Friday, April 29, 2011

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season - It was always going to end in tears......

Arsenal have again fallen at the final hurdle in the charge for the premiership. From being able to challenge on four fronts, they will again win no trophies for the sixth year running.

In hindsight, too much success can often distort people's perspectives and Arsenal are, in my opinion, doing fine; consistently in the champions league, a new stadium and of course, financial stability. Many clubs in the UK are in a perilous financial situation and would swap places with Arsenal in an instance.

Arsene Wenger should, of course, remain as manager and now with the new owner hopefully injecting even more money into the club, important buys will be made over the summer to ensure that, yes, new trophies will be paraded around the Emirates.

Surely, the longer the wait then the sweeter the reward? Some fans want Wenger out but should do well to remember the old adage "Be careful for what you wish for........"

By Chris KL Lau

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Edu Shows There's Life After K-League

K-League News, South Korea

Edu in Suwon colours
Players come and go in the K-League, especially those from overseas. There is an incredibly high turnover of playing staff in South Korea, teams can virtually change their entire starting elevens from season to season.

Hiring players is not, of course, an exact science. Some succeed and some don’t for a variety of reasons. Some can end up spending years at one of the league’s 16 clubs. The likes of Adilson and Dejan Damjanovic at FC Seoul, Eninho at Jeonbuk Motors and Dzenan Radoncic at Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have played more games here than the average Korean.

Others barely find time to sample their first kimchi before leaving the Land of the Morning Calm. Suwon’s Brazilian striker Wando never appeared before being chalked off and Bas van der Brink played just three times for Busan before leaving the club by mutual consent. Both parties said they were ‘disappointed’ in the other.

It is just another example of a transfer that doesn’t work out. There are countless others, in Korea and in every major league.

After they are gone, not much news about the former imports filters back east. That is not true however of a certain Brazilian striker who used to play for Suwon Bluewings. The beard and the hair may have gone but the smile is unmistakable.

Edu spent three seasons at the Big Bird Stadium. He arrived in 2007 and left at the end of 2009. In the meantime he had two unremarkable years and one very good one. In 2008, his 13 goals helped the Gyeonggi Province giants lift a fourth K-League title after a play-off final victory over rivals FC Seoul.

On that snowy day, he scored a vital goal against the capital club that will always be remembered by those of a blue persuasion.

The South American was a popular figure in Suwon. His final season saw just six goals scored in the blue shirt but previous exploits endeared him to the club’s loyal fans.

He left on good terms but there were a few eyebrows when he ended up soon after at Schalke 04 in January 2010. The team went on to finish second in the German top division. That earned the Gelsenkirchen giants a place in the champions league.

Schalke reached the quarterfinal of the world’s biggest club competition but was expected to lose to defending champion Inter Milan. That didn’t happen. Edu scored twice in the first leg in Italy as the Germans won 5-2.The second leg in Germany ended 2-1 giving Schalke an impressive 7-3 win over the Italian giant.

To see Edu starring against some of the biggest names in world football has gone down well both in Korea and with the player himself.

"It is a lot of fun to play alongside such a great player like Raul. Although he has already achieved everything in his career, he has remained humble," Edu said. The striker is enjoying the arrival of new coach Ralf Rangnick as former coach Felix Magath was playing him out of position.

"At the moment it is going well. I feel much more comfortable playing as a central striker, a role, which plays to my strengths. The coach alone decides who plays in the starting eleven but it is clear that I am very eager to play. We can still make a great deal of progress. Nowadays, everything is possible in football."

The reward for defeating Inter was a semifinal against Manchester United. The first leg finished on Wednesday morning Korean time and ended in a 2-0 win for the English team. Park Ji-sung played his part but Edu, like his team-mates, struggled to match the English Premier League powerhouse.

There are 90 minutes remaining but it is unlikely that Schalke will be able to get the necessary result next week in Manchester.

Whatever happens, Edu has demonstrated that there is life after the K-League and sometimes that life is at the very top of the football tree.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Olympic football tickets

Olympic Football Tickets

Excited about the 2012 Olympic soccer tournament?

