Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fifa World Rankings December 2012

Fifa World Rankings December 2012

Fifa's World Rankings for December 2012 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

Euro 2012 winners Spain end the year on top of the FIFA rankings followed by Germany, Argentina, Italy, Colombia, England and then Portugal and Holland. Russia and Croatia round out the top ten spots. Copa America champions Uruguay are 16th, while Brazil remain out of the top 10 in 18th, their lowest ever ranking.

Fifa World Rankings December 2012

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ulsan 1 Monterrey 3 Club World Cup

Ulsan 1 Monterrey 3 Club World Cup

On a freezing night at Toyota Stadium, Mexico's CF Monterrey defeated Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 in front of a sparse crowd of 20,000 spectators wrapped up against the winter chill.

Ulsan 1 Monterrey 3 Club World Cup Toyota

Monterrey lead at the break thanks to a tap in from Jesus Corona after the ball was pulled back to him at the near post. After a bright start ACL champions Ulsan never looked likely to match the neat one touch football and pleasing triangles of their Central American opponents.

Ulsan 1 Monterrey 3 Club World Cup

Two goals by Argentinian striker Cesar Delgado, the first after a scintillating exchange of passing had carved open the K-League side's defence put the result beyond doubt before a long shot from Asian Champions League MVP Lee Keunho bounced through the hands of Monterrey's keeper Jonathan Orozco, who was probably suffering from extreme cold as the snow began to fall and an Arctic breeze blew through the ground.

Toyota Stadium, Club World Cup

Monterrey will now face European Champions Chelsea in Yokohama on Wednesday while Ulsan face Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Fifth Place Play Off after the J-League champions went down 2-1 to Egypt's Al-Ahly in the second game of tonight's double header at Toyota Stadium.

There was a 90 minute interval between the two games and supporters were not allowed to exit the stadium to attend the Fan Fest outside and then re-enter. Organizers need to address how supporters are to keep warm on such a cold night between matches.

Toyota Stadium Nagoya Club World Cup

Video Highlights


Friday, November 30, 2012

George's Premier League Predictions

George's Premiership Predictions.
George's Premier League Predictions

This week Uncle Jake is standing in for George, who is on a week long sabbatical, with some unpredictable predictions.

Saturday 1 December 2012

West Ham United 1 v Chelsea 1
Manchester City 2 v Everton 1
West Bromwich Albion 1 v Stoke City 0
Fulham 1 v Tottenham Hotspur 2
Arsenal 1 v Swansea City 1
Liverpool 3 v Southampton 1 ‎
Queens Park Rangers 1 v Aston Villa 2
Reading 1 v Manchester United 3 ‎ ‎

Sunday 2 December 2012

Norwich City 1 v Sunderland 0

Monday 3 December 2012

Newcastle United 0 v Wigan Athletic 0
Last time's Premier League predictions


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Manchester United 3 - 1 Queens Park Rangers

Manchester United 3 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
24 November 2012
Ref Lee Probert

Mark Hughes, former hero of Old Trafford and spender of £37 million, was ousted from his position as manager of QPR as Henry James Redknapp made himself available for the post and last week's loss against fellow strugglers Southampton made Hughes' continuation untenable. Harry watched this one from the stand as Mark Bowen stood in as interim manager.

Fletcher is back for Manchester United and he immediately effects a give and go on the end of the box. Will QPR miss the trio of Granero, Diakite and Hoilett, all on the bench today? They do start Mackie however, so there should be some forward movement from the west London team. Indeed there are five changes from last week's loss in the visitors' line up.

To cheer the travelling support, Taraabt half moons a United player, then slide tackles another. Ferdinand (Rio) slips, and gives an indication why Man U haven't kept a clean sheet in their last ten games.

The Manchester United Trinity
Bobby Charlton, George Best & Denis Law
It's a dodgy start for other famous names as Scholes could easily have been sent off with only ten minutes on the clock. Even earlier Cesar was scolded for wearing the wrong colour undershorts, indicating a lack of consistency on his part.

15' In seemingly Van Persie's first involvement in the game - is there a pattern here? - Scholes gets in on the 6-yard line, but he's tackled cleanly.
19' Taraabt looks like the kid on the playground who wants to dribble every time he gets the ball, and it's this predictability that leads him to be robbed of the ball by Scholes.

20' Taraabt shoots from too far out with an overlap available on the right. 'Arry will surely sort this out on the training ground.

26' Scholes should shoot here, but instead lays the ball off to Young in a worse position.

27' It's not Scholes' best day at the office as Mackie cleverly strips him of the ball as he tried a pullback turn.

29' United are very wasteful in possession, given they've had about three-quarters of it, and this is exemplified by Evra's feeble attempt to pass the ball through a convocation of QPR players. But Evra's day is not as consistently as poor as Scholes' and his pass and move via Van Persie leads to danger for the hard-working QPR team. 35' Rooney shows us that he is on the pitch by shooting straight at Cesar from the edge of the box.

36' It's QPR who have the ball in United's net as Cisse crosses for Mackie to finish, but it's called back for offside.

40' In a continuing saga, Ashley Young is angrily confronted by opponents as the wake from his dive splashes their sensitivities.

43' The vaunted 'good players' that comprise QPR's team show us at last that they can string ten passes together around the uninterested United team members. Van Persie puts a stop to it in the end.

Half time 0 - 0.

Half time team talk.

Ferguson: Move the ball quicker, and f*•πing work harder.
Bowen: Keep calm and Harry on.

From the kick off, United reveal a new tactic: play the ball over the top of the R's defence. It doesn't work as the QPR back four continue to have a splendid game. An unusual happening occurs in the 47th minute. Rooney is embarrassed by Julio Cesar as the United man rushes to dispossess the keeper who has the ball at his feet from a backpass: Cesar clips the ball sharply with the outside of his left foot and the England international shoots past.

51' Goal. There is a corner on the left for QPR. It's taken short. Dyer is completely unmarked. He easily beats Van Persie and Jamie Mackie knocks in Lindegaard's spill.

Manchester United 0 - 1 QPR.

It's the thirteenth time United have conceded first this season.

54' At last Scholes gets his weekly yellow card as he hacks down Dyer outside the box. Taraabt fires over.

57' The ref now remembers he is carrying a card, so Mbia gets awarded one as Evra seems to dive.

Fergie puts on Anderson and Hernandez. At the very least they are bound to be as effective as the players who've been on for the first two-thirds of the match.

59' In a moment that seems might be important later on, after a 3 on 3 Dyer refuses a chance to shoot .. and the chance of a goal is gone. Two-nil might've been quite nice for the Londoners at this point.

60' Traore off. Ferdinand (Anton) on at left back.

63' Goal. Evans scores from one yard after Welbeck's knock down at the far post.

Manchester United 1 - 1 QPR.

65' Fletcher's 35-yard piledriver wakes up a taciturn Old Trafford crowd. 67' Goal. Fletcher's header from a perfect Rooney corner. Easy peasy.

Manchester United 2 - 1 QPR.

69' Taraabt shoots wide.

70' Goal. Anderson picks up the ball in his own half, surges forward, his vertical pass is received by Hernandez, whose sublime first touch with his left foot sets up a half-volley for his right. Technical and energetic super subs, and a happy Ferguson gets it right again.

Manchester United 3 - 1 QPR.

78' Welbeck's off and Powell's on.

83' Faurlin's off and Granero's on in the cold Manchester rain sitting at the bottom of the Premier League pile instead of turning out for Real Madrid.

87' QPR haven't quite given up completely as at-last-he's-on Hoilett's shot leads to a corner that leads to the head of Hill and that leads to the well-placed Rafael clearing off his own line.

United are better than most (or all) of the other teams in this league and it's as if they don't like to start to play without evening it up a little by giving their opponents a lead. Still, a win is a win. And with their two main rivals Chelsea and Manchester City ready to kick lumps out of each other tomorrow in west London, they will have a satisfying Saturday night.

