Saturday, June 7, 2008

Euro Trash Day 1: "Frei, Big Phil and Foudy"

"Welcome to the EUROPE Cup, Pepe." So sayeth ESPN's studio anchor after Portugal won 2-0 over Turkey. So, let me also say: "Welcome to the EUROPE Cup, fair reader." This here would be the first part of our hopefully regular series of recaps throughout the tournament. Hey babe, after the jump take a walk on the wild side.

Let's start with the most important topic: how terrible is ESPN's coverage?

Please get Julie Foudy and that other douche off my television. Tommy Smyth and Andy Gray can stay: After the debacle that was da WWL's coverage of the 2006 World Cup, all eyes and ears were turned to see how badly they would fuck up Euro 2008.

Let's start with the good. I have to admit that Andy Gray was excellent and he is a real smart hire, and Tommy Smyth might be a bit monotonous sometimes but the guy has charm and, more importantly, an accent (can we make a rule that the thicker your accent, the more authentic you are as a football commentator?).

Now, the bad. First, there were many times where broadcasting from Bristol really hampered the commentators -- the director would show a replay, something exciting was happening in the game (you could tell because the crowd was cheering), and the poor commentators were left like me at home, thinking, "they should switch back to the game right fucking now, okthanks." If the commentators were actually at the game, well, then they could just look up from the monitors themselves! So cheap. Second, someone take Julie Foudy out back and shoot her. I mean it. She knows nothing, talks over everyone else, and isn't funny or insightful. I would say maybe she will get better as the tournament goes along, but my willingness to give her the benefit of the doubt is already used up in its entirety. Third, please please PLEASE tell Julie Foudy and that other douche how to pronounce PETR Cech. The same thing happened at the World Cup and they've had two years to get it right. I mean, isn't that why ESPN has interns???

That out of the way, let's turn to the opening matches...

Czech Republic 1, Alex Frei's Knee Ligament 0: Unlike co-host nation Austria, who are really really bad, Switzerland had high hopes of making a splash at Euro 2008. Those hopes pretty much died in a crumpled heap when captain Alex Frei went out with an injured knee ligament. Frei is definitely out for the rest of the tournament, and maybe longer (sorry Borussia Dortmund). The rest of the game was a typically tight affair for the group stage, and frankly Switzerland deserved at least a draw. Instead, it was Vaclav Sverkos who snuck past the defenders (*cough*Senderos*cough*) in the 70th minute for the decesive goal. Switzerland was especially aggrieved when an obvious handball in the penalty area was ignored. Otherwise, Cech made a few nice saves, and now the host country finds itself in real dire straits -- with no sultan of swing waiting in the wings.

Cristiano Ronaldo's short shorts 2, Turkey 0: You could tell that Cristiano Ronaldo meant business because his hair had even more pomade than usual. Yes, all eyes on the Ronaldo who doesn't try to pick up tranny hookers, and it only took 3 minutes of play for him to draw an aggressive foul by a Turkish defender. Turkey didn't really look that terrible, and maybe with a little bit of luck might've pulled out a draw or even an upset. Instead, Portugal played with poise and, in the process, scored twice and hit the woodwork three times. One of the near misses was an absolutely brilliant Ronaldo free kick that was met with a fingertip save. Given the movement on the free kick, Jens Lehmann might have a point about the balls being extra lively (settle down Daulerio and BBDrew). So, it was a night where Deco looked pretty out of sorts, Ronaldo's mind was busy thinking about earning 300,000 euros per week (after tax!) in Madrid, and Portugal still won convincingly. Turkey might be a darkhorse if they can win against Switzerland and Czech Republic, but they have work to do.

Other News:
- Scolari to Chelsea kind of makes sense to me when you consider that he's already coaching Chelsea's back four minus Weepy John Terry, and possibly Deco soon as well. I do hope that Scolari moves to the EPL -- his antics on the sidelines are high comedy.
- Michael Platini is a communist.
- Drama in Portugal as Quaresma struggles.
- Ibrahimovich may not be able to go a full 90 minutes.
- Daniel Alves lands at Barcelona (et tu Et'to y Henry?).
- And finally... it's your NSFW Euro 2008 WAGS slideshow. (Courtesy of the Sun, but of course!) link fixed -- boobies ahoy!.

I'll be sweating my balls off (easy) at Giants Stadium tomorrow along with a few fellow UF compatriots, but relax you will surely be in very good hands tomorrow.


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Euro 2008 Live Blog: Portugal v. Turkey

Match number 2 for the day and the tournament pits one of the favorites Portugal against the mighty Turks. Well, they were mighty back in the day. Way back in the day. Portugal is "led" by all-world player Cristiano Ronaldo. But, the Portuguese squad has a lot of other top-notch talent with Quaresma, Deco, Carvalho, Ferreira, Nani and so on. A surfeit of offensive talent with some stout defenders. The question is whether they can play as a team. Whether the Ronaldo Real Madrid saga will weigh him and them down.

Turkey on the other hand. I know absolutely nothing about them. That doesn't mean they aren't good, it just means they are not covered by the English media. I hope they can take Ronaldo down because I am tired of his winking, diving and spotlight chasing. It seems he can't get enough of his name in the headlines and likes to tease his team and suitors. It's sickening. Oh well, such is life. He is supremely talented and a joy to watch really.

Lineups after the jump...


23 Volkan Demirel (G)
2 Servet Cetin (D)
4 Gokhan Zan (D)
3 Hakan Kadir Balta (D)
7 Mehmet Aurelio (M)
22 Hamit Altintop (M)
5 Belozoglu Emre (M)
8 Nihat Kahveci (F)
17 Tuncay Sanli (F)
18 Colin Kazim-Richards (F)
26 Mevlut Erding (F)


1 Ricardo (G)
4 Bosingwa (D)
16 Ricardo Carvalho (D)
2 Paulo Ferreira (D)
15 Pepe (D)
8 Petit (M)
20 Deco (M)
11 Simão (M)
7 Cristiano Ronaldo (M)
10 João Moutinho (M)
21 Nuno Gomes (F)

You can hit me up on Gmail Chat (thefansattic[at]gmail[dot]com) or on AOL at thefansatticblog.

Still can't find an English feed.

So, I think this will be a 3-1 win for Portugal. There will be 836 stepovers by Ronaldo in this match as he tries to show off to the world and 47 dives.

0:00 And we're under way!

2:00 An early corner for Portugal as they have been on the Turkey half since kickoff.

4:00 An early booking for Kazim Richards. For what? I don't know.

6:00 Ronaldo does a few stutter steps and the pushes to the right into the center of the pitch and skies one over the goal. Like Ronaldo of old.

9:00 Servet Cervin down for turkey after an awkward slide left his left knee folded under him.

11:00 Turkey has a free kick way out on the left sideline about equal with the 18, but it only results in an easy save for Ricardo.

13:00 A very nice buildup by Turkey but in the end the final cross was lacking as the striker could not get on the end of it.

17:00 Turkey is lucky that goal by Pepe was called back as he was in an offside position on the header from a nice cross on the sideline.

18:00 The ref isn't really letting anything go at this point, which will favor Portugal with their technical proficiency.

20:00 Dangerous free kick outside of the box for Turkey that deflects off the wall for a corner, which proves harmless. On the other end, Turkey then concedes a corner.

23:00 Ugh...Portugal is the worst. A bunch of nancies (Simao) that go down with the lightest of touch. I hate that.

Portuguese Manager Felipe Scolari would be played by Gene Hackman in a movie, right?

27:00 I have to say I have been impressed with Turkey so far. The back line has played fairly well and they are counter-attacking creating some opportunities. That's all you can ask I think.

32:00 Deco offside. Portugal is really pushing the attack looking for that first goal. It will come eventually as the Turkish backline is starting to leak.

37:00 Dangerous Portugal free kick just outside the box.

38:00 Ronaldo lined up over it and almost put his side in the lead, but the ball bounced off the far post as Ricardo was beaten well.

41:00 Successive corners but no blood yet for Portugal. Turkey concedes another.

42:00 And another. I think it is officially a siege now.

45:00 +1 And that's the half. 0-0 Turkey must be pleased. Portugal looks dangerous and Ronaldo hasn't had much to do with it.

