Saturday, July 30, 2011

World Cup draw, new managers for Argentina and USA

World Cup Draw


Brazil.
Brasil

* Saturday night in Rio sees the draw for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers for all except South America (CONMEBOL).

All eyes will be on the European draw where 1998 World Cup winners France have been downgraded to the second pot, meaning they will play one of the top seeds
England, Spain, Holland, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Norway or Greece.

Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann

A host of Brazilian soccer stars are on hand to pull the balls out of the bags: Cafu and Neymar will draw the African teams, Zico the Asian teams, Bebeto CONCACAF, Mario Zagallo Oceania and Ganso and Ronaldo will do Europe.

*German legend Jurgen Klinsmann was confirmed today as the USA's new coach. 'Klinsi' has lived in America for 12 years and was offered the manager's job back in 2006 but declined because US Soccer was unwilling to accede to his demands to overhaul the whole organisation's coaching set-up.

The former Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, Tottenham, Sampdoria and Bayern star, who won the European Championship and the World Cup for Germany, went back to setting up a soccer consultancy, most recently with Toronto FC, before the US came calling again following the national team's embarrassing capitulation in the Gold Cup final.

The appointment is still a big risk as Klinsmann has little experience as a manager. He took a hitherto mediocre Germany on home soil to the 2006 World Cup semi-final where they lost to eventual winners Italy, and lasted less than a season as Bayern Munich coach.

He has also had a tendency to fall out with management wherever he has played as he is possessed of strong opinions. This 'my way or the highway' approach was what scared off US Soccer five years ago, but in 2011 with no tournament until the World Cup to worry about, they are prepared to take the risk.

How much Klinsmann will prove to be a first-team coach or a youth system administrator remains to be seen.




* Alex Sabella, who had spells at Leeds and Sheffield United at the end of the 1970s, has been named Argentina manager after Sergio Batista was sacked following the team's quarter-final exit from the recent Copa America they hosted.

Sabella, 56, also had lengthy stays as a player at River Plate and Estudiantes, where he was first-team coach for the past two years.

*England and North Korea kicked off the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia with a 0-0 draw in Medellin. The host nation play France on Saturday in Bogota.


Sabella
Sabella

24 teams contest the tournament, which ends on the 20th of August in the capital city.

* 18 Italian clubs and 26 Italian players are due at their football association's disciplinary hearings in Rome next week in connection with match-fixing. Two Serie A clubs are implicated - Atalanta and Chievo, as well as former Azzurri internationals Cristiano Doni and Beppe Signori.


© Soccerphile.com

Friday, July 29, 2011

Entering Hong Kong: Asia trophy 2011

Asia Trophy 2011

Landing at Hong Kong airport this week, I expected to be greeted by adverts for the next generation of electronics, or maybe banks, or cars. The sight of Stuart Downing in an Aston Villa kit on a billboard was a little surprising.



As another recent addition to Dalglish's Liverpool squad, Downing was an unfortunate selection by advertisers of the Barclays Asia Trophy. The 2011 version of the biannual four-team event involves his former club 1982 European champions Aston Villa, local up-and-coming champions Kitchee, 'superclub' Chelsea, and (as proof of the pull of the 'EPL', as well as some of it's more prestigious members) Blackburn Rovers.



Although as Rovers fans would be quick to highlight, the Lancashire club have at least won the Barclays Premier League, something Liverpool are yet to achieve (at the time of writing) and Aston Villa could only dream of.



Despite the popularity of the English game, I was able to go directly from airport to hostel to stadium and purchase a £20 ticket. Meeting up with friends local and Liverpudlian, we endured two games at the Hong Kong stadium that typified preseason football.



Aston Villa and Blackburn did their best to maintain a goaless scoreline, before Daren Bent claimed the game's only goal. Playing for the right to play the victors and avoid their conquest in Saturday's final / play off, Kitchee then played host to Chelsea.



Villa-Boas' men strolled to a four-goal victory, with double Didier Drogba strikes sanwiched between goals from Lampard and Sturridge. Substitute Fernando Torres received a warm reception by the majority of the crowd, but failed to find the net.



Aston Villa and Chelsea are likely to face a more useful test of their credentials and fitness on Saturday's tournament decider.

© Dr Joel Rookwood & Soccerphile

World Cup Posters

Thursday, July 28, 2011

USA shuts the Bradley chapter

Bob Bradley

Bob Bradley
Bob Bradley
The USA have fired Bob Bradley as their manager.

The New Jersey-born coach was relieved of his duties today after five years at the helm.

Last month's loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final proved his undoing, as the US had led 2-0 in that game before capitulating embarrassingly
4-2 and the defeat also meant they missed out on the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. In the group stage the USA had also lost a game to Panama, 67th in the FIFA World Rankings.

America's unexpected last-eight finish at the 2002 World Cup has set a perhaps unrealistic benchmark for future US elevens and compared to that unforgettable campaign in Korea, the national team has stagnated since.

Having taken over from Bruce Arena following the 2006 World Cup finals, Bradley led the US into the 2010 competition in South Africa, where his team beat Algeria with a dramatic last-gasp strike and drew with England and Slovenia to win the group, before they lost 2-1 to Ghana in the second round.

Under Bradley the US also won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2007, which allowed his team its finest hour at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. There the Americans beat European Champions Spain 2-0 in the semi-final and led Brazil by the same score in the final, before going down 3-2 to a Kaka-inspired second half comeback.

Last summer Bradley was linked with Aston Villa and Fulham. He previously coached Chicago Fire, Chivas USA and the Metrostars in Major League Soccer. The 53 year-old leaves the US ranked 30th in the world, one place higher than when he took over in 2006. Their highest position under Bradley was 12th in August 2009 following the Confederations Cup.

Jurgen Klinsmann, who has run a soccer consultancy in California for some years now and was offered the job back in 2006, appears to be the favourite once more, although 38 year-old Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis is an outside bet.




