Sunday, May 31, 2009

World Soccer News 31 May 2009

World Soccer News 31 May 2009.
World Soccer News for the week of 5/31

Bordeaux edge Marseille ten years later

Just like ten years ago, Girondins de Bordeaux lifted the French championship ahead of Olympique Marseille, still cursed by that 1993 match-rigging scandal.
On the last day of the championship, Marseille still had a fighting chance, in spite of lagging three points behind Bordeaux. The leaders had to visit the endangered Caen, who were certain to avoid relegation by winning all three points, and Marseille knew they would be the champions if Bordeaux lose and they defeat Valenciennes at home.
Motivated as they certainly were, Caen could not avoid defeat the 0-1 defeat to Laurent Blanc's squad, making Marseille's 4-0 win futile. Caen, for sure, were punished by relegation alongside Nantes and Le Havre, while the Olympique Lyon, after seven consecutive titles, had to settle for the third spot and another place in the Champions League.
Exactly ten years ago, Marselle's previous effort to win Ligue 1 was also thwarted by Bordeaux, who won at Paris SG by 3-2 in the last minute to snatch the title from the southerners. The OM are still trophyless ever since they were caught fixing the match against Valenciennes in the 1992/93 season, for which they had their title revoked by the FA.

Chelsea and Werder collect consolation prizes

Two big European teams frustrated in UEFA's competitions found significant consolation this weekend in the national cup competitions.
Chelsea managed to overcome Everton's early lead with goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard and crown their difficult season with their fifth FA win. Everton went ahead in the 25th second through Louis Saha, but Guus Hiddink's magic worked this time and made sure the Blues were the on the winning side.
"This is one of the greatest moments in my career. The European Cup that I won with PSV (in 1988) was great too, but it is special to win the FA Cup in the cradle of football," said the Dutchman, who will sadly honour his promise to leave the club at the end of the season.
The skipper John Terry and Lampard dedicated the win to Hidding as a farewell gift, as he is set to return to coaching Russia. The forthcoming competition to fill the vacancy at Stamford Bridge is certain to be exciting.

Just ten days after succumbing to Shahtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup finals in Istambul, Werder regained some of their pride by beating Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 in the German DFB finals.
In front of 73,000 spectators, Werder won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Mesut Ozil in the 58th minute. The Turk's shot deflected off Manuel Friedrich, deceiving the keeper and reinforcing Bayer's reputation of perennial losers.
This is Werder's sixth DFB trophy and the first after 2004. The Greens are the second most successful team in this competition, behind Bayern Munich with 14 titles.

Niko Kovac calls it a day

The former Croatia skipper Niko Kovac (37) said goodbye to soccer after 18 years of distinguished career.
"I had planned to play another season, but I have changed my mind after consulting the people from the club," said Kovac, who spent the last three seasons in Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian League.

Previously, Kovac played in Hertha, Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburger SV and Bayern, claiming 83 full caps with Croatia. Red Bull and Bayern will stage a farewell game for their former player on July 10th. Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said he was saddened by Kovac's decision.
"Niko was heart and soul of our national team, an out-and-out professional, with whom I have been tremendously honoured to work."

Born in Berlin, like his younger brother Robert, Niko Kovac was one of the several internationals recruited for the Croatia service from the large emmigration. Other players born abroad who have worn Croatia's chequered shirt are Joe Simunic, Anthony Seric and Joe Didulica (Australia), Ivan Rakitic and Mladen Petric (Switzerland) and Ivan Klasnic (Germany). The next could be Bordeaux's 19-year-old midfielder Gregory Sertic, who recently said he preferred his father's country Croatia to his native France.

Zico believes Zhirkov will carve himself a spot at Chelsea

CSKA Moscow's coach, the legendary Brazilian Zico, trusts his former player Yuri Zhirkov will be an important reinforcement for Chelsea.
"He is a player of a high-level play. He will show all of his potential in the powerful league like the Premiership," said Zico on the occasion of Zhirkov's announced transfer to Stamford Bridge.
"I'm sure he will win easily a place in the first eleven. I am not happy to lose such a player, but I cannot prevent his departure," added Zico, after the Russian daily Tvoi den (Your Day) broke the news of Zhirkov's imminent signing by Chelsea.

Leonardo Araujo takes over Milan

The former Brazilian international, Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo, is tipped to be the next coach to AC Milan, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. The 1994 World Cup winner and one-time Milan star has been working as sports director in Silvio Berlusconi's club and will now move from upstairs to the bench. Other former Milan's player, Mauro Tassotti, will act as Leonardo's assistant, claims Gazzetta.
This means Carlo Ancelotti's tenure at San Siro has come to an end, mostly due to not having won a trophy after the World Club Cup in December of 2007. Ancelotti had a wonderful career at Milan both as a player and as a coach, as he became the first coach ever to win two European Cups (now Champions Leagu) both in the playing (1989 and 1990) and in the coaching role (2003 and 2007).
Nicknamed Carletto, Ancelotti has been very popular with the fans, but lately a bit less so with the owner Berlusconi, whose recent harsh statements about the coach were not merely accidental.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sudamericano Sub 17: Team of the tournament

Sudamericano Sub 17: Team of the tournament.
Sudamericano Sub 17

Earlier this month Iquique, Chile played host to the 2009 Sudamericano Sub 17 and the finest youngsters on the continent turned up to showcase their talents. Despite the hosts bowing out in the first round group stage the tournament’s momentum carried through to a pulsating clasico final which saw Brazil beat Argentina after a marathon penalty shootout. Scouts from all of Europe’s top clubs were in the stands as well as representatives from the U.S.A., Japan and everywhere else which knows where the best crop of new talent can be found. Brazil’s left-back Dodo secured a dream move to Manchester United after impressing during the competition and will no doubt line up against his teammate Philippe Coutinho of Inter Milan in the Champions League someday soon. Here is my team of the tournament, names that will no doubt be impressing in international competitions for the next 15 years or more.

GK: Damian Martinez – Argentina - C.A. Independiente

This trusty custodian must have spend a fair time of his adolescence in the grow bag because before a ball was even kicked his 1.82 metre frame had him marked out as a goalkeeper of some repute. It was when the action started however that Martinez really began to establish himself as one of the finds of the tournament. In Argentina’s win or bust final group game against Uruguay two remarkably brave saves at the feet of Gonzalo Barreto kept his side in the box seat as they went on to claim the points. In the final he was unstuck by two Brazilian strikes that grazed the post before going in, seemingly the only place in the goal that remained outside his gargantuan reach. Martinez also distinguished himself in the deciding penalties that followed, particularly with one midair diving save to deny Philippe Coutinho. Unfortunately for the glovesman and his team Martinez’s efforts were in vain as Wellington won it for Brazil with the 18th spotkick of the shootout. Still the Independiente man can look back on a tournament of personal achievement and it is only a matter of time now until his club start to receive some mouth watering offers for his services.

RB: Renato Zapata – Peru – Universitario

Peru’s captain Renato Zapata has been pulling on the red sash of his country since the age of 14 and was the driving force in his team’s campaign which ultimately ending in tears. Countless interceptions and lung busting drives up the right flank got Peru out of trouble time and time again during the tournament. Another aspect of Zapata’s game that helped his side in advanced positions was his throw-in technique which involves tossing the ball in the air, catching it and pelting it into the box from anywhere inside the opposition’s half. After starting the competition with two bruising defeats it was Zapata who stroked in from 12 yards against Bolivia as Peru toppled one of the tournament’s most stingiest backlines. Zapata made his presence felt in every third of the pitch during that game, organizing the defence, creating in midfield and coolly slotting home his penalty when the time came. As with Damian Martinez however Zapata will look back on his final game with regret as he was penalized rather harshly for a handball in the box against Colombia as Peru fell to a defeat which spelt their elimination. Zapata will be back and if his development continues at the present rate he will be a force to be reckoned with when the Sudamericano Sub 20 rolls around.

CB: Diego Polenta – Uruguay - Genoa (ITA)

Another player who oozed leadership during the tournament was Uruguay’s skipper Diego Polenta. Well before the tournament Polenta had already secured his move to Europe as he linked up with Serie A outfit Genoa. The Italians have certainly brought well if Polenta’s seven games at this year’s Sudamericano Sub 17 are anything to go by. Positionally aware, robust in the challenge and dominant in the air Polenta is a stopper who loves the art of defending. Occasionally he will join the attack for set plays but as a rule Polenta treats the halfway line as his own personal electric fence and is happy to bring the ball out from the back and lay it off to a teammate rather than whacking a panicked clearance up front. There was the odd occasion when Polenta went in a tad recklessly but surely this is something that will be taught out of him as he spends more and more time in Italy. The captain’s settling effect on his teammates was all the more evident when he was withdrawn for the final minutes in their opener against Chile. Uruguay went from bossing the game 3-0 to leaking like a sieve at the other end and could have easily surrendered their handsome lead had the game continued any longer. It is doubtful that we will see Polenta in competitive action for Genoa anytime soon but he is held in very high regard in his homeland with a future with the senior side already mapped out.

CB: Yeison Murillo – Colombia – Soacha F.C.

