Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marco Borriello - profil igrača

Novi talijanski bombarder

Je li stiglo vrijeme Marca Borriella?

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

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

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

Osobna karta

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

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Zri šport

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Interview: FC Seoul's Kiki Musampa

Musampa after training.

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

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

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

How old were you when you joined Ajax?

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

Some would say that you had the perfect football education…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bosman Ruling destroyed that team, it was sad…

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

Kiki Musampa in action for Seoul against Incheon United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spanish football suited you?

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

Why did you then leave for Atletico?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why did you choose Korea?

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

You went to Toronto?

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

In what way?

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

So you came to Korea.

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

Seongnam were also interested. Why did you choose Seoul?

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

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

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

Musampa is unveiled to the Seoul fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about communication?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 28, 2008

J. League Results 27/04/08

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

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

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

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

J1

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

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



Leading Positions

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


J2

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

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


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


Leading Positions

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

Last week's J.League results and standings

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nagoya lead the way as the J. League goes Golden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kawasaki Frontale manager Takashi Sekizuka steps down47-year-old Kawasaki Frontale manager Takashi Sekizuka has resigned, citing poor health for his decision.

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

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

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

Nabisco League Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC Champions League

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I’ve just about had an oeuf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mixed Bag For Korea's Exports To Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekly Soccer News 21 April 2008

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

Standard Liege on top 25 years later

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

PSV make it four in a row

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

Olympiacos continue to frustrate rivals

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

Luca Toni makes good of Kahn's words

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

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

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

Eduardo da Silva continues rehabilitation in Rio

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

Nereida Gallardo is new Cristiano's sweetheart

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

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

J.League Results 21/04/08

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

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

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

J1

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

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


Leading Positions

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

J2

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

FC Gifu 2 Yokohama FC 3
Ehime FC 1 Vegalta 1

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

Leading Positions

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

Last week's J.League results and standings

Friday, April 18, 2008

London coach crash claims two victims

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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

There Ste Goes Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Interview: China International Li Weifeng

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

Monday, April 14, 2008

Seoul Still Sing Suwon Blues

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

J.League Results 14/04/08

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

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

J1

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


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

Leading Positions

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

J2

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

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


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

Leading Positions

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

Last week's J.League results and standings

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shimizu S-Pulse v Nagoya Grampus

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

Saturday, April 12, 2008

UEFA Cup semifinals preview

UEFA Cup report

Champions League semifinals preview 2008

Champions League semifinals preview 2008.
Champions League report

Old acquaintances meet again

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

World Soccer News Croatian Cruyff

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

Liverpool after "Croatian Cruyff", Luka Modric

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

World Soccer News Croatian Cruyff.


Porto celebrate title, but is it too early?

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

Playing at high altitude could be fatal, say doctors

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

Mijatovic tries to lure Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid


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


Getafe protests over favouritism towards Valencia


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

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Red Bull – It Gives You Wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Seoul And Suwon Get Ready For The Big One

Seoul And Suwon Get Ready For The Big One.

Sunday sees the biggest regular fixture of the season – the meeting between FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings – and if any extra spice was needed then the fact that the two teams occupy the top two spots in the K-League is more than enough.

The corresponding 2007 match at Seoul World Cup Stadium, almost exactly a year ago, saw the K-League record attendance smashed as 55,000 people saw the Bluewings win 1-0 – a new record could be set this Sunday.

Winning is a big deal for both teams and supporters but losing can have consequences too. The result one year ago stopped a promising Seoul season in its tracks. At the time of the meeting, Seoul was sitting pretty at the top of the table but after the Suwon defeat, the capital club failed to win any of its following eight matches and slid down the table.

For many fans, it is the first game that they look for when the K-league release the fixture list at the start of the season. Sure, the media hypes the game to the nth degree but nobody minds too much as fans and journalists are just happy to have a genuine big match to talk about and attend.

When LG, or GS as it now seems to be called, moved Anyang Cheetahs to the capital in 2004 and renamed it FC Seoul, they broke up the fiercest rivalry in the K-League. Anyang and Suwon had been going at it for years. The move to the capital was greeted by dismay by the vast majority of football fans, including those of Suwon, and it is safe to say that FC Seoul is the most unpopular club in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Suwon is owned by LG rivals Samsung but electronic goods will be far from minds when the game kicks off. The two teams have met already this season in the Hauzen Cup - last Wednesday, at the same stadium in fact. Suwon won 2-0 with two late goals. Seoul had chances of its own and frustration boiled over in the very final seconds of the game.