(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


World Cup Posters

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FIFA World Rankings July 2011

FIFA World Rankings July 2011
FIFA World Rankings July 2011

Fifa's World Rankings for July 2011 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. 2010 World Cup winners Spain remain in top spot followed by The Netherlands, Germany and England.

Nepal are in 136th place!

Ranking Team
1 Spain
2 Netherlands
3 Germany
4 Brazil
5 Uruguay
6 England
7 Portugal
8 Italy
9 Croatia
10 Argentina
11 Chile
12 Norway
13 Greece
14 Côte d'Ivoire
15 France
16 Japan
17 Montenegro
18 Russia
19 Sweden
20 Mexico

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

© Soccerphile.com

2013 Confederations Cup takes shape

2013 Confederations Cup

Brasil.
Brazil
Five of the eight places for the 2013 Confederations Cup have now been decided and already the line-up looks tasty already.

BRAZIL - Hosts
SPAIN - World Cup holders
JAPAN - Asian Cup 2011 winners
MEXICO - Gold Cup 2011 winners
URUGUAY - Copa America 2011 winners

These famous five will be joined by the winners of Euro 2012, the 2013 African Nations Cup and next year's Oceania championship.

The Brazilian World Cup warm-up event will take place between the 16th and 30th of June 2013 in five cities - Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Porto Alegre, Rio and Salvador.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another clean day at FIFA House

Fifa Watch

Mohamed Bin Hammam
Banned Ex.Co. member Mohamed Bin Hammam has slammed Sepp Blatter and Chuck Blazer following his expulsion from football last week.

He compared Blatter to a tyrant wiping out his rivals and called for Blazer to go before the FIFA Ethics Committee for receiving suspicious payments.

Bemoaning his life ban from football, the former Asian Football Confederation chief told Sky News, "This is the act of the dictators and we have witnessed this through history...When they think that a person is prominent to replace him, the first thing they do is execute him."

With reference to his ban for handing out cash for votes, Bin Hammam denied he was guilty, but also admitted that clientelism was an everyday fact of FIFA life. "This is a normal, a normal, normal practice," he confirmed. "This watch is a gift."

The Qatari then went on to have a dig at Chuck Blazer, whose whistleblowing began his impeachment process. "We have, during the investigations, discovered that Chuck Blazer himself has received from the Caribbean (Football) Union $250,000. For what, God knows."

Chuck Blazer
Chuck Blazer (on the right)
This news was broken by Andrew Jennings and Blazer's defence sounds, well a little odd. Claiming it was Jack Warner repaying him a loan, he added,

"As a precaution, I have set aside these funds and am prepared to return them should it turn out that the CFU was the source of the funds and not Jack Warner as was represented to me."

Jennings also revealed Blazer pocketed 10% of CONCACAF's marketing and TV rights money over the past five years, a total of $9.6m. The 66 year-old New Yorker defended his bonuses as "consistent with industry standards."

* * *

Ricardo Texeira
Ricardo Texeira
Ricardo Texeira, was it something we said?

The Brazilian soccer chief, FIFA Ex.Co. member and former son-in-law of that great dictator Joao Havelange, has something against the English all right. This is what he told Brazilian magazine Revista Paui at the weekend:

"The islanders (the English) are the pirates of the world, a bunch of pirates....The BBC is a state organisation...It’s all orchestrated...I will make their lives hell...In 2014, I'll be able to get away with anything. The most slippery, unthinkable, Machiavellian things. Denying press credentials, barring access, changing game schedules. While I'm at the CBF, at FIFA, they won't get past the door!
And you know what? Nothing will happen. You know why? Because in 2015 I'm out of here..."

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
Why do you hate us so much, Ricardo? Are you worried London's smoothly organised Olympics next year will show up your disorganised World Cup two years later or the Rio Olympics in 2018?

Oh I remember - you took at least $12 m in bribes from FIFA's now defunct marketing company, ISL, your company laundered the money and our media (Andrew Jennings, the BBC et al.) pointed it out, that's right.

Oh and you have been awarding yourself contracts for 2014 and you were willing to sell your vote for 2018. The truth hurts, Ricardo. And when the Zug prosecutor's report is finally revealed, you'll be history like Jack Warner and the other crooks in Zurich.

Enjoy your time in football while it lasts.

-Sean O'Conor

Monday, July 25, 2011

Coe no to football after the Olympics

Sebastian Coe

Coe no to football after the Olympics.
Sebastian Coe with David Beckham
London 2012 Chief and former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe has said he will focus uniquely on athletics following next summer's games, quashing hopes he may develop his career in football politics instead.

"My focus post-2012 will be track and field, absolutely," Coe told Reuters. "There's no question about that," adding that his desire was to become head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Coe no to football after the Olympics.
Coe in his pomp
Coe, winner of four Olympic medals and a former world-record holder at 1500m, first got involved in soccer politics in 2006, when Sepp Blatter appointed him as chairman of FIFA's first Ethics Committee, before he stood down in order to help England's bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Although it could be argued both ventures ended in failure, Coe's reputation in the corridors of the sporting world is still immense.

As revealed exclusively by Soccerphile in 2008, Coe was headhunted to mount a challenge to take over at the Football Association in the wake of England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008, but declined because of his commitments to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Many would have welcomed Coe's leadership qualities and global influence as a way to restore England as a major player on and off the field of international football. English soccer'
s loss is international athletics' gain for the foreseeable future, but the FA will not lose his number any time soon.

Coe remains a Chelsea F.C. season-ticket holder.


(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Forlan at the double as Uruguay are South American Champions

Forlan at the double

Forlan at the double as Uruguay are South American Champions.
Suarez
COPA AMERICA 2011 FINAL
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, Argentina


URUGUAY
3 : 0 PARAGUAY
Suarez 12', Forlan 42', 89'


Uruguay won the Copa America by a canter this afternoon to confirm themselves as undisputed champions of South America, a record 15th victory for Las Charruas.

