Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lion King Still Reigns In Korea

K League
Lion King

It is true to say that in football, the strikers are the ones who get the goals and get the headlines. Goalkeepers can play fantastically well for a full 89 minutes out of a fantastic match but one mistake and all know what the internet and newspapers will focus on.

Lee Dong-guk is one of the biggest stars in the league. It seems that he has been around for ever but he is still scoring goals and lots of them.

As well as 14 in the regular season so far, the Lion King, so named after his hairstyle at the 1998 World Cup when he burst onto the scene, has been on fire in the Asian Champions League. With the continental competition at the last four stage, Lee is now the leading goalscorer in the tournament with eight goals so far to his name.

Incredibly, six of those goals came in two games against Japanese team Cerezo Osaka. Both teams met in the group stage with both games ending 1-0 to the home side. The quarter-final was a completely different story with goals galore. The first leg in Japan ended 4-3 to Cerezo with Lee scoring twice.

The second leg was expected to be similarly close if not with as many goals. Last Tuesday evening at Jeonju World Cup Stadium, the opposite proved to be the case as there were goals galore as Jeonbuk won 6-1 with Lee getting four.

“It is the first time for me to score four goals in an official match,” said Lee. “We really want to win the Asian title but we also have to focus on the K-League.” it was one of the best nights of the player’s career.

It has been a long career and in European eyes, he will always be remembered for a season and a half in the English Premier League with Middlesbrough FC. It wasn’t a happy time for the player. He arrived at the club in January 2007 and within minutes of appearing in the red shirt for the first time, he had a great opportunity to score only to fire a shot against the post. A few centimetres to the left and perhaps things would have turned out differently.

As it was, while he managed to score in cup competitions, Lee never did it where it really matter – in the most popular league in the world. When his name is mentioned these days by the international media, words such as ‘Middlesbrough flop’ or ‘Premier League failure’ are often not far away. He returned to Korea in 2008 and after a brief and unsuccessful spell at Seongnam, he has settle well in Jeonju.

Not as fast, mobile or strong as he used to be due to injuries, especially a serious knee injury that ruled him out of the 2006 World Cup when he was the national team’s star striker and at the peak of his powers, Lee is still able to find the net when it matters. Eight goals so far in the Asian Champions League, he is on course to win the competition’s golden boot. His goals have helped Jeonbuk to the top of the K-League table.

Inevitably a return to the national team is now being discussed. Lee made the 2010 World Cup squad but never made the pitch. New coach Cho Kwang-rae tends to like younger players but has not ruled a Lee return out.

He hasn’t been summoned in the roster for the 2014 World Cup qualifier against UAE next Tuesday in Seoul and it is unlikely that he will be but if he continues to score the goals that give Jeonbuk a second K-League title and a second Asian Champions League win, then the Lion King’s career could have one final twist in the tail.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Platini soothes growing pains of Ukraine

Ukraine Euro 2012

Michel Platini has said he is at last confident Ukraine can host Euro 2012.

Euro 2012.
Euro 2012
After several 'last chance' warnings over the past three years, the UEFA boss can tear a few fewer hairs out now the four stadia do seem to be on track for next summer.

"A year ago, we were deciding whether to leave four or two cities," Platini told reporters on a tour of Kharkiv. "And today we have four cities."

"There are no serious problems in preparing for Euro 2012," he continued, "but there are many minor tasks and problems that need to be solved."

For Platini, a successful Euro 2012 is crucial to his reputation as an organiser of big soccer tournaments as he continues his silent campaign for the FIFA Presidency at some point in the future.

The Frenchman has found the two hosts' lack of infrastructure and slow construction progress compared to western European nations an ongoing headache, and has constantly had to threaten them with being stripped of hosting rights. Spain was the first nation touted as a replacement back in 2008, when World Soccer's Keir Radnedge boldly announced neither Poland nor Ukraine would host Euro 2012.

Then Germany entered the picture, either as sole host or as joint organiser with Poland. Now it is clear UEFA is not turning back and is throwing its cards on the table with the two unknown East European hosts. By rights the tournament should have been Italy's, but the calciopoli scandal and an upsurge in high-profile hooliganism let the duo in through the back door.

It promises to be a unique European Championship, a foretaste perhaps of the 2018 World Cup in neighbouring Russia.

The cheap transport promised to fans facing extraordinarily long journeys between venues (Gdansk to Donetsk is 933 miles/1502 km) yet to materialise.