QPR had some good player performances here, but that's what their team is right now: a bunch of discrete individuals. It's not a given that Redknapp can save them, but he must have noticed the first rung of the ladder obscured as it was in the Manchester rain.

Peter Rodd

Friday, November 23, 2012

George's Premier Predictions November 24 2012

George's Premier Predictions November 24 2012

Last time out, George got 4 results right including 1 perfect score. George will hope for better this time.

George's Premier Predictions November 24 2012

Saturday 23 November 2012

Sunderland 1 v West Bromwich Albion 2 ‎
Wigan Athletic 1 v Reading 1 ‎
Stoke City 2 v Fulham 1 ‎
Everton 1 v Norwich City 0 ‎
Manchester United 2 v Queens Park Rangers 0 ‎
Aston Villa 2 v Arsenal 3 ‎

Sunday 25 November 2012

Swansea City 2 v Liverpool ‎1
Southampton 1 v Newcastle United ‎1
Chelsea 0 v Manchester City ‎0
Tottenham Hotspur 1 v West Ham United ‎ ‎0
Last time's Premier League predictions


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Futsal World Cup Final Brazil 3 - 2 Spain

Futsal World Cup
Futsal World Cup Final

Brazil 3 - 2 Spain 18 November 2012

Ref Hector Rojas (Peru)

Huamark Indoor Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand.

If Barack Obama had timed his visit to Thailand to coincide with this world cup final he must have been too busy to attend. Either that or he couldn't get a ticket. In any case the POTUS missed an interesting and exciting contest between the world's two top teams.

Early on in the game, Spain controlled possession somewhat easily and looked worthy of the title of number one team in the world. Yet it was Neto (Bra) who looked to be the most inventive player. Brazil came close to conceding a goal in these early stages, but Vinicius (Bra) blocked the ball on his own goal line. Vinicius is proving to be an important yet aggressive player as Aicardo's (Spa) very quick outside pullback turn leads to a foul by the Brazilian.

A vicious foul by Je (Bra) on Lozano (Spa) amazingly does not result in a card for the Brazilian as the Spaniard in tears of pain is helped from the court. A shot on the turn by Fernandao (Spa) at an acute angle is the first of many by him in a flurry of shots as Brazil's 1-3-1 formation is put to the test.

It's not surprising that it is Brazil who take the first time out with about 6:55 remaining in the first period. It seems to have paid dividends as Brazil come more into the game and Ari at last manages to get an off-target shot on Spain's goal.

Brazil are getting more possession now, and in an exciting moment Rafael shoots the ball from under teammate Je's foot. The ball is too high to worry Spain's keeper Juanjo however, which is just as well as he was moving the wrong way. With 1:26 left in the first half, it's Spain's turn to have their time out. This one also seems to work, as, on the resumption of play, Fernandao's flick is just wide of the Brazilian goal.

At the end of the first half it is 0 - 0, though Spain should easily be ahead given the number of shots they've had.

It's a bright start for the Brazilians in the second half as they look as though the half-time repose has rejuvenated them more than their Iberian opponents. But there is an extra element that has come into play in Brazils' favour, their "nuclear option": the introduction onto the court of Falcao, for years now the world's best player.

He shoots from distance, the ball whistling just wide of Juanjo's right post. Then, from a corner, Je, shedding his thug persona for a moment, hits the ball on the full, but the impressive Spaniard Kike blocks.

Je shoots again, Kike blocks again. Brazil look the better team now - and it's all down to the skill, vision and movement of one man: Falcao. It's his flick behind the standing leg that leads to a corner. The ball is played back up the line and Neto rockets the shot inside the far post. Brazil 1 - 0 Spain.

Vinicius reminds us that all that propaganda about the marvellous, skillful, Brazilians often ignores the violent and cheating side to their game; he dives for the second time in this match to get Kike booked. This is serious in futsal as the sixth booking and subsequent bookings mean a penalty against your team. 11:13 left in the game and Spain have had 27 shots.

More shenanigans from Brazil as Ari is booked for an off-the-ball incident. Brazil rightly pay for this - from the resulting free kick Miguelin's shot is blocked but Spain's number 4 Torras follows up and finishes near post.

Brazil 1 - 1 Spain.

Back come Brazil with Gabriel shooting across the face. From a corner the excellent Aicardo shoots and Brazil keeper Tiago attempts a kick save but it goes in. Brazil 1 - 2 Spain.

Falcao is back on court for Brazil .. and they need him as Spain press forward with Torras' half-volley on the turn saved, then Torras hits the bar after a free kick.

Falcao!! The ageing maestro receives the ball about 15 metres out and hammers into the top left-hand corner. Great goal: precision and power. Brazil 2 - 2 Spain.

A sweeping move, Ari to Je to Rafael whose shot is blocked. So it's 2 - 2 at full time, just as it was four years ago in Rio.

Extra time. This game has heated up, as have the players given the failure of the air-conditioning system in the stadium; pretty poor for a World Cup Final.

Brazil are favourites now that Spain have committed 5 card fouls, so one more and Brazil go to the penalty mark. A pullback L by Falcao brings a cheer from the crowd. Though Brazil are pressing high up the court, there is more cheating from the Latin Americans as Neto is "fouled" by Fernandao. Penalty. But the Spanish keeper Juanjo makes the save! Justice is done.

With just nineteen seconds remaining on the clock before the game goes to penalties, Neto, getting ball on the left touchline, lifts the ball over his defender, the ball landing on the line. He unleashes a tremendous shot that hits the inside of the far post and it's in. Brazil 3 - 2 Spain.

Sepp Blatter is almost beside himself with joy as he hands the trophy to the winners. There is the suspicion the 11-a-side game World Cup Finals Brazil in 2014 will follow a similar pattern to this tournament with FIFA engineering for Brazil a very easy group so that they have an easy route to the final.

So why did Spain lose, apart from their having to work harder than their opponents to get to the final? One reason lies in their shape; their 2 - 2 formation in the attacking phase meant the highest forward found it difficult to impossible to square the ball for shots.

Too many times, for example, Fernandao simply hit the ball on the half turn only to be blocked by a defender. In short, not enough combination play. And they don't have Falcao. Or Neto, who won the adidas Golden Ball with seven goals in the competition and two in the final.

Peter Rodd


Saturday, November 17, 2012

George's Premiership Predictions November 17 2012

George's Premiership Predictions November 17 2012

Last time out, George got 6 results right including 1 perfect score. George will hope to carry on with his good form of the previous week.

George's Premiership Predictions November 17 2012

Saturday 17 November 2012

Arsenal 2 v Tottenham Hotspur 0 ‎
Manchester City 3 v Aston Villa 2 ‎
Reading 1 v Everton 1
Liverpool 2 v Wigan Athletic 1
West Bromwich Albion 0 v Chelsea 1 ‎
Newcastle United 1 v Swansea City 0
Queens Park Rangers 2 v Southampton 2 ‎
Norwich City 1 v Manchester United 2

Sunday 18 November 2012

Fulham 3 v Sunderland 1 ‎

Monday 19 November 2012

West Ham United 1 v Stoke City 1 ‎
Last time's Premier League predictions


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Three strikes and they're out

Three strikes and they're out

On a night of golazos on FIFA's last international date of 2012, here are three of the best:
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden v England

  • Michael Bradley for USA v Russia
  • Mathieu Valbuena for France v Italy

This evening's international friendly highlights

Sweden 4:2 England
Holland 0:0 Germany
Italy 1:2 France
Russia 2:2 USA
Romania 2:1 Belgium
Saudi Arabia 0:0 Argentina
Chile 1:3 Serbia
Panama 0:3 Spain
Poland 1:3 Uruguay
Austria 0:3 Cote d'Ivoire
S.Korea 1:2 Australia
Czech Rep 3:0 Slovakia
Gabon 2:2 Portugal
Eire 0:1 Greece
China 1:1 New Zealand
Turkey 1:1 Denmark
Tunisia 1:2 Switzerland


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Oval - the first home of soccer

The Oval - the first home of soccer

Since the dawn of religion, worshippers have venerated sacred places and objects in honour of a greater faith.

For football lovers, touring a city's stadium is akin to visiting its cathedral, and in the case of such hallowed grounds like the Bombonera, Camp Nou, Azteca or Maracana, who can disagree there is something transcendental about the arenas where unforgettable rites of football have taken place every week for years.

The Oval - the first home of soccer

Since football plays such a huge role in many people's lives, it is therefore quite normal to place a symbolic, even holy significance on its past. To that end, England's Football Association recently commemorated the 140th anniversary of its first Challenge Cup Final, the world's oldest existing football competition, now known as the FA Cup.

The Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers (pictured) 1-0 in 1872 at the Kennington Oval, but the army side won the rematch 14 decades later on the same ground 7-1. Although Wanderers had only reformed in 2009, their history goes back to 1859 and they won the FA Cup five times, always as an amateur team.

The Oval - the first home of soccer

The Oval (cap.23,000)  is best known as a cricket stadium but is also one of the sacred homes of football for playing host to the first FA Cup final in 1872 and the first ever international match, a 1-1 draw between England and Scotland two years earlier.

Football fans visiting London are more likely to visit Arsenal's stadium at Ashburton Grove, Chelsea's at Stamford Bridge or Wembley, but the closest historic football ground the centre of the capital is in fact the Oval, about a mile as the crow flies from Big Ben.

A soccer afficionado's pilgrimage to London cannot also be complete without a pint in the Freemasons Arms  at 81 Long Acre, Covent Garden, where the Football Association was formed after an upstairs meeting in 1863 between 13 London clubs with similar but varying rules of playing.

Freemasons Arms

In fact, modern soccer as we know it was formally begun over half a dozen meetings in that pub over the next couple of months, after which some delegates could not agree on the rules and left to start a rival sport based on carrying the ball: The Rugby Union was formed eventually in 1871 involving Blackheath F.C., an invitee to the original F.A. talks, and football had split forever.

This explains why rugby football and by extension American football are so named to this day, despite being sports of the hand rather than the foot.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Passing on the magic

Passing on the Magic From Father to Son

It is happy news that the genes of Lionel Messi, the greatest contemporary footballer, have been passed on another generation.

Messi and Aguero.

A baby boy, Thiago Messi was born on the 2nd of November 2012 to his girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo.

'Mini-Messi' is barely out of his mother's womb but has already been presented with membership of Newell's Old Boys, his dad's first club, and a blaugrana jersey from his current one.

Sergio Aguero has already handed Lionel a mini Argentina shirt, though by virtue of his birthplace Thiago could play for Spain and/or Catalonia.


But the chances of Thiago getting anywhere close to his father's ability are minimal. A cursory look at the greatest players of all time shows none were treading in famous footsteps, with the exception of Paolo Maldini, Milan and Italy's legendary left-back, whose father Cesare represented both teams before him.

Another Italian candidate are the Mazzolas. Sandro was in the great Inter team of the 1960s and won 70 Azzurri caps. He was the son of Valentino, 12 times an international, was the captain of the Grande Torino team prematurely struck down in the Superga disaster of 1949.

South Korea's all-time leading scorer Cha Bum-Kun is the father of Cha Du-Ri, like his dad a Korean international and Bundesliga star.

But when it comes to the offspring of the best of the best, only Jordi Cruyff, son of Johann, could be deemed to have been a success, with 41 appearances for Barcelona, 34 for Manchester United and nine caps for Holland.

If you want to be one of the great all-time players, it seems your chances are better if your father was not one himself. Perhaps the expectations on your famous name are just too heavy. Leicester's goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel will always be compared to the exploits between the sticks of Peter, his illustrious father, which makes his achievements so far all the more admirable, even if at the age of 26 he has yet to be picked by Denmark.

Passing on the magic

A case could also be made for Nigel Clough, son of the great Brian, and Barcelona's Thiago, son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, while Frank Lampard Jr's father was a useful player himself, Frank Lampard Sr. In South America, Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan is the son of Pablo, who won 17 caps for his country as a defender.

French World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff is the son of Jean, who won 48 caps for France, while the Koeman brothers's father Martin was a Dutch international once.

Pele, Diego Maradona and George Best have all had footballing sons but none have made any waves, yet hopes are high for Real Madrid youth player Enzo Fernandez, /.17 year-old son of a certain Zinedine Zidane.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chelsea 1 - 1 Liverpool

Chelsea 1 - 1 Liverpool
11 November 2012
Ref Howard Webb

Chelsea 1 - 1 Liverpool, Premiership

This game came after a week in which teams from the east caused problems for these two English sides.

Worryingly for Blues fans, Shakhtar Donetsk outplayed Chelsea for long stretches even though Victor Moses gave the European Champions a last minute winner; Shakhtar's Willian was the best player on show and surely must be on the radar to be included in Brazil's national team for 2014.

Away at Anji Makhachkala, Liverpool looked bereft of attacking ideas in a 3-7-0 formation, the lack of a forward up on the Anji offside line allowing for no outlet ball, especially in the absence of a player with real aerial power – the loan of Andy Carroll to West Ham United, particularly when Liverpool are in a rebuilding phase, looks increasingly like a poor decision.

We know Brendan Rogers likes his players to be relaxed before kick off, and the smiling Raheem Sterling seems to be following orders in the pre-match warm up. Will Joe Cole, on the bench for Liverpool, come on to torment his previous employers? Likewise, how will Torres do against Liverpool? He was poor against the Ukrainians midweek with Chelsea moves breaking down on his receiving the ball.

The whole stadium stands in silence for Remembrance Day, Chelsea Pensioners included.

Liverpool once more are playing with three at the back, against Chelsea's 4-2-3-1.

3' Agger, despite being one of the back three, finds himself in the Chelsea penalty area. Total football from the get-go.
When the Liverpool back three are switching the ball between themselves, it is Joe Allen and/or Gerrard checking back to allow for the vertical pass. Torres, coming back beyond the halfway line to get the ball, looks the most exciting player in these early stages, flicking the ball over a defender's head, and a half moon round another before surging toward goal. This is reminiscent of his attacks from deep for Atletico Madrid; he looks a much better player doing this than as a stationary figure up against a centre half.

18' Carragher pushes the mobile Torres in the back, but Ivanovic's free kick is blasted over.

19' Goal. Torres wins a corner, Terry makes a near-post run, and, unmarked, plants his header in the postage stamp position. 1 – 0. Poor defending.

26' Torres shoots after Hazard unsurprisingly outmuscles Allen in midfield.

28' Gerrard continues to make forward runs, but the Chelsea defensive mids are tracking well.

30' A third of the game gone and Liverpool have their second shot.

31' Is it Suarez' first touch of the ball? It's a good one though: a nice ball played into space.

Most of the work being done by Liverpool is down the left flank with Jose Enrique very busy as the wingback.

34' Suarez is pushed by Ramires and collides with John Terry, who us back from his four-match suspension for racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand. Terry, in his 558th game for the Blues, is stretchered off with suspected knee ligament damage. Things are not going well for the former England captain as there have been rumours about a January departure from Stamford Bridge, with Valencia as a possible destination. 40' Sahin takes a corner that is so low that not only does it not beat the first defender in the air, it is half volleyed away by Oscar.

43' An interesting moment where Cech's kicked pass to Cahill, whose body position is only a quarter of a turn wrong, leads to an overly hurried clearance and a Liverpool surge forward. From such apparently minor things do matches turn.

48' The three-man defence is exposed for the first time in open play as Carragher is inexplicably attracted to a ball down the left which should have been dealt with by Agger. Brendan Rogers pre-match assertion that the Liverpool team is comfortable in a 3-5-2 is put to the test. Apart from one small slip, Wisdom looks solid on the left.

