Friday, March 28, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free.... Except Depth

An Open Letter to Arsene Wenger:

Spend some fucking money you French twit.

A good portion of the UF'ers.

Okay, it's a bit short and lacking in a certain eloquence, but it makes its point.

A lack of quality depth is killing the Gunners. Really, aren't they ahead of schedule to pay off the bonds used to finance the Emirates? I'm sure the shareholders derive immense pleasure from wiping their collective asses with £50 notes but the players on the pitch are spent, the backline will have to be patched together again with Sagna out and well, none of that really even matters because you've already crapped out a 5 point lead and have flushed away any chance of winning the Prem.

Unless those same listless players have a CL run in them, that's four years and zero trophies. I'd cry but, well, soccer doesn't make me cry. Only the ending to Cinema Paradiso makes me cry.

There, I've said too much about myself. Are you happy now, Arsene? Look what you've done.

Maybe if we get more than five right this week, it'll assuage my anger. But probably not.


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Fulham : USA :: Manchester City : ____?____

What do the 3 stars mean, anyway?

A) Guyana
B) Mozambique
C) Mexico
D) Slovakia
E) Russia

The answer, my friends, is always C.

Man City, having picked up Nery Castillo in the January transfer window, is now rumored to be preparing a bid to pry Giovanni dos Santos (Johnny Two Saints) from Barcelona. Look at that little baby face. Ricky Hatton would love to have that around. You know, to make him look more like an actual fighter.

The question is, is this a new trend or a continuation of an old one? In the 1979 FA Cup final, Arsenal took on Manchester United. Unlike just five years prior, when the game was only contested by Englishmen, this game featured a mix from around the Isles. Arsenal started 3 Irishmen as well as 3 Northern Irish. Manchester United started five Scots and only three Englishmen. It would seem that the teams were buying groups of players that they felt would compete well together because of shared background.

I say that this is the rough equivalent of what some teams are doing today. You can definitely see it when looking at Fulham under Lawrie Sanchez and Roy Hodgson. Besides the five Americans, Sanchez also brought in a couple of Northern Irish players. Of course, when you look at the results for Fulham this season, perhaps Sven-Goran should get the hint and let Johnny Two Saints land somewhere else.

Thanks to Random Country Generator for the random country generation.

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Uhh, this story is going to continue to get worse

Well, the story we covered three days ago about three Turkish football coaches who were gunned down at their stadium? The head coach Sedat Gezer and Goalkeeping coach Ismail Kurt were killed in the attack, while the manager, Engin Ozarslan was seriously wounded?

Well, it turns out that the authorities are thinking it was a mob hit.

This story won't be going away for a while, what with all the allegations of match-fixing and bribery going around the Turkish and various neighbouring leagues.

From Today's Zaman:

"Reports also indicated that the attack was organized and the assailants had been professionals. The assailants arrived at the club building in a minibus and stormed the office of coach Gezer (54) where they fatally shot him and Kurt (43). The attackers fled the scene immediately, shooting Özarslan on their way out.

Thirty-six empty bullet shells were found at the crime scene and the police have not ruled out the possibility of mob involvement."

This is a deeply troubling development, and one that FIFA should keep an eye on. After all, the level of mafia and mob involvement in soccer worldwide is a massive concern [especially in South East Asia, where the gambling rings rack up billions of dollars in profits], and if these suspicions are confirmed, football's governing body is going to have to look long and hard at possible ways to safeguard the game, if that's even possible.

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Dream team comes to Town

Now this must be a joke. Ex York City chairman John Batchelor has made a bid for Mansfield Town. The fact anyone would bid for Mansfield Town is pretty funny but that's not the joke.

The man wants to change the name of the team to ...wait for it.....Harchester United. Yes that's right, he wants to name the team after a fictional side that appears in the cheesy soap opera 'Dream Team'. Maybe he has fantasies of bending Mrs Block over the board room table?

Whatever the reason, this is one of the most absurd things I have heard in a while. Does he hope that he can piggy back on the shows success and all of the teenagers of the north will turn up on a Saturday afternoon hoping to see Fletch, the womanizing alcho-pop adicted striker. Maybe get a glimpse of his team mate Jamie Parker the gambling goalkeeper?

So what could they do to bring the crowds in....?

Maybe they could have daily bust ups at the training ground and invite fans to watch. Or they could stage a weekly murder in the boardroom. Maybe send a hooker to the managers office then call the tabloids. I know I know. Hire a stalker to follow home the kit mans wife!

Can you imagine all those purple shirts at motorway service staions up and down the M1 every Saturday?

John Batchelor obviously thinks the sleepy town of Mansfield needs some drama. If they lose to Nott's County on Saturday there will be plenty of that. They are currently embroiled in a relegation battle in League Two and their local rivals County are sitting one place above them.


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Liverpool vs. Everton

We had plans for a Rivalry essay set for this game on Sunday, but alas, they fell through this week like an England offside trap.

It will be back on course for next weekend's bloodbath with Liverpool and Arsenal, but in the meantime, I cobbled together a little something to set up the festivities.

> This is Duncan Ferguson.

I hate him, mainly because he was a tall, menacing striker [albeit injury-plagued] who haunted Liverpool [probably literally and figuratively, given his hooligan thug reputation] when he got the chance, which thankfully wasn't that often.

An Everton fan laments his absence, especially when the one problem the Toffees have found in recent weeks has been a complete lack of heart in front of goal.

> I've lost count of the number of phenomenal derbies I've seen over the years, so I tried to find a few YouTube clips that capture the magic.

