Saturday, December 30, 2006

Asian Cup Headgear


One of the hosts of the 2007 Asian Cup is soccer-mad Vietnam. Unlikely to progress from Group B which contains holders Japan and Asian Games winners Qatar, Vietnam will have tremendous support. Look out for these traditional straw conical hats on the terraces.

Vietnamese conical hats

Group B


Korean Soccer News and Interviews

Japan Soccer News

Australian Football


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Spanish Beer Mug

A Spanish Beer Mug

I’ve really enjoyed the festive break. Unlike the majority of my contemporaries, I resisted the temptation to get drunk every night; on Christmas Day, I collapsed at lunchtime.

Frank Lampard is also a fan of the occasional swift one. A Spanish chauffeuse has alleged that the Chelsea man ‘took a while to finish’ as a result of a champagne binge; I just hope his shooting was less erratic than in the Premiership.

A Spanish Beer Mug

A bad week is about to get worse for the chubby midfielder. The champions have been leaking goals since John Terry stole my patented ‘I can’t come to work today, I’ve got a bad back’ line; a Fulham win at the Bridge is simply too big at 20/1.

I refuse to waste money on a breathalyzer kit; I find the ‘how big is the girl I’m considering sleeping with’ test a far more accurate guide to intoxication. I may have been paraletic when I met the wife; but it’s in relative sobriety that I suggest a bet on Tottenham at 7/4 to see off Liverpool.

Losses are like a Spanish driver, you should never chase them after a couple of beers. Newcastle have cost me a small fortune in recent weeks; I’m fighting the temptation to lump on Everton at a beguiling 6/5.

I must congratulate the Toffeemen on the surprise result of the season, a Jose Mourinho apology was trading at 100/1 on the exchanges. It’s pretty much accepted now that Andy Johnson does not go down, a policy I wholeheartedly agree with. AJ can open the scoring at an upstanding 5/1.

The loss of Henri Camara would be a blow under normal circumstances, but when it leaves Emile Heskey leading the line, it’s bordering on a catastrophe. Watford can shock the Latics at 17/10.

I tend to think of myself as a role-model; plenty of women have looked up to me. I like my first goalscorers like I like my women; Young. Ashley can bang in the first goal at an ample 17/2.

I’ve always been a fan of Eskimo culture. I doubt that there’s any truth in the myth that they used to cast out their elderly, but I remain a massive supporter of the concept. Sir Alex officially becomes a pensioner on New Year's Eve, three points against Reading at 1/5 will be a welcome gift.

Charlton haven’t found the net in any of their last four meetings with Aston Villa; and that’s when they were half decent. At the time of writing, Charlton were on their third manager of the season; the Villa can ask the Charlton board another question at 13/8.

I’m a definite optimist. If a pint glass is half full of lager, I don’t think of it as half empty; I just pinch it. Alcohol theft is not cool, backing Bolton at evens to beat Pompey undoubtedly is.

Manchester City will struggle to score at Upton Park. Anton Ferdinand will literally have Dickov in his pocket, Samaras looks out of his depth and Vassell only scores against the Villa. The Hammers are nailed on at 5/4.

Blackburn have announced that Robbie Savage has been tied up in a 'golden handcuffs' deal. To my deep and sincere regret, that’s only a metaphor. The even money about a Rovers win over Boro will soften the blow.

Would it be overdramatic to claim that Cesc Fabregas is potentially the Premiership’s greatest ever player? It would be if you bellowed it out while frantically waving your arms. You’ll be shrieking like Frank Lampard’s new driver if you miss out on Arsenal at 8/15 at Bramall Lane.

This week’s accer is so easy, it’s going to oblige with or without a bottle of bubbly. Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton and Everton are the sure-fire selections, the payout is a sparkling 20/1.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

English Premiership Betting

Liberia Images

Liberia Images

UN Soldiers supervise the distribution of football shirts

Teams4U Limited connects people and places - As Director, Dave Cooke, the founder of Operation Christmas Child explains:

"we provide corporate teams, community groups and individuals with unique, life-changing opportunities to make a real difference to the lives of people around the world."

The opportunities facilitated by Teams 4U take the form of 'Challenges', practical tasks that are undertaken by a team, responding to the needs of a community.

Liberian children enjoy the game

A challenge requires its team to achieve a defined objective in a set period of time. In addition to bringing valuable resources to community projects, challenges are a generator of positive teambuilding.

Children's soccer charity in Liberia


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Football Charity Liberia

Football Charity Liberia

Children in Liberia

Teams4U ran its first football-based project in Liberia in November, working in partnership with Samaritan's Purse. The focus of the trip was to work with young people in the three principle cities, namely the capital Monrovia, as well as Buchanan and Gbarnga. The programme was supported by two leading English Premiership football clubs, Liverpool and Newcastle United.

A dozen British coaches travelled to Monrovia, where the ten-day football tour was launched. The objective was to meet the needs of the youth of Liberia, illustrating compassion and warmth to deprived youngsters, whilst instilling a message driven to facilitate both the empowering enhancement of skills as well as character development.

Children's soccer charity in Liberia


Monday, December 25, 2006

Asian Champions League Draw

Asian Champions League Draw 2007.
Asian Champions League Draw 2007

Australian A-League clubs Adelaide and Sydney have been handed tough draws in the 2007 Asian Champions League as clubs from Down Under make their debut in Asia's premier club competition.

Group A

Al Arabi (Kuwait)
Al-Wahda (UAE)
Al-Rayyan (Qatar)
Al-Zawar'a (Iraq)

Group B

Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan)
Kuwait SC (Kuwait)
Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia)
Esteghlal (Iran)

Group C

Al Sadd (Qatar)
Al-Najaf (Iraq)
Al-Karame (Syria)
Neftchi (Uzbekistan)

Group D

Al Ain (UAE)
Al-Ittihad (Syria)
Sepahan (Iran)
Al-Shabab (Saudi Arabia)

Group E

Sydney FC (Australia)
Urawa Reds (Japan)
Shanghai Shenhua (China)
Persik Kediri (Indonesia)

Group F

Bangkok University (Thailand)
Kawasaki Frontale (Japan)
Chunnam Dragons (South Korea)
Arema Melang (Indonesia)

Group G

Adelaide (Australia)
Long An (Vietnam)
Seongnam Ilhwa (South Korea)
Shangdong Luneng(China)

Matches will begin March 7, 2007

The top team from each group advances to the quarterfinals to be joined by this year's winners Jeonbuk Motors (South Korea).

The 2-leg final is scheduled for November 2 and 9, 2007. The winners will represent Asia in the World Club Championships.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Asian Cup Draw 2007

Asian Cup Draw 2007.
Asian Cup Draw 2007

Kuala Lumpur, December 20, 2006

Holders Japan will be hoping to three-peat when the 2007 Asian Cup kicks off in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia next July. The July 7-29 championships will include newcomers Australia for the first time. Saudi Arabia were restricted to playing their opening games in Malaysia or Indonesia due to an ongoing political spat with Thailand.

Group A


Group B


Group C


Group D

Saudi Arabia
South Korea

Asian Cup Draw 2007


Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006 In Korea: Part One

Korean Soccer

Advocaat in January Press Conference

As the New Year started, Dick Advocaat took his players away from a frigid Korea and onto warmer climes on a six-week tour to prepare for the big event in June. Many K-League coaches were not too happy about losing their best players for the majority of the pre-season.

Advocaat was not too happy either after watching the team start badly with a poor performance and embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Dubai against his former employers, the UAE. Results soon improved however. A draw with European champions Greece was followed by impressive wins over Finland and a tough Croatian team.

It was the off-season in the K-League so when the coaches weren’t cursing Advocaat, they were off buying new players and taking part in their own pre-season warm-up tours.


The national team showed signs of over-confidence against a powerful Denmark team and deservedly lost 3-1. Then the squad, which didn’t include the European-based stars, headed to California and put in two good performances.

Somehow, the team lost 1-0 to Costa Rica in Oakland despite dominating the game but achieved a memorable result a few days later. At Mexico’s second home of Los Angeles, a Lee Dong-gook goal gave the Asian team a great win.

On the way back to Korea, the team, stopped off in Syria for the first 2007 Asian Cup qualifier and defeated Syria 2-1 in a hard-fought clash.

Fans of the K-League were still waiting for the new season to start but Bucheon fans found that they would have to wait for a very long time. The club’s owners, SK, suddenly moved the team from the city just outside Seoul, all the way to the southern island of Jeju. The fans protested but the K-League and KFA stood silently by.

It was not a good start to the season.


Winter was still hanging around when the K-League kicked off.

The league’s newest member Gyeongnam FC started what will hopefully be a successful K-League career with a typical K-League 0-0 draw against Jeju United.

20,000 saw that game but only 1,031 made it back for the following fixture.