Most successful centre-back partnerships combine brains and brawn and Yeison Murillo’s no nonsense approach stood Colombia in good stead as they booked their place at this yea’sr Sub 17 World Cup in Nigeria. Colombia is currently enjoying a bumper crop of talented stoppers and Murillo looks like he will follow in the footsteps of Ivan Cordoba and the like as he continues to progress. Starting alongside next to Colombia’s ball playing skipper Juan Camilo Saiz it was left to Murillo to stick to the bulky strikers who tried knocking on the door of the Colombian goal. Murillo had no problem sticking the likes of Gilbert Alvarez of Bolivia or Luis Celi of Ecuador in his back pocket and snuffing out their threat. Even more encouraging however was the way he and Saiz dealt with Brazil’s constant threat in their first round encounter. Stars of the tournament and eventually winners Joao Pedro, Felipinho, Coutinho and Wellington were all denied by the muscle and intelligence of Murillo and his colleagues as Colombia secured a well earned 2-0 victory. If Colombia can keep this solid platform together at the back there is no reason why they cannot push on at the World Cup and fans can be sure that these boys will not let down the senior team when their time comes.

LB: Dodo – Brazil – Manchester United (ENG)

Brazilian full-backs will always whet the appetite of football fans, picture Carlos Alberto in Mexico 1970 or even Rafael Da Silva scoring for Manchester United against Arsenal this season. Everybody knows they are going to give just as much, if not more, going forward as they will in defence. Sir Alex must be happy with his Da Silva twins because now he has waded back into Brazil for his latest recruit. Needless to say Brazil’s left-back did get amongst the goals during the tournament and his height made him a constant threat from set-pieces. He did appear defensively solid when called upon and physically is a much different than the Da Silva twins, stocky body and about as tall as Fabian sat on Rafael’s shoulders. He will not officially become a Manchester United player until his 18th birthday next year but will be invited to train at Carrington from time to time as he makes the transition. With the trend to get the Brazilians over at a younger age hopefully their attacking instincts will not give way totally to European discipline. That being said Dodo is putting himself in one of the safest pairs of hands going by making the switch to Old Trafford.

RM: Philippe Coutinho – Brazil – Inter Milan (ITA)

A few people left Chile a little disappointed with what they had seen of Philippe Coutinho such was the hype surrounding the player. The burgeoning reputation meant he was paid close attention by opposition managers, often having three players stuck to him as he tried to muster a piece of magic. One moment that will restored belief to fans of Brazil and Inter Milan was a superbly taken strike against Argentina in the final. That he chose the final to produce his best moment suggests that he not grow into the type of the player who goes missing at the critical time. A label which at least one superstar will inevitable be bestowed with on the final whistle in Rome on Wednesday. Even with distinguishing himself with the curled finished in the final Coutinho was by no means a passenger in the Brazilian team, chipping in with his fair share of goals and Wellington in particular benefiting from the extra space the close marking of the Inter player allowed. With Jose set to stay on at Inter it will not be long now until he will start to blood this promising Brazilian who watches his countryman Kaka wowing the San Siro every other week.

CM: Samuel Galindo – Bolivia – Real America

Samuel Galindo is far too stylish a player to dubbed a hatchetman but his bulk had opposition midfielders quaking in their boots and their managers asking for a look at the 16-year-old’s birth certificate. With his gaping stride eating up the turf Galindo was central to all of Bolivia’s outstanding play during the tournament which saw them agonizingly miss out on a World Cup final spot after defeat to Uruguay in their last game. Galindo’s box to box running caught the eye as he disrupted attacks and launched his own team forward by taking games by the scruff of the neck and never shirking his responsibility as captain. As well as providing the bullets for lone frontman Gilbert Alvarez he also showed the kind of composure in front of goal which his teammate lacked on so many occasions. Galindo personified his manager Oscar Camara’s philosophy on the pitch as he used superior technique and tactical awareness to roll over inferior opposition. Galindo best individual performance came in the final group stage as he mastermind his team’s 4-1 annihilation of Ecuador. Hopefully the team as a whole can put the disappointment of Iquique behind them as they graduate through the ranks because a talented bunch have a awesome talisman in Galindo.

LM: Zezinho – Brazil- E.C. Juventude

The invisible man who kept Brazil ticking throughout the tournament showed himself very early in the competition’s final. An opportunistic strike off his cultured left peg put Brazil into the lead against Argentina in the first five minutes as he set his country on course for victory. Invisible is perhaps an unfair term for the midfielder but it is true that Zezinho does most of his good work away for the epicentre of the action with tireless running and constantly creating space for others to play. He does have a deadly weapon attached to his left leg as he not only scored a spectacular strike in the final abut also in Brazil’s opener. Again a thunderbolt from outside the box left a hapless goalkeeper flapping at thin air as he found the onion bag in Brazil’s 4-0 demolition of Paraguay. For his combination of tenacious tackling and sparks of genius around the box he is compared favourably with Anderson who also excelled at this level even thought the Manchester United man was in far more evidence in the final third in his younger days. It maybe a sign of what these boys believe Europe’s top clubs are looking for that Zezinho was more than happy to show off the uglier aspects of his game rather than concentrate on the goalscoring talent he clearly possesses.

RF: Wellington – Brazil – Fluminense F.C.

Arsene is interested was the word on the street as Wellington’s reputation grew and grew with every minute he spent on the pitch. After playing his part as Brazil scored seven in their first two games of the competition Wellington himself had to wait for the lucky number seven to get his own name on the scoresheet. He found the Peruvian keeper wanting from 25 yards out to give Brazil a 3-0 win and joy was evident not only on the diminutive striker’s face but also on his teammates and the bench who all spilled on the pitch to congratulate Wellington. Clearly well liked in the camp he plays his football like a cheeky whippersnapper, occasionally over elaborate but always with a smile his face. In Brazil’s only defeat of the tournament against Colombia Wellington was withdrawn after 15 minutes with the scores level and his team simply did not look like threatening without him on the pitch. Wellington was back in the next game, drawing a number of fouls in dangerous positions which led to more chances for his team and scoring from close range himself. His crowning glory came by dispatching the 18th and winning penalty of the shootout which decided the final and gave Brazil their 9th Sudamericano Sub 17 championship. Once again he found himself at the bottom of a ruck of teammates and coaching staff.

CF: Sergio Araujo – Argentina – C.A. Boca Juniors

The big man up top was employed by a number of teams at this year’s tournament but none was more effective than Argentina’s Sergio Araujo. Throughout the championship Araujo offered his team a Plan B as he hassled and harried defences into making mistakes and created his own chances when called upon. With Argentina employing wing-backs in the tournament plenty of width meant crosses for Araujo to feed off and that is how he bagged his first two of the tournament. These two headers came in the games against Venezuela and Chile, both coming at vital times to take the pressure of Tata Brown’s team. His next strike in the crunch game against Uruguay showed there was more to his game than heading as he stroked home a cute finish from just inside the box. Araujo showed big heart in stepping up to take Argentina’s first penalty of the shootout against Brazil but unfortunately spooned his shot over the bar. Now back with the Boca Juniors’ academy he will being primed to make his impact on the first team and eventually his move to Europe for the benefit of both him and his team’s balance sheet.

LF: Edwin Cardona – Colombia – Atletico Nacional

Without doubt the star man of the tournament, Edwin Cardona netted seven in as many games despite regularly starting on the left-hand side of midfield. In a frantic half hour period he helped himself to a first-half hat-trick against Ecuador in the second group stage to edge his team towards a World Cup qualifying spot. He was lively from the start in that game as he charged down a defensive clearance, drove into the box and netted with precision into the far corner. Soon after that he was lining up a freekick closer to the corner flag than the box and surprised everyone by bending the ball past the backpedalling goalkeeper and into the net. He rounded off his hat-trick with a spotkick, taking his penalty tally to three from three for the tournament. Even at the tender age of 16 Cardona has the physical attributes to play in any of the world’s top leagues as well as the undeniable talent. With scouts from all the top European clubs present at the tournament surely an offer or two will be coming Atletico Nacional’s way before long. If he can keep up this level of performance at the World Cup in Nigeria it will be good news for him and teammates such as Yeison Murillo and Wilson Cuero who are themselves already very much on the radars of Europe’s elite.

Copyright © Tim Sturtridge &

Picking the bones out of Carlos Tevez’s next move

Carlos Tevez

The Carlos Tevez transfer wrangle has taken a fresh twist as the Argentine stopped off in Rome for an extra few days as his teammates returned to Manchester.

Tevez was the only member of the squad not to board the plane on Thursday morning and his distance from the rest of the team pours further fuel on the fire that he is set to leave Old Trafford for good.

Picking the bones out of Carlos Tevez’s next move.

Conflicting reports from all involved including Tevez’s owners and the Manchester United Board of Directors has muddied the water and the Argentine starts his summer not knowing where he will be playing his football next season.

The two-year lease deal with Manchester United is close to expiring and their chief executive David Gill continues to um-and-ah over coughing up the agreed fee to secure Tevez’s registration.

David Gill is keen to maintain that Manchester United will not be dictated to by anybody else in the game, a similar stance to that shut the door in Real Madrid’s face when they tracked Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It’s clear we have an option,” said Gill. “If we want to secure Carlos’ rights and agree a personal contract with him, we have to pay a certain sum. That sum is £25.5 million.

“It's a decision we're taking and we're assessing what we wish to do. Our honest opinion, in the current economic climate, is that the figure is a bit top-heavy.”