First up, the one I was reminded of by the Guardian blog that happened in 2000/01.

This game had it all: red cards, missed penalties, comebacks, and a last-gasp free kick winner from the old boot of Gary McAllister.

My absolute favourite was the 1991 FA Cup 5th Round replay, where the two sides battled to a 4-4 draw. Everton came from behind 4 times. Four times. Liverpool's Peter Beardsley [who later played for Everton] and John Barnes both scored a pair each, and Everton had answers from Graeme Sharp [who scored twice], and super-sub Tony Cottee's brace.

I've been trying in vain to find video online -- if anyone can help, email me.

Another classic was the 1989 FA Cup Final [it seemed like the two sides met a lot in the FA Cup during the late-80s/early-90s], which LFC edged 3-2 not long after the Hillsborough disaster that year. It was a nervous, fractious, emotional time, but the grit and determination to bring home the Cup helped to ease the pain.

This video also reminds me how much of a fucking beast Ian Rush was, while also bringing to mind just how desperately we need a winger who can cross the ball into the heart of the box. Fuck -- we'd be so much better-off if we had that.

> It will be a touchy-feely encounter, as both sides are missing the fire from the belly of their midfield. Tim Cahill, the antipodean douchebag, is out with an aggravated metatarsal injury, and of course, Mascherano's missing because of his unmanageable mouth. [I'm hoping and praying he can successfully appeal the extra two-game ban for misconduct]

I, for one, cannot fucking wait.

> Oh, and LFC 2, Everton 0.

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Michael Bradley bored with scoring in Holland

SC Heerenveen midfielder Michael Bradley has found Dutch defense Charmin-soft this season, to the tune of 15 goals. He has long been rumored to be headed to a bigger club this summer, in what will likely be the largest transfer fee ever for an American (until Jozy shatters it moving to Real Madrid). Young Michael at least appears to be laying the groundwork for a move.

He gave an interview to Ajax Life magazine where he said:

"I strive to reach the highest level. It's time to make the next step.

"I don't think the Dutch way of playing football suits me. I see myself as a box-to-box midfielder - I attack and score goals, but I also defend and I win many balls. In Holland it's often one but not the other."

Now far be it for me to question the bonafides of, but these quotes seem ridiculous to the point where they were either fabricated or mistranslated. When he plays for Heerenveen, he is given the freedom to come forward and play off the forwards. If you look at a highlight reel of his goals this year, they have mostly come off scraps (sloppy defending) in the box. So is he saying he would rather be a stay at home midfielder type, like his role for the US Men's National Team (suck it, Polska!)? I think he'd rather be up top in the attack scoring chicks goals.

Hopefully when AC Milan comes calling they will play him in his rightful spot in the midfield next to Kaka.

/deluded fanboy

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Sho' me the money!

Foluwashola (Shola) Ameobi today woke up in a hotel in Stoke. Late yesterday he sealed a loan move from Newcastle to help the Potters with their push for promotion to the Premier league.

The move is not all that remarkable but the price attached certainly is. Newcastle must have smelled Tony Pullis' desperation wafting up the motorway as they attached a 5 million fee if Stoke gain promotion.

The cost of the loan itself is said to also be "an incredible amount of money" according to Norwich boss Glenn Roeder who was also tracking Ameobi. Roeder was informed of the cost by new geordie wheeler and dealer Dennis Wise. The former midfield knee biter apparently promised City the option of signing Ameoibi should the Stoke deal fall through.

Ameobi has made just 15 appearances for Newcastle United in over 2 years after suffering a hip injury and has more recently been a victim of Kelvin Koogans Owen tinted glasses that have also left striker Obefami Martins warming the bench with his arse.

The Stoke deal is another indication of money in football spiraling out of control. While the move is a short term financial gamble to Stoke, the cost of Ameobi will seem insignificant should they gain promotion to the Premiership and receive the 60 million pound pot of gold. But surely 5 million quid for a guy who has barely played premiership football for 3 years is absolutely ridiculous.

I am just glad my beloved Norwich did not waste the cash. I would want a 20-foot tall Ameobi for that. Next you'll tell me some one will sign 30-year-old Andriy Shevchenko for 30 million quid.


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

All That Sucking Takes Talent or a Complete Lack Thereof

That's Placido Polanco. He was the 202nd player taken in my fantasy baseball draft. Polanco was the 2007 American League batting champ, he scored over 100 runs, and he struck out a mere 30 times in about 620 plate appearances (for comparison A-Rod K'ed about 120 times in about 50 more trips to the plate).

And when I finally had to draft a second baseman to fill a full line-up I still almost picked Mark Ellis over him.

Point being: even at 202 you can be pretty damn good at what you do.

Unless you are Aruba. And what you do is soccer.

According to FIFA, Aruba is the 202nd ranked soccer team in the world. That's dead fucking last. But the nice people at the sport's world governing body know that misery doesn't just love company, it needs it. So they made Montserrat and the US Virgin Islands (along with Guam, East Timor, and American Samoa) co-202'ers with Aruba so that none of them would feel humiliated in their abject suckitude.

Still, if only there were a way to determine which of the countries were truly the worst. Something like some sort of on-field competition where you could see how they faired against each other.

Really, it'd be great if there were something like that. But short of them playing head to head we have the preliminary round of World Cup Qualifying for CONCACAF, for which matches were held yesterday (March 26, 2008).