At half time Chelsea can take heart from the fact that they have restricted Liverpool to exactly zero chances. It's only a single goal lead though.

57' Great save by Jones from Torres' header. Torres has been Chelsea's most effective player. Given he is the lone striker, one of the hardest working, too.

66' Gerrard's petulance gives Chelsea a free kick, but Mata's ball is in inch too high for Torres.

71' Suddenly Suarez surges forward, Wisdom bombs up the right. Corner. Suso – on for the ineffectual Sahin – takes. Carragher's near-post flick and there is Suarez unmarked to head into the empty net. And if Suarez hadn't finished it, Agger, also unmarked, would have. Schoolboy defending.

81' Torres is taken off; Sturridge on.

85' Suarez shoots from the sideline near the halfway line, but Cech gets back to save.

86' Ivanovic heads just over from Mata's corner.

87' Suarez is played in by the hardworking Jose Enrique, but Cech comes out of his area to clear with his legs.

89' Good feet by Hazard on the left, he then shoots wide in the second phase.

93' A sweeping Liverpool move leads to man of the match Jose Enrique shooting at the near post, but it is saved by Peter Cech.

An improved Liverpool have done the Manchester clubs a favour. Chelsea may need to dip into the market in January for shooting power. Both teams have to work on defending set pieces.

1 – 1.

Peter Rodd

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Shonan snatch second J2 promotion place

Shonan snatch second J2 promotion place

Kyoto Sanga miss out on automatic promotion

Shonan Bellmare have snatched the second and final automatic promotion place on offer on a dramatic final day of the regular season in the J. League's second tier.

Needing to beat neighbours Machida Zelvia and hope Kyoto Sanga failed to do the same against champions Ventforet Kofu, the Kanagawa side did their part with a 3-0 win in front of 7,139 fans at Machida Stadium. The result was bad news for Machida, who drop down to the third-tier Japan Football League after finishing bottom of the J2 table.

Meanwhile, Kyoto Sanga could only labour to a scoreless draw against Kofu in front of 12,296 fans at Nishikyogoku Stadium. The result means Kyoto will join Yokohama FC, JEF United and Oita Trinita in a four-team playoff, with the winner joining Kofu and Shonan in the top flight in 2013.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima currently top the standings in J1 with three games of the season still to play.

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman &

Friday, November 9, 2012

George's Premier Predictions November 10 2012

George's Premier Predictions November 10 2012

Last time out, George got 4 results right including 1 perfect score. George will hope to bounce back from what, by his high standards, was a bad day at the office.

George's Premier Predictions November 10 2012

Saturday 10 November 2012

Reading 1 v Norwich City ‎1
Everton 2 v Sunderland ‎1
Stoke City 2 v Queens Park Rangers ‎0
Wigan Athletic 2 v West Bromwich Albion ‎1
Arsenal 1 v Fulham 0
Southampton 2 v Swansea City ‎2
Aston Villa 1 v Manchester United ‎2

Sunday 11 November 2012

Manchester City 3 v Tottenham Hotspur ‎0
Newcastle United 3 v West Ham United ‎1
Chelsea 1 v Liverpool 0
Last time's Premier League predictions


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fifa World Rankings November 2012

Fifa's World Rankings for November 2012 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

Euro 2012 winners Spain kept their position on top of the FIFA rankings followed by Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Italy, England and then Holland. Copa America champions Uruguay are 11th, while Brazil remain out of the top 10 in 13th. Belgium are big risers to 20th.

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

Friday, November 2, 2012

George's Premier Predictions November 3 2012

Last time, George got 6 results right again including 2 perfect scores and George will be hoping to continue his run of fine form.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Manchester Utd 2 v Arsenal 0
Fulham 1 v Everton 1
Norwich 1 v Stoke 0
Sunderland 2 v Aston Villa 2
Swansea 1 v Chelsea 2
Tottenham 2 v Wigan 1
West Ham 0 v Man City 1

Sunday 4 November 2012

QPR 3 v Reading 2
Liverpool 2 v Newcastle 2
Last time's Premier League predictions

Friday, October 26, 2012

George's Premier Predictions October 27 2012

George's Premier Predictions October 27 2012

Last time, George got 6 results right including 2 perfect scores and George has high hopes for another good weekend of predictions.

George's Premier Predictions October 27 2012

Saturday 27 October 2012

Aston Villa  1 v Norwich City ‎1
Reading 2 v Fulham ‎2
Stoke City 2 v Sunderland 1
Wigan Athletic 1 v West Ham United ‎0
Arsenal 3 v Queens Park Rangers ‎1
‎‎Manchester City 2 v Swansea City ‎0

Sunday 28 October 2012

Everton 3 v Liverpool ‎2
Newcastle United 1 v West Bromwich Albion 1
Southampton 1 v Tottenham Hotspur ‎2
Chelsea 1 v Manchester United 1
Last time's Premier League predictions


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Football enters the space age

Football enters the space age

FIFA have rubber-stamped agreements with GoalRef and HawkEye, ensuring goal-line technology is now officially a part of professional football.

Extensive official testing by IFAB concluded in July and the board unanimously approved the two systems for usage and the signing of contracts heralds their arrival in leagues worldwide. England's Premier League is keen for their introduction for the 2013/14 season, providing IFAB alter the rules of the game accordingly.

Football enters the space age

Subject to final match venue tests, the first appearance of goal-line technology will be at this December's FIFA Club World Cup in Tokyo, with one systems in use in Toyota and the other in Yokohama.

Goal-line technology is expected to be in situ at 2013's FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

HawkEye, a British system of multiple cameras, is already used to assist tennis umpires and is familiar to TV viewers of cricket.

GoalRef, A Danish-German technology, relies on a microchip inside the ball being detected by an electromagnetic field behind the goal line.

Both transmit their decisions to the referee's digital watch within one second.

2012 FIFA Club World Cup participants 6-16 Dec 2012

  • Chelsea
  • Corinthians
  • Monterrey
  • Auckland City
  • J-League winner (01/12/12)
  • AFC CL winner (10/11/12)
  • CAF CL winner (18/11/12)

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Seoul set for K-League success

Dejan Damjanovic
Seoul Set for K-League Success

Who can stop the Demolition Duo? Nobody so far this season and time is running out. Dejan Damjanovic and Mauricio Molina have spearheaded FC Seoul's frontline to devastating effect in 2012 and with eight games remaining; the club is seven points clear of Jeonbuk in second. With the two meeting at Jeonju World Cup Stadium this weekend, the feeling is that if the Motors don’t take maximum points, then the title race is going to grind to a halt.

Damjanovic was at it again last weekend as Seoul picked up three points as the always tricky away trip to Jeju United. The Montenegrin got both goals in that 2-1 victory, numbers 26 and 27 of the season. He has already broken the total goalscoring record for a foreigner in the K-League that stood at 116. Molina, has contributed 17 himself, and his all-round play has created plenty for others.

Coach Choi Yong-soo has been criticized in some quarters for relying too much of the pair but when they are in such blistering form, he is not about to change now. 12 wins from the last 15 games shows that the team are on track for a second title.

Jeonbuk have managed to keep pace, kind of, in second partly thanks to some generous refereeing. Of late, the Motors have often had the luxury of playing against teams that lose a man or more thanks to a red card. In the team’s last three wins, the opposition have seen red no less than five times. And then a trip to Ulsan, a team without its national team players and in the middle of vital Asian Champions League knockout matches, came at exactly the right time. Those three points kept Jeonbuk in the race but they can’t afford any more slip-ups.

The rest are nowhere as far as the title goes. Third place and a 2013 Asian Champions League slot is what it is now all about and it is looking good for Suwon, three points clear. Ulsan are still in with a shout but have fallen behind due to continental and international commitments and Pohang have already qualified for next year's ACL thanks to last weekend’s FA Cup win.

