Saturday, November 22, 2008

EPL Open Thread

Uh-oh, it's another EPL weekend with a late thread!

Come on LFC. Only 3 goals in 40 minutes spread around 6 games. And 2 of them were scored by Bolton. Madness!

The story so far...
Chelsea 0-0 Newcastle
Liverpool 0-0 Fulham
Man City 0-0 Arsenal
Middlesbrough 0-2 Bolton
Portsmouth 1-0 Hull
Stoke 0-0 West Brom

Aston Villa v. Man U is the late game today.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Alexi has a pretty decent sense of humo(u)r

More MLS big-name talent goes out on loan [Soccer365]
Ronaldo apparently didn't appreciate the Brazilians drubbing his side, so like any good captain he tried to break an opponent's leg [Soccernet]
Some interesting stats from MLS's lowest pay grade [The Best Eleven]

And, finally:
A video two-fer from The Offside Rules
A viral video featuring Steven Gerrard [TOR]
Alexi Lalas in training to pay up on a bet [TOR]

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EPL Score Predictions Generator, and an MLS Cup announcement

We despair for you, Hughesy. So much money and so few points!

The Generator is random at best. Random in its predictions, but random in deciding which weekends it will be operative for. One can only blame the changing weather, the moving back of the clocks (granted, that was weeks ago, but still), and the lackluster run of form at Eastlands that has made The Generator too depressed to get out of bed.

Not only that, but the usual existential crises: does anyone care? If UF failed to do predictions, would anyone notice? And so on. Poor Generator... he's spent all of last week watching the England/West Germany 1990 World Cup semi-final over again while overdosing on Hot Pockets. So sad.

Nevertheless, he's cleaned up and detoxed enough to pump out 10 random sets of numbers that, when applied correctly to the EPL fixture list, will give you wisdom and clarity in your betting.

Oh, and we should mention that we'll be liveblogging the MLS Cup on Sunday, should you be able to find ABC on the channel guide. Wait! That's a major network!


So there you have it! I hope that 5-1 applies to the team you love.

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Laaaandon Calling To The Faraway Towns...

You remember last week I told you about 20-year-old winger Ishmel Demontagnac getting the boot from Walsall? Well someone was going to take a chance on the trouble-making youngster and it's no surprise who.

Neil Warnock at Palace is giving the 'demon of Walsall' (catchy eh?) a trial. No player better than a free player, eh Neil? Besides, Warnock is the cockiest man in football and he has a sharp tongue to boot. He probably thinks that if anyone can keep a player in-check, it's him.

But can Demontagnac be tamed? He has an awful disciplinary record on AND off the pitch. Is Laaandon the best place for someone who finds trouble, well, easy to find?

Palace assistant Mick Jones thinks so... "If anything happens during the trial that we don't like it will be finished immediately." He went on to say "the shareef don't like it... Rock the casbah"... ok, I made that last bit up. Wrong Mick Jones apparently.

The lad is obviously going to behave himself NOW that he has a chance to move up a league isn't he? In fact, it seems Demontagnac has benefited greatly from being fired. Better football and higher wages.

Let's hope Palace haven't set a dangerous precedent here.


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Gallas needs a ball gag

While the daily entertainment quotient would undoubtedly go down, it's about time for William Gallas to shut his mouth. He already caused enough of a stir with his stories from inside the Arsenal locker room to reportedly be dropped from the squad and lose the armband. That's not enough for Mr. Gallas, however. Now he's aiming to get dropped from the French squad as well.

Earlier today, in what looks to have been leaked from an upcoming autobiography, news filtered out that Gallas has feuds in the France locker room as well. This time it's not over heart or anything like that, it's over respect. Not towards the refs, but from young players to the veterans.

The player whom Gallas had the big problem with is not named explicitly, but there are a couple of clues. First of all, the player is code-named "S". Secondly, the player's age at Euro 2008 was 20. This has led to speculation that the unnamed player is Samir Nasri, a guy who Gallas just can't get away from, either with club or country.

Nasri's (if it is him) crime? He took Thierry Henry's seat on the bus. I tell you what, that is a heinous bit of disrespect, and worthy of losing the respect of all your teams' fans for bringing it up.

The Eurosport article goes a bit further into what Gallas thinks of the new generation of footballers. Given his take on the current crop of teens and young twenty year-olds he's around, I have to say that he's gotta go. Arsenal are obviously dedicated to youth right now, and having a captain who has nothing but contempt for everyone else on the team (save Silvestre) is not going to work out.

Then the question becomes: who takes over the captaincy? It would seem that Wenger has a predilection for Frenchmen and , predictably, he has a lot of choice on the team. Diaby, Sagna, Nasri, Silvestre and Clichy all fit the bill. As well as someone named Francis Coquelin, who has not debuted in the first team yet. Or will it filter down to Almunia? Ol' Bleachy is the vice captain (so Wikipedia tells me) and may have to assume the armband full time until he gets dropped as well.

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UF Needs YOU!

You may have heard that your favorite website has been nominated for ' Best Blog of the Year'.

No...Not, your other favorite. That's right, Unprofessional Foul. Oh you hadn't heard?

Unprofessional Foul has been nominated for 'Best Blog of the Year' by US Soccer.... I... KNOW!!!

Anyway, we would really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really appreciate your vote. One vote per day is allowed and the ballot box slams shut on Dec 8th. If you enjoy what we do, vote for us and vote for us often.

Click HERE to cast your vote. Did I mention that we would really appreciate your vote?

I thank you.


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: I don't, that's for sure

Guillermo Barros Schelotto won the MLS MVP today. Of course, if you only went by the MLS/ESPN marketing department, then you have no idea who this is [MLS Net]
Hearts player, sidelined since mid-October, felt obliged to travel to Ghana so he could prove his injury. Says it was to save his family from harm [Eurosport]
Gallas trying to talk himself into a January transfer? [Eurosport]
Walcott's injury=transfer kitty money for Arsenal (which will go unused) [Soccernet]

And, finally:
Rafa's going to Real. Book it. Done [Sky Sports]

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This Is Too Good Not To Share

Ah, sometimes the Internet Gods are so good to us, we wonder what we've done to deserve it. Today perhaps it was our opting not to put up a post with the title "De La Dead Is More Like It... Am I Right?" Anyway, here's some outtake goodness pilfered from the folks over at Davie Brown Entertainment (and I guess Gillette).

We're not sure what's more awesome about this: the fact that Tiger Woods can't be bothered to work with Federer and Henry (okay, probably just scheduling, but still...), that Henry needs to be told to smile when shaving or that, holy shit, it also stars Charlie in full Green Man get up.

Anyway, anyone who has ever worked in production can probably confirm that commercial shoots are indeed as boring, awkward and soul-sucking as they appear in this footage.

Tip of the hat goes to friend of UF, Adam (and to the little utility that let me rip the embedded video from the DBE site).

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We Don't Want to Rule the World. We Just Want to Piss Off the Brits.

Bernard Laporte contemplates his master plan.

As we all know, the French and the Brits enjoy tweaking each other (why, Bigus and I engaged in a slap-fight just this morning), particularly when it comes to sports. Lately, much of the invective coming from the French side has been from the increasingly clueless Michel Platini. Although he is supportive of this latest agitation, he is not the main architect. For that, we must look to Bernard Laporte, the sports minister of France.

So it seems that the French have a plan (we do?) to deal with the effects of global financial instability on sports by putting European sports leagues under the purview of a European "super-sport" administrator. Theoretically, by removing the influence of the domestic government bodies on financial regulation of sports leagues, this new European administrator would: (1) prevent clubs from being damaged by the financial failures of their backers; and (2) increase parity by preventing clubs from profiting on the pitch (in terms of results) while maintaining an increasingly burdensome debt (a la Chelsea; yes, we can argue that Chelsea's debt is owed to Abramovich - cut me some slack here, it's not my plan).