A skillful early strike from Luis Suarez set them on the road to victory and a brace from another sharp marksman Diego Forlan made it sure.

From early on it was clear that the World Cup semi-finalists were the better team. Paraguay, who curiously had reached the final without winning a game, found themselves on the back foot in the 12th minute.

Suarez's quick feet allowed him to nip inside his marker and rifle a shot into the far corner to give Las Charruas the lead. Uruguay doubled their lead four minutes before the break when Forlan finished off a zig-zagging move after stealing the ball in Paraguay's last third.

Two down at the interval, Paraguay had to come out and play and managed to hit the crossbar through Nelson Valdez in the 54th minute, but they could not make inroads. Then the arrival of substitute Edinson Cavani in the Uruguayan attack just after the hour reminded us which team had more talent to call upon.

Paraguay pushed upfield and had plenty of play in Uruguay's last third, but had a wall of sky-blue shirts in front of them. Pablo Zeballos had a decent penalty appeal waved away in the 70th minute, which might have let his team back into the game.

But as the minutes ticked away and Paraguay maintained their siege without penetration, the risk of counter-attacks grew bigger. One such raid a minute from time saw Forlan, that exquisite finisher, find the net again to complete a comprehensive victory.



In winning the Copa America for the first time since 1995, Uruguay also qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.Peru won third place, defeating Venezuela 4-1. Peru's Pablo Guerrero finished top scorer of the tournament with five goals, one more than Suarez.

URU - Muslera, M. Pereira, Lugano, Coates, J. Caceres (Godin 88'), Gonzalez, D.Perez (Eguren 69'), Rios, A. Pereira (Cavani 63'), Forlan, Suarez
PAR - Villar, Piris, Da Silva, Veron, Marecos, Vera (
Estigarribia 64'), Ortigoza, V. Caceres (H.Perez 64'), Riveros, Valdez, Zeballos (Barrios 76')

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, July 22, 2011

Copa America Final

URUGUAY v PARAGUAY
Sunday 16:00  Buenos Aires, Argentina

Uruguay and Paraguay
are getting ready to fight it out for the Copa America on Sunday in Buenos Aires.

It has been a cup of shocks, with Argentina, Brazil and Colombia surprisingly falling by the wayside, but in the end two consistent sides who qualified for the 2010 World Cup have reached the final.




Two rapier strikes from Luis Suarez ended the Peruvian adventure, while Paraguay needed spot-kicks to kill off the Vinotintos of Venezuela.




Interestingly, Paraguay have yet to win a game in normal time but are in the final. They last won the Copa in 1979, Uruguay in 1995. Another win for the Uruguayans would make them the most successful nation in the competition's history, leapfrogging Argentina's 14 trophies.

In their five respective games so far, Paraguay have out-passed Uruguay 1447 to 1060, but the Uruguayans have narrowly outscored them six to five and had 25 shots on target to Paraguay's 22.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kick Murdoch out of Football too

Kick Murdoch out of Football: A personal view

One story has been suffocating all other news in Britain this week - the phone hacking furore surrounding Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Kick Murdoch out of Football too.
Murdoch
Journalists have been arrested, senior policemen have resigned, politicians of both main parties are scrambling to deny their links to News International, Hugh Grant has led the prosecution and tonight comes news of the sudden death of a whistle blower.

Murdoch's minions had been tapping around 4,000 mobile phones, including those of Prince William and the Prime Minister no less. The largest-selling Sunday newspaper, the 168 year-old News of the World (NOTW), was abruptly axed last weekend after advertisers had taken flight while Rupert himself faces the UK parliament tomorrow. It is high drama.

Football has been a useful tool for Murdoch. Realising its popularity, his Sun & NOTW 'newspapers' have been trawling the gutter for years and done their best to make footballers' and managers' private lives and sexual behaviour public property.

Not For Sale
Not For Sale
Murdoch's TV station Sky's 1993 creation of the Premiership brought an influx of foreign stars and renovated stadia, but also inconvenient kick-off times and vastly inflated ticket prices, while player salaries also soared to obscene levels. Why should football cost £45 a match in England but nearer £10 in Germany? And how can anyone spend £200,000 every week?

Sky's 'whole new ball-game' created a chasm between the top division and the rest which had not existed before, and while plenty of new fans bought into their 'year zero' hype, they priced out many older fans and did little to help the English national team as clubs flooded their ranks with overseas imports.

The nadir was reached in 1989 following the death of 96 Liverpool supporters at the FA Cup semi-final in Hillsborough. Murdoch's Sun splashed a front page "THE TRUTH" claiming Merseyside fans had stolen from and urinated on their dying colleagues. To say public reaction was outraged would be putting it mildly. But although no apology was forthcoming and Murdoch never said sorry, Liverpool sales of his best-selling rag never recovered.

At least in 1998 the Monopolies and Mergers Commission blocked Murdoch's attempts to take over Manchester United, a terrifying prospect, but his influence in football remains strong.

Starving him of money was the only way to fight Murdoch and I have tried to avoid giving his empire a penny. I have never bought a Sky subscription, I don't read his newspapers and I avoid his websites. Murdoch's unelected influence on British life and civility has been toxic for years and his interest in football is purely as an exploiter.

Rupert
Rupert
Once a Times writer, who now holds a senior position at the BBC, asked me to share quotes from an interview with a big-name manager, a normal practice amongst journalists. I took his details but did not call him back: I don't deal with Murdoch.

Another time I conducted an interview at a footballer's house and published it as an exclusive. Then the quotes appeared in The Sun, unattributed. The hack in question never replied to my email asking why and threatening legal action if repeated.

I once told another Sun scribe in a Premier League press room to leave Wayne Rooney alone as his rag was harassing England's best player over his private life in the run-up to a World Cup finals. He laughed, thinking I was joking.

For far too long, everybody from politicians to policemen to newspaper readers have indulged and tolerated a now proven criminal organisation that has wielded huge unelected power. Former Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks, who was arrested by police yesterday, intimidated elected members of parliament by threatening exposes of their private lives if they persisted asking her questions.