Five matches were played in the first month and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma won four of them. The six-time champions were soon sitting ominously at the top of the table. Woo Sung-yong scored four as one of the title favorites announced their intentions.

Champions Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I had a litany of stars but found the old adage that it is harder to defend a title that it is to win it, an apt one.

It was all too much for this young Daejeon Citizen fan

Busan I’Park’s terrible form from the second half of 2005 continued. March contained three defeats and two draws – including a 4-4 draw with Daegu when Busan had been leading 3-0. Boss Ian Porterfield was in danger of breaking the K-League’s record winless streak of 21 games.

The national team had one game on the first day of March against Angola in Seoul. The game ended with Seoul World Cup Stadium covered in snow and the hosts having secured a 1-0 win. Park Chu-young got the only goal of the game – the high point of 2006 for the 21 year-old.


There was little going on with the national team but Dick Advocaat received a blow with the news that his number one striker Lee Dong-gook would miss the World Cup.

“The Lion King” tore his cruciate ligament during a April 5 K-League game between Pohang Steelers and Incheon United. Lee, who was omitted from the 2002 World Cup squad, had just scored a fantastic goal when he collapsed to the ground.

There was more gloom and doom in the south-east of the country as Ian Porterfield resigned/ jumped before he was pushed at Busan after results didn’t improve. The ex-Chelsea coach equaled the winless record but wisely got out before he set a new one.

Ian Porterfield in Busan in happier times

Seongnam won five out of six to disappear over the horizon. Woo Sung-yong got four more.


The first stage came to an end as preparations for the World Cup started to heat up. Seongnam ended up finishing first by ten clear points to become the first of the four teams to secure a place in the end of season championship play-offs.

Pohang finished second. New club Gyeongnam and moved club Jeju struggled at the bottom.

Ulsan, FC Seoul, Incheon United and Suwon Samsung Bluewings were all disappointing.

 Seoul World Cup Stadium says goodbye to the national team

The national team players said goodbye to the fans with two mixed performances in Seoul. The first was a 1-1 draw against Senegal with a 2-0 win over Bosnia three days later. On May 27, the team flew to Scotland leaving an expectant nation behind.


The first day of the fateful month saw a dull 0-0 draw with Norway in Oslo while three days later, the final warm-up game was against Ghana in Edinburgh. The Africans outclassed Korea and won 3-1. It should have been more and suddenly the opening game against Togo didn’t look quite so easy.

It wasn’t but the team took three points on a stuffy Frankfurt afternoon. The Africans raced into a first-half lead and the Koreans looked labored, tense and short of ideas.

It all changed eight minutes into the second half. Park Ji-sung was fouled outside the box and not only was the Togo defender sent off, Lee Chun-soo curled home the resultant free-kick to send the thousands of red-clad Korean fans wild. With 20 minutes remaining, Ahn Jung-hwan came off the substitute’s bench to score a famous winner – Korea’s first ever World Cup win overseas.

Ahn Jung-hwan and Advocaat after the Togo game

The action and the Red Devils moved east to Leipzig and the toughest game of the group – against eventual finalists France. The Europeans dominated the first-half and took the lead through Thierry Henry. Korea fought back in the second half and with a few minutes remaining Park Ji-sung’s shot floated agonizingly/delightfully into the net – the only goal that France conceded from open play in the whole tournament.

All that could be heard that night in the old city that was once the home of Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner, were the cries of “Daehan Minguk,” from locals and Koreans alike.

The city of Hannover provides memories that are less happy.

Thanks to a last-minute Switzerland goal against Togo, Korea needed to beat the Swiss in Hanover to reach the second round. Phillippe Senderos gave the Europeans the lead in the first half and Alexander Frei scored a controversial second late in the game. The linesman flagged for offside, the Korean defenders stopped but the referee waved play on.

Korean players protest Switzerland's second goal

The dream was over for four more years.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

K-League News and Interviews

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All I want for Christmas is Ewe

All I want for Christmas is Ewe

I hate Christmas. Last year the wife bought me a ‘Rudolf’ umbrella just so she could use the line, ‘It looks like rain, dear’. My decision to kick her out of the house was perfectly justified.

In a freakish coincidence, I saw another umbrella as a result of her mother’s gift. I can’t complain too much though, it had a street value of £35.

The Premiership’s very own ‘Rudolf’ will soon be joining me in the miserable corner. Fergie’s title aspirations received a Hammer blow last week; the Villa can land a knockout strike at 9/2.

I’m taking the kids to Villa Park to see young Rooney; it’s the only way they’ll get to see a fat man with a beard this Christmas. Get your claws into Petrov at 16/1 to score the first goal.

All I want for Christmas is Ewe

Apparently, the Chelsea players are spending a total of £5 on presents for each other; typical flash footballers. A win over Wigan at 4/9 could see the champions on top of the tree on Christmas day.

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has sensationally labelled Andriy Shevchenko a ‘lap-dog’. At least the Chelsea flop is under the thumb of a super-model; I get ordered around by a mad Sweaty. I’m nuts about the 4/1 for a Drogba opener.

Everton have asked the FA to launch an enquiry into Jose Mourinho’s tirade against Andy Johnson; I expect the FA’s report to contain three words.

Like Jesus, Steve Coppell has performed absolute miracles this season. I can see Reading getting the better of the Moyes boys at 7/5.

I was shocked to read that Anton Ferdinand made out with Big Brother’s Aisleyne at West Ham’s Christmas do. It wasn’t the fact that he was partying so soon after Alan Pardew’s dismissal that upset me; I just hate to picture unattractive people kissing. I’m cuddling the 9/4 about a draw between Fulham and the Hammers.

Liverpool’s festive shindig looked a classy affair. Robbie Fowler dressed up as Saddam Hussein, Dirk Kuyt donned a Superman outfit and I’m guessing Peter Crouch came as the beanstalk. Jermaine Pennant wanted to go as a highway robber; but was told he needed fancy dress. You can’t disguise the fact that Liverpool will demolish Watford at 1/4.

Stevie Gerrard has been awarded the freedom of the borough of Knowsley. One perk is that he can freely drive his sheep down the main street; Craig Bellamy wants a piece of that action. I want a piece of the 9/2 about Bellamy netting the opener.

Where would we be without laughter? Watching Soccer AM. I’m in hysterics at the 7/4 on offer for a Bolton win at Manchester City.

Could there be more to Iain Dowie’s dismissal than meets the eye? There’s a rumour going around that he was sacked to avoid potential mistletoe related resignations at the Crimbo lash-up. That theory remains contentious; few would argue with the 4/5 on offer for Boro at home to the Addicks.

Arsenal v Blackburn is as close as you can get to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ without staring through my front window. The 4/11 about the Gunners is simply stunning.

Robbie Savage must be backed at 7/4 to pick up a booking. It’s the only way he’ll get a card this Christmas.

I’m incredibly jealous of Matt Taylor. While i’ve been stuck at home with a Christmas pudding, the Pompey star has bagged a couple of real crackers. The 8/13 on offer for a Portsmouth win over Sheffield United is so attractive; I’m considering kicking the wife out and moving it in.

I’m embarrassed to say that if Tottenham fail to win at St James’ Park, the kids are having bread and butter for their Christmas dinner. If Spurs come through at 7/4, I’m going to splash out on a jar of strawberry jam.

I am so confident that the weekend accer of Arsenal, Boro, Pompey, Reading and Chelsea will romp in at 12/1; i’ve already paid for the wife’s Christmas presents out of the winnings. There’s a miniskirt and a weekend break in Ipswich under the tree.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

English Premiership Betting

A-League Christmas Wrap


As the players take a deserved Christmas break, Soccerphile unpicks the happenings in Australia's A-League with four rounds of the regular season remaining.

The new premiers
All the Christmas cheer should be heaped on Ernie Merrick's Melbourne Victory who clinched their inaugural premiership just before the eight A-League clubs headed into the mid-season break. Melbourne's charge towards banishing the memory of last season's seventh-placed has been relentless. They have continued to top the charts in, well, every measure, even breaking Adelaide's season-old record of winning the title in just 17 rounds. Merrick's only dilemma ahead of the finals series is whether to rest a squad who started pre-season back in April ahead February's grand final.

The second-place aspirants
Sydney FC's Terry Butcher has his critics in Australia (with one vehement detractor former Socceroo Craig Foster's dislike of the Englishman's coaching philosophy bordering on the obsessive) but of late he's been getting the desired effects. An eight-match unbeaten run has seen the reigning champions leapfrog Adelaide and Queensland into second with a crucial victory with 10-men over Perth retaining a two-point gap to Adelaide in third. There's little doubt Sydney are less pleasing on eye than under German Pierre Littbarski last season. But Butcher is steadily doing the job he was brought from Scottish football to do and with all his players now available should be able to match the might of the league leaders.

