Saturday, March 31, 2007

World Soccer News March 31 2007

World Soccer News March 31 2007

World Soccer News March 31 2007

Greek leagues suspended over death in volleyball

The Greek government has suspended for 15 days all league competitions in all sports after violent clashes between rival fans before a volleyball game left one person dead and several injured.

A Panathinaikos women's volleyball team fan died from 15 stab wounds and blows to the head inflicted upon him by Olympiacos fans on Thursday.

The two teams are principal rivals in soccer and basketball, but even a women's volleyball match was considered a good opportunity to pick a fight. The murderer has not been identified, but the authorities say he is not among the 13 arrested aged between 17 and 30.

The commentators criticize the police for not having intervened promptly or indeed anticipated the violent events even though, it is said, the fans announced the confrontation beforehand.

Who tops the European qualifiers?

Germany, Croatia and Turkey have the best overall score in the current qualifiers for the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland. The three teams have dropped just two points each; Germany in the unlikely place of Cyprus, Croatia in Russia, and Turkey at home to Norway. All three have piled up 86.7% of all the available points.

Below them are other three squads with 80% of the points each – France, Ukraine and Sweden, with four wins and one defeat.

Top 8

1-3. Germany 5 4 1 0 21-3 13 86,7
Croatia 5 4 1 0 15-4 13 86,7
Turkey 5 4 1 0 14-3 13 86,7
4-6. France 5 4 0 1 12-2 12 80%
Sweden 5 4 0 1 9-4 12 80%
Ukraine 5 4 0 1 8-4 12 80%
7. Holland 6 4 2 0 8-2 14 77,8
8. Poland 7 5 1 1 12-5 16 76,2

Dunga overthrows Ronaldinho – no. 10 shirt to Kaká

In a national team with such a long tradition as Brazil's, every detail counts and specially the issue of the number 10 shirt. It used to be worn by the greatest Brazilians, such as Pelé and Zico. When the coach Dunga gave the number 10 to Kaká against Chile, showing whom he considers the leader of the current generation.
The previous "owner" of the prestigious number, Ronaldinho, had to settle for number 7.

"I don't mind. The shirt number is irrelevant, what's is important is to play. When I first played in the national team, I also had the number seven", said Ronaldinho, while Kaká was delighted:
"I hope to make history with the number ten on my back".

Barcelona's coach Frank Rijkaard is concerned that the loss of the coveted shirt could have a negative impact on his player.
"Dunga was wrong to strip him of the number ten. Ronaldinho is a natural successor to the previous "tens" like Pelé, Zico and Rivaldo. Whatever his reasons may be, in Barcelona the matters are clear. The number ten belongs to Ronaldinho."

Sacked for leniency with the "Kaiser"

Three police officers from Munich have had their employment terminated when it was discovered that they had attempted to cover up a traffic violation committed by Franz Beckenbauer.

In June 2005, "Kaiser" Franz was intercepted after police instruments showed that he was speeding at 74 km/h where a mere 30 km/h was the limit. After recognizing the driver, the officers failed to write him a ticket which would cost the former soccer great a fine and a one month's suspension of his driving licence.

Prso leaves Rangers, but stays in soccer

Three times Croatian player of the year, Dado Prso has finally decided to quit Rangers at the end of this season. After consulting with a specialist in France, Prso learned that a continued career in a demanding league like the Scottish Premier League could cause him disability.

"The doctor explained to him that his knees could be permanently damaged if he keeps on playing and practicing at such an intensity and rhythm required by Rangers. And Dado respects Rangers too much to play for them unless he can give his best," said Prso's agent Ranko Stojic.

Prso joined Rangers from Monaco in 2004 and won the League title in his first season at Ibrox. According to the Croatian press, his possible successor could be his fellow countryman Bosko Balaban, currently shining at Club Brugge in Belgium.

Inter chasing records

With ten matches remaining in Serie A, already crowned champions Internazionale have not lost their edge. Now that they lead Roma by 19 points, they still have plenty of goals.

* Winning the title without defeat. AC Milan achieved that in 1992, but with 12 draws. Inter currently have only four draws and 24 wins, two more than their city rivals. Perugia also finished a season without losing a single game in 1979, but the title went to AC Milan.

* Beating Juventus' record of 95 points from 2005, even though the Turin team have been stripped of that title.

* Becoming the first Italian team with 100 or more points in a season. Currently 24 points divide Inter from this distinction.

"People in the club really believe we can reach 100 points. We'll see," commented the coach Roberto Mancini.

Platini puts a brake on Champions' League reform

New UEFA president Michel Platini does not want to antagonize the big guns after all. In spite of having promised during his campaign to cut to three the maximum number of teams per country in the Champions' League, the Frenchman told the German weekly Kicker that the current rules would remain in place at least until the 2009/10 season.

In the meantime, a reform is inevitable for the UEFA Cup. As early as 2008, the group stage will consist of twelve groups with four teams each, which will play six games home and away. Currently, the group stage involves 40 teams divided into eight groups of five, each team playing the rivals only once, two at home and two away.

Romario tops Pelé in scoring

Romario Sousa Faria has indeed inflated his goal tally with plenty of unofficial goals, but not as much as Pelé, who scored far, far fewer goals than the advertised 1281.

The statisticians of Brazil magazine Placar have carried out a thorough investigation into the official goals scored by Romario and Pele and it turns out that the popular Baixinho (Shorty) already leads O Rei by eleven goals.

Romario has knocked in 731 documented and catalogued goals in official matches, both competitive and friendly, plus 268 in exhibition and practice games. Pelé, on the other hand, achieved only 720 "real" goals.

However, Romario's race for the imaginary 1000th goal is not much more than a show for the gullible, and it would be only fitting that it should be scored this Sunday, on April Fools' Day.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

That Lam Chop was Delightful

That Lam Chop was Delightful

My life is currently like an attempt on goal from Frank Lampard; it lacks any real direction. The wife tries to fill her void with a part time job in a psychiatric hospital; it’s great that they can relate to someone on their own level.

That Lam Chop was Delightful

There was a heated discussion at the wife’s workplace on the relative merits of Steven Gerrard MBE and Frank Lampard BFG. Opinion was split right down the middle; the staff sided with Stevie, the patients plumped for Frank.

The great thing about a debate of this nature is the fact that there is no wrong answer; apart from ‘Lampard’. The argument has momentarily been settled by a freak injury, although that’s a little bit harsh on Wayne Rooney. Nobody can argue against a punt on Chelsea at 1/3 to take care of Watford.

You don’t become a bad player overnight; it took Robbie Savage almost two years. I’m taking the 9/2 for a Shevchenko opener.

Historical stats are like Helen Chamberlain, they’re often reeled out but they serve no useful purpose. Middlesbrough have lost on their last four visits to West Ham, but I wouldn’t put anyone off a draw at 23/10.

The last time the Gunners visited Anfield, the Arsenal kids ran amok so uncontrollably, the local council considered issuing ASBOs. The Gunners look a great investment at 23/10 to leave Liverpool victorious for a third time.

Julio Baptista has had his knockers this season, but he always turns it on against the Reds. I like big Baps; he can open the scoring at 8/1.

I was shocked to read that Sir Alex Ferguson fired a flurry of insulting expletives towards the jovial Geoff Shreeves. The roving reporter was considering suing for slander, but Fergie’s ‘I thought it was Tim Lovejoy’ defence is watertight. I’m convinced that the 1/3 for a United win over Blackburn is also rock solid.

will be without Ivan Campo for the visit of the Blades as a routine haircut has ran into major complications. Big Sam’s men will mow down Sheffield United at 4/6.

I’m quite a spiritual being; in fact I have the ability to heal. I once roused a young lady from a drunken stupor merely by the laying of hands. She’s now completely teetotal.

Alan Pardew has breathed new life into the previously moribund Charlton; Wigan are going down in the Valley at 6/5.

Chris Coleman deserves a pat on the back. It’s easier to take something away from Tony Martin’s cottage than it is from Fulham’s. The Coleman’s mustard, they’ll see off Pompey at 5/4.

Spurs fans are still reeling from a disappointing result against the champions. Everyone knows you should throw the jab before considering a haymaker. I’m getting stuck into the 4/5 for a Tottenham win over Reading.

The ice on which Stuart Pearce’s position sits is so thin; ecological organisations have pleaded with Frank Lampard to steer clear. Manchester City won’t enjoy their trip to Newcastle, it’s far too close to Scotland. City have lost at St James’ Park on their last five visits, another Newcastle win at 21/20 will put the icing on Psycho’s cake of sorrow.