At the bottom, Sangju Sangmu are already down leaving Gangwon, Gwangju and Chunnam Dragons fighting to avoid the second spot. Chunnam probably have a little too much quality but for the other two, anything could happen. Both have started to improve lately. The K-League;s first ever relegation struggle could be one to remember.

Third FA Cup for Pohang Steelers

It was cruel for Gyeongnam FC. The Cup final on October 20 was the biggest match in the club’s history. A chance for a first trophy and also a place in the 2013 Asian Champions League - glory awaited at the Steelyard. Gyeongnam had their chances in a poor game with Brazilian striker Caique going the closest as he rounded the goalkeeper only to shoot into the side-netting.

It was a costly miss. In the 120th minute and a penalty shootout looming, Park Sang-ho rose to head a free-kick into the top corner of the Gyeongnam goal. Cue wild celebrations from the Pohang fans, players and bench. The match was barely allowed to restart before the referee blew for full-time and a third triumph for the Steelers.

Kim Byung-ji makes 600

The Limahl-style hairstyle is not what it was but the 42 year-old goalkeeper is still going strong and recently passed the 600 appearance mark in the K-League. He is not about to stop now and wants 700. “ My goal is to To be the oldest K-League player. Shin Ui-Son has it now but I'll overtake him in two years. In that time I could reach 700 appearances," said Kim.

World Cup Woe

It was always going to be the toughest match of the qualification campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Korea arrived in Iran top of Group A and left in the same position. That was perhaps the only positive. A 1-0 defeat did not go down well in Seoul.

In front of 105,000 fans at the Azadi Stadium, the Taeguk Warriors had chances to win. Twice in the first half, they hit the bar from close range but in truth, it was a plodding performance. Going forward, Korea were predictable, aiming long balls at tall striker Kim Shin-wook and hoping to feed off the knockdowns that never came.

And then in defence, the team’s persistent inability to defend set pieces cost them again when Javad Nekounam was left unmarked in the area to fire home a low shot.


Monday, October 22, 2012

QPR 1 - 1 Everton

QPR 1 - 1 Everton 21 October 2012

When we think of the history of Queen's Park Rangers, we might remember Rodney Marsh, Gerry Francis, Ray Wilkins, even Luigi Di Canio. We may think of the hooped shirts, of Formula 1 motor racing magnate Bernie Ecclestone's financial involvement with the club.

QPR 1 - 1 Everton 21 October 2012

We may not know the name Lakshmi Mittal, reputedly the world's fifth richest person, or that in the 2005-2006 season chairman Gianni Paladini was allegedly "held at gunpoint during a match at Loftus Road by hired thugs at the instigation of rival directors" (BBC) and was "wearing a bullet-proof vest" for a period of time (Sunday Mirror).

We almost certainly will not think of the club's huge successes on the field given that they have been far and few between.

Big guns Everton are the visitors today. It is their best start to a Premier League campaign for eight years, and a win today will make it their best start ever. QPR look like they might be favourites for the drop as they have garnered only two points so far. Manager Mark Hughes has been given a vote of confidence by the owner ahead of this game, but a win for QPR against a robust though (today) Fellaini-less Everton looks unlikely.

Coleman is up in support of the Everton attack early after kick-off, but soon Hoilett picks the ball up the ball 30-odd yards from his own goal, dribbles to the Everton goal, ignores Taraabt's clever diagonal run, shoots and scores via a deflection. 1 - 0. A dream start for Hughes after only two minutes; it is QPR's second home goal of the season.

QPR are emboldened by the goal and after seven minutes, Taraabt's clever reverse pass and Traore fizzes the ball across the face with Baines doing good work to come in off the left flank to protect the ball. This incident seems important: where is the real pressure to score, perhaps indicative of QPR's scoring problem?

However the score is still one-nil and eleven-nationality QPR look lively. But then it's Everton's turn with Jelavic's free kick palmed away by Cesar and Anichebe's shot on the half turn. But Everton cannot build on their good work in midfield as they are playing with just one up front. Mirallas is more or less invisible.

1 - 1. An Everton free kick is met by a totally unmarked Distin whose header hits the post and comes back to hit Cesar's body and end up in the net. In QPR's best move of the first half, involving Taraabt and Bosingwa, the latter's cross is cleared away by Jagielka. The first half ends 1 - 1 and this scoreline reflects the play with 2 shots on target each.

46' Everton free kick, and the QPR defence must have eaten turkey sandwiches at half time as Baines runs into a huge space down the left. Mirallas seems to have a freer role in this second half, but it looks as though Fellaini is even more important to this Everton team than we first thought.

Diakite slaloms up the field, crosses to the Ji-sung Park (hardly noticed he was playing in this match up to now), but Jagielka blocks. In an underwhelming move, Anichebe is taken off by Moyes and is replaced by Naismith, who arrived from Rangers of the Glasgow variety on a free in the summer. But then the improving Mirallas plays a ball out to Pienaar who cuts off to the left, but because he has no left foot cuts back inside and the ball is taken from him by a collapsing QPR defence. [Tip for managers of Premier League teams: buy two-footed players and you will probably win the league.]

60' Pienaar picks up a second yellow for persistent fouling. Off. A third of the game to play - can we expect QPR to go on to win the game now they have one player more than their opponents? Not on the current evidence.

69' Everton are playing as well as at any time in the match, even with a man down. Mirallas is exploiting the space on the left, now vacated by the forward running Diakite.

70' In another underwhelming move, QPR boss Hughes (who played 18 times for Everton) takes off Zamora and puts Cisse on. Hoilett is QPR's best player and uses quick feet to get into a shooting position, but Howard saves low to his right. A good week for Howard who this week overtook Brad Friedel as the US men's national team's most capped keeper.

80' Hoilett's curling shot saved by Howard.

It ends 1 - 1. A dour game spoilt by the two managers, both of whom could have made more attacking choices to win the encounter. We can see why: Hughes doesn't want to lose a valuable point; Moyes is looking forward to next week's Merseyside derby. Most valuable player: Jagielka.

Peter Rodd


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Race to Brazil hots up

We're roughly halfway to the next World Cup with 31 places still up for grabs. Europe, Oceania and the Americas have just been in action.

The competition in Europe, which has the lion's share of final qualifiers (13) is now beginning to thin out with some clear water emerging between the competing nations.

In Group A, Belgium and Croatia are tied at the top following comfortable wins over Scotland and Wales respectively.

Italy are in pole position in Group B after beating Denmark in Milan 3-1. The Azzurri are four points clear of second-placed Bulgaria.

The strangest match in Europe saw Sweden claw back a 4-0 deficit in Berlin to draw 4-4 with Germany in their Group C clash. When Mesut Ozil scored Germany's fourth in the 56th minute, all seemed lost for Erik Hamren's team.

But a Zlatan Ibrahimovic header just after the hour mark heralded an extraordinary comeback, capped by Rasmus Elm's equalising drive in the 92nd minute. Germany had never looked so stunned.

The Netherlands continued their 100% record with a 4-1 victory in Romania to top Group D and Switzerland maintained a three-point lead over Norway in Group E with victory in Iceland.

Russia enjoy the healthiest lead in Europe in Group F, five points clear of Israel and Portugal, who could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Northern Ireland. Bosnia & Herzegovina top Group G on goal difference from Greece, and in Group H Montenegro kept up the pressure ith a 1-0 win over Ukraine in Kiev to draw level on points with England, whose game in Warsaw was rained off.

Like Germany, world champions Spain were also victims of a late lapse in concentration, allowing Olivier Giroud to head an injury-time equaliser to snatch a 1-1 draw for France in Madrid. The two countries are now tied with seven points from three games in Group I.