If Adelaide United end up with little reward from their season's endeavours, it will be a harsh outcome. Through November and December they were caught between a rock and a hard place like so many newcomers in top-flight surrounds. Do you build or consolidate? Is off-field success a necessary evil and how much can commercial projects jeopardise results on the pitch? All debate was to do with signing Brazilian legend Romario who had agreed to guest in the A-League as he chases down 1000 career goals. As it turned out, the former premiers won just once during Romario's four appearances as Mr 986 became Mr 987 and Adelaide slipped from second to third. The former World Cup winner's team-mates never quite looked on the same wavelength as the little maestro and some of coach John Kosmina's team selections were clearly compromised as result of simply needing to field him. Some are saying Adelaide are more dangerous bizarrely now one of the game's greatest-ever goalscorers has left.

The playoffs chasers
The league's key battle until the end of the season is likely to be between the Central Coast Mariners, Newcastle Jets and Queensland Roar. New South Wales neighbours the Mariners and the Jets meet in two weeks time but that aside the three pursue entirely different run-ins. They are all evenly-matched with Newcastle recently winning 3-0 in Queensland but the Roar hitting back with a 3-2 win on the Central Coast.

In terms of the season, Queensland and Newcastle are heading in different directions. With one-third of the campaign completed, the Roar were second and the Jets bottom but just one point separates the pair now with both having changed coaches this year. Gary van Egmond has inspired the Jets by instilling a rigid structure and letting maverick playmaker Nick Carle - a player constantly overlooked by the national team - roam free. Meanwhile, former Socceroos boss Frank Farina has enjoyed less initial success back in his home state after over a year out of the game. The calculating Farina, though, was an excellent choice and is already starting to apply his stamp on the side.

The dearly departed
The only consolation for Perth Glory coach Ron Smith is that the New Zealand Knights were even more ordinary this year. Smith's side approached the season as badly prepared as the English cricketers heading into the Ashes, not helped by Smith's appointment on the even of the competition's start. Both sides have suffered injuries to key players with former Socceroos flyer Stan Lazaridis virtually disappearing from view after a series of ineffective displays sandwiched between stints on the sidelines. Stan, though, will be so much better with a full pre-season under his belt.

New Zealand's very existence, as has been reported on Soccerphile over the past week, is under threat. Like Perth, they too are now under FFA control, one of the worrying traits of a league so often viewed with optimism. Terrible crowd figures, uninspiring football and a generally argumentative attitude towards recruitment have seen them fall foul of the game's governing body.

Three wins in 38 games over 18 months hasn’t helped but, needing to prove Australian doubters that a Kiwi team can survive with their neighbours, their approach has won few friends on either side of the Tasman Sea. Those in charge of the game truly want to find the Knights a generous investor and rebuild. But the club need to recognise the way to flourish is by tapping into the very fact that alienates them from the rest of the league. They could do a lot worse than becoming the All Whites reserve side.

Soccerphile predictions
So, here goes …

Champions: Adelaide United
Runners-up: Melbourne Victory
Semi-finalists: Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Friday, December 15, 2006

Promotion Problems

Promotion Problems.

It's been a sorry saga and one which few parties emerge from with any credit.

When the K-League announced earlier in the year that it was finally going to introduce promotion to South Korea’s football scene at the end of the 2006 season, it was greeted by most as a step in the right direction.

For teams in the second tier, the National League (N-League), that step was upwards into Asia's oldest professional league - the K-League.

For the people that run the game, promotion would strengthen the whole structure of football in Korea. A first-round exit at the 2006 World Cup provided greater weight to those voices that had stressed the need to improve the domestic set-up.

The theory went that with promotion, the base of the football structure would become stronger. The N-League would improve as teams became more professional in order to reach and then survive in the top flight.

Stage two of the plan stated that after four years of promotion, relegation would then kick-in. 2009/2010 would see a two-way system established, one that would flow from the K, now a league of 18 teams, to the N now a competitive second division and back again. In this revitalized N-League, relegated teams wouldn’t simply disappear into an amateurish abyss but would be able to regroup and aim to return from whence they came.

In short and in theory, it sounded reasonable and within the realms of possibility. In 2006, three or four N-League teams emerged from the pack. These clubs looked to be no worse than those which spent 2006 languishing around the bottom of the top flight.

The two candidates were narrowed down to Goyang Kookmin Bank and Gimpo Hallelujah. Both of these Gyeonggi Province clubs had been founder members of the K-League back in 1983 but were now battling to taste life in the big time once more.

They met in a promotion play-off with Goyang squeezing past their Christian opponents. It was a cold Sunday afternoon when the yellow-shirted players danced with the trophy in front of their supporters. Those fans had draped banners around the 42,000 capacity stadium which carried messages such as “We’ll be back” and “K-League –Just Wait!”

After what happened since, the slogans now sound more like threats.

Not only did the K-League introduce promotion, the powers-that-be also added a few financial conditions for all aspiring N-League teams to meet before heading off up the ladder.

All K-League hopefuls have to pay an initial fee of over $2.25 million in order to take their place among the elite. Additionally, there are significant costs involved with the stadium and especially with improving the playing and coaching staff. The club’s owners Kookmin Bank estimated a bill approaching $10 million by the time the 2007 season kicked off.

Only the most unambitious, foolhardy or most confident of promoted clubs don’t buy new players for a new life in the top flight but it is unusual to pay general admission fees. Goyang's owners, Kookmin Bank, had misgivings about splashing the cash. A cursory look at the life in the K-League reveals the reasons why -any initial investments are unlikely to yield future returns.

There is no treasure chest to be found in the K-League; salaries are not low while attendances often are. It is a rare feat indeed for a top flight team to make money. It doesn’t take a banker to realize that paying a substantial amount of money to join an organization in which most members lose a good deal of cash is not a sound financial move.

The inevitable happened. After almost two weeks of “thinking” about the problem, on December 8, Goyang Kookmin Bank finally announced that the club would stay in the N-League. The bank cited a national law which prevents banks from running professional sports teams as the reason for the decision.

“Realistically we can’t operate a professional team because legally we can’t be involved be involved in business other than banking,” a spokesperson for the bank said in a statement.

The law exists but, according to those in the know, it was not an insurmountable obstacle. The general consensus is that Kookmin Bank didn’t want to meet the financial costs of promotion and have never had much intention of doing so. The decision, which could have been made before the club successfully achieved promotion, was not well-received.

“This is not news,” sniffed a source at the Korean Football Association.

“Kookmin Bank said before that they would solve the problem if they got promoted. This is an excuse and makes fools of football fans.”

In truth, everyone comes out of the situation looking a little foolish. The bank does so for fighting to achieve promotion while having little intention of joining the top division, the K-League for imposing stringent and senseless financial conditions and the fans who believed that those who run and play the game are capable of doing so competently.

As a result, Goyang will stay in the second tier, the 2007 K-League will start with 14 instead of 15 teams and unless the football authorities reconsider some of their stranger decisions, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the same drama played out again in the future.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

Time up for beleaguered Knights

Time up for beleaguered Knights.
New Zealand Knights

The game's governing body has called time on the A-League's sole non-Australian representatives after 18 miserable months fighting for their lives at the bottom of every measure.

For many, especially those pundits favouring an all-Australian competition, it has not come a moment too soon. The New Zealand Knights have been running a constant and distant last since the club's inception from the ashes of their much-maligned predecessors the Auckland Kingz and offered few examples of turning their fortunes around.

The Kingz were treated with contempt during the final throws of the former national league due to their poor crowds and generally humdrum football. The Knights, a rebranded Kiwi alternative granted entrance to the new regime because of its supposed ability to carry the same financial clout, has also fallen some way short of the standards set by the rest.

Last season, the New Zealanders finished an abysmal 20 points behind seventh-placed Melbourne following just one win and a staggering 17 losses. They were accused of fielding too few locally-developed players and instead relying on English journeyman and unknown foreigners. Their crowds plummeted as the defeats stacked up and knew they risked the wrath of the FFA if corrective actions were not put in place.

When previous coach John Adshead - the former All Whites manager who led New Zealand to the 1982 World Cup finals - was inevitably axed, the Knights' head honchos ignored the federation's strict directives and employed another Englishman as coach. Paul Nevin was young, intelligent, highly qualified and started brightly. But he wasn't a New Zealander, and he again made blood boil at FFA headquarters by recruiting just four Kiwis in a 20-player squad.

Results dipped after some promising signs, not helped, it has to be said, by a lengthy injury list and he was axed. His interim replacement? Recently recruited director of football, Englishman Barry Simmonds. The writing was surely on the wall.

On Monday, after Simmonds made it clear he did not want the role full-time, the Knights advertised for their fourth head coach in less than two seasons against a backdrop of them languishing eight points adrift at the foot of the table.

