Saturday, October 11, 2008

Giant Miss-take.

Scotland were in action today, taking on Norway at Hampden Park. The game finished 0-0 but that doesn't mean there is nothing to see here!. Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Chris Iwelumo came on in the second half and took the saying 'missed a sitter' to a whole new level.

I'll set the scene: it's nil-nil. Iwelumo strips off his tracky bottoms and takes to the field with 30 minutes to go. Shortly afterwards, Gary Naysmith bursts into the box and slides a teasing ball across the empty goal mouth. Waiting to prod home the easiest goal in history was Iwelumo. OOPS. Click here for an instant jaw-dropper.

- Bigus.

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Bing, Bang...Bing, Bang, Bing.

There was no Korki Buchek soundtrack at Wembley this afternoon but there were five goals. Highlights after the jump.

England made hard work of the first half but put this one to bed in the second. The final score was 5-1. Goals from Ferdinand, Rooney (2), Defoe and an OG under pressure from a Lampard free-kick did the damage. Enjoy.


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Will they play a 4-4-0?

Despite my oversight in the open thread post, the US takes on Cuba in a World Cup Qualifier this evening in Washington, D.C. tonight. The US managed only a 1-0 defeat in Cuba last month. This time they may fair a bit better because two Cuban players have gone missing as is the custom when Cuban sports teams come to the US.

Cuban coach Reinhold Fanz acknowledge that two players have gone missing.

"It is always a problem for the Cuba team," Fanz said. "We have security, but you can't handcuff them to their rooms."

Great, he just gave Fidel an idea.

Meanwhile, Cuban officials deny that two players are missing.

Officials at the Cuban Interests Section, the country's de facto embassy in Washington, would not comment on the incident. But Cuban Soccer Federation President Luis Hernandez contradicted Fanz's account, saying the two players hadn't traveled to the United States and were still in Cuba.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, he means nothing. We only travel with 16 players.

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Cup Qualifiers: Open Thread

It's an international week and you know what that means? MLS doesn't take a break like nearly every other major soccer league in the world. MLS squads, already thin, get even thinner if they have any national teamers on the squad.

That, however, is of no concern to this man to the right who is of the "less is more" opinion. At least when clothes are concerned. Thankfully, Wemberley fans won't have to deal with those sweet mankinis during the England-Kazakhstan qualifier. Authorities will arrest all fans sporting the Borat costume at Wembley.

After the jump, some select World Cup qualifier matches and some MLS matches. Play in the comment sandbox.

10:00 ET Scotland-Norway
12:15 ET England-Kazakhstan
14:00 ET Sweden-Portugal
14:15 ET Bulgaria-Italy
14:15 ET Luxembourg-Israel
14:30 ET Poland-Czech Republic
14:30 ET Greece-Moldova
14:40 ET Romania-France
14:45 ET Germany-Russia

20:00 ET Kansas City-New England
20:30 ET Dallas-Toronto FC
22:00 ET San Jose Biguses - Chivas USA

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Never yell Meggers in a crowd

Two high school girls' teams get snippy because, depending on whom you believe, either there were racial epithets, or kids' names sound like racial epithets [News Channel 34]
French football may be heading to a showdown strike by the end of the month [The Offside]
Robinho has no faith in his Brazilian teammates [Reuters UK]

Player has to retire due to testicular cancer [Guardian]
Chelsea want their Mikel money back [Guardian]
Former Lithuanian NT coach heads to parliament. We are only a short time away from Senator Steve Sampson [Taipei Times]

And, finally:
A necessary question. Where are the MLS expansion temas going to get their talent from? [SI]

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World Soccer Pornography Daily

Sometimes I stream World Soccer Daily. One of the nice things about the stream is that it runs on a two-hour loop. It goes live from noon to 2 pm (Central), then the entire show restarts from the beginning about 2 pm. So if you're not listening at noon, you can just wait for it to finish then flip back to the start again. It's not a seamless loop as often several minutes pass after 2 pm before the rerun begins.

Today, I started to catch the show sometime during the second hour and, having missed the bulk of the festivities, waited for it to loop back around.

Then I started hearing people fucking.

Really. The silence on my computer speakers was interrupted not by Kenny Hassan but by a woman's moans. Listen for yourself (warning mp3 link and definitely NSFW). I managed to get an audio recorder app open to catch the streams before the sound cut out and the show cut back in.

Just a reminder if you work in broadcasting, every mic is a live mic.

And if you're the show's producer, you probably want to make sure you clean your load off the board before Monday's show.

Read more on "World Soccer Pornography Daily"...

It's Destiny! Spurs Conquer American West!

...and by conquer we mean they've signed on for a tentative "football and commercial development plan" with the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS. Apparently Steve Schmidt and Karl Rove have taken over at the Lane, because this is the lamest attempt to distract an angry/distraught public since "Who is the real Barack Obama?"

Thankfully, the English media still has a bit of its bollocks left. Like that Ma 'n' Pa outfit at Sky Sports News:

The Earthquakes will benefit from the training and coaching models of Tottenham, who currently sit bottom of the Premier League.

Great, I'd nearly forgotten. The real reason Spurs made this deal... after the jump.

Spurs statement:
"The agreement will focus on football and commercial development that will see the implementation of a best practice exchange programme, with the objective of creating a lasting bond between the two clubs."

"This agreement with San Jose Earthquakes will provide us with an excellent opportunity to access a key region in a global market,'' said Spurs executive director Paul Barber.

"As a club we are continually looking for innovative ways to evolve and our partnership with the Earthquakes will enable us to market Tottenham to a wider audience.

"We already have a fan base within the state of California and the opportunity to grow the brand in the US is very appealing."

YADA YADA. We all know the real reason...

Spurs are angling for another winger! Bigus says this could never happen, as Mr. Darren Huckerby would never return to England for fear of any untoward encounter with yellow-shirted man, woman, child, beast, or beast-child. Likely says: As long as he sits out the cup ties, this will never be an issue.

And cue the lame jokes! (ooh, they've already begun...)

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Drug Cartels and Footy: A Match Made in Hell

Cocaína. Nieve. Basuco. No, this isn't a story about Adrian Mutu. It's about Mexican second division (which is actually the third level of footy) club Mapaches de Nueva Italia, which plays its matches in Michoacan. Mapaches plays in the Bajio group of the Liga de Nuevos Talentos, which is described as being composed of teams that have no interest in being promoted and are solely interested in developing talent. Unfortunately, Mapaches members may be developing their talent in singing narcocorridos.