Speaking before Manchester United’s Champions League final defeat Gill was quick to remind Tevez and those with his interests at heart the unique stage players at the club have.

“The game is littered with players who have left us, for whatever reason, who say after Manchester United it is downhill.” added Gill before conceding that other clubs are interested in signing the player.

“Other clubs may be prepared to pay [£25.5m] so we have to understand we operate in a certain marketplace.”

For certain a fair chunk of Manchester United’s healthy profits from another successful season will go on paying off the interest on Malcolm Glazer's loan which brought the club four years ago.

However the Tevez cash is there, rumours of £40 million bids for Franck Ribery are circulating, and the player’s representative Kia Joorabchian is keen to receive the full amount for his asset.

“Two years ago when the deal was made, the deal was that he was on loan for two years and Manchester United had the option to purchase,” said Joorabchian. “If they decided to purchase him they would offer him a permanent contract and the terms of the contract were fixed within the paperwork.”

Joorabchian, who has been with Carlos Tevez since the Argentine’s time at Boca Juniors, reemphasized before the Champions League final that no concrete offer had been forthcoming from Manchester United.

“We actually have not had any offer for Carlos, no offers for personal terms for Carlos,” he told Sky Sports News. “I had a chat with David Gill, we had a meeting but no offer was made.”

One point Joorachian and Gill were in agreement on is that there will be no move by Manchester United to try and steal the player from under the Iranian’s nose.

“[Manchester United] are probably the biggest club in the world and I don't think they would breach any contract.” said Joorabchain.

But what of Carlos Tevez’s options if David Gill refuses to sanction the move or Sir Alex Ferguson simply feels he does not require the former West Ham man in his squad next season.

Real Madrid and Manchester City have both made enquires but the most likely move seems to be a trip down the road to United’s arch enemies Liverpool.

With Fernando Torres extending his contract at Anfield the prospect of a settled frontline of the Spaniard and Tevez will have The Kop salivating.

Gabriel Heinze tried to make the switch a few seasons ago and found his way blocked by Sir Alex, in fact the last player to successfully make the move was Phil Chisnall back in 1964.

Factors that mean this time Rafa Benitiez may get his man include Tevez’s unique ownership arrangement and the fact the Argentine’s best mate Javier Mascherano turns out for the Red Men.

The Argentina captain has played alongside Tevez at Corinthians in Brazil as well as at West Ham and for the national team.

“It would be great if Carlos can come here because I know how good he is,” said Mascherano. “Carlos would be great for us because of the type of player he is.”

The midfield hatchetman also knows that securing his mate’s signature won’t be easy after coming through a similar deal himself before signing for Liverpool.

“It will be a tough fight because so many clubs are interested in him,” added Mascherano. “All I can say is that he is a great player and a great person.”

Its not just the current crop at Liverpool who want Tevez either with Ian Rush throwing his two bob into the mix.

“I would love to see Carlos Tevez at Anfield next season and I think he would fit in really well.” said the former Welsh marksman.

So with Liverpool ready to roll out the red carpet there are those that Old Trafford who are trying to convince Manchester United to do whatever is necessary to retain Tevez’s services.

Champions League legend Teddy Sheringham believes he sees qualities in Carlos Tevez which are lacking in other players in Sir Alex’s squad.

“I would like to see Tevez stay because he fits perfectly into the United system and his work ethic is fantastic. I'm sure he will stay.” said United’s supersub from 1999.

It is Tevez’s tireless and unselfish running as well as his skills on the ball that have endeared him to so many United fans and put the Argentine above Dimitar Berbatov in their affections.

One Manchester United teammate who can also claim to do his fair share of legwork every time he takes to the pitch is South Korean Park Ji-sung.

The normally reserved midfielder saw fit to speak out in support of Tevez and plead with the club to keep him on.

“It would be very disappointing if Carlos left, not just for me but everyone at Man United because he is the best player, so we need him,” said Park, “This season when he's come on the pitch he has scored a lot of goals, helped the team and saved the team.”

Unfortunately for Tevez though you can count the goals he has score in this year’s Premier League winning campaign on one hand and that return is simply not enough for United to unblinkingly hand over the wad of cash needed to make him stay.

One excuse for the lack of goals could be his lack of starts but in a team that creates as much as United a few more strikes nestling in the onion bag would have put everybody’s mind at ease about the deal.

One place where Tevez is still held in highest regard is in his homeland and by his national team boss Diego Maradona. El Diego was quick to expose to chat he had with the striker to the press which may not have helped Tevez’s case of getting the move to Manchester United.

“I spoke with Tevez on the phone and the first thing he said to me was ‘that old man doesn't like me’,” said the World Cup 1986 winning captain. “[Tevez said] he's not playing me and he is lowering my value.”

For his part Sir Alex Ferguson has stayed away from the issue in public saying only that he wants the player to stay but only if the deal is good for the club.

'”David Gill has had a good meeting and I have spoken to him. We have given [Kia Joorabchian] an offer and we hope he accepts,” said the manager. “The problem is we are not negotiating with a football club.”

Being from the old school Ferguson is clearly wary of third-party ownership agreements and if Carlos Tevez’s time in England is anything to go by perhaps he is right to be so along with half of Sheffield.

The man at the centre of the wrangle has found it hard to hide his disappointment at his lack of opportunities at Old Trafford but has also expressed his respect for the club and its fans.

“The fans at this club have made me feel very welcome and loved and I want them to know how much it means for me,” said the striker. “My future will be sorted out in the summer.”

In the meantime Carlos Tevez has managed to put his uncertain future and a Champions League final defeat behind him to film this advert for television in Argentina.

Copyright © Tim Sturtridge &

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Champions League final turns Southern Hemisphere upside down

Champions League final turns Southern Hemisphere upside down.
Champions League

Bleary-eyed and weary, a legion of football fans shuffles through the night in their warmest of slippers and clutching at coffee cups. 

Welcome to the Southern Hemisphere, where watching live European football requires the stamina of Paul Scholes and the fancy-footwork of Lionel Messi - if only to avoid tripping over the cat slumbering peacefully on the living room floor.

Making sure the volume is turned way down for the start of the broadcast - waking the entire household is a rookie mistake - fans in the southern half of the globe are well accustomed to 4am starts and less than productive morning meetings at work.

Watching televised football from Europe is a rite of passage for many Australians, with the bona fides of fans judged on how many hours of sleep they've sacrificed for the love of their team - if not on the number of relationships they've jeopardised as a result. 

With another bumper TV audience expected to tune in throughout Asia and Australia, here's hoping that Wayne Rooney, Andres Iniesta and co. turn on the style in the UEFA Champions League final in Rome.

Manchester United or Barcelona, Ronaldo or Messi?

For many fans in the Southern Hemisphere, the simple question is whether they can get through the day without falling asleep at their desk.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

Style War to choose Rome's Emperor

Champions League Final.
UEFA Champions League Final: Barcelona v Manchester United

While not quite beauty v the beast, the intriguing contrast of Manchester United's organisation and Barcelona's beautiful game is the power v the glory. More than the billed clash of the two fantasistas - Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Stadio Olimpico will host a battle of styles to decide the Emperor of Rome.

Since Brazil won the 1994 World Cup with prosaic powerhouse midfielders, the accepted wisdom has been that top-level football is no place for dainty, pretty players and that a good muscular team will top a good technical one.

After pocket battleships like Hagi and Diego Maradona in the 1980s, the winning formula had a nuance of percentage over artistry and along came the giants - Patrick Viera and Gilberto Silva, Zinedine Zidane, Steven Gerrard and Michael Ballack, not destroyers but mobile cruisers who rob and repel attacks, tackle, distribute and drive forward with the ball; Goliaths of all trades.

Style War to choose Rome's Emperor.

But not everyone bought that theory. In winning Euro 2008, Spain were show-stoppers of short and quick passing, sidestepping if not disproving the consensus for brawn and reviving the maxim of the late FIFA President Stanley Rous that there is nothing to make up for skill.

Two of those Euro stars wear the Blaugrana - the ebullient Andres Iniesta and the buzzing Xavi. Add to them the little genius that is Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry's (almost) eternal class and Aliaksandr Hleb's silky dribbling and you have an intoxicating brew that has served up a ton of sexy football in Spain this season, culminating in the memorable 6-2 humiliation of Real Madrid.

United are less dazzling by contrast, but provenly effective and not without panache. Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Giggs, Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez are hardly lacking in creativity, but only Ronaldo is a regular starter. Try as I might, I can't get excited about Anderson and Michael Carrick in the same way I can about Iniesta and Xavi. United are just more take it and attack than tiki-taka. But whose style will triumph? No one is really sure.

My heart is with Barca, though my head suspects last year's winners have an extra dose of big game-savvy and superior defensive steel. Much as I dislike Alex Ferguson, he knows a trick or two Pep Guardiola, almost thirty years his junior, may not. Plus United have Ronaldo, more unpredictable than Messi, and a man who only needs a moment in which to explode to devastating effect, as Porto and Arsenal found out to their cost.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rome the city of Angles and demons

Rome the city of Angles and demons
Rome the city of Angles and demons.

What were UEFA hoping for when they awarded tomorrow's Champions League final to Rome?

