Saturday, December 13, 2008

Whoa, Whoa... You Mean They Play Football in Someplace Besides England?

Pretty much the only thing supporters of the Big 4 in England will agree on right now is that nobody wants a piece of Barcelona in the Champions League. And for Thirdsenal and Spartak London, it's a very real Round of 16 possibility.

FC Barcelona is a fucking machine right now. Okay, not a literal fucking machine (which I've recently learned do in fact exist (and NOT EVEN CLOSE TO SAFE FOR WORK))... Where was I? Oh, El Clasico. Today is Crayola's dream match up of the Blaugrana and the Meringues.

Barcelona comes in as easily the best team in Europe (okay, we might entertain an argument for Inter, but not really), and Lionel Messi looks the best player on the planet. He's ever bit a good on the ball as Ronaldo but has the bonus feature of being able to stay upright.

Real Madrid stumbles into today's match an absolute mess. They are 2-3-1 in their last six La Liga matches, including a lifeforce-draining loss last week to Sevilla where they rallied from 3-0 down to tie, only to see Arjen Robben get sent off before conceding the loser in the dying moments.

But after firing Bernd Schuster earlier in the week, Real Den Haag—and feel free to pilfer that one—brought in Juande Ramos, the man who guided Tottenham to the Carling Cup last season before piloting them straight into the relegation zone to start this season. He got shit-canned out of White (S)Hart Lane but Ramos was able to get a convincing 3-0 Champions League win over Zenit St. Petersburg, in a match that proved to be utterly meaningless. Now he'll face an actual opponent.

If you are an impartial viewer this is a 'no lose' watch. If Barca totally outclasses Madrid, they probably won't let up and will put a dismantling for the ages on them. Barca are probably looking for a bit of revenge from last season, and they know that with a win tomorrow today (Oops, I shouldn't future post) they can effectively kill any chance of Madrid winning La Liga. If Madrid wins, it'll will be an absolute shocker (the match is at the Camp Nou). Anything close and this has the capacity to be a harbinger of the apocalypse. Isn't hyperbole awesome?

If I can subtract from 12, kickoff seems to be at 4 on the East Coast. Find a bar with GolTV and start drinking. Heavily. Might I recommend Voll-Damm (as in Fall Down) if they serve it anyplace here in the US?

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EPL Open Thread: Droppin' Points like it's hot

Sorry Mr. Dogg, no more Courvoisier... only Carlsberg

Ahh, Saturday is here again, and the appetizer to the pan-seared delight that is Barca v. Real Madrid will be an almost-full slate of EPL action. 3 of the Big 4 are doing the business today, which surely means they'll all drop points. 'Boro, Hull and Spurs are not teams to be taken lightly (as the first 80 minutes of the Arsenal game have proven... Aladiere's header was rather nice), and as such, expect some hiccups along the way.

So, let's get stuck in. Some lineups after the jump, as well as the fixture list. Bigus will undoubtedly leave a comment about the Norwich game, as I can't be bothered to look up who they're playing.

Will Redknapp's men be inspired to victory? How late will Liverpool leave it to snatch a win? Will Paul Ince be fired by 5pm?

Onward and upward! Come draw with us after the jump. I'm off to the bar!

(10am kick-offs)
Aston Villa v Bolton
Liverpool v Hull
Man City v Everton
Stoke v Fulham
Sunderland v West Brom
Wigan v Blackburn

(12.30pm kick-off)
Tottenham v Man Utd
Some starting lineups

Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Laursen, Davies, Luke Young, Sidwell, Petrov, Barry, Milner, Agbonlahor, Ashley Young.
Subs: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Knight, Reo-Coker, Shorey, Gardner.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel, Davies, McCann, Nolan, Muamba, Taylor, Elmander.
Subs: Al Habsi, Smolarek, Gardner, Riga, Shittu, Basham, Obadeyi.

Early analysis: yep, 3-1 sounds about right. Barry/Milner/Agbo/Ashley will be too much for the Scandinavian beast between Bolton's posts.