The early leader (or loser depending) in the clubhouse might appear to be the US Virgin Islands who were blanked 10-0 by 157th-ranked Grenada, a country whose sole accomplishment on the world's stage was to be invaded by the US in about 37 minutes' time. In USVI's defense, it would have only been 9-0 save for an 87th minute own goal by Dwight Ferguson.

Poor Bastard.

Montserrat fared slightly better losing only 7-1 to 155th-ranked Suriname, although they were at home. But hey, at least they have a grasp on which goal they are supposed to put the ball in.

Aruba would appear to be outclassing their co-cellar dwellers by miles, or whatever the units of "class" are. They dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker at Antigua and Barbuda. And even that's hardly fair as they were playing two places—Antigua and Barbuda.

Then you read the story of the match. Antigua and Barbuda had 3 players sent off, two of whom were showed red in the 45th and 46th minutes. That's pretty much a whole half with a 2-man advantage.

Three. Aruba had none. Antigua and Barbuda also missed a PK. So Aruba stopped a penalty, had a three man advantage and not only still lost, but got shut out.

So Aruba, might be number one in your hearts and, oh mid-teens on your list of vacation destinations, but they are clearly number 202 in the world.

And probably deserve to be number 208 in the FIFA rankings.

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Quite possibly the end of our involvement in the Gretna story

From the "Jeez, is that still going on?" files, we have yet another update on the situation in Gretna. It's kind of like how politicians keep getting more and more dirty throughout a campaign hoping that fence-sitting voters stay away from the polls. What, you didn't think the constant barrage of nasty political attack ads was meant to make you go to the polls did you? Likewise, Gretna wants you to quit paying attention so they can die unnoticed. Well, OK, but just one more update in the meantime.

Yesterday, shortly before a depleted Scotland hosted and held a (save Eduardo) full-strength Croatia side, Gretna announced the sackings of 22 players, six coaches and Brooks Mileson's son. Nine of the 22 players were Senior squad members, with the other 13 coming from the youth ranks. The coaches were described as community coaches, and not from the first team. As for young Mileson, how was he not the first out of the door weeks ago?

Yesterday, I communicated with some Celtic fans trying to wrap my head around why, besides the ticket idiocy, attendance was so low for a Celtic match. It seems that, according to the few I talked to, some Celtic fans made a conscious decision to stay away, so as not to benefit the struggling club. It's this attitude that may eventually kill off Gretna, who admittedly will not be missed by most football fans in Scotland. But that's another whole post, and I'm not getting into it today.

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Stephane Henchoz: Genius

Since leaving Anfield, Stephane Henchoz has become a smart man. I'd almost call him a guru, but he is Swiss, and they're not good for much these days.

While sitting on the sidelines at Blackburn with a nasty knee injury, he's gained a remarkable amount of wisdom, and demonstrated his intellect today in the press.

According to ol' Stephane, Liverpool will never win while they're so reliant on their stars.

Fucking brilliant.

He of course refers to the Gerrard/Torres partnership that's been the only bright spot in an otherwise dingy season. The pair have linked up extremely well for Fernando's first season in England, accounting for 46 goals this season, 30 in the EPL. Not only that, but that's Torres' best scoring record in his career for a single season.

And yet, by and large, the rest of the team stinks. What good is a Torres when you have a Pennant or a Kewell responsible for getting him the fucking ball?

Henchoz goes on, in his best Professor X voice:

"If Gerrard and Torres are not playing at their best, you hardly see where the goals are coming from. They probably need two or three very good players if they want to compete."
And, referring to Rafa's rotation:
"The rotation system sometimes in the league was not the best. They drew too many times and if they kept their best XI, they would have won a few more games."
It's no secret that Henchoz and Benitez never got on well while together at Liverpool, but Stephane, for all his piss and vinegar, does have a point. A very obvious one.

I am made nauseous every week by Rafa's scheming and tinkering with the lineup, not to mention the fact that as goes Gerrard/Torres, so goes the rest of the team. Who else is going to score? Babel's the only other possibility I can drum up.

And so, on a slow news day, Henchoz gets his gob in the press, and for all the piss-taking, I couldn't agree more. The EPL is not a league built for one-man teams, or even two- or three-man ones. That's why we're fourth. Fuck.

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Fire Capello!

I just finished watching England blunder its way to a 1-0 defeat to France. Well, actually, I was at work, so I just finished watching highlights of England blunder its way to a 1-0 defeat to France, and one thing is absolutely clear. It’s time for England to find itself a new manager.

How is it possible for this artard Capello to consistently fail to get results when he has the world’s top talent at his disposal? I mean, any idiot could win with a team that features Wayne Rooney as the lone attacking threat. And did I mention that England's squad also includes Glen Johnson and David Bentley?!

Yes, Fabio Capello’s time has come and gone, and it’s time for the FA to consider drastic changes. Bring in Mourinho, or Bilic, or ANYBODY. As they say of my equally pathetic Detroit Lions, it's time to “restore the roar” ... of the Three Lions.

There are simply oodles and oodles of top-class English players just waiting in the wings to replace aging-yet-still-extremely-talented players like David Beckham and Gary Neville. Why aren't those amazing players playing? And yet, and yet, it's just the same old useless strategy mistakes of picking the best English players available.

That's why Fabio must go. England doesn't deserve anything less.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Added value for you today, dear reader. Not only are we featuring 2 horrible USA shirts from the past, but we will also take a look at the new one that was released earlier today. All in time for the USA-Poland friendly on FSC today at 3.30. Follow along inside, if you dare.