Relations with New Zealand Soccer, the administrators of the national game, were at an all-time low, club management appeared nervy. 2039 spectators turned up to see their side grind out a 1-1 draw with Newcastle. With a $1.5 million annual salary cap to fund, the sums were quite clearly not adding up.

Under mounting speculation their licence would be withdrawn and an Australian team installed in their place next season, the Knights came out fighting. They, however, chose to bite the hand that feeds them.

"Currently, the NZ Knights are awaiting funds from the Football Federation Australia in relation to the Fox Sports broadcasting partnership with the Hyundai A-League," a club statement read. "These considerable funds (in quarterly payments) were promised to the Knights by the FFA but as of this moment are yet to be received.

"Upon receipt of those funds the NZ Knights will be in a position to continue in the Hyundai A-League. Without the promised payment the Knights participation in the Hyundai A-League is jeopardised."

If they were trying to provoke a reaction it worked. The FFA's response was swift and the blow fatal. They responded by stating insolvency issues within the beleaguered club had 'breached their Club Participation Agreement for the Hyundai A-League'. As a result, the FFA said, the Knights have had their licence revoked and returned to the governing body. An agreement, they added, had also been reached with the Knights' chief rivals New Zealand Soccer to manage the football team's operations for the remainder of the 2006-07 season.

"The action that we had to take today is disappointing as the FFA has gone to great lengths since the commencement of the league to support Octagon Sports Limited (owners of the Knights) who currently owe the FFA in excess of $800,000," said FFA head of operations Matt Carroll.

"In this context, it is disappointing that Octagon Sports Limited should suggest today that their viability is dependant on a relatively small scheduled grant being withheld by the FFA as a result of Octagon Sports Limited's long-term, multiple, serious Participation Agreement breaches."

"The action that the FFA has taken is in the best interests of the Hyundai A-League, the team, the players and football in New Zealand."

What next for the supporters and players in the land of the Long White Cloud is anybody's guess.

Read more about New Zealand football

Copyright © Marc Fox and

US Soccer in land of confusion

US Soccer

Jurgen Klinsmann will not be the next coach of the US men's national team.

Having kept American fans' breath baited for six months following the World Cup Finals, the German legend, who lives with his American wife and family only half an hour from the USA's training centre in California, announced he will not be taking up the job that seemed his on a plate.

Precious few details have emerged beyond the fact there appeared to have been a monetary agreement but that the two parties diverged when it came to the structure of the job. Klinsmann is known for getting his own way or moving on. Just remember his bust-ups with Alan Sugar and Christian Gross at Tottenham, with Cesar Luis Menotti and Vujadin Boskov at Sampdoria and Lothar Matthaus at Bayern and the German national team.

He emerged a hero from the 2006 World Cup when his apparently mediocre and lowly-rated team came within one game of the final, papering over his uneasy relationship with the German media, who had constantly criticized his monthly commuting from Los Angeles, and the Deutscher Fussball Bund, who were forced to adopt Klinsmann's American-style set-up of sports psychologists and special team coaches.

US Soccer's chief executive Sunil Gulati is understandably receiving a ton of flak from fans disgruntled at the lack of international games for the States since the summer, only to find the saviour they had been waiting on jilted them at the altar.

Interim US manager until the Spring is Bob Bradley, the most experienced American available. The former coach of the Chicago Fire, Metrostars and Chivas USA has the top job at least until the start of the new MLS season. Other candidates interviewed and thus in theory still in the running were former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman and Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz.

To add to the silly season in America, Freddy Adu has transferred to Real Salt Lake from DC United, but is still widely expected to cross the pond when he turns 18 in a year's time, following another MLS season, which concludes in November.

Toronto FC will join MLS in 2007 - that's right, a Canadian team and also one that makes a total of 13 clubs, unbalancing the two conferences.

Finally, the US soccer community is mourning the death at 74 of Lamar Hunt, a long-time investor in the sport. Hunt owned the Dallas Burn and Columbus Crew teams at his death, having sold the Kansas City Wizards, has America's 'FA Cup' named after him and financed America's first professional soccer-only stadium, Crew Stadium, in 1996.

Hunt's early life was notable for an alleged involvement in the killing of JFK along with his father, Texan oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, but these unproven theories were later forgotten as Hunt took an active interest in professional sports, owning the Kansas City Chiefs NFL team among others.

A perfect illustration of how an American's love for football is compatible with a love for basketball and other sports, Lamar Hunt also went down in history for coining the term 'Superbowl' for American football's premier event, allegedly after he asked his daughter what she was playing with and she answered her father, 'that's my super-ball!'

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Barca Crushes Club America

Barca Crushes Club America.
Barca Crushes Club America

Having arrived in Japan only two days prior to kickoff, Barcelona was expected to be playing at only 70 percent or so--and possibly fade in the second half. It didn't happen. In spite of a 12-hour flight and a half day time difference, the Catalans put on a 90-minute display of the beautiful game, crushing Mexican champion Club America 4-0 at the venue for the 2002 World Cup Final.

The scoreline could have been much worse. The Mexican side had but one real chance at goal all evening, when former Argentine forward Claudio Lopez flubbed a beautiful pass that left him alone in front of the Barcelona keeper early on. After that, it was all Barcelona.

Playing in a steady rain in Yokohama, Deco guided the midfield with grace and aplomb, moving the ball around with tremendous pace. Up front, Ronaldinho only found the net once but confounded the Mexican defense throughout the match and set up Deco's brilliant strike.

In the eleventh minute, Iceland international Gudjohnsen opened his account. Falling to his left, he curled in a low hard shot with his right foot against the flow of play. Barca's next goal came from Mexican international Marquez who headed in from a corner in the 30th minute.

The first half ended at 2-0 and Barca having 65% of possession.

The second half continued the same way. After many close calls, Ronaldinho finally scored in the 66th minute. From close range, the Brazilian star picked up a loose ball with players all around him, feinted once, then pounded the ball into the upper right corner, just eluding the keeper's outstretched hands.

Ronaldinho then set up the fourth and final goal--a bullet from Deco--by feeding him and then body blocking a defender out of the way and thus clearing a path for the shot.

Barcelona is now in the Final. With a few days off to further acclimate and practice, they look nearly unbeatable.


Ex-Panda Bull

Ex-Panda Bull

I feel a genuine affinity with Alan Pardew; as I too have been unjustly dismissed from the workplace. My only ‘crime’ was being young and in love. Admittedly, it was wrong of us to consummate our relationship during working hours; but I remain convinced that the zookeeper overreacted.

Ex-Panda Bull

Eggert Magnusson may well rue the decision to harpoon the former Hammer-head. Alan Curbishley is undoubtedly a competent replacement, but like Frank Lampard, he’ll take a while to find his feet. The ‘Egg man’ has handed Man U three points at a cracking 1/2.

Rio Ferdinand is unable to look back on his time at Upton Park with any real fondness; he has the memory span of a dead goldfish. Rio and Vidic look rock solid at the back, a United clean sheet appeals at 11/10.

Chelsea will have to beat Everton to keep pace with the leaders, and I’m absolutely convinced that they will. I’m all over the 4/7 like John Terry on a referee.

Let’s hope that Drogba keeps the theatrics to a minimum. (Diving is only ever acceptable after several lagers.) Didi looks the most likely first scorer at 9/2.

Roman Abramovic has placed £500m in a trust fund to secure Chelsea’s future. Ashley Cole was expecting £505m; he’s so upset about the situation he’s in talks with his publisher. I’m grabbing 5/2 about Chelsea winning 1-0 or 2-0.

Sol Campbell represented Arsenal on 197 occasions and he can justifiably feel proud that he avoided a breakdown in the majority of those matches. Sol returns with a Pompey team who have conceded 25 goals on their last 7 trips to Highbury; you’ll be mad if you miss the Gunners at 4/9.

The influx of foreign owners in the Premiership may appear a cause for concern, but like the ‘back-pass rule’ or giving women ‘the vote’, there’s nothing to fear in practice. Liverpool are quite rightly licking their lips at the thought of a cool Sheikh; I’m excited about 4/6 for a Pool win at the Valley.

Newcastle are suffering with injuries. Owen, Ameobi, Parker, Duff, Bramble, Moore, Bernard, Harper, Carr, Emre, Solano and Sibierski are either ruled out or doubtful; and in a stunning development, Kieron Dyer may also miss the game through injury. Watford can snatch a draw at St James’ Park at 13/5.

Apart from the top four places, the Premiership is completely wide open this season. The result of Reading v Blackburn could be absolutely anything; except for a draw or an away win. The Royals are smoking at 6/5.

Neil Warnock has been remarkably restrained on the touchline this season; i’ve a feeling that he’s about to explode like Robbie Savage when the average price of a caravan rose dramatically in the late 90s. Wigan look a great bet at 10/11 to light the spark.