Alfresco pasta and vino in the Italian sun, no doubt, as Puccini wafts through the ancient walls of the Centro Storico and evening strollers pause beside the Trevi Fountain to contemplate 'La Dolce Vita' over a gelato and espresso.

UEFA cannot have forgotten the recent history of soccer violence in the Eternal City, so what excuse is there for brushing it under the carpet? Italy has the worst hooligan problem of any European country but domestic squabbles apart, Rome has been a danger zone in recent years for travelling fans, particularly English ones.

In 1984, the Eternal City hosted Europe's showpiece final, when Roma despite having home advantage, lost on penalties to Liverpool. Football writer Brian Glanville recalled the atmosphere outside the Stadio Olimpico turning nasty as he witnessed the extraordinary sight of Lazio ultras thrusting knives into the hands of Liverpool fans, united by a common enemy.

The seed of hatred of Italian clubs in Liverpool minds was sown that night, and bore bloody fruit the following season at Heysel, where 38 Italian fans perished after being charged by Liverpool hooligans.

In recent seasons, English fans have been victimised by Italian police as well as hooligans, the lines of distinction becoming quite blurred.

I was in the Stadio Olimpico in 1997 as random England supporters were beaten mercilessly by baton-wielding carabinieri (Italian national police) thugs. The helmeted hordes of police were like a gang running amok. Then we were locked inside the empty stadium at the final whistle for three hours and provided with no transport back to the city.

In 2006, Middlesbrough fans flew to Rome for a UEFA Cup semi-final with Roma and were attacked by an ultra gang armed with axes, knives, sticks, firecrackers and firebombs. Three Boro fans were stabbed and ten others required hospital treatment as the carabinieri stood by and watched.

Two years before Swedish referee Anders Frisk was left bleeding as a Roman thug hurled a cigarette lighter into his face from the stands in a UEFA Cup tie with Dynamo Kiev.

More recently, Manchester United fans have found themselves on the wrong end of Roman aggression.

In 2007, mayhem broke out within the Stadio Olimpico during a Roma v Man United CL clash, as carabinieri, in an almost replica of their assault on England supporters a decade earlier, waded into the travelling fans swinging wildly at anything that moved. 11 United fans were hospitalised.

Then earlier this year, a coach of Arsenal fans was attacked by Roma ultras and one supporter was stabbed.

The pattern inside the stadium is well-known. The Italian fans begin hurling small objects - drinks cups, coins and pieces of plastic over the fence at the English fans. The carabinieri stand by and watch until a missile is returned and then they wade in on the English, utterly overreacting and punishing scores of innocent people instead of isolating and removing the troublemakers.

Italian ultras know from long experience how to provoke their opposing fans and spark the cops into running rampage. Clearly, with such an untamed hooligan problem and violent, out of control police in charge, Italy has not earned the right to host a major international football tournament or showpiece final.

UEFA and the Italian government have refused to admit any problem with the choice of venue, but the UK's Foreign Office has had no option but to warn fans to avoid the Piazzale Flaminio metro station, the Ponte Duca D'Aosta bridge and the Campo de Fiori square and to not approach the stadium by any means other than the official shuttle buses - Some welcome!

While England has largely left its hooligan past behind, Italy keeps the fire depressingly stoked. Unlike here, its stadia have a heavy police presence, fences in front of the stands and militaristic gangs controlling the venue and intimidating clubs to give them free tickets.

Now the Rome Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, who previously tried to imply there was no football hooligan problem in his city, has labelled the day 'delicate', adding, "I have asked interior minister Roberto Maroni to have maximum attention from the security officers to avoid any incidents."

Alemanno, incidentally, quite openly wears a neo-fascist cross to show his roots in the Italian Social Movement, the successor to Benito Mussolini's fascist party (it retains the fascist torch as its symbol). His wife is the daughter of the notorious right-wing extremist Pino Rauti, who was tried on terrorist offences in the 1970s. When Alemanno was elected Mayor of Rome in 2008, skinheads gave nazi salutes and chanted 'Duce, Duce!' (Leader, leader), the famous battle-cry of Mussolini's supporters.

Italy lost the right to host Euro 2012 partly because of its hooligan problem, so again one wonders what the UEFA executives in Switzerland were thinking when they awarded tomorrow's final to Rome when there was a good chance an English club would be there.

One can only assume as they are whisked away in their limousines to their expense-account hotels that the world of the ordinary fan on the street remains a mystery to the men in suits.

Could there have possibly been a riskier choice of venue?

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, May 25, 2009

Manchester United v Barcelona Astrological Prediction

Manchester United v Barcelona

Did you know Josep Guardiola has Mars in Scorpio, conjunct Jupiter?

Up-to-date on the fact that Mars was in Aries when Alex Ferguson was born?

Manchester United v Barcelona

Sir Alex has a lot of Capricorn in his chart, did you know? Ferguson currently has Saturn conjunct the north node of his moon. Both the charts of Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson have a lot of Jupiter and Mars activity in them at the moment. What are we on about?

Find out the astrological forecast for Manchester United and Barcelona ahead of the Champions League Final this Wednesday in Rome.

World Soccer News


Kashima Antlers in control before the international break

J.League 2009

Kashima Antlers in control before the international break.

The Kashima Antlers juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down as the Ibaraki giants beat Gamba Osaka 1-0 in front of a capacity crowd of 19,092 at Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka.

Former Japan international Koji Nakata stepped into midfield in place of the suspended Mitsuo Ogasawara, and the ex-FC Basel star promptly scored the only goal of the game after just sixteen minutes.

The purported outbreak of "Swine Flu" in the Kansai region failed to prevent a capacity crowd from descending on Banpaku for the marquee clash between Gamba and Kashima, but only 6,002 fans turned out at Kobe Wing Stadium a day earlier to watch Vissel Kobe beat Kashiwa Reysol.

Those that did saw on-loan Benfica striker Marcel nod home a simple finish after seven minutes, before veteran Park Kang-Jo added a second for the hosts just after the hour mark. Kashiwa pulled a goal back from a direct free-kick through substitute Popo with ten minutes remaining, but Kobe substitute Kenji Baba rounded out the scoring when he volleyed home in stoppage time.

In front of a sell-out crowd of 15,632 at Yamaha Stadium, hosts Jubilo Iwata beat Tokai rivals Nagoya Grampus 2-1, with all the goals coming in the final ten minutes of the game.

Nagoya were reduced to ten men when midfielder Yoshizumi Ogawa saw red with nine minutes remaining, and Jubilo took advantage when Daisuke Nasu nodded home from a rebound two minutes later, before substitute Sho Naruoka added a second soon after. Davi pulled a goal back for Nagoya, but it was not enough to prevent Dragan Stojkovic's side from succumbing to defeat in this Tokai derby.

FC Tokyo went down to local rivals Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 in front of 27,851 fans at Ajinomoto Stadium, with Kawasaki storming back from two goals down thanks to a second half display that saw Juninho, Hiroyuki Taniguchi and Renatinho all get on the scoresheet against their shell-shocked rivals from across the Tama river.

The Saitama derby saw Omiya Ardija hold local rivals Urawa Reds to a 1-1 draw, with Urawa defender Hajime Hosogai cancelling out an early goal from Omiya's Korean defender Park Won-Jae in front of 37,027 fans at Saitama Stadium.

Elsewhere in J1 a thumping Masaki Yamamoto free-kick was enough to see Shimizu S-Pulse beat Albirex Niigata at Big Swan Stadium, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima eked out a 1-0 win at fellow southern club Oita Trinita. Montedio Yamagata and Kyoto Sanga played out a dull scoreless draw, while JEF United were held to a 1-1 draw by Yokohama F. Marinos in front of 14,833 fans at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.

Kashima Antlers lead the way as the league breaks for a month for the climax of Asian World Cup qualifying, with Urawa Reds four points behind defending champions Kashima. Albirex Niigata are in third, while Kawasaki Frontale and Gamba Osaka round out the top five.
In J2, the pick of the fixtures saw relegated sides Consadole Sapporo and Tokyo Verdy play out a 1-1 draw in front of 10,002 fans at Atsubetsu Stadium in Hokkaido, while Shonan Bellmare thumped the hapless Kataller Toyama 5-0 at home. League leaders Cerezo Osaka dished out a similar thrashing in beating the troubled Avispa Fukuoka 4-1 at home, while rock-bottom Yokohama FC went down 2-1 away at promotion chasing Vegalta Sendai.

Cerezo Osaka lead the way in J2, with Shonan Bellmare a further two points behind. Vegalta Sendai lead the rest of the chasing pack, with Ventforet Kofu and Mito Hollyhock rounding out the rest of the top five.

Makoto Hasebe crowned Bundesliga champion

Former Urawa Reds midfielder Makoto Hasebe played the opening fifty-five minutes of VfL Wolfsburg's 5-1 thrashing of Werder Bremen on Saturday, as Wolfsburg coasted to a first-ever German title.
Hasebe's international team-mate Yoshito Okubo was an unused substitute, as the two became the first Japanese players to win a Bundesliga title since Yasuhiko Okudera did so with 1.FC Köln back in 1978.
Both Hasebe and Okubo have been named in the Japan squad for the upcoming final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Premier bore as D-Day is dull day

Premier League Final Day 2009

Premier bore as D-Day is dull day.

As closing days of the Premier League go, today's was incredibly flat.

