Friday, June 18, 2021

Euro 2020 Day Eight: Slips, Wobbles and Slides

Sweden 1:0 Slovakia St Petersburg

Euro 2020 Day Eight: Slips Wobbles and Slides.

The two sides seemed well matched from their first games - both had strong defences, were well organised and kept their shape, so a 0-0 draw seemed on the cards. The first half seemed to fulfill that prophecy as if both were happy with a draw, but as the game progressed it was clear the Swedes were showing more hunger and endeavour.

They had not scored at the Euros since the opening game of 2016 but broke that duck with Emil Forsberg's 77th minute penalty. Whilst the letter of the law demanded a spot kick, one felt for Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who did not move as the raiding Robin Quaison tapped the ball wide of him before colliding.

Dubravka made a handful of saves to keep out the Swedes, for whom Alexander Isak looked a cool customer once more. Slovakia regressed from their win over Poland and must look to take points from Spain in their final match.

Czech Republic 1:1 Croatia Glasgow

A little sprinkling of fans in the cavernous Hampden Park sat in stark contrast to the overflowing venues in Budapest and Copenhagen but the absentees missed an eventful central European clash.

Euro 2020 Day Eight

For the first 45 there was only one winner as the Czechs' expansive game and mass pressing kept the Croats far from their goal, smothering Luka Modric in the process. The Czechs sprayed passes around the Hampden turf in contrast to Croatia's short build-up down the middle, which was not working.

The Czech goal was VAR-enabled as the unseen team spotted a Dejan Lovren elbow on Patrik Schik nobody on the field did. From the spot, Schik notched his third of the tournament.

With the World Cup finalists staring elimination in the face, they came out roaring after the break and were level within two minutes courtesy of a typical Ivan Perisic strike, the Inter man making use of his power to cut in from the left before firing a rocket into the net. Croatia looked to grown a few inches and were passing faster too. Game on.

The introduction of Bruno Petkovic on the right gave the Croats a balance to Perisic and by the hour mark, the match was a high-octane encounter. Yet the eruption was brief. The Croats dominated but they failed to maintain the pace of the start of the second half and the match petered out into a mutually satisfying point. 

With four points from two games, the Czechs left the field happier, but Croatia will be confident of beating Scotland and qualifying too.

England 0:0 Scotland London

The UK media had built this up to be the biggest game in history; summer is the silly season after all. Unlike the nations' last clash in a finals, a burning hot day at Euro '96, today in London was a monsoon and Wembley was only 25% full.

The Tartan Army were in town in their thousands, reminding us of the carnival we have been missing with Scotland not qualifying for tournaments.

It rained heavily all day and night in Wembley, which does not help with the cultured passing game Gareth Southgate desires, but question marks against the otherwise teflon manager should still be raised. England did not dirty David Marshall's gloves beyond a Mason Mount effort and found it impossible to breach the Scots' rugged defence. 

Perhaps the hype got to England's young guns, who began without gusto and rarely upped the ante, unlike their visitors, who rose to the occasion and played with intensity. Scotland came away the happier having won their first point and stopped the Auld Enemy, but had a let-off in the first half when they let John Stones soar unmarked to meet a corner and hit the post. 

England need to raise their spirits. Harry Kane, the 2018 World Cup golden boot winner, looked jaded and lost while Marcus Rashford was anonymous after coming on. Jack Grealish did better on his belated debut in tournament football but Scotland's near misses from Stephen O'Donnell and Lyndon Dykes were the best scoring attempts of the night, along with Stones' header.

England v Scotland

The world's oldest international fixture dates from 1872, but the injury time melee in the box was more like the medieval village game from which football sprang. British Isles sides tend not to serve up haute cuisine when they meet each other in competition.

Scotland go north happy with their work but have still to score and must now win against Croatia, while England should ease into the next round, where sterner tests await.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Euro 2020: Day Seven the first out

It's the second round of games and now the cheers and tears really begin as teams book their tickets for the next phase or their planes home. Two wins and you are surfing a wave of euphoria, two defeats and the team previews and Panini stickers have lost their sheen...

Ukraine 2:1 North Macedonia, Bucharest

Ukraine got their first points on the board, deservedly so after pulling two goals back against the Dutch but leaving Amsterdam empty handed in their first match.

Euro 2020

North Macedonia had been a breath of fresh air in their earlier outing, attacking so hell for leather you could forgive them for losing 3-1 to Austria. 

In their second match, they tried the same tactic but lost again. Holland's later win over Austria meant they are the first side to pack their bags.

Shipping five goals in two games to modest opposition reveals the sad fact the first-time finalists were out of their depth, but only thanks to a sometimes sleepy defence. Their enthusiastic attack merited more.

They had brief moments of hope when Ezgjan Alioski converted his penalty kick on the rebound in the 55th minute and when goalkeeper Stole Dimirievski saved a penalty from Ruslan Malinovskiy in the 84th.