Next month Platini visits Poland to inspect their venues, with the opening date of Warsaw's new arena still up in the air.

UEFA EURO 2012 8th June -1st July 2012


Warsaw 58,224 (opening game and semi-final)
Gdansk 44,636
Poznan 43,090
Wroclaw 44,416

Kiev 63,195 (semi-final and final)
Donetsk 50,055
Kharkiv 35,721
Lviv 34, 915

Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Italy and ten others to be decided.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fifa World Ranking September 2011

Fifa World Ranking September 2011.
Fifa World Ranking September 2011

Fifa's World Rankings for September 2011 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

2010 World Cup winners Spain are back on top followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Copa America champs Uruguay. England drop to 8th.

Nepal are in 134th place!

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Manchester United Open Training Session

Manchester United Open Training Session

Each year before the start of the season, Manchester United hold an open training session at Old Trafford.

The entrance fee to the event is donated to the Manchester United Foundation.

Fans were addressed by manager Sir Alex Ferguson on the eve of the Community Shield match at Wembley against Manchester City.

After the training session, a youth match - Manchester United Premier Cup - took place between Mexican team Pachuca and Orlando Pirates from South Africa.

Man Utd.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wenger's Job Safe At Arsenal

Arsene Wenger

Arsenal Chief executive (and Man City fan) Ivan Gazidis has ruled out sacking manager Arsene Wenger, despite Arsenal's poor start to the new season, which has left them 50/1 with bookies to win the Premier League.

Wenger's Job Safe At Arsenal

61-year-old Wenger's job security has come under question as the Gunners have won just one of their opening five Premier League games, conceding 14 goals in the process, including four in the 4-3 defeat at Blackburn Rovers last weekend.

However, Gazidis says that making a change is not even an option, with Wenger having been in charge at Arsenal for more than 15 years. Gazidis said at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London: "(Sacking him) is a route we are not going to go down. "We will be unmoved in the way we do things and will not be swayed by talk of a crisis. We need to stick together."

Arsenal already trail champions Manchester United by 11 points, with the Red Devils 4/6 to retain their crown after five wins out of five.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Blue skies over Manchester...?

Manchester City

Man City.
Manchester City have revealed plans for an 80-acre training centre in the shadow of their Eastlands Stadium.

The Blues, riding high in second place in the Premier League, are looking to consolidate their arrival in soccer's rich list, a new era begun when the Abu Dhabi United investment group purchased them three years ago.

Since then a galaxy of stars have arrived in the blue half of Manchester, including Robinho, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero. City ended their 35-year trophy drought by winning the FA Cup last season, and finished third in the league to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time.

With an intriguing all-Manchester tussle for the title brewing, City have a serious chance of becoming English champions for the first time since 1968.

With the imminent UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules, the spending spree cannot go on, so today club submitted a planning application for what it hopes will be a factory of free stars. As well as four pitches for first-team training and up to 400 youngsters will be able to learn their trade at its new facility, which would include a 7,000-seat stadium.

Outside England, United are usually referred to as 'Manchester', but with the sudden surge of the Citizens, all that will have to change.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


Football News: Weekending

Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani
* Reborn Napoli celebrated returning to the top of Serie A with a 3-1 home win over Milan, with echoes of titanic clashes between the north and south's giants in the era of Diego Maradona. Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani scored a hat-trick.

*The quest for a level playing-field in Spain goes on.

After Valencia finished 21 points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid last season and the big two began their 2011-'12 campaign with big thrashings, Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido decided to speak out and campaign for an equitable distribution of TV rights.

But a meeting of club directors in Madrid last week proved fruitless.
Sevilla director general Jose Maria Cruz said the meeting was, “An afternoon tea of pessimists and good for nothings. We only had a praiseworthy defence from Espanyol and Betis. The rest of those that attended have remained silent as if it wasn’t an issue for them.”

With three games gone, Real Betis and Valencia are on 9 points, two ahead of Barcelona, who tanked Osasuna 8-0, and Sevilla. Real Madrid are on six having lost 1-0 at Levante.

*In the Netherlands, FC Twente and AZ Alkmaar top the Eredivisie after six games with 15 points, two ahead of Ajax and Feyenoord. PSV are in fifth with eleven. In Portugal, Porto and Benfica top the Primeira Liga with 13 points from five games.