El Hadji Diouf is suspended for the trip to Aston Villa; allowing him to spend some quality time at home with his wife. All the stats point to a draw like it’s a ginger boy in a ballet class. Get involved at 11/5.

Man City are unbeaten at home and Tottenham are yet to win away; the 6/4 about a home win looks a trifle too big. I expect City to come out all guns blazing from the start. In Manchester, that’s not a metaphor.

My computer is a lot like the wife, if the information is punched in correctly, positive results are guaranteed. My spreadsheet plays a sound if the odds offered by a bookmaker are greater than the actual probability of success; when I placed 5/4 next to Fulham, it whipped out a guitar.

Liverpool, Reading, Wigan, Chelsea and Fulham are the sure-fire selections for the weekend accer. The payout of 21/1 is so sweet; it reminds me of my first love. I’ll never forget you Ling-Ling.

Weekend Betting:

Charlton v Liverpool Saturday 16th December 12:45 Live on Premiership Plus

Charlton 5/1
Draw 14/5
Liverpool 4/6

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Liverpool to score four or more goals 6/1

Arsenal v Portsmouth Saturday 16th December 15:00

Arsenal 4/9
Draw 10/3
Portsmouth 15/2

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Gilberto to score at any time 4/1

Newcastle v Watford Saturday 16th December 15:00

Newcastle 8/11
Draw 13/5
Watford 9/2

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
No goalscorer in the match 10/1

Reading v Blackburn Saturday 16th December 15:00

Reading 6/5
Draw 23/10
Blackburn 13/5

Get on: Reading

Match Special:
Doyle to score the first goal 5/1

Wigan v Sheff Utd Saturday 16th December 15:00

Wigan 10/11
Draw 12/5
Sheff Utd 7/2

Get on: Wigan

Match Special:
Camara to score two or more goals 11/2

Aston Villa v Bolton Saturday 16th December 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Aston Villa 11/8
Draw 11/5
Bolton 11/5

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Petrov to score in a 1-1 draw 25/1

Everton v Chelsea Sunday 17th December 13:45 Live on Sky

Everton 11/2
Draw 14/5
Chelsea 4/7

Get on: Chelsea

Match Special:
Chelsea to keep a clean sheet 11/10

Man City v Tottenham Sunday 17th December 15:00

Man City 6/4
Draw 23/10
Tottenham 9/5

Get on: Man City

Match Special:
Richards to score with a header 9/1

West Ham v Man Utd Sunday 17th December 16:00 Live on Sky

West Ham 13/2
Draw 10/3
Man Utd 1/2

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Saha to score two or more goals 5/1

Fulham v Middlesbrough Monday 18th December 20:00 Live on Sky

Fulham 5/4
Draw 9/4
Middlesbrough 5/2

Get on: Fulham


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Barca Crushes Club America

Barca Crushes Club America, World Club Cup.
Having arrived in Japan only two days prior to kickoff, Barcelona was expected to be playing at only 70 percent or so--and possibly fade in the second half. It didn't happen. In spite of a 12-hour flight and a half day time difference, the Catalans put on a 90-minute display of the beautiful game, crushing Mexican champion Club America 4-0 at the venue for the 2002 World Cup Final.

The scoreline could have been much worse. The Mexican side had but one real chance at goal all evening, when former Argentine forward Claudio Lopez flubbed a beautiful pass that left him alone in front of the Barcelona keeper early on. After that, it was all Barcelona.

Playing in a steady rain in Yokohama, Deco guided the midfield with grace and aplomb, moving the ball around with tremendous pace. Up front, Ronaldinho only found the net once but confounded the Mexican defense throughout the match and set up Deco's brilliant strike.

In the eleventh minute, Iceland international Gudjohnsen opened his account. Falling to his left, he curled in a low hard shot with his right foot against the flow of play. Barca's next goal came from Mexican international Marquez who headed in from a corner in the 30th minute.

The first half ended at 2-0 and Barca having 65% of possession.

The second half continued the same way. After many close calls, Ronaldinho finally scored in the 66th minute. From close range, the Brazilian star picked up a loose ball with players all around him, feinted once, then pounded the ball into the upper right corner, just eluding the keeper's outstretched hands.

Ronaldinho then set up the fourth and final goal--a bullet from Deco--by feeding him and then body blocking a defender out of the way and thus clearing a path for the shot.

Barcelona is now in the Final. With a few days off to further acclimate and practice, they look nearly unbeatable.

Club World Championship

English Premiership Betting

Books on Japan

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Al Ahly v Internacional

Al Ahly Cairo 1-2 Internacional

Brazil's Libertadores Cup winners Internacional squeezed by Egypt's African champions Al Ahly Cairo 2-1 at Tokyo's National Stadium tonight.

Al Ahly Cairo 1-2 Internacional

19-year-old substitute striker Luiz Adriano's first professional goal booked Internacional's place in the final of the Fifa Club World Championship in Yokohama on Sunday where they will face Europe's Champions League winners Barcelona from Spain or Mexico's Club America.

Youngster Pato Alexandre put Internacional ahead in the 23rd minute of the first half from a corner before Angolan striker Flavio equalized after the break in the 54th minute for Al Ahly.

Both sides hit the post in a lively encounter, before Luiz Adriano, on for room-mate Pato Alexandre, who was taken off with an ankle injury, sealed the match for Internacional.

Club World Championship

English Premiership


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Al Ahly v Auckland City

Club World Championship 2007, Match 1
Al Ahly 2 Auckland City 0
Toyota Stadium, Toyota
Attendance 29,912

Listen to the Egyptian beat of Al Ahly's fans

Al Ahly improved on their performance in last year's Club World Championship by winning their first match this time around, whereas the team representing Oceania lost out in their opening game for the second year running.

Al Ahly on the attack against Auckland City

On a chilly night in Nagoya, the African Champions were too hot for the team from New Zealand. After a poor first-half where Al Ahly had most of the possession and Auckland were reduced to the long ball, the game burst into life five minutes after the interval. The Angolan striker Flavio opened the scoring with a fine right foot shot after some good build-up play by the Egyptians. In response, Auckland brought on local favorite 34-year-old Teruo Iwamoto, a midfielder in the Shunsuke Nakamura mode, whose cultured left foot helped the team in white create more of a threat going forward and from free kicks and corners.

Al Ahly, it was though, who sealed the match and sent their colorful band of supporters into raptures, when Egyptian striker Aboutrika rifled home the second and clinching goal from a free kick.

al Ahly supporters celebrate their team's win in the opening game of the 2007 FIFA Club World Championship

The African champions displayed some pretty combination play going forward and were rarely tested at the back by a technically limited Auckland side, but it is hard to imagine South American champions Internacional having much difficulty in progressing to their expected final match up with Barcelona, when the two teams meet on Wednesday in Tokyo's National Stadium.

English Premiership


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Gone in 64 seconds

Gone in 64 seconds.
Gone in 64 seconds

I’m feeling a little bit inadequate. Apparently, a normal male averages 20 minutes when expressing his love physically; I’m assuming that includes the taxi journey and the queue for the cashpoint.

My haste is a blessing in disguise for the wife, as she’s on the phone to her mother every 15 minutes. Her old dear doesn’t want to hear my shrieking voice; again.

On the subject of hidden blessings, Arsenal may well benefit from the absence of Thierry Henry. The Gunners have looked a more cohesive unit without their talismanic captain this season, the 4/1 about an Arsenal win at the Bridge should be jumped on; but not for too long.

Robin Van Persie can open the scoring at 17/2. The little Dutchman’s left foot is so cultured; it can often be found sipping Pimms with Graeme Le Saux at the theatre.

Sir Alex believes that his United team are on the verge of greatness, Wayne Rooney may have toppled over the edge. The circular forward can inspire United to derby day domination at 4/11.

It’s rumoured that Cristiano Ronaldo has been offered the lead role in a remake of the Michael Douglas classic, ‘Falling Down’. The collapsible winger should be backed to score at any time at 9/4.

Biscuit magnate Eggert Magnusson has told the press that Alan Pardew’s throat will be cut if West Ham fail to perform; he’s one touch cookie. West Ham can snatch a point at the Reebok at 9/4. Nice.

Newcastle United and Robbie Savage have a lot in common, they’re both awful travellers. Somewhat surprisingly, the Toon Army have only tasted defeat at Ewood Park on one of their last eight visits; a Savage led Blackburn can buck that trend at 6/5.

Paul Jewell did a ‘Baldrick’ in the summer when he bought Emile Heskey, I now expect him to do ‘a Blackadder’ and take advantage of a rotten Boro. Wigan can leave the Riverside with three points at 13/5.

Pompey and Everton shared 1-0 wins in last season’s meet-ups, but ‘no goalscorer’ paid out in both matches. Only the betting naïve (like Harry ‘what’s a computer’ Redknapp) back a 0-0 scoreline. The ‘No goalscorer’ hat-trick is in play at 8/1.