See you in 15.

Slate has an article up about the best websites and books to read during Euro 2008. The list is incomplete. We were not listed.

46:00 And we're back. Food in me belly and 45 minutes left. I'm ready. I had a nice two-hour pickup game this morning (Pacific Coast time), but didn't sleep much last night.

50:00 High comedy. Simao was taken out just outside the box, but the ref played advantage but Portugal could not capitalize hitting the left post with no damage inflicted. It's like they are the Swiss but with more talent.

53:00 If Turkey can keep Portugal out of the net, they will have to be happy about the result. But, there is an interminable amount of time until the whistle.

60:00 Somebody applied the defibrillator to the Turkish offense. Finally getting some chances again.

62:00 Goal!!! 1-0 Portugal. Pepe with goal after a nice 1-2 with Moutinho Gomes up the middle of the box. Finally. Maybe the Turkish offense should have stayed vegetative.

64:00 Ian writes: not a fan of the portugese kits.

I agree. They are just a bit too tight for my liking.

65:00 Gomes almost makes it 2-0 with a nice header off the crossbar.

68:00 Nani comes on for Gomes and Ronaldo gets the captain's armband. Really? Is he that much of a leader or are they just stroking his ego?

73:00 The ref missed an obvious handball on Simao and Sabrioglu gets a yellow for protesting. Ain't that a bitch.

76:00 Senturk on for Altintop who is not match fit coming back from the dreaded broken metatarsal.

78:00 As Nani holds the ball too long, the announcer on my feed keeps saying "Nani, Nani, Nani, Nani" but he sounds like one of the aliens from that SNL skit where the boyfriend meets the family and they are totally weird eating melted ice cream and very uncomfortable seating.

82:00 Again, Turkey cannot capitalize on its few chances sending a header from a corner wide left. That has to get on frame at a minimum.

85:00 Mike Georger asks "Why doesn't Quaresma play more for Portugal?" A: FIFA caps the number of stepovers a team can have in each match. Portugal doesn't want to exceed the cap and face penalty.

90:00 Turkey just blew another great chance to level. At the spot kick mark, a Turkish player completely whiffed, or as I know it "Fraziered", on a volley as he was unmarked in the area. Turkey really needed to capitalize on its chances to win today and it has been painfully obvious that has not happened.

90:00 +2 Deco off for Meira

90:00 +3 GOAL!!! 2-0 Portugal. Meireles scores the capper and Portugal gets the victory. A game of missed chances on both sides, but Portugal had more chances and finally knocked a couple in.

See you all tomorrow. Not sure if we will have a Live Blog, but most certainly an open thread.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Euro 2008 Live Blog: Switzerland v. Czech Republic

It's finally here, the first match of Euro 2008 pitting co-host Switzerland against a strong Czech Republic squad from St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland. I am thoroughly excited about the tournament, although I won't likely be able to watch every single minute of each match like I did with World Cup 2006. Stupid jobs and needing to make money.

This match has the potential to be a scoreless draw. The Swiss are known for keeping a tight back line having been ousted from the last World Cup without allowing a goal. The Czech team is led by its all-world keeper Petr Cech. But, the Czech team is missing some of its offensive firepower with Tomas Rosicky out injured and Pavel Nedved retired.

After the jump, the lineups

Czech Rep.
Petr Cech-G; Marek Jankulovski-D, Tomas Ujfalusi-D, David Rozehnal-D, Zdenek Grygera-D; David Jarolim-M, Libor Sionko-M, Tomas Galasek-M, Jaroslav Plasil-M, Jan Polak-M; Jan Koller-F


Diego Benaglio-G; Patrick Müller-D, Ludovic Magnin-D, Philippe Senderos-D, Stephan Lichtsteiner-D; Tranquillo Barnetta-M, Valon Behrami-M, Fernandes Gelson-M, Gokhan Inler-M; Alexander Frei-F, Marco Streller-F

0:00 The match is underway, but you know what sucks...not having ESPN Classic and only getting an Asian language feed. Gotta find something better.

6:00 Seriously, this is annoying. Compounded by some domestic disorder this morning, my day is not starting well.

Not even a fucking clock...Jeeezzus!!

16:00 Now it's french...I don't fucking speak french. Bastards.

20:00 Swiss Mister Frei with a nice touch on to free his teammate for a shot on Cech. But, the effort was lacking and Cech easily smothered it.

22:00 Wow! That was some pathetic defense on the Czech squad. Allowing the ball to bounce over his head letting Frei free, but Cech again saved the team coming off his line.

25:00 That was an ambitious effort from Sionko for Czech Rep. An off-balance turn at the 18 with no pace on the shot. Good idea.

The Czech squad seems to be having trouble stringing anything together. Just trying to power it in without any strategy right now. They should fix that.

30:00 Seriously, the Czech strategy seems to be hump the ball upfield and (1) shoot or (2) try to get it to Koller's head. Now, Koller is tall and it worked against the US two years ago, but really?

34:00 Foul on Fernandes. His name definitely sounds Swiss.

35:00 If Koller had been 6 inches taller, he would be playing basketball, but he might have been able to get his head on that. Who am I kidding, he would have had to be faster and younger. Tough to get to when your old as the alps.

36:00 The Swiss offense finally reappeared with an excellent long-range shot that Cech could only parry away but there were Swiss attackers in the area, that were offside. Lucky for the Cech.

41:00 The lone creative force in this match, Alex Frei, is down and has to come off to the sideline after a Czech player came in on a tackle and twisted his knee. Hopefully he can make a Paul Pierce like comeback. Otherwise, this match is going to be even less tolerable.

45:00 Well, we have our first man tears as Frei sheds a few as he walks back to the lockerroom with his knee wrapped in ice. This doesn't look good.

Halftime 0-0 Well, at least there have been a few opportunities.

So, is horseracing that popular that ESPN needs to cover all the races prior to the Belmont Stakes this morning rather than putting soccer on a channel that just about all cable systems in the US have? Just curious. I mean, there is only so many times I can stand to watch Big Brown bucking in his security stable this morning and hearing the question "Is this going to affect him?"...No you fucking asshole, it won't and if it does will it change your bet? Not likely you fucking degenerate gambler.

46:00 So Frei is off, Hakin Yakin is on for him. Bummer.

Precious Roy writes:

The real reason soccer will never be huge in this country?

Every time there is good buzz for the sport off something like the CL final, the very next match that people might tune in to is invariably something like this.

Thankfully this match is only on ESPN Classic. Those bastards.

47:00 A nice set play for the Swiss off the corner that gets Cech on the ground for the save.

That was a nice overhead camera shot prior to the corner. Like thos NFL sky cams. I'd like to see more of those shots.

51:00 Yakin has impacted the match since he stepped on the pitch. He is looking very dangerous.

In case your interested, Piazza de Spagna won the MSG Network Purse just now. Congratulations. Now switch over to a soccer match ESPN, you wankers.

57:00 Sverkos on for Koller...hopefully this will keep them away from Route 1 football.

59:00 Magnin, the new Swiss captain, becomes the first player booked in the tourney on a late tackle from behind.

60:00 Sionko gets a head on the ensuing free kick but it goes just wide right. A good opportunity and Sionko continues to impress.

62:00 Lichtsteiner made a nice run to the corner with the ball and weighted a nice cross to the middle of the box that Bernetta skied. I would really like to see a goal. But, nobody seems to have the finishing quality.

65:00 Yakin proves dangerous again getting his head on a cross but it goes wide right.

67:00 Frei comes out from the lockerroom on crutches. What a disappointment to suffer the injury. I hope it's not too serious.

71:00 GOALLLLL!!! 1-0 C.R. The sub Sverkos scores for Czech on some bad defending. The line let him slip by as the ball was chipped over and he loped onto into easily putting it in the right corner.

That's the first goal the Swiss have conceded in an international tournament since 2004.

75:00 Vanlanthen on for Lichtsteiner, who played well, and then Vanlanthen gets a yellow immediately. Well done, well done.

78:00 How unlucky can Switzerland get. They had Cech beaten with a rebound on a shot but the woodwork still beat them.

By the way, it looks like TIET was serious that she would turn off the match if Frei was out. Haven't seen hide nor hair of her since halftime. She is a principled woman.

82:00 Sionko off for Vlcek. I'd like to give this guy one of Sionko's vowels.

I think Magnin was an extra on the Caveman show.

87:00 Jarolim on for Kovac. I'm not going to even pretend I know a single thing about these guys. My Froot Loops have been more interesting than the end of this match. Did you know it has a new "Darkberry" Froot Loop? that might be mildly racist.

90:00 3 Minutes of stoppage time. I must say Cech hasn't looked great. He gave up an easy corner there and just seems out of synch.

90:00 +2 Hey, Shaq's at the Belmont Stakes. Is somebody going to ride him in the race?

Goal scorer Sverkos gets the stretcher after he ran into a Swiss ass. No, I don't mean Senderos.

90:00 +5: Barnetta gets booked and we have the final whistle. Czech Republic has to be happy with the win but somewhat concerned with their lack of offense. While, the Swiss are probably pretty down after losing Frei and creating the majority of the chances but failing to capitalize.

Well, see you all in about an hour for the next match between Portugal and Turkey.

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Liveblogging the Opening Ceremonies

I don't want to step on any toes, but seriously, shouldn't there be soccer on my TV. It says it's 10:30!

By "step on any toes" I mean I know we've got someone on deck to liveblog the game. I'm live blogging this waster of time.

A bunch of Mumeschantz (sp?) type things have run out on to the field and formed a heart. They've got TV-like boxes for heads. This should be fun.

Now I think I see something that's supposed to be a sail.

Fucking A... Weenies Euro tech music. Is Nic Harcourt the music curator for this?

Now we have cows. Let me guess we're also getting clocks, chocolate, and ski heroes.

Put Julie Foudy back on my TV. Even she is better than this.

Okay, I didn't mean that.

Those women representing winter would be much better if they were topless. Just saying.

Anyway, apparently they have gays in Switzerland, too. This pretty much confirms it.

Holy shit, I was kidding on the skiers, but sure enough. Thanks Switzerland for living up to your stereotypes. I'm waiting for either Richard Simmons or Harvey Firestein to appear.

Longest. 13 Minutes. Ever.

I totally expect to see a headshot someday in L.A. and on the back someone is going to list having been a box in the Euro 08 Opening Ceremonies in their credits.

And now the clocks... all we need is the chocolate and I've hit the trifecta. Who needs the fucking Belmont. I am Kreskin.

Okay, I kind of like the countdown with the bodies rolling from white to red. I am beginning to question my sexuality.

By my count there are 8 minutes left. Fuck. Really? Only five minutes of this are gone?

Holy shit, I am totally rubbing one out later to the thought of Miss Switzerland. Haht. Almost makes up for the rest of this time waste.

Now the box heads are making the Euro logo. Not bad. Just don't bring out the gay mascots. This has already reached its quota of queer.

Well the sliver lining for the Swiss is this delays how long until Senderos makes an horrific defending error that leads to a goal.

Okay, my clock was wrong. That was only 3 minutes. Oof. Still, that was gratuitous.

Anyway, there is a match starting. Fucking A, I am pumped. Fucking B, I am going to miss the second match of the day so this one better totally fucking kick ass to make up for it.

Enjoy your watching, kids because after these three weeks are up, we've got a little over a full month before there is any meaningful futbol again.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Get your sleep now, young ones

Because the fun starts bright and early in the morning (in the US).

Ladies... do a Euro preview in their inimitable style [Ladies...]
Look, someone's doing Euro stuff for Deadspin. Must be nice [Deadspin]
Everyone is Euro crazy! Here's Hirshey's first offering for ESPN [ESPN]

More on the other side.

Adebayor insists he is not going to Italy. Believe at your own risk [Sky Sports]
Jorge Flores has a pretty cool story [NY Times]
Abbey Clancy believes Peter Crouch has a perfect body. Warning: pics [Daily Mail]
Samuel Eto'o apologizes for attacking journalist [Reuters]
Another team banned form Champions League [CNN]

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Euro 2008 Liveblogs

As if you didn't already know, Euro 2008 kicks off tomorrow. Yours truly will be liveblogging the Saturday matches. It's unclear if we will have anybody on liveblogging duties for Sunday since many of us (not me :(, though) will be at the US-Argentina argy-bargy on Sunday. But, we will have liveblogs on Monday.

So, grab a beer from the fridge, turn on the tube, fire up the computer and join me tomorrow.

Read more on "Euro 2008 Liveblogs"...

On Adrian Mutu, cocaine and the gloablization of sport

For all the talk about how futbol will never catch on in the United States, I’d like to add another counter-argument to the pile: Witness exhibit A, to the left, which shows that today the fourth most accessed story on was an AP report that Adrian Mutu was fined $18.6 million by FIFA over his suspension and eventual sacking in 2004 for cocaine use. As you might recall, Mutu was signed by Chelsea for around 10 million euros but barely lasted a season due to a failed drug test. Hence, FIFA's proposed fine comes out to roughly the amount that Chelsea spent on the transfer fee. (To Mutu’s credit, he seems to have made good on his dalliance, keeping his proverbial nose clean in the Serie A, and is about to lead Romania at the Euros.)

Now, back to the story, because as shocking as a $18.6 million fine might be, when you actually read the article you see that the matter was referred by the Court of Arbitration for Sport so that FIFA could calculate damages. The case will be appealed to a civil court, who could overturn the ruling or reduce the damages. So, a $18.6 million fine sounds like a fairly salacious news story, and it might be, but this leads to my point....

How the hell did this wind up being the fourth most read story on if no one in the United States cares about football?

The answer to this admittedly strawman argument is that people in the United States do care about football because football is capable of producing just as much, if not more, interesting news than any other sport. For all the idealistic talk about the purity of sports, the truth is that sport is very much a soap opera. If you doubt this, than you have never listened to sports talk radio or read a sports blog. And I don’t mean “soap opera” in the pejorative sense, but rather that there is an inherent drama that goes into the game and, as Ronaldo’s tranny hookers have shown us, what happens off the field is often just as amusing as what happens on the field.

By sheer economy of scale, football has so many more players, teams, managers, owners and Special Ones, meaning that there are that many more opportunities for wacky news fodder. Hence, Mutu’s $18.6 million fine making it on to’s hit page. All it takes are a certain number of bored office workers to click onto a salacious-sounding headline and voila.

This is why tWWL’s move to cover the English Premier League makes so much sense, and why growing football in the U.S. by covering Europe rather than boring MLS makes sense too. Footballers are, as a group, just as fucking insane and classy and flawed and amazingly gifted as any athletes in the NFL, MLB and NBA (and maybe NHL, but other than the occasional fight or slashed jugular vein, hockey players are fairly dull). With all the Friedmans talking about the global economy, why not give more coverage to the World’s Most Popular Sport? It is more exotic and -- the crucial point -- you don't give up anything by following football. You can follow the NFL, MLB and NBA and football too!

And here poor Adrian Mutu thought that he had only done a few lines of blow. No, I say that he has brought a revolution to these very shores!

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The definition of "Chav" **UPDATE**

The Rooney clan was back at it the other day. Going all out in Ibiza again, this time in the sunlight. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you have ever wondered what the visual definition of Chav is, there is a photo montage after the break.

NSFW, depending on your company's affinity for man-ass.

Pale boys on a boat

Visible homunculus!

Way to burn out those scooters, boys

Who knew Rooney was a Rutgers Fan?

Rooney is said to be paying out $500k for his week of debauchery with his family and mates. Couldn't he have paid for a spray tan first? Also, since Coleen is totally against having anything Chavvy at her wedding, does that mean that none of these guys can go?

Update: The Fan's Attic here...and just for those of into man-strings...Kickette has an even better picture of Roo's buddies.

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Euro Speculation

Euro 2008 kicks off tomorrow and I'm sure these two...fellas?...will be ubiquitous over the next 3 weeks. So, UF is going on record with its wildly inaccurate predictions. Although, it seems many of us have a serious mancrush on Fernando Torres.

Don't forget to join the UF Euro '08 Pick 'Em group -- "UF Callups".

After the jump our predictions. Feel free to predict away in the comments.


Group A winners: Portugal and Czech Republic
Group B winners: Germany and Croatia
Group C winners: Italy and France
Group D winners: Spain and Russia

Finalists: Germany and Spain
Winner: Germany

Golden Boot: Torres
Golden Gloves: Cech
Player of the Tournament: Podolski

Darkhorse Team: Russia

Biggest Controversy of the Tournament: Someone getting a penalty when they TOTALLY shouldn't have.


Group A: 1. Portugal 2. Czech Republic
Group B: 1. Germany 2. Poland
Group C: 1. France 2. Netherlands
Group D: 1. Spain 2. Greece

Finalists: Poland v. Spain
Winner: Spain

Golden Boot: Torres
Golden Gloves: Cech
PotT: Fabregas

Darkhorse Team: Switzerland

Controversy: Russia will need a Spain result against Greece to
advance. Greece will dominate the game and win easily. Foul play will be cried.

Being Sven

Group A winners: Portugal, then Czech Rep
Group B winners: Germany, then Croatia
Group C winners: Italy, then the Netherregions
Group D winners: Spain, then Sweden

Finalists: Germany & Italy
Winner: Germany

Golden Boot: Klose
Golden Gloves: Buffon
Player of the Tournament: Ballack (*laugh* no, seriously... or at least, half-seriously)

Darkhorse Team: Croatia

Biggest Controversy of the Tournament: Karma rears its ugly head when C Ronaldo gets sent off after an opponent dupes the ref... costing his team dearly, he gives the crowd a ill-advised salute as he departs, then fucks off to Madrid... just like Goldenballs. (as an aside, I'd LOVE to see the Glazers stick by their guns and let that motherfucking cunt rot in the reserves after he demands a move to Spain... unlikely, but...)

The NY Kid

Group A: Czech (1), Portugal (2)
Group B: Germany (1), Croatia (2)
Group C: France (1), Italy (2) - did you really think I would pick anything else?
Group D: Spain (1), Sweden (2)

Finalists: Germany - France
Winner: France

Golden Boot: Karim Benzema
Golden Gloves: Lehmann (no, seriously, I think he's out to prove something to Wenger)
Player of the Tournament: Ribery

Darkhorse Team: Spain

Biggest Controversy: The rampant Nazism present at the Germany-Croatia match on June 12th leads FIFA to impose record fines on the governing footballing agencies of both countries.

Lingering Bursitis

Group A: Portugal and Turkey
Group B: Germany and Croatia
Group C: Italy and Netherlands
Group D: Spain and Greece

Final: Spain v. Germany
Winner: Spain, 2-1

Golden Boot: Fernando Torres, SPA
Golden Gloves: Rustu Recber, TUR
Player of the Tournament: C. Ronaldo, POR

Darkhorse Team: Turkey [they're set up like Greece. Their national team is pretty much taken from 2 domestic league teams, so they all play together an awful lot. Hard-working, they have the on-field chemistry.... could be a shocker here]

Biggest Controversy: the fact that this damn tournament is in Switzerland/Austria in the first place

Precious Roy

Group A: Portugal, Czech
Group B: Germany, Croatia
Group C: Italy, France
Group D: Spain, Russia

Final: Italy v. Croatia
Winner: Italy 1-1 (5-3 on PKs)

Golden Boot: Cristiano Ronaldo
Golden Gloves: Gigi Buffon
Player of the Tournament: C. Ronaldo

Darkhorse Team: Is Croatia a darkhorse? Maybe Russia makes a run into the semis behind Guus.

Biggest Controversy: Millions of kegs of beer go spoiled as pre-tourney orders made 7 months in advance were overly large on the assumption that hoards of drunken British louts would be in Austria and Switzerland.

The Fan's Attic

Group A: Czech, Portugal
Group B: Germany, Croatia
Group C: Netherlands, France
Group D: Spain, Russia

Final: Germany v. Spain
Winner: Spain

Golden Boot: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Golden Gloves: Iker Casillas
Player of the Tournament: Torres

Darkhorse Team: Russia...solely because of Guus Hiddink.
Biggest Controversy: Antonio Cassano tackles a ref in the opening match.


Group A: Czech, Portugal
Group B: Germany, Poland
Group C: Italy, Dutch
Group D: Spain, Russia

Final: Portugal-Germany
Winner: Zie Germans 0-0 (5-4 on pks)

Golden Boot: Luca Toni
Golden Gloves (they really give this out?): Van der Saar
POT: C Ronny Ron Ron

Darkhorse: The Dutch, upsetting Les Blues and getting out of their group.

Biggest controversy: allegations of ref bribery and teams throwing games

Read more on "Euro Speculation"...

Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Romania

First thing’s first. Typically with these here Euro previews, we include a photo of some babe, because we have it under good authority that boobies equals readership. The problem is, as I recently discovered, if you enter “babe” and “Romania” into Google photos – well, the reason it’s taken me so long to finish this preview is that I’ve been holed up in my apartment looking at said photos. I knew that Eastern Europe has a sex trade problem, but WOW I didn’t realize that Eastern Europe has a sex trade problem. So, rather than try to select the least pornographic photograph available – trust me, it is an impossible task – I decided to reintroduce Goleo VI and Pille (ht to Mr. Iracane).

With that out of the way, I come here not to bury Romania but to praise them. Romania has the pleasure of being the other team drawn into the group of death along with France, Italy and the Netherlands. The thing is, this Romanian team isn’t really that bad, and they have looked decent in their warmups for the Euros (although coach Victor Piturca disagrees, but that’s his job to be a naysayer afterall). Romania has a history of shocking the world: at Euro 2000, they managed to break out of a group that included Portugal, Germany and Ingerland (yes, Ingerland really has been crap for that long). Although, since then Romania has failed to qualify for either the World Cup or Euro, so maybe this time around they'll be happy just to be there.

GK: Bogdan Lobonţ (Dinamo Bucureşti), Marius Popa (Poli 1921 Ştiinţa Timişoara), Eduard Stăncioiu (CFR Cluj)
Def: Cosmin Contra (Getafe), Răzvan Raţ (Shakhtar), Gabriel Tamaş (Auxerre), Cristian Chivu (Inter), Mirel Rădoi (Steaua Bucureşti), Cristian Săpunaru (Rapid Bucureşti), Sorin Ghionea (Steaua Bucureşti), Dorin Goian (Steaua Bucureşti), Cosmin Moţi (Dinamo Bucureşti), Ştefan Radu (Lazio)
Mid: Florentin Petre (CSKA Sofia), Paul Codrea (Siena), Răzvan Cociş (Lokomotiv Moscow), Bănel Nicoliţă (Steaua Bucureşti), Adrian Cristea (Dinamo Bucureşti), Nicolae Dică (Dinamo Bucureşti)
For: Ciprian Marica (Stuttgart), Adrian Mutu (Fiorentina), Marius Niculae (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Daniel Niculae (Auxerre)

I’m not quite convinced that Romania can repeat Euro 2000 and make it out of their group, but they can certainly play spoiler. With the Euro competition, all it takes is a slow start to ruin a complacent squad’s chances of breaking out of the group stage. For all of their talent, we know that France, the Netherlands and even Italy are more than capable of starting tournaments slow and easy, only to be knocked out before they know what hit them. For all of their bluster about shocking the world, I’d say that an upset victory or even a hard-fought draw would mean that Euro 2008 was a success for Romania.

Could England beat this team? Yes, but this is a typically plucky upstart team from Eastern Europe that England always seems to have trouble with.
Breakout Player? Gabriel Tamaş is a tough, young central defender who scored twice on dead balls in the Euro qualifers. For a team that will rely on defense to hold the three superpowers in their group, Romania’s chances of advancing will very much rest on the shoulders of Tamaş.
Biggest Question Mark? Will it be lambs to the slaughter or will Romania be the surprise team of Euro 2008?
Worst Player? Eduard Stăncioiu was a last minute replacement and, as the third goalkeeper on the squad, he’ll have a nice view of the action from the bench.
Can this team win Euro 2008? No. A shock victory in the group stage and maybe a shock advancement to the knockout stage would be about the most Romania can hope for.
What is the squad's pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? Three words – Group. Of. Death.

Read more on "Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Romania"...

Platini From Atop The Mountain

Seems UEFA President Michael Platini isn't making any Swiss friends. The Swiss fans and press are a little fed up with the rules and regulations UEFA is imposing. Swiss tabloid SonntagBlick printed a caricature of Platini [translated version here] as Moses coming down from the mountain with his 11 commandments.

I. Thou Shalt Drink Only Carlsberg

III. Thou Shalt Only Wear Clothes of Euro 2008 Sponsors

It seems Platini is more interested in keeping the sponsors happy than leading his people out of the desert.

[Photo: SonntagBlick]

Read more on "Platini From Atop The Mountain"...

"Cristiano Ronaldo Caught with Tranny Hooker"

Such a headline could make you rich should it come to pass. And should you opt to make one of the many Cristiano Ronaldo-specific prop bets on the Euro 2008.

Currently at Paddy Power you can get 100-1 if the Portuguese dive master takes up with a shemale. Those are the longest odds on the board. The shortest at 11-8 belong to "Miss a penalty" (hot tip: after the stutter-step he's shooting low and to his left).

It's probably worth noting that the bet is actually what C. Louganis will do first. Because really, isn't it a lock he'll hire the tranny to celebrate his leaving United for Madrid (which is looking closer and closer to a lock)?

The rest of the options read:

Booked for diving 2-1
Get sent off 9-2
Leave Man Utd 5-1
Score a hat-trick 10-1
Break a metatarsal 22-1
Marry Nereida Gallardo 50-1

More Ronaldo related fun can be found here where you can wager on which match he'll cry in first (although I reckon that 'round UF, this prop will draw way more interests).

"Cry" must mean actual tears and not the trademark crucifix-arms pose that he rolls into every time he's within 2 feet of the box because the best odds are on the quarter final, while the opener against Turkey comes in the longest at 12-1.

Oh, and in case there was any doubt over the world's easiest job, it's setting Over/Under on futbol matches.

Read more on ""Cristiano Ronaldo Caught with Tranny Hooker""...

Tell Us How You Really Feel

There may be some lingering animosity between Poland and Germany. The two nations open their Euro 2008 title chase against each other on Sunday. The two met in 2006 World Cup with the Krauts again prevailing over the Poles 1:0 in group play. Poland has revenge on its mind. Revenge for WWII, for the World Cup and for taking the Papacy.

Which explains this:

The polish rag Super Express is asking the squad to bring back the heads of captain Michael Ballack and manager Joachim Low.

So the question is, how many Poles does it take to behead two Germans?

Read more on "Tell Us How You Really Feel"...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Backpasses Thursday: Pics and Vids for all

Antonio "Iceman" Cassano gets into a fight, again [The Sun]
MLS will ban this guy for life, if they find him [WV Hooligan]
New Arsenal home shirt leaked. Looks like one of the Dreamcast era shirts [Football Shirt Culture]

More goodies after the jump

Women are catching up to men when it comes to hooliganism [New Statesman]
UEFA does not want your unapproved corporate sponsorship invading their tournament [Bloomberg]
Luton Town penalized 10 points for next season. No one involved in the shenanigans is still with the club [BBC]

Finally, a pretty kickass video. Ribery versus Toni. Via The Spoiler.

Read more on "Backpasses Thursday: Pics and Vids for all"...

Euro 2008

Well, we are just two days away, actually less, from Euro 2008 commencing.

UF has a large slate of liveblogging planned for the tournament. We don't have the numbers to cover every match but we'll be doing a significant portion of the matches. We'll also have our regular ribald humor and enlightening soccer banter, which will undoubtedly be a bit more Euro 08-centric, but we'll do our best to cover other items.

Just a reminder we have a Euro 08 Pick 'Em group. Please join us to determine who is less stupid amongst us. Log in and search for "UF Callups." Winner gets a fabulous doorprize--a free post on UF. Although, we reserve the right to censor any NSFW images and anything else we feel like censoring. There may or may not be other prizes, but we'll be sure to not let you know about them.

As always, send us your tips at unprofessionalfoul[at]gmail[dot]com, the more the merrier.

Read more on "Euro 2008"...

UF Field Trip: A Preview of USA-Argentina

We will be somewhere in there.

As you may know, some of us here at UF will be partaking in the festivities at the June 8th tilt between the USMNT and the Argentines at Giants Stadium. If you want a match preview in terms of rosters, look here for the Argentines and here for the Americans (assuming the roster is the same as for the Spain friendly). If, however, you are interested in our shenanigans, join me after the jump.
There are several things to keep in mind here: (1) The match is on a Sunday, but several of us have strategically taken off on Monday; and (2) With Hirshey in attendance, the afterparty is guaranteed to look like this:

We're hoping the Special One shows up

So, on to a few prop bets.

1:2 - Odds that Hirshey will be called a "sellout"

1:3 - Odds that Hirshey will be blamed for Will Leitch leaving Deadspin

Over/Under (11) - Number of times that Hirshey will hear "I have a great idea for a book"

Over/Under (OFF) - Number of times that Hirshey will hear "You're going to let me write a guest column on ESPN, right?"

Over/Under (3) - Number of UFers that will become drunk and obnoxious before, during, or after the match

Over/Under (3) - Number of UFers that will be drunk and obnoxious before, during and after the match

Over/Under (7) - Number of UFers and assorted hangers-on (of 30) who will be arrested

We'll be back (sometime) with a scintillating (and titillating!) wrap-up of the game some time next week (as soon as Lingering Bursitis recovers from his post-match hangover).

Read more on "UF Field Trip: A Preview of USA-Argentina"...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Potential Feud Snuffed

Like the Detroit Red Wings, we are all winners today. Except for the USMNT.

If you're cool to us, we'll be cool to you. We're cool with TTCS [Tremendous Upside Potential]
Jozy will just stay in Spain, thanks (not until July 1)[Soccer by Ives]
C. Ronaldo is now ready to move to Spain. Or is he? [Guardian]

SGE to Mexico is official. How do you say Dos a Cero in Swedish? [Guardian]
Mark Hughes moves to Man City. Now where will Avram! end up? [Guardian]
Dear American publishers, we also use copious amounts of cursing in our writing. Can we get a collective book deal? [Kissing Suzy Kolber] (Congrats, Drew)

Less questions, more answers tomorrow.

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Potential Feud Snuffed"...

Rooney likes to drink, be with boys

Well, our desperate call for tips last month netted is nothing. Apparently, our reader base is smart enough to know that a trip to Vegas is an inherently losing proposition. Good on you all, fellas.

In the end, it seems that we didn't really need anyone to provide us with Rooney drinking pics. All we needed was to read the Daily Mail online. Let's dissect, shall we?

So, yeah. Rooney has been spotted in Ibiza taking in a stag night (weekend? week?) with some of his boys. I don't know about any of you marrieds out there, but at my bachelor party, there could not have been a picture taken without two things: alcohol and naked chicks. Rooney's party has the alcohol down, but there is a conspicuous lack of female bodies around. I understand that Rooney is smart enough to know that he will be photographed at every opportunity and must stay away from the ladies, but how about using some of that star wattage to get a little play for your friends? Must the entire night be female free?

Alright, to the pictures.

Whoa, who's the idiot? It's Rooney's brother, of course. Well, if I think about it, maybe the brother is a gemologist just getting off work. Perhaps the family is not so dim after all.

What? Why? It's 2 o'clock in the frickin' morning. Take those fucking sunglasses off your head. And is that a Long Island Ice Tea? I know that's what a real man drinks, an alcohol suicide. Actually, I think it's Cuervo Black and Coke.

This picture's caption should read: "Nope, there's no way that this spotlight is intentionally in me. I sat right under the dome light in the middle of the vehicle by accident. In no way do I want people to see me." but that would be way too long to fit under the picture.

Alright, I have no idea about Ibiza. For all I know it could be a British enclave on a Spanish isle. But come on. You travel to the Mediterranean to drink at a bar owned by Gary Lineker's brother? Isn't there somewhere a bit more authentic you could have gone to? At least put on a sombrero. George Best would.

Finally, a poll. How long will the Rooney-McLoughlin nuptials last? I used to work with a guy that was married for six weeks. Can Rooghlin beat that?

Read more on "Rooney likes to drink, be with boys"...

Lessons in Mourinho-speak

We all know Jose Mourinho from his grumpy, suit-wearing days on the Stamford Bridge sidelines, and now he's found himself a new and more stylish gig traipsing around the edge of the San Siro turf. I fear for him, as his move reminds me very much of the Simpsons episode where Homer, as the Isotopes mascot, gets called up to the big leagues and finds that the masses there simply aren't thrilled by his antics. [Watch out for the click-through in that link, disable those pop-ups!]

In Serie A, after all, everyone gesticulates wildly and causes press hysteria by way of arrogant comments and inflammatory remarks against the referee. In England, he was enough of a novelty to stand out against the pale pastiche of drab, jowly managers from the British Isles, replete with their evasive language and empty platitudes.

Nostalgia aside, he's taken over at Inter Milan, and he's looking to redefine himself as something other than "The Special One", the super-ego that sustained him through three-and-a-bit EPL campaigns.

However, I fail to believe that this new-found humility is really that genuine, so I thought I'd go to the trouble of decoding his words into the language that I know Mourinho still speaks [not English, of course. The clever bastard had to go and learn Italian in a month and greet the media flawlessly in their native tongue].

Join me, won't you?

[Question in Bold, Mourinho's comments in blockquote, my translation in italics]

Mr. Mourinho, you described yourself as 'special' when you became coach of Chelsea in 2004, and they called you 'The Special One'. What do you want to be called now?

I have arrived at a special club, and when a club is like this the coach becomes an extra person. I'm not forgetting that I'm a great coach, but I don't want to be special. José Mourinho hasn't changed. He's the same person with the same ambition, the same motivations, and with a great passion for football. He has always wanted to coach in Italy, possibly at a great club. Inter have given me the opportunity to work in a great footballing nation like Italy.

This is a very important challenge for me and I have to thank the managers present here, in particular Marco Branca, for choosing me. It will be fun for you too."

Let's face it, I'm still the same as I ever was. This move to Italy doesn't affect that. Special, gifted, genius, call it what you will. And honestly, I will have to be a genius to figure out what to do with a squad whose average age is roughly 32.

Do you think it will be necessary to change many elements of the current Inter squad?

"From what I have read in the press all over the world - not just in Italy and Portugal - it seems as if I have come to coach a team with a squad of 70 players. This isn't good. I want to work in a team of 20-21 players plus the goalkeepers. I think that every player in the world wants to play for Inter, and that every president wants to sell players to Inter.

I like the players in my squad and I don't need to make radical changes. For myself and the management, the team just needs due or three players to improve and be even more competitive. I want the chance to change things a bit because I don't know any coach who has the same ideas as another. But I didn't like what I read about me not liking some of the players in the squad, and that I want to buy all the best players in Europe. This is not true.

I have a clear message that I want to transmit to my players. From now on I want to talk about them as my players. I want to tell all of them that I like the squad and I have faith in them. I have seen a lot of Inter's matches during the season and I appreciated the team's mentality. It's hard for me to wait until mid-July to start."

Before you all start complaining, I will note that I'm bringing in probably 8 players from Chelsea, including that donkey Frank Lampard. Why, I do not know. We Italian teams are shit with the penalty kick. That's the only reason I can think of, but hey, it's enough, right? Eat shit and die, Roman!

Seriously though, I have lots of over-the-hill crap to sell. Roll up, roll up! How much for Hernan Crespo?

Your command of Italian has surprised us. Have you been studying Italian for long?

"I understand your question well. You want to know when Inter contacted me for the first time. I like telling the truth and the truth is that Inter contacted me for the first time the day after the second match against Liverpool, but nothing had been decided then. I hadn't started studying Italian then, only three weeks ago.

It's a neo-Latin language like Spanish and Portuguese, so it was easier. The articles and verb tenses are hard, but the words are similar. It's just a matter of practice and getting used to it, I don't think it will be hard to learn your language.

I have spoken with captain Zanetti on the phone. He has a long experience and he told me that just a few weeks of work are needed to best understand the language of a football team."

Look, you little pen-holding shits, I'm better than you. I learn languages quicker than you learned how to tie your shoes and use proper proofreading marks. In the time it took me to say that, I just learned how to proofread. All learning is easy to me. Swahili, Welsh, the language of the Masai Mara, Jedi, Tagalog... it does not concern me.

I am better than you, and I will always have more money than you. Plus I'm a phenomenal manager. Ancelotti is a useless cunt.

Do you think Italian football is the best in the world at the moment?

"Italian football is the most important and it keeps improving. I always say what I think and I can say that the Serie A isn't currently the best championship in the world. When you hear it said that the strongest teams want to improve, Inter want to improve too, and it is in this way that Serie A will return to the top levels.

This is a further motivation for me and I want to be an extra person because this isn't a job done by one person, but by many. I think this is an ambition and responsibility of everybody, including the press and the whole movement, the referees, the players, the coaches and the managers. I want to make my contribution.

Inter is a team that won the last championship well because it played good football for most of the season, apart from the last two or three months. They always presented themselves as a psychologically strong team and this helped them win the Scudetto."

What do you expect me to say, that it's shit? There's at least three leagues better than this one. I used to work in the best league in the world until I got fired. Now I come to a world of "catenaccio" and flip-flopping. Heck, why do you think we sold Arjen Robben? I was sick of his weak-legged plummeting! And now this place, the land of Gattusos and that cunt Materazzi... shit, he's on my team?

Fuck! Fuck to the highest heavens! We're a league that no-one cares about, and I'm its biggest star!?! Even working under Sven Goran-Eriksson would be a fate kinder than this! Shit fuck shit fuck shit shit shit!

Do you think your squad can win in your first season as coach of Inter?

"I think the results will come because it's the natural consequence of the work done. I always say that my players are the best in the world. I said it when I coached a small club, when I coached Porto, and when I coached Chelsea, and from now on the best players in the world are those of Inter. We can reach positive results by working together. I have won twelve trophies in the last six seasons and I think that I can win something important here too."

Let's be honest. I am talking absolute bullshit. Jose talks down to everyone because no-one can understand him. I coached Porto*, and hopped to Chelsea, taking a lot of players with me, and now I'll do the same here.

I think we can win because this is a terrible, terrible league. Genoa? You mean that place actually exists? Verona? Parma? Livorno? Siena? What kind of horseshit is this? I've never even heard of these teams before. How could I possibly lose?

Portugal is the same way -- you show up, you get good results against Sporting and Benfica, and the rest is shit. Sporting could barely beat Bolton. How much of an idiot do you have to be to fuck that one up? Jose is no idiot.

Inter Milan is the kind of team I dearly love: one that's full of money and established stars that require little tweaking. Sure, I'll steal some players from that dog Abramovich, but this team is ready to shit all over the AS Romas and Catanias of this league. They will bow to me like the deity I am.

If I can't win here, I might as well join the MLS.

* [Funnily enough, Porto just got banned from the Champions League for bribery that occurred during the year that Jose made them the best team around. Oops. We'll be covering this in more detail shortly.]

Read more on "Lessons in Mourinho-speak"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

If I were ever a day earlier with this, I could call this one a Tuesday Two-fer. But I never am. I have a schedule dammit, and Wednesday is when I think to myself"Huh, maybe I should do another of those abominable uniform posts". And so I do.

I also like to throw some themes in there from time to time. With the European Championships coming up (have you joined our pick 'em yet?), I could not help myself. While next week will have a national team flavor to it, this week we look at a couple of clubs in the host countries. If I were you, I would consider donning protective eyegear now.

This shirt comes from the early '90s, courtesy of Wiener Sport-Club in Austria. Yes, the shirt is a bad approximation of a chessboard on acid, or a ska kid's wardrobe, but let's face it, I picked it because of the club name. If you ask me, Wiener Sport-Club is even better than that Deportivo Wanka the Brits find so funny.

This shirt does arouse some ire in me, however. As with the Birthdays sponsor from before, why the hell can't the sponsor jibe with the shirt? WSC (I giggle too much to type it out every time) wears black, white, and a mixture of black and white. Where does Samsung get off putting that red on there? Bunch of wankers, if you ask me.

Our second shirt comes from FC Wil in Switzerland, and all I can say is, wow. This is the kind of thing that can induce nightmares. I do like the inventiveness of the paint-dropped-in-a-pool background broken up by the excited red lightning strike. I still would not wear it. That's just too much.

The thing that really bothers me is the team logo here. You'll find it right under that huge manufacturer logo with the horse on it. (Incidentally, both of these shirts were made by Blacky. That's a brand that would not sell well over here, I think.) Can you make that out? If I were a font-nerd, I could tell you what it is, but the entirety of the club's mark on this shirt looks like :
FC WIL 1900.
That's lame.

Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF"...

Rooney Lies

Colleen McLoughlin better watch out. Wayne Rooney is a liar and has been caught with his pants down. No, it's not from his bachelor party. Rather, he was caught by the long arm of the law. David Moyes, his former manager at Everton, has successfully sued Rooney for libel.

The damn English libel laws don't allow athletes to wantonly print lies in their autobiographies, even though the laws allow them to "write" books when they can barely spell their own names.

Unfortunately, the dick stomper won't be out of pocket with this decision as his publisher, Harper Collins, is taking the heat.

HarperCollins have accepted the libel should have been quickly picked up by the lawyers employed to read the transcript before it was published.

They may now sue 5RB, the legal chambers of media law specialist QC, Desmond Browne, whose chambers did the proof-reading of the Rooney book, ghost-written by Hunter Davies as the first of a five-book deal.

I blame David Hirshey. And, would suggest that HC sue The Daily Mail for publishing the obvious piece libel to the right. We all know Rooney can't read.

[Photo: The Daily Mail]

Read more on "Rooney Lies"...

EURO 2008 Pick 'Em **UPDATE**

Read more on "EURO 2008 Pick 'Em **UPDATE**"...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Alright, Spain is totally getting pwnzed tomorrow

Djibril Cisse, human canvas [This is Extra Time]
MISL folds. What will I do with my Dino Delevski jersey? [Soccer America Daily]
Headline: Ancelotti denies Chelsea link. Subtext: He's so going [Guardian]
Aston Villa to be just like Barcelona. By having a kids charity sponsor their shirt [Guardian]

Oh man. This is much easier when you just send us stuff. Hit us up at unprofessionalfoul [at] gmail [dot] com. We promise not to bite too hard.

See you tomorrow.

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Alright, Spain is totally getting pwnzed tomorrow"...

Euro 2008 Team Profiles: The Netherlands

Holland's known for many things: bicycles, liberalism, marijuana and perhaps one of the most dreadful domestic football leagues. It's a great place to visit when you're a young, itinerant backpacker with a thirst for boobs, booze and brazen displays of idiocy, but I digress. There's more to the place than that.

Despite the dismal showing that is the Eredivisie, the country has been steadily pumping the rest of the footballing world full of talented players for a good two decades now, and while hardly any of them succeed in England [here's looking at you, Dirk Kuyt and Afonso Alves], they become quality players if given the right climate and care in which to grow. A bit like their weed, really.

Dennis Bergkamp is top of the list. I've lost track of the number of circus-like goals he knocked in for the Gooners. Marc Overmars had some decent pace, and let's not forget the irritating goalscoring rate of Ruud van Nistelrooij. However, you have to look a little further back than that to see their true class: the holy trinity of Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, and Ruud Gullit [excuse the atrocious Euro-techno accompanying a couple of those vids].

Watching the three of them play together was like watching a masterclass in what football should be. Gullit had the pace and the skills, Rijkaard was the prototypical brutish enforcer in central midfield, and van Basten just couldn't stop bloody scoring. The trio tore up all comers on the world stage and then ran riot through Serie A when they all played for AC Milan from 1987-1993 [how on earth did Berlusconi pull off that package deal?].

A joy to watch and a joy to listen to, the Netherlands enjoyed their best ever team.

It speaks volumes of their place on the world stage that this regional dominance amounted to little in the big tournaments; at the peak of their dominance, from 1983 [when many of their best players burst onto the scene: Ronald Koeman, Jan Wouters, Marco van B, Gullit, Jan van Tiggelen, Danny Blind] to the mid-90s, they won one European Championship in '88 and precious fuck-all outside of that.

Disappointment followed in the World Cup -- they didn't even qualify in 1986! -- and a 2-1 defeat in their Italia '90 second round match against Germany [I still remember it vividly for Rijkaard's sending-off for spitting as he and West German perm-wearer Rudi Voller went at it all day long]... and they've been struggling to regain credibility ever since.

It's tough when all your stars vanish at the same time, although they had an embarrassment of riches to replace them all with, thanks to the magic of the Ajax youth program: Overmars, Bergkamp, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Roy Makaay, Clarence Seedorf, and Aron Winter.

And still nothing! All that mercurial talent wasted!

Moving to the present day, they've aroused yet another bumper crop of talent that is currently peddling itself all over the continent, including Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the hilariously regal-sounding Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Add to that the frustrating injury-plagued winger Robin van Persie [or, as he's known, Robin van Porcelain], and there's no reason why they shouldn't perform well.

A familiar pose for RvP

The Netherlands are the ultimate disappointers on the world stage. Some would choose England right away, and personal heritage aside, I'd put that tag firmly on van der Sar and co. Why? They've created some of the world's most memorable players, and at one point, had a team with no perceivable flaws from top to bottom. And they still couldn't win.

They come into Euro '08 with a strong, young squad full of attacking flair, and another horrible Eredivisie-bred defense. If that league could teach the offside trap successfully, we should all cower in fear and bow to your South Africa '10 Champions, The Netherlands.

On to the squad, and then on to the questions!

Edwin van der Sar [Manchester United], Maarten Stekelenburg [Ajax], Henk Timmer [Feyenoord]

Khalid Boulahrouz [Sevilla], Wilfred Bouma [Aston Villa], Tim de Cler [Feyenoord], John Heitinga [Atlético Madrid], Joris Mathijsen [Hamburger SV], Mario Melchiot [Wigan Athletic], André Ooijer [Blackburn Rovers], Giovanni van Bronckhorst [Feyenoord]

Demy de Zeeuw [AZ Alkmaar], Orlando Engelaar [FC Twente], Nigel de Jong [Hamburger SV], Ibrahim Afellay [PSV], Wesley Sneijder [Real Madrid], Arjen Robben [Real Madrid], Rafael van der Vaart [Hamburger SV]

Robin van Persie [Arsenal], Dirk Kuyt [Liverpool], Ruud van Nistelrooy [Real Madrid], Klaas-Jan Huntelaar [Ajax], Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink [Celtic]

Could England beat this team?
Yes. We could. I am confident in that. As evidence, I point to our so-so team in Euro '96 who managed to put 4 past van der Sar and co. I reckon we could do the same again, thanks to that leaky backline.

Breakout Player?
It has to be Huntelaar. He's been incredible for Ajax since joining them in 2005 [70 goals in 82 appearances], and already managed 7 in 12 for the National Team. Still relatively unknown at this point, this will be the tournament where enough people see him and his goalscoring, and he parlays it into a move to Italy or Spain, like most do from that neck of the woods.

Biggest Question Mark?
Whether their defending can hold up. Traditionally slow and clumsy at the back, they'll inevitably struggle against the Mediterranean twinkletoe players in the tournament, and might concede more goals through penalties than anything else. They also lost the speed demon Ryan Babel to injury, so you wonder whether their other brittle wing options can hold up against the rigors of playing more than one game per week.

Worst Player?
Khalid Boulahrouz. Average in Germany, signed for big bucks to Chelsea, failed to win any hearts with a string of shaky performances and a straight red card at home to Arsenal at the end of the 2006/07 season that ultimately cost them a chance for the EPL title. He's absolute toss.

Can this team win Euro 2008?
Nope. No chance, sorry. They'll lose players to injury and they'll cough it up again in the quarter-finals or so. Huntelaar's goal-scoring will not be helped by the slew of goals teeming in at the other end.

What is the squad's pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008?
Um.... at the risk of overkill: their defending is terrible?

Read more on "Euro 2008 Team Profiles: The Netherlands"...

Scotland Wrap Up 07/08

Because your internet access only goes so far, we are here to let you know exactly how things finished up in Scotland, and how that jibes with what we wrote at the halfway point. The top and bottom picks look pretty good, but the middle gets kind of murky. Oh well, no one is perfect.

SPL Final Standings
Celtic (89 points)

Right off the bat, here's one I got correct, and even for the reasons stated. Back in January, Rangers and Celtic were in a dead heat, and Rangers had two games in hand--aganst Gretna and St. Mirren. On the surface, it would look like Rangers had the advantage. Instead, as I astutely pointed out, Rangers were set to face some serious fixture congestion, and they did. As April and May unfolded, Celtic kept winning in the league, unburdened by cup runs. Rangers on the other hand were chasing an impossible quadruple. As Rangers were facing a need-to-win match seemingly every three days in the last month, they faltered, giving Celtic the title.

Rangers (86)
As mentioned above, Rangers were done in by their quadruple dreams. Back in January, they had just been knocked out of the Champions League into the UEFA Cup. I opined that they would go further in the UEFA Cup than Celtic in the Champions League, but I had no idea they would go so far. Rangers made it all the way to the final, where they lost 2-0 to Zenit St. Petersburg. What killed Rangers' ambition in the end was not the SFA, no matter what fans may think, but too many games in general. when the season ended on May 24 with a win over Queen of the South in the SFA Cup final, Rangers had not had a midweek without a game since March 22. From March 29 to May 24, Rangers played 18 matches. To their credit, Rangers were in every competition to the end, and could have pipped Celtic on the last day of league, if they had bettered Celtic's result. Celtic won, Rangers lost, and the dream was over. Rangers do finish with the cup double to hang their hats on.

Motherwell (60)
This is where the prediction start to look rather dodgy. In January, Motherwell had just lost their captain Phil O'Donnell after he collapsed and died on the pitch against Dundee United. I said that the death would cause Motherwell, at the time in third, to freefall in the standings and that a sixth place finish would be lucky. Boy was I wrong. Instead, all of the teams around them faltered and Motherwell turned out to be surprisingly resilient. For their season-long effort, the team will be rewarded with a UEFA Cup spot next season.

Aberdeen (53)
Sure, it was a homer pick, but it looked so good on paper. Based on their shock advancement in the UEFA Cup and their early activity in the January transfer window, I thought Aberdeen would easily end up third in the league. Instead they managed a pretty shocking fourth. I say a shocking fourth place because of how they got there. After Aberdeen was dumped out of the UEFA Cup by Bayern Munich, everything fell apart. Aberdeen was struggling with injuries at the time, with up to 9 first-teamers out of the lineup. The Bayern loss was in the middle of a 9-game non-winning streak where Aberdeen fell from fifth to ninth in the league with four games left before the split. Aberdeen got 9 of 12 available points, and pipped Falkirk into the top 6. From there, Aberdeen did well enough to overtake Hibs and Dundee United for fourth place. If only they had not met the beast that is Queen of the South in the Scottish Cup semis (after knocking out Celtic-away!).

Dundee United (52; +6GD)
First of all, for those of you who are not familiar with Scottish football, I have to say the following: This team is Dundee United, not Dundee. Dundee FC are another team entirely who actually play across the street from Dundee United. Dundee are currently in the First Division. Thank you for playing attention. Dundee United spent most of the season battling Motherwell for third spot. That is, until the split, when United decided winning was useless and pulled off two draws to go with three losses. All in all, a pretty good season for the Terrors, they just got done in by their poor run over the last third of the season. Ending the season pulling 14 points from 14 games is never going to get you into Europe.

Hibernian (52; +4GD)
Finishing sixth by way of goal differential was Hibernian. There is not much to say about Hibernian's season. Like Aberdeen, they had a good, early '08 run to get into the Top 6. Once the split occurred, they played as poorly as Dundee United. A perennial mid-table finisher finishes mid-table.

Alright, so I got the correct teams in the split, though I nearly dropped the ball on Motherwell. Let's speed through the bottom half, shall we?

Falkirk (49)
Poor Falkirk. Done in on the last day of the pre-split season by way of losing to Aberdeen 2-1 when only a draw was necessary. Though they had slim European ambitions, such a loss hits a team hard financially, as you miss out on a likely home tie against either Rangers or Celtic, or both, depending on how the regular season broke down. I must say, this was a pretty strong season for Falkirk. They challenged for a Top 6 spot until the last day and looked fairly dangerous all season long. If they keep it up, I would look for a fourth place finish out of them next season.

Heart of Midlothian (48)
Here is a team that did much better over the second half of the season, but still never got over the hump. Back in January, this team fell all the way to 11th place after five straight losses. Things looked bleak for the Lithuanian-backed club. However, they found some form and started to alternate wins with losses and climbed up the table. An eighth place finish flatters their mid-season form.

Inverness CT (43)
ICT never jumped out of the Bottom 6 all season, despite having ample opportunity to do so around the mid-season mark. A horrible run in February and March saw them take two points off of nine matches. Unfortunately, given their location and ambition, this is probably as high as we will see them finish in the next souple of years. Look for their manager, Craig Brewster, to move on to great things over the next decade.

St. Mirren (41)
St Mirren was another team that never got out of the Bottom 6. A big reason for that was their stunning inability to score goals. They scored 26 in 38 games, less than relegated Gretna. If not for Gretna's troubles, this would have been one hell of a lucky team to escape relegation.

Kilmarnock (40)
The team I bag on for being boring finishes 11th. Back in November, they had reached up to fifth place and looked to be doing very well. By the time January rolled around, Kilmarnock had already slipped to ninth and were sinking fast. Will be part of the relegation battle again next year.

Gretna (13)
What can I say about Gretna that I have not said already? Well, this: the team no longer exists as of today, June 3. Things started off rocky in the south and never got better. Their point total is artificially low because of a 10-point deduction for going into administration, but Gretna never were going to threaten to stay up. A sad end for a club that made a pretty fun run up the leagues, all the while engendering hatred from the rest of teams in the country.

Hamilton Academical take the lone promotion spot into the SPL, besting Dundee (remember what I said above?) by seven points in the First Division. It will be their first time in the Scottish top flight in 20 years. At the bottom of the First Division, Stirling Albion was relegated, while Clyde fought off Second Division challenges for their First Division place. However, since Gretna was demoted to the Third Division (and now out of the SFL entirely), playoff losers Airdrie United were promoted into the First Division, joining automatic promotees Ross County.

In the Second Division, Berwick Rangers were left for dead at the middle of the season, and Cowdenbeath joined them in going down. Arbroath won the playoff into the Second Division, with Stranraer taking the "Gretna back door" promotion. Those two join East Fife, who won the Third Division by a whopping 23 points, securing their promotion in March.

Finally, now that Gretna is out of the league entirely, who will be invited to the SFL? There have been four names bandied about, and I'll give them to you in the order of the likelihood they will get the invitation.

Spartans FC - This was the team who tried to buy their way into the league by taking over the debts for Gretna. They have a nice size stadium with all of the necessary trimmings to be allowed into the Third Division, though some may have taken offense to their gambit to buy their way in.

Cove Rangers - My pick for inclusion would be Cove Rangers. Scottish football has always suffered for too much congregation around the forty mile wide belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Cove Rangers are situated just south of Aberdeen, Scotland's third largest city. If the three East of Scotland League teams split votes, Cove Rangers may just slide in.

Preston Athletic - Word is they will change their name if admitted to the SFL. Don't hold your collective breath. Their stadium still needs expensive updating to get up to SFL standards, and with that being part of the reason for Gretna's demise, I think the SFL will be loathe to go down that path again so soon.

Annan Athletic - Truly on the list as a sentimental choice, as this team's home is rather close to Gretna. Stadium is up to snuff, I believe, but their election to the SFL is highly unlikely.

You need to go to the excellent for the image at the top. He does some great work there.

Read more on "Scotland Wrap Up 07/08"...