With Brazil hosting in 2014, the fight for the four and a half places in South America is a little easier.As it stands, Argentina are well on their way three points clear of Ecuador and four ahead of Colombia before a four point gap to Venezuela, Uruguay and Chile.

CONCACAF's final round is now set with the three automatic qualifiers to come from Mexico, the USA, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama. Wins for the States and Jamaica on the final day edged out Guatemala on goal difference, while Canada failed to make it through after an 8-1 mauling in Honduras.

In Oceania, New Zealand and New Caledonia are running away with it, with the All-Whites leading the Pacific Islanders by three points after four games. The two meet in Wellington on the 22nd of March and the group winner will play off against the fourth-placed team from CONCACAF for a place in Brazil.

In Asia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Iran sit in the automatic qualification spots after four matches, with Oman and Uzbekistan poised to playoff the fifth-placed South American side.

Africa does not resume until March.

BRAZIL 2014's final 32

  • Hosts - Brazil
  • Europe - 13
  • Africa - 5
  • Asia - 4.5
  • North & Central America - 4.5
  • South America - 4.5
  • Oceania - 0.5

Top Scorers so far

  • AFC- Younis Mahmoud (Iraq), Hassan Abdel Fattah (Jordan), Le Cong Vinh (Vietnam) 7
  • CAF - Tresor Mputu (DR Congo) 4
  • CONCACAF - Deon McCaulay (Belize) 11
  • CONMEBOL - Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi (Argentina) 7
  • Oceania - Georges Gope-Fenepej (New Caledonia) 8
  • UEFA - Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herz), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Tomer Hemed (Israel) 5

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Euro U21 finals set

Euro U21 Finals Set

Qualification for next summer's UEFA U21 Tournament in Israel has finished with only England and Spain returning from the 2011 finals in Denmark.

All the big Euro guns have made it through this time, with the exception of France, eliminated by Norway in the playoffs.

Euro U21 Finals
Add caption
Spain will be looking to regain their crown and erase the memory of their Olympic failure in London and Germany will be aiming to maintain the youth revolution which saw the likes of Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira take the stage at U21 level in 2009.

England offer Stuart Pearce a final chance to audition for the England senior job, while the Netherlands, winners in 2006 and 2007, are back having missed out on the last two finals.

Euro U21 Finals


Israel (hosts)
Spain (holders)

In 2013 the tournament travels to the far eastern reach of UEFA, Israel with games scheduled for four stadia:

Jerusalem (33,500), Tel Aviv (14,413), Netanya (13,800) and Petah Tikva (11,500) will host the finals from  the 5th to the 18th of June 2013.

Euro U21 finals set

Whilst Israel is in Europe for footballing purposes because the Arab nations in the AFC refuse to play them, the scheduling of a UEFA tournament in a high-profile trouble-spot has not gone all smoothly.

Eric Cantona was one of many who have spoken out against awarding a competition to Israel while certain footballers are imprisoned without trial, a protest echoed by the Palestinian F.A.

Next summer is sure to be another hot one for Michel Platini.

The draw for the finals takes place on the 28th of November.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blue Sharks the toast of Africa

African Football: Blue Sharks

Blue Sharks
Blue Sharks

African soccer was all the rage on Sunday as the final round of qualifiers took place for next year's African Cup of Nations.

Cape Verde sensationally knocked Cameroon out to qualify for their first ever ACN finals, prompting wild celebrations in the Atlantic archipelago.

Senegal however are facing FIFA sanction as their match with Ivory Coast was abandoned following crowd trouble in Dakar, after the Ivorians went two-nil up through a Didier Drogba brace.

Cape Verde lost 2-1 in Yaoundé but the Blue Sharks won 3-2 on aggregate following a stunning 2-0 first-leg victory. Although the team has yet to register internationally, the nation of half a million people boasts some football heritage. Portugal's Nani and Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes are both Cape Verde born, while France's Patrick Vieira and Swedish legend Henrik Larsson both have a parent from the country.

Reigning champions Zambia made it through to defend their title alongside 2012's beaten finalists the Ivory Coast.

Blue Sharks the toast of Africa

The most notable absentee from the finals lineup is Egypt, winner of three of the past four tournaments (2006, 2008 and 2010). The Pharaohs, managed by former USA boss Bob Bradley, were dumped out in the first round in June.

The now domitable lions of Cameroon will also be watching on television along with Senegal and two sides ranked in Africa's top ten - Gabon and the Central African Republic, conquerors of Egypt.

Blue Sharks the toast of Africa

The finalists are thus, with their October FIFA World Ranking:

England in South Africa
  1. Ivory Coast 16
  2. Algeria 24
  3. Mali 27
  4. Ghana 31
  5. Zambia 41 (holders)
  6. Tunisia 45
  7. Cape Verde 51
  8. Nigeria 63
  9. Morocco 75
  10. South Africa 76 (hosts)
  11. Angola 83
  12. Burkina Faso 91
  13. Togo 93
  14. DR Congo 103
  15. Ethiopia 108
  16. Niger 137
The 16-team tournament takes place in South Africa from the 19th of January to the 10th of February 2013.  The finals draw is in Durban on the 24th of October 2012.

Five of the stadia from the 2010 World Cup will be used, with the opening game and final at Soccer City, Johannesburg.

Cape Town misses out however, with Durban, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg (pic) preferred.

In 2015 the finals visit Morocco with 2017 pencilled in for Libya.

-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, October 5, 2012

Liverpool 2 - 3 Udinese Calcio

Liverpool 2 - 3 Udinese Calcio 4 October 2012

Before Udinese's trip to the Emirates in 2011, the team took a stroll around Marylebone and Regents Park. The north-east Italian team's coaches obviously wanted a relaxed squad going into the big game. Arsenal won one nil, but Di Natale caused them all sorts of problems and Gunners' goalkeeper Szczesny had to be on his game to keep them at bay; the loss of Sanchez to Barcelona didn't faze the Italians as much as was anticipated.


I imagine the Liverpool coaching staff will have studied that match closely, for this was the first meeting ever between the two sides.

The teams lined up with Liverpool in a 4-3-3 and Udinese with 3-5-2. Which would dominate?

Downing is put out on the right flank; Shelvey is given yet another start, making one believe that Brendan Rodgers is putting faith in him as a permanent fixture in midfield; and Borini is also on again, perhaps so he can listen in on the Italians' banter. Assaidi, the Moroccan, whose first year this is with the Reds is out on the left.

It is he who looks lively early on, but he shows the defenders too much of the ball on more than a couple of occasions. Nevertheless, this is an indication that Rodgers is throwing his young players (19 year-old Robinson is on at right back too) in at the deep end, or giving them their chance to shine. Take your pick. In any case there's no Suarez and no Gerrard in the starting line up.

Early on it's difficult to tell who is on top. Shelvey shoots from distance, Udinese's Serbian keeper Zeljko Brkic makes a save, Udinese counterattack very quickly and Di Natale takes a shot. The Italians are not here for a draw by the look of it. Liverpool take the lead due to Shelvey's long pass out to the right to Downing who walls it over the the back stick where the unmarked Shelvey heads downwards inside the far post. Nice goal. 1 – 0.

The lead seems a little undeserved as the teams seem fairly even. Then Di Natale, from the right hits the ball with the outside of his right foot and the ball curves just over the angle of the bar and the far post. End-to-end with Downing's shot blocked, but then it would be.

Then Johnson finds himself in a position similar to Di Natale's a minute before: out on the right; but the Liverpool man hits the ball instead with the inside of his right foot, thus giving himself little to no chance of scoring. And there's the difference: Di Natale - top scorer in Serie A in 2009-10 with 29 goals – is easily the best player on show, and he is surrounded with generally competent teammates .. though of course Shelvey's run should have been tracked by at least one of Udinese's five midfielders.

Pinzi is driving the Italians forward from midfield. Suddenly Liverpool have a good couple of minutes of uninterrupted possession - so this is the new Swansea after all! Until we are reminded that Swanselona's possession play happened largely in the first two thirds of the pitch. Anyway, at least the dangerous Italiani can't score without a ball.