The Sun
The Sun
What were footballing figures doing in bed with News International? Gary Lineker for instance was writing a column for the NOTW up until its demise. Why did so many players take Murdoch's shilling for quotes or ghost-written pieces while complaining at the same time that their privacy was being invaded?

There are no excuses anymore. Public light has at last shone on this vile man and his immoral empire and the allegations of wrongdoing get worse every day. Deleting voicemails of a missing girl who was subsequently found murdered was bad enough, as was hacking the phones of families of terrorism victims, but now we learn Murdoch's organisation was paying the Metropolitan Police to keep schtum.

If football had any shame it would usher Sky out of the Premier League and ban News International from its press boxes, though pigs might fly.

I don't claim any credit for my miniscule acts of resistance, but I would like to think my little snowballs contributed in a small way to the glorious avalanche now enveloping Murdoch's dark empire.

Football could live quite happily without him.

- Sean O'Conor

(This is a personal opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of Soccerphile)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crazy Copa goes on as Brazil go out

Crazy Copa

BRAZIL 0:0 PARAGUAY aet; Paraguay won 2-0 on penaltiesCHILE 1:2 VENEZUELA Vizcarrondo 34' (0-1), Suazo 69' (1-1), Cichero 80' (1-2)

After Colombia and hosts Argentina exited on Saturday, Sunday's 2011 Copa America claimed the biggest scalp of all - Brazil. Much fancied Chile also lost, 2-1 to Venezuela, emerging like Peru as the surprise package of the tournament.

The seleçao lost 2-0 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in La Plata. Both sides had a player sent off, Lucas for Brazil, Antolin Alcaraz for Paraguay. But Brazil were undoubtedly on top for the 120 minutes, while Paraguay failed to register a single shot on target. Ganso, Neymar and Alexandre Pato spurned fine chances to score.
Brazil amazingly then lost all rhythm in the spot-kicks, missing four through Elano, Thiago Silva, Andre Santos and Fred.

Venezuela reached the last four of the Copa for the first time with strikes from
Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Gabriel Cichero. The Vinotintos are on a roll after their two late goals in their final group game against Paraguay, whom they meet again on Wednesday, this time for a place in the final.



Semi-Finals

Tues: PERU v URUGUAY 21:45 La Plata
Weds: PARAGUAY v VENEZUELA 21:45 Mendoza

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

All-Nippon glory in Germany

FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP FINAL 2011
JAPAN 2:2 USA aet; 1-1 at 90 mins, Japan won 3-1 on penalties.
Morgan 69', Miyama 81', Wambach 104', Sawa 117'
Frankfurt 48,817

Nippon
Nippon
Japan's first football World Cup.
An action-packed final and a great advert for the women's game. An even bigger night for Asian soccer and the Japanese women's team - the Nadeshiko are the new world champions, the first ever Asians in the men's or women's game to win the biggest prize.

What a narrative the final contest took. The USA looked like running away with it from the off. They almost scored in the first 30 seconds and for about a quarter of an hour Japan looked like nervous minnows who did not know what they were doing in a World Cup Final.


Nippon
Champions
Faster, higher, stronger, the Olympic motto, could have been applied to Pia Sundhage's team. Using their physical superiority the Americans had Japan on the ropes and it only seemed a matter of time before the floodgates would open for a torrent of goals.

Lord knows they tried to score, but Abby Wambach's thunderous shot against the underside of the crossbar just short of the half-hour was the closest the US came to breaking the deadlock.

The Japanese must have been glad to see half-time. Even at 0-0 the Americans seemed well in control and needing only to carry on plugging away until luck would shine on them in front of goal. In the pacy winger Heather O'Reilly, the mountainous custodian Hope Solo and the imperious No.9 Wambach, the US possessed three players the Japanese could not deal with adequately.

Goal
Goal
The US had dominated in shots and possession and had pressed the Japanese so effectively the blue shirts were hitting hopeful long balls from the middle, if they were lucky enough to get past halfway.

America began the second half where they had left off, unimpeachable at the back and powering up the wings to cross for their big centre-forward to cause havoc; an effective if inelegant approach betraying US Soccer's Anglo-Saxon roots and the athleticism of its domestic sports culture. Their first goal was a route one special and their second a simple cross and power-header.

Japan were different, playing short and quick passes to feet. Even in the midst of an onslaught and in the tightest of spaces, they would try to tiki-taka their way out of trouble.

Sundhage did not lose her Scandinavian cool but equally showed her joy or frustration at times on the touchline. Nadeshiko coach Norio Sasaki was in contrast unflappable throughout, never giving an inch to shows of emotion throughout the two-hour rollercoaster. What a sound constitution he must have.

Sasaki's cool strategy won out in the end, and his inner zen was shared by h
is players, who maintained their patient build-up from the back despite twice falling behind. By contrast, the Americans, who had taken a deserved lead through Alex Morgan's unerring missile in the 69th minute, panicked into conceding in the 81st minute in a defensive cock-up which allowed Aya Miyama to stab home.

Japan were level again in more ways than one, more comfortable in finding space and letting their natural passing game unfurl itself once more with the physical fright of the first half fading away. Growing in confidence with each passing minute, the Japanese ensured the US knew they were not willing to cave in.

And so to extra-time and the US started again the brighter. Morgan pulled a chance wide before crossing in the 104th minute for Wambach to thump home a header, her 50th headed goal. The US had been ropy in not winning it in the 90 but now they had another chance to seal the Cup.

But Japan kept knocking at the door, refusing to budge psychologically from their victory mission. Yukari Kinga almost chipped in an equaliser before midfielder Homare Sawa popped up again when it mattered to flick a Miyama corner cleverly past Solo with the back of her boot. It was three minutes before the end of regulation extra-time.

With seconds left a red card for
Azusa Iwashimizu who scythed down a raiding Morgan on the edge of the box, but the resulting free-kick failed to find the target.