The Guardian has noted that Mexican prosecutors are investigating Mapaches for possible links to several drug cartels. After conducting a raid on the club after a game in Mexico City which resulted in the arrest of numerous Mapaches players and club officials, federal authorities are convinced that the club is involved in money laundering activities. For the past several years, Michoacan has been one of the centers of Mexican drug-trafficking (the preferred route now that Miami is considered too visible) as drug cartels look for effective smuggling routes for cocaine.

But the story out of Morelia (the capital of Michoacan) is more confusing by the month. After cartel members threw grenades into a crowd in September (on Mexican Independence Day), President Felipe Calderón, who is from Morelia, mobilized thousands of soldiers to root out those responsible. Initial reports claimed that two cartels are potentially responsible, although it remains unclear. One possible cartel is the Zetas, based out of Matamoros (fun side-trip when on South Padre Island for Spring Break!). They have in turn blamed La Familia, a smaller cartel that the Zetas trained, for the attacks. For now the Mexican authorities seem to believe them, as they have rounded up and beaten several members of La Familia. Although it's unclear why the cartel would target civilians, it does increasingly look like Mapaches provided them with a way to launder all of their ill-gotten gains.

I would keep an eye on Torres and Orozco.

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He Probably Wasn't Going to Beat Out Vela Anyway

If the momentum of the US racing quickly toward becoming a Third World economy doesn't slow quickly this trend might reverse itself, but for the time being our porous southern border might finally be paying dividends where it matters most: Soccer.

According to this piece in the Washington Post, Jose Francisco Torres—and no, his armband didn't say he was a Red, wrong Torres—will likely make an appearance for the USMNT in the next week against either Cuba or Trinidad and Tobacco (intentional).

The significance of this?

Though born and raised in the eastern Texas city of Longview, Torres is eligible to represent Mexico because of his father's roots. And having evolved into a starter for Pachuca, one of the Mexican league's most decorated clubs, he has appeared on the Mexican national team's radar.

But as FIFA rules stipulate, one you're capped for one country, your ass is there's for this life and the next (and yes, there is both soccer and nation-states in the afterlife... Sorry, John Lennon was totally wrong). So by appearing in a US kit, Torres, in the blue and white above, can only ever play on the world's stage for the Red White and Ranked 20th (or thereabouts).

Torres isn't alone in making the US his preferred international home, Michael Orozco, who has Mexican-born parents and plays on the backline for the Mexican club San Luis, also made a run north of the border when he was capped for the US U-23 team in Beijing.

"The situation is unique because they are eligible for two countries. So you are balancing those issues with whether the player is ready for the national team," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "And because they are part Mexican, we only have to pay them a fraction of what we'd pay American born players."

Okay, we totally made up the second half of that quote.

It's not like Torres, who stands at a Messi-like 5'5", has been captured against his will and is being enslaved to a USMNT jersey. No, he willing chose it. It's his dream. He even said so. "It's my choice and I made it. My dream was always to play for the U.S. national team."

See, America is still the land where dreams can come true, even if it will soon be as bankrupt as Iceland.

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Bang Out of Order!

You can never go back to your country...but you can play for them!

Watford midfielder Al Bangura flew to Nigeria to play for Sierra Leone this week. Sounds normal right? Not quite.

Just last year hornets star Al Bangura fought a lengthy battle with the home office to remain in the United Kingdom. Watford bent over backwards to help him fight extradition to the war-torn Sierra Leone after Bangura claimed he would be killed if he returned. The threat to his life came from a 'black magic' cult that his father used to lead. Nice parenting!

With the support of thousands of Watford fans and the club, not to mention numerous campaigns in national newspapers, he won his fight and was allowed to stay. Manager Aidy Boothroyd even climbed the witness stand twice to convince the judges to allow Bangura to stay!

So, how does Mr Bangura pay Watford back? He skips out on a reserve team game and heads to Nigeria to play for Sierra Leone without the permission of his employers, as Bangura has an arrangement that he will participate in his former country's 'away' games.

According to a source at Watford, hornets manager Boothroyd feels "let down". No shit!

It's not the first time Bangura's behaviour has been an issue for Watford. The 20 year old was sent home from a pre-season tour of Austria after several 'time keeping' incidents.

Bangura is likely to be fined two weeks wages and sent back to Sierra Leone to face certain death at the hands of a witch doctor with a magical talking hat. Ok...I made-up that last part, but two weeks wages seems a puny financial punishment for a footballer who probably earns twenty thousand bucks a week.

Sierra Leone (2nd in the group) play Nigeria (first) on Sunday.


Read more on "Bang Out of Order!"...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Up Performance FC Phoenix!

Interesting reading on what it take to run a NPSL club [Hugging Harold Reynolds]
Wayne Rooney, a worse flier than that 2-year-old you had to sit next to on your last transatlantic flight [The Sun]
Frankie Hejduk is truly a man of the Columbus people. Make sure you check out the embedded video too [Crewture]

Bongo FC loves the porn. Gay or straight, apparently [The Spoiler]
Laporta thinks he should have kicked Ronaldinho to the curb a year sooner []
Mike Ashley's goons are starting to slough off at Newcastle [Telegraph]

And, finally:
A two-fer of why you should never leave you kids alone, ever
Girls HS soccer coah in California arrested for sex acts on a minor [Press-Democrat]
Elementary school assistant coach arrested after for being around kids while waiting for trial on sexual assault [CBC]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Up Performance FC Phoenix!"...


Finally, we honor our promises at UF and slap up the guest post from the most recent caption competition winner, whose wit has earned him the key to UF Towers.

Take it away, "Private", you mysterious devil you. The floor is yours.

Having never written for a blog before, I fear I've created something rambling, at times a bit off point, and most certainly self-serving. It will include futbol, football, and basketball references, and for that, my apologies.

There was no definitive event or news to point to as inspiration, other than a brief conversation with a friend as to the merits of the Cowboys having TO on their team. It was through that lens that I started to think about the psyche of the current fan as it relates to childhood allegiances and rivals, and the disruptive world of transfers.

After the debacle at the Emirates on Saturday, I'm thankful I grew up in the US and had the opportunity for some redemption as a sports fan on Sunday. To beat the Cowboys and set off the inevitable TO implosion and firing of Wade Phillips certainly made the weekend more palatable. And this got me thinking - how important is hating your rivals in the overall construct of supporting your team?

To illustrate, let's look at Ashley Cole and Chelsea. I can't tell you if hell exists, but I can tell you that if it does the ninth circle is somewhere beneath Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford.

Before splurging on my own TV for the 2002 World Cup, I used to go down to Lucky Bar in DC to watch games most every weekend. There was literally ONE Chelsea fan there and he always polite, well mannered, and just there to enjoy his team in anonymity. I often went with one of my college friends (a Liverpool fan) and we befriended him because we really couldn't care less about the Blues. There was little risk in inviting him to sit at our table.