Bascially, many see this as a power-grab by UEFA (and by Platini, of course; Michel, arret-toi, enfin!) which would effectively gain control over financial regulation, player transfers, and youth development. Obviously, the FA and the EPL (suck it, Barclay's!) are opposed to such a move, and British sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has indicated that he is not amenable to many of the details of the plan, including the provision for allowing sports leagues an "opt-out" for European law (seriously? the plan is to just allow sports leagues to ignore international law? how was that considered a good idea?).

The most interesting note comes at the end of the article, and provides some juicy food for thought:

If the French proposals are accepted next week they will be included on the agenda for the Council of Ministers meeting at the end of the year, raising the prospect that sport's regulation could become a bargaining chip in horse-trading over weightier issues among heads of state.

Ah, yes, the old bargaining chip. I can see it now: "We'll let you keep the FA in control, but you have to fully join the EU by dropping your stupid British pounds!"

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Official - Norwich Fans Are The Sexiest!

Well one is at least. Yesterday, Hugh Jackman was voted the sexiest man ALIVE by People magazine. The Hollywood actor is also a Norwich fan! Nice one Hugh.

So how did this happen? Isn't Hugh an Aussie? Yes, indeed he is, but it turns out that his mother is from Norfolk and Hugh is a follower of the super Canaries.

What a turn up for the books. Norwich-supporting celebrities are usually dull, C-list AND to be quite honest, not very sexy at all. Delia Smith ( I love her anyway), Stephen Fry, Mylene Klass (kinda sexy), Justin Hawkins from the Darkness, some fella from Blue Peter, Simon something, Herbie Hide, Cathy Dennis, Trigger from 'Only fools and Horses', Mike Bassett, England manager and some farmer called Tony Martin who became a minor celebrity after shooting a couple of burglars in the middle of the night...No, they weren't from Ipswich.

But now we have a superstar amongst our ranks and a sexy one at that. Could this change the way the world views the fine City of Norwich? Can we expect Hollywood superstars to turn up at Carrow Road for a home game with Burnley? Not likely, but it's nice to know that the World's sexiest man supports a team that plays the sexi... oh wait that's right.



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Vote for us (please)

In what may become a daily reminder, we have been nominated for Best Blog by You can vote once a day in each category. We would appreciate it if you voted for us.

Best Blog
All Categories

To vote, click on the graphic for each category. Thank you!

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Fabi-oh-so Confident.

Can you feel it? Can you?

Something special is happening to the England team, something unusual. Something that has been missing for a loooooong time. Consistency has returned, bringing its old friend confidence along for the ride. Last night's win in Berlin was the absolute confirmation that many England fans needed before welcoming the confidence back, the confidence to believe in the England team once again.

Germany 1 England 2. We are back people. Can you f*cking believe it?

Bigus is on cloud nine this morning. Watch out world, here come England!

So what is it that Fabio is doing right? For the most part, this is the same bunch of players that Steve McClown was ruining. Is it just confidence? Well I mentioned before that simplicity is a major factor.

For example, England's shape has been consistently similar under Capello, even with different personnel. The depth McClaren failed to inspire has allowed for it. Take last night for instance; Walcott's injury really didn't affect Capello's desire to play an out-and-out winger on the right. Shaun Wright-Phillips was ready to oblige. The absence of both Coles was not important either. Bridge took Ashley's place and Stuart Downing took his opportunity to impress the Italian coach with a solid showing. It was Downing's free kick that provided John Terry's winning header.

Depth was also available at the heart of the midfield and up top. Carrick's performance may make it difficult for the missing Lampard to claim his place back, thanks to his performance that many journalists declared 'man of the match' worthy.

Up top, Rooney's work rate and ability to find space was matched by the impressive Gabby Agbonlahor. England's depth consists largely from young players with little experience and this is a glowing testament to Capello's ability to organize and inspire confidence. Agbonlahor, Young, Walcott, Downing are all hungry and will play a large part in England's future. Others in last nights squad were there to make up the numbers. I cannot see Parker, Lescott or Bullard in the big picture but should injuries strike, it is reassuring that Capello is just the man to get the best from the second best.

Gabby Agbonlahor: Impressive performance.

Earlier in the week, Capello had shown disappointment and doubt over the numerous bumps and bruises that left his squad short. The exodus of key players to minimal knocks had threatened to render the game with Germany one of no importance. That's certainly how Premiership managers saw the fixture. But to English folk, a showdown with the auld enemy is an important historic fixture that is always welcomed. One that feeds national pride.

In recent years Germany had inflicted pain on England, winning in the last game at the old Wembley. England returned the favor by stuffing Germany in Munich. Last night's game was important for a number of reasons. A true acid test of England in the Capello era. Could he dig deep into the talent pool and delver a win in Berlin, with such key players as Rooney, Lampard, Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand absent? In front of 75,000 taunting Germans? Not only did he answer that question but he did it in style. England looked comfortable for most of the game. Upson poked home to give England the lead after German stopper Rene Adler failed to punch a corner clear. The lead should have been extended in the second half, when the in-form Darren Bent broke through and created an open goal opportunity, only to shank his shot wide of the post. Terry then gave Germany a lifeline as he failed to deal with a long ball and Patrick Helmes nipped in to to slide the ball through Scott Carson's legs to finish. Lots of players dedicate goals to loved ones and some sick bastards dedicate them to drink-drivers, but Helmes dedicates his goals to the memory of his dead dog. How normal.

England's determination to win was highlighted ten minutes later when Shaun Wright-Phillips latched onto a ball 10 yards into the German half before dispatching a thumping shot that hit the post from 25 yards. England restored the lead on 83 mins when Captain John Terry headed home the winner from Downings free kick. It was a magnificent header. Terry's effort handed the Germans their first defeat in Berlin since 1973. Brazil were the victors then and that's not a bad act to follow.

Capello is now unbeaten in 7 games and has won his last 5, with his only defeat coming in the friendly with France back in March. England sit at the top of their World Cup qualification group and wins in Croatia and Germany have filled the nation with pride, and of course, confidence.

Something special is happening alright, and I for one am as excited as a bar full of woo girls when 'Sweet Home Alabama' hits the juke box.

I'll be enjoying this one for a while dear readers. At least until after lunch. Maybe I'll go for liverwurst on a Kaiser roll, topped with Colmans mustard of course.


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Landon On Loan

Which is less surprising? That Landon Donovan is going to join Bayern Munich for a couple of months (and possibly until the end of the Bundesliga season) or that the people at ESPN can't fucking spell?

I'm not sure who this Donavan character is. But let's wish him well in Germany anyway.

Okay, okay. Glass houses. I'm sure we've made plenty of spelling and grammatical errors, but we're not the self-proclaimed "World Wide Leader" of anything. We're just a few guys who blog for fun... oh, and for the chicks.

Anyway, Landycakes now officially goes on loan to Bayern Munich starting Jan 1 and running through at least the middle of March (when ostensibly he would have to return to the Galaxy). Said manager Jürgen Kilnsmann: "The goal will be to see if we can get him long term, at least until the end of the season."

Wow, Klinsy and I have similar views on what constitutes "long term." He's as big a commitment-phobe as I am. Anyway, if the loan gets extended to season's end someone will be getting more preferential treatment than Goldenballs. We wish Donovan all the best. He's American and we like Americans. Even the ones who might have wussed out on previous occasions.

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Oh That's Gotta Hurt.

Many kids dream of being a professional footy player but just a few make it. To get to the top flight you need dedication, devotion, passion, hard work, skill and a tolerance for pain.
Join me for a collective 'OUCH' after the jump.

This is a stadium announcement, Johnny Smith has lost his nose, last seen location was his face. If you find his nose please return to him immediately. Thank you.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Today I learned not to interview any push pollers

Sssshhhh. I'm watching my DVR of the US-Guatemala match. Don't tell me how it ends.