Ukraine's second goal, by Roman Yaremchuk, was so casually converted after splitting the Macedonian backline that neither the players nor fans celebrated much. 

Their first, from Andriy Yarmolenko, was a poacher's goal worthy of his storied manager Andriy Shevchenko.

Denmark 1:2 Belgium, Copenhagen

Christian Eriksen was wearing his team shirt in his hospital bed but must have been on the pitch in spirit too as Denmark raced into a second minute lead and played a storming first 45. 

When Yussuf Poulsen's opportunistic strike hit the net all Denmark exploded in catharsis. Talk about coming out fighting.

The whole ground stopped in the tenth minute to salute their stricken colleague. A lovely touch and it surely boosted the home team's already sky-high confidence. While clapping for Eriksen, the Belgians must have wondered if they were in a no-win situation.


Backed by a full Parken Stadion, it was easy to forget the under the cosh visitors were FIFA's No.1 ranked nation. But it is also little known that Denmark are in the top ten of the world rankings too.

Belgium were lucky to be only one down at the break after 45 minutes of Danish emotion. Inevitably perhaps, the home side could not sustain that intensity and in the 55th minute the Belgians' class resurfaced.

Romelu Lukaku barged past defenders and slipped it to Kevin De Bruyne, whose deft feet slipped it to Thorgan Hazard to slot home.

The heavy artillery was now being brought to bear on their upstart rivals. De Bruyne's perfect near post drilled effort was straight out of his Man City playbook, leaving Kaspar Schmeichel grasping at air.

The Red Devils had found their fire. Despite a heroic effort, the Danes lost again and must hope to beat Russia and sneak through as a third-placed side. 

It was truly a game of two halves.

Netherlands 2:0 Austria, Amsterdam

A one-sided match and a duly flat atmosphere in the Johan Cruyff Arena left me feeling short-changed but that should not take away from how well the Dutch are playing and how disorganised Austria were.

The Dutch should have scored more than two and will have to wait until the knockout stages for a real test.


Austria got it all wrong with a high line easily sprung by the Dutch forwards. The Dutch passing, mass pressing and use of space was a class apart and Austria seemed bereft of ideas. 

They were holed in the harbour by Marko Arnautovic's one match ban and the choice of a three man defence which reduced David Alaba's effectiveness. The Bayern Munich man's night got worse as he conceded the penalty Memphis Depay scored from and fired wide of the post later on.

Denzel Dumfries added the second after a right wing raid. After a strong 90 minutes and two goals in two games, the PSV defender will doubtless have some big clubs sniffing around him.

Oranje looked so much in cruise control I almost felt like doing a crossword. Austria came to life somewhat in the last ten minutes but it was too little too late. They can still make the next phase but nobody will fear playing them.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Euro 2020 Days 5&6 - Ten More Hit the Onion Bag

Hungary 0:3 Portugal

The first full house of the Euros was in Budapest as 61,000 packed the Puskas Arena, but the Hungarian heirs to the Mighty Magyars flopped 0:3 at home to Portugal in Group F.

Whatever the wisdom of such a mass event at a time of rising infections and variants, the sight and sound of a full football stadium was undeniably tasty. It is easy to forget this tournament is unique in allowing Euro minnows to host matches so the expectation in places like Baku, Budapest and Copenhagen has been immense.

Euro 2020 Days 5&6

Whilst I was never convinced Platini's legacy was a wise one, I am beginning to warm to the concept of multiple host nations for the reason stated above.

Nevertheless, despite a wall of sound and the first true home advantage of Euro 2020, Hungary left the field losers.

Portugal were the better side but struggled to break down their motivated opponents until very late in the game when the floodgates opened and the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo ran amok. Having ditched the sponsors' Coca Cola for water at the pre-match press conference, he showed the magical power of H2O for footballers in their late thirties.

This match hinged on an incident ten minutes from time. Substitute Szabolcs Schon cut in from the left and beat Rui Patricio at his near post, raising the roof of the Puskas Arena. Hungary, outplayed and under the cosh, looked to have pulled off a robbery, but the strike was ruled out for offside (c) VAR.

With the home side dazed, Portugal grabbed a deflected goal in the 84th minute to grab control of the match. As they twisted the knife, Ronaldo dispatched a penalty and waltzed through the defence to make the final scoreline look like a rout. 

The Hungarians will have another full house to enjoy on Saturday. All they have to do to make their fans happy is beat France.

Germany 0:1 France 

This might have appeared to be the juiciest pick of the first round, but hopes of another Espana '82 were never realistic. 

Growing acceptance of Germany's continued shortcomings, coming on the back of their spectacular elimination by South Korea at Russia 2018, had engendered sympathy for Der Mannschaft in Munich. The current edition is not the machines which won Italia '90 or Brazil 2014 and are ranked only 8th in Europe by FIFA.

I am still wondering why this current German eleven is so underwhelming considering they have top players from top clubs - Bayern, Chelsea, Man City, Real Madrid etc.