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa, Valencia, Cattermole, Brown, Taylor, Zaki, Heskey.
Subs: Pollitt, Kingson, Kilbane, Koumas, De Ridder, Cywka, Camara.

Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Kerimoglu, Andrews, Pedersen, Roque Santa Cruz, Derbyshire.
Subs: Brown, Dunn, McCarthy, Villanueva, Simpson, Treacy, Roberts.

Early analysis: FIRED! Roque won't score, and seeing Zaki and Heskey starting together again is all you need to know. One wonders if Titus Bramble will have a say during the game's dying moments.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Dossena, Mascherano, Alonso, Benayoun, Gerrard, Riera, Kuyt.
Subs: Cavalieri, Agger, Keane, Babel, Leiva Lucas, Ngog, El Zhar.

Hull: Myhill, McShane, Zayatte, Turner, Ricketts, Mendy, Ashbee, Boateng, Geovanni, Barmby, King.
Subs: Warner, Windass, Garcia, Halmosi, Marney, Cousin, Giannakopoulos.

Early analysis: Please lord, not a draw. I love how we have 4 winger/strikers on the bench. Wonderful planning. 5 across the midfield, then, although seeing Xabi and Javier playing alongside one another is cause for hope.

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Ball, Ireland, Kompany, Elano, Wright-Phillips, Mwaruwari, Robinho.
Subs: Schmeichel, Onuoha, Vassell, Jo, Fernandes, Hamann, Ben-Haim.

Everton: Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Castillo, Arteta, Cahill.
Subs: Nash, Hibbert, Baines, Van der Meyde, Rodwell, Jutkiewicz, Gosling.

Early analysis: notice something weird about Everton's lineup? That's right... barely a striker. Also, I thought Van der Meyde was dead. Home win is looking assured.

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Abdoulaye Faye, Sonko, Higginbotham, Delap, Amdy Faye, Whelan, Pugh, Sidibe, Fuller.
Subs: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Cort, Cresswell, Pericard, Davies, Tonge.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard, Murphy, Gera, Dempsey, Johnson.
Subs: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gray, Etuhu, Stoor, Andreasen, Kallio.

Early analysis: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzwakemewhenit'soverzzzzzzzz

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Backpasses: We're never getting on their blogroll

Vinnie Jones charged in South Dakota [The Sun]
Gonna watch that Al Ahly-Pachuca match? There's a spying incident [BBC]
Avram Grant picked up the pieces that Jose couldn't fix [Guardian]

Generation Adidas get their best result in England. It's a 3-2 loss [MLS Net]
East Fife player suspended 8 games for being racist [BBC]
A better pan-Scotland preview than I could ever do [Inside Left]
Another look at Barcelona in Miami [SI]

And, finally:
How do people get vetted for SoccerLens? Oh, here's how. You have to register first [SoccerLens]

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More Stuff to Watch Tonight If You Are an Insomniac: The FIFA Club World Cup

The Club World Cup is a weird competition. You’ve got top clubs fighting it out for the title, which should in theory lead to some fairly interesting matchups that are the football equivalent of a Marvel-DC Comics crossover. At the same time, the competition takes place in Japan, meaning players are jet-lagged and the games air at weird times for the rest of the world. Plus, the competition occurs in December, when clubs are either in the middle of domestic competitions, like Man U, or in the offseason, like Pachuca and LDU Quito. Oh, and the competition has only been around since 2000, meaning that there isn’t much built-up history. So, the Club World Cup has a certain bit of.... “eh.”

That said, we here at UF watched the Adelaide United versus Waitakere United in the play-in game this week, and we were actually quite entertained. It was a decent, scrappy little match between two sides we frankly know very little about. And that has whet our appetites for tonight’s Al-Ahly versus Pachuca match, which we believe should air at 11:30 pm EST on Fox Soccer Channel (full listings for FSC found here). Tomorrow it’s Adelaide United versus Gamba Osaka, with the winner of each match going on to play Man U and LDU Quito later in the week. Perhaps not the same appeal as last year’s Meeelan versus Boca Juniors final, but still some good stuff for those of us who appreciate the exoticism of an unusual competition and aren't afraid of mixing cultures.

