Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The bitterest pillow

The bitterest pillow

I am not a happy man. As a rule, the wife and I are normally easy going, or to be more truthful, she’s easy and I’m going. But for some strange reason, after just two weeks of quality football, the Premiership has been sidelined to make way for the International, like Cinderella being dumped in favour of her ugly sister. (The other one married me.) I haven’t been this upset since the wife first told me she was pregnant, (It was my own fault, i was hoping that her looks would provide adequate contraception; damn those pillow cases.) luckily, i have now calmed down enough to point the way to a few cracking weekend punts.

After an unproductive World Cup, it’s time to embrace a brand new dawn for the English game. I’d like to offer my best wishes to the man who was without a shadow of a doubt, the most outstanding candidate to replace Sven Goran Eriksson; good luck at the Villa, Martin O’Neill. Incredible as it may seem, O’Neill was overlooked as the FA first courted ‘Big Phil’ Scolari, before settling for ‘first choice’ Steve ‘I once bought Michael Ricketts’ McClaren.

The bitterest pillow

Let’s be honest, Macca is no Brian Clough, his record at Middlesbrough was a joke. The Boro board backed him to the hilt financially, yet McClaren could only finish in the top half of the Premiership once. Still, there’s no point in crying over spilt milk (only a significant loss of lager justifies tears), even Macca can lead England to a comfortable victory over Andorra. The English are unbackable at 1/50, playing on a 4-0 scoreline at 13/2 can prove a profitable alternative.

McClaren’s first duty as England manager was to shut the door on David Beckham, the best crosser of a ball in world football. The situation would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. There’s no Becks, there’s no Rooney, the first goal scorer betting centres around Crouch and Frank ‘one goal every thirty shots’ Lampard. God help us all. Lamps is the lesser of two evils at 5/1.

I’m a big fan of John Terry; I can honestly say that I would never, under any circumstances, throw him out of a nightclub. The new England captain is available at 9/2 to score with a header; that’s worth a second look.

Scotland host the Faroe Isles in their opening qualifier and I’m preparing for a bad day. It’s absolute carnage in my house when the Jocks play, the wife gets all patriotic; out comes the haggis, the bagpipes and the syringe. Scotland were held to a 2-2 draw by the Faroe Isles four years ago, I think there’s a great chance of a shock here; I think Scotland can nick it at 1/8.

Krissy Boyd scores plenty of goals at a domestic level, but I’d probably score 30 a season in the SPL. I’m tipping Boyd to net the opener for our skirt-wearing neighbours at 3/1 thanks to a complex new system I’ve been developing, if a team has only one decent player, pick him.

Tomas Rosicky could do with an easy match to guarantee a win after a depressing start to the season with Arsenal. Luckily for Tommy, the Czech’s are hosting Wales. There’s been a few tears shed in Robbie Savage’s caravan since John Toshack was appointed the Welsh manager, there will be a few more when the Czech’s take an easy three points at 2/5.

I’m a big fan of Bjork, the Icelandic nutcase once beat up a reporter for saying, “Welcome to Bangkok,” tough but fair. Iceland have been priced up at 9/4 for their trip to Northern Ireland, be like Bjork and get stuck in. There’s only one call for first goalscorer betting, that’s Gudjohnsen, Eidur put a bet on it at 6/1.

The Republic of Ireland are in the same group as Germany and the Czech Republic, but have kindly promised to fulfil their fixtures anyway. The Irish travel to Stuttgart to begin their campaign, the Germans will walk it at 4/9.

Stan Staunton was held at gunpoint recently, police are looking for a complete madman, Niall Quinn hasn’t been ruled out. Another lanky forward looks the call to open the scoring, take a Klose look at Miroslav at 4/1.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy has been left out of the Dutch squad for the trip to Luxembourg. The horse-faced goal machine was reportedly devastated by Van Basten’s decision, but he’s since been stabilised. Only the rich can play on the Dutch at 1/50, a correct score perm of 3-0 / 4-0 will have to suffice for the rest of us at 12/5.

There’s a real treat in store for footy fans on Sunday, when Brazil lock horns with Argentina at the Emirates. From the look of the squads, both managers are taking this friendly seriously; Tevez, Messi, and Riquelme will face off against Ronaldinho, Robinho and Kaka. Ronaldo ‘too fat to have two names’ hasn’t made the squad which gives the Brazilians a glimmer of hope, but I’ll be on the Argies at 7/4.

The acc of the week:

The accer this week is so nailed on, a team of demolition experts would struggle to loosen it. Iceland, Scotland, France, Czech Republic, Germany and Italy are the teams, the payout is a pleasing 10/1.

The quote of the week:

“When you are good enough to go to Arsenal, you are good enough to play in the England team; because there are many players who play for England who would not play at Arsenal.”

Arsene Wenger is such a diplomat, he refused to name Peter Crouch.

The lay man:

England are a fantastic lay at 6/1 to win Euro 2008, but if you want your money tied up for years you should consider marriage. On the weekend action, Northern Ireland should definitely be layed on the exchanges at 13/10.

Weekend Betting:

Northern Ireland v Iceland Saturday 2nd September 15:00 Live on BBC NI

Northern Ireland 5/4
Draw 11/5
Iceland 9/4

Get on: Iceland

Match Special:
Iceland to score three or more goals 6/1

Scotland v Faroe Isles Saturday 2nd September 15:00 Live on Sky

Scotland 1/8
Draw 15/2
Faroe Isles 25/1

Get on: Scotland

Match Special:
Boyd to score a hat-trick 12/1

England v Andorra Saturday 2nd September 17:00 Live on BBC

England 1/50
Draw 10/1
Andorra 80/1

Get on: England

Match Special:
The first goal to be scored before/during the 18 minute mark 5/6

Georgia v France Saturday 2nd September 17:00

Georgia 7/1
Draw 16/5
France 4/9

Get on: France

Match Special:
France to score in both halves 5/4

Czech Rep v Wales Saturday 2nd September 19:15 Live on Sky

Czech Rep 2/5
Draw 10/3
Wales 8/1

Get on: Czech Rep

Match Special:
Rosicky to score from outside the area 13/2

Luxembourg v Holland Saturday 2nd September 19:30

Luxembourg 50/1
Draw 9/1
Holland 1/50

Get on: Holland

Match Special:
Kuyt to score a hat-trick 11/1

Germany v Rep of Ireland Saturday 2nd September 19:45

Germany 4/9
Draw 3/1
Rep of Ireland 7/1

Get on: Germany

Match Special:
Germany to win and keep a clean sheet 11/10

Italy v Lithuania Saturday 2nd September 19:50

Italy 1/7
Draw 11/2
Lithuania 16/1

Get on: Italy

Match Special:
Pirlo to score direct from a free kick 13/2

Spain v Liechtenstein Saturday 2nd September 21:00

Spain 1/50
Draw 10/1
Liechtenstein 80/1

Get on: Spain

Match Special:
Villa to score a hat-trick 10/1

Brazil v Argentina Sunday 3rd September 16:00 Live on BBC

Brazil 6/4
Draw 11/5
Argentina 7/4

Get on: Argentina

Match Special:
Riquelme to score at any time 7/2

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Van Nistelrooy - Tailormade For Real Madrid

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Kako zabija nizozemski topnik

Ruud van Nistelrooy jedan je od onih odabranih igrača koji izvrsno izgledaju u dresu Real Madrida - kao da su za taj klub rođeni. I navijači "bijelih" bili su oduševljeni njegovim dolaskom te su prinovu dočekali kao nekoć Napolitanci Maradonu. Zasad su simpatije obostrane, jer Nizozemac tvrdi da se odlično snašao u novoj sredini.

Real Madrid

"Čim sam se priključio momčadi, osjetio sam se potpuno uklopljenim u ovaj klub. Uspjeti u Real Madridu moj je glavni cilj. Ostavit ću srce i dušu na travnjaku da bih osvojio srca Realovih navijača", obećao je pri dolasku i najavio veliku sezonu s dva gola protiv Anderlechta u utakmici za Trofej Santiaga Bernabeua, koju je Real dobio s 2:1.

Svoju je novu momčad ocijenio superlativima.

"Imamo kompletan i ujednačen sastav, koji igra privlačan nogomet. To je vrlo povoljno za napadača. Zajedničkim trudom ostvarit ćemo mnoge uspjehe."

Real je zadnji trofej osvojio u kolovozu 2003., a i tada je to bio samo španjolski Superkup protiv Mallorce.

(mn) Rasna devetka počela kao stoper

"Nema dvojbe da su trofeji najvažniji, no španjolska je liga jako komplicirana, zapravo najjača na svijetu." - ocijenio je Van Nistelrooy, koji je pozorno pratio zbivanja u Primeri godinama prije no što je postao član najvećeg kluba na svijetu.

Koliko je istine u njegovim predviđanjima pokazao je i ligaški debi protiv Villarreala na Santiago Bernabeuu. Mada je Villarreal igrao slabije nego što smo navikli u proteklim sezonama, uspio je izvući bod, a Ruud ni njegovi suigrači nisu zabili ni gola.

Rutgerus Johannes Martinus van Nistelrooy, zvani Ruud, čistokrvna je devetka, koja vječito lunja kaznenim prostorom u potrazi za slobodnom loptom da je pospremi u mrežu. Njegovo je ubojito oružje udarac glavom, a pored toga i udarac lijevom nogom, s kojom je postigao više golova no s desnom. Neumoljiv je i s bijele točke i s mjesta gdje se izvode slobodni udarci.

Iako nije u ljubavi s izbornikom Marcom van Bastenom, ne možemo propustiti primijetiti da je po karizmi, čak i po crtama lica, usporediv upravo sa svojim prethodnikom.

Zanimljivo je da je tako rasni centarfor kao Van Nistelrooy, kojega jedva možemo zamisliti na nekoj drugoj poziciji, u početku bavljenja nogometom igrao na mjestu stopera. Tek je 1996. treneru Den Boscha palo na pamet iskoristiti njegovu zapaženu brzinu i smisao za finiširanje akcija tako da ga je prebacio čim bliže protivničkim vratima. Rezultat nije izostao te je Ruud u prvoj sezoni kao napadač ubacio 12 golova u prvenstvu. Klub u usponu, Heerenveen, preuzeo ga je 1997. i također se odmah okoristio njegovom navalnom djelotvornošću. S novih je 13 pogodaka zainteresirao najstabilniji nizozemski klub, PSV Eindhoven, koji ga je spario s iskusnim Lucom Nilisom u vršku napada.