A late tackle by Seoul’s Lee Sang-yeob on Song Chong-guk didn’t please the Suwon skipper as soon players and members of coaching staff from both teams were pushing and shoving as if their lives depended on it. That was pretty much how the game ended and there will certainly be no need for pre-match motivational talks on Sunday.

Both teams have started the season well and have collected ten points from four games. Suwon enjoys a better goal difference and the team has looked solid and smooth. Only seven-time champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma has taken points from the Bluewings. Bearded Brazilian striker Edu has scored four and the defence has been as tight and expertly marshalled by Croatian Mato Neretljak. Last weekend’s 2-0 win at the home of a spirited Busan I’Park was a clinical lesson in how to win away from home.

Seoul hasn’t been as slick but has picked up points. Last week’s 1-0 victory in Gwangju wasn’t pretty but it was a battling performance notable for a free-kick special from Park Chu-young. The young striker is returning to fitness and form and along with big pre-season signing Dejan Damjanovic, Seoul could soon start to possess a goal threat that they have lacked for some time.

It should be a good day.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FIFA World Rankings April 2008

FIFA World Rankings April 2008.
The top seven teams are unchanged in this month's Fifa world rankings.

Argentina are still top followed by Brazil, Italy and Spain. England remain in 11th place, despite a friendly defeat in France, Scotland drop one spot to 15th and the USA rise 7 places to 21st.

With Euro 2008 to kick off in June, of the 16 teams taking part 15 are in the top 50, the only exception being co-hosts Austria way down in 102nd position.

Italy are the highest ranked at 3rd, followed by Spain 4th, Germany 5th, Czech Republic 6th, France 7th, Greece 8th, Portugal 9th, Netherlands 10th, Romania 12th, Croatia 13th, Turkey 23rd, Sweden 24th, Russia 25th, Poland 28th, Switzerland 46th and poor old Austria 102nd.

The closeness of the ranking shows what a tight tournament lays in store.

1 Argentina
2 Brazil
3 Italy
4 Spain
5 Germany
6 Czech Republic
7 France
8 Greece
9 Portugal
10 Netherlands
11 England
12 Romania
13 Croatia
14 Ghana
15 Scotland
16 Mexico
17 Cameroon
18 Bulgaria
19 Colombia
20 Israel

Full world rankings

Last month's Fifa World Rankings

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Shanghai Get Off To Winning Start

Shanghai Shenhua's Blue Devils
It was the first game of the season and for Shanghai Shenhua it was a pretty good start. A comfortable 2-0 win against Shenzhen Shangyangin put the 2003 champions on the right track from the off.

With the Chinese Super League expanded to 16 teams in 2008, there are another 29 games remaining for the club.



It was a chilly Saturday night at the Hongkou Stadium but Shanghai attacked from the beginning. The breakthrough game midway through the first half when former Celtic loanee Du Wei headed home powerfully from a corner.

Shenzhen on a rare attack

Shenzhen did their best to get back into the match but the boys from the south are a shadow of the team that won the 2004 title. A lack of investment and problems off the pitch has seen Shenzhen struggle ever since that success.



The game was over as a contest early in the second half as Shanghai added a second. The rest of the match petered out but Shenhua played some good stuff. There is a long way to go but everybody went home happy.

Hongkou Stadium

The fans headed home on one of the two subway stations that are within a stone's throw of the stadium. Though there is no need to rush off as there are a host of restaurants surrounding the complex and the neighbourhood and its pubs are worth exploring.

Shanghai subway

Copyright: Soccerphile and John Duerden

Monday, April 7, 2008

Interview: Shanghai Shenhua Boss Wu Jingui

Wu Jingui talking to reporters at Shanghai Shenhua's training ground
With the Chinese season just kicking off, hopes are high among all the major contenders that this will be their year. This is certainly true of Shanghai Shenhua, one of the powerhouses of football in the Middle Kingdom..