2007 USL-1 finalists Atlanta Silverbacks decide that playing in 2009 is not something they want to do [Our Sports Central]
Ronaldo the Fat to retire. Was anyone actually planning on him not doing so? [BBC]
The idea of Ze Roberto becoming a pastor seems the equivalent of Nigel Tufnel selling hats [Eurosport]

UK teen girls want to be WAGs instead of something useful. Thanks Posh [Telegraph]
Whatever happened to the 3-5-2? [Guardian]

And, finally:
Take note. This is not how one should celebrate a victory in the post-match press conference [Times Online]

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USA v Guatemala livebloggery

Welcome to our liveblog of USA vs. Guatemala, starting at 8 pm EST from Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver. Actually its in Commerce City next to a refinery, about 10 miles from downtown, but close enough. Since the USA has already qualified we are likely to see a predominately MLS side that I would categorize as somewhere between a C and D team. Guatemala, who still have a slim chance of qualification with a win and a T&T loss, will at least be thanking Bob Bradley for bringing such an understrength an inexperienced group. Hopefully we will at least Jozy and Freddy show a bit of spunk in the first half. Lineups and more, after the jump.

Photo credit: USMNT Blog

Random thought: Is Colorado the worst run MLS franchise?

7:51 - Hey, its fucking cold in NYC tonight. I need some scotch

7:51:30 - USA starting lineup:

Guzan; Thorrington, Goodson, Parkhurst, Bornstein; Mastroeni (c), Clark, Adu, Kljestan; Cooper, Altidore

I'm actually mildly excited to see Kenny Cooper back in action tonight with the Nats. Adu needs to do a better job creating chances in the midfield tonight than his shit performance during the T&T game last month.

7:55 - Is it just my TV or were these girls on old American Gladiators a lot beefier than the ladies of today?

8:00 - And we are live from the Dick. Brilliant. Lets see how ESPN spins this unimportant game

8:02 - No Carlos Ruiz for Los Chapines tonight. Flores, Noriega, Albizuris, Castrillo in the back. Didn't see the rest.

8:06 - Anthem time. Guatemala players doing the El Tri salute here. The Dick looks to be rather flaccid tonight. Lots of empty seats.

8:07 - Guatemala players are all wearing Under Armor long sleeves under their jerseys. It probably feels like Lambeau Field to them in Denver tonight.

8:08 - This is the year that the MLS Cup is on the West Coast? I'll put the O/U on Red Bulls fans in attendance at 500.

0 min - And we're off.

2 min - Long ball to Jozy down the right but he falls over. Maybe should have been awarded the foul on the edge of the box. Adu turnover count = 1.

5 min- Gorgeous through ball from Sascha to Kenny Cooper, but he's offside. Cooper looks beastly in full stride.

7 min- Freddy wins a corner after some good work down the right. Ball is whipped into the box but cleared. Harkes praising Adu for theatrics and getting on the refs early. I guess that's why he's in Monaco.

8 min - Long ball from Clark to Jozy, who almost executes a perfect side volley. Ball goes out off the keeper, but no corner is awarded. As PR notes, the Mexican ref is probably going to be less than generous tonight.

10 min - US continues to play long balls up to the Cooper/Altidore tandem. Kenny in particular looks very good so far. At some point on of those is going to result in a goal. Guatemala not looking particularly inventive so far. In fact they look pretty unenergetic so far.

13 min - Klesjian with a through ball to Altidore. Jozy tries to play it across the face to Kenny Cooper, but a defender clears it. He probably had the keeper beat near side. The ensuing corner comes to naught.

16 min - Great move starts with a turnover gathered in by Ricardo Clark. Adu rampages down the right, and a corner results. The ball comes to Freddy at the top of the box and he almost pulls off the wonderstrike from 25 yards out. That was close.

18 - Well, Sunil Gulati needs his money, right? Holy Crap Freddy with a marauding diagional run down the center, puts a stinger off the keeper's hands. Rebound comes to Kenny Cooper who is denied by a good save. Shots so far are 6 to 1 to the United States.

20 min - I think we paid like $50 at least for USA Argentina this summer at Giants Stadium. Then again, some serious star power was in attendance for both sides. Another great move results in Bornstein free on left down the box. Unfortunately his cross goes over everyone. Alitdore and Cooper looking very very good up top.

22 min - Wow. A stone cold penalty as Thorrington is taken down in the box. The Ref is becoming somewhat less popular. Harkes is livid. Anyone remember what happened to Brian Hall last year down in Mexico during a CCCF game? Needed a police escort out of the stadium after some bad calls.

24 min - USA! USA! USA! chants ring around the stadium. Needs more cowbell.

29 min - Ricardo Clark almost goes in free on goal, but cannot corral it. The US has had a lot of half to 3/4 chances, but Altidore's was the best so far. Let's not make this Arsenal-esque, boys.

31 min - Kenny Cooper hits the bar on a header. A nice ball from Clark. I'll say it again for the twentieth time, but that Cooper is a beast. On the other end, Figueroa splits the defense and almost gets a ball across the box. Broken up nicely by Parkhurst.

34 min - Pace has slowed down a little bit. US is still keeping possession but continues to play an England circa 1987 hit and hope style.

37 min - Freddy, on the left now, crosses wide over to Cooper. ManBeast has trouble with his first touch, but somehow lobs the ball to Jozy. He falls down again in appeal for a penalty. You can guess what the call was.

40 min - ManBeast fouled in the middle. Harkes rather diplomatically says Guatemala play "physically." Some might say dirty....At least El Pescador isn't playing right now.

42 min - More possession from the US. After some nifty passing Adu is fouled 35 yards out. Freddy takes the kick, which swerves over the wall but is easily handled by the Guatemalan keeper.

45 min - Guatemala put a decent cross in which is headed just over the crossbar. The ensuing corner is cleared, and the whistle mercifully blows.

HT - So far its a typical Concacaf game. Guatemala doesn't look particularly threatening, but the USA has been unable to convert on their ample possession. The US midfield can't deal with the 11 men behind the ball and foul 'em defense employed by Guatemala. Its games like this where you can see the the clear gap in class between the European based guys and MLS players.

HT2 - Random trivia. I was at the last game the USMNT played in Colorado. 80,000 at Invesco field in Spring 02 right before the World Cup against Mexico. The club level was all soccer moms and dads, and the lower and upper levels were chock full of rowdy Mexicans.

46 min - Second half starts with a nice cross from ManBeast that Altidore almost geads in. Ensuing corner is caught by the keeper.

49 min - Food update: Lamb Kebobs and hummus. Game Update: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

54 min - Guatemala have a chance here. Its 0-0 in the Cuba T&T game. Wow. Kenny Copper scores on a nutmeg of the keeper. He got a great ball from Jozy and Cooper buried it! Your 2010 front line? 1-0 USA

56 min - Guatemala are on their heels a bit here. Freddy a decent chance from the top of the box saved by the keeper. Offensive subs on. Marco Pappa of the Chicago Fire comes into the game.

61 min - Adu and Altidore busting out some Joga Bonito on the give and go. Unfortunately Adu's shot is saved by the keeper. FWIW, my 2010 starting XI as of right now is:

Howard, Cherundulo, Gooch, Bocanegra, Pierce, Bradley, Beasley, Donovan, Dempsey, Jozy, Cooper. Freddy the super sub off the bench.

63 min - Mastroeni unleashes a scorcher from 30 yards that nearly beats the keeper. The rebound unluckily bounces right off Jozy's chest.

66 min - Sascha Klesjian just had a great chance but it was saved. This game could easily be 3-0. Random thought since we are talking about the MNT player pool. Where on earth is Benny Feilhaber? Jozy, meanwhile, gets fouled on the edge of the 18. A yellow that could have been a red.

67 min - Holy Shit! The ensuing free kick is curled beautifully by Freddy into the top corner. His first goal for the USA. Beckham quality right there. 2-0 USA!

71 minutes - Dwight Yorke has scored for T&T. The Fat Lady is warming up for Los Chapines.

89 min - Sorry lads, just had to chat with the GF on the phone. The Ching/Casey duo is not quite as hot as the Jozy/Kenny one eh?