The last poor German side at the Euros was in 2000 but the individuals are much better this time. Nevertheless, their telepathy was awry at the Allianz and their finishing second class, unless you count Mats Hummels shanking it into the roof of the net to give France the win.

It was clear to see why Les Bleus are the favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay. They can field a star in almost every position, play with an unmatched fluidity and win the ball back with alacrity. Oh and they have Kylian Mbappé.

The world's highest-valued footballer scored a beautiful goal against Germany but saw it ruled out for offside, a fate replicated by Karim Benzema. 

Mbappé's left swerve and curling shot is such a distinctive move it is a wonder why defenders fall for it so often. Another one is Cristiano's spot-kick demeanour, arms close to his side, eyes intent on sending the goalie the wrong way.

Turkey 0:2 Wales

Wales recorded their first finals win since beating Belgium at Euro 2016 with a 2-0 victory over Turkey in Baku in Group A.

The Azerbaijani capital was said to be an effective home game for the Turks but once more the home team fell flat and despite forging a few half chances, never managed to put the Welsh under sustained pressure. Judging by the sweaty yellow shirts (was that Australia in disguise?) it was a tropically humid night in Baku but it did not affect the visitors.

Manchester United winger Daniel James was just one who ran his socks off all night.

The Welsh were worthy winners. In a dominant first period, Aaron Ramsey missed two good chances before he opened the scoring while Gareth Bale missed a second half penalty to boot. 

The running track at the Baku Olympic Stadium exaggerated his spot-kick miss, as the ball ballooned into space, much like Chris Waddle's did at Italia '90.

In injury time though Bale had the last laugh after performing the same trick twice in succession from a corner, selling his marker a dummy before charging goalward along the end line. 

On the second occasion, he picked out Connor Roberts who fired home to clinch the match. In the first half Bale had thrice picked out a diagonal run from Ramsey into the box, so the Turks were certainly warned he was on repeat.

Shortly before the end, there was the biggest brawl of the Euros so far, sparked by Turkey captain and striker Burak Yilmaz, who had been howling at every decision for all of the 90 it seemed. For a while it looked like the referee would flash red cards but instead he showed three yellows to shrewdly cool a rather overheated evening.

Russia 1:0 Finland

Russia got their first points of the Euros with a morale-boosting win over neighbours Finland in St Petersburg. Stanislav Cherchisov had rung the changes and was rewarded with an attack-minded performance.

Alexey Miranchuk's winner will be one of the goals of the tournament contenders for a little shimmy, switch of feet and top corner finish, shades of Dennis Bergkamp or Davor Suker's magic touches.


Joel Pohjanpalo looked to have given Finland the lead with a flying header in under three minutes but good old VAR dampened the flames once more. Is it just me or are more goals being disallowed than in previous tournaments?

Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hrádecky made a world class save to deny Daler Kuzyaev late in the second half and Rifat Zhemaletdinov missed a brace of chances to double the Russian lead. 

In truth, both sides had shortcomings and failed to grab this game by the scruff of the neck or finish properly, but the last-ditch Russian defending and a moment of skill made the difference.

The Finns probably profited from the Christian Eriksen scare in their first match but today their luck ran out. Their counter-attacking game did not produce and striker Teemu Pukki did not get the ball enough.

If Denmark can beat Belgium tomorrow, all four teams in Group B will be on three points.

Italy 3:0 Switzerland

Picking up from where they left off in their impressive 3-0 win over Turkey, Italy began with aplomb in Rome against Switzerland, attacking at a high tempo, making good use of both flanks and trying to forge shooting opportunities.

But then after 20 minutes the fates conspired to ruin skipper Giorgio Chiellini's night. 

On his fourth European Championship, the Italian veteran thumped home for the Azzurri only to see it ruled out for a handball no-one seemed to have noticed.

Siamo tutti Azzurri

Four minutes later he limped off with a pulled hamstring but was smiling as Manuel Locatelli slipped his marker and finished off a counter-attack to give Italy the lead and Sassuolo its first scorer at a Euros.

A second from Locatelli and a third from Ciro Immobile made for another resounding Roman night, both goals shots from the edge of the D.

Switzerland had offered little, only attempting without success to repel their rampant hosts and showing a surprising regression from their first match against Wales. 

After a second comprehensive win, the newly-minted attack-minded Azzurri confirmed they are definitely one of the favourites.

Memories of the sensory overload of Italia '90 are inevitable on such summer nights in the Stadio Olimpico, but Azeglio Vicini's men never played with such verve and fervour like Mancini's men did.

Che bella, Italia.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

England v Croatia Euro 2020 Photos

England v Croatia Euro 2020 Photos

England beat Croatia 1-0 in their opening Group D encounter. A Raheem Stirling goal from a pass from man-of-the-match Kalvin Phillips settled a fairly even encounter.