It's amazing what six years and 500 million pounds will do.

I hate the team, their fans, their shithole of a stadium and most everything else about them. Now when you go to Lucky Bar for a Chelsea match, there are dozens upon dozens of complete d-bags that claim to be supporters. If one of them tried to sit at my table now, the chance of me stabbing him with a fork is significantly greater than zero.

So what about Ashley Cole? While the best left-back in the world at Arsenal, he was never truly an Arsenal player. Putting aside his talent, he's a complete tosser that was always more concerned with himself than the club and it was good to see him go. And it makes it somehow more enjoyable that he went to fucking Chelsea.

If Cole had fucked off to Spain or Italy, I probably would never have thought twice about him. But because he went to Chelsea, I get the benefit of cursing at him and repeatedly calling him a c*nt at least twice a season, while holding a useless but incredibly satisfying grudge against him just for his general demeanor and lack of good taste.

I'm just not sure I would find him so loathsome if he went to Juventus.

On the flip side, in this world of star promotion it's difficult to be a fan of a sport and not develop some sort of affinity for players that you admire on other teams. And so, it's incredibly disappointing when players you like go to teams you hate. Essien to Chelsea. Tevez to Man U. Garnett to the Celtics.

Of course, it is possible that your ire towards a player's new club may in fact change the way you feel about said player - i.e. Berbatov. Yes, Spurs are technically our greatest rival, but I doubt there are too many Gooners left that get more pumped up for a trip to WHL than OT. When he was a yid, I loved him. Loved the way he played, his sublime touch, his perceived indifference to everything around him.

But the first time I saw him in that red fucking jersey with AIG on the front I immediately started to believe all of the horrible things that have been said about him and more. Now I can't stand him. But Tevez? Essien? As long as they aren't scoring goals against Arsenal, I generally block out in my mind the team they play for and simply enjoy them for the fantastic footballers they are. What makes them different? I have no idea.

That's one of the great things about an emotion as strong as hate: it's completely irrational. Why do I dislike Barcelona more now that they took Henry away, but when Bobby picked up his glorious boots and headed south he took a piece of my allegiance with him to Villarreal? At least we got money from Barcelona. Who knows?

The point is, Ronaldo playing at Man U, Terry and Lampard playing for Chelsea, Romo and TO at the Cowboys; all are necessary to keep the rivalry fresh and alive. In some ways it was disappointing not hating the fact that the Celtics won this year, simply because that meant a player I've watched since he was in high school finally got the ring he deserved. Yet the joy that I got from a) Ronaldo shitting the bed and b) Chelsea not winning fuck-all because Terry proved what a donkey he is was priceless. In the absence of your own team doing well (I keep telling myself four years really isn't that long), the next best thing is watching the teams or players you hate fail and suffer.

Every time Ronaldo takes a deep breath, puffs up his chest while standing over a free kick, and then promptly launches it into the twenty-second row it genuinely makes me smile. And when he does connect in the way only he can and it dips and swerves and deposits itself in the net somewhere behind the dumbfounded keeper, I can still tell myself he's a preening, self-absorbed, diving little twat that just got lucky.

Support of your team is one thing. Hating your rivals is something else altogether.


Caption Time - International Edition.

It's that time again: Caption time!

This week I went with a picture from England's training camp ahead of the World Cup qualifying games this Saturday and next Wednesday against Kazakhstan (what's up vanilla face?) and Belarus.

So what is Wayne Rooney saying to Stevie G, or vice versa? You decide.

As always, the winner will be showered with free speech: a 'one night only' guest blog* here on the greatest footy site on earth. You lucky, lucky people.

Leave your efforts below, and good luck!


*Ed. Note: Last week's winner has their post going up today.

Read more on "Caption Time - International Edition."...

Seeing Yellow.

Praying won't help pal.

Here at UF we have noticed an increase in the ridiculous refereeing that has been on display this season. Bullshit penalties, ticky-tack incidents and refs failing to spot players making up for Andy Johnson's injury absence with efforts that these two would be delighted with.

Well... The numbers are clear so lets call out some card crazy cretins...

Would it surprise you to know that after just 7 EPL matches, referees have issued a whopping 231 yellow cards already! TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE. Now I don't know about you, but I've watched plenty of Premiership footy this season and certainly haven't noticed an increase in violent conduct.

What I have noticed is an abundance of free kicks issued for 'bumping' into an opponent. By their logic, I should have been sent off 14 times on the subway alone this morning. Are the refs spending too much time on their real jobs to properly focus on the one that affects millions of people? So who are the main offenders, the yellow waving power freaks determined to get some TV time on the highlight shows?

Let's call out Mike Dean (seen here below, doing the YMCA) first. He has 'worked' 7 games this season and issued 32 yellow cards. Last Saturday he carded 7 players at Upton Park as he took charge of the Hammers home game with Bolton.

The week before he booked another 7 at Portsmouth as Pompey added to Spurs' woes at Fratton Park. The week before at the Hawthorns? 6 went in the book.

But he is not the worst, oh no. That accolade goes to Mike Riley. Mr Riley has only worked 5 games this season and shown 26 yellow cards. That's an average of 5.4 a game, or one every 16 minutes! He carded 8 players during Chelsea's draw with United a couple of weeks back, and 6 at West Ham when Blackburn were in town.

The Hammers again, eh? Are they just dirty? They have been issued 12 yellows in the last 7 games.

So who are the dirtiest?

That honor goes to Blackburn with 17 yellow cards, with Manchester United a close second with 16. Guess what? Mr Riley has officiated 3 games involving Rovers and United this season, issuing 15 yellows! That's 10 of United's total 16!

Numbers do not lie and it does appear that Blackburn ARE the dirtiest, Riley's interventions aside!

Just for the record, the dirtiest players are Kieran Richardson of Sunderland, Ian Ashbee of Hull, Scott Parker of West Ham and Alvaro Arbeloa of Liverpool. Of those 16yellows, Riley and Dean have issued 4, and Dean in particular has carded Arbeloa twice.

Riley: He even sent-off a man dressed as a lion.

So who flashes cards the least? Out of the 18 refs employed by the EPL this season, and of those who have worked 5 games or more, Alan Wiley has shown the fewest yellow cards, 12, at an average of 2.4 a game.

Howard Webb, Mike Dean and Andre Marriner have used the most red cards: two each.

All of the yellow cards and bad decisions I have seen this season seem to point to one essential shortfall: one referee is no longer capable of dealing with the modern game. Throw in simulation and the current pace and you are left with pissed-off fans and frustrated players. This is an issue that needs addressing now.

A second ref? One replay per team or a fourth official with a TV on the sideline?

Any of those options would be better than watching today's refs huff-and-puff 30 yards behind the action only to stop the play for nothing. The entertainment is in danger and the biggest losers, as always, are the fans.