92 min - Mexico are down to nine men, trailing 1-0. But I don't think its enough with Jamaica only up 3-0 to Canada.

93 min - I think Mexico is through here. Although Honduras has a corner. Excitement differential is massive. That stadium looks like its going to explode.

Final - 2-0 USA. Great work up front by Jozy and Cooper. Adu sort of went in an out of the game, but he had some good chances. Midfield was ok, although Mastroeni picked up a card which will rule him out of the next round of qualifying. Defensively, the backs pushed up quite a bit, but Guatemela didn't really have much attacking threat. Parkhurst is defintiely useful, though, as the #4 or #5 CB in the US pool. Thanks for hanging out.

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Robbo Keeping It Real.

A while ago I accused Man City's speedy Brazilian goal banger of being 'tight' and a 'penny pincher' after he lined up for 25 minutes to save some money in a department store. It seems that maybe I was wrong and Robinho is UNLIKE every other superstar footballer. Intrigued?

How refreshing... Robinho takes the bus. THE BUS.

But not only does he take the bus, he takes his bird on the bus. The Daily Mail reports that the Brazilian has been on regular shopping trips with his missus to the Trafford center in Manchester by public transport. How down to earth, how... incredibly normal.

In a world of fancy cars, chauffeurs, expensive clothes and overpriced luxuries, a story that focuses on the highest-paid footballer in England being fiscally responsible. Lets hope that 'keeping it real' becomes a trend in the football world.

I can see it now...Ronaldo shopping at H&M. Defoe riding a bike to training in Sketchers. Lampard strap-hanging on the Circle line home, Bellamy driving a Ford Fiesta for a meal at TGI Friday's. Somehow I think that Robinho will be alone with his real world sensibilities.

Robinho, here at UF we take our hats off to you sir. Robinho ladies and gentlemen... keeping it real.

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Open Thread: The November Friendlies

I know you're angry and scared, Fabio. An England midfield without Gerrard is a truly frightening thought

No, the November Friendlies isn't the name of a new band from Ohio and we're not Pitchfork. It's time for international duties at the worst possible time, and in a period where everyone is so gripped by the league in full swing, or the Mickey Mouse Cup, or the early rounds of the FA Cup, or the Champions League, or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or Gentlemen's Clubs or... well, you get the idea.

So many England regulars have handed in sick notes, and they're facing ze Germans in Deutschland this evening, while some permed Argentine with a runny nose is prepping a team to play up in Scotland. No clue what that's all about.

Talk about it all here. Will Maradona quit by half-time? Will England's B team do anything worth paying attention to in Germany? How many of your team's players will get hurt tonight (please, I beg you Daniel Agger, stay out of any nasty challenges)?

Quote BBC live-texter Caroline Cheese (yes, her real name):
I've just been in the United States of America for a couple of weeks, which is an utterly brilliant country except for the chronic lack of proper sport. I mean, the bombshell news about Aidy Boothroyd's departure from Watford did not warrant a mention in a single newspaper. Not a single one. Unbelievable. It was all Obama this, Obama that. So personally I couldn't be more excited about this evening's action, my first taste of soccer… ahem, football, for fully 21 days. You?

Ouch. Still, she's ready (and her sarcasm's working nicely), and so are we. To the comments section!

Tonight's Today's games:
Denmark vs. Wales (kicked off at 2.15pm ET... nothing of note thus far)
Germany vs. England
Northern Ireland vs. Hungary
Scotland vs. Argentina

Other notables:
Oh, who am I kidding, there are none. Serbia beat Bulgaria 6-1 earlier, in case you bet the under by mistake.

Germany: Germany: Adler, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Westermann, Compper, Schweinsteiger, Rolfes, Jones, Trochowski, Gomez, Klose.
Subs: Wiese, Hinkel, Tasci, Helmes, Podolski, Marin, Hitzlsperger, Schafer, Weis.

England: James, Johnson, Terry, Upson, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Carrick, Barry, Downing, Defoe, Agbonlahor.
Subs: Carson, Robinson, Lescott, Richards, Mancienne, Davies, Parker, Bullard, Young, Crouch, Bent.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, Duff, Evans, Baird, McGivern, Gillespie, Clingan, O'Connor, Brunt, Lafferty, Healy.
Subs: Mannus, Tuffey, McGinn, Feeney, Shiels, Paterson, Thompson.

Hungary: Babos, Bodnar, Rudolf, Juhasz, Vanczak, Halmosi, Toth, Vadocz, Huszti, Gera, Torghelle.
Subs: Fulop, Vermes, Feczesin, Horvath, Dardai, Dzsudzsak, Szalai.

Scotland: McGregor, Hutton, Caldwell, McManus, Broadfoot, Brown, Hartley, Ferguson, Commons, McFadden, Iwelumo (how he keeps his place is beyond me).
Subs: Marshall, Alexander, Naysmith, Maloney, Clarkson, Berra, Miller, Robertson, Barr, McAllister.

Argentina: Carrizo, Zanetti, Demichelis, Heinze, Papa, Rodriguez, Mascherano, Gago, Gutierrez, Lavezzi, Tevez.
Subs: Romero, Coloccini, Denis, Cata Diaz, Villagra, Burdisso, Sosa, Lopez, Montenegro, Gonzalez.

Denmark: Denmark: Sorensen, Bogelund, Agger, Rasmussen, Kroldrup, Kristensen, Norregaard, Nordstrand, Krohn-Delhi, Bendtner, Rommedahl.
Subs: Andersen, Mtiliga, Jorgensen, Andreasen, Retov, Vingaard, Ilso, Larsen.

Wales: Myhill, Gunter, Williams, Collins, Bale, Edwards, Ramsey, Nyatanga, Collison, Bellamy, Evans.
Subs: Hennessey, Tudur-Jones, Blake, Ricketts, Morgan, Eardley, Vokes.

Read more on "Open Thread: The November Friendlies"...

Colaship Review - Short Edition.

No dodgy celebrations this week. Disgraced bin man David Norris tastes defeat. Loooooooooser!

No I didn't forget about the Colaship this week, but it has taken me 4 days to recover from the depressing defeat my Canaries suffered last Saturday. That's why this edition of the Colaship review will be the shortest EVER. I am still reeling and cannot bear to spend more than 5 minutes dwelling on the league this week!

Wolves are going great guns. They are 6 points ahead of West Midlands rivals Bongo FC and the Wolverhampton express is showing no signs of slowing down as they beat Southampton 2-1 at St Mary's. Birmingham won a 5-goal thriller at Charlton while Reading had a HUGE win at Sheffield United. The Royals are now just one point behind Bongo and looking tasty.

At the bottom Ip..Ip..Ip...that lot, lost at Doncaster. Ha ha ha ha. Doncaster! Even my pathetic under-achievers beat basement boys Doncaster! Watford continued to suck. This time at Barnsley as they went down 2-1.

Bloody Burnley are still on the high from doing Chelsea at the Bridge. They handed QPR interim Gareth Ainsworth a defeat in his last game in charge. He has been replaced today as the Hoops announced the appointment of former Portuguese international Paulo Sousa. Sousa played 51 times for his country and recently held the post of assistant coach with the Portuguese national team.

QPR's new boss Paulo Sousa.

Last weekend's results:
Blackpool 1, Preston 3
Barnsley 2, Watford 1
Bongo FC 3, Charlton 2
Bristol City 2, Nottingham Forest 2
Cardiff 2, Palace 1
Coventry 0, Plymouth 1
Derby 3, Sheffield Wednesday 0
Norwich 2, Swansea 3
QPR 1, Burnley 2
Sheffield United 0, Reading 2
Southampton 1, Wolves 2

Click HERE for the full table.


Read more on "Colaship Review - Short Edition."...