England emerge from the tunnel
England emerge from the tunnel

Croatia fans at Wembley
Croatia fans at Wembley

Croatia fans at Wembley
Croatia fans at Wembley

The teams
The teams

England team
England team photo

Croatia team
Croatia team

The coaches on the prowl
The coaches on the prowl

The Yorkshire Pirlo
The Yorkshire Pirlo

Steward 9-1084
What is steward 09-0184 thinking, we wonder?

Croatia fans at Wembley
Croatia fans at Wembley

England fans at Wembley
England fans celebrate

Handshakes at the end of the match

Midfield maestros
Midfield maestros

Wembley Stadium at Euro 2020
Wembley Stadium at Euro 2020

Wembley Stadium at Euro 2020
Wembley Stadium in the sunshine at Euro 2020

Wembley Stadium at Euro 2020
The big shirts

The team coaches
The team coaches

Under the arch
Under the arch


Ross Clegg

Monday, June 14, 2021

Schick Sinks the Scots Slovakia Shine and Spain Pass Up a Chance

EURO 2020 DAY FOUR: Scotland 0:2 Czech Republic, Poland 1:2 Slovakia, Spain 0:0 Sweden

The bagpipes fell flat as Scotland's much-heralded return to a finals ended in 0-2 loss to the Czech Republic in Glasgow, where in an otherwise sweltering tournament, many a kilted fan wore a coat.

The Tartan Army are a great accompaniment to any tournament and even with a spartan Hampden they made their voices heard until the second Czech goal hit the onion bag with a 50-metre strike worthy of winning goal of the tournament.

Like Croatia at Wembley yesterday, the visitors withstood the expected early onslaught with solid organisation.

Patrik Schick
Patrik Schick

The Scots were not outplayed and dominated possession but were floored by two sucker punches from Patrik Schick, a classically tall and strong centre-forward. 

His first was a powerful header, his second a spectacular lob of the goalkeeper from almost the halfway line. He missed a chance to make it a hat-trick late in the game but will be eyeing the golden boot now.

The Czechs also defended passionately, throwing themselves in front of the ball at times to block shots, while nullifying the hosts' home advantage. 

Scotland can take heart in their tradition of fighting back from defeats in this competition. At Euro '92 and Euro '96 they had defeats but then confounded expectations to win their final group games. Their next task is England at Wembley however, which is tough.

Later in St Petersburg, Slovakia beat Poland, a side ranked 15 places above them by FIFA. 

Theirs was a hard-fought win with clinical strikes from Robert Mak and Milan Skriniar, although they showed how not to start a second half as Poland took only 30 seconds to pass the ball into their net. Karol Linetty's finish will surely be the most gentle finish of the finals.

Robert Lewandowski, one of the world's best strikers of the last decade, once again looked condemned to underachievement in his country's shirt. He is not the first to suffer this affliction- George Weah, Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah spring to mind.

Slovakia could be most underrated team in the tournament on this showing but will do well to shake off their tag of a Round of 16 leaver, a bit like Switzerland, or in CONCACAF terms, Mexico.

In Seville, it was at first refreshing to see a different style of football, possession play with changes of pace from Spain, a collective of little scurrying with tight turns and balls to feet. The home side pressed well too and ended up with 85% of possession...but failed to find the net.

Was is pass-enaccio again from Spain, forgetting the aim is to find the net by any means necessary?

Despite an apparent gulf in class in the first half, it was Sweden, on a rare sortie, who missed a great chance to score through Alexander Isak, whose shot was cleared off the line onto the post. The 21 year-old won the Copa del Rey with Real Sociedad this season so felt right at home on a sultry night in Seville. 

Some of his Nordic countrymen however seemed content to maintain a Viking shield wall all evening and repel the Iberian raids. Sweden can often be a tough nut to crack and the suspicion grew that it was going to be one of those nights for the team trying to score.

Euro 2020

Why Luis Enrique did not choose to bring on the battering ram of Adama Traoré in the second half as an alternative form of attack was baffling.

Even Gerard Moreno, the Europa League winner and author of 30 goals this season with Villareal, was only given 15 minutes. 

Spain's glorious tiki-taka era encouraged more nippy attacking midfielders like the teenage starlet Pedri, who did well tonight, rather than target men like Fernando Llorente or space attackers like Diego Costa or David Villa.

Fernando Torres, who profited from acceleration and a deft touch, is the model for current Spanish strikers but none have matched his goalscoring.

Spain did get Robin Olsen's gloves pretty dirty tonight but there are no points for that in football. 

Still, with three teams qualifying from four out of six groups, the goalless draw tonight felt less important than it should have done.

Seville's famous fruit leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when raw but makes a lovely marmalade after a while.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Euro 2020: Days Two & Three

Wales 1:1 Switzerland, Denmark 0:1 Finland, Russia 0:3 Belgium, 

England 1:0 Croatia, Austria 3:1 North Macedonia, Netherlands 3:2 Ukraine

Euro 2020
Euro 2020

What a weekend of European football. 