This shirt should have had so much going for it. Instead of using the rather bland white that the US had been using (and continues to use), they went with bold stripes. Red and white, like the flag. But they screwed it up. Those waves you see, those don't come from the fact that the shirt is hanging oddly. No, those eye-strain inducing stripes are supposed to look like that. I guess if your TV had just the wrong type of vertical hold, this shirt would look fine. To everyone else, it looks horrible, though not as horrible as the other shirt to feature at USA '94.
I don't know which is worse, the pattern or the fact that the "blue" is, in fact, meant to look like denim. I'm going to go with the denim. Nothing says, "Take me seriously as a footballing nation" like denim. But, I suppose, nothing says "American" around the world like faded denim. yes, the American is well-loved around the world for the comfortable clothing he wears upon arrival. I can't really talk. Last summer, I wore Crocs throughout my trip to the continent.

Now, though, the USA is going for intimidation and evil. Look at this shirt, it's black. How much more black could it be? None more black my friend. Except for that red in the collar. What you can't see in this picture, but I assure you it's there, are the words "Don't tread on me" on the inside of the collar. Awesome. You can go here to see it (3rd inset pic). I can't wait to see how this translates to extra victories.

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Steve Morrow and Alexi Lalas--Two Peas in a Pod

Last Summer LA Galaxy GM and former USMNT member Alexi Lalas came out with his guns blazing and the EPL right in his aim. Lalas said MLS was on par with the Premiership and that the EPL was an "inferior product." Many said he was crazy and I am not inclined to disagree with those people.

FC Dallas manager Steve Morrow (that's him on the right), however, has cast his lot with Lalas. Morrow's bona fides are legit though. He played several seasons for Arsenal in the premiership and was a Northern Ireland interational. The FC Dallas manager, however, is far less bombastic than Lalas in his pronouncements.

He believes the perception in this country, let alone overseas, of the overall level of play in MLS is vastly and continually underestimated.

“The standards are growing each year and I genuinely believe we are at the stage now where the top sides could survive in the English Premiership,” Morrow said.

“The league is building itself in the right way and people in Europe are definitely taking notice. We see that when teams come over here, the MLS clubs are very competitive.”

Morrow probably has a valid point. It is tough to imagine an MLS team doing any worse than Derby County this year.

[Photo Credit: View Images]

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BBC Wales: controversy-free for the FA Cup semi-final

The BBC is about to hand over its FA Cup semi-final broadcasting rights to ITV and Setanta, and what better way than to say goodbye with mild controversy?

Leighton James, the BBC Wales pundit scheduled to participate in the Cardiff/Barnsley broadcast, has been axed "for the foreseeable future" from his regular TV work after his most recent column in the South Wales Evening Post was published.

Why was he axed?

Because he hates Cardiff City.

There's something to be said for being partisan in the media. It rarely happens much anymore, as everyone tries desperately and unashamedly to cater to the middle [except in the murky mire of Cable 24-hour news, perhaps], and Leighton James is caught up in that mess.

His quote:

"To see Cardiff in the final would be hard to take for Swansea fans. So, to be brutally honest, I think I'm behind Barnsley on this one."
Seems fairly innocuous, and honesty's to be applauded, right?

Not so much.

James is a longtime Swansea fan who played for them in the 80s, and was referring to Barnsley manager Simon Davey, a man who was born in Swansea and who also spent three years at the club.

It didn't help James' case that he's serving a drink-driving ban currently, and that he echoed his sentiments on the commercial Real Radio station.

The BBC's rather bland comment:

"By mutual agreement, Leighton James will not be participating in any BBC Wales programmes for the foreseeable future."
Such a shame. I mean, it's not like Setanta ever uses Chelsea fans to pontificate on Arsenal games, or, better example, using Buckeye apologist Brent Musberger as a commentator on Penn State games.

BBC Wales thinks differently, but at least they can't stop Leighton James from rooting for the Tykes from the comfort of his own couch.

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The Next Jared is Hispanic?

I want to tell you a little secret. Lean in close because it is a doozy. KIDS IN AMERICA ARE FAT. I'm not talking chubby or husky. They are f-a-t, fat, fat, fat, obese, tubs-of-lard, etc. I went over to a friend-of-a-friend's house and some little kid was playing video games.

I looked at this fat little tyke and thought his soda gut would put Big Daddy Drew's beer gut to shame. This kid couldn't even drink booze yet, and he had a regular keg going. Not just a pony keg.

This isn't an anomaly because I go to local mall and see a bunch of these captain chubby's running around. Usually with Momma Rhinocerous Thighs or Daddy Hippopotamus. So, yes, America has a problem with fat children and apparently it's even worse for hispanic kids.

Thankfully, Subway and former USMNT captain Tab Ramos are teaming up to fight the obesity epidemic for hispanic children.

SUBWAY(R) Restaurants today announced that it has teamed up with Hispanic soccer legend Tab Ramos in a national effort to combat juvenile obesity among Latinos. The joint initiative called, "Scoring a Goal for our Youth," will take Ramos, a national soccer Hall of Famer and former Olympian, to various cities around the country to speak to inner-city youth groups about the need to eat well, be active and follow one's dreams.

"As a Latino athlete, I feel obligated to do my part in the fight against juvenile obesity, which is affecting our kids disproportionately in relation to the general population," Ramos said. "SUBWAY(R) Restaurants is a natural partner for this cause because its varied and affordable menu offers young people the choice of eating fresh and leading an active lifestyle."

I can't think of a better person to fight obesity than a former world class athlete who probably never had to deal with weight issues. The kids will really relate to that.