Read more on "Seeing Yellow."...

Riquelme wearing out his welcome in BA?

Boca Juniors currently find themselves in an uncomfortable position, 6th in the Argentine Apertura, after a 2-1 loss to Estudiantes at La Bombonera on Sunday. Boca haven't won the title since the 2006 Clausura, and seem to have been cursed in the league ever since the Ricardo La Volpe-led choke job the following fall. The arrival of Juan Roman Riqeulme from Villareal in 2007, initially on loan, was supposed to herald a new age of dominance by Los Xeneixes, but despite winning the Copa Libertadores, they have been unable to recapture the league.

Not surprisingly, the knives are coming out. Riquelme's teammate, defender Julio Cesar Caceres, told a Paraguayan radio station this week that Riquelme wasn't giving 100% on the pitch. Of course, Riqeulme's lack of pace is legendary, and he was often accused of a similar lassiez faire attitude in Spain. But criticism from one of his own teammates at a club where he regarded as something of a god is surely a sign that he is beginning to lose it, right?

Perhaps, but as the incomparable HEGS notes, Caceres is from Paraguay, who are currently ahead of Argentina in qualifying:

In an international week, though, he didn’t miss the opportunity to turn the interview with Paraguay’s Radio Católica Cáritas into a tirade against certain aspects of the Argentine selección. [Deposed goalkeeper] Caranta met on Tuesday with Boca manager Carlos Ischia, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the reasons Ischia gave him for his sidelining. Cáceres spoke about that situation but saved the main portion of his criticism for Boca captain Riquelme.

‘Riquelme when he plays for the Selección is more motivated than when he plays for Boca,’ Cáceres told the interviewer, making a statement plenty of Argentina fans would probably disagree quite strongly with given JRR’s performances for both his club and his country so far this year. ‘He could be tired or mentally “saturated”,’ the Paraguayan continued, not so much hitting the nail on the head as driving it home with a sledgehammer. ‘When you don’t have any motivation, you need to spend a bit of time on the sidelines.’ Cáceres compared Riquelme unfavourably with attacking partner Martín Palermo, a man who for all his successes with the club he’s supported all his life, remains hungry for more.

Palermo, who blew out his knee at the beginning of the season, is one reason for Boca's struggles, but the inconsistent results this season are more a result of a young squad coping with the usual summer exodus (and continued transfer rumors) of the more established players to Europe. Ischia's curious selection and tactics have also played a role (are you Juande Ramos in disguise?).

Anyways, according to HEGS, Riquelme fired back:

The response from Riquelme, who’s currently training separately from the rest of the Argentine squad in an effort to regain fitness due to a metatarsal problem, was scathing. ‘He’s left all his former clubs in the wrong manner,’ said Riquelme, whose exits from first Barcelona and Villarreal I must have dreamt. ‘The only thing [Cáceres] wants is to cause trouble. If he wanted to leave Boca, there was no need to pick on me.’ He’s certainly got a point there, and it might be added that if Cáceres didn’t want to leave Boca, he could equally have spoken out about any of Argentina’s other players from the squad this week. Where this is going we’ll find out…

Boca's president has also come to the defense of his embattled star, and Mr. Caceres might be looking for alternative employment come springtime. Meanwhile, Argentina plays archrival Uruguay in Buenos Aires on Sunday, while Paraguay travel to Colombia. Brazil, who are somehow still managed by Dunga, travel to Venezuela. Both of the South American heavyweights have dropped points in qualifying and will be looking to put in convincing perfomances this week.

Read more on "Riquelme wearing out his welcome in BA?"...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Pic suggests nothing

Adrian Mutu spent too much on coke to pay back Chelsea [Sky Sports]
So, yeah. Zola talked himself into a great new job [BBC]
A bad idea that hasn't died yet [Soccernet]
Craig Bellamy is closer to Michael Jackson than you might think [BBC]
Michael Owen and Theo Walcott unlikely to play together for England. Still, that's a damn fine picture [Daily Mail]

And, finally:
Yuck [NY Daily News]

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Turn As A Heel

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a player of great stature and skill. Many do not see him as a world class player given his lackluster performances on the international stage and somewhat indifferent performances for his clubs at times. His two goals in Euro 2008 may help his reputation.

Regardless of your opinion of Ibrahimovic he is without a doubt a great goalscorer, who has provided us with some of the prettier and more unique goals you will see. Exhibit A for this is his goal for Inter against Bologna this last weekend. It was one of those situations where he just says to himself "Screw it, I'm going for it" and succeeds.

Just for the heck of it, here's another one of those ingenius moments.

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SickNote XI

Guess who came up injured on international break? You'll never have imagined it. Answer in picture form after the jump.

Let us know who you think should also be in the SickNote XI in the comments.

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Our B/C ratio—that's Bullshit to Content—has been getting a little out of kilter lately as we've been occupied sending each other more links worth blogging about than we've actually spent time writing about them.

Well, it's caught up with us this week. Hey, the financial world's ratios are getting whacked around, so who would we be if we weren't participating symbolically? Yeah, weak. I wouldn't buy it either. But promise we were totally all over this story about a guy with a broken leg foot coming off the bench to hit the winner for Pontiliw FC against Pontarddulais Town near Swansea (pretty sure those were made up names, Pontiliw and Pontarddulais not Swansea, pulled from some Harry Potter fanfic until I found one of them on the map above).

Too bad for about the third time this week, Rick Chandler over at Deadspin, beat us to the punch on something so thoroughly bloggeriffic. This is what you get for being lazy. Or that's what they get for having the ability to pay people for blogging (we just do it for the chicks).

So yeah. Some guy with a broken foot pulled off his cast, came off the bench, and hit a game winner before throwing up and was subbed out for a couple of minutes later. Still, pretty manly.

At least we've got artwork that's Welsh-germane and we're not adorning our post with a pic of John Terry. If we can't be fast we can at least pull maps that are relevant.

Read more on "Oops"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I admit it. I go to the well of Scottish shirts too often. I wasn't planning to do so today, but dammit, this shirt snuck up on me. (By the way, Firefox spellcheck doesn't like "snuck", should I have used "sneaked"? Of course, it doesn't like "spellcheck" either, so there's that) It's an eBay spectacular. I guarantee, you are not going to want to buy this shirt.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Dunfermline Athletic home shirt from 1992-94.

Such a bargain at only 5 quid. Now, you'll go blind, or at least need to take a trip to the optometrist, if you look in the mirror while wearing this, so factor that into the total cost.