The team ended a turbulent 2007 in fourth place, not a bad achievement for a season that started with a controversial merger with Shanghai United.

Coach Wu Jingui was coach of Shenhua before the merger, was shipped out fr a few months and then returned to his old job later in the season.

At Shanghai Shenhua’s large training camp deep in the south of this sprawling city, he talked to John Duerden.

How do you feel about the new season?

Always before a new season, the feeling is the same. We are excited, a little bit nervous and we also have a vision about the season ahead. We will be stronger this last year. We have some new foreign players. We have bought three new overseas players and have kept one from last season. We had a good pre-season, we trained in China and then went to Japan and played a lot of friendly games. We have improved our training and our organization.

Which teams will be your challengers this season?
Dalian Shide, Shandong Luneng, last year’s champions Changchun Yatai are all strong teams and we expect a challenge from Beijing and Tianjin.The usual!

Fine-tuning before the season start

Any dark horses?

Chengdu have been promoted last season and have brought in a lot of experienced players and they could have a good season.

You watched the North and South Korea game. What did you think of it?

It was a good game. Both teams are at a high level and high class, especially South Korea. They are very compact. Both teams fight for everything but South Korea are at a higher level.

How about China and Australia?

We had a really good chance to win this game. They came without many of their key players and after a long journey.

The start of the season was delayed to accommodate the national team. Is this a problem?

For my part, it gives us more time to prepare for the new season but the football association also needs to think about the clubs.

clubhouse entrance

If you could change one thing about Chinese football, what would you do?

We need to look at the Premier League, they changed lots of things and improved lots of things. They brought in good coaches for example - Alex Ferguson from Scotland, Arsene Wenger from France, Benitez from Spain, Mourinho and Ramos from Valencia.

These are all foreign high-level coaches who bring a lot of things to the country. If we want to progress and improve, we have to bring in high-level coaches from outside and learn from them and help them improve Chinese football. We have had foreign coaches before but didn’t profit from that. Before 1990, we were amateur. But now every year I go to Germany or England and try to learn something new.

How about the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese players?

Chinese players are good physically but we have to change the way we play. We have good players but we need good coaches to improve them. We have quality players but not like Japan or Korea.

Why are Japanese and Korean players better?

They have been playing longer and at a higher level. In China we changed the system in 1992 and the people have to change their minds. We have to put new things in their heads.

Is Chinese football improving?

Each year it is improving but it is hard to make the big step, to reach a certain level. If you want to do so, we need to change. It is like the High Jump, once you reach two metres 20, it is difficult to jump higher but that is what we must try to do.

What kind of team is Shanghai?


We are a good team. Last year a new boss came, he brought us a lot of new things. Now we are feeling good.

Shanghai,China captain Li Weifeng

In 2007, Shanghai United merged with Shanghai Shenhua. After that, you left. How did you feel?

For me, every season is full of pressure so it was good to get the chance to relax. I went to England and Argentina to watch football.

You came back later. How did that happen?

We were always in contact and then we met with the board to talk about football and the team.

Why did they ask you to return?

There were a lot of candidates and the club talked to a lot of other coaches but I knew the team and the club. I am Chinese and knew what we needed – in my head at least!

You had so many players, around 50, how did you deal with that situation?

I had over 50 players. The foreign coach didn’t know the players that we important for the team and what the team needed. We tried to do the best for the players – which ones to keep and which ones we should let go.

Copyright: Soccerphile & John Duerden

J.League Results 6/04/08

J.League Results 6/04/08.
Sunday, 6 April

Reigning J-League champions Kashima Antlers stay unbeaten with maximum points, followed by Nagoya Grampus, and Gamba Osaka.

The largest crowd of the weekend, 27,866, saw Urawa Reds, improving under new coach Gert Engels, defeat Jubilo away. Only 7,339 spectators were in attendance for Ardija's 2-0 win at home over visiting Trinita.

