Friday, August 24, 2012

The Premier League is back in town

Premier League

England's Premier League has kicked off with some unfamiliar faces hogging the limelight and some intriguing storylines to follow.

It is traditional that the early exchanges of the season see some lesser lights have their day and the first weekend saw Fulham, Swansea and West Brom in the top three positions.

Premier League

Martin Jol's team sat atop the tree courtesy of a 5-0 thumping of Norwich City at Craven Cottage. West Brom welcomed Brendan Rodgers to the Liverpool helm by beating the Reds 3-0 at the Hawthorns but Swansea produced the day's most eye-opening scoreline winning 5-0 at QPR.

Michael Laudrup's first game in charge of the Swans could not have gone much better, and the Great Dane's exodus in English football promises much. Mark Hughes' side, however, must recover from this knock-out blow. Rangers are still following a dream with the Mittal family, the country's richest and one of the world's top ten wealthiest families, owning a third of the club.

QPR have acquired ten players for this campaign and are pressing ahead with their bid to build a 45,000-seat arena on a new site in West London.

West Ham returned to the top flight with a 1-0 home win over Aston Villa, though this season should be more about goings-on off-field as they resume their fight to take over London's Olympic Stadium after the Paralympic Games have finished.

Newcastle handed defeat to Andre Villas-Boas in his first match as Tottenham boss but their own manager Alan Pardew will face the F.A. music having pushed a linesman in anger during the game.

Arsenal, minus the Man Utd-bound Robin Van Persie, could only draw 0-0 at home to Sunderland and another season in the wilderness for London's biggest team beckons. The angst was evident on Arsene Wenger's face as the barren spell of the past few seasons continues.

United themselves lost their opening game 1-0 at Everton and a goal from Marouane Fellaini.

Another Belgian, Eden Hazard, has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and is already a prospect for player of the season. European champions Chelsea, whose win last night against Reading takes them temporarily to the top, look an interesting proposition with Fernando Torres now top dog following Didier Drogba's departure, and Hazard, Juan Mata and new signing Oscar promising a formidable attacking triangle behind him.

Reigning champions Manchester City began their title defence with a narrow 3-2 win at home to new boys Southampton, and their awesome squad still has the deepest reserves of talent to call upon.

How City will fare with UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules is another matter. The FFP allows for a £35.5m operating loss over two seasons beginning next campaign, but in 2010-11 City posted a deficit of around seven times that. Will this be the last time a spending-spree buys the title?

England is still recovering from its Olympics hangover and football has yet to catch the imagination again. London 2012 was still on when the Community Shield kicked off the season to a less than sold-out crowd at Villa Park.

With talented players like Clint Dempsey and Luka Modric moping on the sidelines while their agents and clubs squabble over big-money moves, the contrast with the clean-living Olympians and the universally happy and positive atmosphere engendered by other sports taking place has been noticed by everyone.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Manchester City 3 - 2 Southampton

Manchester City 3 - 2 Southampton

What a start to the season by Southampton as for the first five minutes they laid siege to Joe Hart's goal. This was achieved by up to seven (!) players from the away team pressing the City back line very high up the pitch. Is this Chievo Verona we're watching?

The first significant foray by City into Southampton's half led to an injury sustained by Kun Aguero from ex-Crystal Palace Nathaniel Clyne's (clean) tackle. It seems like the City striker will be all right if the latest reports are to be believed.

Manchester City 3 - 2 Southampton

Dzeko came on for Aguero and had the type of match one has come to expect from him: good movement but with a seeming inability to do simple things like score into an empty net .. until he did score in the second half. He changes City's shape when he plays: he is reliably up front as a focal point, unlike when Aguero and Tevez are the "front" pair, then the team seems to have a forwardless Spain look about them.

One can imagine being a midfielder or a back for City, under pressure from opponents, having Dzeko there gives the option of direct play – not that there's much of that from the ball-playing Manchester City these days. It's easy to think that those half chances that might have been converted by a better finisher, Robin Van Persie say, and that these misses might in the end come back to bite City if goal difference is going to be important to the outcome of the 2012-13 Premier League. We may come to the conclusion that Manchester United's purchase of RVP, an atypical purchase of such an old player by Ferguson, was negative in purpose: keep him out of City's squad. Great movement by Tevez led to the opening goal by the Argentinian: fired in low near post past goalkeeper Kelvin Davis. 1 – 0.

There has been a spate of near post goals lately: the striker dribbles in towards the near post, the keeper dives early towards the far post hoping to save with his feet shots that may come in at the near post. This technique leads to the keepers diving out of the path of the ball coming in at the near post. Among other examples, Butland did this for team GB in the Olympics, and Chelsea's opening goal against Wigan was similar. Goalkeeping coaches need to correct this to make keepers stay in the ready position at the near post even as the shot comes in to force the shot far post; the current trend for keepers to 'cheat' into the centre just isn't working.