This is one of the rare time where I feel bad for the shirt sponsor. There is no way that from greater than 10 feet you can even make out who the sponsor is. I would bet that you have to be within about 18 inches to even know what Landmark does. While that might work if you are exclusively marketing to players, coaches and refs, I doubt that home furnishing firms are that myopic. Of course, that could tie into the eye exam deal from earlier. Maybe the actual sponsor was not Landmark, but instead a nearby Lenscrafters. Now that is sneaky marketing.

Oddly, this shirt reminds me of two album covers, both by British bands, that were released in the early '80s.

The Cure Pornography

The Police Ghost in the Machine

>To me, this shirt is almost a mash-up of the two. Either that or an oddly mesmerizing out-of-focus photograph of New York City at night. I'm willing to go either way on this one.

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

US Rises 7 Spots

The latest FIFA World Rankings have been released. Spain still tops the list ahead of WC Champs Italy. Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands round out the top 5. Argentina is at number 7 behind Croatia. The Czech Republic, Russia and Portugal round out the top 10.

England comes in at number 14 unchanged from the previous ranking. The US, however, has jumped 7 places to number 21 ahead of Egypt (22), Paraguay (23), Mexico (24)(Yeah! Suck it!)and Ghana (25).

Top 30 after the jump...

(Rank) (Country) (Points) (Change in Position)
1 Spain 1643 0
2 Italy 1365 0
3 Germany 1336 0
4 Brazil 1280 2
5 Netherlands 1258 -1
6 Croatia 1223 -1
7 Argentina 1200 0
8 Czech Republic 1111 0
9 Russia 1076 3
10 Portugal 1075 -1
11 France 1035 0
12 Cameroon 1027 2
13 Turkey 1021 -3
14 England 982 1
15 Bulgaria 969 1
16 Israel 961 3
17 Greece 945 1
18 Romania 927 -5
19 Ukraine 893 7
20 Uruguay 887 2
21 USA 861 7
22 Egypt 860 -1
22 Paraguay 860 3
24 Mexico 841 0
25 Ghana 839 -5
26 Scotland 820 -10
27 Nigeria 818 0
28 Sweden 794 3
29 Côte d'Ivoire 779 -6
30 Poland 763 0

Read more on "US Rises 7 Spots"...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Check out Blanco's doppelganger

MLS stunt doubles for players in Champions League [The Best Eleven]
Cesc wants to go back to Barcelona. By 22, he'll be too old for Arsenal, anyway [Guardian]
Serie A looking to break away from the rest of Italian soccer leagues [Soccernet]

West Ham could be in real trouble after Icelandic bank goes kaput [Eurosport]
John Terry missed England training because he "felt a niggle in his back". I hate niggles [Soccernet]
Sepp Blatter does not count the same amount of continents as you or I do [Fanhouse]

And, finally:
Don't look now, but a fatwa against the beautiful game is about to enter its third year [NY Times]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Check out Blanco's doppelganger"...

Skill Skool - Cheer-Up Bigus Edition.

Old Bigus has been in the USA for 6 years now and it's not just his beloved Norwich City that he misses. Snaps... Curly Wurlys... Greene King... Mum and SOCCER AM!

So imagine his delight as NCFC's youth boys participated in a 'Soccer AM' segment called 'Skill Skool' last week.

Warning: This video is extremely entertaining!

Every week Soccer AM selects a new academy and challenges young footballers. The rules are simple: two players go head-to-head and try to dazzle with the ball, 'street style'. There can be only one winner.

Click here for this week's excellent edition.

Seen it?

How good was that,eh? According to one of the show' producers, the Norwich lads were the best yet. Well that's cheered me up no end! After Saturday' dissappointment I was in desperate need of that video.

Now, watch us sell half the academy to Chelsea.


Read more on "Skill Skool - Cheer-Up Bigus Edition."...

A Bulgarian man needs your help - Vote Konstantinov!

After 10 months of this soccer blogging malarkey, it's about time we begin our first official UF Campaign (if we haven't already done any, of course).

Voting has opened in Bulgaria for Bulgarian Man of the Year, and let's just say one of the candidates isn't too deserving in our minds, thanks to the amount of pain and hardship he caused to Tottenham Hotspur all summer long.

This chain-smoking heartbreaker is of course Dimitar Berbatov, and he's one of the three finalists for this coveted award (at least east of Germany, anyway).

UF would rather see Sarah Palin in charge of things before we'd like to have Dimitar winning such prizes so we're throwing our support behind another candidate, and we need your help!

Plamin Konstantinov (the guy in the middle) is the Captain of the Bulgarian National Volleyball Team, one that struggled under the specter of a doping scandal during the Beijing Games but ultimately turned out to be clean. They're one of the best teams in the world, currently ranked 4th, and despite a disappointing 5th place finish this summer, they're still a force to be reckoned with.

The other candidate is a big-time movie director, but UF will throw our support behind the volleyball captain due to the fact that he is still an athlete, and the day we pick a movie star over an athlete is the day we should probably change our name.

So, here's all you need to know. Vote here, through this garbled Bulgarian website. It appears straightforward even though the site's not in English. Click the box under Konstantinov, then the next page asks for email address, male/female, age, and I have no idea what the final drop-down menu's all about (I presume it's country?).

UF wants nothing more than to see Berbatov lose. Let's help out the volleyball guy and see if we can't influence the voting.

Read more on "A Bulgarian man needs your help - Vote Konstantinov!"...

Peru is Crazy

Forgive us for not covering enough Peruvian soccer. And really after this weekend, we're going to make an effort to do more. Why? Because Peru is fucking crazy (What? Don't you read the headlines on our blog posts?)

Exhibit A: Sport Boys, who have the misfortune of being saddled with maybe the gayest name in football after "Man City" (not helped by the pink jerseys, guys), drew 2-2 with Atletico Minero.

Sport Boys, currently DFL'ing in the 14-team Primera Profesional, might have been on a bit of a high entering the match as the team had just been paid Friday five months of back wages the players were due, or over due, rather.

Of course that was probably offset by a difficult week leading up to the match. To elaborate, we give you what might be the best sentence ever written in the history of South American soccer: "Sport Boys players did not train for most of last week because they said they could not afford taxi fares or buy petrol to get to practice."

Oh but there is more fun! After Sport Boys keeper Michael Sotillo was caught off his line for the equalizer in the 82nd, a mob of angry Sport Boys fans charged the pitch in an attempt to attack Sotillo. Fortunately for him, police successfully intervened.

There is video from the match below, although unfortunately the crowd bum-rushing the goalie ain't on it:

What happened in Callao makes the match between Deportivo San Martin and Universitario seem quaint and cheeky by comparison.

With San Martino down to nine men, Universitario officials "complained that the home team's ball boys were deliberately deflating the spare balls to hold up play."