*Meanwhile in France, Marseille, tipped by some for a title challenge, are at the bottom of Ligue 1 following a 2-0 loss at table-toppers Lyon. Didier Deschamps' OM have drawn three and lost three so far.

*In England, the two Manchesters sit atop the table. United despatched third-place Chelsea 3-1 at Old Trafford, while City squandered a two-goal cushion at Fulham to draw 2-2. Fulham, Bolton and West Brom are in the drop zone with three points; Arsenal, who lost 4-3 at Blackburn, are one ahead on four after five games. Liverpool's title aspirations took a blow in a 0-4 rout at Tottenham.

*Bayern Munich are top of the Bundesliga after six games, two points ahead of Werder Bremen and Borussia Moenchengladbach. Hamburg are bottom with one point.

*In Japan, Gamba Osaka lead the J-League a point ahead of Kashiwa Reysol, while Vasco de Gama lead Sao Paulo by the same amount in Brazil.

*The USA's Major League Soccer has revealed its top ten annual wages packets for 2011:

  1. David Beckham - LA Galaxy $6,500,000
  2. Thierry Henry -New York Red Bulls $5,600,000
  3. Rafa Marques - New York Red Bulls $5,544,000
  4. Landon Donovan - LA Galaxy $2,127,778
  5. Juan Pablo Angel - New York Red Bulls $1,918,000
  6. Nery Castillo - Chicago Fire $1,788,060
  7. Julian De Guzman - Toronto FC $1,717,546
  8. Freddie Ljungberg - Chicago Fire $1,314,000
  9. Mista -Toronto FC $987,337
  10. Branko Boskovic - DC United $516,200
* Eight of the twelve finalists for the 2012 Olympic Games women's football tournament have been decided: Great Britain (England), Japan, North Korea, Brazil, South Africa, Colombia, France and Sweden. Two more will qualify from CONCACAF and one each from CAF (Africa) and Oceania.

- Sean O'Conor

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Man Utd v Chelsea

Man Utd v Chelsea

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Sunday's opponents Chelsea to once again be one of his team's closest challengers for the Premier League title.

United are 6/1 to win 1-0 at Old Trafford. Andre Villas-Boas' side have failed to impress in the league so far this season, although they have taken ten points from their first four matches, and are 11/1 to beat the league leaders 1-0 on Sunday. Ferguson said: "They will be there at the end of the season, there is no doubt about that. At the moment, of course, the two Manchester teams are enjoying the publicity but in the background lurks Chelsea. They don't need the publicity. They will be enjoying being out of the profile at the moment."

Danish keeper Anders Lindegaard is determined to continue to keep the pressure on Manchester United's currently recognised No.1, David de Gea. Despite the Dane's impressive display against Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday evening, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson insists De Gea will be back for Sunday's all-important Premier League clash against Chelsea. United are 6/1 to win 1-0 at Old Trafford. However, the Spaniard's shaky start to his United career, coupled with Lindegaard's emergence, could provide Ferguson with an interesting dilemma. Lindegaard says: "I learned a lot from Edwin van der Sar and I have confidence in my own ability. I came to Manchester United for the challenge to be the first-choice goalkeeper."


Friday, September 9, 2011

Serie A Calcio 2011-2012 Season Preview

Italian Football

With the threat of industrial action on the part of the playing staff in Italy now averted, Serie A returns with AC Milan v Lazio at Molino Dorino. What's the betting Milan can repeat?

Italian Football

Let's look at the teams one by one.

Atalanta look like they will come out in a 4-4-2 with a strengthened defence. Andrea Masiello has exchanged the sunny climes of Bari for the chilly foothills of the Alps.

Bologna are likely to utilize the Christmas tree with Di Vaio the angel at its peak. But will the formation lead to the lack of width that Milan discovered that they had two seasons ago? While Milan brought in Beckham to solve the problem, in my view it's rather unlikely he will be rushing over from LA to help the Bolognesi.

Cagliari, under Donadoni's watchful eye, may use Nene and newly-acquired El Kabir as two wide front men with Cossu breaking through the centre. With the dangerous David Suazo brought in from Inter they should be able to avoid relegation.

Catania have Montella as coach now, but have strangely unloaded Schelotto to Atalanta. The formation seems unclear – a lop-sided 4-4-2, perhaps. They might be heading even farther south - to the reaches of Serie B.

Cesena will place new boy Mutu in front of goal hoping € 5m Eder can help him in the scoring department.