My search for a more fulfilling existence has led me to consider embracing an alternative religion. I’ll speak to Geoff Shreeves; Sir Alex mentioned something about a cult. I’m praying that the Villa beat Everton at 7/5.

This week’s accer is so eye-opening, I’ve finally realised that the secret to happiness was right in front of me all along; I live across the road from an off-license. Charlton, Newcastle, Tottenham and Aston Villa are the selections, the 17/1 payout will cover the cost of a crate of enlightenment.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

V. good but will Dukes stick around?

Mark Viduka.
Mark Viduka

Celtic, Leeds United and Middlesbrough supporters don’t exactly need me to tell them Mark Viduka can be the match of anyone when he's on his day. The problem, however, for Australian coach Graham Arnold and the Socceroos fans is the striker nicknamed the V-Bomber is going to have to be at flying at full throttle the whole of July's Asian Cup for the AFC No.1-ranked side to stand a decent chance of going all the way.

Viduka was in imperious mood against China over the weekend in what was his first Socceroos appearance since the World Cup exit to Italy nine months ago. Indeed he's been in irresistible form in England since the turn of the year and seamlessly translated his domestic displays for Middlesbrough into one of those majestic individual performances the football fraternity knows lies within him, but tends all too rarely to see.

You could sense Dukes was in the mood for landing some punches on the sleepy Chinese defence from the get-go. Goalkeeper Li Leilei was just awake enough to parry the Australian captain's double efforts in the opening stages but the signs were apparent following a well-heeled drag-back in the build-up to one of the Shandong Luneng 'keeper's stops.

Viduka didn't ultimately find the net in his 76 minutes on the pitch - one of the problems is he does so infrequently (six times in 38 internationals). But his presence at the pinnacle of an attack which sees him surrounded by younger, more mobile supplementary strikers in Arnold's preferred system was immense. It might be bold to suggest that Australia would not have won without him, but when you consider the alternatives in that lone frontman role, the coach is not the only one praying Viduka shelves any plans of an Asian Cup swansong.

"What more is there to say about Dukes?" Arnold rhetorically asked national broadsheet The Australian afterwards. "He showed why we need him to stay on. We can't afford to lose him just yet.

"Mark is a vital ingredient for the national team so we need to find ways of making the Socceroos option even more attractive for him. He is only 31 and will be 34 by the time the next World Cup comes around. Mark needs to know that we are not going to impose heavy demands on him.

"Call it mollycoddling if you like but we can look after him with a well thought-out schedule in which he won't have to play in too many meaningless games and where we can cut down his travelling."

Arnold was clearly panicked by Viduka's heavy hint-dropping in the lead-up to the China clash. The burly striker's name is forever mentioned when the topic of international retirement rears its ugly head but this time he appeared to be truly flagging a desire to call it a day with the national team. There is one overriding reason: wife Ivana gave birth to son No.2 Lucas six months ago. But he has also been one a handful of senior Socceroos critical of how Asian Cup warm-up matches have been scheduled this June, giving the fatigued EPL stars just a couple of weeks break.

Viduka might only be in his early thirties, but the retirement age for Australians isn't always much higher given the weight of travelling required for most international fixtures. His trademark laid-back approach means his legs should have little trouble dragging him kicking and screaming all the way to the 2010 World Cup. But, with Arnold conceding a minimum of four more Socceroos will hang up their boots after the summer's events, some wonder why Viduka's name wouldn’t be among them?

The major concern for Arnold - and ultimately who will succeed him as national team coach for the World Cup qualifiers - is the paucity of striking reserves. John Aloisi, now plying his trade in the Spanish second division with Alaves, is the same age as Viduka. German-based Josh Kennedy was the pair's primary back-up under Guus Hiddink at the World Cup but he's not played since rupturing his right Achilles tendon last July.

The answer could lie with 23-year-old Scott McDonald, a player always mentioned as a Socceroos prospect having represented Australia at under-17, under-20 and under-23 levels. Club-side Motherwell turned down a million-dollar January transfer window bid from Rangers for the in-demand striker who's scored 12 times this season. But McDonald is now reportedly on his way to Old Firm rival Celtic after a bid of AUD$1.8 million was lodged by manager Gordon Strachan. Don't rule out McDonald for a surprise call-up when the serious business gets underway in little more than three month's time.

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Japanese Soccer News JEF United

Japanese Soccer News JEF United.
Nabisco League Cup: Defending champions JEF United race out of the blocks

The J-League was in recess last week, as the opening fixtures of the League Cup took centre stage.

Contested by J1 clubs only, the League Cup kicks off with a six-game Group stage.

The talking point after two games has been the form of three teams currently struggling in the J-League.

JEF United have picked up just one point in the J-League so far, but they have recorded two successive wins in their League Cup Group A, defeating Vissel Kobe 4-1 in Kobe, before returning to Chiba to defeat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1.

Omiya Ardija have also recorded two wins in Group B, beating Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 in Yokohama, before their 2-1 home victory over Kashiwa Reysol at Komaba Stadium.

In Group D, Ventforet Kofu took on Nagoya Grampus Eight twice in the space of four days. Nagoya - who were missing Frode Johnsen and Kim Jung-Woo through international duty, succumbed both times, losing 2-1 in Kofu and 1-0 in Nagoya, to a team that is yet to score a goal in the J-League this season.

Oita Trinita top Group C after two successive victories. They beat Yokohama FC 1-0 at home, before defeating a troubled FC Tokyo 2-0 in the capital.

The next round of matches will take place on Wednesday, April 4.

Asian Champions League

Japan's two representatives in the Asian Champions League, Urawa Reds and Kawasaki Frontale, have both been given automatic passage into the last eight of the League Cup competition.
In the Champions League, both clubs won their opening fixtures.
Urawa defeated Indonesian club Persik Kediri 3-0, while Kawasaki Frontale also faced Indonesian opposition, ultimately running out 3-1 winners over Arema Malang, in a bruising encounter in Malang.
Matchday 2 proved tougher, as both Urawa and Kawasaki drew.
Urawa made the long trip to Sydney, where they came from two goals down to record a 2-2 draw against 2005 A-League champions Sydney FC. Upwards of 1000 Urawa fans travelled to the harbour city, creating a noisy atmosphere in the away end at Aussie Stadium.
At Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki Frontale could only conjure a somewhat unexpected 1-1 draw, against Thai team Bangkok University.

Japanese National Teams

Japan National Team

Japan defeated Peru 2-0 at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama on March 24. Coach Ivica Osim called up overseas stars Shunsuke Nakamura and Naohiro Takahara for the first time, and they were influential in the outcome of this match.

Japan opened the scoring when Nakamura's accurate free-kick was headed home by JEF United striker Seiichiro Maki.

Naohiro Takahara took advantage of another Nakamura free-kick early in the second half, controlling the ball and turning in one movement, before lashing home a powerful right-footed drive to double Japan's advantage.

Goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made his 100th appearance for Japan. The match also marked the return to international duty of Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuji Nakazawa.

Japan Olympic Team

After their disappointing 2-1 win over Malaysia on March 14, the Japan under-22 national team continue their quest for qualification to the Beijing Olympics, when they take on Syria at the National Stadium in Tokyo on March 28.

Japan National Women's Team

The Japan National Women's Team qualified for a place at the FIFA 2007 Women's World Cup in China, beating Mexico 3-2 on aggregate in their two-legged playoff on March 17.

Japan lost 2-1 at the Nemesio Diaz Stadium in Toluca, however Eriko Arakawa's early goal was enough to see "Nadeshiko Japan" through.

Japanese Players Overseas

Takayuki Morimoto : Catania
On loan Tokyo Verdy starlet Takayuki Morimoto suffered a season-ending injury during training at the Sicilian club, rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He will most likely be out of action for at least six months.
Mitsuo Ogasawara : Messina
There are widespread reports suggesting that former Kashima Antlers midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara will leave his Sicilian club Messina during the summer. Ogasawara is unhappy with the lack of game time that he has received at the struggling Serie A club, and is reportedly hoping to transfer to another Italian club, when his contract with Messina expires in June.
Alessandro Santos : Salzburg
Alessandro Santos has featured regularly since leaving Urawa for Austrian Bundesliga club Salzburg. He started in their most recent victory over FC Wacker Tirol, on March 17.
Tsuneyasu Miyamoto : Salzburg
Former Gamba Osaka defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto has featured less regularly for new club Salzburg, although he replaced Alessandro Santos for the final half hour of their most recent Bundesliga match against FC Wacker Tirol.
Kenji Fukuda : Numancia
Kenji Fukuda is enjoying an extended run of form at Spanish Second Division outfit Numancia. The former Nagoya Grampus Eight and FC Tokyo striker has scored seven goals in 27 appearances for the club so far this season, although it hasn't been enough to lift them out of a mid-table position.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Culina's Sydney: bold and brave

Sydney FC

Whether Sydney FC have the stamina to outlast their Group E colleagues remains a question for debate after their pulsating 2-2 draw with J-League champions Urawa Reds. But the inaugural A-League champions have already banished the memory of an uninspiring domestic campaign under sacked coach Terry Butcher and made a real statement of intent for this year's Asian Champions League.