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The College Cup Overfloweth

While most of us 'round these here parts consider ourselves to be rather learned, the irony is that collegiate soccer tends to get ignored for the most part (honestly, for decent reason). But, that all changes right now (but reverts back very quickly) as the NCAA's Men's College Cup semifinals kick off tonight.

Deep in the heart of Texas (Dallas... or technically, Frisco), North Carolina (the men, shockingly) will be locking horns with Wake Forest whilst my beloved Maryland Terrapins look to dispatch St. Johns directly afterwards.

That's right, kids; It's practically an all-ACC affair.

Want to watch? Well, you're in luck. Partially.

UNC-Wake kicks off live at 5:30pm on ESPN2. Maryland-St. John's is slated for 8pm on ESPNU. But, you're probably like 99% of the country and either don't get or know where to find ESPNU. Lucky you, you can pick yourself off the floor and watch the tape delay Saturday morning at 11am on ESPN2 (Welcome to the WWL's post-college football void).

Also, if you're lucky enough to have an internet service provider that has ESPN360 (which is actually quite useful), you can probably watch it there (also a fine place to watch Champions League replays on demand).

The Final is on Sunday. But, don't expect a post about that unless Maryland wins it all.

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UF Quick Throw: Least. Surprising. MLS. Move. Ever.

DDR to Toronto.


Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Least. Surprising. MLS. Move. Ever."...

Stop it. Just stop it.

You know, every day, we go through a lot for you.

We plow through endless links and pore over websites, just so you can have the best coverage you deserve. Many of those links are crap, and we don't wish to publicize them any further. Sometimes, though, something breaks through and we feel the need to refute it point by stupid point. Today is one of those days, people. Get excited!

Not to name names, but clicking on the author link of this article, you can see that this is his first, and only effort to date for Soccerlens. I'm not saying that the article stems from n00bishness, I'm just saying that I don't have anything else to compare it to for this writer. Perhaps this is a one-off of misguided opinions. It would be more fun if he were the Skip Bayless of the site, a trove of idiotic rantings, but oh well.

Let's get to it. Since they aren't doing it anymore, we are going to go Fire Joe Morgan all over this thing, 'graph by bloody stupid 'graph.

(Their words in italics and blockquote, mine in fury)

ARTICLE TITLE: The Non-Style of US Soccer

It is understandable that each country has its own style of play, from the hackneyed description of the Brazilians’ samba, to the Italians’ (dolt-headed) defense-minded catenaccio, it’s an interesting combination of anthropology, geography, and political evolution that created these approaches to The Game.
Wow, two whole examples. Since every country has a style of play, why doesn't the author highlight the general dirty play of Guatemala, or the South Pacific laid-back play of Tonga? Instead he picks up on two of the most well-known (and oft-written about) examples.

Let's see if I can explain it to him. Brazil's soccer is linked to Samba because Samba is a national obsession as both a music style and dance. Brazilian football was seen to have some symmetry with these when the country ascended to soccer superiority. They played a beautiful, free-wheeling game which reminded some of the beautiful, free-wheeling dancing that went with the style of music known as Samba. However, since Dunga has been in charge of the national team, this has been replaced with a more disciplined style, with defense no longer an afterthought.

As for the Italians and their catenaccio (meaning padlock), yes, this is an apt comparison. The last two of the titles that allow them to put those nice stars on their shirt can attest to the fact that it works for them. So I don't really think that dolt-headed is an apt secondary description of the Italians style of play. Hell, Greece pulled it off in 2004. It seems to work out that if you do not give up goals, you have a greater shot of winning the match.

And yes, it is interesting how different countries approach the game, but what does an LA rapper have to do with it?