Me neither, but a reminder if you are Europe-based to get your ticket applications in by midnight on Tuesday GMT. With all those big stadia unlikely to sell out at once, further sales are probable.

Old Trafford
Old Trafford
Games are taking place at Wembley, Old Trafford, St James Park, Hampden Park, the Millennium Stadium and Coventry's Ricoh Arena between July 25th and August 11th 2012.

Brazil and Uruguay have made it through the men's South American qualifiers; CONMEBOL nations traditionally treat Olympic football more seriously than other federations' teams. The top three finishers (excluding England) of the UEFA Euro U21 tournament in Denmark in June will secure berths too.

Once more the women's tournament, only in existence since 1996, should be the more important, on a par with the FIFA Women's World Cup in quality because there are no age restrictions. Brazil, Germany and the US are the current leaders in the women's game, yet Japan have risen to fourth in the world rankings, while England recently beat No.1-ranked USA 2-1 in London.

The 2012 tournament will be historically significant as the participating host nation - Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is not a FIFA nation. Following the outcry from the other home nations, the UK's teams are set to be purely English.


-Sean O'Conor

World Cup Posters

Saturday, April 23, 2011

J. League picks up the pieces after quake

J. League picks up the pieces after quake

Five weeks after a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused widespread destruction in Japan's northern Miyagi Prefecture, the J. League finally resumes with five Round 7 games taking place on April 23.

Foremost among them is the clash between Kawasaki Frontale and Vegalta Sendai, with Sendai the city closest to the epicentre of the earth-shattering quake which struck on March 11.

Sunday's big clash sees Urawa Reds host defending champions Nagoya Grampus, with all matches taking place in the afternoon as the J. League does its part to conserve energy.

Rounds 2 to 6 will be completed at a later date.

Round 7 fixtures: April 23

Kashima Antlers vs Yokohama F. Marinos (National Stadium)
Omiya Ardija vs Kashiwa Reysol (Nack5 Stadium)
Kawasaki Frontale vs Vegalta Sendai (Todoroki Stadium)
Ventforet Kofu vs Vissel Kobe (Yamanashibank Stadium)
Shimizu S-Pulse vs Avispa Fukuoka (Outsourcing Nihondaira Stadium)

April 24

Montedio Yamagata vs Cerezo Osaka (ND Soft Stadium)
Albirex Niigata vs Jubilo Iwata (Tohoku Den Stadium)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Gamba Osaka (Hiroshima Big Arch)
Urawa Reds vs Nagoya Grampus (Saitama Stadium)

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman &

J.League News

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Torres mystery

Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres
Tonight against Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge, Fernando Torres may score his first goal for Chelsea.

Sooner or later, the £50 million pound-man must break his duck and show his new employers what he is really made of. Yet thus far, his transfer has been a near-disaster. No goals in twelve games, Torres has failed to gel with his new teammates while his record-breaking arrival has seen Chelsea dumped out of Europe and fall away in the title race.

Torres clearly can cut the mustard, and was probably the world's best striker in 2008, but has not been the same player for the last season and a half. He was not firing on all cylinders in South Africa and looked listless for Liverpool in his final year there. A decline seems to have set in from the day Spain lost 0-2 to the USA in the 2009 Confederations Cup semi-final.

The Spaniard now seems to have lost his exquisite first touch and his shooting sights are askew. Not only has he yet to find the net despite benefiting from one of the best attacks around, he has not looked even close to scoring. His aim is cock-eyed while he is struggling, in the vernacular, to trap a bag of cement.

What is going on? Nobody really seems to know. Torres is hardly past it at age 27, won the World Cup last summer and has not yet forgotten scoring the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final. He is a happily-married man who is known for staying at home with his family instead of hitting the town. He is fabulously rich. So why can't Fernando suddenly play football?

Torres for Spain
Confidence is the old chestnut of an excuse for a lack of form or a run of good form. It is true, the more you win the more you believe in yourself and vice-versa, but Torres is not facing relegation. Once he scores one, many are claiming, the floodgates will open to a tide of goals.