"Pleased and disappointed," was interim coach Branko Culina's balanced reaction after only his second match in charge of the club. "Pleased that we played well in the first half and pleased with the result.

"But disappointed that we let slip a two-goal lead."

Sydney's studious manager must feel like Arsene Wenger to Butcher's Sir Alex Ferguson. The technical director of Soccer New South Wales and a regular TV pundit, Culina is a man well versed in doing his pre-match homework. As perhaps Sydney's display in Shanghai a fortnight ago demonstrated, Culina is also patently not fazed by restarting his top-flight management career in the heat of the ACL.

"Tsuboi, Tanaka, Nene, Suzuki, Ono, Abe, Ponte, Washington, Nagai ... do you want me to keep going?" he coolly responded to questions about Sydney's opponents the day before the game.

That's Culina. He exudes a quiet calm in front of the cameras while preaching a classic pass-and-movement philosophy the Sydney squad have taken to like ducks to water. And although he's been spending plenty of his evenings running the rule of his group rivals, he's also been quick to overhaul the club's stagnant style under Butcher and impart an altogether more entertaining system.

"Our game plan worked to perfection in the first 20 minutes," Culina continued confidently after the match. "Our plan was to attack them down the right-hand side in the first 20 minutes where Nene didn't have the pace or the defensive requirements to put up with Brosque.

"We changed Carney and Brosque around for that reason as well - we wanted to confuse them a little bit. But in the end we weren't quite good enough."

Culina, the father of Socceroo midfielder Jason, is certainly tactically astute but he has also inherited the bulk of the 2006 championship-winning squad. There have been a couple of further outgoings following Dwight Yorke's early season move back to the UK, but in essence Sydney's roster - albeit a little thin - has been together for more or less two years.

Of the club's three up-and-comers who will have the caught the eye of neutrals, Culina picked out supplementary striking duo Alex Brosque and David Carney for special mention. The third member of a triumvirate on the fringes of regular Socceroos recognition is midfielder Mark Milligan. National team coach Graham Arnold admitted this week he was planning to look at all three before Australia's scheduled match against Saudi Arabia next Wednesday was scrapped.

Milligan is no stranger to the senior Socceroos after receiving a last-gasp phone call from Guus Hiddink on the eve of last year's World Cup. Having now dropped back to captain the under-23s on their qualifying path to Beijing 2008, the unflappable 21-year-old showed in the opening minutes against Urawa he's more than just a midfield enforcer. It was his slide rule through ball which found Carney who finished with aplomb within 60 seconds of kick-off. Milligan too highlighted his versatility by playing at right-back after half-time

Sydney's second goal was concocted by Carney's individual brilliance with a helping hand from Brosque in the build-up. In between time Brosque, who gave Nene the run around before the Brazilian defender was replaced by Japanese international Makato Hasebe just before the interval, might have had one of his own after shooting wide with the hosts well in the ascendancy.

The Sydneysiders tired after the break and despite gifting the Reds an equaliser ended up holding on for a draw. Still, unbeaten and joint-top of arguably the toughest of this year's seven ACL groups, is a fine achievement. As Culina said, "When you consider it is someone who spends $65million on players against someone who spends $6.5million, the result is not too bad."

Copyright © Marc Fox and

Weekly Football News Roundup 03/24/07

Weekly Football News Roundup 03/24/07

Weekly Football News Roundup 03/24/07

Inter and Milan receive mail with bullets

The two Italian giants, Inter and Milan, have received letters containing fans' warnings and bullets for hunting rifles, prompting the police to start investigations.
Bullets sent by mail may be interpreted as a serious mafia threat against somebody targeted for liquidation, but the police have stated that the content of the messages is but mildly offensive and that it is unlikely that the senders are connected to the mafia.
In the letter received by Milan, a previously unknown fan grup called "Brigate Rossonere Toscana" call on the club directors to change players and the coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Similarly, on March 13th Inter received an envelope with several bullets and a letter with bland threats against the chairman Massimo Moratti, coach Roberto Mancini and several other club officials.

In this case the police opted to treat the message as a "low profile threat" probably originating from disgruntled fans of other teams. The motive may be the Federation's decision to award the 2006 championship to Inter after Juventus and Milan were found guilty of tampering with referees.

Ref accused of celebrating Ajax's goal

A gesture by the referee Eric Braamhaar during the the big match between PSV and Ajax in Eindhoven created a controversy in The Netherlands. After Ajax scored their fifth goal in a 5-1 win that reopened the title race, the ref clenched and waved his fist in a typical celebratory gesture.

Upon learning that PSV officials were upset, Braamhaar said he did not celebrate Ajax's goal, but his own correct decision to apply the advantage rule in favour of the visitors just before the goal was scored.

Germany to inaugurate new Wembley in August

"El clásico" of international soccer, the match between England and Germany, has been scheduled for the inauguration of the new Wembley on August 22th, said the German team-manager Oliver Bierhoff.

This gentleman is, lest we forget, the author of one of the famous goals scored on the old Wembley turf: the golden goal in the Euro 1996 finals between Germany and Czechia.

Incidentally, Germany won the last game played on the old Wembley, on October 7th 2000 by 1-0, so it understandable that the old enemies will mark the opening of the new, homonymous ground.

What does the future hold for Ronaldinho?

The Spaniards call it "culebrón", a long snake. The Italians describe it as "tormentone", something that causes a prolonged agony. Like a tv show that goes on for years with a convoluted plot and an apparently unlimited number of episodes. This year's culebrón is Ronaldinho's future, which may see him stay at Barcelona, or be transferred to Inter or Milan.

"If Ronaldinho leaves Barcelona, then we'll be the ones who sign him. If for no other reason, then to prevent him from going to Inter," said Milan's chairman Silvio Berlusconi.

"It will not be a problem for us to pay the transfer fee," adds the media mogul, only to irritate his neighbours and Barcelona alike.

On the other hand, Roberto Assis, Ronaldinho's brother and agent, has comforted Barca's fans by saying that his "client" feels just fine at Camp Nou. Still, this is just one episode of the soap opera that is destined to torment us until late August.

Hooliganism resurrects as Lampard attacked by a raging fan

Two fans stormed the field at the end of the FA quarterfinals match which Tottenham lost to Chelsea 2-1 and one of them attacked Frank Lampard in a scene reminiscent of the times when hooliganism was rampant in the British game.
Lampard ducked and managed to avoid the full impact of the blow before the guards intervened and overpowered the assailants.

The English FA condemned the incident and promised to investigate the level of security at White Hart Lane, while the men were detained and banned from attending soccer games.

Oliver Kahn banned for a game for "improper conduct"

Bayern Munich's first choice keeper Oliver Kahn was given an one-match suspension by UEFA and a 12,400 euros fine because of a heated argument with doping control officials at the end of the team's 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the Champions' League.
Kahn and teammate Lucio, who just received a fine, argued with the doctors over the protracted period of time it took them to collect the samples.

The keeper's suspension is a heavy blow for the Bavarians, who will have to rely on the substitute Michael Rensing for the away game against Milan on April 3.
"I have never heard of a player being punished so severely for such a mild offence," said the coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who still hopes the UEFA may overturn the sanction on appeal.

"We have some hope our appeal will prosper, like in the case of Mark van Bommel," added Hitzfeld, alluding to the initial two match ban for the Dutchman, which was halved after Bayern pleaded for leniency.

Rafael Benites pledges to continue at Liverpool

The Spanish coaching magician Rafael Benitez has rejected claims he will take over at Real Madrid next summer, as the Spanish press has been claiming over the past weeks.

"I am completely dedicated to Liverpool and will go nowhere. I understand that there have been speculations regarding my possible transfer to Real Madrid, something that fills me with pride. I am a native of Madrid and I have already worked there. Still, let me make clear that I am happy at Anfield and in England and I'm looking forward to working at Liverpool in the future."