Relentless to the last, the Japanese had withstood the early storm and twice pegged back the apparently superior Americans. When the US missed their first three penalty kicks against Japan's diminutive keeper Ayumi Kaihori it was clear who had finished the match psychologically in the ascendant.

Saki Kumagai rifled the winning kick into the top corner and the World Cup was Japan's. Sawa won the tournament's golden boot with five goals and was also crowned Player of the Tournament.

The Nadeshiko earned their tournament the hard way, first pipping China to qualify, then beating the much-fancied hosts in Wolfsburg and brushing aside Sweden 3-1 in the semi-final before fighting the USA to the wire and eventually beating them for the first time in 25 attempts.

"Not one of the players gave up," said Sasaki quite honestly.

Gambare Nippon? You certainly did.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


World Cup Posters

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Argentina and Colombia crash out the Copa

COPA AMERICA 2011

Copa America.
Copa America


COLOMBIA 0-2 PERU aet

ARGENTINA 1-1 URUGUAY aet; 1-1 at 90mins; Uruguay won 5-4 on penalties.

Peru and Uruguay are the surprise semi-finalists after Colombia and host nation Argentina fell by the wayside yesterday.

The Peruvians needed two extra-time goals in Cordoba to overcome Colombia, who hit the woodwork twice adn missed a second-half penalty through Falcao.

Peru's Carlos Lobaton rifled in one of the goals of the tournament after Colombia goalkeeper Luis Martinez palmed a cross into his path. With the coffee-growers piling forward in search of a leveller, Juan Vargas killed the game in the 111th minute on the counter.

Peru, bottom of CONMEBOL qualifiers for the last World Cup, are now in the last four of the Copa America for the first time since 1983. Their enigmatic coach Sergio Makarian, who is fond of biblical references, did not disappoint again:

"Glory to God for this victory!" he said, adding with no sense of irony,
"Today we have taken a big step, not only in the Copa America, but for the world!"

The big clash in Santa Fe did not disappoint, with thrills and spills aplenty and the eventual elimination of the host nation.

Uruguay took the lead in the sixth minute through Diego Perez but Argentina equalised ten minutes later when Gonzalo Higuain nodded Lionel Messi's curling ball beyond Uruguayan custodian Fernando Muslera. Perez turned from hero to villain with a red card before half-time, a punishment matched by Javier Mascherano for a tackle on Luis Suarez near the end of the 90 minutes.

Argentina missed a string of chances in extra-time before losing on penalties when Carlos Tevez's kick was saved.




Peru and Uruguay square up in the semi-final on Tuesday.

Today: Brazil v Paraguay, Chile v Venezuela

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Their Dream is Over

FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualification

Brasil.
Brasil
Their Dream is Over.
World Cup qualification
It might seem a world away, but for some countries, the 2014 World Cup has already finished.

Qualifiers for the finals in Brazil began in June, and these nations will be watching FIFA's big party on television having been eliminated:

Afghanistan

Anguilla

Aruba

British Virgin Islands
Cambodia

Chinese TaipeiEast TimorMacaoMongoliaPakistanSri Lanka
Turks and Caicos

And at the end of today, Montserrat look likely to join them, trailing Belize 5-2 from their home leg.


Their Dream is Over.
World Cup Qualification

With just over three years before the finals in Brazil, the tournament's top gunner is Vietnamese hot-shot Lê Công Vinh with seven goals, followed by the Bahamas' Lesly St.Fleur with five.

South American qualification begins in October, Africa and Oceania in November 2011 and Europe in August 2012.

On the 29th of July, FIFA will determine the inter-federation playoffs at the end of normal qualification and on the 30th will make the draw for UEFA, CAF and CONMEBOL qualifiers.

The breakdown of finalists is thus:

Brazil (hosts), Europe 13, Africa 5, Asia 4 or 5, South America 4 or 5, North & Central America 3 or 4, Oceania 0 or 1.


(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, July 15, 2011

Copa America Quarter-Finals

Copa America Quarter-Finals

Copa America.
Copa America
Sat 16th July
A) Colombia v Peru 16:00
B) Argentina v Uruguay 19:15

Sun 17th July
C) Brazil v Paraguay 16:00
D) Chile v Venezuela 19:15

Semi-finals:
19th July A v B, 20th July C v D;
Final: 24th July


It's still all set for a traditional Brazil v Argentina final on the 24th of July but Argentina's ropey form in their first two games means the hosts' passage to Buenos Aires is less than certain.

In their path stand Uruguay, World Cup semi-finalists last summer, and fast-improving Colombia, who had the better of the Albiceleste in their 0-0 draw in Santa Fe.

That said, Argentina improved massively come their crucial last game, sweeping aside Costa Rica 3-0 with ease, although it must be said the Central American guests were not pressing as eagerly as you would have expected from a competitor.

Brazil, who also began with two draws, found their shooting boots on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over Ecuador, Alexandre Pato and Neymar bagging braces.

Facing the seleçao on Sunday are Paraguay, who qualified in third-place from Group B despite conceding two goals in the final three minutes to Venezuela.

Although they have had fewer attempts on target than any of the 11 other teams in Argentina, the Venezuelans could be the dark horse of the Copa. Having drawn 0-0 with Brazil in their opening game, they could get a second crack at them in the semi-final if they can overcome Group C winners Chile in their quarter-final. Easier said than done perhaps, as the Chileans have made almost twice as many successful passes as Venezuela this tournament. Only the big two have passed more.

Uruguay have been quiet so far with draws against Chile and Peru and a 1-0 win over Mexico's B-team, and while their forward line of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez is still one to fear and the historical weight of a clash with Argentina should lift them, the hosts should have woken up by the time of their meeting in Santa Fe.