But the C-word clearly has a big role to play in football. It must explain to a great extent the almost perennial discrepancy between home and away form for a start. And how many times do you hear a team accused of showing the other 'too much respect' or not 'believing in themselves enough'? I once interviewed the Japanese international goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, and although English was not his strongest language, I was struck by how much he mentioned the word confidence - a part of the English footballing lexicon all right.

What is keeping Torres nervous? Is the problem the lack of a Spanish-speaking legion at Chelsea like there was at Liverpool, is it tension with a coach who might have been forced to sign and play him by his chairman (shades of Jose Mourinho and Andriy Shevchenko), is it family issues or perhaps an inability to adapt to a new home, teammates, formation and playing system?If Fernando has left his confidence in Liverpool, who can help him find it again in West London?

Clubs have been using psychologists for some years, although no-one seems to have analysed their efficacy in terms of results. It is normal for motivational speakers to address the squad and for trained specialists to encourage them to visualise success and fill their heads with positive thoughts. Psychology is still a controversial field in some scientific circles, although in its popular form it has spurred a giant self-help industry, tying in nicely with the American way of pioneering self-reliance. 

Although as a US international footballer once told me, "You can have all the confidence in the world but if you don't have that ability in the first place..."In the past, managers were motivators alone, but with managers morphing into first-team coaches, clubs employ specialists in several fields. That same footballer told me what his club really needed was a stroke of luck, a break that would grant them a much-needed win to spur them on. Perhaps Fernando just needs to hear that first thwack of the onion bag and he will soon be his old self again.

He has barely half a dozen games left this campaign in which to find his shooting boots, so perhaps a summer free of tournaments and a nice long rest will do the trick. If next season he is still playing like a pub player instead of a £50m man, it really will be a case for a Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bale & Wilshere scoop PFA awards in England

Bale & Wilshere scoop PFA awards in England

Gareth Bale
Jack Wilshere
Gareth Bale has been chosen the players' Player of the Year at the PFA awards in London.
The Tottenham flyer won the vote from his peers following some explosive left-sided displays for his club in Europe, notably in Spurs' defeats of Inter and Milan, which have left the 21 year-old Welshman one of the most coveted men in football.

Arsenal's Samir Nasri came second, with Man City's
Carlos Tevez third.
The Gunners' Jack Wilshere won the Young Player of the Year Award, after the 19 year-old midfielder broke into Arsene Wenger's first eleven and the full England national team.

PFA Premier League Team of the Year 2011:

Van der Sar (Man Utd), Sagna (Arsenal), Cole (Chelsea), Vidic (Man Utd), Kompany (Man City), Nani (Man Utd), Nasri (Arsenal), Wilshere (Arsenal), Bale (Spurs), Tevez (Man City), Berbatov (Man Utd).

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Japan joins Copa after u-turn

Copa America 2011

Japan will enter the Copa America as a guest in July after all.

Japan joins Copa
Japan joins Copa
Vice-President Kohzo Tashima has confirmed the JFA will send a team of predominantly Europe-based players to the tournament, which takes place in Argentina between the 1st and 24th of July.

"By playing in the tournament," said Tashima, "we can show the rest of the world how the country of Japan is fighting. If we don’t take part in the tournament, it could present a negative impression."

Copa America 2011
Copa America 2011
J-League fixtures postponed because of March's earthquake and tsunami have been rescheduled for the same period, which initially caused the JFA to withdraw.

But promises of financial aid from CONMEBOL forced a re-think.

The Asian Cup holders will face Colombia and Bolivia before a clash with the hosts in Cordoba.

The top two in three groups plus the two best-placed third-place teams will qualify for
the quarter-finals.

Group B 1st Round

02/07/11, Jujuy: Colombia v Japan
07/07/11, Jujuy: Bolivia v Japan
11/07/11, Cordoba: Argentina v Japan

Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fifa World Rankings April 2011

Fifa World Rankings April 2011

Fifa's World Rankings for April were published yesterday. 2010 World Cup winners Spain remain in top spot followed by The Netherlands, Brazil, Germany and England in 6th place. Ghana are the top African team in 15th.

The USA drop again to 22nd. Japan, winners of the Asian Cup, are up to 13th.