There was no to-ing and fro-ing, no nail-biting tension nor edge-of-the-seat excitement. The three teams involved in relegation struggle, the tedious battle for the title having been decided already, ended up losing, leaving the league table unchanged from last week.

Middlesbrough and Newcastle had run out of steam and ideas long before today's 'do or die' showdowns, which in the event never caught fire. The potential relegation of the Toon and their icon Alan Shearer was a good lead story, but the black and white stripes did not keep to the script and turned in a turgid performance with an own goal and no shots on target in the second half.

Hull had a lucky escape in the end, following a real Jekyll and Hyde campaign. Their amazing start, when they won at Arsenal and sat in the Champions League places, became a distant memory as the Tigers went into freefall and missed the drop by a point.

Their curious coach Phil Brown, sporting designer gear and a year-round tan, lives to fight another day. His jaw-dropping half-time roasting of his players on the pitch at Man City in December was probably the most memorable moment of an otherwise fairly uneventful PL season.

There were some stellar performers - Nicolas Anelka, Andriy Arshavin, Cristiano Ronaldo, player of the season Ryan Giggs and in a coaching cameo, Guus Hiddink, while the mini-league at the top became a big three rather than big four, as Arsenal slipped off the pace and finished 11 points behind third-placed Chelsea.

Wenger's empire looked cracked, his masterplan misguided, and for the first time in ages, rumors resurfaced about the length of Arsene's reign at Ashburton Grove. Three high profile ex-players, Tony Adams, Paul Ince and Roy Keane, lost their jobs as managers, adding to the suspicion that the best players don't make the best coaches.

It was cheering to see Liverpool rise again and keep Mr. Abramovich frustrated (go on Roman, head back to Russia with your winnings), but the wider fact remains that no club outside the top four has a cat in hell's chance of breaking into the Champions League, rendering the 18-club competition for the title a de facto farce.

A week ago the UK government finally started talking to the PL about redistribution, but the politicians still show no willingness to take on the international cash cow while England is bidding for the World Cup.

With a year and a half until the 2018 hosts are decided, a spat between the government and the football authorities is the last thing England can expect.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Fresh Looking Korean Squad Ready To Face UAE

Fresh Looking Korean Squad Ready To Face UAE

Fresh Looking Korean Squad Ready To Face UAE.

It is an interesting and, one can almost say, exciting squad. It is customary to bash the national team coach of South Korea after he announces every important roster but ahead of the 2010 World Cup qualifier in the United Arab Emirates on June 6, Huh Jung-moo looks to have done a good job.

Of course, naming the roster is only the first step towards completing the main job of taking the Taeguk Warriors to Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai and getting the three points that will put the 2002 semi-finalists on the brink of a place in South Africa in 12 months’ time.

In his 18 months as coach, Huh has demonstrated repeatedly that he is happy to give young players a chance if they are playing well in the K-League and he has done that once again. Three new faces have been called in the 25-man squad, some of which will gather in the National Football Center in Paju on May 28 before jetting off to the Gulf two days later where they will be joined by European-based stars such as Park Ji-sung, Cho Won-hee and Lee Young-pyo.

These are important times for South Korean football. Much attention this week will be on the appearance of Park in the UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona for Manchester United. But for the long-term good of soccer in Korea, a 2010 World Cup spot is absolutely vital.

Medhi Mahdavikia, a veteran star of Iran, Korea’s rivals in Group Two, told reporters recently about Iran’s quest to reach South Africa. He could have been talking about Korea.

"The presence in the World Cup is the dream of all our players and Iranian football fans. This could be extremely beneficial for our football. I believe that fate of our football in the next four years will depend on our qualification to World Cup,” said the man known as ‘Kia’.

With baseball in the ascendancy in the Land of the Morning Calm, not appearing at the biggest sporting event in the world would be a blow for the domestic scene in Korea. Media attention is massive, fans are born and stars are made.

One could be young Yoo Byung-soo. The Incheon United striker started his professional career just this season but a series of good performances in the k-league. At 21 years of age, he has caught the eye of coach Huh and will be on the plane to Dubai, and if things go well, South Africa.

“I received the news by phone. It still doesn’t seem real and I can’t stop smiling,” Yoo told local media upon hearing the news.

“I saw the reports in the media talking about the chance of my selection but there are so many good players that I honestly didn’t have big hopes of being chosen.If I am given the opportunity, I will do my best to help the national team.

“I want to play alongside players like Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo and Cho Won-hee. Just thinking about training with these players makes me nervous.”

There are many examples in history of youngsters coming into the team at crucial moments and making an immediate impact. Park Chu-young is the most recent. The 23 year-old, now with AS Monaco in Europe, scored a vital goal in his first game back in 2005. It came in the last minute of a 2006 World Cup qualifier in Uzbekistan.

That gave Korea a 1-1 tie and meant that a win in the following game in Kuwait would seal a spot in Germany. Park scored the first as Kuwait was duly dispatched.
Few would complain if Yoo, or even Park, did something similar.

Three points in Dubai would leave South Korea needing just a point to be certain of a seventh successive place on the global stage.

South Korea squad:

Goalkeepers: Lee Woon-jae (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), Kim Young-kwang (Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i), Jung Sung-ryong (Seongnam lhwa Chunma);

Defenders: Cho Yong-hyung (Jeju United), Lee Jung-su (Kyoto Purple Sanga), Kim Hyung-il (Pohang Steelers), Kim Keun-hwan (Yokohama F Marinos), Lee Kang-jin (Busan I'Park), Kim Chang-soo (Busan I'Park), Kim Dong-jin (Zenit St Petersburg), Oh Beom-seok (Samara Kriliya Sovetov), Lee Young-pyo (Borussia Dortmund);

Midfielders: Cho Won-hee (Wigan Athletic), Kim Jung-woo (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma), Ki Sung-yeung (FC Seoul), Lee Chung-yong (FC Seoul), Kim Chi-woo (FC Seoul), Park Ji-sung (Manchester United), Choi Tae-uk (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Bae Ki-jong (Suwon Samsung Bluewings);

Forwards: Lee Keun-ho (Jubilo Iwata), Park Chu-young (AS Monaco), Shin Young-rok (Bursaspor), Yoo Byung-su (Incheon United), Yang Dong-hyeon (Busan I'Park)

Copyright: John Duerden &

Saturday, May 23, 2009

UEFA Cup Final - Shakhtar Donetsk v Werder Bremen

Shakhtar Donetsk v Werder Bremen, Istanbul, 2009

Shakhtar Donetsk became the first Ukrainian team to lift a European trophy when they defeated Werder Bremen in the last UEFA Cup Final in Istanbul.

UEFA Cup Final.

Read a match report of the UEFA Cup Final 2009 including a savage beating and panic at the turnstiles.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hats 'hoff' to Jets

Australian A-League

They say that great goalscorers become renowned for the timing of their goals as much as the quantity.

Such a maxim might well apply to 20-year-old NSW product Jason Hoffman after he popped up with the winner in the first-half of Newcastle's historic AFC Champions League victory over Ulsan Hyundai last night.

Newcastle's desperate 1-0 win means they finish second in Group E behind Nagoya Grampus and qualify for the last 16 at the first time of asking.
The fact that striker Hoffman headed the only goal of the game before the half-time break was newsworthy in itself. However, incredibly, it was the local lad's first-ever goal for his hometown club on his 23rd appearance.

Hoffman has been around the Jets for a fair while now without really commanding a regular place in the side. He began the last domestic season in demand for club and country before snapping his cruciate ligament in an A-League meeting with Adelaide and being forced to undergo a full knee reconstruction.

Thought to be out until the start of the new domestic season in August, the speed of Hoffman's recovery startled Newcastle's medical team when he made his return in the defeat by Nagoya Grampus a month ago.

Hoffman, though, is just one part of the good news story surrounding the Jets.
Nobody gave the Novocastrians a chance of progressing into the round of 16 after finishing last in the just-completed A-League season and suffering a string of senior departures from an already wafer-thin squad before the ACL began.
They then lost 2-0 to Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan in the opening round.

But coach Gary Van Egmond always maintained his much-changed side from the one which delivered AFC qualification a year ago had enough class and determination to see off Asia's rich despite the losses of Joel Griffiths, Jade North, goalkeeper Ante Covic, Mark Milligan and James Holland.

You wonder how far the current group of players can take Van Egmond, but then weren't pundits muttering exactly the same doom-mongering a year ago when Adelaide surprised everyone by making the knockout stages before going all the way to the final.

Still, not all is hunky-dory at the Jets. This past week has seen Ljubo Milicevic's outburst at colourful owner Con Constantine, training ground bust-ups plus a row about bonus payments, all of which has slightly taken the lustre of their achievement.

Even Van Egmond seemed a little underwhelmed afterwards. "It was not one of our best footballing displays, but for us to get the win I thought it was full of merit," he said.

Newcastle will be given the rest of the month off before starting preparations for a sudden-death showdown with Group H table-toppers Pohang Steelers on June 24.

Homeward bound
Jason Culina has touched down on the Gold Coast ahead of the start of his marquee deal with one of two new league franchises. Perth recruit Jacob Burns, another midfielder, albeit on the periphery of Pim Verbeek's Socceroos squad, has also returned from Romania.