With three games a day in the summer heat, the 24-team finals feels like the World Cup, except for the shrunken crowds in each venue.

On Saturday after Wales had fought back bravely to grab a point from a more polished Switzerland, for whom Breel Embolo staked a claim to be one of the stars of the tournament, a twist of cruel fate left us all dazed and traumatised.

Christian Eriksen's near-death experience was played out on television and threatened to cast a shroud over the whole competition, but the textbook response of the Danish physios and proximity of the Rigshospitalet, four minutes' drive from the Parken stadium, helped save his life; that and the collective prayer power and willpower of the players, fans and watching world.

At times of tragedy, we remember what counts and what binds us together. While football can hold its head high, the same cannot be said of UEFA, whose protocols insensitively ushered the Danes and Finns into playing the remaining 49 minutes on the same day one of them almost died. 

The alternative was 12 noon on Sunday, which was no better. Even though the bed-bound Eriksen had given his blessing to play on on Saturday, it was surely not the wisest course of action.

The Danes' heads must have been messed up as they lost their first half superiority and their regular penalty taker was not there when they got a spot kick, duly missed.

Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand did a 180, explaining "Honestly it was best to get it over with" on Saturday before saying "No, we should not have played" on Sunday after realising his players were not in the right frame of mind.

Christian Eriksen
Christian Eriksen

I have been learning a lot about cardiology today and gleaned the fact that no echocardiogram or electrocardiogram, the usual heart tests applied to footballers, are foolproof. Defects can slip through the net with fatal consequences.

Inter's club doctor was as perplexed as everyone that their player had suddenly collapsed because nothing had shown up on his examinations, a sentiment echoed by the Danish team doctor today.

"The examinations we have done so far look fine," Morten Boesen told the media. "We don't have an explanation to why it happened."

There are a range of reasons hearts may suddenly stop. The key to surviving a cardiac arrest like Eriksen's is the speed of the CPR and defibrillator response. In Britain only one in ten who suffer one outside of a hospital pull through. 

Thank God football and modern stadia have the requirement for trained paramedics on hand. 

With the miraculous news Eriksen was awake and in good spirits, we could all relax a little last night and admire Romelu Lukaku astride the St Petersburg turf like a colossus. Unfortunately it felt like the second mismatch after Italy v Turkey, sowing more doubt about Michel Platini's parting gift to football.

With 16 out of 24 finalists making it to the second stage, there is not much jeopardy in the first round.

Russia looked to have regressed since 2018 when they reached the last eight of their tournament, but that probably proved the advantage of being the World Cup hosts. 

England beat Croatia 1-0 today, where it was not the paucity of fans which was remarkable but their homogeneity. For all the fuss over taking the knee and the news of honours for Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, as far as the BBC cameras showed, the England fans at Wembley looked anything but diverse.

The afternoon heatwave had an effect on both sides' energy levels and while England deserved to win for finding the net and a polished performance, both sides showed enough quality to go far in the competition.

Gareth Southgate's new boys - Tyrone Mings, Kalvin Phillips, Phil Foden, Declan Rice and Mason Mount all slotted in smoothly to their new roles. The Croats looked solid and well organised but will need to create more goalscoring chances against the Scots and Czechs.

This afternoon, AustriaNorth Macedonia didn't sound like the biggest show in town but was a most enjoyable clash. The Austrians merited their 3-1 win with a top-drawer assist from Real Madrid-bound David Alaba and a typically braggadoccio cameo from Marko Arnautovic, who celebrated his goal with his familiar anger.

If he so hates being a substitute then maybe he should stop scoring as one..?

The Austrians were rapt in joy at the end having never won a Euros match before, but the ebullient debutants from North Macedonia (pop. 2 million) won the neutrals' hearts, not just because 37 year old veteran Goran Pandev lasted the 90 up front and scored.

The team played like schoolboys, fearless and energetic, attempting tricks in all the wrong places but attacking with real drive. In midfielder Enis Bardhi and wing back Ezgjan Alioski they had two lively attackers. 

Overly optimistic their channel balls, snapshots and impromptu long passes might have been, but they won full marks for entertainment. Their verve and spirit reminded me of Peru at the last World Cup. Let us hope they thrill us again in this tournament. 

The evening match from Amsterdam was a huge contrast initially. The top two seeds in the group played controlled and disciplined football, keeping the ball and keeping their shapes. The Netherlands looked smooth as they passed upfield but seemed to lack a cutting edge.

I had them down as one of my tips for the trophy after seeing them reach the 2019 Nations League final. Like Italy, the Dutch seemed reborn after missing out on Russia 2018.

In the second half they caught fire when Georginio Wijnaldum exploited a torn Ukrainian backline to snap up a goalkeeping flail and guide the ball into the net in the 52nd minute. Wout Weghorst's opportunist finish made it 2-0 and it seemed game over.