Van Nistelrooy je bio senzacija od prvog dana na Philipsovom stadionu. S fantastičnim 31 pogotkom u 34 utakmice (0,95 po utakmici) nadmašio je i učinak Ronalda kad je Brazilac igrao za PSV i u razmaku od par mjeseci postao tema razgovora nogometnih fanatika širom svijeta. Kao nagradu, primio je trofej za najboljeg igrača nizozemskog prvenstva.

(mn) Pogodak po utakmici

Iduće je godine dodatno poboljšao preciznost te je u prva 23 kola zabio čak 29 puta (1,1 po utakmici) i pomogao PSV-u izgraditi nedostižno vodstvo na čelu ljestvice. Manchester United već je "uletio" s ponudom, tražeći nadomjestak za Colea ili Yorkea, no tada se dogodilo nešto nezamislivo. Na treningu 6. ožujka 2000. nespretnim je pokretom potrgao ligamente koljena i ostao 11 mjeseci izvan akcije. Unatoč ozljedi, još je jednom zaslužio naslov igrača godine.

United je ostao vjeran svom izabraniku te mu je obećao ugovor još prije no što se vratio na teren. Napokon, 1. ožujka 2001., malo prije godišnjice ozljede, odigrao je prijateljsku utakmicu protiv Sparte iz Rotterdama, zabivši dva pogotka. Dva dana kasnije, vraćen je među prvotimce protiv Rode u prvenstvu.

U travnju 2001. Manchester je dogovorio s PSV-om transfer Van Nistelrooya za 19 milijuna dolara i svečano ga predstavio na Old Traffordu u srpnju iste godine. Ispostavilo se da ozljeda nije nimalo otupila njegovu oštricu, jer je Ruud u prvoj sezoni podario Vragovima 36 golova u svim natjecanjima, a 2003. čak 44, ovjenčavši se titulom najboljeg strijelca i naslovom prvaka - jedinim u svojoj epohi u Premiershipu. Brojku od 100 golova u dresu Manchestera dosegao je 7. veljače 2004., završivši sezonu s 28 golova i kao pobjednik Kupa FA. Ozljeda mišića umanjila je njegov učinak 2004/05, ali se i od te nepogode oporavio i, kao da se ništa nije dogodilo, prošle sezone još jednom predveo strijelce Uniteda s 21 ligaškim pogotkom

Lukavi Alex Ferguson uvijek nastoji izvući maksimalni profit od igrača tako da ga gurne na tržište dok mu je cijena još visoka. Nije isključeno da su njegovi sukobi s igračima, uključujući Beckhama i Stama, izrežirani zato da bi igrač lakša srca otišao iz kluba. U svakom slučaju, Ferguson je proljetos Nizozemca izostavio s finala Ligaškog kupa, a potom mu nije dao da igra na oproštaju Roya Keanea, još jednog od onih koji su se zakvačili sa zajapurenim Škotom.

Koncem prvenstva postalo je jasno da Van Nistelrooy ne želi ostati na Old Traffordu, što su oduševljeno dočekali Real i - Bayern. Prema medijskim izvještajima, Bayern je čak Manchesteru ponudio više na ime odštete, no Ruud je pritisnuo klupske gazde da ga ustupe Realu. Nakon dugog natezanja oko cijene, Španjolci su platili 15 milijuna eura i sklopili s Nizozemcem trogodišnji ugovor.

Reprezentacija - završena priča?

Realov trener Fabio Capello može biti sretan što je njegov novi igrač izgleda ispao iz reprezentativne konkurencije, jer ga Van Basten nije pozvao za prve kvalifikacijske utakmice protiv Luksemburga i Bjelorusije za Euro 2008. Bez naprezanja u narančastoj majici, Ruud će municiju čuvati za samo za nastupe u Realu.

Van Nistelrooy je za reprezentaciju debitirao 18. studenog 1998. u dvoboju s Njemačkom i dosada je odigrao 54 utakmice, postigavši 28 golova. Bio je prisutan na Europskim prvenstvima 2000. i 2004. te na prošlom Mundialu u Njemačkoj, no Van Basten ga je senzacionalno izostavio u osmini finala protiv Portugala, kad je Nizozemska poražena s 0:1.

Izbornikov potez nije nikad razjašnjen, osobito ako se zna da je već ranije otpisao i Bayernovog Roya Makaaya. Mada, istina je i da su na scenu stupili mladi lavovi poput Klaasa-Jana Huntelaara i Dirka Kuyta, koji su pokazali raskošan napadački talent.

Osobna karta

Rutgerus Johannes van Nistelrooy
Nadimak: Van the Man, Lokomotiva
Datum rođenja: 1 srpnja 1976.
Mjesto rođenja: Oss (Nizozemska)
Visina i težina: 188 cm, 80 kg
Pozicija: srednji napadač
Klub: Real Madrid

Klupska karijera

1993/94 Den Bosch 2 0
1994/95 Den Bosch 15 3
1995/96 Den Bosch 21 2
1996/97 Den Bosch 31 12
1997/98 Heerenveen 31 13
1998/99 PSV Eindhoven 34 31
1999/00 PSV Eindhoven 23 29
2000/01 PSV Eindhoven 10 2
2001/02 Manchester United 32 23
2002/03 Manchester United 34 25
2003/04 Manchester United 32 20
2004/05 Manchester United 17 6
2005/06 Manchester United 35 21
2006/07 Real Madrid


1998-06 Nizozemska 54 28


Nizozemsko prvenstvo: 2000. i 2001.
Nizozemski Superkup: 1999.
Englesko prvenstvo: 2003.
Engleski Kup FA: 2004.
Engleski Ligaški kup: 2006.

Najbolji strijelac nizozemskog prvenstva: 1999. i 2000.
Igrač godine u Nizozemskoj: 1999. i 2000.
Najbolji strijelac engleskog prvenstva: 2003.

Copyright Ozren Podnar/Soccerphile/Nogomet

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Korean Coach's World Cup Thoughts

Afshin Ghotbi

Afshin Ghotbi
Afshin Ghotbi
After two spells as “number three”, Afshin Ghotbi has returned for a third term in South Korea. This time however, he is the second-in-command behind new head coach Pim Verbeek.

The faces may be familiar but the situation is not. There is no longer a World Cup on the horizon but rather a chance to build a team from scratch, to lay the foundations of a healthy national set-up.

That future may be starting right now with qualification for the 2007 Asian Cup and upcoming games with Iran and Taiwan to think about but the recent World Cup, Ghotbi’s second with Korea and third overall, is still fresh in everyone’s minds. The resident of Southern California was in the thick of the action during those three intense games against Togo, France and Switzerland that ultimately ended with the Taeguk Warriors narrowly failing to progress to the second round.

The 42 year-old remembers the events of Germany well.” We set a goal of four or five points which we thought was achievable… When you look at it objectively and take all your emotions out of it, we showed well. But you can’t go to a World Cup into a tough group and concede a goal in each first half of the three games and expect to get out of the group.”

A win against Togo in the opening game was an historic first in an overseas World Cup though some parts of the Korean press, and the neutral spectators in Frankfurt, weren’t impressed with the way the team chose to defend its narrow 2-1 lead against the ten-man African team – spending the last minutes of the game choosing to keep the ball rather than attack.

Ghotbi is unrepentant and insists all the staff would do the same again. “Togo was dangerous from the beginning to the end in attack. We had to get three points from that game. Korea had never won a game in a World Cup abroad. Psychologically, those three points were so important.”

The team and fans then moved east to Leipzig and a date with eventual runners-up France. After spending much of the game on the back foot, the Asian team grabbed a 1-1 draw courtesy of a late Park Ji-sung equalizer.

“For us to get one point from that game was a great achievement,” Ghotbi recalls. “ They had some of the best players in the world – champions of great teams in the most important leagues in the world.”

That night in the Saxony city, the parties continued into the night as the 2002 semi-finalists looked set for the second round but the dream disappeared on a steamy Hanover evening and a 2-0 victory for Switzerland. The second goal came in controversial circumstances - with the majority of Korean fans and players believing the goal should never have counted – the new number two agrees.

“In my opinion, their second goal was offside and that really broke our back. In a game like that you need balls to bounce your way and they didn’t and you need calls to go your way. But we lost to a good team.”

Earning such a label for South Korea is what the coaching staff is planning to do. Ghotbi is an experienced analyst and knows the problems that need to be ironed out.

“Our final pass was poor, we needed too many chances to score goals, the backline has to play better football and we were not capable of it.”

In his third spell with the national team and a stint with K-League powerhouses Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Ghotbi knows the domestic set-up as well as any outsider. He points to a league that isn’t of the highest standard, overseas-based players that spend most of their time on the bench and Korea’s tendency to hype young, promising players as problems that need to be solved.

With a two year contract in place, there is a chance for Ghotbi to assist Verbeek in doing just that. During August the buzzword heard on the training pitch and in press conferences has been “intelligence”.

“I think the most important thing is we need to identify players who have a football brain and find a way to combine that with the fighting spirit of Korean players, the physical qualities, the pace and the energy.”

“The objectives are simple: Be number one in Asia by 2007, try to reach the last six or eight in the Olympics and then be in a position to go to the second round of the next World Cup.”

While the aims have been clearly set there is much work to be done to achieve them. Ghotbi has often talked about improving the domestic league, a subject that is receiving more and more column inches in the Korean press.

The K-League is not in a dire a state as some of the more excitable dailies would have one believe but it is clear that standards need to be raised on and off the pitch and not just for the sake of the national team. To that end, better communication with the domestic coaches is necessary – a relationship that would be two-way but Ghotbi knows what he would like to tell the K-League bosses.

“On the practical side, too many teams play defensively, too many of them play –and I don’t want to offend anybody -noodle football. There’s running everywhere, there’s a lot of energy, a lot of fight but very little organization.

“The K-League teams need to look at trends in international football – the ways of playing and the ways of training around the world - shorter training, more quality -more tactical, less running, running, running. We need football players, we don’t need just athletes.”

