Tuesday, August 27, 2013

England weekend review, Qatar winter switch due for approval next month, 67,000 MLS crowd

England weekend review

*Manchester United's match with Chelsea at Old Trafford had been teed up to be the first big clash of the season but ended in a disappointing stalemate.

Manchester United

A host of subplots and an evening kick-off at the end of a sunny Bank Holiday was the perfect setting for a big night of football but despite some high-quality approach play from both teams, the game finished 0:0 with few real chances carved out.

Wayne Rooney made staying at Old Trafford look a little more likely by being handed a starting role and impressing. His opposite number Fernando Torres looked glum on the sidelines after Jose Mourinho had stressed the need for mobility up front in preferring Andre Schurrle.

Chelsea effectively played without a striker, using Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard closely behing the German. Jose Mourinho reminded England how canny a tactician he can be, and how his team's style takes second billing to its score.

Mourinho afterwards called on Rooney again to clarify his desires, which added to his pre-match comment that David Moyes had unsettled him, appears to confirm Chelsea still want to prise him away.

Real Madrid

*Gareth Bale's interminable transfer to Real Madrid drags on, with the surprising news that a second club have entered a bid with only days to go before the window closes. The identity of the last-minute suitor remains hidden, but Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City/United are about the only clubs who could find the £86 million Real have offered. Given Tottenham's recent spending spree it seems inevitable chairman Daniel Levy will sign on the dotted line before next weekend.

*Cardiff City's 3:2 win over Manchester City was the highlight of the weekend's games, and the Bluebirds fans were doubly happy to see Welsh rivals Swansea stuck at the bottom of the Premier League. Some local fans staged a march before the match to continue the protest against the switch from blue to red shirts and the replacement of their Bluebird logo with a Welsh dragon, the work of Malaysian owner Vincent Tan, who nevertheless has been instrumental in returning the club to the top flight for the first time since the early 1960s.

* Liverpool & Tottenham maintained the only 100% records in the Premier League. The Reds won 1-0 at Aston Villa and Spurs by the same score at home to Swansea.

*Arsenal grabbed their first points of the season with a comfortable 3-1 win at Fulham in heavy rain.


* In other news, Sepp Blatter has said a decision on a switch to winter for World Cup 2022 could come as early as the 3rd of October this year. The FIFA President added he would be "very surprised" if the Executive Committee did not rubber-stamp the controversial decision at its meeting in Zurich.

Europe's league schedule faces turmoil in 2021-'22 while losing bidders Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA could examine legal challenges to any date change. Qatar beat the USA 14-8 in the final round of voting. The Winter Olympics are slated for January 2022, which points to a World Cup finals in November 2021 or even February 2022. Either way, the 2022 World Cup controversy has a long way to run.


* Across the pond, 67, 385 watched Seattle Sounders beat Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers 1-0 with an Eddie Johnson goal. The huge crowd, the second largest in MLS history, was due in part to the local derby and part to the first home game of returning US hero Clint Dempsey. Only two crowds in Europe this weekend, both in Germany, were bigger. Bayern Munich drew 71,000 and Borussia Dortmund 80,000.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Opening thoughts on the new Premier League season

New Premier League Season

The 2013-'14 Premier League season has kicked off and will go down in history as the first one to use goal-line technology.

On the field, the first weekend appeared to be a continuation of the previous one.

Opening thoughts on the new Premier League season

Champions Manchester United, with the disgruntled Wayne Rooney starring alongside the exquisite Robin Van Persie and fast-improving Danny Welbeck, began with aplomb, dispatching Michael Laudrup's much-lauded Swansea City 4-1 at their Liberty Stadium. David Moyes could hardly have wished for a smoother landing into Alex Ferguson's shoes.

Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho back at the helm, also hit the ground running, with an opening 45 minutes of dynamic attacking in their 2-0 defeat of newly-promoted Hull City.

The three teams who came up from the Championship all lost their opening games and failed to trouble their opponents' goals, a depressing reiteration of the gap between England's top two divisions.

Yet Manchester City's 4-0 demolition of Newcastle confirmed there are also divisions within the Premier League.

After a barren summer in the transfer market in spite of a £70 million war chest, Arsenal remain in the mire following a 3-1 home defeat to a resurgent Aston Villa, who had managed to hold on to their top striker Christian Benteke.

Arsene Wenger cuts an increasingly cornered figure, unwilling to overspend while bearing the brunt of a constituency of supporters increasingly furious at the Gunners' inability to challenge for trophies. His players' apparent fatalism and lethargy in their opening home match should give him more sleepless nights.

While Tottenham lost the last Champions League place to their North London rivals at the end of last season, their summer shopping, including the shrewd acquisitions of Brazilian international midfielder Paulinho and Spanish striker Roberto Soldado, and the transfer of England midfielder Scott Parker to Fulham, suggest Andre Villas-Boas has already planned on life without Gareth Bale, whose purchase Real Madrid have just over a week left to finalise.

The loss of two world-class performers in Bale and Luis Suarez, who wants out of Liverpool, would hurt the prestige of the Premier League, which missed out on most of the big name transfers this summer. Until this year it would have been unthinkable for Chelsea and Manchester City to be outbid by French teams, but they were in the case of Edinson Cavani (PSG) and Radamel Falcao (Monaco).

The Premier League remains a strong global brand, as attested to by its latest TV & internet deals, and the fact the World Cup will conclude this season is not news right now.

One man less than excited about the new campaign is probably Roy Hodgson, who has only 34% of the division to choose his England XI from. After a summer of failure from England's U20 & U21 sides and the continued lack of a winter break in the domestic season, the league's host nation's prospects of glory in Brazil next summer look slim.

Meanwhile the premier carnival of cash carries on as usual.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fifa World Rankings August 2013

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa World Rankings August 2013

Fifa's World Rankings for August 2013 were published this month at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

Euro 2012 winners Spain are once again on top of the FIFA rankings followed by Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, World Cup 2014 hosts, Brazil and high-flying Belgium.

Copa America champions Uruguay are 12th, England are 14th, up one. Scotland are in 50th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 44th place, Wales are in 46th, Northern Ireland are 109th..

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

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