[Photo Credit: Mr. Crip]

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France vs. England "Friendly" Preview

In the long rivalry between France and England, very few things can accurately be referred to as "friendly" (see...oh, history, for examples). The last meeting between these giants of football was in June 2004 during Euro 2004, which resulted in a 2-1 victory for France. Today they meet once more on the pitch, at 21:00 hours (European time; 15:00, or 3:00pm EST) at the Stade de France.

By now, everyone is aware of the more prominent stories surrounding the game - Rio Ferdinand has been named captain for the England squad, Raymond Domenech has named a 39-man squad for France for their double-header against Mali (yesterday) and England (today), and some guy named Beckham is likely to get his 100th cap for England (albeit coming on as a reserve).

Join me after the jump for the real story.

The expected starting squad for Fabio Cappello's England is:
(GK) David James
(DEF) Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Cashley Cole
(MID) David Bentley, Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole
(ST) Wayne Rooney (all by myseeeeeelf, don't wanna be...)

The expected England reserves are:
(GK) Chris Kirkland Robert Green (perhaps Scott Carson)
(DEF) Joleon Lescott, Jonathan Woodgate
(MID) David Beckham, Gareth Barry
(ST) Michael Owen, Theo Walcott

This means that most likely Wayne Bridge and Peter Crouch will get the shaft.

The expected starting squad for Raymond Domenech's France is:
Well, who the fuck knows. If we take into account the squad from the France v. Congo match where Domenech fielded his junior squad, I would expect the following against Mali:
(GK) Steve Mandanda (Steve? Really? When I was a kid we named our boys Pierre, Jean, and Phillipe!)
(DEF) Bacary Sagna (why couldn't you score 2 goals on Sunday?), Phillippe Mexes (see? Phillipe!), Jean-Alain Boumsong, Gael Clichy
(MID) Alou Diarra, Samir Nasri, Jerome Rothen, Rio Mavuba
(ST) Djibril Cisse, David Trezeguet (much to Domenech's chagrin, as he would prefer not to play him at all)

Considering the implications of playing some individuals 2 games in a row, the club responsibilities of certain players, and any astrological signs he reads, I would expect the following for the starting squad against England:
(GK) Gregory Coupet (this probably would have been Landreau, but he started playing like shite for Paris Saint-Germain)
(DEF) Eric Abidal, Gael Clichy (he's young, he can handle it), William Gallas (he's old), Patrice Evra
(MID) Jeremy Toulalan, Mathieu Flamini (also young, but getting creaky), Claude Makelele, Samir Nasri
(ST) Nicolas Anelka, Hatem Ben Arfa

I would expect the France reserves against England to be:
(GK) Mickael Landreau
(DEF) Bacary Sagna, Jean-Alain Boumsong
(MID) Alou Diarra, Franck Ribery
(ST) Sidney Govou

All that is well and good, but what's actually going to happen during the match? Well, it should be noted that the England squad (particularly in the midfield) is significantly older than the France squad, which, combined with the typical English style of football will probably result in a slow, physical game that looks like this:

5 minutes: through-ball from Nasri to Ben Arfa; Ben Arfa is fouled by Rio Ferdinand at 30 yards; shot from Anelka goes wide by 30 yards

12 minutes: through ball from Anelka to Toulalan; Toulalan is fouled by Cashley Cole, who is met with a chorus of boos (mostly from his Chelsea teammate Anelka); shot from Anelka is wide by 17 yards (he's zeroing in!)

14 minutes: long-ball over the top from James to Joe Cole; Cole trips over the ball when his mop-top, Beatles-esque hair gets in his way

19 minutes: short pass from Clichy to Flamini, back to Clichy (see? That's how the Gunners work!) streaking down the left side; Clichy delivers a cross one, as the bail sails to the far touch line

24 minutes: series of short passes from Ferdinand to Terry to Gerrard to Rooney (what? all that passing and not a Gooner among them? Preposterous!); Rooney dribbles in alone on Coupet, only to be scythed down from behind by Evra, who has lingering feelings of resentment towards his Manchester United teammate; Rooney is awarded a PK, and strikes the ball forcefully while Coupet shites his diaper. 1-0 England (BOOO!)

27 minutes-37 minutes: Nothing happens

38 minutes: After striding into the midfield for some light passing duty, Gallas collapses out of breath; Domenech checks the astrological chart and informs William that he must stay on the pitch for another 9 minutes

44 minutes: After having lain on the pitch for 6 minutes, Gallas gets back up to receive a pass, catching the entire England midfield off-guard; pass from Gallas to Ben Arfa results in Ben Arfa abusing Cashley Cole to come in one-on-one with David James; Ben Arfa blasts the shot through James' hands, resulting in amputation, forcing Cappello to bring on substitute GK Robert Green. 1-1.

45 minutes +2: Half-time. Cappello makes the unfortunate decision to try a meat pie and spends the entire second half on the toilet.

52 minutes: Gallas, too slow to catch up to a streaking Wayne Rooney, fouls Gerrard just as he delivers the ball; on the ensuing spot kick, Gerrard puts one into the top corner. 2-1 England (BOOO!)

57 minutes: Domenech substitutes Sagna for Gallas, and Ribery for Makelele.

58 minutes: Cappello, phoning in from the toilet, substitutes David Beckham for David Bentley, resulting in thunderous booing (curiously, only from the English supporters).

65 minutes: Cappello, wishing to embarass the French, substitutes Theo Walcott for Owen Hargreaves in an attempt to score more goals; Cappello returns to toilet after brief call

71 minutes: long-ball from Coupet to Ribery to Ben Arfa back to Ribery (and wouldn't both look nice in a Gunners kit?); Ribery blasts the ball past Green. 2-2 (ALLEZ LES BLEUS!)