Scotland Wrap

An article popped up in my inbox the other day that made me contemplate that which I would rather not think about. I would think it rather obvious that anyone who goes into officiating a sport, especially professionally, is a fan of the sport. And, summarily, when one grows up as a fan of the sport, they have teams that they support. In a country like Scotland, which has half of its population centered around a city with two major teams, that support is likely to go to one of those clubs. Hence, it is entirely possible that a large portion of Scotland's referees support either Celtic or Rangers and that, subconsciously (one hopes, at best) decisions are made that support these clubs.

I bring this up, and tacitly accept it as something that does occasionally happen, because of this past weekend's Hamilton-Celtic match. Right before halftime, with Celtic down 1-0, a Hamilton defender gets beaten by a long ball and lets his mark in behind him. The defender clips the attacker's heels and, last man back being what it is, gets a red card. That's not the problem. The problem is that the foul occured about 2 yards outside of the box, and Celtic were awarded a penalty kick. In the video below, you can catch the foul at about 3:25 and see the replays thereafter (also, check out Hamilton's early goal. Quite impressive).

Either the referee or the linesman is at serious fault here. Was one of them wearing green-hooped glasses when deciding to award a PK?

Celtic, to their credit, took full advantage of the call to even the match before halftime. In the waning minutes of the second half, Paul Hartley scored (7:20 of the video) and Celtic secured all three points in a scrappy match. That's ten wins on the trot for Celtic, who look very much in control of the league.

Since the last Scotland update on here, three rounds of fixtures have been played. Rangers, of course, are fighting to keep up with Celtic, and did well the Saturday previous to destroy Kilmarnock away 4-0. However, in a midweek tussle last Wednesday, Rangers failed to score and drew Motherwell away 0-0. Saturday, with their team sitting four points back of Celtic (who were to play on Sunday), Rangers needed three points and got them with a 2-1 win over St. Mirren. Rangers appeared to ice the game pretty early, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes in front of the home crowd. St. Mirren pulled the one back in the 81st minute, but were unable to get any more.

Before Saturday's match, Dundee United seemed to be sitting well in third place, while on a good run of form. Unfortunately for them, they crashed out against Kilmarnock 2-0. One would not have guessed the result considering that Killie had lost five straight, but that's why they play the games, right? A goal on either side of halftime sent United down a spot into fourth.

Hearts were the beneficiary of the Terrors loss. Hearts took the long trip up to Inverness on Saturday and came away with a lackluster, but important 1-0 win. Bruno Aguiar scored the lone goal for the visitors, who now lead Dundee United by one point.

The match of the weekend, yes I'm biased, was Hibernian hosting Aberdeen. Hibernian had a stranglehold on the offense for most of the game, but Aberdeen stymied them time and again. In the 40th minute, Aberdeen took advantage of a mistake on a free kick to score. Hibs defender and captain Rob Jones ducked out of the way to allow his keeper to collect the ball. Darren Mackie nipped in behind him and nodded the ball past Andrew McNeil. Zander Diamond doubled the Dons' lead in the 53rd, freely heading in a Sone Aluko corner. Hibs continued to attack, something they have done a lot os this year while playing a 4-3-3, and broke through in the 62nd. Rob Jones, he of the earlier mistake, knocked in a corner from close range. Hibernian, who outshot Aberdeen 18-6, continued to press for an eqaulizer and got one with the last kick of the game. Steven Fletcher proved the point-saving hero when he squeezed the ball into the net after a goal mouth scramble. It was a wild game where both teams could feel aggrieved for not taking all three points.

In the remaining game for the weekend, Falkirk defeated Motherwell 1-0, bringing the home side's unbeaten streak to six in all competitions. The goal was scored by Michael Higdon, his third in the last three games, and came in the 37th minute. For Motherwell, it was the end of a week that saw the high of drawing Rangers diluted by two losses.

Current table (Team, points, goal differential)

Celtic, 37, +22
Rangers, 33, +21
Hearts, 23, -2
Dundee United, 22, +3
Kilmarnock, 19, -6
Aberdeen, 18, -1
Motherwall, 17, -3
Falkirk 16, -2
Hibernian, 16, -6
Inverness CT, 14, -6
St. Mirren, 12, -7
Hamilton, 10 -13

If there is anything surprising in this table, it's that the gap from second to third is less than that of the EPL. Maybe Scotland's southern neighbors should work on getting a league that isn't so Top 2 heavy, huh? < /sarcasm >

Read more on "Scotland Wrap"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

It's not often that I stay in-country to make fun of a shirt. It's like shooting fish in a barrel--it's just too easy. All you have to do is go back to the '80s and '90s when everyone involved was trying so hard to be edgy and hip while attempting to make the average American care. It was a colossal miscalculation and a giant waste of time.

One of the ways that was supposed to lure the average American sports fan was to increase scoring. "But the field is so big, how can someone ever score quickly?" someone (probably) whined. America's solution? Cut the field size by three-quarters and put it inside. With walls. Boom, indoor soccer was born.

Major Indoor Soccer League (the first one) started up in 1978, just as the Cosmos reached their heights. It was moderately successful, just enough for a competing league to form in 1984--the National Professional Soccer League (initially known as American Indoor Soccer Association). In that secondary, USFL-like league, Buffalo Blizzard plied their trade.

Buffalo started up their team in 1992 and made a run of it until 2001, when the league shut down. Needless to say, that was the apex of the stupid soccer jersey era in the US. Thankfully, the Blizzard followed the rest of America in this trend. Just as thankfully, someone bought a replica, got tired of it and put it up for sale on eBay.

I have no background info on when exactly this shirt was from. If I had to hazard a guess, based on the Adidas design, I'd say about 1993-94, give or take.

Boy Howdy, is that a looker. Adidas sure did (and do) love their three stripes, didn't they. I would bet that, if one had to count how many stripes actually are on this shirt, the count would end up in the--wait for it--triple digits. Sublimated print for company logos makes my heart hurt.

What's that on the sleeve anyway? In early, edgy ESPN2 graphic font, it says "It's you turf".
Awesome. It's a progenitor of Under Armor's "We must protect this house" campaign, all started on this team's shirt. Boo yah, indeed.

What's that I said above? Oh yeah, this is an eBay special. Unsurprisingly, it's from in country, so no need to pay those inflated UK postage rates this time. As a plus, within the item description, there is a line that will appeal to two sets of online purchasers. The first half of the line states that the item is "gently worn". Hey, that's great for collectors. The second half reads "(by a girl)". Perv Heaven!

Anyway, right now, the shirt will set you back about $10 with postage. There are just under three days left, so you had better get your money together as soon as possible. You don't want to miss out on this one.

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

Liveblog tonight

Heads-up: Ian will be liveblogging the USMNT/Guatemala match tonight. Prepare your snacks, cocktails and F5 button accordingly.

Read more on "Liveblog tonight"...

Tottenham fire goalie coach, not goalie

It's time to dump on Tottenham again, mainly because of their wonderful, calamitous goalkeeper. While Spurs have recalled a keeper out on loan to cover for Heurelho, it's important to know it's not all his fault.

Spurs recognize that too; just this morning they fired their goalkeeping coach, Austrian glove guru Hans Leitert. (By the way, I love that he's a goalkeeping coach and his name is essentially "hands")

Poor lad. Gomes couldn't save Simon Davies' speculative cross/shot, and he couldn't save Hans' job.

After the jump, a Gomes tribute video. Where did that world class keeper disappear to anyway?

Read more on "Tottenham fire goalie coach, not goalie"...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Mmmmm, Bourbon

Maradona fires back. And yes, he went there [Soccernet]
Kun Aguero flies home to be with sick and preggers baby mama. Her father does not [Soccerway]
Soviet legend gets no love from Zenit St Petersburg fans [Russia Today]

Real Madrid's medical staff are amateurs according to someone who has no medical training [Soccernet]
SPL under pressure to erase U-21 rule [The Herald]

And, finally:
Jermaine Pennant loves him some Jack Daniels. Word is, he wants to take it behind the school and get it pregnant [Daily Mail]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Mmmmm, Bourbon"...