J1

Omiya Ardija 2 Oita Trinita 0
Iwata Jubilo 1 Urawa Reds 2
Kashima Antlers 4 JEF United 1
FC Tokyo 1 Sapporo Consodole 0
Nagoya Grampus 2 Yokohama F Marinos 0
Gamba Osaka 2 Shimizu S-Pulse 0
Vissel Kobe 0 Tokyo Verdy 1
Kawasaki Frontale 0 Kyoto Sanga 1
Kashiwa Reysol 0 Niigata Albirex 0

Leading Positions

Antlers P5 Pts 15
Grampus P5 Pts 13
Gamba P5 Pts 10

J2

Thespa 1 Bellmare 2
Ehime FC 1 Sagan 2
Yokohama FC 1 Sendai Vegalta 1
Roasso 1 Montedio 2
Ventforet 3 Cerezo 2
FC Gigu 1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1

Leading Positions

Sanfrecce P5 Pts 11
Sagan P5 Pts 11
Yokohama P6 Pts 10
Vegalta P6 Pts 10

Last week's J.League results and standings

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Carols

The adult film industry has many knockers, but I remain a fully-fledged supporter. My only possible critique would be that the storylines occasionally lack realism. I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was with my job as a photocopier repair man.

My wife is a fierce critic of the genre as she incorrectly believes that the art form demeans women. Personally, I think it’s a positive when a hobby becomes an occupation; I would love to get paid for sending nude photographs of myself to Cheryl Tweedy. I’ll have to finance my pastime by backing Portsmouth at 10/11 to beat West Brom in their FA Cup semi-final.

My favourite sub-genre of the adult entertainment industry is the one when two ladies take a spiritual road to self-discovery. There are things I’d rather not see though, and watching Barnsley play Cardiff is the equivalent of watching Lisa Riley tinker with Jade Goody. Cardiff will probably win their semi at 11/8, but I’d rather watch something a little more uplifting.

Robbie Savage has all the attributes needed to launch a career in exotic films. He’s blonde, he breathes heavily for 90 minutes and he never needs a second invitation to go down. I can’t see the Derby man getting any satisfaction from Everton; the Toffeemen are the weekend banker at 2/7.

Roy Keane has always enjoyed a ruck, but he may be punching above his weight by labelling Sir Alex Ferguson ‘a hypocrite’. Admittedly, he never mentioned Fergie by name, but it couldn’t have been more obvious unless he used the term ‘purple-nose’. Fulham can momentarily quieten the fiery Irishman at 11/8.

Manchester City have gone backwards since they signed Benjani. To be fair to Sven, he tried everything in his power to get out of the deal; he said he’d accept Benni McCarthy, Benayoun or Benny from Crossroads as a compromise, but it was all to no avail. Chelsea will take full advantage of Sven’s massive rick at 4/5.

Mike Ashley has reportedly lost £129m gambling on financial markets; he’s probably regretting following me in on last week’s bets. I’m having £2 on Newcastle to beat Reading at 4/5.

The world and his dog are singing the praises of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Middlesbrough fans are a little more hesitant - all three of them believe that he’s a diver. I nearly collapsed when I saw 15/2 next to a Boro win over Manchester United.

Steve Bruce will do everything in his power to send Birmingham down when Wigan face his former side on Saturday. I have nothing but admiration for Bruce’s stance, you should always finish a job that you start. Wigan may have to settle for a point at 23/10.

I was stunned when Tottenham’s defences were breached on numerous occasions by Newcastle last week. It was just like a scene from my favourite movie, ‘Snatch’. I have a feeling that Tottenham may already be on their summer break; Blackburn can take full advantage at 6/4.

El Hadji Diouf would never make it in the world of erotic film - he’s a spitter. I had to swallow on several occasions when I saw 8/11 for an Aston Villa win over Bolton.

They say that good things come in threes, and I’m a huge fan of the ‘Rod-Farther Trilogy’. Arsenal are a confident shout at 6/5 to win the second part of their triple-header against Liverpool, unless the referee is Dirk Kuyt’s neighbour.

It’s now reached the stage where my wife has forced me to choose between her and my collection of adult art; so i’m on the lookout for a new dishwasher. Portsmouth, Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle form an 11/1 accer that will bring in the necessary funds.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mexico victims of the English malaise

Mexico victims of the English malaise.
Five days after Mexico beat Ghana 2-1 in London, Hugo Sanchez was fired as Mexico's coach. How so? He had only been in charge a year and a half, so what went so badly wrong?