What will Francesco Guidolin tell his players before they duck their heads under the "This is Anfield" sign to emerge from the tunnel for the second time?

Whatever the manager said, the words must have been magic ones as only 30 seconds from the restart a mirror image of the Shelvey goal happens with Di Natale's great strike under pressure flying past Reina. 1 - 1.

The game trundles along for a while. Rodgers has decided that he now wants to win the match, so he puts on Gerrard and Suarez for the increasingly anonymous Assaidi and the constantly anonymous Henderson. The Liverpool energy gauge shoots up to a high level - into the red you might say. The Brazilian Willians is brought on to stiffen up the Italian midfield, and immediately an inswinging free kick is met by Reds' centre back Coates who deftly places the ball inside the far post. Own goal. 1 - 2.

Two minutes later Di Natale, in the box, back to goal, plays keepy uppy, then takes a preparation touch and passes into the path of Pasquale whose driven low shot inside the far post gives Reina no chance. Great goal. 1 - 3.

Three minutes after that Suarez cracks in a great free kick over a tall jumping wall. 2 – 3. Really is end-to-end. What an exciting match!

Suarez almost equalizes, Gerrard shoots against a defender's back, Brkic saves from Suarez, Allen doesn't get called for a penalty, Sterling who's on for the lumbering Borini, fires just over the bar. Result: 2 - 3

There is some talk about why Gerrard wasn't playing from the beginning – or Suarez come to that. Famous last words and all, but it doesn't look like Liverpool will win the BPL this time, so here's a big chunk of silverware in the form of the Europa League that you might think would be worth winning .. but you don't play your best players.

Hmm. I notice Udinese played their best player from the start. Rodgers must be weening the babies – that's it. But hang on a minute, Liverpool and England right back Glen Johnson was playing from the start; the problem is he made poor decisions when in promising positions. Case in point - in the 27th minute he finds himself behind the Udinese defence, but panics and wastefully gives away the ball. So what does experience count for? Pros and cons, but Brendan Rodgers must be given all the time he needs to craft his team.

Next up for Liverpool: Anzhi.

Peter Rodd

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The coffee is brewing


Colombia have jumped 13 places to ninth in the latest FIFA World Rankings, another sign they are the South American country to keep an eye on as we approach Brazil 2014.


Los Cafeteros (coffee-growers) have not qualified for a World Cup Finals since 1998, when they went out in the first round after defeats by England and Romania.

But after seven games they currently sit second in the CONMEBOL qualifying table for Brazil 2014, and with four and a half South American places up for grabs, Colombia has a wonderful chance of returning to the World Cup after 16 years away.

Always the bridesmaid it seems, for a country capable of producing so many skilful footballers. Even when Colombia were granted the staging rights for the 1986 World Cup Finals, they had them taken away and handed to Mexico after FIFA altered the hosting requirements.

At Itaila '90 Francisco Maturana's team looked outrageously talented, at one point making the eventual winners West Germany chase shadows with their passing game. But with the flair came the hubris, as Colombia's crazy goalkeeper Rene 'El Loco' Higuita, he of the Wembley scorpion kick, dribbled the ball upfield in the second round clash with Cameroon, only to be robbed by Roger Milla, who went on to score and knock Colombia out.


At USA 1994 Higuita was not there having just served a jail term for his role in a kidnapping, but the sublime mop-haired passer Carlos Valderrama and attacking midfielder Freddy Rincon were, and Los Cafeteros also had the outstanding long-legged marksman Faustino Asprilla.

Expectations reached fever pitch pre-tournament as Colombia thumped Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires in the final qualifer, topping the group and sending the Albiceleste to Australia for an Intercontinental Playoff.

Pelé tipped them to hoist the trophy, but the supposed golden age of Colombian soccer collapsed in misery as the team lost 2-1 to a weak host nation and an own-goal by Andres Escobar, who ended up riddled with bullets in a Medellin car park ten days later.

The evil influence of the drug cartels on Colombian soccer was suddenly, shockingly, laid bare to the world. Asprilla later said the players were terrified going into the US match, expecting snipers would take them out from the stands of the Rose Bowl.


Almost two decades on and the cartels' power has been curbed, not least thanks to the death of Pablo Escobar, who 'invested' heavily in his favourite sport.

The Colombian national team is recovering well too and in Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao they now have one of the hottest strikers in Europe. At the helm is former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman.

There were high hopes going into last year's Copa America, and Colombia duly topped their group, but made an unexpected exit in the quarter-finals after two late goals from surprise package Peru.

With the next World Cup on South American territory and five and a half places on the table for CONMEBOL teams, Brazil 2014 should see Colombia make a welcome return to the highest stage.

FIFA TOP TEN October 2012

1 Spain
2 Germany
3 Portugal
4 Argentina
5 England
6 The Netherlands
7 Uruguay
8 Italy
9 Colombia
10 Greece

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fifa World Rankings October 2012

Fifa World Rankings October 2012

Fifa World Rankings October 2012

Fifa's World Rankings for October 2012 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

Euro 2012 winners Spain kept their position on top of the FIFA rankings followed by Germany, Portugal, Argentina, England and then Copa America champions Uruguay, Brazil remain out of the top 10 in 14th.

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Monday, September 24, 2012

Armadillo mascot for 2014

World Cup 2014 Mascot

Brazil 2014 mascot

The next World Cup will have an armadillo as a mascot, the sixth time a recognised animal has been selected. Three big cats, three little boys, two fruits and two abstract characters have played the role before.

The choice of an endangered species, according to FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, tallies with the emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism at the forthcoming finals.


The armadillo, in the colours of the Brazilian flag, has yet to be named, but the majority of the Brazilian public  is unhappy with the limited choice of names to be voted on: Amijubi, Fuleco and Zuzeco, and thousands have signed petitions demanding suggestions from the public be considered.

The uninspiring choice recalls the names considered for the tricoloured stick-man at Italia '90, eventually called 'Ciao' - Amico, Bimbo and Dribbly.

FIFA will reveal the armadillo's chosen name on the 25th of November.

FIFA World Cup Mascots

1966 (England): World Cup Willie
1970 (Mexico): Juanito
1974 (W.Germany): Tip and Tap
1978 (Argentina): Gauchito
1982 (Spain): Naranjito
1986 (Mexico): Pique
1990 (Italy): Ciao
1994 (USA): Striker
1998 (France): Footix
2002 (Japan & Korea): Ato, Nik and Kaz
2006 (Germany): Goleo
2010 (South Africa): Zakumi
South Africa


Terry's exit a death foretold

England: John Terry

John Terry had no option in the end.

The England captain had to walk the plank rather than remain as national skipper and be branded a racist by the Football Association, the overseers of and ultimate authority for the country's team.

Despite being cleared by a criminal court two months ago, Terry realised the FA's decision to call a disciplinary hearing over his verbal abuse of Anton Ferdinand last season would have left him guilty, given the enquiry's use of a balance of probability to decide guilt instead of the law courts' adherence to beyond reasonable doubt.

John Terry had no option in the end.

The FA had little choice either given they had already banned Luis Suarez over the same offence last season.

Had Terry stayed put and been found guilty, not only would he have faced a ban but threatening storms would have gathered around England manager Roy Hodgson, who already rode a minor storm in selecting the Chelsea man for Euro 2012. Managers usually stay loyal to their players but the FA would have been the only winner and Terry's exclusion the only outcome.

Terry's off-field behaviour had already accounted for Fabio Capello, who stood down rather than be overruled by the FA over Terry's captaincy following an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge's partner.

Plunging another England manager into trouble would have been unthinkable.

While nobody seems sure where to draw the line at a footballer's private life and how much of a message it sends, clearly Terry had overstepped the mark one time too many for an England captain. The only surprise was that he took so long to announce his retirement.