Copyright © John Duerden and

Friday, August 25, 2006

A-League 2006-07 Season Preview Part 2

A-League 2006-07 Season Preview Part 2

Soccerphile completes its round-up of last year's Hyundai A-League finalists. Marc Fox reports.


Newcastle Jets

Despite falling at last season's semi-final stage, few Newcastle supporters were sad to see the sacking of previous coach Richard Money. The Englishman was a stickler for preparation with plenty of Jets fans deriding the side under Money as dour and regimented.

In a bid to freshen Newcastle's image in the close season, the club bought in the attack-minded, but not universally popular, Nick Theodorakopoulos as replacement. Theodorakopoulos' first task was to dispense with old foe Liam Reddy although the recruitment of an alternative first-choice keeper has dragged to the point 19-year-old Ben Kennedy is the sole option when the season starts this weekend.

However, Theodorakopoulos' other transfer business must be applauded. Former Socceroo captain Paul Okon, New Zealand's all-time record goalscorer Vaughan Coveny, fellow Kiwi international defender Steven Old and somewhat unknown Colombian striker Milton Rodriguez have all arrived in traditional low-key fashion.

But the icing on the cake has been convincing current national team striker Joel Griffiths to return home - albeit in an attempt to jump-start a stuttering overseas career. Griffiths was mismanaged at Leeds United following a drawn out switch from the Swiss league and hopes goals aplenty back home will see the European scouts start circling again.

Last season: 4th

Major arrivals: Paul Okon (Apoel Nicosia, Cyprus), Joel Griffiths (Leeds United, England), Milton Rodriguez (Chonbuk Hyundai Motors, South Korea)

Major departures: Ante Milicic and Liam Reddy (both Queensland Roar), Richard Johnson (New Zealand Knights)

Key man: Vaughan Coveny

One to watch: Stuart Musialik

Coach: Nick Theodorakopoulos (first season)

Central Coast Mariners
Mariners boss Lawrie McKinna is the most popular coach in the A-League for good reason. He never spouts or pontificates and is refreshingly honest with the media - but supporters from across the country have warmed to the amiable Scotsman most because his tactics are completely fathomable.

McKinna managed a squad with few household names to the grand final last year, the testament to his coaching skills turning around the club's fortunes after slipping to second-bottom in the table halfway through the campaign. From that point on, the only match the Mariners lost was the showpiece decider against Sydney FC.

Having lost defenders Dean Heffernan and Michael Beauchamp to the Bundesliga where the pair have joined Nuremberg on season-long loans, McKinna signed Socceroo legend Tony Vidmar with typically little flag-waving. Vidmar is the perfect capture for the Central Coast: intelligent, a true team player and gritty as they come.

The former Rangers and Middlesbrough man, although now 36, may feel he has a point to prove to local football fans after withdrawing from Guus Hiddink's World Cup squad following a heart scare on the eve of the tournament.

Last season: 3rd

Major arrivals: Tony Vidmar (NAC Breda, Holland)

Major departures: Michael Beauchamp & Dean Heffernan (Nuremberg, Germany)

Key man: Tom Pondeljak

One to watch: Adam Kwasnik

Coach: Lawrie McKinna (second season)

Sydney FC

The reigning champions have bolstered their already-enviable stocks in pre-season under the stewardship of incoming manager Terry Butcher. Although the former England captain played no role in encouraging young guns Alex Brosque and Jeremy Brockie to the club (they signed before he arrived), he has instantly recognised a system to suit their talents and adjusted accordingly.

Butcher, derided by the anti-English brigade before touching down in Sydney, has shown an immediate astuteness by plumping for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Socceroo striker Sasho Petrovski the lone striker. Petrovski, last season's leading scorer with nine goals, will face competition from David Zdrilic.

But it's just behind the main striker where Butcher's abundance of riches reveals itself. He has the excellent, free-roving David Carney, left-footed dasher Brosque, the tenacious Brockie, veteran Steve Corica and new signing Ruben Zadkovich all contesting the three supplementary positions. Oh, and Dwight Yorke who's seen no pre-season action because of a groin strain.

Sydney's wealth has left commentators wondering whether the amount of potential Socceroos in the side (eight for the recent Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait) might be their only chink. But rival managers are wishing, more than expecting, Sydney's stars to tire during the domestic campaign.

Last season: Champions (after finishing second)

Major arrivals: Alex Brosque (Queensland Roar), Jeremy Brockie (New Zealand Knights)

Major departures: Andrew Packer (Queensland Roar)

Key man: Dwight Yorke

One to watch: David Carney

Coach: Terry Butcher (first season)

Adelaide United

After galloping away with the league title last term, Adelaide supporters are still seething over the way their side threw away two chances of making the all-important grand final. In some respects, winning the premiership with three rounds to spare was a false blessing as John Kosmina's side appeared to enter the finals series in too relaxed a manner.

Consolidation has been Kosmina's close season strategy with some tireless behind-the-scenes effort delivering its just desserts. Adelaide has lost none of its premiership-winning squad after Kosmina convinced ex-China international striker Shengqing Qu of an eleventh-hour return to the A-League. Qu had initially returned home for family reasons before deciding the second tier of China's domestic league wasn’t much of an alternative.

He should rekindle his previously effective forward partnership with Brazilian Fernando Rech although privately the coach feels he has enough backup in under-20 international Nathan Burns to offer cover and competition for places.

Bobby Petta is the Reds' major acquisition after an initial trial in Queensland didn't work out. Kosmina turned his attentions to Petta after Stan Lazaridis elected to join hometown Perth Glory, yet despite the club's assertions that Petta is a more worth addition on the left side of midfield, concerns over his application remain.

Last season: Premiers

Major arrivals: Bobby Petta (Bradford City, England)

Major departures: None

Key man: Fernando Rech

One to watch: Greg Owens

Coach: John Kosmina (second season)

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Australian Soccer News

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Ferd in the hand is worth two on the box

A Ferd in the hand is worth two on the box

There’s only one thing in life that’s more enjoyable than an evening with the wife and kids, and that’s an evening without the wife and kids. Whenever I’m lucky enough to be rid of the evil one and her two clones, I like to relax in front of the box with a couple of lagers watching quality television programming.

As the free-view doesn’t kick off until 11:00pm, my programme of choice is ideally football related and entertaining, thus immediately ruling Soccer AM out of the equation. With the exception of the imperious Jeff Stelling show on a Saturday afternoon, other programmes struggle to match my demanding criteria, so you can imagine my unconfined joy when news broke that Rio Ferdinand was set to enter the world of light entertainment.

A Ferd in the hand is worth two on the box

His wind-up show was a disappointment, the sketch where he ‘murked’ the drug testers by forgetting to turn up was left out, as was the one where he ‘murked’ the Man U board by refusing to sign a contract until their wage offer rose from £100,000 to £110,000 a week. I imagine the sketch where he was going to ‘murk’ Martin Jol by pretending to bid £18m for Michael Carrick was pulled for being too unrealistic.

Rio has been offered another bite at the TV cherry, the premise being that Ferd and his crew will ‘pimp’ up the pads of….fellow millionaire professional footballers. I literally can wait.

Talking of pimping, Wayne Rooney misses United’s match against Watford due to the FA upholding a ridiculous ban for a red card in a friendly. Rooney’s agent hit back by threatening to withhold Wayne’s image rights; I can only guess that Rooney suggested ‘upping the ante’ and Stretford misunderstood. United have won their last six against Watford, the Mancs are the weekend nap at 2/5.

With Rooney banned, best pal Cristiano ‘more dives than Glasgow’ Ronaldo should be backed to net the opener. Ronnie’s been priced up at 15/2, a price so big I almost fell over.

Watford were absolutely robbed by the ref at Goodison Park, they’re now playing Man U, they’ll be lucky if they’re awarded a throw in. Watford won’t score, take 21/20 about a United win coupled with a clean sheet.

Arsenal have treated Man City in recent years like Ben Thatcher treats Pedro Mendes, they've pounded on them unmercifully. (Mendes is not the first person to be unable to work thanks to Thatcher.) Arsenal have left Manchester with all three points on their last eight visits, you’ve got to fancy the Gunners at 8/11 to reach number nine. Someone’s going to take a pommeling at the hands of the Wenger boys soon, there’s a decent chance it’ll be Thatcher’s mob.

Blackburn players do enjoy a challenge. The wild Rovers had two players sent off on the opening day, that’s virtually a friendly for Savage & co. Chelsea were turned over at Ewood Park last season, a repeat is out of the question. A wounded Chelsea are a great bet at 4/7 to make amends for their Boro bashing.

I had my fingers burnt by Liverpool last week, but the Reds can make amends at home to West Ham. Liverpool’s attacking options were limited when Stevie G snatched the FA Cup from the Hammers’ grasp in May, but now they have three quality marksmen and Peter Crouch competing for a start. The Pool should be backed at a healthy 1/2.

Fulham look a promising investment at home to Sheff U at 10/11. Chris Coleman’s battlers won the same amount of home matches as Manchester United last season, only a disastrous campaign on the road ensured a 12th place finish. I’m a little worried about the Malbranque situation, Chris Coleman appears to be cutting off his nose to spite his face; that’s only a good idea if you’re Iain Dowie. If the Cottagers come anywhere near replicating last season’s home form, we’re venturing towards decent stake territory.

David O’Leary’s lackadaisical attitude ensured the Villa team rolled over and died away at Arsenal in a 5-0 defeat just four months ago, yet under Martin O’Neill, the same group of players were able to fight like the wife ‘when the decorators visit’ to nick a commendable draw. The Villa are worth a bet at 7/5 at home to Newcastle, simply because of the O’Neill factor.

I’m a great believer in positive thinking. There’s an old saying that I hold dear, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, then Paul Jewell will probably buy you’. You shouldn’t kick a dead dog, but I can’t help but feel that the signing of Heskey will prove disastrous for Wigan. Reading have started the season well, they’re worth a second look at 3/1 to leave the JJB with three points.

The acc of the week:

The accer this week is so certain, that even under extreme torture it would refuse to budge. Liverpool, Fulham, Tottenham, Arsenal and Aston Villa are the good things, you’re looking at a payout of 17/1.