Tottenham’s treatment of Jermain Defoe has left me as bemused as Monty Panesar. What could Defoe have done to deserve such shoddy treatment? Perhaps he spiked his spinach or sent Olive Oyl suggestive text messages. Spurs can beat up Charlton at 4/7, with or without the miniscule goal machine.

The wife is a big fan of Reading; she’s supported them ever since her English teacher wrote ‘reading difficulties’ on her school report. She’s backing the Royals at 13/8 to see off Watford; if I write out the betting slip.

It was odd to hear Neil Warnock begin a sentence with ‘I’m a bit like Arsene Wenger,’ as he questioned the Premier League’s schedule. That’s like the wife claiming to be ‘a bit like Madonna’ because she sings after lovemaking. I’m mad on a Villa win at Bramall Lane at 8/5.

Sheikh Mohammed may sound like a BNP policy, but he’s potentially the new owner of Liverpool FC. The billionaire is normally associated with the glamorous world of horse racing, where he can often be found discussing opera with Robin Van Persie’s left peg. The Reds have an easy looking match at home to Fulham, dive into the Pool at 4/11.

Man Utd, Blackburn, Liverpool, Tottenham and a Pompey draw are the virtually guaranteed selections for an 18/1 accer. Admittedly, it’s never over ‘til the fat lady sings; in my house, that’s normally after 64 seconds.

Weekend Betting:

Man Utd v Man City Saturday 9th December 12:45 Live on Premiership Plus

Man Utd 4/11
Draw 10/3
Man City 9/1

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Ronaldo to be booked for diving 9/1

Blackburn v Newcastle Saturday 9th December 15:00

Blackburn 6/5
Draw 9/4
Newcastle 11/4

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
Blackburn to score three or more goals 4/1

Liverpool v Fulham Saturday 9th December 15:00

Liverpool 4/11
Draw 7/2
Fulham 17/2

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Bellamy to score two or more goals 5/1

Middlesbrough v Wigan Saturday 9th December 15:00

Middlesbrough 6/5
Draw 9/4
Wigan 13/5

Get on: Wigan

Match Special:
Camara to score the only goal of the game 50/1

Portsmouth v Everton Saturday 9th December 15:00

Portsmouth 6/5
Draw 9/4
Everton 9/4

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
No goalscorer in the match 8/1

Tottenham v Charlton Saturday 9th December 15:00

Tottenham 4/7
Draw 3/1
Charlton 11/2

Get on: Tottenham

Match Special:
Berbatov to score from outside the area 9/2

Watford v Reading Saturday 9th December 15:00

Watford 13/8
Draw 9/4
Reading 13/8

Get on: Reading

Match Special:
Doyle to score the first goal 11/2

Bolton v West Ham Saturday 9th December 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Bolton 10/11
Draw 9/4
West Ham 7/2

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Tevez to score in a 1-1 draw 20/1

Chelsea v Arsenal Sunday 10th December 16:00 Live on Sky

Chelsea 8/11
Draw 12/5
Arsenal 4/1

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Van Persie to score direct from a free-kick 10/1

Sheff Utd v Aston Villa Monday 11th December 20:00 Live on Sky

Sheff Utd 2/1
Draw 9/4
Aston Villa 8/5

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Villa to score a penalty 6/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

English Premiership

Monday, December 4, 2006

Dragons Soar Above Bluewings In FA Cup

Dragons Soar Above Bluewings In FA Cup

Chunnam somehow lift massive cup
Dragons Soar Above Bluewings In FA Cup
FA Cup finals conjure certain memories for Englishmen of a certain age. Brilliant May sunshine reflecting off a lush green Wembley pitch to blind 100,000 fans all cramped into a dump of a stadium.

It's slightly different in Korea. The cup itself needs four men to lift it, Seoul World Cup Stadium is infinitely better than the old Wembley dinosaur and, on an arctic December afternoon, there was nothing lush about the bone dry turf.

The temperatures didn’t plummet quite as low as last December but according to a gloomy group of journalists in the lift, we would be enjoying temperatures of –9 C by the time the game finished. Few wanted to think about the possibility of extra time and penalties.

Chunnam fans
Chunnam Fans

Over in Doha for the Asian Games, Baek Ji-hoon and Cho Won-hee of Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Kim Young-kwang of Chunnam Dragons must have been laughing at their club-mates, probably as they lounged around the pool.

Well, perhaps Baek and Cho weren’t too happy as Suwon lost 2-0 to a determined and energetic Chunnam team who lifted the trophy for the second time.

Suwon down and out
Stretchered Off

It’s been a bad few days for the Bluewings. Just two weeks ago they were on course for the double ala Manchester United in 1995. Just as Sir Alex’s team lost the league to Blackburn on the Sunday and the cup to Everton the following Saturday, Suwon were denied the K-League championship final by Seongnam the previous weekend and were soon playing second fiddle to the Gwangyang outfit in the cup final.

From the beginning, Chunnam looked hungrier, more committed and determined. The yellow shirts and black shorts were buzzing all over the pitch.

Lee Woon-jae made a return to the Suwon team for the first time since returning from the World Cup. The 33 year-old may have been the captain of the Korean team but doesn’t enjoy the best of relationships with Cha Bum-keun. His recall for the final had the air of a farewell appearance about it.

There wasn’t much that Lee could do about the two goals. The first was scored by Song Jong-hyun but his low shot from outside the area took a nasty deflection off Mato Neretljak.

Chunnam celebrate opener

Suwon pushed forward in search of an equaliser but almost fell two behind after 75 minutes. Sandro Hiroshi’s point blank header at the far post was well-saved by Lee.

After failing to create a clear-cut opportunity for most of the game, Suwon missed two gilt-edged chances in the space of a minute.

There's always next season
The End

In the 82nd minute, Shin Young-rok dragged the ball wide of the post when through on goal and just seconds later, fellow substitute Denis Laktionov headed wide from three yards out with the goal at his mercy.

The crowd sensed that Suwon’s hopes had gone and they were right as Chunnam soon sealed the win with a second goal.

With the Korean defence AWOL, Kim Tae-soo side-footed the ball home from close range and the celebrations started for Chunnam and the recriminations for Suwon.

Seoul Look For New Coach

Beijing-bound Lee Jang-soo
Lee Jang-soo

In one of the worst-kept secrets of the season, FC Seoul have decided not to renew the contract of coach Lee Jang-soo.

Lee joined the club at the end of 2004 and his solid his uncompromising style made the team hard to beat but Seoul rarely looked like potential champions.

The 50 year-old is set to return to China and where he enjoyed some success around the turn of the century. He will take over Beijing Guo’an.

His last game in charge was the recent championship play-off final defeat at the hands of Seongnam. Even if the team had won the title, the word on the street was that Lee was still done for.

The club will look outside Korea for a replacement.

“After Lee Jang-soo’s contract has expired, we have decided not to renew his contract. We have decided that the baton will be passed on to a foreign coach. We will try to find one quickly."

“This season we won the Hauzen Cup and reached the play-off semi-finals with good results. We have considered the problem of the coach’s contract renewal for a long time.

"However, we came to the conclusion that a change was necessary in order to reach the next level."

According to the media, former national team coach Humberto Coelho and ex-Turkey boss Senol Gunes are in line to take over.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

K-League News and Interviews

Car Trouble For Dragan Stojkovic

Car Trouble For Dragan Stojkovic.
Ex-estrella del futbol japones

La pareja Stojkovic pillada en una trampa

La mujer de afamado ex-fútbolista y el actual presidente del Estrella Roja, Dragan "Piksi" Stojkovic ha utilizado a una persona minusválida para importar un Ferrari de 200.000 euros, con el fin de eludir los cargos de la aduana, de 25% del precio del vehículo..

Fue el regalo de Stojkovic para el 40 aniversario de Snezana Stojkovic, informa el diario Kurir de Belgrado.

Piksi, la leyenda viva del fútbol serbio, se aprovechó de la ley según la que los minusválidos de invalidez de más de 70% están exentos de los cargos de la aduana, independientemente del valor del coche. Por lo tanto, encontró a una mujer ciega de la localidad sureña de Pirot e hizo registrar al coche al nombre de ella.

Sin embargo, alguien implicado en la transacción no guardó silencio, así que los rumores sobre la trampa empezaron a difundirse por Belgrado. Cuando la historia llegó a los oidos del ministro de la hacienda, Mladjan Dinkic, este se ensaño y aprobó un decreto limitando el valor de todos los vehiculos a ser importados para el uso de minusválidos a sólo 10 mil euros.

Tal medida tenía previsto impedir semejantes malversaciones en un futuro, pero el ministro no tomó en cuenta el hecho de que los coches adaptados para ciertos tipos de minusválidos, por ejemplo parapléjicos, cuestan más de 10 mil euros.