Misplaced capitalization aside, a solid second half of the paragraph after a shaky start.
For many countries, their style of play is as much a symbol of their national identity as other staples of their culture; cuisine, language, art, etc...
Once again, please help me out here. The Dutch had Total Football, but what about the French? Besides winning the '98 World Cup, what about their style of play is so different and noticeable as to be held deep in the breast of every Frenchman? Sure, they have their language, their cuisine and their art, but what is the defining aspect of French play?
Because soccer is the uniting end-all for hundreds of countries on our Big Blue-Green Ball, it might be worthwhile to examine a country’s playing style in terms of their historical circumstances.
Please call Earth a planet. Save your purple prose for something useful. Yes, it might be worthwhile to do what you described. Let's see if you can pull it off.
The problem is that my analysis could lead to a diverging ramble on my own false impressions of national stereotypes, such as: [Nationality] are greasy – their style of play is greasy – therefore, [Nation’s] soccer is cheap and greasy. That was an easy low blow coming from a squirly jerk like myself, but I’m willing to say that Americans are the most hypocritical and destructive force on earth, and the only thing that might keep us from not completely destroying the world - other than Obama - is our weak impact on international soccer.
Come on, we all know you are talking about Italians there. Just say it already.

Then there is the hyperbole. "(T)he only thing that might keep us from... completely destroying the world... is our weak impact on international soccer." I hope he knows that he just wrote that the US's weak standing in worldwide soccer will destroy the world, but since I edited the quote to get rid of that, I will digress. I'm not even touching the classic libtard self-loathing about the US being horrible for everyone else.

Let's just say that there is good and bad in the US being the premier world political power. I hope he gets to the part where he can fully form his idea on how the US winning World Cup 2018 will destroy the earth. That should be fun.
The American soccer system is broken; a dead topic indeed but nonetheless even more glaring when even our most successful MLS executives leave to munch on the greener pitches in Europe (see: Ivan Gazidis). When it’s not just the players but the people in the suits leaving, then how can we keep the bodies and the minds around long enough to create a system that lasts? We United Statesians can’t criticize these moves to money and prestige and better training; das Kapital, no? South America deals with a talent exodus too, but we all know why Argentina and Brazil are consistently incredible: these countries have the infrastructure and enjoy a widespread popularity of the Game. These two factors are crucial to understanding why America, with its hegemonic dominance, has never gained a foothold in something so otherwise universally enjoyed.
I wouldn't say the American soccer system is broken, I would say it is currently run by people who have little interest in making it work in the ways that other nations have. We at UF seem to be united in the fact that the system is wrong and poorly run, but it is not broken, it is just young and needs time to develop. Once a generation of American executives and coaches, as well as players, who grew up knowing soccer from birth get a chance to take over, things will get better.

One of not-that-many US soccer execs who jump ship to Europe. He's Arsene's problem now

As for Gazidis, and the players who move overseas, it is a chance work within systems that have decades of experience doing what they do.

Also, "United Statesians?" Gah.

Argentina, and especially Brazil, do export an amazing number of players. And yes, they have pretty darn good National Teams. But how does the fact that these kids play one game from birth explain why the US does not do the same? The author states it does, then uses his nice Sociology word, but it doesn't connect. The reason why the US is not dominant within the sport at this time is not because we lack soccer infrastructure (I'm quite sure the Brazilian favelas have super-nice pitches that everyone can play on), but because we had other sports to play while Brazil, Argentina and many others were focused on soccer.