Under his tenure, Mexico lost the Gold Cup final 2-1 to the USA in Chicago, but that should have been no reason for dismissal since the CONCACAF bragging rights definitively crossed the Rio Grande when the States downed El Tri 2-0 back in the 2002 World Cup.

Mexico also thumped Paraguay 6-0 and beat Brazil, yes Brazil, 2-0 in last summer's Copa America in Venezuela, before finishing third overall; another reason not to sack him one would have thought.

Expectations had been raised by the fact Mexico won the U17 World Cup in 2005 and reached the last eight of the U20 World Cup in 2007, and thus the recent failure of the U23s to qualify for the Beijing Olympics was the biggest casus belli for the Federation.

Olympic soccer is roughtly on a par with five-a-side football for most European nations, but apparently not so in Mexico, where the national team coach, in this case Sanchez, is also tasked with coaching the team to go to the Olympics.

“We want leaders; we cannot accept another failure, another Olympic failure,” said Justino Compeán, the Mexican federation president. “If that was difficult, could you imagine if Mexico didn't make it to South Africa?”

Sanchez was perceived as arrogant and too much his own man, which got him on the wrong side of the big clubs, whose directors, each with one vote, ultimately blew the whistle on his tenure.

He was dismissed 16-1, his only supporter being his old team, Pumas. But don't we want coaches to be Brian Cloughs and not Graham Taylors?

That Premier League clubs could decide the England manager is a horrifying idea, but that it is they way they do it in Mexico.

Criticisms of Sanchez's rigid playing style are easier to entertain. Mexico were playing with some flair under previous coach Ricardo La Volpe but seemed to stutter into stifling 4-4-2 inflexibility under Sanchez.

Even in the flattering 2-1 win over Ghana, it was clear the full backs were not overlapping and that the static central midfield was inferior to that of the free-running Africans.

But I still think the sacking was premature. A year and a half is not that long for any coach, especially one who sees his players so rarely, and while the Olympic team fell short, is that really that important?

Mexico were always going to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, given that CONCACAF is the beneficiary of FIFA's largesse with three and a half places in the finals. And when it comes to the finals, Mexico reached the 1986 quarter finals (in Mexico), but otherwise have never advanced beyond the second round.

Therein perhaps lies the key to Sanchez' sacking. A large and Latin football-mad nation naturally has some arrogance welled up as a result. That it has never achieved anything of note on the world stage is a source of constant frustration, so the fans look to the Olympics for some succour.

Appointing its soccer icon as national team coach was always a dream waiting to be actualised, but like so many other countries and clubs have found out, the best players rarely make good coaches.

Sanchez obviously made enough enemies amongst the league clubs to be voted out of office so comprehensively, but his record was not that bad.

He walks away at least $8 million richer, but Sanchez' firing over a failed Olympic qualification (as if that really mattered) only masks the perennial failure of what should be one of the major football nations to take its place at the high table of world soccer.

Mexico have perhaps unrealistic expectations of one man to cure their ills, but rather like another great underachiever, England, they are also guilty of using him as a scapegoat so they won't have to look themselves in the mirror.

Rather than analysing what Sanchez did wrong, the Mexicans should be wondering what is it about their domestic football culture that has kept their national team so mediocre for so long.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Football News April 2 2008

Football News
World Soccer News for week of 04/02

Czechs new European champions, says an analysis

The Czech Republic will win the next European Championship by beating Italy in the finals, while France and Portugal will suffer dismal failure in the first round. This is the prediction of UBS Wealth Management Research, the company that accurately predicted Italy's win at the 2006 World Cup.
The analysis is based on a complex model that takes into account the current estimated quality of the teams, their history in the competition, home field advantage and economic and monetary factors.

After all the factors were weighed, UBS worked out that the Czech Republic and Switzerland would go through from the first group, Germany and Croatia from the second, Italy and the Netherlands from the third, Spain and Greece from the fourth group. Switzerland would then upset Germany, the Dutch would kick out Spain, the Czech Republic would take care of Croatia, while reigning champs Greece would succumb before world champs Italy.

In the semis, Italy would see off the Netherlands and the Czechs would put an end to the Swiss hopes. Finally, the Czech Republic will edge Italy with the narrowest of odds, 51% to 49%, which suggests that the winner will be determined in extra time or on penalties.