Drogban Update

Chelsea forward and coin throwing expert Didier Drogba has been handed a 3 match suspension by the FA for his coin tossing exploits last week, during the Carling cup defeat to Burnley. Droga's ban will start immediately and he will be absent for two games at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle United and Arsenal and at the Reebok when Chelsea take on Bolton. Drogba also shared a single finger salute with the Burnley fans but the FA confirmed that the yellow card he received at the time is sufficient punishment for that!


Read more on "Drogban Update"...

Not so friendly.

As we head into a midweek international friendly fest, one game is getting more attention than it should. The Scottish (and the BBC) are embracing their hero and king of the cheats, Diego Maradona, ahead of tomorrow night's game with Argentina at Hampden Park. But there is still plenty of animosity towards the new Argentina coach. A former England captain doesn't forgive and neither do I.

First off this post is a bit of a rant and I have had enough coffee this morning to send an elephant to the 100 meter title. Still with me? Then read on.

There is no such thing as a friendly, especially this week with England taking on the auld enemy at the Olympic stadium in Germany. But as Capello's young team get a chance to impress against their biggest rival, another of England's rivals is being celebrated north of the border in what could be hailed as the friendliest of friendlies ever to be arranged.

Diego Maradona, known to me and most of my countrymen in such affectionate terms as 'that cheating bastard' is in Scotland for his first match in charge of Argentina. It's a real lovefest up there, But while a fat junkie cheat enjoys his welcome, Scotland number two (and traitor) Terry Butcher is still pissed at Maradona for 'that' goal 22 years ago. Aren't we all Terry!

"I will never forgive him. It was not nice to lose under those circumstances. I was selected for the drugs test with Gary Stevens and Kenny Sansom and ended up in the room with Maradona and two of his pals. Our World Cup was over and they were celebrating. It's very hard to forgive and forget in the circumstances. But it was 22years ago. I think I'm 4-1 to get a red card in the tunnel - it would be the fist of Terry Butcher rather than the hand. I remember coming back in 1986 and moving from Ipswich to Glasgow and I think I saw more Argentina strips in Scotland than I did in Mexico." - Terry Butcher.

Butcher is not alone with his sentiments and quite frankly all the attention that the cheating Argentinean is getting on his inaugural trip as manager is getting on my tits. Let's all celebrate a cheat, a liar and man who claims that 'cheating' is a fair way to win a game. It's not surprising that the Scottish are treating Maradona like a God; there is nothing more pleasing to a Scottish man than to see the English lose.

Personally I am not against them having their fun as they will never be a concern to England or its fans. It's also likely they will never have the chance to be cheated out of a place in the semi-final of the World Cup. Celebrate your defrauding arse clown Scotland... enjoy!

Scotland's pleasure is not my concern; however, the attention it is receiving IS. Maradona's Scotland trip has featured heavily on the BBC website every day since he arrived. Take today for instance. Have a quick look of the BBC football home page and you will find a headline article, another on the time Alan Hansen played Maradona, SIX video features and a picture slide show! In fact it's looks like a Maradona tribute blog right now. I have never known such a slanted week of reporting. All for a drug addict and a cheat. Maybe we should celebrate Marion Jones, Floyd Landis, Jose Canseco, Jeffrey Skilling and NBA referees.

Oh Bigus, it was 1986, get over it!

It's not just the Hand of God that makes Maradona a cheat. He was banned for 15 months for taking drugs while at Napoli and again in 1994 when he was sent home from the World Cup after failing a drugs test. In fact if you Wikipedia 'cheating' Maradona is featured near the top of the page.

Yeah I'm bitter and I hate Maradona with a passion, but what kind of message do you send when you can be revered for taking cocaine and bringing the game into disrepute? Nice message to the next generation of footballers and the millions of kids reading and watching all this nonsense.

While the BBC spends its time glorifying a cheat there is a friendly of note taking place tomorrow in Berlin. England take on Germany in a far more important game, important for being a game between two of Europe's biggest teams with immense history, bragging rights on the line. Does anyone really care about the hiding Argentina will bestow upon the minnows of Scotland? Seriously... the game isn't even sold out.

Rant over, weight lifted, and now I will review your incoming abuse in the comments below.


Read more on "Not so friendly."...

"SAF" Stands For "Sit A Few (Out)"

It's hard to type when your gut-busting laugh ruptures your own spleen, so I'll just quote the folks at the Guardian's Fiver:

"Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been given a two-match touchline ban and a £10,000 fine by the Football Association following his row with referee Mike Dean after United's 4-3 Premier League win over Hull on November 1."

Okay, before I drag myself off to the ER, let me direct you toward the botton of the same page (link good for today only as it's a daily update). Under the "Rumor Mill" is this little bit of tid: "Arsène Wenger is hoping to sign Spain Under-17 captain Koko Resurreccion in time for next year's Euro Vase campaign."

Forgive my lack of knowledge with the Spanish youth team, but that name sounds totally made up, like worse than Chest Rockwell made up. But if that is an actual player, holy shit, that might be the greatest name in the history of everything.

Anyway, suck it Sir Alex. This is long overdue, your charges are on the beneficial side of the vast majority of dodgy refereeing decisions but you still whinge more than any other manager in the PL. Well, now you've got some time to take out T-C-P.

Read more on ""SAF" Stands For "Sit A Few (Out)""...

Football Manager 2009 Is Causing Fatal Errors and Raising Nerds' Blood Pressure

Want to hear a joke? Okay, here goes...

Q: How do you invoke the wrath of thousands of footy nerds?

A: By creating a faulty installation process to Football Manager 2009!

Okay, maybe that's a bit obtuse, but trust me it's quite amusing. You see, football nerds (yes, yours truly included) are quite a dedicated bunch, and the Football Manager franchise is responsible for hours and days and weeks and years of time spent staring at a computer screen. For instance, check out the Guardian's list of the game's great players. See? I told you there was great dedication.

As a matter of fact, the U.S version -- titled Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009, I guess so as to not confuse the dumb Americans -- is released today! (Feel free to send us free copies, SI Games.) The new version of the game features a new 3D match engine, the usual highly detailed play and, most importantly, a brand spanking new installation process meant to protect against piracy. And the unintended consequence of that new installation process? After the jump check out some of the calmer comments from

Here are just a few examples of the spleen being spilled on the Internets...

what a shambles!,
I just feel the need to echo some other posts. The installation is hell, it goes through a program called STEAM which in my experience is absolutely useless. Got the game this morning and still trying to get the damn thing to play! the servers are crashing or just generally useless. As a football manager addict I am bitterly disappointed and I will NEVER buy another SI game. they have apparently done this to prevent hackers and people getting earlier versions onto the web, but all they seem to have done is penalized loyal fans.
Apologies for the rant but I feel compelled to share my disgust. Maybe by the time they have prepared fm2010 and whatever ridiculous installation system they can think up, I might have got the game to work.

i want a refund,
Having read other reviews,I think Amazon should offer a refund and free return of FOOTBALL MANAGER 2009!I have wasted 3hours of my life trying to activate this eagerly awaited game,but have had no success.So,what now? Anyone have any ideas other than a refund en masse!!

When will they realise?!?!?!?!?!?,
In this day and age the vast majority of people have two options when deciding to install and play a PC based game; to buy a fully licensed retail version or to obtain an illegal cracked version.
I have noticed that 6 hours after the official release time there is already a fully working cracked version available for illegal download. Why on earth do developers decide to put such restrictive and cumbersome security measures on their games when they MUST know that someone WILL circumvent them? All they serve to do is punish and frustrate the people who are willing to buy a licensed copy. When will they realise that it is more important to provide a game that is easy to install and use for the people who buy it than it is to frustrate the piraters and crackers!
With this security system they have managed to frustrate the piraters for about 4 hours at the expense of ruining the initial gaming experience for thousands upon thousands of legitimate buyers. . . BRAVO!!