It's like India being world-beaters at cricket. When you have a national sport as an obsession, countries won't be dominant at the other sports that are niche ones to them.
The Germans are solid, with limbic motions kept to a minimum. The Argentineans have been training since fetus-status to exert calories only in increments of 10. The U.S. men’s national team’s defining characteristic is their inefficiency and imbalance. Like Car Industry, Like Son; and the saying doesn’t go far enough. Our style is that we have no style. “We are” specifically because “we aren’t.” There has never been a defining feature of the American playing style, and I am willing to support the idea because we’ve been on the scene for a couple of decades now, the American soccer system has aged enough to have settled into this “non-style” of ours. Like a mid-life crisis, we realize that we have life, but something is still missing.
The Germans are Molly Shannon on Seinfeld? P.S. The Limbic System is a set of structures in the brain. I guess that the Germans are all brain-dead on the pitch. I don't even understand what he is saying about the Argentines. Anyone?

This paragraph is so mind-bendingly idiotic that I want to skip it. I understand that the car industry is inefficient, but how the hell is it imbalanced? Has the problem been all along that Ford had too many people working on brakes and not enough people on the engines? And why the hell does this saying you just made up not go far enough? You made it up--run with it.

The author is correct in saying that the US does not have a identifiable style of play. As I put above, neither does France. The Dutch no longer play Total Football, and the Brazilians use less attack and more defending than they used to. I posit that the Americans do have a style: beat up on everyone smaller than you, then watch the manager try to fight through a brain aneurysm as soon as the team is on European soil. Pretty much sums up everything I've see post-'94. Now, that's a problem with the Limbic System.

Mid-life crisis. . . . What? GAH!
The homogeny of other national teams is nowhere to be seen in the U.S. squad. Whereas Spain’s national team consists of Spaniards (or Italy of Italians, Portugal of Portugese, and on and on), the U.S. national team consists of white-bread boys from California alongside the sons of immigrants from Kenya. Again, we have the case of a non-factor (in this case, a lack of homogeny) with which we can clearly define an opposing factor (heterogeneity). The result is that we can use these terms to better understand the characterization of the U.S. national team within a broader classification of geo-political soccer relations (does that even make sense? I hope so).
Here we have it. The most odious bit of the article. I am more convinced than ever that the author just finished his SOC302 final when writing this piece. Yes, America is a hegemony and, for most of us, proudly so. You know what? So is Spain. Besides the Madrid-centric Spaniards, there are also Catalans and Basques within Spanish borders. Have a look here. Italy has a divide as well between North and South. It's not as pronounced as it was in 1990, when southern Italian Toto Schillacci led the World Cup in scoring for the Azzuri, but it's there. As for the Portuguese, their greatest player, historically, is Eusebio. He was born in Mozambique and came to play for Portugal because of colonial ties.

Other successful soccer nations have also incorporated foreign-born players into their national sides. You cannot think of the Dutch side of the '80s and '90s without thinking of the players that came to them from Suriname. Ruud Gullit, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and Aron Winter to name a few. What about France? The holder of the World Cup's single tournament scoring record is Just Fontaine, who was born in Morocco. Zidane was born in France to Algerian immigrants, an outcast group within the country. Put simply, if he were not a great player, he would be an outcast as well.

Just Fontaine: the world's most famous French soccer player. Except he wasn't French.

Then we take a weird turn, because somehow it is not right to have Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu (I'm guessing this is who he means. Gooch is the son of Nigerian immigrants. Adu is the son of a Ghanaian immigrant. No one else seems to fit). The fact that these two have played together since their time at the old Bradenton Academy as Under 17s doesn't give them enough shared background to play together on the full National Team? What the hell?

Apparently, the author thinks it would be better if all the USNT players came from the same background. Tell me, would France have been better without Zidane? Would Croatia be better without Eduardo? Heck, the USA 1994 team that punched above its weight had seven foreign-born players on the 22 man roster. That team gelled. Why do you assume that Gooch and Landycakes cannot?