82 minutes: After a long run by Lampard, Michael Owen receives the ball and turns to shoot; Owen is taken down in the box by Abidal; no call is made, and 50 million voices rise in disgust, claiming conspiracy

89 minutes: Gael Clichy dribbles the entire England midfield and takes the ball into the left corner; Clichy swings the ball into the box and it is met by Gallas, who heads it home. 3-2 France (OUI!)

90 minutes: Game ends.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Obscure Football Legends: Joe Gaetjens

When people discuss the greatest World Cup games of all time, there is one game that almost invariably comes up - the US defeat of England by a score of 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. However, not as many people know who it was who scored that goal. Join me after the jump to find out about him.

Joe Gaetjens was born on March 19, 1924 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After his primary schooling in Haiti, he received a scholarship from the Haitian government to study at Columbia University in New York City. While there he began playing with a local team, and was soon spotted by a talent scout for the US Men's National Team. Although Gaetjens was Haitian, he had declared his intent to apply for US citizenship as he was planning on staying in New York after college. Under the rules of the United States Soccer Football Association (USSFA) at the time, he was eligible to play for the US team since he was "in the process" of becoming a US citizen.

In a brief run of success, the United States qualified for the 1950 World Cup, which was being held in Brazil. Already having lost to Spain 3-1 in their first match, the US team was not optimistic about their chances against England in their second match. The teams met at the Estadio Independencia at Belo Horizonte with England tabbed at 3-1 odds to win the World Cup and the US at 500-1 odds.

After surviving 9 shots over the first 36 minutes, lightning struck for the US. Walter Bahr sent in a cross, and as the England goalkeeper came out to make the play Joe Gaetjens dove (some say almost 6 yards) to head the ball into the net. The crowd erupted as the US took a 1-0 lead, which they would hold on to for the rest of the match.

Although the US lost their next match to Chile 5-2, and were subsequently eliminated from the World Cup, the win against England was massive, and came to be known as the Miracle on Grass. Eventually, a book was written about the game, followed by a movie.

After the World Cup, Gaetjens moved to France where he spent some time playing with Troyes and Racing of Paris. He eventually played several matches for the Haitian national team, with his final match being on December 27, 1953 against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier. Following this game, Gaetjens moved back to Haiti where he became an entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, this was at the beginning of turbulent political times in Haiti, and although Gaetjens kept to himself some of his family members outside of Haiti were ardent supporters of an anti-Duvalier candidate.

On July 8, 1964 Gaetjens was arrested by the feared Tonton Macoutes, Duvalier's secret police, and taken to the notorious prison Fort Dimanche. He is presumed to have been killed along with dozens of other political prisoners held at the prison.

In 1972, Gaetjens was honored at a NY Cosmos game, and he was posthumously inducted into the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976.

NOTE: Don't worry that this feature will turn into "Obscure Haitian Football Legends" - there were only 2 (Jozy doesn't count since he isn't obscure, and isn't a legend yet), so we'll be moving on to other countries now. I just had to rep my roots first.

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Sad news out of Turkey

News reports are trickling out of Turkey that a couple of coaches at Third Division side Bafraspor have been killed.

Head coach Sedat Gezer and Goalkeeping coach Ismail Kurt were killed in the attack at the club grounds, while the club's manager Engin Ozarslan was also injured in the shooting. No motive or arrests have been reported at this time. Avram Grant should consider himself lucky.

The Bafraspor squad last year

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Gretna: Not dead yet

But not for lack of others' trying. On Sunday, the same day that Arsenal's chances of winning the EPL went in the shitter, Gretna's chances of staying alive took a not insignificant hit as well. As we have covered here before, Gretna was looking forward to this past Sunday as the day Celtic came to town, or as close to town as Gretna is allowed to play. The tie was meant to fill the cash-strapped clubs coffers, and help them pay off back wages owed to the team as well as finally getting enough money to survive to the close season. Well, it didn't quite happen that way, and the reason why is quite curious.

You stay classy, Celtic fans

It seems that the police force in charge of safety at Gretna's new home, Almondvale in Livingston, felt that the idea of selling tickets to fans who showed up on game day was too much to handle, so they forbade it. The result was that only tickets that had been sold to support before game day would be allowed. People were turned away at the gate, and the 10,000 seat stadium had only 3500 people who were allowed in. Mick Wadsworth, caretaker manager of the dying team, opined the following
I don't know if I am a silly old sod, but there are so many things in life nowadays when you ask yourself: "Where is the common sense?" If there is a pay-on-the-day gate, are they expecting the Khmer Rouge to come through it with Kalashnikovs or football supporters? It's just beyond belief.
I can't say that he is wrong.

In the end, Gretna did not get the payday they were looking for, and may have reneged on pay promises to players. Further, Gretna is in such bad financial shape that they have had to cut an injured Uruguayan because they cannot pay for his rehabilitation. I do not profess to know how labor disputes are handled in Scotland, but I can foresee that this will probably be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Yantorno should probably get that started before the team vanishes into thin air.

As for the game itself, Celtic won 3-0, but I don't think that results really matter in this story anymore.

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Seriously, David Beckham? Fuck off.

David Beckham.... I am absolutely sick of you. I cannot stand you. I loathe your constant whoring in the media, I despise the fact that you're more one-dimensional than Wimbledon FC circa-1990, and I am having trouble processing the fact that you're in the England squad.