"El nuevo límite perjudica a la gente con verdaderos problemas", ha matizado el presidente de la Unión de minusválidos de Serbia, Zvonko Nikolic.

Visto que el ministro Dinkic dimitió hace unas semanas, posiblemente se modifique el mencionado decreto y aumente el limite para satisfacer las necesidades de los inválidos.

Stojkovic, quien militó entre otros en el Estrella Roja, Marsella, Verona y Nagoya Grampus japonés, sólo comentó, "no había comprado el coche para mi", evitando la mención de su mujer. Snezana, por otro lado, raras veces sienta en el lujoso coche que causó la controversia.


World Soccer News

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Urawa crowned 2006 champions

Urawa crowned 2006 champions.
J-League: Urawa crowned 2006 champions

Urawa Reds have won their first ever J-League title. The club from the southern suburbs of Saitama clinched the title with a 3-2 win over Gamba Osaka, in front of 62,241 fans at Saitama Stadium.

Gamba opened the scoring after twenty-one minutes through their Brazilian ace Magno Alves, but Urawa's Brazilian Robson Ponte equalised just six minutes later. With Gamba needing to win by three clear goals to claim the championship, the title was all but wrapped up when Urawa's top scorer Washington scored a minute before half-time.

Urawa extended their lead on the hour mark when Washington claimed his second of the match, taking him level at the top of the goalscoring charts with Magno Alves. Satoshi Yamaguchi scored a late goal for Gamba but it was too little, too late, as Saitama Stadium erupted in wild celebration.

Both Washington and Magno Alves ended the season with 26 goals apiece, although Washington scored his goals in five matches less than his Brazilian counterpart.

Elsewhere in the J-League, 2005 runner's-up Cerezo Osaka were relegated after losing 3-1 at home to Kawasaki Frontale. Cerezo will join Kyoto Purple Sanga in J2 next season.

Avispa Fukuoka finished level on 27 points with Cerezo, but will contest the promotion/relegation playoff courtesy of having a better goal difference - by just two goals.

Fukuoka will take on Vissel Kobe, who finished third in J2. The matches will take place at Kobe Wing Stadium on December 6, with the return leg at Hakatanomori Stadium in Fukuoka on December 9.

Kashiwa Reysol will join Yokohama FC in the First Division next season, after both teams won promotion from J2. Kashiwa secured their return to the top flight after a one year absence by beating Shonan Bellmare 3-0 at Hiratsuka Stadium.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back to the Führer

Back to the Führer

My old man has forgotten more about betting than I’ll ever know; he has Alzheimer’s. It’s bad news for the old fellow, but it’s a result for me at Christmas.

He always used to say, “Never overestimate the importance of recent form.” He hasn’t said this since his condition deteriorated though; the poor sod thinks he’s still fighting in the war. The last coherent statement he made was, “We must invade Poland.”

Back to the Führer

Liverpool’s recent form on the road may be abysmal, but the cream will rise to the top like a Scouse salmon. Even the old man is backing the Reds at 11/10 to see off Wigan; if he remembers the location of the betting shop.

Jamie Carragher had said that he wouldn’t swap Stevie Gerrard for Ronaldinho, which coincidentally, is a view shared by Barcelona. The in form Gerrard can inspire the Pool to a 2-0 win at 6/1.

Gareth Southgate is a rich man’s Steve McClaren, which places him one rung off the bottom of the English managerial ladder. A Manchester United romp at 8/13 will be about as surprising as the Sunday newspaper headline: ‘Rooney KO’s reporter, sleeps with an old dear’.

If Wayne Rooney were so inclined, he could visit ‘the canny granny’ twice a week (at £65 a pop) for the next 44 years, and it would cost him less than 1% of the £30m deal he’s just agreed. Unlike the old lady in question, that’s not too shabby. The 4/1 on offer for Rooney to open the scoring is a genuine looker.

West Ham’s new owner made his fortune in biscuits, so it could be argued that Frank Lampard part-financed the deal. A draw between Everton and West Ham looks a great investment at 9/4.

Alan Pardew is worried about a gambling culture at the club. Apparently, the players enjoy the card game ‘roaster’; it’s a variation of poker, played with more hands. Get your hands on the 8/1 about ‘no goalscorer’ in the match.

As a result of recent defeats to Fulham and Bolton, Arsenal are available at a huge 8/13 to see off Tottenham. Henry missed the Reebok shoeing due to a pain in the neck; Robbie Savage let his tyres down. Spurs will not be so fortunate.

Robbie Savage is like a box of tissues; girly, but useful. Blackburn have only lost one of the last twelve games in which the blonde bombshell has been involved; Fulham will succumb to girl-power at 10/11.

In a climate where footballers and managers ‘see no evil’, ‘hear no evil’ and ‘roast no evil’, it was refreshing to hear El Hadji Diouf admit to taking the occasional dive. He’s also an expert in domestic conflict resolution; the lad’s really growing on me. Diouf’s honesty will be rewarded with a win at the Madejski at 15/8.

Les Reed has also embraced the concept of truth. His quote of “Andy Reid’s body shape makes him look worse than he is,” is a polite way of saying “the fat lad done well.” Charlton can leave Bramall Lane with a point at a pleasantly plump 9/4.

I keep hearing how Watford have been unlucky this season; but what about me? The house caught fire last year and the wife wasn’t even in. I’ll say what I said to her mother when we moved in for a few weeks shortly after; I’ve got a huge tip for you. Get on Man City at 8/11.

Andy Cole and Kanu should both be involved when Pompey face the Villa, and surprisingly, they’re not being wheeled out for a pre-match presentation. The Villa are in play at 9/4.

I’m feeling genuine remorse for criticising David James. Judging by his new haircut, it’s quite clear that the poor sod is living with his mother, and she’s still living in the 1940’s. I’ll have to introduce her to my old man.

This week’s accer is so inevitable, Doctor Who, Austin Powers, ‘Bill and Ted’ and Shakin’ Michael J Fox have all declared themselves powerless in the fight to prevent it from obliging. Arsenal, Blackburn, Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City are the selections, the payout is a Billie Piper pleasing 15/1.

Weekend Betting:

Arsenal v Tottenham Saturday 2nd December 12:45 Live on Premiership Plus

Arsenal 8/13
Draw 13/5
Tottenham 11/2

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Henry to score direct from a free kick 6/1

Blackburn v Fulham Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Blackburn 10/11
Draw 9/4
Fulham 3/1

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
Blackburn to score three or more goals 7/2

Portsmouth v Aston Villa Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Portsmouth 5/4
Draw 9/4
Aston Villa 9/4

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Gareth Barry to score with his left foot 5/1

Reading v Bolton Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Reading 6/4
Draw 9/4
Bolton 15/8

Get on: Bolton

Match Special:
Anelka to score the only goal of the game 40/1

Sheff Utd v Charlton Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Sheff Utd 13/10
Draw 9/4
Charlton 23/10

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Match to finish 1-1 11/2

Wigan v Liverpool Saturday 2nd December 15:00

Wigan 11/4
Draw 9/4
Liverpool 11/10

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Kuyt to score two or more goals 6/1

Middlesbrough v Man Utd Saturday 2nd December 17:15 Live on Premiership Plus

Middlesbrough 5/1
Draw 13/5
Man Utd 8/13

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Rooney to score from outside the penalty area 9/2

Everton v West Ham Sunday 3rd December 16:00 Live on Sky

Everton 10/11
Draw 9/4
West Ham 10/3

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Under 2.5 goals in the game 8/13

Man City v Watford Monday 4th December 20:00 Live on Sky

Man City 8/11
Draw 12/5
Watford 9/2

Get on: Man City

Match Special:
Barton to score at any time 4/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seongnam Stroll To Seventh Success

Seongnam Stroll To Seventh Success

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have been crowned K-League champions for the seventh time after a 3-1 aggregate win over Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the two-legged championship play-off decider.

It was a deserved win for the team that inhabits the affluent southern Seoul suburb of Bundang as they took the first leg at home 1-0 and shocked Suwon with a fairly comfortable 2-1 win in the second match.

The first leg was a tight affair –even more so for the fans squeezed into Seongnam’s Stadium as the attendance given was 21,000 – 5,000 more than the official capacity of the airy arena.

K-League spokespeople mumbled something about a temporary increase in capacity. It may not be too important but anyone familiar with Korean football knows that if Korean teams were as creative on the pitch as officials are when announcing attendance figures then the K-League would be a much better place.

One thing is for sure; at least half of those in attendance were sporting blue shirts after making the short trek east from Suwon.

They had little to shout about. Seongnam controlled the game for long periods without looking especially dangerous against a well-drilled Suwon back-four. With the visitors failing to create anything of note, the game was heading for a goalless draw.