Just confirming what everyone has already said....,
I spent six hours trying to install and activate it, once installed it failed to run and crashed everytime, when I requested help I was told that it was because my machine was faulty/wasn't good enough and that I didn't know enough to get it working....
If someone who has a degree in IT and 8+ Yrs experience as a Sys Admin and programmer can't get it working on a machine that they built themselves...then I don't know who will...
Don't buy it, if you have and it doesn't work - demand a refund, this product is faulty!

Yup, pretty much goes on from there. But, really, despite all the aggravation, I'd still be happy to waste my life trying to sign Kaka to Arsenal, or get Exeter City into the Champion's League, or sign Per Skjelbred to Norwich, or... wait, shit, it crashed again!

Read more on "Football Manager 2009 Is Causing Fatal Errors and Raising Nerds' Blood Pressure"...

Bingo or Burglary?

Most old folk fill their days with bowls, bingo and 3 hour round trips to the corner shop for a newspaper. Re-runs of Des O'Connor and that nice man Michael Parkinson. They listen to Radio 4 and take long naps. Some like to knit and some like to play domino's. Some sit around all day waiting for relatives to call and some get themselves involved in the burglaries of famous footballers.

Over the past few seasons many Liverpool players have been robbed while they travel with the Reds to play in Europe. Victims include Pepe Reina, Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch, Jerzy Dudek, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger. Most recently Brazilian youngster Lucas Leiva fell victim as Liverpool played away at Athletico in Madrid. Last week police conducted a number of raids and arrested 5 people in connection with the Leiva burglary. One of them was an 81 year old woman! Amongst a massive haul of footballers memorabilia, police recovered Leiva's Olympic bronze medal from Beijing this summer.

Some people just ain't ready for wandering the mall. Wonder if they play bridge in jail?


Read more on "Bingo or Burglary?"...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Backpasses: It's my birthday, so go vote

Thanks to all who flooded the mailbox over at We have been nominated, so go vote for us. Just don't be an asskiss and pick the USWNT blog. [US Soccer Blog]

Just to show we cover US soccer--Neven Subotic, who played in the US youth set up, is reported to have chosen to play for Serbia as a Senior international. It has not been confirmed as of yet. [SBI]
Oh, and if you are in a voting mood, go vote for MLS goal of the year. I say it is Cepero, but as long as it is not Blanco, I'm happy [MLS Net]

Now I'm just going all out. US U-17 women defeated in World Cup final. Their goal had a certain Delap-ness about it [NZ Herald]
Capello and Rafa go head to head over Gerrard's fitness. Considering Robbie Keane bowed out as well for Ireland, does Capello have a point? [Soccernet]
Top Chinese channel says they will no longer show Super League matches because the product is tainted (perhaps with Melamine) [BBC]

And, finally:
Catania has an interesting new way to take free kicks [Comcast]
You can see video here. Unfortunately(?), the behind-the-goal footage only shows the one player too scared to take part. [101 Great Goals]

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: It's my birthday, so go vote"...

Who is the Fairest Derby of Them All?

The football derby (pronounced "darby" by those crazy Brits) is alternatively a source of great pride or great shame, depending on the tendencies of your club in said matches. However, regardless of which one of those particular emotions your team evokes, the derby is almost always a source of anger, confrontation, and shenanigans. After all, what is more fun than verbally abusing and physically beating the supporters of your rival club? With those thoughts in mind, an industrious South African sports reporter has delineated the Top 50 "World's Greatest Soccer Derbies" and the results are...interesting. There isn't enough time (or willpower) to dissect the entire list, but let's identify some of the more egregious decisions, shall we?

1. The first EPL derby mentioned is...Liverpool v. Manchester United? Umm, that's not an actual derby. The argument that "silverware is at stake" when these 2 clubs meet is also not entirely accurate, as Liverpool have not won the League in almost 2 decades and the last time they finished as high as 2nd was in 2001-2002 (sorry boys!)

2. The only other EPL derby listed is Arsenal-Tottenham (an actual derby! Yay!), which comes in at #42 on the list. This is behind such notable derbies as Rapid Wien v. Austria Wien, Raja Casablanca v. Wydad Casablanca, ALK Sotckholm v. Djurgardens, Kaizer Chiefs v. Orlando Pirates, Pirouzi v. Esteghlal, and Al Ahly v. Zamalek. Umm, who with the what, now?

3. The vaunted(?) Marseille v. Paris Saint-Germain derby comes in at #11. Again, not an actual derby, and the explanation makes almost no mention of PSG other than to note that they were formed in 1970 (which is not entirely accurate, since "Stade Saint-Germain" first played as a club in 1904).

4. Many of the derbies (real or otherwise) mentioned on the list are simply put there due to their average attendance. Apparently, Mohun Bagan v. East Bengal draws a crowd of 120,000 to Salt Lake Stadium in Calcutta, India, while Pirouzi v. Esteghlal play in Tehran, Iran in front of 90,000.

5. No mention of MLS' "Superclasico" of Chivas USA v. LA Galaxy? (alright, that one's forgiveable)

I found some of the derbies interesting, and it was nice to get a little background on clubs playing footy where 99% of us will never see a league match (in person or on TV), but the list overall seemed a little haphazard. Are we discussing interesting matchups or actual derbies in the accepted sense of the word? Are we trying to highlight one important match from every country (within reason), or are we haphazardly selecting whatever strikes our fancy?

Anyway, some suggestions for derbies (actual ones) that should have been highlighted:

1. Lyon v. Saint-Etienne - Separated by only 30 miles, this is a true derby and features the top 2 clubs, historically, in Ligue 1. Lyon has won 7 titles (all in a row), while Saint-Etienne has won 10 (mostly in the 1960s-1970s, and with a stint in Ligue 2 for brief periods in the 1980s and 1990s)

2. Liverpool v. Everton - The blue and red Scouse stare at each other across the park for the entire season, and twice a year (at least) they come together in nightmarish fashion. The only benefit of this match is that since both clubs are still in town, their players rarely have their homes robbed

3. Hearts v. Hibernian - The Edinburgh derby has all of the Old Firm derby panache with relatively little of the religious angst of Celtic v. Rangers.

4. Juventus v. Torino - This is class warfare, plain and simple. You could spend a month in certain parts of Torino and never know that a team besides Juventus played there. But stroll down the side-paths and less-travelled roads in the city and it is the smaller club that is preferred.

What do you all think of the original list? What about my suggestions? Any suggestions of your own?

Read more on "Who is the Fairest Derby of Them All?"...

The Last Laugh?

Comic relief at White Hart Lane has been easy to find this season as their stumbling stopper Huerelho Gomes has entertained with his ridiculous goal keeping. But has 'Arry 'ad enough?

It appears as if the Bungling Brazilian has made his final blunder. Spurs have recalled keeper Ben Alnwick from his loan spell at Carlisle and he could be in line for a start this weekend. The move to bring Alnwick back in the wake of Gomes latest blunder at Fulham on Saturday could spell the end of silly season between the sticks at Tottenham. With the transfer window set to re-open on January 1st, a new keeper could be the priority for Spurs as they look to stay free of the relegation zone.

Gomes has been an absolute liability for Tottenham this season and has kept just 2 clean sheets in 18 games for the north Laaaaandon club. Botching up between the up-rights is nothing new to Gomes who had a reputation as a flapper long before Spurs ponied up $18 million for him. See below...

Gomes flaps with PSV before his big money move to Spurs.

Then there is this one...

and then there is THIS from Saturday at Craven Cottage.

Maybe 'Arry will look to his old pal, Portsmouth keeper David James. James has recently pledged his loyalty to Pompey but 'loyalty' is an out-dated concept with professional footballers and James' arrival at Spurs would not be a shocker. James himself has held a past reputation as a 'flapper'. His own back-catalogue of blunders led to the nickname 'Calamity James' and the moniker of 'The Vampire', for being scared of crosses. James has appeared to be solid in recent times however, maturing into a safe pair of hands for Portsmouth and England.


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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Lorient get the result of the week in an absolutely stunning 3-2 victory over Marseille. The rest of the weekend's matches once again saw an abundance of goals, many of them coming from the usual suspects (no, not Keyser Soze). Join me after the jump for the intriguing details.