Top Scorers: Brazil 6, Paraguay 5, Argentina, Chile & Venezuela 4, Colombia & Uruguay 3
Golden Boot: Aguero (ARG) 3, Neymar (BRA), Pato (BRA), Guerrero (PER) & Caicedo (ECU) 2


© Soccerphile.com

Thursday, July 14, 2011

View from the US: Women's World Cup Semi-Final France v USA

Women's World Cup Semi-Final France v USA

13 July 2011. Mooenchengladbach, Germany. Steady drizzle. Pitch: very good.

Three perfect touches: Lloyd's backheel down the line to Heather O'Reilly, whose cross behind the French back line and the goalkeeper allowed Cheney to come in and deftly steer the ball inside the far post. The finish was particularly high-quality as Cheney was nearside of the near post when she made contact with the ball.
So a great start for the US then, but the French dominated possession after that for the whole of the first half, with centre back Sauerbrunn's inclusion at the expense of the suspended Rachel Buehler has looked a wise decision. Buehler's red card against Brazil in the quarters was considered unjust in the view of many Americans, but she did pull Marta's shirt. By half time France had outshot the US 13 to 5.

Japan.


Coach Bruno Bini brought Le Sommer on and took the ineffective Delie off at the start of the second half. The impressive Thiney, now with her kit on (she had posed naked to stir up interest in the women's game in France, apparently successfully), is put through by the skillful Necid. Instead of hitting the ball first time with her left foot, Thiney cuts inside and Krieger defends well once more. It is not unsurprising that the Americans have not taken control of the midfield given that their opponents are playing a more modern crowd-the-midfield game. Penetrating runs by either team are at a premium however. The American front pair of Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez cannot keep the ball, so the French attack of three in a line, very narrow, in the seam behind the defensive mids, keeps getting the ball back. Notable before Frances' equalizer were Sandrine Soubeyrand's long-range shot, and Abily's header saved by US keeper Hope Solo.
In the end a long diagonal by French left back Bompastor went untouched inside the far post. 1 – 1.

After an hour of play France are still dominating possession. The US has not strung four passes in a row since their ninth minute goal. The Finnish referee (Kirsi Heikinnen: would she prefer the US over France to reach the final in order to defeat the Swedes, should they make it?) decides not to award a penalty for handball against the Americans in the 63rd minute, and then everything changes in the 66th.

Megan Rapinoe (she of the last gasp cross which led to Wambachs' 122nd minute equalizer against Brazil in the quarter-finals) is brought on and Lauren Cheney moves into midfield. Playing on the left flank, every time Rapinoe gets the ball there's danger for the French. Her introduction to the game should be a lesson to all coaches and players. It isn't just a matter of "fresh legs". On a technical level it shows that if you can receive the ball with a great first touch so that you can set yourself for an easy second touch, your defender will drop off you a metre or two. Tactically, if you get yourself in an inside forward's position, diagonal outside runs away from the defender mean you will stretch the defence laterally, thus allowing fellow forwards more space to run into across the whole attack line. The US suddenly, with this substitution, have plenty of possession. They force a corner and Abby Wambach's 79th minute huge leap at the far post means she sends the header crashing into the French goal. 2 – 1.

It is Rapinoe's influence again which allows her to flick the ball under pressure to youngster Alex Morgan. Morgan cleverly takes two forward touches to draw French keeper Sapowicz, and then chips in from an acute angle. Nice finish. 3 – 1.

The question for Team USA coach Pia Sundahge is this: given Rapinoe's superior reading, touch and movement, why is she only being brought on at the end of games to rescue her team from the jaws of defeat? Perhaps the answer lies in the comment by the elder stateswoman of the team Abby Wambach, who when asked after the game how the US managed to come back from French domination replied: "Lauren Cheney moving into midfield helped a lot."
It may have done, but only a blind person would be unable to tell that it is Rapinoe who is the game changer on this team.

Next up for the US: the final against Japan, who play something like Barcelona, and in a strangely unfair piece of organizing by FIFA have just played on the Frankfurt pitch where the final will be held. Also, unlike the US team, they don't have the hassle of travelling to get to the venue. Sundhage better be on her game for that game.

Today was the tenth anniversary of FIFA's Anti-Discrimination Day. Two days ago Fox Soccer Channel's Fox Soccer Report, the TV program most closely followed by American and Canadian members of the "soccer family" had Carlos Tevez's possible transfer to Corinthians as its headline segment. This is more important than the World Cup?! It will be interesting to see if Fox will headline transfer rumours in the women's game during the next men's World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

© Peter Rodd & Soccerphile.com

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

US & Japan reach women's final

FIFA Women's World Cup 2011
Semi-finals


JAPAN 3:1 SWEDEN Frankfurt 45,434
USA 3:1 FRANCE
Moenchengladbach, 25,676
Japanese football continues its rise as its women's team reached their first ever World Cup Final today.

Having dispatched the hosts Germany in the quarter-final, the
Nadeshiko swept Sweden aside with aplomb, coming from behind to win by three goals to one. Nahomi Kawasumi's clincher was an exquisite lob from over 30 yards to seal a memorable victory. Sweden's opener on ten minutes was a victory for power and pace but the Japanese passing game triumphed in the end with 14 shots to four and 60% of possession.


Waldstadion


Waiting to spoil the Japanese party in the final however are the traditional giant of the USA, who beat France by the same score today in their semi-final.

In an exciting tussle in Moenchengladbach, the French outshot the Americans 25 to 11 but failed to convert their possession play into goals and succumbed to two strikes in four minutes late in the game. Once again Abby Wambach's aerial prowess proved key, heading the crucial second in the 79th minute to leave France desperately chasing the game.

Sunday's final should prove a fascinating clash of styles with the American power game facing the close-passing orientals. A Japanese victory would prove truly historic, and probably be cheered by the purists. But the experienced Americans must start as favourites and will be keen to add the World Cup to their Beijing Olympic crown.

- Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

FINAL: USA v Japan Sunday 19:45 GMT Frankfurt


World Cup Posters

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Argentina through at a canter

COPA AMERICA 2011: Argentina 3:0 Costa Rica

They had to win to survive, but in the end Argentina qualified comfortably for the last eight of the Copa America with a 3:0 thrashing of Costa Rica in Cordoba.


Argentina


Fears of a humiliating elimination proved unfounded; The Albiceleste never broke a sweat and at with a static Costa Rican defence and a game which was played at almost walking pace at times, the meeting between the hosts and the guests had the whiff of a friendly.

A slow first half warmed up in the closing minutes as Argentina began to cut through the red shirts with ease and pepper the goal from all angles. The breakthrough came when Sergio Aguero, whom coach Sergio Batista admitted after the draw with Colombia he should not have omitted, found the net in first-half injury time chasing up a parried shot.

Psychologically the timing was perfect and after the break the blue and white shirts were in control. Aguero, preferred to Carlos Tevez, steered the ball home from a Lionel Messi through-ball seven minutes after the break to ally any remaining nerves and when Angel Di Maria fired in a third just after the hour it was all over.

Costa Rica's lack of pressing in the middle allowed Messi unusual time and space to pull the strings and remind the many critics of his previous two performances of his magic feet.

So courtesy of a supine guest and the hosts are through and Argentina can breathe again. But sterner tests await.

The Albiceleste play the second team from Group C (Chile, Peru or Uruguay) in their quarter-final in Santa Fe on Saturday night.

Group A Final Points Tally

Colombia 7, Argentina 5, Costa Rica 3, Bolivia 1.

Today: Chile v Peru, Uruguay v Mexico

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mexico take Azteca gold

FIFA U-17 World Cup Final

Fifa U-17 World Cup.
Mexico 2011

Mexico 2:0 Uruguay, Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, 98,943

It all ended sweetly for the host nation as Mexico's Under 17 team won the World Cup in front of a partisan sea of green in the Azteca today.



Azteca
Azteca
Captain Antonio Briseno's goal just after the half hour gave the home team the cushion and Giovani Casillas' breakaway finish in injury time at the end of the 90 sealed a perfect day for El Tri.
Uruguay can count themselves unlucky having hit the post twice but offered little in offensive threat after the break when it was needed. Their final perhaps was their impressive 3-0 elimination of Brazil in the semi. When Uruguay's Juan San Martin frapped the woodwork on the hour it looked like was going to be Mexico's day and with the crowd behind them, their confidence grew.

Azteca gasps turned to roars moments after San Martin's chance as Julio Gomez enter
ed the fray, still sporting the head bandage worn by many fans in homage to his semi-final heroics. The psychological momentum of the game was Mexico's.

With the senior team winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup last month, the capture of the U17 World Cup completes a summer of love for the Central American powerhouse. Perhaps one of the world's great sleeping giants is finally on the road to greatness.

© Soccerphile.com

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bolivia back out as Colombia march on in Copa...US Women beat Brazil in World Cup thriller

Bolivia back out as Colombia march on in Copa

Bolivia became the first nation to be eliminated from the 2011 Copa America, going down 0-2 to Colombia in Santa Fe.

It was Chelsea target Falcao who scored both goals for Los Cafeteros, the first having sprung the Bolivian offside trap high up the field in the 14th minute, and the second a penalty just short of the half hour.


US Women beat Brazil in World Cup thriller


Colombia's victory means they become the first confirmed quarter-finalist in the Copa, and have five days rest until their next game in Cordoba on Saturday.

Argentina's second city is also the venue for tomorrow's make-or-break game for the hosts against Costa Rica. Nothing less than a win will do if the Albiceleste want to avoid an embarrassing first-round elimination.

In the Women's World Cup in Germany, the USA beat Brazil, Marta and all, 5-3 on penalties after a fluctuating 2-2 draw. Daiane's slice past her own goalkeeper Andreia in the second minute had given the Americans the lead, before a Marta penalty in the 68th tied things up. Marta pulled off another wonder goal two minutes into extra-time and her swivelled lob looked to have sent the Brazilians through to the final.

But, mirabile dictu, with the clock on 121 minutes, Andreia flailed at a last-ditch Megan Rapinoe cross and Abby Wambach was waiting to head in an equaliser to send the tie to penalties. Brazil then missed two of their spot-kicks and the US had completed a remarkable turnaround.

Sweden made light work of Australia, winning 3-1 in Augsburg. The Scandinavians advance to meet Japan, conquerors of Germany, in Frankfurt on Wednesday. The US, who play France the same day in Moenchengladbach, must be confident with so many big rivals out of the picture, of adding the World Cup to their Olympic crown next Sunday.

SEMI-FINALS: Japan v Sweden, USA v France

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Japan stun hosts in Womens World Cup

FIFA Womens World Cup 2011 Quarter-Finals

Japan 1:0 Germany aet
France 1:1 England aet; France won 4-3 on penalties

Japan's women's team recorded a famous victory in Wolfsburg by knocking out hosts and World Cup holders Germany 1-0 after extra time, while France needed penalties to get past a dogged England in Leverkusen.


FIFA Womens World Cup 2011


The Japanese victory was a real upset against the favourites, who have not lost a World Cup game since 1999. After a game in which the Germans had the lion's share of chances to score, substitute Karina Maruyama broke the deadlock in the 108th minute, firing into the corner from an acute angle. Japan, despite scoring against the run of play, enjoyed 54% of possession. England were two minutes from a first appearance in the last four when a well-placed shot from Elise Bussaglia took the game into extra-time, leveling Jill Scott's dipping effort on the hour mark. France were probably more deserving of passage overall, but came very close to elimination as they failed to find the England net.

Hope Powell, the Three Lionesses' coach, gambled by making three switches in eight minutes before the French equaliser, leaving Kelly Smith to hobble around in agony for half an hour while other England players pulled up with cramp, unable to be substituted.

The Dunkirk spirit took over however and France continued to fail to make their superiority count. Camile Abily missed their first penalty but Les Bleues advanced after Claire Rafferty pulled her kick wide and England skipper Faye White hit the woodwork.