But then, mirabile dictu, Ukraine pulled two goals back out of nowhere. Andriy Yarmolenko's 25 yard swerver must be up there for goal of the tournament already while Roman Yaremchuk's glancing header soon afterwards was also impressive.

But with five minutes to play Ukraine goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan made a weak clearance and Nathan Ake's cross was headed home by Denzel Dumfries. 

A narrow win for the Dutch, a five-goal thriller and the best day of the Euros yet.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, June 13, 2021

向基層獻上飯盒及福袋 「傑志義工隊」落區送關懷

向基層獻上飯盒及福袋 「傑志義工隊」落區送關懷

剛奪得本屆港超聯冠軍的傑志即將遠征泰國,代表香港出戰亞冠盃(AFC Champions League),球隊近日除了加緊操練,亦把握機會為社會出力。「傑志義工隊」於周六(6月5日)舉行了成立後的首次活動,在傑志副足球總監梁志榮、球員鄭展龍、何振廷及顏卓彬、一眾球迷、足球學院成員、家長及贊助商Canon義工的參與下,一行20人到位於旺角的社企餐廳「厨尊」協助包裝愛心飯盒,並親手派發予區內150名有需要人士。

向基層獻上飯盒及福袋 「傑志義工隊」落區送關懷

除了獻上飯盒,「傑志義工隊」亦派送了福袋,裡面包括米、食用油、消毒搓手液及口罩,以緩解疫情下基層市民生活需要。 「傑志義工隊」由傑志慈善有限公司(傑志慈善)成立,上月開始招募成員,報名反應熱烈,傑志慈善主席伍健先生期望能匯聚各方力量貢獻社會:「 義工隊由傑志大家庭不同成員組成,這代表著球會上下一心,一同『心懷傑志』在疫情下為基層市民送上關懷,貫徹我們的格言"For The Good of Hong Kong!"」 鄭展龍、何振廷及顏卓彬是傑志的青訓產品,由10年前的青年隊並肩作戰至今日的港超聯,一直帶領著他們的就是傑志副足球總監梁志榮。今次三位年青球員與跟隨多年的教練一同落區向基層送暖,何振廷深感意義重大:「我們一同成長,一同克服過不少困難。

今年球季在疫情下波折重重;而在球場外,社會上亦有不少市民面對不同難關,這次能夠以傑志球員身份為有需要人士獻上飯盒及福袋,希望轉化成支持,鼓勵大家一起奮鬥,戰勝逆境。」 傑志慈善於五月推出「我包飯,你出餸!」慈善飯盒支援計劃,以「配對捐款」形式#1集合社會力量,資助四間善心餐廳派發免費飯盒予區內長者、露宿者及失業人士,希望透過計劃幫助到基層市民之外,亦能支援善心餐廳經營下去。 

 是次計劃所籌得善款,會透過受資助餐廳輪流每日派發約100個#2免費飯盒予區內長者、露宿者及失業人士,預計兩個月共派發約7,000個愛心飯盒#2。以每個飯盒成本價約港幣20元計算,只要善長們捐出100元,連同傑志慈善等額捐助100元,合共200元捐款即可為基層人士提供約10個愛心飯盒。公眾可透過銀行櫃位、自動櫃員機或網上轉帳捐款(華僑永亨銀行:035-802-229809-051 "Kitchee Charities Limited")。

The Euros are here and there

The Euros are here…. and there.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, they are being held across 11 countries, with numerous restrictions in place.

What would I do differently, personally I would not hold it. So that's the end of this article.

But, as it is here what would I have done differently?

Well, let me tell you about how I planned my tournament.

It all started back in July 2019 that is when you were first able to apply for tickets to the games.

Normally I would look to visit every venue, but I was not happy with the format of holding the tournament across twelve different countries. I prefer to be able to visit one country, and getting to know it during the tournament, I have in the past normally managed two weeks and in this time you can get a feel for the country.

So my initial application was
Sat 13th June, Copenhagen
Sun 14th June, Wembley
Tue 7th July, Wembley
Wed 8th July,  Wembley
Sun 12th  July, Wembley

The Euros are here and there

You might notice there is a large gap between the first two games and the last three. Well, I intended to have my two weeks in one country and had booked to go to Colombia to watch the Copa America, but that's another story.

The idea being with those initial dates that I would only need two afternoons off work, to attend the five games.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any tickets.

A friend contacted me to say that they had applied for tickets and been successful, and did I want them?

They were for Wembley on Friday the 19th. I explained that this would more than likely be an England game and that the opponents could be Scotland, (a long shot as this was August 2019). He agreed to sell, and I had my first tickets for the tournament. My flight to Colombia was booked for Sat 20th from Heathrow, so I intended to go straight from the match at Wembley to Heathrow.

Another friend got four tickets for the second semi-final at Wembley on 8th July, in the initial sale, and offered me one.

Then tickets were put on sale through the UEFA website and I managed to purchase the Wembley game on 14th June and the first semi-final on Tuesday 7th July.