Dinamo Zagreb closest to the title

The month of April has barely begun and one country could already salute its soccer champions. Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb is a mere two points away from their third consecutive title since they are leading Hajduk Split by 19 points with seven games to go. If Dinamo defeat Inter Zapresic on Sunday, or if both Hajduk Split and Slaven Belupo fail to win, the Croatian league will already be resolved as far as the top spot is concerned.
In the past two seasons, the Zagreb Lions were also quite convincing. Two years ago, their final advantage over Rijeka was 11 poins, whereas last year Dinamo ran away from Hajduk by 20 points.

Close to the title, but not just as close as Dinamo, are PSV Eindhoven in The Netherlands and Rangers in Scotland. The Glasgow blues are four points in as many matches away of regaining the league after three seasons, while it will take PSV five points to make it four in a row. Finally, Porto will repeat the title if they collect six points in the remaining seven games.

Malaysian laws to stop Chelsea's Asia tour

Chelsea may cancel their summer tour of Asia if Malaysia does not allow their two Israelis to enter the country (and, presumably, guarantee their safe stay and return).
Due to the absence of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Israel, the midfielder Tal Ben Haim and the coach Avram Grant would not be able to be with the team during the preparations.
"We will certainly not go on tour without our head coach. That mini tour is the key part of our preparations for the next season. There is no point of going there without the key man from our technical staff," said Chelsea's executive director, Peter Kenyon.
However, should Chelsea fail to win a trophy this season then Grant would surely be sacked and then the Blues would be able to enter Malaysia with a non-Israeli coach.

Mexico dumps Hugo Sánchez

Mexican national team coach Hugo Sánchez has been unceremoniously dumped from his post following a decision of the country's FA.
"The FA's assembly unanimously voted to terminate our last coach's contract," said the secretary general, Decio de María.
The official added that "Hugo Sánchez's tenure was a colossal failure," announcing Jesús Ramírez as the interim successor. Ramírez is the coach who took Mexico's U-17 team to the world title three years ago in Peru.
Sánchez's undoing was the failure to win the qualification for the next summer's Olympics. The greatest Mexican player in history was named coach in late 2006 and his contract would have normally ran out in 2010.

Romário postpones retirement again

One of the most venerable veterans, 42-year-old Romario de Sousa Faria, has yet again postponed his retirement. The great Brazilian forward said this week that the claims of his imminent retirement were false. Curiously, the claims were made by Romário himself a day earlier.
"I have not stopped playing. I am jobless and waiting for new offers," the striker told Globo television one day after announcing his "adeus" to soccer in an interview to the O Dia daily.
Romario played his last game for Vasco da Gama last November, when he was given a four month suspension for using a hair-growth product containing an obscure banned substance. In the meantime, he worked as Vasco's coach, but quit the job as the club's chairman tried to interfere with his coaching decisions, including line-ups.

Eduardo da Silva on the way to recovery

Arsenal's Eduardo da Silva is doing fine in his recovery from a horrific ankle injury. He has had his cast removed and replaced with a protective air boot and now he is about to undertake the next stage of his rehabilitation in Brazil.
After a check-up in a London clinic where the surgery had been performed on his shattered left ankle, the doctors informed the Croatian international that the traumatized tissue and the broken bone were healing well. Eduardo had worn the cast for exactly five weeks after that unfortunate tackle from Birmingham's Martin Taylor put him out of action for a period estimated at around nine months.

Raúl González makes history

Who is the most effective Spanish forward besides Liverpool's Fernando Torres? Obviously Raúl. However, unlike Torres, Real Madrid's skipper is not in coach's Luis Aragonés's plans for the forthcoming Euro 2008.
The irrational veteran coach does not appreciate the fact that Raúl last week scored his 16th league goal of the season, raising his career total to 290 official goals for Real Madrid.
The captain, who is having his best season since 2000/01, is currently the second all-time scorer for the royals, tied with the legendary Carlos Santillana, but is only 26 goals short of the top scorer Alfredo Di Stéfano. Since Raúl is only 30, he will have plenty of time to overtake Di Stéfano possibly by the summer of 2009.
Incidentally, Raúl has played 475 games in the Primera división, scoring 205 goals. In 14 seasons, he has scored less than 10 goals just in four of them.