San Marino's reaction sparked a brawl "in which a number of officials traded blows and Univeristario players also joined in, holding up play for five minutes."

Univeristario leveled at 1-1 eight minutes from time and the match ended in a tie.

(Quotes and the bulk of the info come from the Reuters South American Soccer round up found here. Oh, and hat tip here for the t-shirt design that I pilfered and altered for the pic.)

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The Subservient League

Morning all.

Today saw the groups and fixtures released for the UEFA cup and I will pardon you for not leaping up and down with excitement. This competition now looks like the poor bastard love child of the Champions League.

If you can't see it yet, just wait until next year.

Join me after the jump to look at the impending changes and all of this year's important fixtures involving the English sides... Tottenham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Aston Villa.

Why oh why oh why oh why does the UEFA Cup have to be in a league format? Well that's a rhetorical question but its retarded. Money aside, the UEFA Cup worked as as a separate knock out competition and it was this "difference" from the Champions League that actually made it unique and gave 5th, 6th and 7th place domestic league finishers some European credibility.

Now? Its a poor man's Champions League! [Ed. Note: it's why it's widely known as Little Cup to the CL's Big Cup] One in which you don't even get to play each team at home! Nope, now you are drawn to play two games at home and two games away.

This is retarded. It has to be all or nothing. Do it properly or do not bother. This format is typical of UEFA's willingness to make changes on a whim under the leadership of their principle buffoon Mr Platini, a man who opens his mouth more often than Divine Brown. At least she served a purpose.

Let's pretend you are Hull and you make it Europe, (hey it's possible...) only to be told that you will play AC Milan away (not this year though) but they won't be expected to visit you in a second leg. It's absolute nonsense!

The rules and regulations surrounding this competition have changed so often it is hard to keep up. The loss of two legs and the addition of Champions League "losers" at a later stage has made this competition a fixtures draw lottery. Maybe Harry Redknapp, Juande Ramos and Mark Hughes would do better to buy a scratch-and-win card at the nearest paper shop. Talking of gambling, how long before the home advantage finds it's way into a fixing probe?

This competition should be renamed The European Subservient League... But wait. It gets better.

From 2009 on, this competition will feature FORTY EIGHT teams inhabiting TWELVE groups and be renamed The Europa League! People watched the UEFA Cup because it was an exciting knock-out tournament that featured regular giant-killing, special European nights and once-in-a-lifetime chances for fans to see European monsters in their back yard. Now it's just a poor man's Champions League that favors the big boys.

Anyway... let's take a look at this year's Subservient League groups (released today) and pretend we give a shit shall we?

Group A: Schalke 04, Paris St Germain, MANCHESTER CITY, Racing Santander, FC Twente

Group B: Benfica, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Hertha Berlin, Metalist Kharkiv

Group C: Sevilla, Stuttgart, Sampdoria, Partizan Belgrade, Standard Liege

Group D: TOTTENHAM, Spartak Moscow, Udinese, Dinamo Zagreb, NEC Nijmegen

Group E: AC Milan, Heerenveen, SC Braga, PORTSMOUTH, Vfl Wolfsburg

Group F: Hamburg, Ajax, Slavia Prague, ASTON VILLA, MSK Zilina

Group G: Valencia, Club Brugge, Rosenborg, FC Copenhagen, Saint-Etienne

Group H: CSKA Moscow, Deportiva La Coruna, Feyenoord, Nancy, Lech Poznan

Manchester City's group looks tough. Sparky Hughes' men will face PSG (3 Dec) and an easy-ish Steve McClown FC Twente team (6 Nov) at home before hitting the road to play Schalke (27 Nov) and Santander (18 Dec).

Portsmouth lucked out with AC Milan (if such a thing is possible) as the Italian giants will visit Fratton Park on the 27th November. Pompey will travel to Braga (23rd Oct) and Wolfsburg (4th Dec) before their last group game at home to Heerenveen on the 17th of December. Braga are certainly beatable on the road and the home advantage in the Milan tie is HUGE. I can see Pompey progressing.

Villa have a tough task ahead of them as they open their European campaign at home to Ajax before heading to Prague on the 6th of November. They finish group play with an extremely tough trip to Hamburg on the 17th of December. Hamburg are no push over either, as they currently sit at the top of the Bundesliga table after 7 games

As for Tottenham, who knows? The way they are currently playing and the selecting their players writes off any kind of prediction. At least they don't have to travel to colder climates during the league stage. Both Spartak Moscow and Zagreb will travel to White Hart Lane. Trips to Udinese and NEC Nijmegen don't exactly look daunting but then again, neither did Hull at home!


Read more on "The Subservient League"...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Backpasses: I wonder what all of those stars mean?

Roman Abramovich is his own economy, and must, therefore, have his own Navy. This is his new purchase towards that end [Federation Soccer]
Playing for Crystal Palace is hazardous to your continued standing in Australia's National Team []
English goalkeeper sentenced to jail for drunk driving crash that killed two [BBC]

Bayern Munich players having their bank accounts examined in match-fixing probe [Sunday Mail]
A sobering look at the host of World Cup 2010 [NY Times]
Scotland looking to poach back James McCarthy from Ireland [RTE]

And, finally:
England squad named for the next two World Cup qualifiers. Nacho Pete to be dominant [Eurosport]

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: I wonder what all of those stars mean?"...

We Totally Can't Wait for the Dynamo to Christen Halliburton Stadium

Real Salt Lake opens up a new soccer-specific stadium later this week (Thursday, October 9). And if the artist conception above is accurate, it looks to be pretty sweet. It's all shiny and has lights and shit. They also struck a naming rights deal reported by the Sports Business Journal to be in the neighborhood of $20M over 10 years.

SCP Worldwide, the RSL ownership group, made the deal with Rio Tinto (it will be called Rio Tinto Stadium). The London-based $100-billion mining company owns Kennecott Utah Copper. Kennecott is one of the largest employers in Utah, and the Bingham Canyon mine it operates is one of the world's largest copper mines. So people are happy in Salt Lake City. Fun synergies and local ties abound. Yeah for everything. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Okay, you caught us. We're really kidding.

Apparently nobody at SCP knows how to use the Google. Because you can type in any combination of "Rio Tinto" "human rights" "Kennecott" and "lawsuits" and get a solid day's worth of reading from your search engine of choice. Look, here, here, here, and here for some starter links.

According to CorpWatch (see the second link above)"Rio Tinto could be a poster child for corporate malfeasance." Or to be a little more specific:

Accusations of corporate misdeeds include suppressing trade unions at their Australian operations, exposing workers in a uranium mine in Namibia to radiation, and negligence and complicity in the civil war in Papua New Guinea where Conzinc Riotinto used to operate a major copper mine.