Chievo have bought Perparim Hetemaj from Brescia hoping the Finn can finish like he did with his controlled volley against Roma. Does Jokic have what it takes on the left of midfield to help Pellissier?

Fiorentina's 12-goal hero Gilardino will be fed by Kharja, 26 year-old Andrea Lazzari (from Cagliari) and Montolivo, who stays in Florence (it's amazing that, despite years of his being often the best player on the park, it's only recently that bigger clubs have been taking serious interest in him).

Genoa have made an effort to improve their "goals against" column by bringing in the experienced Sebastian Frey, 31, from Fiorentina. The addition of Birsa (Auxerre), Pratto and Seymour (U. Catolica) provides evidence that Genoa plan to do more than merely survive this time.

Internazionale di Milano have managed to retain Wesley Schneijder (to Manchester United's detriment). So allenatore Gasperini has kept his defence and midfield intact. Up front, the decision to unload Samuel Eto'o seems odd indeed: the mobility of the attack may well be impaired. How long will it take Ricky Alvarez to adapt to the tiny spaces afforded by Italian defences, compared with the wide grasslands found in Argentina? But then they've now got Diego Forlan .. South American Champion as well as the best player in the 2010 World Cup.

Juventus, the creaky Old Lady, is going to be the most interesting team to watch this season, I predict. The fans (perhaps forgetting that he can land a ball on a one euro coin from fifty metres)
are already moaning about the acquisition of the elderly Pirlo from Milan. But the dangerous Vucinic will probably play in the middle of a front four (yes, you read that right: I understand it's a return to the 1960s with a 4-2-4!!). So expect goals, goals, goals ... at both ends of the field.

Lazio now have great experience in attack with Miroslav Klose (from Bayern Munchen) and Cisse (Panathinaikos) brought in as front men in a probable 4-3-1-2 with Hernanes and Ledesma behind as the spine of the team.

Lecce have brought in on loan Roma's goalkeeper Julio Sergio. Nearly all of their summer transfers are loan deals or frees, and the fact that they have spent only € 1.6m must reflect the state of their finances. One fears for their safety this season.

Milan (and/or the Italian press) have been keeping everyone on tenterhooks this summer by talking about a mysterious possible signing called "Mister X" (commonly presumed to be either Montolivo or Hamsik). In the end, former Liverpool player Acquilani has been brought in to cover for the loss of Pirlo to Juve. How long can Milan continue with the ageing Gattuso and Ambrosini in midfield? Perhaps it doesn't matter when you have such a stellar forward line.

Napoli, drawn in the same fascinating Champions League "group of death" (Group A) as Manchester City, with Villareal and Bayern, will provide serious opposition to any opponent this season. Confidence is high. Gokhan Inler and power-shooter Marco Donadel have been brought into midfield, and the team will continue with Cavani, Lavezzi, and Hamsik up front.

Novara might be favourites for the drop, but they have an all-new front three "attacco M": Morimoto, Mazzarani, and Meggiorini.

Palermo now have Eran Zahavi from Hapoel, who will possibly appear on the right of midfield in front of Cassani to support forwards Hernandez and the excellent Fabrizio Miccoli (what is it about the Italian national team selectors that they don't pick Miccoli automatically?)

Parma will hope Graziano Pelle (bought from AZ Alkmaar for a million) will help Crespo and Giovinco score more goals than the team lets in at the other end.

Roma have spent big this summer, and new coach Luis Enrique has managed to lure the sought after Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg to the Italian capital. Bojan Krkic (Barca) and Lamela (River) could be the wide men at the front of a 4-3-3. As yet we don't know whether this will be a true 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 (or even a 4-6). Where will Argentinian Pablo Osvaldo (Espanol) fit in? Roma will be interesting to watch.

Siena are expected to employ a traditional 4-4-2 with Zeljko Brkic in goal, D'Agostino in midfield, and Destro brought in from Genoa. Siena have been (on occasion) exciting to watch when at home. Can they survive this time?

Udinese's strengths and weaknesses were plain for all to see in their recent matches against Arsenal. Prior to the match in London the team looked relaxed as they were spotted strolling the gardens of Regents Park and were unlucky to lose to Walcott's solitary goal. In Udine, though, their over-reliance on the brilliant Di Natale was evidenced, despite Pinzi's great range of passing. Coach Francesco Guidolin is going to have to quickly stifle the psychological blow of losing Sanchez to Barcelona if Udinese are to emulate last term's excellent showing.

© Peter Rodd &