Terry completes his national service with 78 caps and a number of sterling performances, most recently at Euro 2012, when he made several goal-saving blocks and a goal-line clearance against Ukraine. He had recently showed signs of slowing down but aged 31 had more international games in him and remained the best centre-back England possessed.

Hodgson has more rebuilding to do.

- Sean O'Conor

Man Utd v Liverpool Enemies in Love Fest

Liverpool v Manchester United 22 September 2012

Given the attention given to off-field concerns: the Hillsborough verdict that exonerated the Liverpool fans from engineering their own deaths, Fergie's urging the fans to be respectful of each other, and the question of whether players should shake hands with racists, we might expect this game to be a little different from usual.

Liverpool v Manchester United 22 September 2012

Ferdinand helped 96 inflated balloons (representing, of course, the victims at Sheffield) escape from plastic bags, the balloon industry informing us that 100% latex balloons are biodegradable and are not harmful to animals or sea creatures.

New Liverpool supremo Brendan Rogers is looking for his first league win. Will tactics and style-of-play form a big part in such an emotionally-charged game? Or will it be a Steven Gerrard inspired up-and-at-'em with Scholes picking up a card?

In the first 20 minutes: corner count: Liverpool 3 Man U 0; Liverpool have dominated possession and territory; most of Liverpool's attacks have been down the right flank though their traditional go-to guy seventeen-year-old Sterling; United cannot retain possession, but then England's best player is not on the pitch.

Then on 38 minutes, Shelvey and Evans both leave their feet going for a loose ball. Result: ref Mark Halsey issues a red for Shelvey, no card for Evans. This is interesting as we know from the documentary 'Being: Liverpool' that Rogers specifically told Shelvey to "stay on your feet". The odds on a United win shorten instantaneously.

The Anfield Kop

Even on ten men, though, Liverpool continue to have the more meaningful possession. The Fergie hairdryer will be out at halftime.

The first half ends 0 – 0. Shots: Liverpool 8 Man Utd 3. The best players: Liverpool: Gerrard and Sterling; Manchester United: Ferdinand and Rafael.

At last Scholes is on. So is Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre (who had made his first full 90-minute debut in the Europa League match against Young Boys a couple of days ago 20 Sept 2012, but who was signed by Rafael Benitez - remember him?) for the ineffectual Borini.

Gerrard scores immediately after half-time. 1 – 0. Not marked closely enough, and his chest and volley is perfect.

Da Silva, from an assist by Kagawa, equalizes with a delightful curling shot that goes in off the inside of the far post. 1 – 1.

Scholes does pick up his yellow for fouling Sterling. Nevertheless, his presence means United now have a midfield.

Back come Liverpool with shots from Suarez and Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre.

Rogers has decided to play for a draw. He takes off the lively Sterling, and brings on the unlively Henderson.

Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre a.k.a. Suso is combining well with Suarez. Valencia, who has been quiet so far, decides to take matters into his own feet by intercepting a square ball in midfield, surging into the United box and then going down under a challenge by Johnson. Penalty: Van Persie hits is hand-height to Reina's left, the Spaniard almost keeping it out.

Kagawa is off, replaced by Chicharito, resulting in no fireworks.

Liverpool huffed and puffed, and Rogers - aware perhaps that his hold on the job is looking increasingly tenuous given that this is the team's worst start in more than a hundred years – complained that Liverpool should have had a penalty themselves. Before the knives are drawn though, we must recognize that the problems at Liverpool are inherited.

United, even without Vidic, looked OK at the back, and the forward line has enough goals in it. But when Scholes is not playing there seems to be little drive or movement in midfield. Could Rooney play there? Will the January transfer window open United's coffers?

In truth, neither of these two teams looked anything special, but Liverpool will feel a little aggrieved at the result.


Peter Rodd

Splits, boycotts and redemption

K-League News

The K-League is coming to terms with its first-ever split and it quite likes the feeling. At the end of August, the 16 team league divided in two, just like the Scottish Premier League does. Four teams were in the running for the eighth spot going into game 30 but it fell to Gyeongnam FC and they celebrated like they had won the league.

There was a good deal of media attention and authorities were feeling pretty good about it all but this being the K-League, there was a twist. Sangju Sangmu decided to boycott the rest of the season. It wasn't because the military club was in the bottom half and consigned to playing the seven other teams another two times to see who finishes bottom but due to the fact that whatever they did on the pitch, they were going down.

The AFC stipulates that the top tier of professional leagues should have professional clubs with professional players on professional contracts and the fact that Sangju's players are loaned from their original clubs for two years as they complete their military service. They are paid the same as regular conscripts i.e. not very much at all. Confirmation in mid-September that they will fill one of the two relegation spots -the trapdoor is installed for the first time ever - led to the boycott.

"The Armed Forces Athletic Corps and the Defense Ministry held talks today, and we've decided not to play the rest of the season," Lee Jae-cheol, the team's general manager said on September 12. "We just don't have the motivation to play out the season. The ministry is adamant about this.

"The K-League doesn't want to have anything to do with us, and I see no reason why we should stick around anymore," Lee said. "Rather than playing in the second division, perhaps we should declare ourselves amateurs and play with them instead."

Sangju were second bottom anyway and could have gone down, it was the lack of fighting change they objected to. From now, their fixtures will be awarded to the other team with a 2-0 scoreline.

Gangwon FC currently prop up the table and are four points from safety. Fans hope that coach Kim Hak-beom, who returned to the K-League in July after a spell in China can take the team up the standings. "We're in last place, and we can only go up from here," Kim said. "And I am confident we can do that. We don't want to be the first victim of relegation."

Dejan Damjanovic

FC Seoul and Jeonbuk Motors have no such worries as they fight it out at the top of the table in what has become a two-horse race for the championship. Seoul are five points clear of the champions. Striker Dejan Damjanovic is still scoring goals for fun with 24 to his name this season. The capital club are the team to beat. It all may come down to the two games against Jeonbuk.

The Motors were looking imperious earlier in the summer but have developed a recent habit of losing to lesser teams. There is then quite a gap between the top two and the chasing pack. Ulsan, Suwon and Pohang are now fighting for the final Asian Champions League spot and they are separated by four points only. 

Tales from Tashkent

The road to Brazil 2014 remains fairly comfortable at the moment for the Taeguk Warrriors who followed up two wins that opened Group A in the final round of qualification with a 2-2 draw in Uzbekistan. The point maintains the three points lead that the team has at the top. It wasn’t a great performance and an inability to defend set pieces cost Choi Kang-hee’s men. A trip to Tehran comes in October and a good result in the Iranian capital could really set Korea up nicely for the second half of the group.  

Overseas players

It has been a pretty good start to the European season for many of the country’s stars out west. Park Ji-sung has had a mixed time at Queen’s Park Rangers but at least is playing every game. His performance against Chelsea was an impressive one and he raised a few eyebrows by refusing to shake the hand of John Terry. It showed a different side of the player, one ready to take the responsibility of being a captain of a Premier League team.

Park Chu-young has left Arsenal on loan and is enjoying himself in La Liga with Celta Vigo. He scored his first goal for the Spanish club on September 22, with a fine volley against Getafe that won the game for the newly-promoted club. It was a great start in his attemtpt to put the nightmare of Arsenal behind him and show fans in Spain and in England what he is capable of.

Ki Sung-yueng started his first game for Swansea City on the same day. His team slumped to a 3-0 defeat at home to Everton. It wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds – for the player that is, it was bad for the Swans – as he provided one of the few positives. He looked good on the ball, passed it well and on another day, could have scored one or two.

Son Heung-min scored twice for Hamburg in a thrilling 3-2 win over champions Borussia Dortmund. It was Hamburg’s first win of the season and Dortmund’s first defeat while Kim Bo-kyoung is still adapting to life in the English championship with Cardiff City.