That was until the 88th minute. Park Jin-seob launched a long cross from the right and K-League top scorer Woo Sung-yong was allowed to sneak in at the far post between two defenders and head the ball past the flat-footed Park Hyo-jin in the Suwon goal.

It was a deserved win on the day and left things nicely poised for the second leg with Suwon going for a fourth title and their second in three years in front of their own fans.

Those supporters turned out in force though the official 38,500 attendance was surprisingly swelled by the presence of over 5,000 yellow-shirted away fans at the ‘Big Bird'. The Seongnam fans took advantage of free travel to give the K-League’s most successful but worst supported team some vocal backing in the second leg.

Suwon boss Cha Bum-keun gave those critics who believe that he may have been a great player but he ain’t a great coach extra fuel by sticking playmaker Lee Kwan-woo on the right wing and drafting in Park Ju-song in defence. The 22 year-old had just returned from his two year military spell with Gwangju Sangmu and looked lost.

He was put out of his misery at half-time but by then the damage was done as Seongnam have something that Suwon lack – strikers that don’t need asking twice to put the ball into the net.

2004 K-League top scorer Mota has not had the best season at Seongnam – a broken ankle is responsible for that – but he showed all his predatory instincts after 26 minutes as he flicked the ball into the Suwon net from close range, despite the attentions of a blue-shirted defender.

From that moment, the hosts’ hopes of a quartet of titles looked doomed. Suwon were short of ideas, movement and perhaps most worryingly, motivation.

It didn’t improve much in the second half. The introduction of a disappointing Da Silva and young striker Seo Dong-hyun looked lightweight compared to Seongnam’s substitutions which brought the K-League’s top scorer Woo Sung-yong and international star Kim Sang-sik onto the pitch.

It wasn’t until Mota, left unmarked at the near post, scored his second and Seongnam’s third of the fixture midway through the second half that Suwon roused themselves to finally trouble Kim Yong-dae in the Seongnam goal.

Da Silva lifted his barrel-chest into the air with 14 minutes left to head home and hand the hosts a lifeline though with two goals still required, it was a tenuous one. So it proved and it was all over with three minutes remaining when striker Seo dragged a shot wide of the post with only ‘keeper Kim to beat.

It was very much a case of too little, too late from the Bluewings who can console themselves with the FA Cup final against Chunnam Dragons on December 3.

Seongnam rejoiced with a seventh title and a crack at the 2007 Asian Champions League when their line-up may contain a certain Mr. Ahn Jung-hwan.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

Asian Soccer News and Interviews

Monday, November 27, 2006

Japanese Soccer News Urawa v Gamba

Japanese Soccer News Urawa v Gamba.
J-League News: Urawa and Gamba Osaka to fight it out at the death!

After a penalty shoot-out finish in the Championship playoff of 2004 and Gamba Osaka's dramatic injury time decider last season, the J-League will go down to the wire for a third season in succession.

Urawa Reds will take on Gamba Osaka at a sold-out Saitama Stadium next Saturday in a head-to-head showdown to decide the 2006 J-League champions. Urawa are in the driving seat as they can afford to lose by a margin of two goals and still claim the title.

Urawa supporters swamped Ajinomoto Stadium this weekend but their legion of fans in the crowd of 41,528 had to postpone the title celebrations, as FC Tokyo held the Reds to a 0-0 draw.

In Osaka, Magno Alves' last minute winner saw Gamba triumph 3-2 over bottom club Kyoto Purple Sanga, and keep the title race alive until the last day of the season. That result means Kyoto are relegated to J2 for the third time in their history.

It was a shoot-out of sorts at Gamba's Expo '70 Stadium, as Magno Alves traded goals with his Brazilian counterpart Paulinho. Paulinho opened the scoring for Kyoto, before Alves struck twice for Gamba. Paulinho equalised with just ten minutes remaining, before Alves completed his hat-trick with a last minute header. That goal took Alves to the top of the goalscoring charts. He has scored 25 goals in the J-League this season, one more than Urawa's Brazilian striker Washington.

Elsewhere Ryoichi Maeda's penalty settled a dull Shizuoka derby at Ecopa Stadium. Maeda's goal was all that the crowd of 37,711 had to cheer, as Jubilo Iwata ran out 1-0 winners over local rivals, Shimizu S-Pulse. Jungo Fujimoto came closest for S-Pulse; his delicate chip beat Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in the Jubilo goal but rebounded off the crossbar.

In J2, Yokohama FC became the first team to win promotion when they beat Sagan Tosu 1-0. That victory also wrapped up the title for Yokohama FC and came courtesy of former Kyoto striker Alemao, who scored the winner in the 77th minute. Yokohama will start their first ever J1 campaign without their former Japan international Shoji Jo. The 31 year old has announced his retirement.

Vissel Kobe lie in second on the table, after their 2-2 home draw with Shonan Bellmare. Kashiwa Reysol lost 3-2 to Consadole Sapporo at home, meaning that they drop down to third. The league's third placed team will playoff against the sixteenth placed finishers from J1, for the right to play in the First Division next season.

Japan National Teams

Japan National Team

November 15, Sapporo

Japan vs Saudi Arabia

Japan produced their best performance to date under Ivica Osim, beating Saudi Arabia 3-1 to finish top of their Asian Cup qualifying group. In front of just under 41,000 fans at the Sapporo Dome, Japan opened the scoring when Urawa defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka stabbed home after Seiichiro Maki's header had been cleared off the line.

Kawasaki Frontale frontman Kazuki Ganaha replaced the injured Ryuji Bando up front, and Ganaha scored the first of his two goals when he headed home Yasuyuki Konno's cross after 29 minutes. Saudi Arabia pulled one back when Yasser Al Qahtani fired home from the penalty spot, after Konno was adjudged to have pulled down the Saudi striker.

Japan dominated the second half and Ganaha scored his second when he swept home Yuichi Komano's cross in the 49th minute. Japan could have added a fourth in injury time when substitute Daiki Takamatsu was brought down in the box. Marcus Tulio Tanaka fired the resultant spot-kick over the crossbar, however.

The result will give Japan renewed optimism ahead of next year's Asian Cup finals, after they outplayed Saudi Arabia for long periods of this match. Japan's next match is a friendly against arch rivals South Korea in March 2007.

Japan under 21 National Team

November 21, Tokyo

Japan vs South Korea

Japan and South Korea played out a 1-1 draw, in front of 22,115 fans at the National Stadium in Tokyo. The teams were preparing for the upcoming Asian Games in Doha, where Japan will take on Pakistan, Turkmenistan and DPR Korea in their group.

South Korea opened the scoring through Yang Dong Hyen in injury time at the end of the first half. Kashima Antlers midfielder Chikashi Masuda equalised with fifteen minutes remaining. A week earlier the two teams had played out another 1-1 draw in the South Korean city of Changwon.

Japan Women's National Team

November 19, Chiba and November 23, Karlsruhe

Japan beat Australia 1-0 in a match played in driving rain at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba. Shinobu Ohno scored the only goal after 51 minutes.

Ohno also found the back of the net against Germany four days later, however Japan lost that match 6-3 in Karlsruhe. Aya Miyama and Karina Maruyama were Japan's other goalscorers. A Petra Wimbersky double added to goals from Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, Kerstin Garefrekes, Birgit Prinz and Conny Pohlers for Germany.

Japan take on the Maldives, Jordan and China in their Asian Games group.

Japanese Players Overseas

Japanese players have been having a stellar time in Europe of late, with Shunsuke Nakamura and Junichi Inamoto both scoring in the last round of UEFA Champions League matches. Teruo Iwamoto, however, was sent off on his debut for Auckland City in the New Zealand Football Championship.

Shunsuke Nakamura: Celtic

Nakamura fired Celtic into the second round of the UEFA Champions League, scoring a sensational free-kick against Manchester United. Nakamura's goal proved the winner at Celtic Park, after goalkeeper Artur Boruc saved Louis Saha's last minute penalty.

Junichi Inamoto: Galatasaray

It seems that rumours of Inamoto's demise at Galatasaray have been greatly exaggerated, as he drove home his first ever Champions League goal against Bordeaux. The goal was merely a consolation, however, as Galatasaray lost 3-1.

Koji Nakata: FC Basel

Nakata played the full ninety minutes of Basel's 2-2 draw with Nancy in the UEFA Cup but lasted just half an hour of the match against FC Zürich at the weekend. Nakata, who was recovering from a broken nose, was hit in the face by a Blerim Dzemaili shot and was forced from the field with blood pouring from his nose.

Kenji Fukuda: Numancia

Fukuda has been in goalscoring form of late, and he scored again in a recent 1-1 draw against Deportivo Alaves.

Teruo Iwamoto: Auckland City

Iwamoto's preparations for the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup were thrown into disarray, when he was sent off in the last minute of his debut for Auckland City. Iwamoto missed Auckland's 5-1 weekend win at Otago through suspension.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News