Sunday: Brazil v USA (Dresden 17:30), Sweden v Australia
(Augsburg 13:00)

Semi-Finals 13th July:
France v Brazil/USA
Japan v Sweden/Australia 


World Cup Posters

© Soccerphile.com

Seleçao share points with Paraguay

Seleçao share points with Paraguay

Copa America 2011, Cordoba

Brazil 2:2 Paraguay


1-0 Jadson 38', 1-1 Santa Cruz 54', 1-2 Valdez 66', 2-2 Fred 89'.Group B could be becoming the group of death in this year's Copa America after a third consecutive draw.

Seleçao share points with Paraguay


Jadson, the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder, gave Brazil a first-half lead with a long-range effort but a shock was soon on the cards after the break as Roque Santa Cruz equalised for Paraguay and then Nelson Haedo Valdez gave La Albirroja the lead in the 66th minute. Substitute Fred spared Brazilian blushes with an equaliser a minute from time.

Ahead of tonight's Ecuador v Venezuela clash, Brazil and Paraguay head the group with two points apiece.

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Lucio, Andre Santos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Leiva, Ramires (Lucas Silva 70'), Paulo Ganso, Jadson (Elano 45'), Pato, Neymar (Fred 81')
Paraguay: Villar, Da Silva, Veron, Alcaraz, Torres, Riveros (Caceres 67'), Vera, Estigarribia (Martinez 78'), Ortigoza, Barrios (Valdez 56'), Santa Cruz

Other results: Chile 1:1 Uruguay, Peru 1:0 Mexico
Sun: Bolivia v Colombia
Tue: Argentina v Costa Rica
Weds: Brazil v Ecuador, Paraguay v Venezuela

Group A points after two games:
Colombia 4, Costa Rica 3, Argentina 2, Bolivia 1
Group C points after two games: Chile 4, Peru 4, Uruguay 2, Mexico 0


© Soccerphile.com

U-17 giants knocked out in semis

U-17 giants knocked out in semis

Mexico.
Mexico
The tournament's two most impressive teams, Brazil and Germany, who had netted a total of 30 goals between them, will be playing for third place after being knocked out of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the semi-finals.

Brazil were not at the races in Guadalajara, falling 3-0 to Uruguay, while the German juggernaut came off the road at last in Torreon, losing 3-2 to hosts Mexico having led 2-1 on the hour.

16 year-old Julio Gomez was the hero of the day, opening the scoring in the third minute with a well-placed header and bandaged up like Mr. Bump, scoring the winner from a bicycle kick in the final minute.

FINAL: Sun 10/07/11 Mexico City, Midnight GMT (18h local time)
MEXICO v URUGUAY
3rd Place Play-Off: Sun 10/07/11 Mexico City 21h GMT (15h local time), Brazil v Germany


© Soccerphile.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Argentina depressed by second Copa draw

Copa America 2011

Argentina 0:0 Colombia

Argentina depressed by second Copa draw.
Argentina v Colombia

The host nation has embarked on a round of navel-gazing following a second successive draw in the Copa America.

On a foggy night in Santa Fe, Argentina, despite boasting the likes of Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez in their lineup, failed to catch fire and stumbled listlessly to a goalless finish with Colombia.

If anything, Los Cafeteros (the coffee growers) should have stolen the three points and enjoyed the better chances, particularly an open-goal miss by Dayro Moreno in the first half.

A limp back-pass by Barcelona's Gabriel Milito had allowed Adrian Ramos a clear run on goal and the Hertha Berlin striker tapped the ball wide of Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero before being scythed down by Nicolas Burdisso for a stonewall penalty.

But the referee played advantage as Moreno was racing in from the left with only a vacant net to hit. Luckily for the hosts the Tijuana striker fired into the side-netting instead.

Ramos had already spurned a chance to give Colombia the lead, Pablo Armero whistled a diagonal effort inches wide and Chelsea target Falcao troubled Romero with a couple of long-range shots.


Argentina v Colombia.
Argentina v Colombia

Messi at one point looked to have injured himself with nobody near him, putting too much pressure on his right leg. The World Player of the Year dazzled at times but his and Tevez's dribbling cameos occurred in isolation as the Albiceleste (White & Sky Blue) put in a disjointed performance devoid of real attacking team-play.


Argentina v Colombia

Argentina might have grabbed a goal in the first half when Napoli marksman Ezequiel Lavezzi was one-on-one with Neco Martinez, but the Colombian goalkeeper stretched out a leg to prevent the strike. After the break substitute striker Gonzalo Higuain cut in dangerously from the left and drew a low save from Martinez at his near post but was the extent of the hosts' threat in front of goal.

"The worst moment of the Batista era" cried 'La Nacion' newspaper in Argentina, piling the pressure onto the beleaguered coach Sergio Batista.


"Batista guides the Titanic towards the iceberg," decided Spain's AS, and "Come back Diego" was the cheeky headline in Brazil's Globodesporte.

Batista in his defence, wondered if his diminutive ball wizards were not the problem rather than the solution: "Maybe we lack a No.9 in the box", he noted.

Argentina's last group game is on Monday against Costa Rica in Cordoba, where only victory will do to ensure passage to the quarter-finals.

ARG - Romero, Zabaleta, Burdisso, Milito, Zanetti, Banega (Higuain 71'), Mascherano, Cambiasso (Gago 64'), Lavezzi (Aguero 64') Messi, Tevez
COL- Martinez, Armero, Perea, Yepes, Zunida, Aguilar, Guarin, Dayro Moreno (Mosquera 91'), Ramos (Soto 89'), Carlos Moreno, Falcao (Gutierrez 87')

Group A
Colombia Pld 2 pts 4
Argentina Pld 2 Pts 2
Bolivia Pld 1 Pts 1
Costa Rica Pld 1 Pts 0

Today: Bolivia v Costa Rica


© Soccerphile.com