The second half started with Dzeko, Clichy, and a creaky Da Silva all missing great chances in front of goal. Those who had made bets that Southampton would go straight back down to the Championship by the end of the season were licking their chops. But then coach Nigel Adkins brought on Championship Golden Boot winner (31 goals last season) Rickie Lambert in place of Rodriguez. Four minutes later he scored after a tight and pretty one-two with Guly do Prado in the City box. 1 – 1.

That sure-bet-for-the-drop didn't look so certain all of a sudden, and Lambert's excellent movement and great touch gave the Saints such a fillip that they scored a second. After City pressure, the ball broke to new boy Rodwell in a high sweeper position, and, although he had crossed himself on entering the pitch, made a sloppy diagonal that was easily cut out and a three-on-three break became five-on-three as the lively and fit-looking Soton players outsprinted their counterparts. Sub Steven Davis finished expertly inside the far post past a marginally slow Joe Hart. 1 – 2. Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin are both catching the eye in this game, but it was City who scored the equalizer in the 71st minute as the ball broke for Dzeko at the far post and he thrashed it in. 2 – 2.

Southampton not only look like but actually are a team that is used to winning, and a minute after the Dzeko goal Puncheon's shot is blocked, and a minute after that Balotelli refused to acknowledge that he has a left foot and missed a chance at the far post. Open and end-to-end skillful football. 76th minute: Dzeko's header just wide. Nasri's influence on the game, considerable throughout the encounter, is increasing at this point and when Clichy's too-big ball from the left is headed inexplicably by Daniel Fox back onto the penalty spot, there is Nasri to smash it home. 3 – 2.

Southampton continue to appear to be puzzled at the meaning of the word 'defeat' and striker Billy Sharp comes on for Puncheon. City hang on for the win, but which manager is the happier?

Peter Rodd

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fifa World Rankings August 2012

Fifa World Rankings August 2012

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

Euro 2012 winners Spain kept their position on top of the FIFA rankings followed by Germany, England in their best ever position of third, and Copa America champions Uruguay. Brazil remain out of the top 10 in 13th.

Fifa World Rankings

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

Nadeshiko aim for gold in London

London 2012 Olympic Games Womens Football Final

Japan v USA 

7.45pm GMT Wembley Stadium, London

Japan can add the Olympic title to their World Cup crown at Wembley in London today to complete a historic double.

Assured of at least silver, Nadeshiko will pick up their first Olympic medals this afternoon in Wembley having lost their bronze-medal playoff to Germany in Beijing four years ago.


In the way of Japanese gold this afternoon is the USA, eager to avenge their penalty shootout defeat in last year's World Cup Final in Frankfurt. The Americans also see the Olympics as 'their' tournament, having bagged three of the four titles since women's soccer started in the games in 1996.

Japan made heavy weather of their group stage with two 0-0 draws as well beating France 2-1 in their semi-final, surviving a number of scares as the French dominated the second half of the game. The World Cup holders will need all their reserves tonight to defeat an American team who will try to make their physical advantage trump the Japanese possession game.

If Nadeshiko win, they will become the first Asian nation to hold the Olympic title too.

Womens football has been a success at London 2012 in beating previous tournament attendance records and the smashing UK attendance record for the sport. Over 70,000 watched Great Britain defeat Brazil at Wembley and tonight's final should draw closer to 80,000. Brazil drew over 30,000 for its other two group games, but the US got only 11,000 for a group game in Glasgow and 10,000 for their quarter-final against New Zealand in Newcastle.

The host nation drew an average of 42,000 for its group games, while Japan's biggest crowd was 61,482 for its semi-final at Wembley.

Routes to the Final:

JAPAN Group Stage
Japan 2-1 Canada
Japan 0-0 Sweden
Japan 0-0 South Africa

QF Japan 2-0 Brazil
SF Japan 2-1 France

USA Group Stage

USA 4-2 France
USA 3-0 Colombia
USA 1-0 North Korea
QF USA 2-0 New Zealand
SF USA 4-3 Canada
Top Scorers: JAPAN - Yuki Ogimi 2, USA - Abby Wambach 5


Atlanta 1996 USA

Sydney 2000 Norway

Athens 2004 USA

Beijing 2008 USA

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympics Take Korean Minds Off Summer Heat

K League news.
K-League 2012

The first few days of August will be remembered in South Korea for sizzling temperatures that reached 38 degrees Celsius. With the high humidity levels, many Seoulites headed for the river to cool down and watch the Olympics sat on the grass while drinking beer and directing fried chicken delivery riders through the sea of mats on the grass.