So by the end of August 2019, I had three of the tickets I was initially after, plus the bonus of the Friday night fixture at Wembley.

In the meantime, I sorted out my trip to Colombia, flights, and accommodation all sorted.

21 Colombia v Peru, Medellin
22 Venezuela v Ecuador, Bogotá
23 Brasil v Qatar, Barranquilla
27 Ecuador v Peru, Medellin
28 Qatar v Venezuela, Cali

In February 2020, with the help of another friend, I managed to purchase a ticket for the Final on July 12th. So that was me all set for my summer of football for 2020.

Then as we all know, our world was turned upside down. The first international game that I missed due to the pandemic was Scotland's play-off for the Euros at the end of March.

Assessing the situation in the summer of 2020 I decided that it did not make sense to try to visit Colombia again in 2021. In the past, I have planned ahead, but all of a sudden everything has changed. There is no certainty.

I felt like a little child as the Government made decision after decision which I disagreed with. Why, why, why?

In November 2020 Scotland qualified for the finals. As a member of the Scottish supporters club, I was able to get a ticket for the three Scottish group games.

In May 2021, less than a month before the tournament was due to start UEFA held a ballot.

Due to Coronavirus capacities would be limited, and in many cases, UEFA had already sold more tickets than would now be allowed to attend. At around the same time, the Government in this country gave countries a colour code red/amber/green in relation to the regulations people would need to follow. For example, if you travelled to the UK from a red country you would need to quarantine for 10 days.

So why?
Why did they say that they were randomly cancelling people's tickets, that they had held and paid for, for almost two years?

At the same time were hospitality tickets available.

Were numerous countries offering prizes of tickets for the tournament.

If you remember the point of this is to say what I would do differently accepting that the tournament is going ahead.

Well, the first thing I would have done is have an official resale platform available for the sale of tickets. UEFA and FIFA say they have clamped down on ticket touting yet all the usual channels have tickets for all games available, some at exorbitant prices.

The fact that they have not done this has meant that supporters who are desperate for tickets are driven into the hands of touts and even worse scammers.

Some people are waiting for countries to relax their entry policies in the hope that they can travel. These things can change daily

Also right now people are undertaking Covid tests, if they receive a positive result the day before the game they will not be able to attend. They cannot legitimately sell their ticket back to UEFA. Where are they going to sell it? What happens to the price of the ticket (Unless it is for Baku!).

Why not?
Have a resale platform open.

Why not?
Revisit the way tickets were taken away from people in the ballot because of the reduced capacities. I lost my final and a semifinal ticket this way.

Bearing in mind we all understand that there are restrictions on travel. Why not use this to make the ticket sales match capacities.

Here in the U.K. Azerbaijan, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Spain are all listed as amber countries.

That means if anyone comes from one of these countries (which just happen to be all the other ones in the tournament) or even is someone in the U.K. travels to one of them. Then when they enter the U.K. they have to quarantine for 10 days.

UEFA have the database that means they could apply the restrictions to people who were in a position to travel to somewhere, thus reducing the risk to everyone.

Then they could make those (if there were any left) available to people who could attend without restrictions.

So by looking at things in this way you could make things safer for everyone.

Just now there will be people holding tickets for the later stages, who may not even have thought about these issues. If you are one of those let me know I can use your final ticket!


Two Weeks in Gabon

St Etienne

Marseille Again

Ross Clegg

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Problems of Attending A Match at Euro 2020

The Problems of Attending A Match at Euro 2020

Euro 2020 kicked off yesterday with Italy's 3-0 win over Turkey in Rome. Scotland play the Czech Republic at Hampden Park in Glasgow in Group D on Monday but actually getting to the match, even if you have valid tickets, is not proving easy at all, especially for Scotland fans travelling north from England.

The Problems of Attending A Match at Euro 2020

According to the Scottish government website, international travel and travel from the rest of the UK is not permitted without a valid reason to do so. Is Scotland's first appearance at a major international football tournament since 1996 a valid reason?

As for bringing a camera well, there are more hoops to jump through. Without a press pass, no professional cameras or video cameras are allowed in. There are no drinks allowed in either and no umbrellas.

Enjoy as best you can. Get soaking wet, don't drink, and don't take any photos.

The Problems of Attending A Match at Euro 2020

The Euros are here and there


So Far So Good


Euro 2020
Euro 2020 begins with a win for the Italians in Rome
Italy 3:0 Turkey, Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Brava Italia. The boys in blue were wearing white but got the European Championships off to a shining start with a 3-0 win over a below-par Turkey in Rome.

Roberto Mancini's much talked-about makeover was revealed on the continental catwalk and left a most impressive glow. He has crafted a smooth system for a side now unbeaten in 28 games and relatively star-free.

Eschewing their heritage of catenaccio and counter-attack, Italy now play on the front foot in a 4-3-3 and move the ball swiftly around the field. 