Benitez won two prestigious Primera División titles with Valencia and a UEFA Cup between 2001 and 2004. At Anfield he managed to emulate the successes by winning the Champions' League and the Supercup in 2005 and the FA Cup last season.

Klasnic's second kidney transplant succeeds

The Croatian international Ivan Klasnic finally has a new, functioning kidney. After the first transplant failed due to the rejection of the organ donated by his mother, the second surgery succeeded as Klasnic's body accepted his father's kidney.

The family announced that the second attempt would be made after Easter, but the Werder forward underwent the surgery on March 16th in Hannover in total secrecy.

Klasnic is reported to be doing well and is expected to be released to home care this weekend. The 27-year-old believes he will return to professional soccer and in an optimistic scenario he could return to light practice next summer.

The Croatia boss, Slaven Bilic, has greeted Klasnic with a message:
"First of all, I wish him a happy return to a normal life. Soccer can wait."


Friday, March 23, 2007

Nabisco Cup Results March 2007

Nabisco Cup Results March 2007.
Nabisco Cup Wednesday 21 March, 2007

The 2007 Nabisco Cup kicked off yesterday with holders JEF winning on the road in Kobe.

Group A
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0 Gamba Osaka 3
Vissel Kobe 1 JEF United 4

Group B
Kashiwa Reysol 2 Shimizu S-Pulse 1
Yokohama F Marinos 0 Omiya Ardija 1

Group C
Oita Trinita 1 Yokohama FC 0
Jubilo Iwata 2 FC Tokyo 2

Group D
Ventforet Kofu 2 Nagoya Gampus Eight 1
Albirex Niigata 3 Kashima Antlers 1


Verdy 2 Cerezo 0
Avispa 1 Vegalta 2
Sanga 0 Vortis 0
Consadole 0 Bellmare 0
Ehime 1 Hollyhock 1
Thespa 1 Sagan 1

Verdy P4 Pts 10
Vegalta Sendai P4 Pts 10
Consadole P4 Pts 7
Kyoto Sanga P4 Pts 6

World Soccer News

Kashima Stadium


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

He’s in the Nic

He’s in the Nic

The wife is a born complainer. Even this week’s little snowfall failed to improve her mood; I overheard her on the phone to her mother complaining that ‘it’s only a couple of inches’. It kept the kids quiet though.

He’s in the Nic

I try to convey a rosier outlook, but even the great Monty Panesar would struggle to put a positive spin on the shambles that is the England football team.

A recent poll showed that 67% believe that Steve McClaren is the wrong man for the job; the other 33% are either having the question reread to them or are Scottish, and there’s a fair chance that it’s both.

The manager’s original squad selection for the match against Israel was a joke. There are only two people in this world who believe that Phil Neville is a better full-back than Gareth Barry. Steve McClaren is one; the other is hanging out with Bashful, Sneezy, Doc, Happy, Sleepy and the wife.

It’s easy to blame the hapless McClaren, but it’s his employers who are the real culprits. The suits at the FA are so clueless; it wouldn’t surprise me if their plans for the new Wembley include appointing Freddie Flintoff as a barman and Frank Lampard as the catering manager. The situation is a shambles; back Israel to beat England at 21/5, then back them again.

A recently discovered tribe of Congolese pygmies have admitted knowing absolutely nothing of western civilisation, other than the fact you can’t play Lampard and Gerrard in the same team.

In my opinion, big Frank should be the one to make way. There’s no doubting the fact that he’s worth his weight in gold to Chelsea, although Fort Knox would probably struggle with an order of such colossal magnitude.

A crazed supporter tried to punch a shirtless Frank Lampard earlier in the week, dispelling the myth that pot doesn’t lead to violence. Backing Benayoun to net the opening goal at 16/1 will lead to an abundance of riches.

I’m all for having a good laugh; you should see the wife. But as often is the case, some people can take things too far. Some ‘comedian’ has hacked into a number of websites to show Scotland sitting on top of a qualifying group that includes France and Italy. The 10/3 for a draw between the Sweaties and Georgia is a genuine reason to raise a little smile.

Stan Staunton’s left foot was so polished; it would often gleam like Andy Johnson’s noggin. But somewhat paradoxically, a great player rarely makes a good manager. Only a last minute strike saved the Irish from ridicule against San Marino last time out, I like the look of the Welsh at 43/10.

Northern Ireland travel to Liechtenstein for their qualifier and I fancy the footballing minnows to take a pasting. Admittedly, that doesn’t really narrow down the bet selection. It’s Northern Ireland at 4/9.

A stunning French lady has recently moved in next door. I do think it’s important to try and get on with your neighbours, so I’ve been trying to get on for the last few weeks. France look a sumptuous betting proposition at 1/2 against Lithuania.

Being a friendly soul, I’ve introduced Nicole to the local leisure centre. I’m not a great swimmer, but i try to get the occasional length in. The Greeks and the Turks do not share my literal ‘love thy neighbour’ philosophy; a draw between the old foes will keep everyone happy at 11/5.

The accer this week is so charming; I’m using it as a tool to woo the lovely Nicole. There are only three selections, but hopefully size isn’t important. Wales, France and Israel are the picks, the payout is a magnificent 37/1.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

Last week's football predictions & odds

Monday, March 19, 2007

K-League Getting Into Groove

K League
2007 K-League Season

The 2007 K-League season is slowly starting to get into its stride. The first three rounds have contained a reasonable amount of goals and excitement as the Korean media and coaches have been telling everybody who will listen. It is early days. Encouragingly perhaps, most of the good stuff has been shown by
the bigger clubs in the league. What is definitely promising is that those clubs have also been getting good results too. Seoul, Ulsan, Seongnam, Pohang and Suwon make up the top five and it will be no surprise at all if that same quintet is doesn’t change much from now until November.

Seoul are the pacesetters and are the only perfect pick from the bunch. Even more ominous for the others is the fact that new coach Senol Gunes has yet to see his team concede a goal in 270 minutes of league football. The Turk, like many other coaches pre-season, has promised entertaining football and the team are trying – though at the moment they can only do so in fits and starts.

Seoul have yet to meet any of the big boys however – in fact none of the top five have played each other yet. Hopefully the best is yet to come. The biggest news of the past week was not the K-League or Park Ji-sung scoring two goals for Manchester United but Ahn Jung-hwan’s hat-trick in the Hauzen Cup.

The first round of the competition saw Suwon’s traditional bogey team Daejeon Citizen visit the ‘Big Bird’ Stadium. Ahn took the purple hearts apart with a display of clinical offensive play not often seen in the K-League since, well, since he left in 2000.

Two calm finishes in one-on-one situations sandwiched a sweet half-volley from a narrow angle. Instead of kissing his wedding ring as in days of yore, Ahn celebrated his goals by kissing his index finger – the nation does not yet know the reason for this change!

It was inevitable then that calls for national team coach Pim Verbeek to include
the striker in his squad to face Uruguay on March 24 increased. "As soon as he comes back to Korea, everybody wants him back in the national team," Verbeek told me earlier in the month.

"So do I, but not immediately. I wanted to take some pressure from him. We have time to find out if he is the same as in 2006 and before that." As it turned out, it was too soon for the “Lord of the Ring”
but if he continues to perform domestically, few would bet against him playing
some part in the Asian Cup this summer.

He will have to watch from the sidelines on Saturday as will experienced midfielder Kim Nam-il. Ahn’s Suwon team-mate was stretchered off the pitch in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over K-League with a neck injury.
His place will be taken by new boy Son Dae-ho of Seongnam – a
midfielder that was impressive form in the second half of last season and the
beginning of this. The Seongnam new boy will be finding his way around Paju
National Football Center along with Kim Chang-soo of Daejeon Citizen, Kang Min-soo
of Chunnam Dragons and Ki Sung-young of FC Seoul.
South Korea Squad:
: Kim Yong-dae (Seongnam), Kim Young-kwang (Ulsan), Jung Sung-ryeong
DF: Kim Chi-kon (Seoul) Kim Chi-woo, Kim Jin-kyu and
Kang Min-su (all Chunnam), Lee Young-pyo (Tottenham, England) Oh Beom-seok (Pohang)
Kim Dong-jin (Zenit, Russia) Kim Chang-soo (Daejeon)
MF: Kim
Doo-hyun, Kim Sang-shik, Son Dae-ho (All Seongna) Baek Ji-hoon (Suwon) Kim Jung-woo
(Nagoya, Japan) Ki Sung-young (Seoul) Oh Jang-eun (Ulsan) Lee Ho (Zenit, Russia)
FW: Cho Jae-jin (Shimizu, Japan) Jung Jo-gook (Seoul) Lee Chun-soo
(Ulsan) Park Ji-sung (Manchester United, England) Seol Ki-hyeon (Reading, England)
Yeom Ki-hoon (Jeonbuk) Choi Sung-kuk (Seongnam)

It's 'snow' joke
The Asian Champions League started on March 7 with two of South Korea’s three
representatives in action – champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have a bye to the
quarter-finals. Chunnam Dragons made their debut in the competition by failing
to defeat Bangkok University.
The hosts were the happier of the two with the
goalless draw as they made the Korean FA Cup holders look very average on a
sultry Thai night. Conditions were a little different back home where Seongnam
Ilwha Chunam started their campaign with a easy-looking game with Vietnamese
outfit Dong Tam Long An.
It was a cold day just to the south of Seoul and the seven-time champions were confident of handing their opponents a sound beating.