As well as brewers and chicken friers, it has been a successful couple of weeks in all kinds of events as the country quickly moved to the near the top of the medal standings and stayed there. Football is not going to add to that golden haul but that doesn't mean that it has not been an exciting couple of weeks as the Olympic team reached the semi-finals of the men’s football tournament.

That dream ended with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil at Old Trafford but it was no disgrace. In that game, Korea caused problems for the South Americans, favourites for the gold. With the game goalless defender Juan kicked Ji Dong-won the head as the Sunderland striker tried to nod the ball home into an empty net.

With Brazil leading 1-0 at the start of the second half, a clearer spot-kick was refused as Kim Bo-kyoung was chopped down in the box by Sandro. 3-0 flattered the Brazilians but once again, Korea could not take their chances when they came. That was the story of the competition though Brazil were the first team that the Taeguk Warriors met who were good enough to make them pay.

The group stage had been unspectacular but solid. A 2-1 win over Switzerland was sandwiched between goalless draws against Mexico, now preparing for the final against Brazil, and Gabon. All three group games saw Korea in control of possession but struggling to create clear-cut chances and struggling to convert those that were made. What was encouraging was the fact that the defence held firm, conceding one goal in 270 minutes of football.

Koo Ja-cheol, of German club Augsburg and Celtic’s Ki Sung-yeung, caught the eye in midfield with Kim Chang-soo roving up and down the flank from the right-back spot. Kim was injured five minutes into the quarter-final against Great Britain, a game won by the Asian team after a penalty shootout.

That was the high point for Korea. Beating the hosts in front of 80,000 fans at Millenium Stadium. A bright start saw Ji Dong-won fire home from the outside the area and a couple of soft penalties went to the hosts. One was converted by Aaron Ramsey and one soon after was saved by Jung Sung-ryeong.

The game went to penalties and in the end, a spot kick from Daniel Sturridge was saved by goalkeeper Lee Beom-yeong, who came on in the second half for the injured Jung, and Ki Sung-yeung fired home the last penalty.

Then came the Brazil match. It wasn’t to be but for fans at home, to see some of the K-League’s best young players in action and matching counterparts around the world certainly took minds off the oppressive conditions at home.

Back Home

Jeonbuk Motors and FC Seoul have been pulling away and the title race is looking increasingly a two-horse race with Suwon Bluewings falling by the wayside. Jeonbuk have said goodbye to two talented imports in Huang Bowen from China and Luis henique. Luis has been replaced by another Brazilian by the name of Leanardo while Australian defender Alex Wilkinson fills the Asian quota.

Suwon fans have been voicing their displeasure at a series of bad results and the fact that after a recent setback the players did not come and bow to the faithful behind the goals.

There are only four games left for most of the 16 teams before they are split into two groups with the top half fighting it out for the title and the bottom battling to avoid relegation.

Seongnam Ilhwa are the surprise name in the bottom group and need some good results sooner rather than later in order to avoid the ignominy of being stuck in the lower half for the rest of the season. Chunnam Dragons, a usual mid-table team, find themselves much further down than usual and are in real trouble.

Two teams will be relegated this year with army club Sangju Sangmu guaranteed to drop so there is one spot for the others to avoid.

As things stand, Gwangju FC, a little surprisingly as the team has some decent players is seriously struggling along with other usual suspects such as Gangwon FC and Daejeon Citizen – who managed a shock 1-0 win at Jeonbuk last weekend. Daegu FC have been performing reasonably well under Brazilian coach Moacir Pereira and while they are unlikely to escape the bottom half, relegation should not be too much of a worry.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer football heats up in Japan

Summer football heats up in Japan.
J.League 2012

The first week of August means sweltering temperatures in Japan and the action in the J. League is also hotting up. Sanfrecce Hiroshima are the current league leaders just after the halfway point of the campaign, but second-placed Vegalta Sendai are hot on their heels.

Saturday's full round of action sees Sanfrecce host Shimizu S-Pulse in one of the day's highlight fixtures, while Urawa Reds welcome neighbours FC Tokyo to Saitama Stadium. Vegalta Sendai entertain a dour Yokohama F. Marinos, while at the other end of the table the two Osakan sides Cerezo and Gamba are desperate for a win when they host fellow strugglers Consadole Sapporo and Omiya Ardija respectively.

In the pick of Sunday's J2 fixtures, league leaders Ventforet Kofu are on the road at Thespa Kusatsu, while Yokohama FC welcome Shonan Bellmare to Mitsuzawa Stadium in a Kanagawa derby. Chiba outfit JEF United host Tochigi SC at Fukuda Denshi Arena, while fellow promotion hopefuls Tokyo Verdy welcome Kataller Toyama to Ajinomoto Stadium.

Ventforet Kofu currently lead the way on 50 points in the second tier, with the trio of JEF United, Verdy and Shonan all just a point behind them.

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman & Soccerphile