The weekend specials:

“A little Camp?” - Ivan Campo to score with a header 20/1
“A professional Fowl” - Robbie Fowler to score a penalty 6/1
“Bull's high” - Jimmy Bullard to score with a header 14/1
“A very dirty Vid” - Mark Viduka to be sent off 20/1

The quote of the week:

“He’s not intelligent.”
Jose ‘all tact’ Mourinho, when asked about Michael Essien.

The lay man:

Sheff Utd are begging to be laid at 10/3 for their trip to the Cottage, this is possibly how the expression ‘easy money’ originated. Help yourself at Betfair, Backandlay or Betdaq.

Weekend Betting:

Liverpool v West Ham Saturday 26th August 12.45 Live on Premiership Plus

Liverpool 1/2
Draw 10/3
West Ham 15/2

Get on: Liverpool

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

Charlton v Bolton Saturday 26th August 15.00

Charlton 6/4
Draw 9/4
Bolton 9/5

Get on: Draw

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

Fulham v Sheff Utd Saturday 26th August 15.00

Fulham 10/11
Draw 9/4
Sheff Utd 3/1

Get on: Fulham

Match Special:
Papa Bouba Diop to score with a header 10/1

Tottenham v Everton Saturday 26th August 15.00

Tottenham 4/5
Draw 12/5
Everton 4/1

Get on: Tottenham

Match Special:
Berbatov and Keane both to score 13/2

Watford v Man Utd Saturday 26th August 15.00

Watford 15/2
Draw 10/3
Man Utd 2/5

Get on: Man Utd

Match Special:
Ronaldo to score direct from a free-kick 8/1

Wigan v Reading Saturday 26th August 15.00

Wigan Evs
Draw 9/4
Reading 3/1

Get on: Reading

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

Man City v Arsenal Saturday 26th August 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

Man City 9/2
Draw 13/5
Arsenal 8/11

Get on: Arsenal

Match Special:
Henry to score a hat-trick 25/1

Aston Villa v Newcastle Sunday 27th August 14.00 Live on Sky

Aston Villa 7/5
Draw 9/4
Newcastle 2/1

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Angel to score with a header 6/1

Blackburn v Chelsea Sunday 27th August 16.00 Live on Sky

Blackburn 6/1
Draw 11/4
Chelsea 4/7

Get on: Chelsea

Match Special:
John Terry to score at any time 5/1

Middlesbrough v Portsmouth Monday 28th August 20.00 Live on Sky

Middlesbrough 5/4
Draw 5/2
Portsmouth 11/4

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Boateng to be booked 6/4


Monday, August 21, 2006

J-League Results August 19 2006

J-League Results August 19 2006.
J-League Results August 19 2006

Gamba Osaka put some distance between themselves and the Urawa Reds by beating Ardija Omiya on the road while Urawa were held 2-2 by Kashima Antlers. Shimizu S-Pulse have come into contention, moving up to fourth with a four-goal thrahing of Ventforet.

Kyoto Purple Sanga won a nine-goal thriller against fellow strugglers Avispa while Cerezo also won at last beating Yokohama at Nagai Stadium. The biggest gate of the day was in Niigata where Albirex beat a slumping Frontale 2-1 in front of 38,611 supporters.

Saturday 19 August

Avispa Fukuoka 4 Kyoto Purple Sanga 5
Ardija Omiya 0 Gamba Osaka 2
Albirex Niigata 2 Kawasaki Frontale 1
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0 Oita Trinita 1
Shimizu S-Pulse 4 Ventforet Kofu 0
Cerezo Osaka 2 Yokohama F Marinos 0
JEF United 3 FC Tokyo 4
Nagoya Gampus Eight 3 Jubilo Iwata 1
Kashima Antlers 2 Urawa Reds 2

Leading Positions

Gamba P18 Pts 39
Reds P18 Pts 37
Frontale P18 Pts 35
S-Pulse P18 Pts 34
Antlers P18 Pts 33

J.League News


Saturday, August 19, 2006

FC Seoul v Suwon Bluewings

Images of the recent FC Seoul v Suwon Bluewings FA Cup tie which was settled on penalties.

FC Seoul v Suwon Bluewings

FC Seoul v Suwon Bluewings

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

K-League News

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Verbeek Wins, Ahn Scores, Players Move

Verbeek Wins, Ahn Scores, Players Move

Even after the end of the World Cup, it has been a busy old summer in South Korean football.

On August 16, Pim Verbeek enjoyed his first taste of competitive action as coach of the national team with a comfortable 3-0 win over Taiwan. His 36-name training squad for the Asian Cup qualifier in Taiwan included the names of many youngsters.

The majority of those fledglings failed to impress the Dutchman during training up at Paju National Football Center and the 20 players that accompanied him to the island were an experienced bunch, most of whom had been part of the final World Cup 23 named by Dick, Advocaat over two months previously.

The game in Taipei was tough, not because of the opposition (who defended well) but for 36 degree Celsius temperatures and a poor playing surface at Changshun Stadium.

Ahn Jung-hwan, who is still looking for a European club and still talking about it every day in the press, scored a well-taken opener, beating the keeper to a flighted pass to dink the ball into an unguarded net. The striker, who has cut his hair short due to the fierce Korean summer heat and humidity, then performed the goal celebration that he does when he is not too excited about scoring - he applauds himself as he walks back to the centre circle.

It was his 17th goal for the national team and he won’t get too many more as he has announced that he will step down from the national team after the 2007 Asian Cup.

Jung Jo-gook, who a few years ago looked to have a bright future before disappearing from view, then scored the team’s second and his first ever international goal ten minutes into the second half. Kim Doo-heon, a busy and offensive-minded midfielder, ended the scoring from outside the box with ten minutes left.

Verbeek said that he was not satisfied with the performance, comments that were largely echoed by the media – parts of which criticized the lack of urgency among the players. Still, a win is a win and South Korea look set for the 2007 Asian Cup.

The next game takes place on September 2 against Iran at home.


Saturday August 12 saw the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, a competition that rarely makes headlines in Korea. However, perhaps that is changing as 38,500 people went to Seoul World Cup Stadium to watch FC Seoul do battle with Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Suwon recently signed national team midfielder Baek Ji-hoon from Seoul and to provide a further edge, Seoul midfielder Ricardo had to apologise to the Suwon fans for celebrating provocatively in front of them during a K-League Cup game in July.

The clash felt like a real cup game in a genuine cup atmosphere with a large contingent of blue-shirted Suwon fans in the away section, vocally sparring with the red-shirted Seoul supporters at the opposite end.

After a fairly quiet first half, the game came to life in the second. Suwon’s new Brazilian striker Da Silva came off the bench to score with his first touch in Korean football.

Park Chu-young soon equalized for the hosts and Dudu put Seoul ahead.
With two minutes remaining, Suwon’s Croatian defender Mato Netetjlak curled home an excellent free-kick to take the game to penalties.

There is no extra-time in the Korea FA Cup (except for the final) – a good thing in summer as the evening temperature was still over 30 degrees. Suwon took the shootout 6-5.

Not to many miles to the west, Incheon United scraped past Honam University while Chunnam Dragons defeated Daegu FC in the second all K-League clash.

Goyang Kookmin Bank saw off Gyeongnam FC on penalties to become the only second division team to reach the last four.


The K-League has decided to introduce promotion from the second division (called the N-League) from 2007.

The plan, which those with any knowledge of the K-League governing body will know, could be changed/delayed/scrapped at any time. However, there is a genuine desire to try and improve the standard of the top league and allowing one team per season to be promoted until 2012 when there should be 18 teams, should force teams to become more competitive though 18 teams sounds excessive – what the K-League needs is more quality not quantity.

The promoted teams will have to meet certain financial conditions before moving upstairs and it is true to say that only perhaps three or four members of the second league are anywhere near the level of professionalism that the K-League wants.

The introduction of promotion is a welcome move in the right direction but relegation will take more time to implement –mainly because there is a fear that if a team owned by one of Korea’s giant conglomerates is sucked through the trapdoor then the company will simply pull the plug.


The full list of summer transfers.

Lee Eul-yong (Trabsonspor - FC Seoul)
Eduardo Francisco da Silva (Dudu) (Seongnam - FC Seoul)
Kim Tae-jin (Gangneung City - Suwon)
Jefferson Gama Rodrigues (Artmedia Bratislava - Daegu)
Lee Byung-keun (Suwon- Daegu)
Robson Souza Dos Santos (Bahia - Daejeon)
Ricardo (Seongnam - Busan)
Seo Dong-won (Incheon - Seongnam)
Itamar Batista da Silva (Suwon - Seongnam)
Lee Sang-tae (Suwon - Gyeongnam)
Lee Joon-ki (FC Seoul - Chunnam)
Han Kae-kwang (Ulsan - Jeonbuk)
Nikola Vasiljevic (Modrica Maxima - Jeju)
Adrian Constantin Neaga (Chunnam - Seongnam)
Lee Kwan-woo (Daejeon - Suwon)
Juan Manuel Olivera Lopes (Danubio - Suwon)
Jin Kyung-sun (Ulsan Mipo - Daegu)
Baek Ji-hoon (FC Seoul - Suwon)
Moon Min-kwi (Gyeongnam - Suwon)
Elpidio Pereira da Silva Filho Silva (Corinthians Alagoano - Suwon)
Blaze Ilioski (Rabotnicki Kometal - Incheon)
Dragan Mladenovic (Red Star Belgrade - Incheon))
Sin Young-sung (Seongnam- Jeju)
Kang Jin-wook (Metz - Jeju, loan)
Sandro Cardoso Dos Santos (Suwon - Chunnam)
Selmir dos Santos Bezzera (Incheon - Chunnam
Jasmin Agic (Incheon - Dynamo Zagreb)
Gefferson Da Silva Goulart (Busan - Released)
Gabriel Lima (Daegu - Released)
Regis Fernandes Silva (Daejeon - Released)
Marco Pereira (Jeju - Released)
Milton Rodriguez (Jeonbuk- Released)

Verbeek Wins, Ahn Scores, Players Move

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

A Drog with two ricks

A Drog with two ricks

Occasionally, a person can become so synonymous with a certain action that the English language will evolve as a result. For example, if the sight of anything Portuguese sends you into a psychotic rage, you’re ‘doing a Rooney’, if your alcoholic wife beats you up due to unresolved rage issues, she’s ‘knocked out a Gerry’, and if you pay six times over the correct market value for a mediocre footballer, you’ve ‘pulled a Fergie’.