And now Mile Sterjovski is the latest regular national team member to look to come home. At this stage, his destination is unknown, with clubs in China, Japan and Korea thought to be sniffing around. But what is certain is Sterjovski, a hard-working right-sided midfielder, is unwanted by manager Nigel Clough at Derby County despite a year remaining on his current contract.

Ruben Zadkovich, formally of Sydney FC, has also been shown the door by Clough. Zadkovich is already back in Australia having undergone groin surgery.

Copyright © Marc Fox and

League Cup in Japan facing image crisis

League Cup in Japan facing image crisis.
J.League News

Like it's much-maligned English cousin, the League Cup in Japan is facing an image crisis. That's nothing new for J. League officials, who for years have struggled with the competing interests of Japan's biggest clubs.

A revamped Asian Champions League has brought the League Cup issue to a head. While Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers, Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus battle for continental glory this season, the remaining fourteen J1 clubs are left with the consolation of another dreary League Cup campaign.

With Asian combatants Gamba Osaka and Kashima Antlers afforded a bye into the League Cup quarter-finals in 2008, the remaining sixteen teams were divided into four groups of four. The four group winners and two best-placed runners-up then progressed to the knock-out stages along with Gamba and Kashima.

However, the addition of two more Japanese clubs to the Asian Champions League has caused headaches for J. League officials in 2009.

With only fourteen top-flight clubs available to contest a League Cup group stage, officials have been forced into an unwieldy two-group system. With seven teams in each group, the J. League had no choice but to include byes in its convoluted new format - with the four Champions League representatives parachuting in at the knock-out stage.

Scheduling problems aside, the League Cup in Japan faces the same image problems that beset its English counterpart. For many mid-ranking clubs, the League Cup represents a legitimate chance to lift some silverware. But as squad sizes in Japan expand, some clubs treat the League Cup as little more than an opportunity to blood new players.

That prompted new Japan Football Association chief Motoaki Inukai to state last year that the League Cup should be converted to an under-23 competition - a statement that provoked an angry rebuke from the J. League, over which the JFA has no jurisdiction.

The J. League has avoided switching to an under-age format, and insists that regulations oblige clubs to field the strongest line-up available. But it hasn't stopped fans from turning their backs on League Cup fixtures, with some clubs struggling to break even as a result of dwindling matchday crowds.

Some critics have called for the return of J2 clubs to the competition. Teams from Japan's second tier last competed in the League Cup in 2001, but with J2 expanding rapidly since then, J. League officials have traditionally scheduled League Cup and J2 fixtures on the same day.

The addition of J2 clubs back into the League Cup mix may spark renewed interest in the competition, but there's no guarantee that it will bring back the crowds.

The 4,172 fans that turned out for a Kansai derby between Kyoto Sanga and Vissel Kobe on Wednesday night may have been the smallest League Cup crowd of the evening, but it was still a higher attendance than any one of nine J2 games managed to attract.

Ironically the League Cup final remains a showpiece occasion in the Japanese calendar, with a colourful crowd turning out at the National Stadium in Tokyo for a crisp autumnal afternoon of football.

But with TV companies having long ago switched off any interest in the group stages, and with four of the biggest drawcards now occupied by the Asian Champions League, the League Cup group stage is for many fans in Japan a total irrelevance.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News

World Soccer News

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Final Day Politics – Selection headaches for Ferguson and co

Final Day Politics – Selection headaches for Ferguson and co.
Selection Headaches in the Premier League

The final day of the season is almost upon us and for many players and managers it will merely be a prelude to a more significant event, such as a cup final or a summer holiday. However for those involved at Newcastle United, Hull City and Sunderland it could represent the most important moment of their careers.

Inevitably, this contrast in attitudes causes significant problems. Almost every season a relegated side complains about a supposed lack of effort from a team they had hoped would do them a favour. Yet there are two sides to every story and how can Manchester United possibly justify fielding a full strength side against Hull, with a Champions League final to play just 3 days later?

The fact of the matter is that for United and Chelsea (who play Sunderland a few days before the FA Cup final) this is a no-win situation. If they play their first choice 11 they risk injuries to key players but if they play a weakened side and lose they will not only be heavily criticised but could even face legal action according to some reports.

Paragraph E20 of the Premier League rules states: “in every league match each participating club should field a full strength team”. However this rule has never been used as the basis for a legal battle before and spokespeople for Newcastle and Middlesbrough have since denied the claims.

Whilst it is clear that certain final day fixtures may be more favourable than others, one game does not relegate a team. With current points totals of 34, 35 and 36, the team that is relegated on Sunday will undoubtedly be the team that deserves to go. To acknowledge that point would ensure that, if nothing else, whoever goes down can leave the Premier League with their dignity intact.


World Soccer News May 2009

World Soccer News May 2009.
World Soccer News

For week of 05/20

FIFA threatens to expel Bosnia and Poland from World Cup

The international football governing body has threatened Bosnia and Herzegovina and Poland with the expulsion from the current World Cup qualifiers because of their fans' ill conduct.

FIFA has fined Bosnia with 45,000 USD and Poland with half as much, saying it has no intentions to tolerate hooliganism. Next time, the football bosses warn, both teams will have points deducted or will be immediately disqualified.

On March 28th Bosnian fans staged an eight-minute break by throwing torches on the pitch during the match against Belgium). The Polish fans committed the same offense on the same date during their game in Northern Ireland.

It's official: Juventus kick out Ranieri, hire Ferrara

Juventus of Turin, whose Champions League place is threatened, have replaced their coach Claudio Ranieri by their former star stopper Ciro Ferrara.
"Ciro Ferrara is new Juventus' coach. We confirm that Claudio Ranieri has been given notice," said the club last Monday in a communique.
"We thank him for the job he has done in the past two seasons. Ciro Ferrara is taking over the team and will continue to manage it until the end of the season."
The final straw for the club's bosses was the seventh winless game in the row for Juventus, the 2-2 draw against Atalanta in Serie A.
It is also said that the former Zebras' defender may be confirmed as Juve's coach for the next season, depending on his showing in the last two games of the current campaign.
Ranieri, formerly of Chelsea and Valencia, took over Juventus in 2007 after their return from Serie B, where they were banished for tampering with referees.

Dzeko vows to stay at Wolfsburg if they win Bundesliga

One of the hottest properties in European soccer, the Bosnian international striker Edin Dzeko (pronounced approximately as Jacko) says he is wary of various offers that have been coming his way thanks to his sensational scoring form both for Wolfsburg and his country.
Since August, Dzeko has scored 25 Bundesliga goals, four in the UEFA Cup and seven in the WC qualifiers, which is a magnificent tally by any standards.
The last team mentioned in association with Dzeko are none other than Chelsea.
"I am very reticent about any existing offer that appears in the media. If Chelsea are after me, I am highly honoured but I am not certain how serious it all is," says the 23-year-old Bosnian.
"My primary task is winning the League with Wolfsburg. Everything else is immaterial. We have a great chance, a wonderful team and it would be marvellous to crown all this with the title. I said I would stay at Wolfsburg if we are champions. And I have not changed my mind," concluded one half of the best European striking tandem, Dzeko-Grafite, responsible for 51 goals in Bundesliga this season.

Diego promises to be "new Zidane" for Juventus

The Brazilian Diego Ribas has put an end to all speculations regarding his future club by coming to an agreement with Juventus. Werder's attacking midfielder had been related to Bayern, but he opted for not reinforcing his current team's big Bundesliga rivals. Instead, he accepted Juve's offer which will guarantee him a five-year contract at five million euros per season.

The Italians will also pay 24,5 million euros to Werder for the remainder of Diego's contract. On a sadder note, Diego's final weeks at Werder could not have been more tragic. He was ruled out of the UEFA Cup finals against Shahtar Donetsk in Istambul because of the second yellow card, but he also suffered an ankle injury which will prevent him from taking part in the German DFB Cup finals against Bayer Leverkusen. What a dismal way to go for the player most responsible for taking Werder this far...

Still, Diego is brimming with confidence regarding his future in Serie A.
"Zinedine Zidane and his play set the framework in which I want to move as a football player. I want to became Juve's new Zidane and give my all for this club's successes."

Barcelona collect the double on the way to Rome

Barcelona have crowned their magnificent season with the League and Cup double and are now counting the days before the clash with Manchester United in Rome on May 27th.

Ironically, in spite of having won 27 games in Primera división this season, Barcelona secured their 19th Spanish league title thanks to Villarreal's win over Real Madrid on the 36th day of the competition. A day before Barca themselves were to play at Real Mallorca, Villarreal defeated Madrid by 3-2, even though a draw would have been enough to settle the championship race.

Three days earlier, Barcelona hammered Athletic of Bilbao 4-1 in Valencia to claim their 25th King's Cup in a game marred by the crowd's display of hostility toward the Spanish anthem. The Catalonian and Bask fans, who do not consider themselves to be part of the Spanish multiethnic state booed the national anthem from the stands of Mestalla stadium in spite of (or precisely because of) the King Juan Carlos' presence in the box of honour.

The Spanish national television (TVE) reacted clumsily, interrupting the transmission apparently to hide the events from its audience. TVE later showed the footage of the anthem during the half-time break with the jeering from the terraces erased.
The TVE directors proceeded to sack the director of sports for this unfortunate censorship decision, claiming that the Spanish audience is mature enough to take whatever reaction the national anthem may provoke among some citizens.