Does it make sense? No.
To make sense of these wily words, I’ll define what I mean by "geo-political soccer relations." Mainly, soccer’s relationship with politics can be seen as a catalyst for peace as well as corruption. The symbolism of two countries setting aside their political differences to enjoy a gay ‘ole match was seen most recently in the meeting of Turkey and Armenia for a World Cup qualifier earlier this year. The game itself was secondary to the handshake between Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarsgyan, an event that sparked headlines around the world and resulted in the end of 20 years of diplomatic silence between the two countries. In Germany, the World Cup in 2006 acted as The Great Sluice, and for the first time in who-knows-how-many years there were German flags in the streets, a scene previously owned by Hollywood War films.
If soccer is so great at bringing leaders together, then how come the Euro 2008 qualifying matches between Greece and Turkey were such hot affairs? The two countries are constantly sparring over division in Cyprus. The two matches, and the heated exchanges between the teams, did nothing to further relations between the countries.

And why isn't the US best friends with Iran now? We let them win 2-1 in World Cup '98. Shouldn't all animosity between the countries have wilted after that? The fact is that politics, especially when spurned by distrust and misinformation about others intentions, cannot be smoothed over by a game. If it could, we should just send the US team to play an Al Qaeda XI. Everything would be better then.

This article really does bring up a great point, though. It's really too bad that Germans could not display their flag for 60 odd years. Also, it's great that there were no political overtones at all about playing in Germany. Thousands of Dutch wearing orange WWII-style helmets in Germany was just a coincidence.
Conversely, for every one good happening there seem to be dozens that reveal the a priori human vice: the “Calciopoli” in Italy, 2006; Pele and the UNICEF scandal; the pseudo slave-trade of players throughout the world; and so on and so forth. The Brobdingnagian amounts of money involved, as well as the so-large-they’re-comical egos, has created an ersatz world where billionaires compete to outbid their rivals while a community of shady businessmen bet, steal, intimidate, fight and vie for their own gangland glories of erections and pink nips.
Wait. Soccer is not good because dozens more bad things happen than good? Call off that Al Qaeda match. I was wrong. I also like the thought of people using giant-sized checks to pay their players. It's like Happy Gilmore in my head. Blah blah blah. Erections and pink nips? Alright, we've made a kind of pledge to ourselves to clean up language around here, but I can't do it. Goddammit son, say what you mean! Don't go and gussy it up with big words you have a tenuous grasp of. Just fucking say it's a dick-swinging contest where everybody is comparing their latest conquests. Jesus.
It’s an interesting contrast, the black and white pentagons of the ball reflecting the greater good and evil that is as much the game as it is our shame. That’s why it wouldn’t be a good thing if the U.S. were to balloon into a soccer superpower. The money and publicity and pure kitsch filth would remove the water from the fishbowl, a dry-sticky guppy left behind. “But Will, didn’t you want the U.S. to get better,” you say. “Yes,” I’d reply, “I do still want our team to get better, but we can’t do to soccer what we did to Movies and Books and Iraq and the Native Americans (etc).” Not that soccer would be destroyed, and it can’t be much more Nike-ized than it already is; but it would be like having too many obese cooks in the kitchen.
Soccer has not used a black and white hexagonal/pentagonal ball in decades, for longer than the US program has been in its current, semi-viable state. And please, if you are looking for two colors that violently contrast to the eye, anyone with a single Art History course can tell you that the colors to use are red and green. Given the fact that the author pretty much said that blacks and whites don't belong in the US shirt together, because they do not have an understanding of each other, it's a choice he should not have made here.

Let it be known that US Soccer is into eugenics.

Also, what the fuck (sorry, I can no longer hold back) did we do to movies and books? If anything, America changed them from expensive, solipsistic things meant for the wealthy to that which is available for all. Oh, and then there's a fat American joke. It's not the last...
The U.S. national team has the qualities of a worthy team, one that can make it to the quarter- or semi-finals of the next World Cup. Our non-style just needs to become a style, instead of merely assuming the role of one. The team itself is just too scrappy; needs more red meat; a super meal for constant losers named Constance and Luser who have never known a home field advantage. If it could be translated, the U.S. team’s story would make one awfully sappy hallmark card, with glossy sparkle-letters that could make a Topekan fat lady cry, but she’d still never watch a game.