About 30 minutes before kick-off however, it started to snow and the white stuff
just kept on coming. By kick-off the pitch was just about playable but ten minutes
into the game it was impossible to see any markings as the white carpet got
thicker and thicker.
Nobody thought to use a coloured ball and instead we were treated to players gingerly walking around in a blizzard trying to find a white sphere on a white background.
“Obviously it was very difficult for Dong Tam coming from Vietnam,” said Seongnam coach Kim Hak-beom with just a little understatement.
“These were the worst conditions I have ever seen.” Most of the visiting players
had never even seen snow before and it was a heavy fall even by Korean and other
standards too.
Seongnam striker Kim Dong-hyun spent last season in Russia but
said: “I never saw anything like this.” The seven-time champions won 4-1 but
the Vietnamese coaching staff, the ones not tucked beneath blankets on the bench
that is., were obviously unhappy at the start of the second half and it looked
as if the game would be abandoned. AFC and perhaps other officials intervened
and the ‘game’ restarted. “It was a mistake to continue in these conditions,”
said Portuguese coach Henrique Calisto. “My players have never experienced anything
like this before. “When Seongnam come to Vietnam we will show them some nice
and warm weather and hopefully a good game”

Copyright: John Duerden &

J League Results 17/18/03

J.League Saturday / Sunday 17 & 18 March, 2007

J League Results 17/18/03.

After three rounds of the 2007 J-League season Nagoya Grampus and Gamba Osaka are the only teams with maximum points. Both teams won at home Grampus defeating Albirex 2-0 and Gamba overcoming Sanfrecce 3-0. Ardija and Ventforet are the only two teams yet to register a point. Yokohama FC came down to earth after their win last weekend in the Yokohama derby with a 6-0 thrashing away to Frontale.

In J2, Verdy and Vegalta both lost their 100% records when they met in Sendai and shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw.

Oita Trinita 3 Omiya Ardija 1
Urawa Reds 2 Ventforet Kofu 0
Shimizu S-Pulse 0 Kashiwa Reysol 1
JEF United 3 Kashima Antlers 3
Yokohama F Marinos 1 Vissel Kobe 4
Kawasaki Frontale 6 Yokohama FC 0
Gamba Osaka 3 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0

Nagoya Gampus Eight 2 Albirex Niigata 0
FC Tokyo 0 Jubilo Iwate 1

Leading Positions

Grampus P3 Pts 9
Gamba P3 Pts 9
Frontale P3 Pts 7
Reysol P3 Pts 7
Reds P3 Pts 7
S-Pulse P3 Pts 6


Verdy P3 Pts 7
Vegalta Sendai P3 Pts 7
Consadole P3 Pts 6
Kyoto Sanga P3 Pts 5

J.League News

Last week's J-League Results


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Weekly Football News Roundup March 2007

Weekly Football News Roundup 03/17/07

Football news 2007

Inter Milan going at 90% !

There is no doubt that the Italian Serie A is among the strongest leagues in the world and if a team from that league have won 90% of the points in play, now that is something. Internazionale of Milan currently lead the table with 23 wins and 4 draws after 27 games played, which means that Roberto Mancini's team collect nine points out of every ten. The most efficient British team are Manchester United with 72 out of 87 possible points, half a percentage point above the Scottish leaders Celtic.

This table shows the percentage of the points won and the ratio between the points won and maximum possible points.

Team Percentage Points ratio

1. Inter Milano 90% (73/81)

2. Dinamo Zagreb 89,4% (59/66)

3. Levski Sofija 88,2% (45/51)

4. Dinamo Bucharest 86,36% (57/66)

5. Dinamo Kyiv 85% (46/54)

6. Manchester Utd. 82,7% (72/87)

7. Olympiacos 82,67% (62/75)

8. Porto 82,5% (52/63)

9. APOEL Nikozija 82,5 % (52/63)

10. Celtic 82,2% (74/90)

Juventus hope for Lampard coup

Firmly on course for a Serie A return, Juventus of Turin are already sounding the market for reinforcements and among them Chelsea's Frank Lampard figures prominently. The Zebras have set aside a sum of a 100 million euros, which indicates that a couple of big names will be heading to Delle Alpi stadium next season.

After failing to convince Chelsea of the need for a significant pay rise, Lampard is rumoured to be considering making use of a lesser known FIFA rule regarding the buy-out clause.

According to Lampard's legal advisors, he could buy his freedom by depositing 8 million pounds, the amount equivalent to the wages he would earn at Chelsea for the remainder of his contract, expiring in 2008.

Chelsea reportedly disputes Lampard's interpretation of the FIFA rule and threatens to denounce Juventus to the footballing authorities for approaching a player before the last six months of his contract.

Not unrelated to the issue, a court in Portugal ruled this week that a player's buyout clause cannot exceed the amount of wages that a club would pay until the contract expires. The logic behind this is clear: a player worth as much to the club as it is willing to pay him, which is reflected in the player's wages.

The Portuguese professional players' union has already voiced its satisfaction with the ruling and has expressed belief that the court's ruling will set a precedent within the European Union, soon to be applied in all member states.

Hertha luring Lehmann from Arsenal

Jens Lehmann could be on his way back to the Bundesliga, specifically to Hertha, who are looking for a goalkeeper superior to the curent custodian, Christian Fiedler, whose contract expires in 2008.

The Bild daily reports Lehmann's recently expressed wish to return to Germany and claims that Hertha could pull off the deal regardless of their 46.2 million € deficit.

The Berlin club apparently count on a secret sponsor to finance the deal, which could become reality over the next few weeks.

Lehmann (37) came to Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in 2003 and played in all Arsenal's games in the 2003/04 championship winning season when the club went undefeated through the season.

Raymond Domenech dismisses Wenger's moans

Arsene Wenger's perennial wailing have won him another "friend", this time the French coach Raymond Domenech, who was sick to hear the Arsenal's coach's lament over Thierry Henry's injury.

In reply to Wenger's claim that the French FA and national team were to blame for Henry's season-ending injury, Domenech said his compatriot was inventing a problem to deflect attention from Arsenal's recent disasters.

Wenger blamed his captain's health problems on Domenech for playing the striker in every international friendly this season, including against Bosnia in August.

"I don't want to listen to lectures. Mr Wenger is starting to seriously tire me. He tires a lot of people. He does not know everything. When he talks about an injury in March caused by a match in August, he forgets to say that every time Thierry Henry plays a game for the France team, three days later, he plays for Arsenal. And he has never been injured on international duty."

According to Domenech, Wenger has criticised Roger Lemerre when he was coach, and also Michel Platini.

"There comes a moment when enough is enough. He should better analyse the problem. We aren't to blame."

Beckham ready to travel from the USA to play for England

Rumours that Steve McClaren could recall David Beckham to the national team have delighted the former captain, a few months before his announced transfer to Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS.

"Playing in the MLS would not be an impediment for my availability. I could travel from the States to play for England," said Becks to the Spanish Sport daily.

"If I play well there, I'm sure I won't go unnoticed. I will always be available for my country if it needs me. That's the way I am as a person and a soccer player. Still, if it does not happen, I'll still be proud of having played the games I have played and captained on many occasions."

Before going to Galaxy, he still hopes to finish his last Spanish season on a high note.
"We can still win the League this season. It would be magnificent to do something important before I go. Even if I don't, I'll always remember my time in Madrid as a success."

Barca and Besiktas in war over a 12-year old genius

The Turkish midfielder Muhammed Demirci is destined to become the most expensive child footballer ever after his club Besiktas of Istanbul have put him a price tag of five million euros.