Unlike Turkey, Italy's shape held firm and their neat interpassing left their visitors chasing shadows, committing fouls and scoring an own goal as their system disintegrated into hopeful punts and ragged clearances.

For all Italy's fine performance, Turkey's second half collapse did leave Michel Platini's expansion of the Euros to 24 nations immediately in question. More mismatches like this and we might go back to 16 teams.

But let us raise a cin cin to Italy tonight. They played a pleasing opening movement to the European symphony.

Roma left winger Leonardo Spinazzola and Lazio forward Ciro Immobile both enjoyed the run of the green on their clubs' home field and after 45 minutes of half chances, the Azzurri were in cruise control.

As the major football nations swan through qualifiers for major tournaments it can be hard to judge their calibre before the finals, so on tonight's evidence, Italy must be semi-final material.

To complete the lovely summer evening, Andrea Bocelli's rendition of Nessun Dorma at the Stadio Olimpico and a colourful firework display relit memories of Italia '90, that most emotional World Cup. 

Will Euro 2020 be another rollercoaster we will not want to get off?

Bring on the other 50 games.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, June 6, 2021

LFC and Joie launch new programme to welcome Reds fans of the future

LFC and Joie launch new programme

Liverpool FC

As Liverpool FC becomes one year older, it has teamed up with club partner Joie to help celebrate its birthday and welcome Reds fans of the future. Working with the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, every baby born at the hospital during the club’s anniversary month of June will receive a gift pack from LFC x Joie to celebrate their birth and welcome them into the football family. 

On average, 24 babies are born at Liverpool Women’s Hospital every day. In 2021, the hospital predicts that up 1,000 babies will be born each month due to a baby boom. The pack will include a special letter penned by Sir Kenny Dalglish himself to congratulate parents on their new arrival, along with complementary gifts such as a LFC x Joie baby hat, a photo frame for the baby’s first LFC photo, a free Anfield stadium tour and various discounts to help get them started on their journey.

The families will also have the chance to enter Joie’s competition to win a signed LFC shirt and little liver membership for their new arrival. To support these new parents as they start this new chapter, LFC Foundation will be running a mental health workshop in partnership with Liverpool Women’s Hospital. The workshop will be aimed at new dads to guide and support them through the unique journey into parenthood and help them get to grips with their new role.

The sessions will take place every Tuesday between 5.30pm-6.30pm via Zoom. Having experienced first-hand what it’s like to become a parent, Liverpool FC first-team players Joe Gomez and Diogo Jota spoke to the midwives at Liverpool Women’s Hospital about what it means to be a new dad, watch the video here. 

Matt Parish, CEO of Liverpool FC Foundation, said: “Becoming a parent is the start of an extraordinary journey. As we mark another year of being Liverpool Football Club, we wanted to take this time to celebrate Liverpool’s newest arrivals who will also be sharing our June birthday. “Not only that, utilising our strong relationships with our partner Joie and also the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, which share our important family values, we wanted to provide a support network for our fans who are beginning their lives as new parents. This is why we have created our mental health workshops as a way for our supporters to come together, share their experiences and learn with each other along the way.” 

 David Welsh, Managing Director at Joie, said; “Family is the cornerstone of everything we do here at Joie, so we are delighted to be there as the next generation of Liverpool FC supporters make their arrival into the world. Becoming a parent is an extraordinary and sometimes overwhelming experience so having that support network around you is vital – we are glad that we can be a part of this initiative to make sure the fans of LFC never walk alone.” 

Kate Davis, Head of Fundraising at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, said: “We are delighted that LFC Foundation has chosen to celebrate the club’s birthday with us at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. The initiative to provide baby bundle gift bags to all babies born in the month of June at the hospital is wonderful and a lovely gesture for our new families. The hospital sees on average 24 babies being born each day – so we are looking forward to sharing the birthda

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Fifa World Rankings May 2021

Fifa World Rankings May 2021

Fifa World Rankings

Fifa's World Rankings for May 2021 were published on May 27 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

There is no change in the top 20 positions from April. Belgium who finished third at the World Cup 2018 in Russia are still top followed by champions France who defeated them in the semis, Brazil, England, Portugal, and Spain. Portugal, France and Germany meet in Group F at Euro 2020.

The full top ten is Belgium, France, Brazil, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, and Denmark.

Senegal are the top African team in 22nd place. England remains in 4th. Wales are 17th with the USA in 20th spot. Australia are still in 41st place; Japan are in 28th position. Near neighbors South Korea are 39th in the list. Scotland are 44th. The Republic of Ireland occupies 47th place, Northern Ireland are 48th.

1 Belgium
2 France
3 Brazil
4 England
5 Portugal
6 Spain
7 Italy
8 Argentina
9 Uruguay
10 Denmark
11 Mexico
12 Germany
13 Switzerland
14 Croatia
15 Colombia
16 The Netherlands
17 Wales
18 Sweden
19 Chile

May is the last ranking before the delayed Euro 2020 and Copa America tournaments.

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings