Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coming Monday - Darren Huckerby Interview.

Coming this Monday morning, Unprofessional Foul quizzes new Earthquakes star and Norwich legend Darren Huckerby on his move to the states, the standard of the M.L.S, leaving Norwich and THAT KRON interview.

Bigus: How are you settling in with your new teammates? Has anyone played a dressing room prank on you yet?

DH: I am settling in well. Ronnie O’Brien stole my weightlifting gloves and hid them. I don’t know if that counts as a prank though.

Read the exclusive U.F interview here on Monday.

Read more on "Coming Monday - Darren Huckerby Interview."...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Keane FTW!

Keane responds to Warner. Warner felt the need to say more stuff, but I'm not linking to that drivel [Soccernet]
Glenn Roeder also runs his mouth. What did Norwich have, 2 call ups maybe? [Eurosport]
MY Mets looking into buying MLS team [Bloomberg]

Been missing Freddie Ljungberg? He's hanging out with other models in NYC [The Spoiler]
Ethan Zohn does his thing. His very odd thing [Soccer 365]
Usain Bolt to Barcelona? [Honolulu Advertiser]

And, finally:
Two Scotland players are feuding over who scored the winning goal against Iceland. The SFA refused to choose sides, so FIFA had to declare the goal scorer. You will see this again in a month when Scotland are explaining why they lost their match to Norway. [Telegraph]

Read more on "Friday Backpasses: Keane FTW!"...

West Ham to collapse financially (maybe not)

West Ham was dealt another blow today. Already reeling from losing their manager and signing up someone inexperienced, and foreign, to take over the job, the Hammers today have to face the prospect of having a shirt sponsor that can no longer afford to pay for the privilege.

XL, a travel company, signed a sponsorship deal with West Ham way back in February 2007. Their 2008 check, for £2.5 million, apparently has not come through yet. Which is bad because the company has gone into administration, the rough UK to US equivalent of bankruptcy. Oops.

So, it's by no means a death blow. That amount is roughly the cost of Dean Ashton's salary. With recent player sales, it is easily absorbed. Plus, another shirt sponsor can be easily found, and probably at an equivalent rate. No worries then, right?

Not so fast. The gem of the article is that one of the guarantors of an XL bank loan of over 200 million euros is Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, West Ham's chairman. Man, if they default, his credit is going to be ruined. I wonder if Free Credit Report can work that into a commercial?

The biggest question, in the end, to an '80s metalhead like myself is how does this affect Steve Harris? Will he be able to cope with having to replace this season's shirt with a new one after the sponsor is changed? I sure hope so.

Read more on "West Ham to collapse financially (maybe not)"...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Is Pavs scared of his teammates?

Spurs new boy Pavlyuchenko has a long way to go before he fits in [Daily Mail]
Daniele De Rossi, infamous stateside for bloodying McBride, dedicated Italy's win over Georgia to his slain father-in-law [Soccernet]
If the story is true, then Keane is wrong. I'd still back him over Warner, though [Soccer 365]
EPL has turned into a Billionaire's playground [ABC News Australia]

Weird stuff involving Zanzibar, T-shirts and Germany. Is there really that much of a call for those shirts? [The Citizen]
Head of Chinese Football forced to resign for being useless [China Daily]
A charitable Saturday morning friendly league in Scotland is in danger because SFA will not do the same thing it has done for past 15 years [BBC]

And, finally:
Joe Thornton is a big boy. Heavy, too

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THAT Guy won it for England!

There we were, Likely, Kopper and I, watching England destroy Croatia.

We witnessed Walcott's graduation, we witnessed outstanding performances from Heskey and Rooney and were under the false impression that Capello's England had finally arrived, that this result was a sign of great things to come.

Actually it was karma... as we were also in the presence of the most irritating, nonsensical bile spewing Irish/American/Croatian guy who single-handedly did the damage.

Even his fellow Croatia supporters cringed as he yelped and barked like a rabid dog...

Join me after the jump to discover how this, I mean THAT guy, is a danger to our wonderful sport... CAMON GUYZZZZZZ, PLAY SOME SACKAH...

So without further ado I introduce you to this guy, or is he THAT guy? Anyway, he is the sole reason that football in the U.S.A. will never develop into a big sport. He makes sure of this by roaming from pub to pub. Place to place, destroying any interest in the game that might be flowering in passers by. He does this with a noisy display of nonsense. Similar to the mating ritual of an Oranutang.

Who is he? Well from what we could gather he was born in Croatia. He sounds Irish and he LURRVES Sackah! He lurrrves Michael Owen too and told anyone who would listen that he loves to watch Michael Owen play on left or the right WING and that his Liverpool play "pure football". How does he know this? Because he has "the Time Warner cable". He also lurrves 'Serial A' and the Eyetalian Sackah.

Now everyone is entitled to talk gibberish and have an opinion, right? But when it's during an England Cup qualifier and it's obnoxiously loud (and I mean LOUD) then you must be stopped at all costs. This guy would put Beckham off the game and drive Thierry Henry to Cricket. His effect in the United States should not be underestimated.

All of our efforts to elevate our game in America could be threatened!

I tried really hard to blank him out but lets review his dangerous performance:

- Heskey challenged the Croat keeper and while it was a little clumsy it was not really worth mentioning... THAT guy jumped up and screamed. "Send hum off"!! Ref, disgrace, OFF, OFF!!" An England fan pointed out to him that it really wasn't worth a card, let alone a red and he responded with "I know about Sackah, I played in high-school and that's not Sackah".

- On no less that 15 occasions he yelped "Kick da ball into da carner, camon... play sackah... this outburst was usually summoned as the keeper had the ball on the spot for a goal kick.

- Simunic was awarded a yellow card for flattening Walcott and for that guy this was an outrage... how do we know this? because "I played sackah in high school that's no foul". This was repeated for Siminics second 'tackle' and for the Kovac red.

- Croatia's possession was usually championed with a quick burst of "wake up, wake up play sackah" and "kick da ball in da carner," followed by long outbursts of "Play some sackah dammit!"

- As each England goal flew in and the cheers in the bar erupted, it was as if that guy was heard in Zagreb. Young Theo and co could feel my pain and mustered the desire to silence this buffoon, to save my ears from bleeding and my brain from turning to mush. For this, I am grateful.

So take a good long look UFers. Print that picture out or make a mental note. If this, I mean that guy, roams into your pub before kick off, beware! He comes armed and ready to destroy your beautiful game.

THAT guy skulked out 10 mins early and let us celebrate in a 'Sackah' free zone.

Get In England!


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Move over young Huxtable, there's a newer, cooler Theo in town.

Young lad Walcott ascended into the realm of England heroes last night with his hat-trick, and the media is loving it! And rightly so!

After the jump, some quotes about England and Walcott from around the news.

"Capello took the attacking option by selecting Walcott ahead of David Beckham and playing Joe Cole on the left. He has huge faith in Walcott, and to say that he repaid it is understatement gone mad. A new international star was born in Zagreb, and in the same moment we may have seen the end of Beckham as a player who starts the big games for England. There was something symbolic about the embrace between the pair when the older man replaced the youngster late on." [Phil McNulty - BBC]

"He's also refreshingly free of footballer's ego (an endemic and highly contagious disease). How many footballers would buy their girlfriend a better car than their own? While Mel whizzes about in a slinky Merc, Walcott still self-identifies with a very modest VW golf. "It's small and zippy. It reminds me of myself," he says. It is an unusual philosophy in a sport where the training ground car park is another competitive extension of the football pitch. But Walcott doesn't seem to have that 'wannabe big bollocks' drive. He is happy being a prodigiously talented footballer, working on improving his skills. It is enough. He does not drink, he does not cheat on his girlfriend, he does not need anger management therapy, he is just nice, and human." [Anna Kessel - The Guardian]

"Hats off, Mr. Capello... Fabio the Great has humiliated Bilic on the eve of his birthday." [Croat newspaper Vecernji List]

"Walcott's performance was a triumph both for the player and for his manager. Intelligently deployed, he refused to be discouraged when things did not go right in the opening minutes and took each of his three chances with a sang-froid that Owen himself would have envied. Coming in from the right flank on each occasion, he finished with a calmness and a precision that made his success seem almost lacking in drama." [Richard Williams - The Guardian]

"I am not surprised, because he is a player who has good timing with his runs and is a clinical finisher who can score goals, but I always believed that he will be a fantastic player and I was never concerned. For me, most of all is that he continues to develop as a team player. What happened yesterday we have to consider to be an exception - even for players of 25, 26 to score three goals in an international game is a one-off. The potential is there - but do not make him Thierry Henry before he is Thierry Henry. One game is one game, a career is something different, it is consistency." [Arsene Wenger]

The doom and gloom which followed Stevie Mac and his umbrella along with the scare mongers professing the death of the England football team are distant memories. I say distant memories because I have an extremely short memory (so much so that I have erased the weekend's Andorra game) and because I am also a typical England fan.

"I say, let's go wild!!!! England fans wouldn't be the same if we didn't now claim to be the best team in the world or that we will undoubtedly win the World Cup. Seriously though, last nights performance and result were refreshing - relief, quality and excitement in equal measure. Also, it was one of those 'where were you when' moments as cometh the hour, COMETH THE MAN." [Craig Malpas]

"Perhaps Sven-Göran Eriksson’s judgment was right after all. In the space of 56 astonishing minutes last night the shy teenager who admitted only two days ago to being starstruck when surprisingly taken to the 2006 World Cup finals blossomed into a young man capable of leading England’s challenge towards the next tournament in South Africa." [Matt Hughes - The Times]

"England appears to have found David Beckham's replacement." [Grahame L. Jones - LA Times]

Read more on "Theo-mania"...

Zola begins his pint-sized reign at Upton Park

Well, it's official, after days and days of feverish, frantic interviews by Icelandic billionaire owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the manager-less HMS West Ham has found a new skipper, albeit one who might need a booster seat or a couple of phone books in order to see over the top of the steering wheel.

Gianfranco Zola, a man with absolutely no managerial experience whatsoever, is now charged with the unenviable task of keeping the Hammers relevant and competitive amid a slew of mid-table clubs becoming richer and richer and leaving teams like West Ham struggling to stay relevant and secure. Before Zola, they were looking at a decent run, but Curbishley exited knowing full well that he was going to be undermined at every turn. It might not be physically possible to undermine the tiny Zola, but will this move succeed?

Before I go further, I am aware that Zola's at least been involved on the non-playing side of football, as his stint as assistant to fellow Chelsea teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi with the U-21s team was rather successful: one or both of 'em got the squad to the Olympics, where they lost 3-2 to Belgium. That last bit, not so good.

18 months later, he's managing an EPL team. Forgive me if his list of credentials seems rather, ahem, short.

The best quote came from West Ham managing director Scott Duxbury:

"Gianfranco was a world-class player who wants his team to play exciting, attractive football, which is the West Ham way."
Out of the three candidates (Zola, ex-Hibs boss John Collins, and ex-Italy boss Roberto Donadoni), they went with the one who ultimately talked the biggest game.

I worry greatly for Gianfranco. Well, not too much, but you get the idea. EPL jobs don't exactly spring up every day, and West Ham's haste to find a replacement has led them to a guy with plenty of playing experience and leadership roles on the field, but very little proof of doing it off the field.

Is this really the best place to get his managerial start? A struggling mid-table club in the highest-profile, highest-pressure league in the world?

It took less than 2 months before Martin Jol lost his job at Spurs last season. Keegan? He lasted barely 8 months, 3 of which were the summer! Eriksson managed a single season at Eastlands before Trashcan axed him in favour of something more exciting, and we haven't even hit October yet.

Curbs and Koog are just the beginning, but considering the pressure in the EPL now, the pressure for the next-tier to keep some semblance of pace with the big-money teams, I wouldn't be surprised if Gianfranco's handed his walking papers before season's end.

Either way, the league, the Hammers, the press and the rest of us can all count on an entertaining ride.

Quoth Zola:
"I know I am not the most experienced manager, but I have ideas and have been involved in football for 20 years."

We all look forward to seeing them. If he can teach Matthew Etherington to do this below, he might just be manager for life.

Read more on "Zola begins his pint-sized reign at Upton Park"...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Wow. Just wow.

Like most of my brethren here, I am stunned at England's result today. Should put an end to the behind-the-scenes hand-wringing, at least. Good on Scotland as well for not folding despite Broadfoot starting (and, yes, scoring).

The reason Scotland won--their suits [The Herald]
Robinho is a tagger [Reuters]
Adebayor has gone around the bend [The Sun]
Serbian Slobodan Rajkovic banned for a year by FIFA for spitting at ref in Olympics. Probably thankful he doesn't have to play for McClaren now [Soccer 365]

And, finally:
The real reason England won--not playing at Wembley. Seems Capello thinks they are too delicate for the pressure of playing in front of home fans [BBC]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Wow. Just wow."...

USMNT v. T&T: Livebloggamy

The US should net 3 or 4 and hold Trinidad and Tobago to 0 or 1. And the fact that's pretty much a consensus amongst people that consensutize these things, it makes me a little nervous. More nerving is Bob Bradley's über-conservative approach to World Cup qualifying.

Still, at home and against a weaker opponent (although one with decidedly more rhythm) anything less than 3 points would be bad. Really, really bad.

Come back at kick and play along.

T-minus 10: I'm eating.

T-minus however much bullshit pregame is on ESPN: Done eating. I'll go get the starting XIs. And all right... We get some Shaka Hislop. That should liven things up in the booth.

Tim Howard
Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Heath Pearce,
Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, DaMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan
Brian Ching

[Not certain if that's a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 with Dempsey and Donovan joining Ching up top. I'm guessing it's not]


Marvin Phillip
Akile Edwards, Osei Telesford, Keyeno Thomas, Cyd Gray, Makan Hislop
Clyde Leon, Carlos Edwards, Densill Theobald, Keon Daniel
Cornell Glen

Anthems. Would have thought T&T's would have had a little more bass. And some kind of a beat.

Ford Field looks all sparkly. Sorry, inside joke. Looks like kind of a weak crowd. See lots of empty seats in the upper deck.

Oh, fuck. They're going to bring 9/11 into this. Fuck you ESPN and Disney. And that's followed-up by a Marines commercial. You know if we were playing Afghanistan, I'd be okay with this, but we're not. In fact T&T is probably the opposite of Afghanistan... if countries can have opposites.


1st minute: ESPN has perfected a graphic that obscures the upper left corner of the screen. Nice.

2nd minute: Beasley offside on a ball across the pitch. US controlling possession early.

3rd minute: Had two players in naked on a ball from 25 out, but both were offside. Hey, at this rate we'll rack up 60 offsides calls.

5th minute: First counter from T&T. Play down the left and Pearce comes out with it. US working back through the midfield. Lots of room. Now pushing forward the US is. Yoda I've become.

6th minute: A good two years behind everything, the US fans have started chanting "7 Nation Army." Stop, please. Thank you. T&T with possession in the midfield. First free kick of the game here. About 30 yards out from center right. Shot goes to the far post by no Soca Warriors in the zip code and Howard goes to his knees to grab it.

8th minute: Kind of tuned out from teh commentary, but did they say that John Terry scored the last goal against the US? That would be wrong.

9th minute; GOAL! Donovan from a set piece to Bradley. Bradley put a foot on it and redirected it back to the back post. Pretty. By the way... on replay that looked like it MIGHT have been offsides.

12th minute: Oh so close. Couldn't see who that was, but that could have easily been 2-0. I haven't livebogged since the Euro. I've forgotten that typing and watching takes some skill and a second pair of eyes. I have neither. Anyway, I missed all the action. Only saw the keeper flying out and the ball flying someplace besides on goal.

13th minute: Does Stern John still play anywhere? Who's the other T&T player I'm trying to think of? Played at United. Brainfaring. Long ball went too long from the US. Goal kick for T&T.

16th minute: We've got a piper diwn. Ack... very little contact from Ching. Maybe a touch of the cleat. Get up you pansy. Anyway, the US is dominating play in the midfield with all kinds of space to operate in. They'd be wise to start marking tighter or trying to shut down the passing lanes.

18th minute: GOAL. 2-0 US. Beasley with a nice little through ball to Dempsey, who was totally onside (Ching was off). Dempsey had the keeper beat before he put his foot to it. Good finishing. Nice play. (And Ian, England can only put a donkey stomp on teams when they are a man up, at even strength they are still a mediocre side... Plus they were probably trying to throw the game to get the World Cup vote).

21st minute: Ooh, the keeper Philip kind of threw his legs over Donovan as he came out to make a play on a ball in the box. They gonna card Landon? Nope. Keeper is up. Play on. Well, play on from the dead ball. T&T coming into the midfield and they are really struggling to get into the attacking third.

23rd minute: A little more possession from T&T. But it's not very productive possession. Ugh... then they just give it away. I like a pasting every now and then, but I like a competitive pasting better. Come on Soca Warriors (bang, bang), put up more of a fight.

25th minute: That's two straight giveaways from Ching.... oh, and a long ball. Donovan settles. Handball? Nope. And he can't control it anyway.

26th minute: Back to Ching. I really like Brian Ching. Think he's an upper-tier MLS striker, but at the international level, he's not going to scare anyone outside of CONCACAF. He's just not. Ever. So why not bring in Altidore and let him play with an experienced supporting midfield? If we have any hopes in South Africa, it's going to rest on those kids. Let's get them the experience.

28th minute: During my pontificating, Ching and Donovan both got in alone on goal, but it was offside. Now to Beasley down the left. He cuts inside and fires low, but it goes into the side netting.

29th minute: Case in point. Donovan put it right on Brian Ching's waistline and Ching does nothing with it except let it deflect of his nads and into Marvin Phillip's hands. Should have been a goal.

31st minute: Beasley upset. He was tripped up and the ball went over the endline from the T&T player's foot, but a GK was called. Bad call. Beasley was right to whinge.

32nd minute: Cyd Gray on the right is the only player from T&T earning his pay for the night on defense so far. And I love his name. So I shall call him El Cyd from now on.

34th minute: You know, Onyewu and Bocanegra are a dynamite defending tandem when nobody is mounting an attack. I need a toothpick. Be right back.

37th minute: Duh... Dwight Yorke. That's who I was trying to remember. Stupid me. US playing a lot of long balls and it's working with the space T&T is giving. It would never work against a Top 20 international side.

39th minute: And Beasley can't finish a sitter. Good thing he was offside to spare himself the humiliation. It was a good ball from the right side between the 18 and the 6 through to Beasley coming in on the left hand side. He just mistimed the run.

41st minute: T&T is just giving it away. Really. They'll put together about 3 or 4 passes then just send it to a white shirt wihtout making him work for it. The US is in white by the way. Corner for T&T cleared. On the break, the US counters. Dempsey... And he goes down. No call?

42nd minute: Still waiting for a replay. Haven't seen one. That probably should have been a PK. Hislop just said he thinks the Jamaican res if pro-T&T. I appreciate that kind of candor in my color commentary.

43rd minute: Donovan with a great run on the right from a long feed out of midfield. He crosses it but Beasley can't get a good foot on it to threaten goal. Ball is deflected wide left before the US can re-mount the threat.

45th minute: Dempsey pulled down. No call. Starting to think Hislop is on to something. 1 minute stoppage time. US gives the ball away in midfield. T&T gives it back. How nice. Howard clears the ball played back. Think the US defense played it back just to make sure Howard wasn't sleeping.

Half. 2-0. US.

Well in the interest of finishing what I started... The second half is moments away. Just found out that Wreckless Eric is in town on Sunday (with Amy Rigby... think they might be married now), anyway, slightly stoked about that.

Kick... And we're back

46th minute: Hey a shot from T&T. It's from 35 out and it's no where near a threat but it's a shot, I believe their first of the game. Ching is slow to get up in midfield behind the play. He's limping.

47th minute: Corner for T&T. Good service. Deflected up. Now to the top of the box. Still a threat. T&T can't control it and an errant leg sends an errant ball someplace errant. US now in midfield. The good news is that the Soca Warriors have some fight in them and we might get some action on both ends this half.

49th minute: Daniel with a great cross, but the only person in red in the box can't get on the end of it. Cleared by the US. Corner.

50th minute: Corner comes in... and goes out. And results in another corner. Again. And another... Oh wait, this last one was a throw. El Cyd lost it and the US takes a throw, then turns it over. Ugh, this is not pretty from the US. But credit T&T for getting forward and putting pressure on the 'Mericans.

51st minute: Daniel with a free kick. Goes in low to the first line of US defense just inside the 18. No threat to Howard. T&T with a throw in.

53rd minute: T&T with another good cross blocked out by Onyewu, but about the 5th corner for T&T. And Cherundolo saved a goal. GREAT play on the line. From a header off the corner Howard was beat. Steve-O saved it at the post.

55th minute: US with a beauty counter Dempsey to Donovan to Ching and Ching can't finish the cross again. Donovan put it right at his foot. There were a couple of defenders but Ching should have done more with that. More pressure from T&T back the other way.

56th minute: The US can't buy a call, and considering this is a third world ref that should be cheap and easy to do. Uhp... and I stand corrected Edwards gets a yellow for T&T on what looked clean.

57th GOAL 3-0. From the deadball, Beasley sends it in. Onyewu got a head on it and the keeper failed to collect it. Ching was there to tap it into an empty net (although it looked like he was offside... but no flag).

59th minute: Yellow to Cherundolo. Now T&T with another yellow. This one on Leon for a hard challenge on Donovan. And did the ref just give one to Beasley too? Cards are flying.

60th minute: GOa... Nope. T&T offside. Too bad. They should have scored there. Okay, could not should, but great chance at least forced a save from Howard.

62nd minute: Cherundolo gets free on the right, then lofts one tall enough to clear the Hancock Tower. Get it, Chicago... Hancock. Okay stupid. And the US blew another chance while I was being stupid. Loose rebound in the box. Nobody could poke it away. Decent save from Marvin Philip.

65th minute: Ricardo Clarke (sp?) and Eddie Johnson are both up. So maybe some changes coming.

67th minute: And Clark comes in for the coach's kid. And Johnson for Ching. Important minutes for Johnson here. He needs to show some decent form.

68th minute: Long ball into the box for T&T. Cornell gets a head to it. It goes over the bar. Howard doesn't need to make a save, but it keeps him alert. The liveblog is probably better if I publish my updates. Stupid me.

70th minute: Pace is slowing. US in no hurry to do anything. T&T is not forcing them to do anything. Teams exchange a little possession, then the US gets forward. Beasley can't find Johnson. Well, he found him, he just failed to get him the ball.

Sorry... answering texts. Nothing of consequence happened anyway.

75th minute: Cornell Glen is down for T&T. So Yorke is still playing for the national team, he just didn't come in from Sunderland. First they've mentioned of it.

78th minute: Dempsey off. Eddie Lewis on.

80th minute: Lewis with a ball in. Corner US. Apparently this is our first of the match. Really? Clark with a good header. Almost looked like a handball on T&T to stop it.

82nd minute: And Johnson thwarted twice from inside the 8... Ack. He needs to get off the schnide. But to no avail.

83rd minute: Much sloppier in the midfield from the US. A little more pressure on the back from T&T and we're not super solid. The scoresheet is going to look really good, but there will be plenty to coach from in the second half. Wonder if it will be coached. This is CONCACAF. We can get sloppy and not be punished and we can go a whole qualifier without our backline having to prove much.

85th minute: Ball to Glen. But the space is shut down and he's got no place to go with it. He had a step where, if he had been decisive, he might have had a play, but it was shut down. Bummer for T&T. They've played much better in the second half. Be nice if they got something out of it.

87th minute: This chant is annoying. But, the fact that we have a crowd that will sing anything this long (they've been at it for like 20 minutes if not more) is kind of a positive. T&T into the US third... then they give it away. Too much of that. They need better linkage out of the midfield.

90th minute: Glen with a ball at the top of the box... Oh, almost got it to Leon. He would have been in alone, but Bocanegra (maybe) got a foot on it. And we're into stoppage time.

+2 minutes: Another almost for the US. To a corner. Then a ball to Donovan. Cleared for another corner. Apparently Eddie Johnson was offside. Really? Not sure how. T&T with some passing on some tight marking. The US is working to keep the clean sheet.

Whistle. Final. 3-0. Really solid in the first half. Less so in the second. But a solid win and we're on 9 points out of 9 possible.

Thanks for playing along people. This weekend the EPL returns (Suck it, Barclays). Yeah.

Read more on "USMNT v. T&T: Livebloggamy"...

Um... wow.

I don't often enjoy being proven wrong, but this is one time where I'm completely fine with it.

Hit the jump for the big scores round-up. Not a bad night for the Home Nations overall, with Wales being the only loser. Scotland bagged a great result away from home, and Northern Ireland did well to hold the Czechs to a goalless draw.

Croatia 1 - Mandzukic 78
England 4 - Walcott 26, Walcott 59, Rooney 63, Walcott 82

FYR Macedonia 1 - Pandev 77 (pen)
Netherlands 2 - Heitinga 47, van der Vaart 59

Finland 3 - Johansson 33, Vayrynen 43, Sjolund 53
Germany 3 - Klose 38, Klose 45, Klose 83

France 2 - Henry 54, Anelka 64
Serbia 1 - no clue who scored it

Iceland 1 - Gudjohnsen 77 (pen)
Scotland 2 - Broadfoot 18, Robson 59

Italy 2 - De Rossi 17, De Rossi 89
Georgia 0

Lithuania 2 - Danilevicius 53, Danilevicius 58
Austria 0

Moldova 1 - Picusciac 1
Israel 2 - Golan 40, Saban 45

Montenegro 0
Rep. of Ireland 0

Northern Ireland 0
Czech Republic 0

Portugal 1 - Nani 40
Denmark 0

Russia 2 - Pavlyuchenko (pen) 22, Pogrebniak 81
Wales 1 - Ledley 67

Spain 2 - Capdevila 8, Villa 17
Armenia 0

Read more on "Um... wow."...

Croatia v. England thread, and Scotland too

I know there's a open thread from earlier today, but let's face it, I'm far too lazy to use it. Plus I'd love a few precious lines here to opine about my country's chances.

Simply put, we don't have any tonight. None that I can see. This team is rather shambolic, and the overwhelming weight of history is on Croatia's side -- something about being close to unbeaten at home, Bilic's track record as manager, etc etc etc. That and we can't even score goals against part-timers.

That being said, I'll still blindly cheer for this lifeless collection of primadonnas, beginning in about 5 minutes when everything kicks off. Teams after the jump. Considering that I'm at work, a liveblog looks unlikely, but should my boss disappear early, I'll jump in for the 2nd half.

Oh, and sporadic updates from the other matches too. Can Finland shake ze Germans in the 2nd half? Currently 3-2 there to the Finns with half an hour remaining. Scotland just took the lead in Iceland through Kirk "Useless" Broadfoot, and the Republic of Ireland just walked off with a 0-0 home draw to Montenegro.

Lord, give me strength. I fear the Three Lions will get mauled in this one. 3-1 Croats is my pick, but of course if we win I'll disavow any knowledge of that prediction.

I'll look out for the Scots in this one too.

Pletikosa, Simunic, Robert Kovac, Corluka, Pranjic, Rakitic, Petric, Nico Kovac, Srna, Modric, Olic.

Subs: Runje, Krizanac, Mandzukic, Pokrivac, Knezevic, Leko, Klasnic.

James, Brown, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Walcott, Lampard, Barry, Joe Cole, Rooney, Heskey.

Subs: Robinson, Johnson, Beckham, Downing, Defoe, Upson, Jenas.

Meanwhile, in Iceland:
Sturluson, Birkir Mar Saevarsson, Eiriksson, Kristjan Orn Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Steinsson, Hreidarsson, Gislason, Gudjohnsen, Helguson, Hallfredsson.

Subs: Torgeirsson, Indridi Sigurdsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Palmason, Gunnarson, Thordarson, Thorvaldsson.

Gordon, Broadfoot, Naysmith, McManus, Caldwell, Brown, Darren Fletcher, Maloney, McFadden, Robson, Commons.

Subs: McGregor, Alexander, Miller, Boyd, Hartley, Steven Fletcher, Berra.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

We're on international duty today. Never a club v. country row here. When you can put on a shirt of this quality, why would you say no?

Cameroon is the offender this week. This shirt goes back to the mid-'90s, when the Indomitable Lions were still indomitable.

Is this shirt, gasp, actually OK? I'm undecided. Maybe if I talk it through, I can make a decision.

It's not overbearing, which is nice. We've seen plenty of those here. I'm not sure about the rest of it though. The stars are decent, but to me they look like the tattoos that trendier-than-I punkers have been sporting for at least a decade now.

I'm going to digress for just a moment to say that I have never understood exactly how punk rock and its followers have become so fashion codified. It's a movement that professes to be so different from the mainstream, so why do they feel the need to look the same as each other? Should I blame the late Tim Yohannon, or did it start before he made his American Punk Rock Laws?

Anyway--the stars. They're alright, I guess. Maybe if they were in a useful constellation that meant something to the people of Cameroon, I could get behind them. Instead, it's just a Sailor Jerry inspired tat on top of the shirt.

Upon closer inspection, this shirt looks suspiciously like a golf shirt, and not in the way the current US "white" jersey does. It's the collar with the stripe, and the little button hole below. Although my source insists this is the away jersey of the time, I cannot confirm.

If we look at the home shirt of the time, an interesting one in its own right, we see the manufacturer, badge and stripey thing in the collar are the same. Perhaps this is the correct one after all.

Where does that leave us? I have to come to the conclusion that this shirt is not bad, and definitely not WTF material. However it's not good either. This shirt that made me say "I have to do this" when I first saw it is, instead, rather, well, blah. That's a fate worse than WTF, I'm afraid. Now, about that home shirt. . .

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Spend All Of Eternity Watching Your Club

Imagine you had season tickets for your club for the last 40 years. That's a good thing. Now imagine you had a really obnoxious rowmate who also had season tickets next to you for 40 years. While he provided interesting stories, he really isn't a good thing. Finally, imagine that you could have a spot next to him even in death.

Out of sight, right? Well, fans of Hamburg SV can finally achieve all of this, with a view of the stadium.

Hamburg fans can show the ultimate loyalty to their team by showing their support AFTER they die. The club is officially opening its fan cemetery on Tuesday, perfect for the die hard HSV fan who wants eternal rest just yards from the pitch where their favourite players strut their stuff.

The cemetery, located directly by the Bundesliga club’s home stadium, has been in planning for three years and will be able to hold 300 to 500 graves. Hamburg fans contributed €20,000 to the building while the club put in €30,000 and the cemetery itself will cover the rest.

Wonderful! If they ever get this near Goodison Park or Anfield, just make sure not to be buried with your valuables.

I hope I can convince my new wife that we should get two plots when my local club gets this feature. That's right, there is a Mrs. The Fan's Attic as of August 31. Hard to believe, but tis true.

[Photo: Der Bild]

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Should Have Just Told Him To Stay Away From The Merseyside

Roman Pavlyuchenko was one of Spurs many big money signings this offseason. Although, he was second-choice after Andrei Arshavin. The last second 14 million pound Russian striker hasn't made his White Hart Lane debut yet, but at least his former teammates have warned him of the dangers of North London. Former Spurs Russian target man filled Roman in on all the nitty gritty details, or so says The Sun:

Rebrov, an £11million flop in 2000, warned new boy Pavlyuchenko: “A lot of dark-skinned people live there so naturally the crime rate is higher than elsewhere.

“It’s not nice to be a robbery victim so I suggest he doesn’t walk but drives around there.”

Given the events involving Robbie Keane this past weekend, Rebrov should have told Pavlyuchenko to watch out for permed Scousers.
I much prefer stereotypes based on repeated events like Scousers robbing their football players rather than baseless stereotypes based on skin color. Except for those dirty thieving purpleskins.

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Wednesday Open Thread

We have plenty going on today at UF, don't worry. But rather than go from thread to thread to talk about England's failures or France's, well, failures, we want to put them all in one place. Here it is. Use the comments to enrich your own lives.

Selected Matches (all time EDT; I may have done the maths wrong)
Croatia-England (3pm)
USA-T&T (8pm)
Iceland-Scotland (2.30pm)
Russia-Wales (11am)
N Ireland-Czech Rep (2.45pm)
Montenegro-Ireland (2.50 1pm)
Portugal-Denmark (3.45pm)
Turkey-Belgium (4pm)
France-Serbia (3pm)
Uzbekistan-Australia (11.30am; FSC later)
Brazil-Bolivia (8.50 pm)
Peru-Argentina (10.30 pm)
Mexico-Canada (9pm)

Read more on "Wednesday Open Thread"...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Now with Video

A touching moment at the US Open Cup final []
Fabian Espindola, whom you undoubtedly do not know, has a severe ankle sprain. Which is better than a broken leg, which is what was first feared for him. How did he do it? Celebrating a goal that did not even count. Video below (45 second mark) [The Sports Network]

Thankfully, no video here. Volunteer coach for girls' soccer team arrested on child porn charges [Duluth News Tribune]
Keeper who blackmailed an EPL player over sex tape sent to jail [The Sun]

Somewhat of a hot topic around here. How to fix the England team [Kornheiser's Cartel]
Gazza's son hates the game. Presumably because he has seen what it did to his dad [Sunday Sun]
Bild two-fer
Frings is the new Zorro [Bild]
Kahn is rumored to be replacing Klinnsy for Bayern [Bild]
Writer takes the idea of MLS being big-time to task [Dwight Jaynes]
Preston North End want Becks to buy them. With early career pics [Daily Mail]

And, finally:
Berbs blew all his money on shoes. He cannot afforn your Big Issue, man [Daily Mail]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Now with Video"...

Welcome to Brookside, Robbie

I'm saddened by what's going on in my hometown, but it appears we'll never shed our stereotype of being droll, perm-wearing thieves. The news this morning is that Everton fans have added another scalp to their lucrative LFC burglary scheme, adding new Red Robbie Keane to their list.

While he was on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, thieves managed to crack into his downtown penthouse apartment and escape with an expensive watch, some jewelery, and a smug sense of satisfaction.

Blue bastards.

But seriously, was the doorman asleep? Did the robbers give him a comfortable chair to relax in while finishing his shift?

Whatever happened, it's now the 7th (7th?) LFC player to be robbed while playing away from home. No wonder we play like shit away from Anfield: too much worrying about whether their BMWs are going to be there when they get back!

In the spirit of the stereotype, I might as well post this video. Then it's back to Chelsea jokes.

Read more on "Welcome to Brookside, Robbie"...

Imperialist Swine Inept Against Representatives for Workers Paradise

Or something like that. But according to Cuba, the USMNT were failures in their World Cup qualifier against the island nation and only Mother Nature could even muster a threat to the team. Of course according to Cuba it's also 2007.

The pic above is a screenshot in case Pravda The Cuban News Agency gets hip to what year we're in. Or maybe in their version of history, there is a Year Zero, so it really is 2007. Hey, close enough for government work.

At least you know not to trust state run propaganda.

The game started with Cuba attacking and a nervous US team didn’t seem to find its way of playing. The first actions were on Cuba’s behalf when at the second minute Carlos Francisco hit a ball coming from a corner kick over the goal. Cuba didn’t seem to be worried and was playing in an easy and confident way.

Anyway, conspicuously absent from the article is the final score. Obviously, Cuba is not threatened by losses.

Ike Threatens Cuba []

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Essien lost for season while on international duty

Way back on Saturday, we put up an open thread for comments on that day's World Cup qualifiers. It took all of two comments for kopper to come in and opine that the games are scary for fans of the clubs who employ the players. All I can say is, it would have been ironic if it were our own Autoglass instead.

You see, Autoglass is our resident Chelsea supporter, and that team lost the Shirley Jackson-esque lottery as to who suffers the worst injury while its players are on international duty. The player lost? Michael Essien.

Essien tore his ACL while on duty for Ghana this weekend. According to the BBC, this is an injury which is very similar to the one Michael Owen picked up at the four-minute mark of the 2006 World Cup. That injury sidelined Owen for 10 months. It is theorized, before surgery even takes place, that Essien is out for the season for Chelsea.

Chelsea will be fine. Even if the early months are a struggle, they will buy somone on January 1st to cover the losses. Heck, Branislav Ivanovic, a mainstay for my FMLive team, may even see the pitch.

The real losers here are Ghana. Not only did they lose Essien, but they lost the match to Libya as well, 1-0. The loss drops them to 3rd lace in their 4 team group with one match to play in first round qualifying. Luckily, they have doormats Lesotho in the final game of the group, while Libya and Gabon tackle each other. Ghana will only need a high second place finish to go through. They should get that, and own the tiebreaker over Libya, should it come to that.

However, Ghana cannot afford the same type of missteps in the next round, should they advance. And given that they will be without an influential bulldog of a midfielder, one can see how difficult it will be for the team that sealed the USA's fate in 2006 to make the field for 2010.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Backpasses: Where does the time go?

So, yeah. We, collectively, got to fuck all today. Here are some links to tide you over until we come back with a vengeance tomorrow. Promise.

Mike Ashley, instead of dealing with the Keegan mess, spent a night out in New York. Damn, they charge a lot for Cristal. [The Sun]
Jozy! Jozy! Jozy! The Haitian Sensation (tm-NY Kid) hits a hat trick in his Villareal debut [SI]
Scotland fans denied entrance to Macedonia match for fake tickets. Some of those "fakes" came from the players themselves [Daily Mail]

Former Scottish player comes to MLS, says it's not half bad [Scotsman]
Fabregas talks about his subbing out from Saturday [Soccernet]
Gattuso out for a month, because he fell between the cracks [Soccernet]
Police in London hand out yellow cards to aggressive drinkers. But not in Chelsea, since they don't want to be surrounded by all his mates and abused, obvs [This is London]

And, finally:
The price of keeping up with the Joneses in Manchester? £2,500, for the right 100 pairs of chav-special trainers [Daily Mail]

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: Where does the time go?"...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cher Philippe Mexes: Va Te Faire

These two have a lot in common.

World Cup 2010. South Africa. All of us here at UF would love to attend some matches there, particularly if we were able to root on our favorite team. For qualifying matches, France was placed in Group 7, receiving a relatively favorable draw. Their opponents within the group include Serbia, Lithuania, Faroe Islands, Romania, and Austria. Their first qualifying match was yesterday, against the latter, a team so poor that its own fans petitioned to have it drop out of Euro 2008 for fear of embarassment. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I suppose we could always lose 3-1 to a shitty team to start our WC 2010 qualifying push. We could give up a cheap goal (thanks, Philippe!) just 9 minutes into the match, and then give up another one right before half-time. When we pull back within a goal (thank you, Sidney. Really), we can then give up a PK just 10 minutes (thanks again, Philippe!). Want to see how it all happened? Check out this fantastic video.

In a stunning turn of events, Mexes actually acknowledged that he played like shite and was responsible for the loss. In a not-so-surprising turn of events, Domenech acted like nothing was wrong. It is generally believed that Raymond was given a minimum number of points to be achieved from the first 3 qualifying matches, and it is likely that the total was 5 points. So, I'm torn - engage in "fan-tanking" and root for another loss (or for 2 ties, or for a win and tie) in the next 2 matches and hope that leads to Domenech being fired, or hope we become a little more successful in qualifying matches and deal with Raymond for 2 more years.

I can't bring myself to root against Les Bleus, so I have to hope that Domenech pulls his head out of his ass and starts to actually manage this team. A good start would be to FUCKING PLAY GAEL CLICHY!

I hate you Domenech, and Mexes, you're now on the watch list.

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