Saturday, November 15th:

Auxerre 1-0 Sochaux - FC Sochaux-Montbeliard continue to take their lumps in Ligue 1, losing to Auxerre in a lackluster match. Auxerre had Mignot send a free-kick over the bar in the 4th minute, but for the next few minutes it was Sochaux who provided the pressure in the form of Maurice-Belay. In the 31st minute, Niculae began a counter-attack that ended with Lejeune slotting the ball home for the only goal. The only other notable action came in the 47th minute when Lejeune picked upa yellow card to lock up the "Goal-scorer to get carded award" for the week.

Havre 1-3 Paris Saint-Germain - Former Le Havre youngster Hoarau has been having an excellent season as of late, and he made his former club pay today. He started off the match strong with a shot just wide in the 4th minute, and followed that up with a strike that just hit the post in the 11th minute. Just 7 minutes later, Hoarau hit the post again with a header, but this time the ball glanced into the net for the first goal of the match. In the 34th minute Clement sent in a cross that was finished by Giuly to put PSG up 2-0. Le Havre pulled one goal back in the 48th minute when Alassane headed home a corner from Lesage. Hoarau became the Ligue 1 leading scorer in the 90th minute when he converted a PK after Havre GK Revault pulled down Luyindula in the box.

Le Mans 1-0 Valenciennes - Valenciennes has now gone 11 matches in a row without a win, and their play here was a clear illustration of why that is the case. The lone goal of the match came off a corner kick by Coutadeur which bounced directly into the goal without having been touched by anyone else. Le Tallec should have at least doubled the goals, but he put shots over the bar and into the post. Valenciennes GK Grondin was called upon to make several saves on Gervinho and Maiga (including a nasty shot from 20 yards), and he did well to avoid the club a more embarassing result.

Nancy 1-1 Caen - Raineau almost opened the scoring for Caen in the 3rd minute, but his shot was well-saved. Savidan continued to provide pressure for Caen, and he was rewarded in the 51st minute when he slotted home a through-ball from Toudic. Unfortunately for Caen, they also scored the second goal in the match in the 72nd minute when the ball was knocked into his own net by Boucansaud after a quick corner.

Toulouse 2-0 Grenoble - Despite only having 43% of the possession, Toulouse was dominant in this match, mostly thanks to Gignac. In the 2nd minute, Mathieu took a shot on goal that Grenoble GK Wimbee pushed wide, directly to the feet of Gignac. Grenoble was almost able to respond in the 8th minute, but Djadjede had his shot stopped by Carrasso. In the 19th minute, Gignac completed his brace when he received a through-ball from Congre and lobbed the oncoming Wimbee. Toulouse could have added a third goal when Didot beat Wimbee, but the ball was cleared off the line by Jemmali.

Lille 3-0 Saint-Etienne - Alain Perrin took over the beleaguered 10-time champions on Tuesday and quickly discovered that he faces an enormous uphill battle this season. His GK Janot was called into action early, making saves in the 3rd minute on Bastos and in the 9th on an excellent Cabaye free-kick. In the 15th minute Machado almost opened the scoring for Saint-Etienne, but his shot clattered off the bar. 10 minutes later, Hazard dribbled half of the Saint-Etienne defense (literally) and slotted home an easy shot. In the 34th minute Bastos chipped a ball into the box that was headed home by Obraniak (who was played very well in the last 4 matches). The final goal came in the 70th minute when Bastos, involved in his second goal, played a through-ball to Vittek, who had beaten the offside trap to come in alone on the goal.

Marseille 2-3 Lorient - In what can accurately be described as the best match of the season so far in Ligue 1, Lorient pulled off a stunning upset of a club 10 places and 10 points ahead of them in the table. L'OM had 59% of the possession and lead the match 2-0 in the 75th minute, which is when their world collapsed. In the 5th minute Niang hit the post to start things off for Marseille, and the scoring was opened in the 10th minute when Cheyrou sent a cross whistling through the defense for Ziani to finish into the top corner. Lorient got their first chance in the 25th minute, but Abriel blasted an easy chance over the bar. Marseille got their 2nd goal in the 60th minute when Genton was adjudged (wrongly) to have brought down Niang in the box (he was clearly outside), and Niang finished the PK himself. In the 69th minute karma caught up to L'OM and Niang when he had a goal (wrongly) disallowed for being offsides (he was clearly onsides). Perhaps demoralized, Marseille then endured a nightmare scenario. In the 76th minute, Amalfitano opened the scoring for Lorient with an incredible volley, and in the 84th minute Abriel drilled a shot into the goal from 25 yards. The 3 points were snatched by Lorient in the 88th minute when Gameiro was released on a quick counter-attack and made the most of his chance. Interestingly, for all of the pace of the match and contentiousness once the comeback began, there were a total of zero cards handed out to both clubs.

Sunday, November 16th:

Nice 2-1 Nantes - Nice dominated Nantes, getting off 18 shots and holding 63% of the possession, but it was Nantes who scored first when N'Daw sent a low free-kick into the net in the 8th minute. Nice equalized in the 20th minute when Bamogo headed home a Hellebuyck free-kick. Hellebuyck provided more pressure in the 50th minute when he sent another free-kick just wide. In the 80th minute Mouloungui received an early pass from Saada and sent the shot home. Nantes almost equalized near the end of the match when Bagayoko lobbed Nice GK Letizi, but the ball rolled agonizingly along the goal-line for several seconds before being cleared by the defense.

Rennes 2-1 Monaco - Monaco was completely outplayed in this match, with their only shot on goal coming on a PK. Rennes looked sharp early, with good play from Leroy to Briand to Sow in the 10th minute forcing a save from Monaco GK Roma. The ball rebounded to Kembo, but he was unable to capitalize. In the 32nd minute Fanni forced another save from Roma, which he tipped onto post. Rennes finally broke through in the 43rd minute when Briand sent an excellent pass to Sow, whose initial shot was saved. Sow gathered the rebound and lobbed Roma. The second goal came early in the second half when Rennes GK Douchez sent forward a long ball that was gathered by Briand for a clinical finish. Monaco pulled one goal back in the 72nd when Mangane fouled Park in the box and Cufre slotted home the PK. Freddy Adu watch: substituted into the match in the 69th minute, and looked comfortable in the final 20 minutes.

Lyon 2-1 Bordeaux - In a match where Bordeaux looked like they were bossing Lyon all over the pitch, it was the latter club who ended things with two goals in a 5-minute span. Bordeaux took 23 shots and had 65% of the possession, while Lyon were forced to commit 32 fouls due to the pace of their opponents. Early on it looked like Lyon would regret starting the 19 year-old Gassama over defensive stalwart Fabio Grosso. In the 11th minute, Lyon GK Lloris was called upon to make an excellent save on Wendel, and Boumsong managed to clear a shot from Chamakh off the line. Bordeaux GK Valverde made his first save in the 19th minute when Govou struck the ball well, and Lloris was active again minutes later when Gourcuff blasted a shot at the Lyon goal in the 23rd minute. In the 33rd minute, a brilliant 1-2 between Fred (who sent the pass through blindly) and Benzema resulted in the Ligue 1-leading 8th goal (he is tied with Gignac and Hoarau) for the latter. Just 5 minutes later, Kallstrom (given the starting nod over Makoun) had an absolute rocket deflected into the goal. Cavenaghi (who notched his 7th goal of the season) pulled one back for Bordeaux in the 81st minute, but it was not enough.

So, after Matchday 14, the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, with 33 points on a 10-3-1 record and a +12 goal differential; (2) Marseille, with 26 points on a 7-5-2 record and a +11 goal differential; (3) Rennes, with 25 points on a 6-7-1 record and a +9 goal differential; and (4) Nice, with 25 points on a 7-4-3 record and a +5 goal differential.

Some new clubs burst into the Top 4, but Lyon look to be running away with Ligue 1 yet again with 7 point lead at the 1/3 point of the season.

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