A Drog with two ricks

We’ve all been had in the net on the odd occasion, but Fergie has bought more turkeys than Sainsbury’s in recent years. Michael Carrick is the latest addition to a list that includes Kleberson, Forlan, Veron and my personal favourite, the Djemba brothers. After blowing an incredible £18.6m on the talented but ultimately limited midfielder, Sir Alex has once again been tucked up like a sleeping baby.

Fulham can continue the theme of stitching up the purple-nosed one. Rooney’s a fitness doubt for the Old Trafford opener; after reading his autobiography, it comes as no surprise that he’s struggling with a groin injury. Fulham scored twice against Man U in both of their meetings last season, 12/1 about a shock is just too big.

If Martin Jol has finished laughing, he’ll take his Tottenham team to a tricky match at the Reebok. Jol has bought and sold exceptionally well in the summer, with Berbatov and Zokora being standout additions to the squad. Zokora believes he can be the ‘Vieira of the Lane’; expect him to be completely outplayed by Fabregas when they meet Arsenal. Tottenham are a decent team, but they always struggle against Bolton (they’ve lost six of their last seven league matches); I can’t see past the draw at 9/4.

The Liverpool players will be pleased to hear that Neil Warnock is banned from the touchline when they visit Bramall Lane, although this may not stop Warnock from launching threatening paper aeroplanes from the stand. Liverpool’s reserves saw off a full strength Chelsea last week, their first team receive the nap of the week award at a healthy 4/7.

Wigan manager Paul Jewell is a jovial character, but something tells me he won’t be smiling after his team take a mullering at St James’ Park. Wigan faced Newcastle on three occasions last season, the team playing at home won every match. Dull, but true. Wigan have Heskey, Newcastle have the points in the bag at 8/11.

Everton must be backed at 8/13 at home to new boys Watford. The partnership of Beattie and Johnson looks promising; Beattie can win the flick-ons to allow AJ to go down to ‘earn’ the penalty. Watford have visited Goodison Park on nine previous occasions, they’ve lost every time.

Gareth Southgate has been busy in the transfer market, the signing of Julio Arca for less than £2m looks an inspired piece of business. Reading are nicknamed the Royals, and like their German counterparts in Buckingham Palace, they’ll remain pointless on Saturday night. I do like the Boro at 9/5.

The Villa fans are a lot like me, happiness can be gained from just one little Yank. The Villa have lost at Highbury for the last eight years, it’s a good job this one is being played at the Emirates, they’re unbeaten there. There’s a momentum behind the Villa thanks to the takeover (I was a Randy Lerner once) and the arrival of Martin ‘The Saviour’ O’Neill; it would be folly to invest in the Gunners at 3/10. A red card in the match is on offer at 7/2; Graeme Poll is ‘officiating’, so you’re 50% less likely to collect.

Michael Ballack was substituted after 25 minutes in the Community Shield, I know what it’s like to finish prematurely, it’s no picnic. Four of the previous six matches between Chelsea and Man City have finished 1-0, with Drogba almost certain to squander a couple of chances; a repeat of the 1-0 scoreline at 6/1 looks a decent wager. If Ballack and Shevchenko both start, I’d rather be on a 2-0 stroll for the Champions at a healthy 11/2.

Last week’s accer hit both posts and the bar before being cleared off the line, this week’s will fly straight in the top corner. Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Chelsea are the chosen ones, the accer will pay out at 14/1 when successful.

The weekend specials:

“Tim'll fix it” - Cahill to score with a header 11/2
“Young a tart” - Luke Young to be booked for diving 16/1
“A bitter Lehmann” - Aston Villa to score a goal Evs
“Duff’ll bag” - Damien Duff to score two or more goals 9/1

The quote of the week:

“What I’m looking for is flexibility.”
Steve McClaren knows the score.

The probably misheard quote of the week:

“I’m internally grateful to Steve McClaren.”
Dean Ashton desperately wanted that cap.

The lay man:

You’ve got to love the betting exchanges. People are lining up to back Arsenal at 1/3; if you ‘lay’ that bet, you’re effectively backing either the draw or a Villa win at 3/1. Happy, happy days.

Weekend Betting:

Sheff Utd v Liverpool Saturday 19th August 12.45 Live on Sky

Sheff Utd 6/1
Draw 14/5
Liverpool 4/7

Arsenal v Aston Villa Saturday 19th August 15.00

Arsenal 3/10
Draw 7/2
Aston Villa 12/1

Everton v Watford Saturday 19th August 15.00

Everton 8/13
Draw 5/2
Watford 5/1

Newcastle v Wigan Saturday 19th August 15.00

Newcastle 8/11
Draw 5/2
Wigan 4/1

Portsmouth v Blackburn Saturday 19th August 15.00

Portsmouth 6/4
Draw 9/4
Blackburn 21/10

Reading v Middlesbrough Saturday 19th August 15.00

Reading 6/4
Draw 9/4
Middlesbrough 9/5

West Ham v Charlton Saturday 19th August 15.00

West Ham 11/10
Draw 9/4
Charlton 3/1

Bolton v Tottenham Saturday 19th August 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

Bolton 17/10
Draw 9/4
Tottenham 17/10

Man Utd v Fulham Sunday 20th August 13.30 Live on Premiership Plus

Man Utd 3/10
Draw 9/2
Fulham 12/1

Chelsea v Man City Sunday 20th August 16.00 Live on Sky

Chelsea 1/4
Draw 9/2
Man City 12/1

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fifa Rankings August 2006

Fifa Rankings August 2006.
Fifa Rankings August 2006

1 Brazil
2 Italy
3 Argentina
4 France
5 England
6 The Netherlands
7 Spain
8 Portugal
9 Germany
10 Czech Republic

11 Nigeria
11 Cameroon
13 Switzerland
14 Uruguay
15 Ukraine
16 Mexico
17 Denmark
18 Cote d'Ivoire
19 Paraguay
20 Sweden

Fifa Rankings

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

J-League Results 12 August 2006

J-League Results 12 August 2006.
J.League Results

Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka top the table level on points with the Reds ahead on goal difference. Both teams netted four times at the weekend, Reds at home to FC Tokyo and Gamba away in the "Kansai Derby" with Kyoto.

Saturday 12 August

Kyoto Purple Sanga 1 Gamba Osaka 4
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Shimizu S-Pulse 2
Cerezo Osaka 0 Ardija Omiya 1
Urawa Reds 4 FC Tokyo 0
Nagoya Gampus Eight 5 Ventforet Kofu 1
Avispa Fukuoka 0 Oita Trinita 2
Kawasaki Frontale 1 Yokohama F Marinos 1
Jubilo Iwata 3 Kashima Antlers 3
Albirex Niigata 1 JEF United 1

Leading Positions

Reds P17 Pts 36
Gamba P17 Pts 36
Frontale P17 Pts 35
Antlers P17 Pts 32

J.League News


Monday, August 14, 2006

Fabio Capello - Coach Profile

Trener svih trenera vraća Realu nadu

Fabio Capello vratio se u Madrid nakon devet godina. Talijan rođen 1946. na granici sa Slovenijom trenirao je Real samo jednu sezonu, ali i to mu je bilo dovoljno da postavi temelje momčadi koja je u idućih pet godina odnijela tri Lige prvaka i dva Interkontinentalna kupa!

Fabio Capello - Coach Profile.

Mada su najveću slavu za te naknadne pokale pokupili Capellovi nasljednici, Jupp Heynckess i pogotovo Vicente Del Bosque, Talijan je taj koji je dao odlučujući zamah Realovom stroju.

Madridski je kraljevski klub 1995/96 imao razočaravajuću sezonu pod Jorgeom Valdanom, ostavši bez mjesta u Europi, i Fabio Capello nametnuo se kao logičan izbor predsjedniku Lorenzu Sanzu. Capello je posložio kockice i doveo Real do naslova sa samo četiri poraza u 42 kola, osam manje nego u sezoni prije toga.

Ljetos je slučaj bio sličan: Real je zadnje tri godine ostao bez trofeja, a Capello se igrom slučaja našao slobodan. Zasluga skandala u calciju, naravno.

Madrid, naj-grad u Europi

Kad je postalo očigledno da će Juve biti isključen iz prve lige, Capello je od kluba dobio raskid ugovora, pozvavši se na neku misterioznu klauzulu koja mu je omogućavala odlazak pod povoljnim uvjetima. Teško da je ugovor predviđao mogućnost da bi Juventus mogao izgubiti prvoligaški status, no u svakom slučaju nova klupska uprava, koja je stupila na vlast nakon ostavki Girauda, Bettege i Moggija, nije treneru pravila problema.

"U Španjolskoj ima mnogo stvari koje mi se sviđaju, ne samo pršut. Mislim da je Madrid u ovom trenutku najbolji grad za život u Europi. Moja žena je još prije 10 godina rekla da je to najbolje mjesto u kojemu sam mogao dobiti posao."

Iz prvog razdoblja kad je radio u Realu, Capello je sačuvao vikendicu u Marbelli, na jugu, kao da je slutio da će se jednog dana vratiti. Predrag Mijatović, novi sportski direktor, nije imao teškoća u nagovaranju. Kao izabranik za direktora predsjedničkog kandidata Ramona Calderona, Mijatović – bivši igrač Reala u prvom Capellovom mandatu – odletio je privatnim avionom na otok Pantelleria, bliže obali Tunisa nego Italije, na pregovore s Capellom.

- "Imam na tom otoku malu kuću. To je mirno mjesto, bez plaže. 'Peđa' i ja se dobro slažemo i brzo smo se dogovorili", priča Capello, o kojemu Mijatović kaže da je "najbistriji trener s kojim je ikad radio."

Kad je Calderon dobio izbore, barem u prvom brojanju glasova, potpisao je prvo Capello, a onda i nekoliko igrača koje je tražio za novu sezonu: Cannavaro, Emerson, Van Nistelrooy.

Realu trebaju muškarci u momčadi

- "Tremamo muškarce, igrače koji se neće prepasti od Realove majice. To je važno. Ima nogometaša koji se ističu u drugim, manjim klubovima, a onda se nađu u većem klubu i ne funkcioniraju."

Oduševljen je Cannavarom, kapetanom prvaka svijeta, kojeg je dovukao iz Juventusa.

