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.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Del Piero signing is A-League's biggest coup

Del Piero

Del Piero signing is A-League's biggest coup

Two-time A-League champion Sydney FC has pulled off the biggest transfer coup in the competition's eight-year history, signing former Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero.

The 37-year-old has signed a two-year deal worth $A2 million per season, making him the highest paid player in any of Australia's four domestic football codes.

Sydney FC officials are hoping Del Piero's presence will double gates at the Sydney Football Stadium, where the Sky Blues kick off their home campaign against the Newcastle Jets on October 13.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fifa World Rankings September 2012

Fifa World Rankings.
Fifa World Rankings September 2012

Fifa's World Rankings for September 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, England still in their best ever position of third, Portugal and then Copa America champions Uruguay, Brazil remain out of the top 10 in 12th.

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings


Sir Alex Ferguson at 1000

Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson

Saturday's 3 Sept 2012 Barclays Premier League fixture between Southampton and Manchester United at St. Mary's was the thousandth league game in charge for Alex Ferguson.

Now 70 years old - he was born in 1941 in Govan - he scored on his debut at the age of 16 for Scottish team Queen's Park. 20 goals in 31 matches was his tally for that team, but in 1960 he went to St Johnstone where, apparently, he considered emigrating to Canada.

In the FIFA World Rankings, as of 3 September 2012, the Canada men's national team is ranked 79th in the world, just below Cape Verde Islands. Canadians might be wondering "what if?" today. After scoring a hat trick v Rangers he moved to Dunfermline, where he was dropped for the Scottish FA Cup Final after a bad league game v St Johnstone. There is no sentimentality in football, and this experience must have helped shape his future attitudes toward team selection.

The following season (1965-6) he was Scotland's joint top goal scorer with 31 goals. He joined Rangers – the club he supported as a boy – for a record (between two Scottish teams) £65k. Here there was another important moment where he seemingly threw away his 1969 Scottish FA Cup loser's medal after being criticised for allowing his mark to score, though Rangers were well beaten by Celtic 4 – 0.

His wife didn't like the idea of their moving to the English wilderness of Nottingham Forest, so he played for Falkirk and Ayr Utd instead.

Like Andre Villas Boas he was a young manager: only 32 at East Stirlingshire. Then came St Mirren, and in 1978 Aberdeen. Aberdeen had only won the Scottish League once: in 1955. There must have been something strange in the water that year as south of the border Chelsea won Division 1 for the first time in their history, and even Newcastle United managed a trophy: a 3 – 1 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup Final.

Aberdeen's record under Ferguson: League title: 1980, 1984, 1985, Scottish FA Cup: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986 Scottish League Cup: 1986 European Cup Winners' Cup: 1983 (Aberdeen 2 – 1 Real Madrid) European Super Cup: 1983

After interest from a number of clubs, such as Arsenal and Liverpool, Alex Ferguson became the manager of Manchester United on 6 November 1986.

Manchester United's record under Ferguson: Premier League Winners: 12 FA Cup Winners: 5 League Cup Winners: 4 Cup Winners' Cup: 1 UEFA Champions' League: 2 European Super Cup: 1 Intercontinental Cup: 1 Club World Cup: 1

Saints Against Devils

Southampton 2 – 3 Manchester United

1 September 2012

Ferguson's 1000th league game resulted in a win, but it was a struggle for United against a quick and technical Southampton side newly promoted to the Premier League. All seemed well as United kicked off in their changed black and white "Derby County" strip (although I'm guessing United fans might prefer "Germany" strip).

Southampton could not take possession of the football and it looked as if a thrashing might be on the cards with Valencia threatening on the right flank. Robin Van Persie, who makes it difficult to watch United without thinking one is watching Arsenal, pulls off a delightful half-volley trap-pass behind the standing leg – and a minute later the Dutchman's chest and volley just goes wide of Soton's post. Southampton's contribution in the first eight minutes is a long vertical pass that Lindegaard (preferred in United's goal to De Gea due to the latter's gaffe against Fulham) rushes out to clear. The Saints did not play route one football against Manchester City; are they more afraid of Manchester United?

In the twelfth minute the home team wins a corner – an interesting outswinging ground ball is delivered to the edge of the penalty box. The United defence seemed a fraction slow to any danger. Suddenly, without warning, United seemed very fearful. Carrick, who started the game high up the field supporting the attack is now playing deeper and is thus allowing space in the middle of the park. Schneiderlin shoots high and wide. A minute later, the same player intercepts a United pass in midfield, the ball is worked by Soton through the centre, then played out to the right of the penalty area, a diagonal cross finds star forward Rickie Lambert who outjumps Rafael and powers the ball down past Lindegaard's left hand with a textbook header. England coach Roy Hodgson, watching from the stands, must have been impressed. 1 – 0. There does seem some weakness in United's set up with the two small fullbacks vulnerable to diagonals to the head of tall far post forwards.