Oh right, many of the alleged victims making accusations are brown people in a foreign country, so no worries. Well, one of the claims against the company was that it violated a 2-day-old collective bargaining agreement with mass layoffs in—you got it—Utah.

We don't want to get too preachy—we probably wouldn't even bring this up if it didn't give us a chance to link to maybe the single best line The Onion ever came up with (previous link)—and frankly we're already dreading the response we're going to get from some PR flak pointing out which accusations were settled with provisions allowing Rio Tinto to claim no wrongdoing, and which accusations are completely baseless, pending ongoing lawsuits.

But, conveniently, not so much as a mention of any of this appears in the naming rights deal article on MLS' official Website. Really? Nobody finds a relationship with an organization Amnesty International called out for its "human rights violations" and "environmental damage" even mildly unsettling?

Or is a $20 million naming rights deal that important to the development of soccer in this country?

Read more on "We Totally Can't Wait for the Dynamo to Christen Halliburton Stadium"...

We did good this week

Our predictions machine appears to be fully functioning again. I can't remember the last week we had that went this well. Did it have something to do with Geovanni? Or Cesc Fabregas? Or Dirk Kuyt?

Probably all of the above, and also the fact that we rewired it to predict games with the same ferocity that Joe Kinnear speaks. It's high time the predictions racket used a few more swear words.

Man City 2, Liverpool 3
Blackburn 0, Man United 2
Tottenham 0, Hull 1
West Brom 1, Fulham 0
Sunderland 1, Arsenal 1

Everton 2, Newcastle 2 (1-1)
Portsmouth 2, Stoke 1 (3-1)
Wigan 0, Middlesbrough 1 (0-0)

Chelsea 2, Aston Villa 0 (4-1)
West Ham 1, Bolton 3 (5-1)

Read more on "We did good this week"...

More dispatches from the Relegation Zone

Image courtesy of Hockalees

It's been a rough season so far for Tottenham Hotspur. This is nothing new for loyal disciples of the sport, most of whom have been busy photoshopping the hilarity and standing by laughing at the carnage.

Perhaps one of the hardest-suffering of the Spurs faithful is not our own Likely Lad (although he is seriously afflicted, believe me), but the humble Relegation Zone Mikey. RZM is, in many respects, the typical sports fan; he sings when he's winning, and can be found at the bottom of a pint glass when he's not. We're all like that, but for some reason, watching RZM go through it is far, far worse. (I think it has something to do with the fact that there's no real end in sight to his misery)

He's been referenced in Mr. Hirshey's work before, and now he's decided to tell his side of the grim, awful, reckless story that is Tottenham Hotspur, 2008/09.

If only his outpouring of heartbreak and finger-pointing could give Spurs an extra point or two.

I love Tottenham Hotspur FC but what they are doing to me right now is cruel. The feeling of despair I felt after the Hull game cannot be described. I am a man with two kids and a wife, so technically I'm not allowed to let Spurs' start to the season affect my weekends yet I confess, from late summer until now, our household has not been the model of familial harmony.

This is not how it was supposed to be.

The optimism I felt before kick-off at 'Boro in August has been replaced with disbelief. I did not go into this 08-09 season with dreams of Champions League football. I am a rabid supporter, yet even I am not that delusional. I did go in with the goal of UEFA Cup football next year and a hopes of a bright future under Juande Ramos. so where did it all go so very wrong? I need to hear the opinions of the educated UF reader to help me sort out the disaster that is Spurs' start to the season. The only place to start is obviously the top. Is Daniel Levy responsible for this shambolic start? Let's lay out the case.

Levy always tells Spurs supporters about his ambitions to take us into the "Top 4" of the Prem. After the sale of Michael Carrick, he was quoted as saying, "once again for the record, we are not a selling club, rather we are building for the future. When we have players on long contracts we have no need to entertain offers." (Quote from

We were told he wanted to leave, so we took Levy at his word. Well, after this summer Mr Levy might want to retract that statement. With roughly 75-to-80 million pounds of talent in and almost the same $$ out, it would seem that he has no real plan at the moment except to run a nice profitable football team to line his pockets with.

Did the Berbatov affair really need to go on until the transfer deadline leaving us no other options than the UEFA Cup tied Roman Pavlyuchenko? I really get physically ill thinking about the fact that a year ago we had Berbatov, Keane, and Defoe and now we have Bent, Pavs, and Frazier Campbell on loan. The $$$ are nice, Mr Levy, but they can't buy back the goals you sold.

We have scored 4 league goals this year, one of them being an own goal at 'Boro. One was also an accidental goal vs. Villa that Bent got in the way of a wayward cross. Where are the goals going to come from, Daniel???

Levy will quickly point out that Keane and Berbatov wanted to leave. Guess what Daniel: Ronaldo, Barry, and even Arshavin wanted to leave their clubs too, yet they are still where they started. You hold the damn contract! Remember what you said about not being a selling club? Is it all bollocks? We are propping up the league, our strikeforce is decimated, and our team is comprised of talented parts that do not seem to fit correctly. Can we simply blame a greedy chairman?

I guess blame could also be laid at the feet of our Director of Football, Damien Commoli. Surely the man who ok'd 16.5 million for Darren Bent has to be held partly responsible, no?

I could go on and on analyzing his signings and how they do not make sense in the big picture. The glaring needs for THFC were a Defensive Midfielder, a Left-Sided Midfielder, and cover for King. Corluka was a good acquisition in the back but were the other needs addressed? Instead of a DM, we bought a couple of attacking midfielders in Dos Santos and Modric, while also adding another RM in Bentley.

This has obviously led to selection headaches for Senor Ramos; we have many players out of position which is making our play on the pitch poor to say the least. As another Spurs blogger noted, the books are balanced but the squad is not.

That leaves one more person who has to look in the mirror and accept some of the blame as well.

Senor Ramos, the shine is definitely off the Cup now and he has some explaining to do. On paper, at least, there is talent on the team. Shouldn't Juande be doing better than 2 points in 6 games? Since the League Cup, our form has been extremely poor. Wembley was a great day out but that was a long time ago.

The turnover in players has been massive, yet what are we left with? 400 wing backs and no spine, as my mate Bigus reminds me daily.

Is this true? Is this what Ramos envisioned? Is this the squad he thinks can contend for the Champions League and Cup glory?

Every week we seem to have a different 11 and even our players do not know what to expect every game. We need some continuity so our players can gel. The natives are clearly getting restless and Mr Ramos must be feeling the heat. When Bent came on for Pavs against Portsmouth, the travelling supporters serenaded Ramos with a hearty "You dont know what you're doing." He definitely couldn't ignore that, could he? I guess as long as Poyet didn't translate it for him, he's no worse off.