- "Vrlo je ozbiljan i drži se kao vođa. Njegova dob od 33 godine nije nikakav problem, jer se maksimalno čuva. Nije vrlo visok (176 cm, op. a.), ali zadivljujuće skače i odlično se postavlja. Siguran sam da je trebao biti izabran za najboljeg igrača Svjetskog prvenstva."

O drugom pojačanju iz Juventusa, 29-godišnjem Emersonu, kaže da je "možda malo podbacio na Mundialu, ali to je možda zato što u brazilskoj reprezentaciji nisu navikli da neki njihov igrač tako puno trči."

Real je prošle tri godine ostao "suh" što se tiče titula, što mu je najduža stanka u zadnjih pedeset godina.

- "Ne mogu proći još tri godine bez trofeja. Sigurno bi me izbacili prije no što se tako nešto dogodi!" – svjestan je 60-godišnji trener.

Capello je trenersku slavu stekao vodeći Milan između 1991. i 1996. Preuzevši Milaneze od vrlo uspješnog Arriga Sacchija u ljeto 1991. produžio je epohu uspješnosti crveno-crnih na još pet godina i oborio rekord nepobjedivosti u talijanskom prvenstvu. Pod Capellom, Milan je izdržao 57 utakmica bez poraza kroz cijelu sezonu 1991/92 i veći dio iduće sezone, kad je seriju prekinula Parma na San Siru pogotkom Faustina Asprille. Zapravo je ukupan Milanov niz nepobjedivosti trajao 58 utakmica, ali na prvoj od njih, koncem svibnja 1991., trener je još bio Arrigo Sacchi.

U Europi, Capellova je squadra triput zaredom igrala u finalu Lige prvaka, od kojih je dva izgubila s po 0:1, 1993. od Marseillea i 1995. od Ajaxa, a dobila s 4:0 ono u Ateni protiv Barcelone, u jednoj od najljepših utakmica u povijesti finala eurokupova.

Real je Capella angažirao 1996. zajedno s Davorom Šukerom, Predragom Mijatovićem i Robertom Carlosom, s instantnim uspjehom. Međutim, Capello je 1997. na opće iznenađenje raskinuo suradnju sa Španjolcima i vratio se na poziv Berlusconija da izvuče Milan iz krize rezultata i igre. Njegova druga era za kormilom Vragova bila je kratka i gorka, jer momčad nije uspio uvesti čak niti u Kup UEFA.

Nakon tog neuspjeha godinu je dana pauzirao, da bi 1999. preuzeo Romu i ubrzo joj dao pobjedničke obrise. U prvoj sezoni doveo ju je do Europe, a 2001. i do tek trećeg naslova u klupskoj povijesti, 18 godina nakon prethodnog. U iduće tri godine još je dvaput s Romom bio drugi i jednom finalist Kupa, a 2002. je u igri za scudetto bio do zadnjeg kola.

S istim klubovima i igrački i trenerski trofeji

Kad se odnos s Vukovima istrošio (i kad se Romina blagajna ispraznila nakon godina nesmiljenog kupovanja), Capella se sjetio Juventus, tražeći nasljednika trofejnom Lippiju. Sprega Juvea i Capella odmah se pokazala pobjedničkom, mada danas znamo da su u tim pobjedama ulogu igrale i izvansportske okolnosti. U obje sezone u kojima ih je vodio trener iz Friulija, Zebre su se okitile scudettima, postigavši 53 pobjede i pretrpjevši samo pet poraza. Nešto od te blistave bilance valjda je zasluga i Capella, a ne samo Luciana Moggija i njegove mašinerije za namještanje prijateljskih sudaca.

Capello je jedinstven trener u svijetu po tome što je s ista tri kluba osvajao trofeje i kao igrač i kao trener.
Za razliku od brojnih trofejnih trenera koji nisu imali zapažene igračke karijere, bio je vrhunski nogometaš, prvotimac Rome, Juventusa i Milana, sa svakim od kojih se domogao ponekog trofeja. S Juventusom je triput bio talijanski prvak i dvaput drugoplasirani, s Romom je uhvatio Kup, s Milanom i Kup i prvenstvo.

Desetljećima kasnije, kad je zamijenio igračku trenerskom uniformom, vodio je ista tri talijanska kluba i također se sa svakim od njih okitio naslovima.

Istakao se i u reprezentaciji, za koju je odigrao 32 utakmice i postigao osam golova, od kojih se najviše pamti onaj na Wembleyju, kojim je Italija prvi puta u povijesti svladala Englesku u gostima.

Igračku je karijeru završio 1980. u Milanu i to baš u sezoni koju je obilježio Totonero, do ove godine najveći skandal u calciju. Zbog namještanja utakmica radi dobitaka na ilegalnim kladionicama, te su godine kažnjeni brojni nogometaši i klubovi, od kojih Milan i Lazio izbacivanjem iz lige. Ironijom sudbine, 26 godina kasnije, još je jedan važan trenutak u Capellovom životu povezan sa skandalom i kaznama – prekid s Juventusom i drugi odlazak u Madrid. Naravno, ni u jednom slučaju njegovo ime nije se spominjalo među sumnjivcima; Fabio Capello puno je prepametan da bi se upletao u prljava posla!

Osobna karta

Ime i prezime: Fabio Capello
Nadimak: Don Fabio
Datum rođenja: 18. lipnja 1946.
Mjesto rođenja: San Canzian d'Isonzo
Zanimanje: trener
Klub: Real Madrid
Igračka pozicija: srednji vezni

Sinonim za uspjeh

Trenerske zvijezde malobrojnije su od igračkih. Lako ih je nabrojati i na prste Alex Ferguson, Marcello Lippi, Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez pa od južnoameričkih Carlos Bianchi i Luiz Felipe Scolari. Fabio Capello član je te elite, trener čije je ime sinonim za uspjeh. Pogledajmo kakve je sjajne rezultate postigao u 15 godina rada na vrhu.

Sedam talijanskih prvenstava: 1992., 1993., 1994. i 1996. s Milanom, 2001. s Romom i 2005. i 2006.* s Juventusom

Četiri talijanska Superkupa: 1992., 1993. i 1994. s Milanom te 2001. s Romom

Jedno španjolsko prvenstvo: 1997. s Real Madridom

Jedan španjolski Superkup: 1996. s Real Madridom

Liga prvaka: 1994. s Milanom

Europski Superkup: 1995. s Milanom

(*dva zadnja naslova Juventusu oduzeta odlukom Saveza)

Copyright Soccerphile/Zri Sport

Saturday, August 12, 2006

McClaren's Opening Gambit

England prepare for Euro 2008.

Steve McClaren might have already been hung, drawn and quartered before he has even coached a game for England but his first squad looks reasonably encouraging.

I don't mean the omission of Beckham: That was a given sooner or later, after he nobly tendered his resignation as captain - his insipid performance at Euro 2004 should have consigned him to the international dustbin already. His immediate omission also implies a sharp difference of opinion felt over the Leytonstone superstar between McClaren and Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was accused of allowing Beckham too much say over team tactics.

Incoming England managers often stamp their authority on the job as soon as they arrive, and it often entails culling the captain and his waning powers and influence: Ron Greenwood scythed Gerry Francis and Bobby Robson Kevin Keegan when they inherited the post.

Graham Taylor's first squad after Italia '90 retained all the heroes who had made it to the World Cup semi final but soon afterwards he shocked the football world by dropping Chris Waddle, who was in electrifying form for Marseille in France and in Europe, as he considered him a luxury flair player, an anathema to his footballing philosophy.

What is encouraging is the opportunity given to youth and inexperience, particularly West Ham striker Dean Ashton, Watford keeper Ben Foster, Spurs' Michael Dawson and a welcome back to Chelsea's forgotten boy-wonder Shaun Wright-Phillips.

The midfield looks particularly green with an average age of 23 and quick too - Aaron Lennon must establish himself as the right-winger after his zestful substitute appearances in Germany. If he fails, then Wright-Phillips offers a sound alternative.

Yet surely the best selection is that of former England coach Terry Venables as assistant manager. Venables' England career ended prematurely after squabbles with the FA board and only one tournament; the public was solidly behind the England coach too, for the only time in living memory.

'El Tel' produced one of England's greatest ever performances in the 4-1 demolition of Holland in Euro '96, when the three lions played with uncharacteristic élan and tactical sophistication. As the outstanding living English coach, one wonders why he was not considered good enough for the coach's job itself if he could become the assistant, but that is another debate. Rest assured when McClaren comes under fire, Venables name will once again be touted as a replacement.

McClaren still has the odds stacked against him for reasons stated in an earlier post, but at least you cannot accuse him of being timid in his initial squad selection. But this will all be swiftly forgotten after the results come in. The only assessment of a manager that counts comes from what his players do on the field.

England Squad to play Greece at Old Trafford, Weds 16th August

Goalkeepers: Robinson (Tottenham), Kirkland (Liverpool), Foster (Man Utd).
Defenders:Bridge (Chelsea), Brown (Man Utd), Carragher (Liverpool), A Cole (Arsenal), Dawson (Tottenham), Ferdinand (Man Utd), G Neville (Man Utd), P Neville (Everton), Terry (capt, Chelsea), Young (Charlton).

Midfielders: Downing (Middlesbrough), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Jenas (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham), Richardson (Man Utd), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea).

Strikers: Ashton (West Ham), Bent (Charlton), Crouch (Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham).

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, August 11, 2006

A-League 2006-07 Season Preview Part 1

Can the bottom four from season one make the required leap into the playoff series this season? Marc Fox reports.

New Zealand Knights

After a whirlwind close season, just six players from John Adshead's first-year recruitment drive remain at the side which finished a hefty 20 points adrift at the foot of the table. And rightly so. New coach Paul Nevin - Adshead's former assistant after arriving fresh from coaching Fulham's reserves in England - has blown the cobwebs from an underachieving group with a whopping 14 new signings.

Nevin has endured the wrath of Football Federation Australia and Knights supporters alike for his insistence on improving the calibre of squad with or without New Zealand players. Only three of his acquisitions are Kiwis and he's even spoiled that piece of public relations by releasing three other New Zealanders - including player of the year 18-year-old Jeremy Brockie - from the season one squad.