Inter and Lazio carry away the prizes in Italy

Much like Barcelona in Spain, Inter Milan also retained their supremacy thanks to a third party. When AC Milan succumbed to Udinese 2-1 away from home on Saturday, Inter knew they were champions for the fourth year in the row. On Sunday, they still found the motivation to treat their fans at San Siro to a 3-0 win over Siena.

The Italian Cup was resolved in a surprising fashion: without Inter or Roma in the finals. Amazingly, the two were the rivals in four previous finals, Inter winning the 2005 and 2006 editions and Roma the following two. Inter and Roma kept their appointment this season as well, but this time around it was the quarterfinals. Inter went through but only to fall to Sampdoria in the semis. Lazio, on the other hand, had the better of Juventus in the other semifinal clash, setting the stage for a Lazio-Sampdoria final match in Rome.

The Roman team took advantage of what is essentially their home soil and collected the trophy on penalties after 1-1 in the 120 minutes. The hero was Lazio's keeper Muslera who stopped Campagnaro's shot in the seventh series, before Dabo beat Castellazi giving the fifth Cup to the sky-blues.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Veliki svjetski derbiji: Brazil - Italija

Veliki svjetski derbiji: Brazil - Italija.
Veliki svjetski derbiji

Italija - Brazil

U jednoj od rijetkih prijateljskih utakmica, Brazil je prošle veljače svladao Italiju u Londonu s 2:0

Brazil i Italija, najtrofejniji nogometne nacije, osvojile su točno pola svih svjetskih prvenstava

Priča o suparništvu dvije najuspješnije nacije u povijesti nogometa proteže se još od vremena koje ima mitske značajke. Nadmetanje Italije i Brazila u velikoj se mjeri podudara s povijesti Svjetskih prvenstava. Njihov prvi susret na Mundialima datira iz 1938., a ukupno su se na svjetskim smotrama susreli pet puta, uglavnom odlučujući prvaka.

Ljubitelji nogometa iz novijeg vremena, a pod time mislimo na zadnja četiri desetljeća, Italiju zamišljaju kao utvrdu obrambenog nogometa, a Brazil kao predstavnike nogometne romantike, vječno okrenute prema protivničkim vratima i pružanju zadovoljstva gledateljima.

No, kad su se ove dvije nacije susrele na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1938. u Francuskoj, Italija je bila na vrhuncu moći, a njen je as Giuseppe Meazza ulijevao strah Brazilcima (i ostalima). Meazza, dvostruki svjetski prvak iz 1934. i 1938. i drugi najbolji strijelac u talijanskoj prvoj ligi s 274 gola. Brazil je u Francusku stigao kao silno nadarena momčad, predvođena topnikom Leonidasom, ali s malo izgleda protiv kraljeva nogometa. Polufinalni susret završio je s 2:1 za Talijane, koji su potom osvojili drugi naslov protiv Mađara. Trebale su proći 32 godine prije no što će opet ukrstiti koplja.

Kad su se idući puta susreli na svjetskoj pozornici, 1970. u Meksiku, uloge su bile uvelike izmijenjene. U međuvremenu, Italija više nije osvojila nijedan Mundial, tek jedno Europsko prvenstvo 1968. na svom terenu protiv Jugoslavije. Brazil se od 1950. do 1962. dvaput popeo na svjetski vrh, a jednom je ostao drugi. U Meksiku ga je četvrti puta zaredom vodio čovjek čija je slava nadmašila i Meazzinu: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, alias Pele. Čim su se ove dvije momčadi uvrstile u finale, Italija epskom pobjedom nad Njemačkom od 4:3, a Brazil znatno lakšim trijumfom nad Urugvajem od 3:1, znalo se da će prvi puta jedna reprezentacija skupiti tri naslova – i zaslužiti Zlatnu božicu Julesa Rimeta u trajno vlasništvo.

U Ciudad de Mexicu estetski najprivlačnija brazilska momčad u povijesti slavila je pobjedu od 4:1. Čak su i Talijani doživjeli taj rezultat kao pravdu, umjesto kao poniženje. Osim Pelea, koji je ponio svoj treći pokal, Brazilci su se dičili i Jairzinhom, drugim najboljim strijelcem turnira sa sedam golova, pratećim napadačem Tostaom, zatim sjajnim veznjakom Gersonom, lijevim krilom Rivelinom i bekom Carlosom Albertom. I Italija se oslanjala na nekoliko veličanstvenih imena, od inovativnog desnog beka Giacinta Facchettija, zatim dva ofenzivna veznjaka koja nisu "smjela" igrati zajedno – Giannija Riveru i Alessandra Mazzolu, te topnika Gigija Rivu zvanog "udar groma" zbog strahovitog šuta. Finale u kojemu je Brazil potpuno nadigrao Italiju bilo je kulminacija prvenstva zapamćenog kao najljepše na svijetu.

Tragedija u Barceloni

Naravno, Talijani se mnogo radije sjećaju Mundiala 1982. u Španjolskoj, iako je on nastupio četiri godine nakon još jednog velikog sraza u borbi za treće mjesto. Tada, u Argentini, Brazilci su nadmašili Azzurre s 2:1 čuvenim felšanim golom Nelinha s 25 metara jako iskosa. No, ta se utakmica, iako je odlučila dobitnika bronce, ne može mjeriti s onom odigranom u lipnju 1982. na stadionu Sarria u Barceloni. Jednostavno, bila je to jedna od najvećih utakmica ikad odigranih po kvaliteti protivnika i po emocionalnom naboju koji je posjedovala.

U svijetu nije bilo ravnodušnog promatrača kad su žuti i plavi istrčali na travnjak bivšeg stadiona Espanyola. Nije bilo ravnodušnog, a većina ih se opredijelila za Brazil i njegovu fantastičnu četvorku srednjaka: Zico, Falcao, Socrates i Tonino Cerezo! Bila je to četvrtfinalna faza i grupe su imale po tri momčadi, a Brazilu je bilo dovoljno neriješeno za prolaz u polufinale jer je Argentinu svladao s 3:1, a Italija samo s 2:1. Azzurri su morali pobijediti, no nije bilo više od 1% onih koji su slutili kako će se razvijati drama na Sarriji. Paolo Rossi, lukavi talijanski centarfor, koji je dvije godine proveo "na ledu", pod suspenzijom zbog sudjelovanja u namještanju utakmica, vratio se u reprezentaciju par tjedana uoči prvenstva i dotad mu je učinak bio nikakav. No, baš protiv najpopularnije reprezentacije na globusu zablistao je s hat-trickom i donio Talijanima senzacionalnu pobjedu od 3:2. Za obožavatelje tehnički profinjene i duhovite brazilske igre, bila je to tragedija i konačna nepravda prevrtljivog sporta. Dotad stopostotni Brazil potjeran je kući, a Italija je opet uz Rossijeve golove preskočila i Poljsku i Njemačku i okitila se trećom planetarnom krunom. Pokal je podigao 41-godišnji vratar Dino Zoff, dok je Rossiju pripala Zlatna lopta.

Iako se nije radilo o finalu, pa čak ni polufinalu, ta je utakmica zauvijek ostala simbolom Svjetskog prvenstva 1982., a oni koji su joj svjedočili neće je zaboraviti dok žive. Za razliku od tog epskog dvoboja, onaj koji je 12 godina kasnije doista odlučivao svjetskog prvaka bio je potpun antiklimaks.

Dosada u Pasadeni

Kao i 1970., kad su obje nacije držale po dva trofeja, 1994. u Pasadeni, u Sjedinjenim Državama, do finala su se dokotrljale s po tri titule u vitrinama. No, više nije bilo onog ljupkog nogometa iz sedamdesetih, kad su i hrabri Talijani srljali naprijed, otvoreno se nadmećući s najtalentiranijom brazilskom generacijom u povijesti. Te 1994. i Brazilci su se reformirali u smjeru discipline i defenzive, a konce igre držali su Dunga, Mauro Silva i Mazinho, tri igrača koja bi se udobnije uklopila u njemačku reprezentaciju nego u stari Brazil. Italija je doduše imala darovitog Roberta Baggija, "božanskog repića", u navali, no i njena je igra počivala na najbolji svjetski obrambeni tandem, Baresi i Maldini.

Baggio, ozlijeđen u polufinalu s Bugarima, nije bio ni sjena sebe, dok su Baresi i Maldini sputali brazilski navalni tandem Romario – Bebeto. Dva je sata trajalo mučenje publike gladne spektakla i tek su jedanaesterci potakli krv da brže kola venama. Baresi, Massaro i Baggio promašili su svoje udarce, Dunga je bio nepogrešiv i Brazil je odnio četvrtu titulu, 24 godina nakon treće, osvojene opet protiv Talijana.

Pedeset šest godina trajalo je nadmetanje Brazila i Italije u svjetskim razmjerima, nadmetanje koje se u 21. stoljeću odvija bez međusobnih susreta, ali uz pozorno praćenje što radi druga strana: Brazilu je pripala peta kruna u Japanu i Koreji 2002., Talijani su se opet približili na jedan razlike četiri godine kasnije. Dvije zemlje koje su osvojile točno pola svih svjetskih prvenstava, devet od 18, rijetko se susreću u prijateljskim utakmicama, od kojih je najupečatljivija ona iz 1997. na Francuskom turniru godinu prije Svjetskog prvenstva. Završila je s 3:3, nakon što su Azzurri vodili s 2:0 i 3:1. Deset i pol godina potom, nove su se generacije sučelile 10. veljače 2009. u Londonu, gdje je nadmoćni Brazil pregazio Talijane s 2:0.