Bottom line: these are troubling times. UF readers. Where has it all gone wrong for Spurs?

Read more on "More dispatches from the Relegation Zone"...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Saturday's best match was the Toulouse-Auxerre tilt, although there was action (and goals galore) all over the pitch in the rest of the matches as well. This week, however, most of the scoring was done by players whose names had not been called often yet this season. The biggest surprise of the weekend came on Sunday, with Rennes topping Lyon 3-0.

Saturday, October 4th:

Grenoble 0-1 Nantes - In the upset of the day, Grenoble dominated the match with 63% of the possession yet lost on a late goal from Nantes. Although Grenoble had controlled the pitch relatively effortlessly, the best early chance of the match came when a Moullec free-kick forced Grenoble GK Wimbee into an excellent save. In the 35th minute, Djedje dribbled through the entire Nantes defense, but put his shot just wide of the post. Ten minutes after the start of the second half, his day did not improve as he picked up his second yellow card in 2 games. Nantes finally broke through in the 77th minute when Wimbee was only able to parry a blistering shot from Mareval, and Bekamenga was there to slot it home.

Le Havre 1-2 Le Mans - Le Havre scored early (Alassane, in the 13th minute), and on the first legitimate chance of the match, but it was Le Mans who dominated. Holding 60% of the possession (and also leading in fouls committed, 17-8), Le Mans responded to the goal well, bossing Le Havre around the pitch for the remainder. Le Tallec hit a thunderbolt off the crossbar early in the 2nd half, but the pressure did not pay off until the end of the match. In the 89th minute Camara sent a dangerous cross into the box, and Maiga headed it home. Thinking (and hoping fervently) that they still had secured a point, Le Havre were completely deflated when Gervinho scored in the 2nd minute of extra time to seal the win for Le Mans.

Lorient 1-2 Bordeaux - In another match that was closer than the 36%-64% possession suggested, Lorient maintained the better pace in the first half, forcing the streaking Bordeaux to play more defense than they liked. Bordeaux GK Valverde was called into action several times in the first half, and watched several other shots go just wide or barely over the bar. Offensively, Bordeaux did not take their first shot until the 34th minute. Loirent kept up the pressure in the second half, and Ciani finally broke through in the 58th minute. Apparently, this was a personal affront to Fernando, who proceeded to score a brace within a 4-minute span (66th minute, 69th minute). The score should have been 3-1, but Audard made a brilliant save off an excellent shot from Gourcuff very late in the match.

Marseill 2-1 Caen - In a contentious match, frustrated Marseille wound up sealing their first win since the end of August. The story for L'OM was Hatem ben Arfa, who (for the first time this season) truly looked like the phenom everyone has been expecting. Ben Arfa opened the scoring almost immediately, knuckling a powerful shot past Plante in the 2nd minute of the match. Unfortunately for Marseille, GK Mandanda then gave up a howler, spilling an easy through-ball right at the feet of Savidan in the 20th minute, who easily tapped the ball into the empty net. After yellow cards to Zubar (Marseille, 31st minute) and Barzola (Caen, 43rd minute), the teams went into the half tied 1-1. Marseille stepped up the pressure in the 2nd half, and were rewarded with the game-winner in the 60th minute. Ben Arfa cracked a shot off the post, and Zubar played the rebound across to Niang, who headed it home. The remainder of the match saw 4 more yellow cards, 2 of which were awarded to Ziani (66th minute, 70th minute), but Marseille held on to the win playing with 10 men for the final 20 minutes.

Nice 1-1 Sochaux - In the most even match of the day, Nice and Sochaux played to a well-deserved 1-1 draw. Nice had more first-half chances through the work of Kante and Remy, but they were unable to break through. Echouafni finally broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when he came in one-on-one on Sochaux GK Richert and put it past him. But in the 73rd minute, a poor Nice clearance fell to Birsa, who surprised Letizi with his shot.

Lille 1-0 Valenciennes - In the worst display of the day, the teams combined for 6 shots on goal and 40 fouls. Lille had the most chances in the northern derby, and they faced a demoralized Valenciennes who have now lost 4 of their last 5 minutes. Valenciennes GK Penneteau was plagued all day by extremely poor defending, and he was forced to save an own goal off Tiene in the first half. Unfortunately, the own goal was still to come, as Abardonado deflected a cross past his keeper to give Lille the win. In addition to the poor result, Valenciennes learned that defender David Sommeil, who suffered a heart attack in August, has been told he will never be able to play again.

Toulouse 1-0 Auxerre - In the match of the day, the clubs were relatively even on possesion and number of fouls committed. However, it was Toulouse who more shot (and more shots on goal), which made all the difference. The first half was characterized by tentative approaches toward goal, with only Bergougnoux (Toulouse) looking dangerous, as he hit the post in the 2nd minute and put a shot over the bar in the 20th minute. Gignac finally broke through with the winner in the 55th minute, but Pedretti almost salvaged a point late for Auxerre when he caught Carrasso with a long-range shot. The Toulouse GK was lucky to parry the ball away, and Auxerre was left with nothing.

Sunday, October 5th:

Rennes 3-0 Lyon - Perhaps feeling the effects of their Champions League matches, Lyon looked incredibly listless and Mickael Pagis turned into a one-man wrecking crew for Rennes. Lyon's best chance came off a Piquionne volley, but it was well-saved by Douchez. Pagis then made Lyon pay by opening the scoring in the 17th minute. His second goal was an empty-netter as Lloris was drawn out of position in the 56th minute. In the 57th minute, Pagis took advantage of a Kallstrom mistake and finished off his hat-trick for the stunning upset.

St. Etienne 2-0 Monaco - Befetimbi Gomis opened the socoring early, slotting home a shot in the 11th minute, and Monaco played on their heels for the remainder of the match. St. Etienne almost scored again relatively quickly, but Machado had his shot cleared off the line. Dernis, who had assisted on the first goal, finally got one of his own in the 83rd minute, ensuring the 3 points for St. Etienne. Once again, Freddy Adu got no run for Monaco.

Nancy 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain - In a match dominated by Nancy, it was PSG who got on the board early when the aggressive Hoarau slotted home a shot in the 2nd minute. Macaluso pulled Nancy even in the 34th minute, and the rest of the match was characterized by the clubs trading corners with no result.

So, after Matchday 8, the top of the table looks like this: (1) Olympique Lyonnais, 19 points on a 6-1-1 record, with a +6 goal differential; (2) Toulouse, 17 points on a 5-2-1 record, with a +2 goal differential; (3) Olympique de Marseille, 16 points on a 4-4-0 record, with a +7 goal differential; and (4) Le Mans, 14 points on a 4-2-2 record, with a +5 goal differential.

Read more on "Ligue 1 Weekend Review"...