But there's little doubt the club is in better shape because of it. The traditional pre-season tournament has seen the Knights string together their longest unbeaten run since the team's inception. And by common consensus they won't be the easy beats of last year. Nevin has bought in players with real character and a sense of team ownership - both elements sadly lacking in the inaugural season.

He has also immediately instilled a rigid playing system with an impressive central pairing of former internationals Richard Johnson and Scottish playmaker Scot Gemmill.

Last season: 8th

Major arrivals: Matt Carbon (Barnsley, England), Scot Gemmill (Oxford United, England), Richard Johnson (Newcastle Jets), Dani Rodrigues (Yeovil Town, England)

Major departures: Jeremy Brockie (Sydney FC), Jeremy Christie (Perth Glory)

Key man: Dani Rodrigues

One to watch: Malik Buari

Coach: Paul Nevin (first season)

Melbourne Victory

From top of the A-League in October to second bottom come round 21, Melbourne's debut season left supporters shaking their heads in disappointment. The Victory finished meekly after promising so much earlier in the campaign - the 5-0 rout of eventual champions Sydney FC when World Cup striker Archie Thompson scored twice - a classic example.

During crunch time, the depth of coach Ernie Merrick's squad was sorely tested. Thompson departed for a six-month loan spell at PSV and talismanic captain Kevin Muscat - recently recalled to the Socceroo setup - missed three crucial matches through suspension. Their replacements just never quite cut it.

But the upcoming campaign promises much more. The returning Thompson, the rejuvenated Danny Allsopp and respected Scottish midfielder Grant Brebner should provide a step up in class. An uncertain element has also been added to the Melbourne mix through Merrick's recruitment of three Brazilians: forwards Fred and Claudinho and left-sided Roberto Carlos-esque Alessandro, perhaps the pick of the bunch.

Merrick has also learnt from previous mistakes. His was the first fully-assembled squad this time after struggling through undermanned last term. Moreover, pre-season training started in earnest back in April with former Olympic sprinter Adam Basil - now turned Melbourne's strength and conditioning coach - putting the players through their paces. This in turn has delivered a fully fit and raring Muscat, something the combative defender himself admitted fans never witnessed last season.

Last season: 7th

Major arrivals: Fred, Claudinho & Alessandro (all Brazil), Grant Brebner (Dundee United, Scotland), Adrian Caceres (Perth Glory)

Major departures: Richard Kitzbichler (Salzburg, Austria)

Key man: Kevin Muscat

One to watch: Alessandro

Coach: Ernie Merrick (second season)

Queensland Roar

Even though Queensland rhetoric tells you the club were just a solitary victory from making the playoffs, the Roar's failure to win around Christmas cost them a chance of breaking into the top four. They languished outside the top half for two-thirds of the season and it was only three late season wins which propped up their points tally towards the end.

In summary, last year Queensland were defensively sound but profligate in front of goal. No surprises then that three of the team's major arrivals are international calibre strikers, and that of season one's quintet of forwards, none remain (although Socceroo Alex Brosque was nabbed by hometown club Sydney FC in acrimonious circumstances).

Coach Miron Bleiberg should have a lot of fun trying to prise ex-China striker Yuning Zhang, Scotland under-21 representative Simon Lynch and local hotshot Ante Milicic into his side despite his penchant for playing three up front. The Roar's supply line to the strikers has also been bolstered with Germany's Marcus Wedau arriving from VfL Osnabruck, a direct replacement for Korean Shin Tae-Yong who was forced into early retirement last term.

Bleiberg has wheeled and dealed his way to a vastly superior playing staff on paper but concerns still linger as to the coach's tactical proficiency and the side's ability to gel in readiness for the new season.

Last season: 6th

Major arrivals: Yuning Zhang (Shanghai Shenhau, China), Simon Lynch (Dundee, Scotland), Marcus Wedau (VfL Osnabruck, Germany), Ante Milicic (Newcastle Jets)

Major departures: Alex Brosque (Sydney FC), Jonti Richter (New Zealand Knights), Scott Higgins (Falkirk, Scotland), David Williams (Brondby, Denmark)

Key man: Hyuk-Su Seo

One to watch: Spase Dilevski

Coach: Miron Bleiberg (second season)

Perth Glory

Ownerless Perth have endured a torrid pre-season. With the FFA taking over the reigns from previous chairman Nick Tana, who relinquished the licence on April 1, progress over the club's new head coach ground to a halt. Then earlier this month, Ron Smith, the former technical director of Australia's national teams, accepted the position with ex-Socceroo David Mitchell his assistant.

Smith has very quickly added the remaining pieces to the Glory jigsaw although followers are concerned by the lack of star names. A haphazard recruitment process, reminiscent of Steve McMahon's ultimately fruitless drive a year ago, has seen really only the arrival of Stan Lazaridis wet supporters' whistles. Lazaridis, an unused squad member at the World Cup, picked Perth over premiers Adelaide - basically choosing his hometown over his wife's.

Considering Perth's suspect forward line, which truly only boasted veteran pair Bobby Despotovski and Stuart Young before Smith's arrival as coach, critics have seized on the decision to strengthen the striking department with two untested youngsters, Luka Glavas and Mimi Saric. Neither player has spent much time in the top-flight.

Lazaridis adds excellent balance to the midfield where he's certain to be deployed on the left flank after spending much of his latter Premiership career at full-back. New Zealander Jeremy Christie is also an exciting prospect while Simon Colosimo has plenty still to prove after returning from Europe.

Last season: 5th

Major arrivals: Stan Lazaridis (Birmingham City, England), Leo Bertos (Worksop Town, England), Jeremy Christie (New Zealand Knights)

Major departures: Nick Ward (QPR, England), Damian Mori (Released)

Key man: Stan Lazaridis

One to watch: Jeremy Christie

Coach: Ron Smith (first season)

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A tie, with a Lam starter

A tie, with a Lam starter

Sometimes in life you have to be willing to compromise. This morning for example, it was too chilly for a t-shirt, yet perplexingly, a little too warm for a jacket. After considering my options at length, I embraced the middle ground by selecting a long sleeved top. An almost identical situation is currently in play in the Middle East; they could do worse than ‘be like the G’ and consider a compromise, as could all bettors looking to take an interest in the Community Shield.

A tie, with a Lam starter

There’s a stigma involved with backing a draw in a football match, you’re basically telling the bookmaker that you’re not smart enough to solve the conundrum, but with so many question marks surrounding the preparation of both Chelsea and Liverpool, backing the draw at 11/5 will prove a profitable concession.

Jose’s getting his excuses in early by claiming his players are under prepared, the reality is that Rafa has him by the short and baldies. Mourinho has come out on top in only two of his last seven face-offs with Benitez, Jose’s incessant whining is an exercise in pre-emptive damage limitation. Chelsea can’t be backed at 11/10, a 1-1 scoreline must be at 11/2.

Frank Lampard’s autobiography made fascinating reading. He claimed that his legs were heavy during the World Cup; talk about stating the obvious. He was told that he was the fittest England player; you can get 8/11 about a typo. Frankie’s performances in Germany were truly, truly awful, but there are few that can argue with the fact that ‘Lamb lard’ always performs for his club. The Lamp is an 8/1 shot to open the scoring.

Jose has gone to the extreme of shaving his head in a symbolic gesture that he is ready to go to war. Jose’s no mug, when entering the field of battle, it’s almost compulsory to have a German in the vicinity, hence the signing of Ballack. A sending off has been priced up at 11/4, if Craig Bellamy was on the pitch on his own that would tempt.

Bellamy and Pennant should both be in the starting 11 for the Pool, and let’s be honest; it’s probably not the last time they’ll appear in a line-up. Bellamy remains controversial, but the boyo can play. The Bell has been chalked up at 15/2 to score the last goal.

There’s another full Championship programme to get our teeth into, and Southampton are the weekend nap at home to West Brom. I fancy the Saints to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season, 11/8 is too big against a mediocre Albion side. Paradoxically, I can’t see the Saints performing well in the Cup competitions, with Pele in their team; they won’t get past a semi.

Ex-Baggie Rob Earnshaw found the net in midweek, and goals to Earnie are like bottles of buckfast to the wife, one begets another. Norwich look a great investment at 10/11 to beat Luton and the pacy, goofy, dwarf-like striker should be backed at 4/1 to bang in the opener.

Crystal Palace host Leeds in a potential cracker and the Eagles are the selection at 5/4 to maintain their 100% record. Leeds were denied a win in midweek when Shahbaz scored a 90th minute equaliser for QPR; if a little camp Scotsman can breach your defence, Macken and Morrison could literally run riot.

Leicester and Ipswich are both as pointless as voting on a big brother eviction, so an ‘O’ must go when they meet at the Walkers. Ipswich can take comfort from their performances in narrow defeats to Palace and Wolves while embarrassing defeats to Luton and Burnley will do little for the goalless Foxes. You can’t touch the crisp nibblers at odds on; you must accept the tractor factor; back Ipswich at a humongous 11/4.

Top marks to Billy Sharp for his superb goal celebration in midweek, Scunthorpe’s sharpshooter delighted all with a superb impression of our very own Monty. (That’s England’s latest spin sensation, not the large-breasted golfing choker.) On a related note, Saturday sees the last episode of Cricket AM, I enjoyed it immensely; it was like Soccer AM, only funny. Scunthorpe should be backed at 6/4 to see off a Crewe side in terminal decline.

Norwich, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Gretna form the accer of the week, it pays out at a whopping 17/1. Get on now, or forever hold your piece.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Incheon United Coach Jang Woe-Ryeong

Jang Woe-Ryeong

Jang Woe-ryeong
Jang Woe-Ryeong
The monsoon season of 2006 was the wettest and longest in the living memory of even the oldest South Koreans. The sight of the rain cascading off the roof and on to the empty seats at the home of the second-youngest Korean professional team was a depressing testament to that.

Some of those 52, 179 blue plastic chairs had been occupied the night before as Incheon United drew 0-0 with Daegu. It was the latest blank for United in a 2006 that, for the home team, has seemed as gloomy and interminable as the month of July and the bowels of the World Cup arena had the stale air of a dank basement. The next season – weather or football – can’t come quickly enough.

Incheon’s coach Jang Woe-ryeong could be found in his basement office, a large room that provided a glimpse of the sodden pitch and while it had the feel of a boxer’s locker room; it was adorned with paraphernalia from another sport.