Idući je veliki derbi na rasporedu 21. lipnja 2009. povodom Kupa konfederacija, a držimo fige da najtrofejnije nogometne zemlje još jednom prikažu spektakl.

Veliki dvoboji Talijana i Brazilaca

1938. Svjetsko prvenstvo u Francuskoj
Polufinale: Italija – Brazil 2:1

1970. Svjetsko prvenstvo u Meksiku
Finale: Brazil – Italija 4:1

1978. Svjetsko prvenstvo u Argentini
Za 3. mjesto: Brazil – Italija 2:1

1982. Svjetsko prvenstvo u Španjolskoj
Četvrtfinale: Italija – Brazil 3:2

1994. Svjetsko prvenstvo u SAD
Finale: Brazil – Italija 0:0, 3:2 (11 m)

Jeste li znali?

Toliko su bahati bili Brazilci 1938. da su na polufinalu protiv svjetskog prvaka Italije izostavili lagano ozlijeđenog superstara Leonidasa i rezervirali karte za finale protiv Mađarske. Izgubili su s 1:2, a u Pariz su putovali Talijani.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Zri Sport

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Former Stars Staking Claim For South Korea

K-League News 2009

Lee Young-pyo congratulates Lee Keun-ho
In Korean football, you are nothing without a nickname. You don’t have to be called to the national team to get one but it helps. This season, we have seen the return to form of a number of old heads and the appearance of some long-unused aliases headlines in the huge portals.

“The Little Emperor”, “The Lion King’’, “The Millenium Kid” and “The Lord of the Ring” are all colorful movie-like monikers but they are players who are working their way back to the spotlight and into the gaze of national team coach Huh Jung-moo.

Lee Dong-guk is in the best form. The Lion King rarely roared during his time in England with Middlesbrough from January 2007 to May 2008, scoring only against lower league teams in various cup competitions. The striker, who was surprisingly overlooked by Guus Hiddink for the 2002 World Cup and then missed the 2006 tournament with a serious knee injury, is on fire.

He took a while to ignite however after his return to the Land of the Morning Calm. Lee spent the second half of last season struggling to settle in Seongnam. He moved to Jeonju in the winter and is thriving in the slightly more genteel surrounding of North Jeolla Province.

He has scored six goals in seven league games for league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and is enjoying himself once again.

“As each game passes, I feel more confident and my goalscoring instinct is returning. We have lots of games in May but if we can maintain this pace then we can get some good results.”

“There are many good players in the national team. If I was to get called up then I am confident that I could give a good account of myself.”

Could the player who was heartbroken at missing out on the 2002 and 2006 tournaments finally get his chance at 2010? There is a chance. At the moment, Lee Keun-ho seems to own one of the two striking spots in the team, the other is up for grabs.

Lee Keun-ho is in Japan after failing to find a club in Europe. He joined the struggling Jubilo iwata in April and has revitalized the club’s season with an amazing six goals and five assists in his first six games. No sooner was he banging in the goals in Shizuoka then he was linked with a move to Spanish club Malaga.

If he does go there - his agent denies it - he will hopefully have a better time in Iberia than Lee Chun-soo. ‘The Millenium Kid’ and star of the 2002 World Cup, spent time with Real Sociedad and Numancia before returning to Ulsan in 2005. He then returned to Europe in the summer of 2007 to join Dutch giants Feyenoord. He struggled to settle by the North Sea and after a brief, and very unsuccessful spell with Suwon, he is now at Chunnam Dragons.

He is doing pretty well. Still only 27, he is one of Korea’s most talented players but one who seems to attract, and sometimes cause trouble. After his first game for the Dragons, in which he scored a fine goal, he was banned for making offensive gestures to the referee assistant. He is back in action again and playing well. “I am going to do my talking from now on the field,” he said recently for the umpteenth time. He has been as good as his word so far. Lee scored again last weekend, a fabulous shot from outside the area to win Chunnam’s third game in succession.

Another 2006 old boy that could be back in the reckoning is Cho Jae-jin. The Little Emperor featured in the third round of qualification for the 2010 World Cup but failed to impress and has been out in the cold since. The powerful forward has never really looked at home in the red shirt of the taeguk Warriors and has, in fact, usually played his best football outside Korea.

He was a star of the J-league with Shimizu S-Pulse from 2004-2007 before leaving to try his luck in Europe. Despite interest from Premier League clubs, a move never materialized. He returned to Korea and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. He was inconsistent in a green shirt and few fans complained when Asian champions Gamba Osaka paid the Jeonju team over $3 million for his services. Cho has been scoring for fun in Japan.

And what of our old friend Ahn Jung-hwan? The Lord of the Ring is too old now, at 33, to play for South Korea again but there is still life in the old dog yet. He is currently in China, in the middle of a three-month loan with fallen powerhouse Dalian Shide. Despite an attitude which at first didn’t impress the media, the striker has started to shine in the Middle Kingdom with three goals in three games and is earning plaudits everywhere he goes. He was labeled ‘World class’ by an opposition coach last week.

That may be a slight exaggeration and to be honest, South Korea lacks a real top of the range attacker but at least a number of them, at home and abroad, are coming to the boil nicely ahead of June’s three vital World Cup qualifiers.

Copyright: John Duerden &

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kashima the big winners in Golden Week shakedown

J.League News 2009

The national team may never sit atop the FIFA world rankings, while most European fans remain blissfully ignorant of the colourful crowds that pack into grounds to witness one of the most evenly contested leagues in the world. But there's no denying that Japanese football is unique.

The J. League fixture list does it's part, and during Golden Week - when a string of public holidays serves to give over-worked salarymen the chance to take some time off - the J. League instead has it's stars working over-time.

Three J. League rounds took place between Shōwa Day on April 29 and Children's Day on May 5, and combined with the full rounds scheduled for the weekends of April 25/26 and May 9/10 - a total of five matches in fifteen days saw the 2009 J. League table begin to take shape.

Not surprisingly there's a familiar view at the top, as two-time defending champions Kashima Antlers flexed their might to brush aside bitter rivals Urawa Reds and take control at the top of the standings.

Kashima the big winners in Golden Week shakedown

Kashima were unbeaten during the fifteen-day football extravaganza, with their worst result a 1-1 draw away at promoted Montedio Yamagata. One caveat is the game-in-hand Kashima hold as a result of their participation in the Asian Champions League. In fact, all four of Japan's Champions League combatants saw their Round 10 fixtures postponed until July 1.

Urawa Reds won't be playing on July 1 - they're not in the Champions League - and the Saitama giants will rue a 3-2 home defeat to Kawasaki Frontale in front of 51,594 fans at Saitama Stadium on May 10. That slip-up saw them concede top spot to Kashima Antlers, who beat Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 on the same afternoon.

Gamba Osaka have moved ominously into third, with Akira Nishino's free-scoring side registering 26 goals in their ten games so far. Star signings Leandro and Cho Jae-Jin have contributed 15 goals between them, with the Kansai side scoring at will against several shell-shocked opponents.

Albirex Niigata have been the surprise package of the season so far, and they lie in fourth after beating northern rivals Montedio Yamagata 1-0 in Yamagata in their most recent clash. Nagoya Grampus round out the top five with a third of the season gone.

Of the mid-table clubs, Kawasaki Frontale in sixth look the most capable of challenging for the title, not the least because they too have a game in hand. They may have lost the Kanagawa derby 2-1 to local rivals Yokohama F. Marinos in front of 28,016 fans at Nissan Stadium on May 2, but Takashi Sekizuka's team look well placed to launch another title assault this season.

Tenth-placed Sanfrecce Hiroshima have played some of the most eye-catching football in the league, while the maddeningly inconsistent Vissel Kobe started their Golden Week run on a high by beating local rivals Gamba Osaka 3-1 in front of 20,721 fans on April 25, before succumbing to their usual mediocrity thereafter.

Capital club FC Tokyo continue to struggle in the lower reaches of the table and after a long unbeaten start under new coach Chang Woe-Ryong, Omiya Ardija have abruptly slipped down to fourteenth place.

Traditional clubs Shimizu S-Pulse and JEF United are scrapping it out in ignominious fashion in the bottom four, while Kashiwa Reysol and Oita Trinita currently occupy the final two places in the table.

Both Kashiwa and Oita have been plagued by injuries and suspension this season, but critics will point out that both the Chiba-based Reysol and Kyushu club Trinita play some of the most bruising and unattractive football in the league, and there's more than a hint of schadenfreude directed at struggling coaches Shinichiro Takahashi and Pericles for their current plight.

But it's Kashima Antlers who rule the roost after another Golden Week shakedown, and J. League fans will be licking their lips in anticipation of an epic battle with arch-rivals Urawa Reds. Throw Gamba Osaka and dark-horses Kawasaki Frontale into the mix, and the J. League looks set to brace itself for yet another of its nail-biting title races.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

J.League News