Fifa World Rankings April 2011

Ranking Team
1 Spain
2 Netherlands
3 Brazil
4 Germany
5 Argentina
7 Uruguay
8 Portugal
9 Italy
10 Croatia
11 Norway
12 Greece
13 Japan
14 Chile
15 Ghana
16 Serbia
17 Slovenia
18 Russia
19 France
20 Australia

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nabisco Cup 2011

Nabisco Cup 2011
Nabisco Cup 2011

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan on March 11, the J-League has rearranged the schedule for the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup.

The two group format has been abandoned in favor of a straight two-leg knock-out competition.

1st Round 1st Leg June 5

Urawa Reds vs Yamagata
Kashiwa Reysol vs Sendai
Yokohama F Marinos vs Vissell Kobe
Venforet Kofu vs Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata vs Fukuoka
Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Kawasaki Frontale

1st Round 2nd Leg June 27

27 Jul Wed
Sendai vs Kashiwa Reysol
Yamagata vs Urawa Reds
Kawasaki Frontale vs
Shimizu S-Pulse vs Ventforet Kofu
Vissel Kobe vs Yokohama F Marinos
Fukuoka vs Jubilo Iwata

Nabisco Cup 2011.

Second round two-leg games will take place on 14 September and 28 September when Omiya Ardija and Albirex Niigata will join the competition.

The single-leg quarterfinals will take place on5 October when the the four clubs competing Japan in the ACL Cerezo Osaka, Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and Nagoya Grampus will join the competition.

The single leg semifinals are slated for October 9 with the final yet to be arranged and pending the progress of Japanese clubs in the ACL.

J.League News


Friday, April 8, 2011

Ogura ponders South American mission

Ogura ponders South American mission

CONMEBOL have asked the JFA to think again after Japan withdrew from this summer's Copa America.
Ogura ponders South American mission

JFA President Junji Ogura told former FIFA Executive Committee colleagues Julio Grondona & Nicolas Leoz in Buenos Aires this week that Japan had no plans to travel to Argentina following the turmoil caused to the J-League after March's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

As it stands, the J-League is due to fulfill its postponed fixtures in July at the same time as the Copa America, creating a club v country headache.

Spain were hastily offered Japan's place but the JFA have now been given until Friday the 15th of April to decide whether to participate after all. CONMEBOL are understood to have tempted the JFA with a profit share to help disaster relief efforts in Japan.

In addition to the ten South American nations, Mexico once more make up the numbers in the twelve-team competition, which concludes on the 24th of July with the final in Buenos Aires' Estadio Monumental, home of River Plate.

Copa America 2011
- 1st - 24th July, Argentina
FIFA World Rankings in brackets

Group A
Argentina (4)
Colombia (50)
Bolivia (97)
Japan (15)/Spain (1)

Group B
Brazil (5)
Paraguay (24)
Ecuador (49)
Venezuela (63)

Group C
Uruguay (7)
Chile (14)
Peru (59)
Mexico (27)

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile; photo by Iman Simon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

FIFA Presidential deadline passes

Fifa Watch

Sepp pleads
The deadline for nominations for FIFA President passed at midnight CET last night, with the final count announced on Monday.
Barring a miracle, however, we can be fairly sure the final battle will be between incumbent Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam, with the vote due on the 1st of June.

Former Chilean star Elias Figueroa pulled out at the last minute, while US sportswriter Grant Wahl predictably failed to win support with his 'citizen's bid' for the top job, inspired by Norman Mailer's attempt to become mayor of New York City in 1969.

Bin Hammam, boosted by his nation's controversial capture of the 2022 World Cup Finals, is hoping to be the first Asian president of the organisation. Expect he and Blatter to do their bit for the planet as they jet around the 280 member nations over the next couple of months pressing flesh and promising the earth in exchange for a vote.

FIFA Presidents

Robert Guérin (France) 1904-1906

Daniel Burley Woolfall (England) 1906-1918

Jules Rimet (France) 1921-1954

Rodolphe Seeldreyers (Belgium) 1954-1955

Arthur Drewry (England) 1955-1961

Stanley Rous (England) 1961-1974

ão Havelange (Brazil) 1974-1998

Sepp Blatter (Switzerland) 1998-

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile