. This has livened affairs and helped generate more interest amongst the locals.

This time the honour goes to Al Ahli (Which simply means "national' in Arabic) who won the U.A.E. 2008-9 league title. However this season they currently lie 6th in the 12 team league without a win at home. They did manage to win their last league game on Friday 3-0 at bottom club Ajman.

Al Ahli come from neighbouring Dubai. I am not sure what the Abu Dhabi residents will make of that. It feels like the equivalent of playing the tournament in the UK at Old Trafford with Liverpool representing. Now how would that go down.

Al Ahli, you may have heard of as they were the club involved in the friendly brawl with Chelsea in August this year, accused of karate kicks, knee-high tackles hair pulling out and eye gouging.

I believe they were named after the Egyptian champions who also hold the record for the most appearances in the World Club Cup. Their appearance will mean that "National " have appeared in 4 of the six competitions.

Their opposition in a play off game for the right to meet the CONCACAF Champions in the Quarter Final will be Auckland City Oceania Champion League holders who beat Koloale FC from the Solomon Islands 9-4 on aggregate. The second leg was played in Auckland in front of 1,250 spectators.

The second and only other quarter final! (Remember FIFA make the rules) will be between Tout Puissant Mazembe Englebert and Pohang Steelers.

Tout Puissant Mazembe Englebert (Democratic Republic of Congo), what a name. Upon first hearing the name I started on my own Nick Hornby type list of football teams with peoples names. Immediate thoughts for me begin with the likes obviously of Ross County (Ironically the only team here I haven't seen play). Then of course you have Chelsea, Everton, Crewe Alexandra (possibly named after a pub), then there are obvious European teams Paris St Germain, AC Milan, Siena and Carl Zeiss Jena. From South America River Plate and finally AS Nancy Lorraine which takes the number one spot for managing two names.

Intrigued by the name Englebert I decided a bit of research was required. I found that they weren't happy with their original name given to them by the Benedictine monks that founded the club in 1939 - Holy Team Georges. The name lasted for only five years and they were then rechristened Holy Paul F.C. Would you believe that Englebert came from their sponsors, a local tyre brand. Tout Puissant (all powerful) was added was added after they won their first league titlle in 1966. So watch out for another change in name if they have a succesful tournament.

Mazembe won the Orange Confederation of African Football title after beating Heartland of Nigeria on away goals

Pohang Steelers from South Korea are unimaginatively named as they belong to the Pohang Iron & Steel Company, they even play at the Steelyard. They beat Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia at the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo to qualify as Asian Football Champions.

Atlante from Mexico will represent CONCACAF (North America, Central America and the Caribbean). They defeated Cruz Azul, but only after the match had been postponed initially due to concerns over Swine Flu in Mexico.

The next two teams join at the semi final stage, perhaps due to the origins of this competition which comes from the old Intercontinental Cup which was held from 1960 to 2004 between the champions of South America and Europe. This also gives them the best chance of being the showpiece final that FIFA want.

Estudiantes de la Plata managed by a certain Alejandro Sabella, yes it is Alex Sabella who played for Leeds United between 1978 -80. No prizes for guessing which team I'll be supporting.

Oh and of course Barcelona will be there as well.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Samurai Blue handed tough draw in South Africa

Samurai Blue handed tough draw in South Africa.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada reacted calmly to his nation's World Cup draw, after the Samurai Blue were drawn in Group E alongside the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon.

Having claimed that Japan are aiming for a semi-finals berth in South Africa, the Asian powerhouses must first negotiate a tough group that includes Bert van Marwijk's highly-fancied Dutch side.

The Netherlands beat Japan 3-0 when the two sides met in a friendly in Enschede in September, and Okada's men will need to find a way of dealing with not one, but two European opponents in South Africa.

Denmark will likewise provide a stern test for the Japanese, while Cameroon will be eager to impress on African soil.

Despite the tough draw, Okada was optimistic about his side's chances of progressing.

However, former Japan coach Ivica Osim had a warning for his successor, telling reporters in Tokyo on the eve of the draw,
"the bigger the expectations, the bigger the disappointment."

Japan's first match is against Cameroon on June 14 in Bloemfontein, before they take on the Netherlands in Durban on June 19 and end their group stage campaign against Denmark in Rustenburg on June 24.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Friday, December 4, 2009

World Cup 2010 Draw

World Cup 2010 Draw.
The draw for the 2010 World Cup is complete.

A couple of the groups contend for the "Group of Death" label. Group D with Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana and Group G with Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. England got lucky paired with USA, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C. Hosts South Africa have a tough draw but will remain hopeful home advantage can lift them out of the group stage.


Group A: *South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
Group B: *Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria, Greece
Group C: *England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Group D: *Germany, Australia, Ghana, Serbia
Group E: *Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark
Group F: *Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia
Group G: *Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Cost, Portugal
Group H: *Spain, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland

* seeded teams

Final day showdown in epic J. League race

Final day showdown in epic J. League race.
At approximately 5.20pm on a chilly Saturday afternoon, the 2009 J. League champions will thrust their glittering trophy into wintry Japanese skies.

Whether it is two-time defending champions Kashima Antlers left celebrating, or the trophy-hungry Kawasaki Frontale, is the question still to be resolved.

Kashima hold the upper hand after Oswaldo de Oliveira's side obliterated the only other title contender Gamba Osaka last weekend, as the Antlers ran riot in a 5-1 home victory.

Kawasaki kept alive their hopes of claiming a first ever piece of silverware thanks to a narrow 1-0 win at home to Albirex Niigata.

Not for the first time in J. League history, it all comes down to the final day of the season - with fans once again set to pack stadia up and down the country.

Tickets for the clash between Urawa Reds and their bitter rivals Kashima have been sold out for weeks, ensuring that more than 60,000 fans should turn out a packed Saitama Stadium.

The Reds may be disappointed to have missed out on a top-three finish and a place in next season's Asian Champions League, but they would love nothing more than to derail Kashima's title ambitions.

Meanwhile, relegated Kashiwa Reysol will host Kawasaki Frontale at the compact Kashiwa Hitachi Stadium in Chiba, with Kashiwa dropping out of the top flight on the back of their 1-1 draw away at Omiya Ardija last time out.

Nevertheless, the Sun Kings will be determined to make life as tough as possible for a nervy Kawasaki - who have already lost the League Cup final to local rivals FC Tokyo this season.

Takashi Sekizuka's free-flowing Kawasaki side may play some of the most attractive football in Japan, but they've blown countless opportunities to wrap up the league title this season.

Should they fail to claim the title, Frontale will find it tough to shake off the tag as 'chokers' - with the J. League's nearlymen once again so close, yet so far from that elusive piece of silverware.

Kashiwa Reysol will be joined by Oita Trinita and JEF United in J2 next season, with Vegalta Sendai and Cerezo Osaka already confirmed to replace them.

The final promotion place will be taken by either Shonan Bellmare or Ventforet Kofu, and both will be nervously monitoring scores around the grounds of J2.

However, it's the Kanto plain that will command all the attention, as Kashima look to capitalise on their two-point break over Kawasaki.

Should Kashima fail to beat Urawa at a hostile Saitama Stadium, then it could be Kawasaki left celebrating at the compact Hitachidai.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J. League News