I wish you weren't, but I begrudge you the ceremonial farce that is your 100th cap in a meaningless friendly against France, and I would love to think that we're finished with this issue.

But of course, Beckham could not let a microphone go unpolluted by a soundbite.

He wants to beat Peter Shilton's all-time England caps record.

Beckham.... I fucking hate you.

His quotes are so wonderful. Feast on his brilliance:

"As much as reaching 100 is a milestone, I want to carry on for quite a few years yet. I'd have turned round and retired if I didn't. I wouldn't be here if I felt I couldn't physically do it any more. I feel I can offer something."
For Christ's sake, admit that you're lucky to get to where you are now. And yet, you take that good fortune and media pressure, and you turn it into this? You want 26 more caps? You're 32 and anonymous in actual football matches. You can go fuck yourself.

You don't deserve it, not by a considerable margin. We have years of un-creative management decisions to thank for the fact that you even got as close as you did to 100, let alone making it to the century itself.

Of course, you can't keep your mouth shut, can you? You weren't finished with that last quote, not by a long shot:

"I've never had a major amount of pace. If I get two or three yards I'll put the ball where we need to score. I'm always going to, whether I'm playing in Spain, England or the US. I can switch from playing in the US to playing on Wednesday against one of the best teams in the world.

We have been on tour and played a few games. I've got the fitness I needed. Ruud Gullit [his coach at LA Galaxy] has been working us hard, doing double sessions, for the last three weeks. It has been good for me."

Please, just stop. Seriously. Enjoy your 100th, thank your lucky stars that you made it this far, and please... stop bothering the world with your talking. Go enjoy your ugly robot wife, and be happy with your pile of money.

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And Suddenly My Weekend Mornings Are Much Freer

Really, after shitting the bed and blowing a 3-1 midweek lead against Tottenham, Didier Drogba decides to show up and John Terry decides to shut up and Arsenal get fucked. Or maybe they fucked themselves.

See that grave? That's the one the Jesus crawled out of on Sunday and Arsenal decided to crawl straight into.

Wouldn't want it to get cold.

And I can't believe I'm typing these words but Avram Grant actually out managed Arsene Wenger. Or maybe it was as one of the guys on Fox Football Fone-In put it, Grant had simply run out of ways to screw things up so he had no choice but to finally make the right decisions.

I'm going to have nightmares of that second goal for a while. The entire sequence. First the hand ball that gave the Blues the free kick could have just as easily not been called. The ball was rolled a good 10 yards up the pitch from the spot of the foul for the kick. There was a fortunate glancing bounce in the box for the ball to land at Drogba's feet.

Then—THEN—depsite all of that, Almunia gets his hands on the ball but he just Noonans the save. 2-1. Game. Set. Prem.

Maybe I could get an Eternal Sunshine treatment and just erase any memory of the last, oh, month of football. So much for being 5 points clear. Well, on the upside things are about to get fun around these parts with the 3 Liverpool v. Arsenal fixtures looming imminent.

Oh, and like every other week. We got five of our predictions right. You want a prediction you can bank on? We predict that we'll get five right again next week.

Boro 1-0 Derby
Tottenham 2-0 Portsmouth
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Villa 0-1 Sunderland
Bolton 0-0 Man City

Less right
Blackburn 3-2 Wigan (3-1)
Everton 0-1 West Ham (1-1)
Reading 2-2 Birmingham (2-1)?

Shut your fucking mouth Mascherano
Man U 0-2 Liverpool (3-1)
Newcastle 0-1 Fulham (2-0)

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Manchester United fans are fat, then not

While the game on Sunday may have been nothing to laugh at, here's something to laugh at: the fact that Man United fans are fat and repulsive.

EXCEPT for this one: Lisa Rea. The News of the World covered this story with the utmost respect on Sunday. Poor Lisa was a tubby 364 pounds before she decided to change her ways and lose some weight, lest she not fit into her seat at Old Trafford.

She even got stuck in the bloody turnstile. I guess it's true: listening to Oasis and Shaun Ryder is enough to turn even the staunchest soul to drink and fried food.

Pay attention to her harrowing tale:

"Before, I couldn't even fit in the seat. I was squashed in uncomfortably against other supporters. It was so embarrassing.

I'd get bruises because I'd force myself through the turnstile by wiggling about. The humiliation was indescribable."

And she's not just talking about the shame of being caught at Old Trafford.

It gets worse:

"And her 44JJ bust was so big her little girl could use it to SHELTER from the rain."

I have no joke here.

I realize I'm clutching at straws after our 3-0 dickstomping at the hands of those Mancunian fucks, but I have to play 'em as they lay.

She lost an amazing 224 pounds, and now can enjoy her throne at the worst place on earth. Kudos to her for her determination. It would be nice if Liverpool could exhibit the same grit and gusto against Man United sometime.

/still sad.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Paul Jewell Likes To Role Play **Update**

Like I said before, we here at UF like a good sex scandal. Derby County manager, Paul Jewell, is in a bit of hot water with his wife over his role play tastes. Seems the former Wigan manager may have filmed himself having a randy romp with another woman.

I can't wait until the tape is leaked. I mean who really wouldn't want to see an overweight, balding former player on a sextape.

Details after the jump.

The Derby County manager filmed himself in an hour-long bondage romp with a blonde.

Details of the lurid spanking and sex film surfaced yesterday.

* * *

During the film, dad-of-two Jewell – wed for 21 years – ties a mystery woman in stockings to a bed with silk before they have sex.