The 12-year-old Besiktas starlet nicknamed "Muha" amazed during his trial last month's with Barcelona at Camp Nou, prompting the Catalans to offer three million dollars to Besiktas.

After learning of Barcelona's fervent interest in the boy, Besiktas changed their initial decision to sell and raised the price to a prohibitive level.

"The boy first has to provide services to Besiktas. Later on the club could make more money on him," said the Black Eagles' chairman Demirören.

"The problem is that Besiktas does not want Muhammed to go," confirmed Muha's agent Seyit Ates to the Spanish EFE Agency.

Barcelona already have two boy wonders, a bit older than Muha, though: the Serb-born Bojan Krkic and the Mexican Giovanni dos Santos, who are both on the brink of breaking in to the first team.

Jimenez claims Figo hacked him on purpose

Zaragoza's César Jiménez said goodbye to football this week after two years of unsuccessful treatment for the terrible injury on his left knee caused by Luis Figo.

"It was not a struggle for the ball. Figo tackled me with a foot uprisen and his sole to the front. I couldn't say if he was angered by something that had happened to him earlier in the game.
With a tackle on a pitch level I would not have been injured, but he struck my knee and it cracked," Jiménez told As.

Figo's intent was not so much obvious to Jiménez during play, but once he saw the action on television, he went "Oh, my God. (...) He tackled me in order to hurt me."

Amazingly, the referee Losantos did not punish the Portuguese in any way.

"He was six yards away. If a card had to be shown, it had to be a red one. I believe he saw the deliberatedness of the kick, but he chickened out. So Figo came away unpunished. At least the disciplinary committee could have acted in the line of duty. There should be a mechanism protecting players injured like this, by compensating the victim and sanctioning the perpetrator who puts an end to one's career."

Interpol after Rincón over drugs and laundering charges

The famed Colombian international Freddy Rincón has been declared fair game in 186 countries cooperating with Interpol after charges have been brought against him over his alleged involvement with drug smuggling and money laundering.

Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Rincón this week at the request of Panama's authorities, who want to bring the player to trial. The former Napoli, Corinthians and Santos star is accused of having laundered money through a catering business and a fishing company for the Colombian drug lord Pablo Rayo Montańo, captured last year in Brazil.

"Let the Colombian people know that if they heard negative news about me, they will also hear news of my innocence," said Rincón from Brazil, where he has lived since hanging his boots.

The 40-year-old has refused to say whether he will turn himself in to the Panamenian authorities or how he plans to resolve his situation. He admits to having invested 200,000 dolars in business ventures in Panama, but claims that the money comes from his soccer related earnings. After all, a player who represented Colombia on 84 occasions, played in World Cups and won a World Club Championship will have earned much more than the sum in question.

Interestingly, Rincón does not hide his friendship with Rayo Montańo, but says he never asked him what his business interests were. Still, among 61 real estate units confiscated from the drug lord by the Colombian governments are two estates, two flats and one luxury house registered in Rincón's name.


Will Abramovich's divorce affect Chelsea?

Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich and his wife Irina have divorced in Russia on a consensual basis and have agreed terms in respect of their children and a financial settlement.

Their spokesman said Chelsea would not be affected by the divorce proceedings, although the Russian mogul will part with a huge chunk of his wealth estimated at 15.5 billion euros.

Reports of the size of the settlement vary from 1.5 billion to 7.75 billion euros. While plenty of money would still remain for various Abramovich's interests, for all we know the loss of up to half of his fortune may make him more thrifty and reluctant to pour further nine-figure sums in what is essentially no more than a plaything for him.

Irina and Roman were married for 15 years and have five children.


UEFA Cup QF Draw March 2007

UEFA Cup QF Draw.
UEFA Cup QF Draw March 2007

Quarterfinal Draw

AZ Alkmaar v Werder Bremen
Bayer Leverkusen v Osasuna
Espanyol v Benfica
Sevilla v Tottenham Hotspur

Matches to be played on April, 5 and 12, 2007

Semifinal Draw

Espanyol or Benfica v AZ Alkmaar or Werder Bremen
Bayer Leverkusen or Osasuna v Sevilla or Tottenham Hotspur

Matches to be played on April, 26 and May 3, 2007

Books on Football


Friday, March 16, 2007

Japanese Soccer News 16 March 2007

J-League News: Nagoya the surprise leaders

Nagoya Grampus Eight are the surprise table-toppers after the opening two rounds of the J-League, following their 2-0 victory away at Ventforet Kofu last weekend. Sef Vergoossen's men are yet to concede a goal and they'll look to continue their good form at home against Albirex Niigata.

Japanese Soccer News 16 March 2007.
Shimizu S-Pulse are hot on the heels of Nagoya, having defeated JEF United 3-1 in Chiba last weekend. They'll look to maintain their winning streak with a win over Kashiwa Reysol at Nihondaira Stadium.

Defending champions Urawa Reds drew 2-2 at a freezing Big Swan Stadium, conceding two goals in the final two minutes to hosts Albirex Niigata. Urawa will look to make amends at home to Ventforet Kofu this weekend, although they will no doubt have one eye on their upcoming Asian Champions League clash with 2005 A-League winners Sydney FC.

The match of the round last weekend took place at a packed Mitsuzawa Stadium, as Yokohama FC and Yokohama F. Marinos clashed in the first Yokohama derby since 1998. In emotional scenes in Japan's "second city," Yokohama FC triumphed 1-0 over their cross-town rivals, despite being outplayed for much of the match.

The match was significant for the fact that it was the first time that Yokohama FC - a club started by disgruntled Yokohama Flügels fans, opposed Yokohama F. Marinos - a club that was created by the sudden merger of Yokohama Flügels and Yokohama Marinos in 1998.
This weekend Yokohama FC make the short trip to neighbours Kawasaki Frontale - who are also on Asian Champions League duty next week, when they take on Bangkok University at home.

JEF United prop up the J-League standings at this early stage, and it looks like it will be another season of disappointment for fans of the Chiba-based outfit.

Japanese Soccer News 16 March 2007.
Japan National Teams

Under-22 Olympic Team

Yasuharu Sorimachi's side recorded a second consecutive victory on its quest to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, however they once again disappointed, despite beating Malaysia 2-1 at a rain-soaked Petaling Jaya Stadium.
Goals from FC Tokyo forward Sota Hirayama and Kashiwa Reysol striker Tadanari Ri were enough to see off the hosts, who pulled a late goal back through Khyril Muhymeen. Japan's next match is against Syria at the National Stadium in Tokyo on March 28.

Japan National Women's Team
The Japan National Women's Team beat Mexico 2-0 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, in the first leg of their World Cup qualification playoff.

Goals from Homare Sawa and Aya Miyama have put Japan in a commanding position, ahead of the return leg at Nemesio Diez Stadium in Toluca on March 17.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lettuce get it on

Lettuce get it on

I’m a great believer in animal rights; I believe they have the right to fit nicely on a bun.

My attitude has undoubtedly softened since I witnessed a horrific dogfight. In the wife’s defence, the barmaid should never have called last orders.

Manchester City need a result at Middlesbrough to avoid being dragged into a real scrap at the wrong end of the table. The Boro do have one eye on Monday’s FA Cup replay; I’m considering getting involved with another psycho at 10/3.

Lettuce get it on

I feel a real connection with the animal loving McCartney clan. I could never understand why Stella appeared unhappy with Heather; I’d have thought the prospect of a decent burger for dinner would have been a relief. I guess the waiting time proved an annoyance. There’s nothing annoying about the 11/10 for a Reading win over Portsmouth.

Roman Abramovich is another high profile figure to have recently split from his other half. I imagine Roman’s wife won’t be too upset though, she’s in line for a massive payout; although Frank Lampard has denied being a part of any deal.

The future of Lampard and Terry is under a cloud thanks to a proposed salary cap. Chelsea are considering introducing a £120,000 a week ceiling; I think the builder’s ripping them off. Chelsea will demolish Sheffield United at 1/5.

Call me an overly optimistic, frustrated ornithologist, but I wish that all birds were as easy to get on their backs as the Robben. A 3-0 Chelsea win should be dived on at a more punter friendly 7/1.

I was delighted to hear the news that Michael Owen is up and running again. Only Michael and his local bookmaker were more excited. I’m quite literally beside myself with the 6/4 for a Charlton win over Newcastle.

Fulham may have a fantastic record at the Cottage, but they get stopped more than Pete Doherty on the road. Wigan have the three points in the bag at 5/4.

Arsenal have appeared to have based their style of play on me. It’s pretty to look at, but there’s a real lack of penetration. If forced, I’d suggest a win for the Gunners at Goodison Park, but the skinny odds of 5/4 are a little bit like Scotland, you’re better off keeping out of it.

The wife had to meet up with the doctor last night, Martens, I think his name was. Backing the Villa to draw with Liverpool at 12/5 will cover the cost of a big bottle of Lucozade; I’ve got a raging thirst.

I must express my sense of disappointment with Anton Ferdinand. The manager was never going to believe he was visiting his grandma; only Wayne Rooney can sell that line without arousing suspicion. I’m putting my cash down on Blackburn to beat West Ham at 8/11.

Rooney may well be partnered by overrated midfielder / overrated forward Alan Smith for the visit of Bolton, but United can still be backed with real confidence at 1/3.

Ronaldo looks a great shout to open the scoring at 11/2. The procumbent winger is second only to Drogba in the race for the golden boot; that’s half decent for a lad who only plays a tiny proportion of the game in an upright position.

Here’s an adage for Martin Jol. ‘You can’t catch fire if you throw away matches’. Spurs would definitely have seen off Chelsea if Lennon and Berbatov weren’t sacrificed to appease the God of ‘bus-parking’. Jol can make amends by sending out a decent team to beat Watford at 1/2.

The weekend accer is so thought provoking; I’m actually considering turning into a vegetarian. Of course that’s dependent on finding a morally loose non-meat eater with exceptionally low standards. Reading, Spurs, Wigan, Blackburn and Charlton are the selections, the payout is a beefy 26/1.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell &

World Soccer News

FIFA World Rankings March 2007

FIFA World Rankings March 2007.
FIFA World Rankings March 2007

Argentina are on top of the world!

World Champions Italy slip to second after only one month at the summit with Brazil now third.

England are 6th.

Japan move down one to 42nd position. South Korea drop four places to 48th position.

The USA are in 30th. Croatia stay in 12th after their good results in Euro 2008 qualifying. Scotland are up four spots to 16th position. Northern Ireland overtake the Republic of Ireland in the rankings.

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

FIFA World Rankings March 2007


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

K-League: Busan's Coach Andy Egli

Andy Egli

“It is very strange to me.”

So says Busan I’Park’s Coach Andy Egli a number of times as he relaxes overlooking Haeundae Beach, one of South Korea’s most popular tourist spots.

The well-dressed Swiss boss has been on the south coast since July 2006 and while he has settled into life in Korea’s second city with the minimum of fuss, there are still a number of aspects that make him shake his head, laugh or both.

Being a football man, most of these things are regarding his life as one of three foreign coaches in the Land of the Morning Calm. Egli, a former defender who made 77 appearances for Switzerland’s national team, is an animated when sat on a plush sofa as he is standing on the sidelines during a Busan game.

That’s the way it should be at the start of a new season, especially at the start of a first full campaign in a foreign land. The second half of last year saw a respectable if unspectacular performance from the team and it also gave the 48 year-old time to get to know his players and vice-versa.

“The players know me better now,” he says. “They know my philosophy and they know how I expect them to play and what I expect them to do.” Not all of them though, as the trim European admits. “18 players left – too many, too many. 14 came in – this is Korean style.”

Busan is the second most successful club in Korean history and with four titles, is second to only Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma on the honors roll. However, this year marks the tenth year since the K-League trophy resided in this port city with a population of over four million.

Despite the size of the city, Busan is not one of the league’s big spenders and sits on the sidelines to watch the likes of Seongnam, Suwon and Ulsan splash the cash. Money was the main reason why star player of 2006 Popo left the club in the winter to join nearby Gyeongnam FC.

On mention of the Brazilians name and the fact that he scored for his new club earlier that day, Egli is immediately interested. “What kind of goal?” he asks quickly, “open play or free-kick? What was the score when he scored?”

Egli can be forgiven for his curiousity as Popo scored 13 goals last season, the second highest in the league, despite the fact that he is a midfielder but the goals came at a price.

“For Busan, Popo was an expensive player,” says the coach. “To extend his contract would have cost the club a lot of money. I knew the money that was needed to bring in the new Brazilian players and the money that was needed to keep Popo was, from my point of view, too much.

“Popo scored many goals but a lot of them were from free-kicks. Of course, that is a good quality, but he didn’t score many from open play.”

Players come and go in football and without the mercurial South American, Busan prepared for a new season and hopefully, a tilt at the title. The fixture list seemed kind. The first two games were at home and the visitors were the two teams that finished bottom of the 2006 standings.

It didn’t work out as expected. Jeju United won 1-0. That loss gave the visit of Gwangju Sangmu greater significance. Would the pressure be on with another home defeat?

“Definitely – yes, I can’t deny that. We do know at the moment what the result will be tomorrow but if we lose at home against a team that you should beat then of course there will be a certain pressure but that’s football and part of my job.”

As it turned out, Busan deservedly won 2-1 inside a cold stadium to move to the middle of the standings. From 2007, the teams that finish in the top six will qualify for the championship play-off series. Despite recent mediocrity, Busan have a chance of doing so. “We finished eighth last year,” recalls Egli, “and we have the ambition to be better so the sixth rank is not far.”

It will take hard work to get there, from the coach, the players and the coaching staff. Egli would like more discussions with his assistants but it is not easy.

“Korean coaches do not like to exchange their views, ideas or knowledge to develop the game. I ask them questions about analyzing games or why a certain coach did something but they will not say anything. It’s very interesting.”

Players can be uncomfortable too: “Sometimes after the game I gather the team to watch the video of the match. I tell them: ‘Now I am going to talk about football players, I am not going to talk about human beings. I am going to talk about number eight or number four and how we can make sure that we improve and don’t make the same mistakes.’ The players don’t like it and go like this,” Egli does a reasonable impression of Macauley Culkin’s famous Home Alone face.
“It seems not to be the Korean style and that is true with decision-making. This is the weakest point of Korean football.”

Despite a few failings, it is obvious that Egli is a natural optimist and he is positive about the long-term prospects for football in Korea.

“I think the future for Korean football is bright. These boys are strong, tall. They are quick and determined and they can play with both feet. They will continue to improve.

“The players in England now, they are changing as football players and personalities. When they come back to Korea with the national team, they bring those changes too. They are the future.”

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

J. League Results 10 March 2007

J. League Results 10 March 2007.
J.League Saturday / Sunday 10 & 11 March, 2007

After two rounds of the 2007 J-League season perennial underachievers Nagoya Grampus lead the race on goal difference. In an emotional Yokohama derby, Yokohama FC (re-born from the defunct Yokohama Flugels) defeated Yokohama Marinos - the team that swallowed up the Flugels, with an early goal from Hayakawa. Kashima Antlers, one of the J-League's most successful teams, languish at the bottom without a point along with JEF United, Ventforet Kofu and Omiya Ardija.

In J2, Verdy and Vegalta are the two teams with a 100% record.

Ventforet Kofu 0 Nagoya Gampus Eight 2
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 Kashiwa Reysol 1
Jubilo Iwate 2 Oita Trinita 1
Omiya Ardija 0 FC Tokyo 2
JEF United 1 Shimizu S-Pulse 3
Yokohama FC 1 Yokohama F Marinos 0

Kashima Antlers 0 Gamba Osaka 1
Albirex Niigata 2 Urawa Reds 2
Vissel Kobe 1 Kawasaki Frontale 1

Leading Positions

Grampus P2 Pts 6
S-Pulse P2 Pts 6
Gamba P2 Pts 6
Reysol P2 Pts 4
Sanfrecce P2 Pts 4
Reds P2 Pts 4
Frontale P2 Pts 4

J. League


Verdy P2 Pts 6
Vegalta Sendai P2 Pts 6
Fukuoka Avispa P2 Pts 4
Kyoto Sanga P2 Pts 4

World Soccer News


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Champions League QF Draw 2007

Champions League QF Draw 2007.
Champions League QF Draw 2007

Quarter-final draw

First legs 3/4/07, second legs 11/4/07

AC Milan v Bayern Munich

PSV Eindhoven v Liverpool

First legs 4/4/07, second legs 10/4/07

Chelsea v Valencia

Roma v Manchester United

Semi-final draw

First leg 24/4/07, second leg 2/5/07

Roma or Manchester United v AC Milan or Bayern Munich

First leg 25/4/07, second leg 1/5/07)

Chelsea or Valencia v PSV Eindhoven or Liverpool

World Soccer News


Plymouth & Watford's FA Cup reunion

Plymouth & Watford's FA Cup reunion.
Plymouth & Watford's FA Cup reunion

Plymouth and Watford square up on Sunday for a place in the last four of the FA Cup, 23 years after meeting in the semi finals.

In 1984, George Reilly's goal sent the Pilgrims back to the West Country before Watford lost 2-0 to Everton in the final, but this time around instead of neutral Villa Park, the contest is at Plymouth's Home Park.

The Pilgrims are 12th in the Championship and Watford second to last in the Premiership, which makes the contest too close to call for most bookies. The Hornets look doomed to relegation so are well aware the Cup could be the highlight of the season.

"We have a great opportunity," Watford's American centre-back Jay DeMerit told Soccerphile. "If we go to Plymouth and play like we did in the first half against Charlton we are in with a great chance for the semi-finals and we will definitely look to do that."

The Hornets' 2:2 draw last weekend moved them off the bottom of the Premiership but with relegation a distinct possibility, their extended FA Cup run has perhaps been the highlight of their season.

Before they can start dreaming of walking out at the new Wembley Stadium in May, Watford must make a Sunday evening trip 200 miles southwest to tackle a Plymouth team buoyed by home advantage and having avoided the big guns of Chelsea and Manchester United in the quarterfinal draw.

The Pilgrims are coached by the inimitable Ian Holloway, renowned for his bizarre and entertaining post-match wisdom. A book has even been published of his quotes called "Let's Have Coffee - the Tao of Ian Holloway."

Plymouth have a double incentive for victory as they have a bone to pick with Watford for dumping them out the Cup in 1984 at the semifinal stage, the furthest the Devon club has ever gone in the competition.

An interesting clash ensues, but DeMerit is determined the winners will be in yellow jerseys.

"We have prepared for them just like any other team," he said, "and we will be going for the win and hopefully another victory."

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, March 9, 2007

World Soccer News 8 March 2007

World Soccer News 03/08/07

World Soccer News 8 March 2007

Platini prepares an expansion of the European Championship

New UEFA chairman Michel Platini has announced plans to expand the European Championship final phase from 16 do 24 teams, starting from 2016.

"A UEFA commission is studying the proposal to increase the number of participants
in the final stage," said Platini on a press conference in Tbilisi, Georgia.
"There are UEFA members in favour and against the idea. In any case, if a positive decision is taken, the increase would take place in the 2016 finals."

The plan to postpone the expansion until 2016 has been welcomed both in Croatia and Hungary, candidates to stage the 2012 event, because an increase to 24 as early as 2012 would clearly fancy their rivals Italy, who would legitimately argue that only they can meet the requirements for a tournament that large.

Platini has also assured that he does not plan to pressure various national federations to cut the number of teams in their first divisions to 16 or 18, or to shift the competition calendar from autumn-spring to spring-autumn, in order to have an unified schedule on the continent.

"I won't insist on this topic. The number of teams involved or a calendar of the competition is down to the federation of each member country," added the Frenchman.

Maradona investigated for money laundering

Maradona investigated for money laundering

The Argentinian Central Bank (BCRA), the country's tax authority, has denounced the former soccer great Diego Maradona for suspected money laundering. BCRA has asked the authorities to investigate the movements of Maradona's funds in various banking and credit institutions.

Over the last months Maradona's principal source of revenue is playing showball, a variant of indoor soccer, which he plays along with other former Argentina internationals.

After his lenghty recovery from drug addiction and a cardiovascular illness, Maradona started to work on his own television show called "La noche del 10" (The night of the ten), which is an allusion to the number he usually wore in his heyday. In the 13 weeks he hosted the program, he entertained Pele, Mike Tyson and Fidel Castro, among others.

Teddy Sheringham could go "down under"

Nearing his 41th birthday, Teddy Sheringham has received an offer from Sydney FC of the Australian A-League to join them for the next season due to start in August.

The former Manchester United and Tottenham striker is still going strong for West Ham, but if the Hammers go down they would probably be willing to release the star, whom Sydney is planning to pay a reported 1 million AUD per year.

"Sheringham still plays at the highest level in England, is an excellent soccer player and has plenty of experience", said Sydney's executive manager George Perry to The Daily Telegraph.

Last autumn the Brazilian veteran Romario had a middlingly successful stint at Adelaide United.

Mourinho: "If they kick me out, I'll be a millionaire"

José Mourinho knows he will not be sacked from Chelsea, specially not after his side made it to the Champions' League quarterfinals agains his old team Porto. But, even if Abramovich and Kenyon chose to terminate his contract any time soon, Mourinho would not be terribly upset.

"If the club sacks you due to bad results, it's part of the game. If that happens, I'll be a millionaire and in a couple of months I'd be working for another club. I cannot win every week nor every year, but I have a family, my children are healthy and I have a lot of friends. I have a good life so I don't feel any pressure."

Seeing that Chelsea have already won the League Cup and that they are still in race for the Premiership, Champions' League and the FA Cup, Mourinho has also asked for respect for his men.

"Taking into account the injuries we have suffered this season, my players deserve respect."

Ronaldo calls Capello "a man in trouble"

The former Real Madrid player, Ronaldo Nazario Lima, did not mince his words when talking about his ex-coaches Fabio Capello and Héctor Cúper.

"One should not trust Fabio Capello. He is a man in trouble, whose relationships with players leave a lot to be desired. This is not a time for coaches who act like generals," said Il Fenomeno to the Italian weekly Panorama.

The Brazilian forward expressed an even more negative opinion about the Argentinian Héctor Cúper, under whom he worked at Inter before joining Real Madrid in 2002.

"Cúper was worse, because Capello at least has a history to back him up. But, what has Cúper won?"

With regards to his alleged excess weight, Ronaldo promised to "have a nude photo made soon to put an end to all the speculations."

Argentinian FA found responsible for a man's loss of sight

The Argentinian Supreme Court has sentenced the Argentinian Football Federation (AFA) and the club Lanús to pay an undisclosed sum to a man as damages for an injury that cost him an eye sustained during incidents at a soccer game in 1996.

The victim was Hugo Arnaldo Mosca, who was hit on the head by a stone during one match between Lanús and Independiente and suffered a complete loss of sight in his left eye.

Just a month ago, after another series of incidents, Julio Grondona, the AFA chairman, said that he was responsible for soccer, but not for security issues. The Supreme Court has ruled quite the opposite.

The Court believes that the AFA is "the organizer" and "the beneficiary" of the sporting events in which Mosca lost sight on one eye, and that therefore cannot elude legal responsibility.

"The idea that the organizers should be concerned just with the sport and their revenue, while the security should be the Government's obligation is untenable in terms of our constitution," wrote the judges in the verdict, as if they wanted to give a direct reply to the AFA chairman.

Uribe returns as Peru's coach

Julio César Uribe, the current Cienciano Cuzco coach, has been appointed to manage the Peruvian national team yet again. The appointment of Uribe has ended the possibility of Juan Carlos Oblitas' returning to the national team bench.

Uribe returns to coaching Peru five years after quitting because of not being able to take the team to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.

The former Sporting Cristal player will make his second debut on March 24th in a friendly against Japan.

Champions' League winner's curse continues

A tremendous equality of the Champions' League has been reflected in two ways. In the round of sixteen no team have scored a win larger than 2-0 or qualified by a margin higher than two goals on aggregate. In fact, only Manchester United achieved two wins, both by 1-0 over Lille (the first one being highly controversial).

The other proof of equality is the fact that it is now 17 seasons since the last European champion retained their title. The last time that happened was in 1990, when Milan defeated Benfica in Vienna by 1-0.

In the meantime, the closest anyone came to the defence of the title was the finals. Milan, Ajax and Juventus all lost in the finals in the season after winning the Champions' League or Cup.

Last time anyone won the premier trophy three times in a row was between 1974 and 1976, when Bayern achieved that feat.

History of failures

Season Defending champ Result

1990/91 Milan quarterfinals
1991/92 Red Star Belgrade semifinals
1992/93 Barcelona round of 16
1993/94 Marseille suspended
1994/95 Milan finals
1995/96 Ajax finals
1996/97 Juventus finals
1997/98 Borussia Dortmund semifinals
1998/99 Real Madrid quarterfinals
1999/2000 Manchester Utd. quarterfinals
2000/01 Real Madrid semifinals
2001/02 Bayern quarterfinals
2002/03 Real Madrid semifinals
2003/04 Milan quarterfinals
2004/05 Porto round of 16
2005/06 Liverpool round of 16
2006/07 Barcelona round of 16