Welbeck, working harder than many of his teammates, works the ball to Valencia on the right. His delicate cross to the far post to RVP's chest leads to goal for the ex-Arsenal man, helped by Clyne's slip on the over-watered pitch. Southampton's lead lasted a mere 5 minutes. 1 – 1, but they are not disheartened: two minutes later good movement by Matt Le Tissier's favourite son (and team captain) Lallana leads to Lambert's shot; 17 year-old James Ward-Prowse shoots just wide; Lallana's shot just wide; Southampton are outplaying Man U in midfield where Carrick and Cleverley have done nothing but pass the ball on, and Kagawa with a free role behind RVP has a high pass completion rate but does not look threatening.

But then Clyne slips again, and there are questions concerning his footwear, which appears to consist perhaps of Adidas F50's, which do have those flat front studs, though I'm sticking with the overwatering hypothesis. United are playing without a recognizable left attacking player, perhaps to draw Clyne out thus allowing room for Van Persie's left foot? As the first half draws to a close. There is an unusual long ball down the middle that Van Persie just fails to bring down: we don't think of him being a target player in the Lambert/Carroll mould. Was this pass a sign of desperation by United?

The second half turned out to be even livelier – and a great advert for the Premier League. If Southampton do get relegated, will the FA allow them to stay up for their entertainment value?

Kagawa is still learning his trade at this level, but one suspects his apprenticeship may be a short one as he shoots just wide of the near post. RVP misses a good chance from 15 yards. A diagonal from Lambert, Evra slips in a carbon copy of United's goal, and the impressive Schneiderlin scores. 2 – 1. Now I am sure I would be instructing my players to send in high diagonals to the far post of United's defence if I were an opposing manager. Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce are you reading this?

Puncheon beats Evra easily in the box and shoots. Yet another diagonal to Lambert in the box, though this one comes to naught. Puncheon is increasingly lively, showing his fitness, and indeed Soton often seem quicker than their opponents. Something needs to be done to counteract that. No sooner have I thought that when .. Ferguson has seen enough and Scholes and Nani are on for Kagawa and Cleverley. Scholes has immediate influence on the game – he passes to RVP whose shot is saved by Davis. Penalty! Seems harsh. Southampton's appeals for clemency fall on deaf ears. RVP steps up, attempts to chip the keeper, but Davis saves brilliantly. This fellow Scholes continues to impress: looks the best player on the field.

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, a former goalkeeper, takes off Puncheon, and adds Zambian striker Emmanuel Mayuka; Lambert is also off, replaced by Guly Do Prado. The 78th minute sees Saints captain Adam Lallana off, with Rodriguez coming on. On 87 minutes, Robin Van Persie scores after Rafael's cross is met by Ferdinand, who hits the post; RVP is the first to react as the ball comes back. 2 – 2. A minute later Rodriguez' shot hits Ferdinand, which leads to a corner. Desperate defending by United. What an exciting game!

The ball goes down to the other end of the pitch. A tired looking Fonte slices the ball. Corner to United. The ball is sent in along the six-yard line, a short near-post run by Van Persie and he heads in for his hat trick. 2 – 3, and RVP's 100th Premier League goal.

We can see why Adkins made them in terms of fitness, but one may look at the three Southampton substitutions and make the assumption that Ferdinand would not have come forward had Lambert still been on the field. So would the second goal have come about? The absence on the left of the creative Lallana, surely an England national team prospect, and Puncheon out on the right, meant the dangerous aforementioned diagonals were now absent. If anything, it was the Southampton defence that had run out of legs toward the end of the game, and it looks like, at least under the current tactical set-up, Southampton are going to have to outscore their opponents to win matches.

On the United side of the fence, the overall positioning in a 4-2-3-1 seemed fine. But any formation in the world is dependent on the quality of the individual players contained within it. I see a gulf in class between Cleverley and Scholes. As mentioned above, with the excellent Van Persie up front, I had the impression I was watching Arsenal but (until Scholes came on) with a worse midfield. I don't know if now's the time, but the Ferdinand-Vidic axis seemed not to be as impregnable as it once was, though it's perhaps too early to bet against Man U winning the Premier League again .. especially with Ferguson still at the helm. Is this his last season?

Peter Rodd