In another clip the Rams chief and his lover – who is in her 30s and wearing a wedding ring – romp on the boot of his Mercedes.

You really can't blame Jewell on this one. I'm sure he just wanted to know what it was like to be on the other end of a spanking. His team Derby County squad has been outscored 14 goals to 65 this season--a whopping 51 goal deficit--and are relegation bound.

Update 12:30 PST: News of the World comes through with even more details and a play-by-play script. Although the photos are censored (and quite humorous), not much is left to the imagination so be warned that it is NSFWish. Jewell was hanging out with a Beckham ex-girlfriend, too.

[Photo Credit: 4thegame]

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David Moyes Gets Over £ 500,000 from David Hirshey's Employer

Big, exciting legal news from the U.K. (no, not really that exciting). HarperCollins, employer of our beloved Deadspin closer, settled a libel claim brought by David Moyes. The suit involved statements that Wayne Rooney a ghostwriter wrote about Rooney's transfer from Everton in the autobiography My Story So Far. (By the way, footballer autobiographies might be the worst genre of non-fiction ever created.)

As the Guardian explains:

In the book, published in the aftermath of the last World Cup, Rooney described the strained relationship with his former manager, and gave his account of the events leading up to his £ 27million transfer to United in August 2004. He claimed he had told Moyes he wanted to leave Everton after it emerged he had visited prostitutes, and that Moyes passed details of the conversation to the Liverpool Echo. Moyes reacted furiously to the allegations and instructed his lawyers to sue.

A trial was set to begin next month, smack dab in the middle of Manchester United's season. With the prospect of the Bulldog One having to travel to attend court Kobe Bryant-style, Rooney's publisher did the only noble thing it could: falling on its sword.

British libel law is a bit of a mess, as witnessed by the famous McLibel case, but it's hard to say that free speech was denied here. Moyes gets a public apology ("Sorry I said that you drove me out of the club when in fact I really just wanted a shit pile of money from Man U.") The settlement also includes around £ 100,000 plus Moyes' legal fees, which likely pushes the total bill over £ 500,000.

Unfortunately, Rooney's money is very safe. Instead, HarperCollins will be picking up the bill. I know that Hirshey is on the other side of the pond, and that this sum is a drop in the bucket for Mr. Rupert Murdoch's vast riches, but I'd like to think that this sum somehow comes out of Hirshey's lunch budget -- no more liquid lunches this month until David Moyes' legal bill has been paid off.

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Keeping quiet

I'm going to keep my mouth shut today, mainly because of new work obligations, but also because I think Mascherano said it all yesterday.

It was ugly.

Video after the jump.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Seriously, another late season collapse?

Not pictured: silverware

At first, its easy to rationalize dropping points against lower tier opposition. After all, it must get old having to face teams that are always playing for the 0-0 draw and sticking eleven behind the ball. The JJB rugby ground is also a bit of a letdown from the San Siro. But then, as your Milan-destroying side fails to break down miserable Wigan, you realize that maybe the title really is going to slip away this year, again. And of course losing to the dilettante club across town on the same day as Manchester United make easy work of Liverpool pretty much confirms it. Arsenal are done in the EPL this year. Again.

Yes Mr. Wenger just got out-managed by a guy whose resume prior to this year was coaching the Israeli U-11 girls team. Avram just popped his big club cherry today. Terrific. Maybe if Arsene wasn't so fucking wed to his tactics, which only work in good weather, on a perfect pitch, or against naive European opposition, then Arsenal might actually be able to beat the likes of Villa, Birmingham, Boro, or Wigan. Guess what, I don't care how great a find that kid Wenger bought from Lens is, ok? Or about that awesome 16 year old playing the reserves who is totally going to be great in five years, after a spell on loan at St. Etienne. How about having a squad that actually contains depth? You know, like all of Arsenal's rivals for the Premiership. Chelsea can throw out internationals two deep at every position, while Manchester United spend tens of millions of pounds buying some Portuguese orgy buddies for Ronaldo. Fuck, the Manc squad players like Wes Brown and Darren Fletcher are better than anything Arsenal has on the bench (in terms of coming on and contributing as a sub), and always seem to score in crucial games.

I'm not talking about splashing out 25 million pounds to buy Benzama from Lyon this summer, or trying to pry Diego away from Werder Bremen or Ribery from Bayern (although he would look a hell of lot better than Eboue out wide). I'm talking about spending 10 million pounds, max, and getting a couple of veteran, proven EPL players who can come off the bench and nick a goal late in games. Yes, that means Wenger may have to buy players he hasn't coveted since they were 12 ( dirty old man), and who learned to play a bit more traditional English style. As Lingering Bursitis put it this week, Arsenal need a backup plan for when Cesc decides to sulk his way through a game because he doesn't like getting kicked. How much would it cost to buy Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn, who shockingly has 12 EPL goals this year? Or how about Julio Arca? I'm sure Wenger and his scouts could turn up a ton of players across Europe who fit the bill and would be relatively cheap. But dear god, I want some experience.

Seriously, though, now that Emirates is finished and raking in cash like Ashley Dupre, it might be time to have a squad bigger than 17, and actually make a run at the EPL. I don't want to hear what a miracle it is that such an inexpensive side was leading the league for so long this year against the juggernaut from Manchester. Arsenal are a big club and should be in the hunt every season. At some point, Arsenal's pussy whipped board of directors might actually consider the end of season table, instead of listening to the sycophant London press, when evaluating Wenger's performance. And no, winning the Champions League won't make up for the March swoon.

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