The 47 year-old is one of the most recognizable figures in Korean football, fans are accustomed to seeing him standing in front of the dug-out sporting his trademark white baseball cap. Without it he still looks youthful and cheery despite the team’s mediocre tenth place (out of 14) in the first half of the K-League.

“Our pre-season was so short and we had little time to train together,” he explained. “The foreign players arrived late. We chose to train in China but it was a mistake as many players were injured at the time.”

The K-League is separated into two stages, the first finished in May, with a gap of three months between. During that time, clubs amuse themselves with the much-maligned Hauzen Cup competition – Incheon finished last.

“We didn’t care much about the competition,” shrugged Jang. “The reason we participated is that it gives a chance for our young players and older players to improve their teamwork.”
Jang Woe-ryeong
Korean soccer

The struggle in 2006 has come as a disappointment after an impressive 2005 season in which the west coast club finished as runners-up. That feat was all the more impressive because the club came into existence only in 2004.

It seems longer but it is only 30 months since United burst into life in a blaze of publicity and excitement. Silver-haired German coach Werner Lorant arrived to oversee a squad that looked more than useful especially with the addition of Turkish international star Alpay.

Three months later as the K-League’s first stage ended with Incheon in last place. Alpay and Lorant soon disappeared. Jang was the assistant during that turbulent baptism, returning to Korea after five years coaching in Japan.

“There were many new players,” he recalled, “both foreign and Korean and naturally they had communication problems. At first, even the Korean players had problems communicating with each other under the new coach.”

The capture of the 2002 World Cup star and Premier League regular Alpay was a real coup for the club. He was not only the star player at Incheon but the biggest name in the K-League. According to Jang, his talent matched his reputation but …“he lacked a little professionalism. He is a good player…but he made no attempt to become part of the team.”

In the summer of 2004, Jang became coach. His philosophy was simple. Incheon would be united in more than just name.

“We focused on improving our communication,” said Jang. “Most Korean players lack communication skills on the field, they don’t talk much to each other… they go through school and university where there’s a strict hierarchy between older and younger players.”

The situation immediately improved. The second stage saw the team finish fourth.

In 2005, United collected the most overall points in the season, earning a place in the championship play-offs which saw defeat in the final at the hands of ulsan Hyundai Horang-i.

Consequently, expectations were high at the start of 2006. Prior to its commencement, the coach talked of the importance of qualifying for the Asian Champions League.

“Joining the Champions League would be good for the young players, it would be a good learning experience for them.

“It’s a big goal but bigger goals are better than small ones.”

In the meantime, Jang is encouraging his young players to learn from the foreigners that make their way to the Munhak Stadium. Unlike most other K-League teams with their Brazilian fancies, Incheon imports players from the Balkans – Serbs and Croats have featured strongly in the infant years of the club. In the past weeks, two international players have arrived – one Macedonian the other Bosnian.

“The chairman has many contacts and knowledge in that region,” smiled the coach by way of explanation. “I also have experience in working with East Europeans players. Compared to Brazilians, they are good at communicating and don’t make any problems.”

One of the signings debuted the night before, ‘satisfactorily’ according to Jang. For the sake of Incheon fans, the two need to settle in quickly as the second stage of the K-League kicks off on August 23.

All football fans in the country are hoping for a better second stage than first as the K-League is increasingly perceived as a competition with a number of fundamental problems.

“There are many ways to improve the league,” says Jang, sipping his green tea which matches part of his bright t-shirt. “The KFA, coaches and players need to open channels of communication.”

I asked about the frantic schedule that the K-League inflicts on its members.

“The administration has made the problem and needs to solve it. When it makes the schedule, it needs to focus on the K-League only but that doesn’t happen. It focuses on the needs of the national team.”

“Footballers need to train and play and we need to analyze the results. Hopefully, in the next game players can use what they have learned. If we have another game so soon then we have no time to do anything.”

Improving things is what Jang does. Despite a poor season so far, he is still one of Korea’s highest-rated coaches and wants to go higher.

“I want to be national team coach after the 2010 World Cup.”

Better to have big goals than small ones.

Korean National Team Jerseys
World Cup Posters

Copyright (c) John Duerden &

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

England's Glory

England: Four More Years of Hurt, Believe Me

The night before the World Cup Final I had the dubious pleasure of being in the audience for ITV's "World Cuppa" show.

During the transmission, former England boss Graham Taylor's contention that England would struggle to win another World Cup in his lifetime was offered up to the attendees to either cheer or boo, as part of a section entitled 'Fame or Shame'. No surprise then when the crowd, myself apart, held up cards saying 'Shame', a sentiment reinforced automatically by the host Christian O'Connell, who replied 'We are going to win in 2010!' with typical bulldog spirit.

England's Glory.

Alas he did not spot my 'Fame' card or else was bound to keep idealism and not reality as the order of the day but I would have given the nation a piece of my mind given the chance, and doubtless been booed as a result.
England have little chance of winning a tournament and it is about time we all accepted that blatant truth without feeling ashamed or unpatriotic.
Does anyone seriously believe we will all be watching John Terry lift the FIFA World Cup in Soccer City, Johannesburg in 2010, two years after England stun the continent with some dazzling attacking football on their way to winning Euro 2008?
An innate belief in superiority 'because we're England' is really not that much different to the contemptuous hurt inflicted by our nation's soccer yobs on other nationalities for having committed the crime of not being English.
But the fact is the home of football will underachieve again, with its new coach Steve McClaren, because of deep-rooted inadequacies within the national game that a new face alone will not be able to rectify.
Aside from the 1966 win, courtesy of home advantage and a goal that was not, England's tournament performances portray a consistent mediocrity and certainly no record to be spoken of in the same breath as those of international heavyweights Italy, Germany, Brazil and Argentina.
The fifteen World Cups England have entered have resulted in one win, one semi-final, six quarter finals, two second round finishes, two first rounds and three failures to make the finals - hardly the stuff of champions.
Considering this is one of the world's major football nations when it comes to countrywide participation and the money involved at the top level, there has clearly been something rotten in the state of Denmark since day one. Indeed, one wonders whether England would have cake-walked the first three World Cups they deigned not to enter, as is popularly supposed, given the quality of European and South American nations in the 1930s.
On paper, the 2006 team looked the best in living memory a year ago, but left with a whimper, succumbing lamely on penalties after failing to dominate a limited Portugal eleven in normal time.
The best example of our national football hubris was surely England's first outing in 1950, when the masters of football were expected to challenge for the trophy but ended up exiting the first round after defeats to Spain and the USA. That was a bona fide 'dream team' featuring Jackie Milburn, Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, Wilf Mannion and Stan Mortensen, of whom a lot was reasonably expected given their stellar domestic form.
But the most telling England failure was surely the 6-3 mauling handed out by Hungary at Wembley three years later, a devastating thump in the face of anyone who thought we were still the best at 'our' game. The Mighty Magyars were streets, if not boulevards ahead in the beautiful game, deploying a tactical acumen far advanced from the simple game plan England had used for years.
Fast forward fifty three years to Germany 2006 and while Hungary might have vanished from the centre stage of international football (how tragic given they were the world's best half a century ago), England are still, depressingly, guilty of believing too much in their limited ability.
Dip a sheet of litmus paper into England a month ago and the tableau revealed was that of a nation swept up in blind faith. 'If they had only believed in themselves a bit more' were the actual words I heard someone use to ascribe another failure.
This misguided tidal wave of drunken fan fervour survives because enough people really believe that England can win a major tournament and that their support can actually help propel the eleven men to glory, the classic blind optimism of the football fan turned up to the max at World Cup time.
When you watch England's heroes perform miracles in the Premiership you could be forgiven for thinking they could do it against any opposition, but the World Cup entails taking on foreign football cultures to which we are not truly exposed on a regular basis.
Moreover, the best teams in the Premiership are not coached by Englishmen and in the case of Arsenal and Chelsea have only a scattering of natives in their squad. Both London giants have also fielded teams entirely devoid of Englishmen.
But despite the influx of foreigners, the pervading football culture is still one that favours direct attacking over possession. More than a less than scientific preparation for penalty kicks, that is the hub of our cycle of inadequacy: we don't keep the ball long enough and our technique suffers as a result.
Can you imagine England scoring a goal like Argentina's 24-pass strike at the World Cup? Of course not. I recall the Netherlands' Johnny Bosman netting a similar goal at Wembley in 1988, a few weeks before Marco Van Basten undid England with a hat-trick at Euro '88 but lessons were not learnt then.
So many times during World Cup 2006 England looked lethargic and uninspired, relying too much on a solid defence and individual talents in midfield to cover up for a lack of a fluid system and with a preponderance of hitting hopeful balls upfield for knock-downs instead of retaining the ball in a controlled, yet offensive manner.
What have we learnt since 1950? Nothing that can be rectified in four years, that is for sure. And when we do lose out it is too convenient and self-exonerating to blame individuals – Gazza, Beckham, Rooney, Urs Meier, Bobby Robson etc instead of addressing the fundamental flaws in our football.
So McClaren's era will end in failure, I have no doubt in saying. The Southern-based media will relish another Northern coach sticking his head in the lion's mouth, after the relentless savaging they gave Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor.
At least those two had successful club records to commend their initial appointments but McClaren guided Middlesbrough to a lowly fourteenth last season before taking the reins at Soho Square.
In addition, from what we can gather, the former Man United assistant coach played more than an assistant role for the national team under Sven-Goran Eriksson's tenure, which included heavy friendly defeats to Australia (3-1) and Denmark (4-1), a 2-2 draw with Macedonia and a 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland in competitive internationals and two penalty exits to Portugal at the quarter-final stage of tournaments.
And let us not forget the inexcusable second half against Brazil in 2002 when England mustered a lamentable one shot on goal.
The odds are just stacked too highly for McClaren to succeed.
The press and the nation confuse hoping with expecting, dreaming with actualizing, and expect nothing more than permanent success, a demand so unrealistic Graham Taylor chuckled that his advice to the next manager would be to 'win every game.'
But the real tragedy is that the millions of Englishmen and women who latch on to the national team at tournament time will be fired by the same specious faith in the power of the three lions to beat the world, when our national style of play is plainly not good enough to beat the world's best, however much we believe in ourselves.

Sean O'Conor