Hey, we're back to the style instead of why America is bad for the world. Non-style becoming a style? I already described the style, the US will be fine in 2010. "Constant losers named Constance and Luser" is a Rivers Cuomo line from when he was 14.

Hey, women in Kansas are fat.

And we are done. No real info on obtaining an identifiable style, and no real insight into the team either. I'll say this: the calling card for the US squad is that it is evolving. The team takes what it learns from all of the new players and the styles that they bring and it incorporates them. I, for one, am hopeful that the last two decades or so of Central American migration will result in a squad that incorporates some of those native-born players and the style they grew up with into the team. If there is one thing that this team needs as much as anything, it's an attitude and bite.

Now, let's discuss for a second what was not discussed--women's soccer. The US was dominant from the outset as women's soccer went international, winning both the first World Cup and the first Olympic gold. That wasn't the end of competitive international women's soccer. If anything, having the US on top made other countries double time their efforts to get better. I think that a strong US men's program would do the same. We would see some more evolution from the Brazils and Italys if the world as they would have to scrap their "traditional" style of play and move toward whatever works.

Yes, that could even be moving towards a non-style for every country.

Read more on "Stop it. Just stop it."...

UF Quick Throw: Michael Owen to take his non-scoring elsewhere

All the reasons for the constant contract talks being delayed are now made clear, as Owen won't be at SJP much longer according to the boss. The only question is: how soon will he limp off? Who would want him? How much would you pay for a man hobbled by various injuries who scores every 3 weeks?

[BBC Sport]

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Guhreat Buhritin? Get tae Fook.

A Great British team for the Olympics in 2012? Novel idea. But the paranoid Scots, including former national team boss Craig Brown, think this idea is some crafty ploy by FIFA to cut down on the number of European teams as part of some grand scheme to destroy Scottish football.

I think Mr Brown and his compatriots are just worried that none of his countrymen will make the team. He is right there, but he shouldn't worry about his national side being dissolved. If he thinks for one second that English fans will allow a Great Britain team to become a long-term fixture, killing 136 years of national pride, he is more delusional than George W. Bush.

"I don't trust FIFA." That's the message coming from Craig Brown and the Scottish FA, backed by Scottish National Party member Christine Grahame and first minister Alex Salmond. Apparently Sepp Blatter is out to destroy the Scottish national team because of the influx of countries now competing since the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Blatter also wants to slaughter their first-born, rape their women and steal the recipe for haggis.

I have not heard such a load of nonsense since Colin Powell stood up in Washington with some 15 year-old pictures of a building site in Iraq and claimed it housed weapons of mass destruction.

Let's debunk the fears of the Scots and put a few things straight, shall we?

FIFA are trying to create a GB team and destroy the Scottish national team!

What a load of tosh. And even if such an outlandish claim were to be true, do the Scots really believe that the English FA and the proud fans of England would allow such a thing? Seriously. You drive through any town or City in England during a major competition and you are confronted with one flag bearing the cross of St. George after another. Row upon row of acknowledgment for 136 years of history in the World of football including a World Cup win. Not a single Union Jack will be seen.

English people are extremely proud of the national team and what it represents, whether or not the team underachieves with it's guarantee to lose on penalties every two years. Are Scottish people the only people proud of their country? You wouldn't find the Welsh interested in a merger either.

The truth of the matter is that historically the Olympics has always had 'Great British' athletes and not Scottish, Welsh, English or Northern Irish ones. It's the way it is. If Scotland does not want to participate in a Great British soccer team for the Olympics in 2012 then neither should Scotland's runners, swimmers, weight-lifters or any other athlete from the many sports that make up the Olympiad.

But no... the Great Britain team for Beijing featured 31 Scottish athletes and who was at the forefront of celebrating their efforts for Great Britain? One Mr Alex Salmond, the first minister for Scotland. The same man opposing a Great British football team for 2012. What a hypocrite.

"The dedication, drive and determination each of our Olympians has shown is inspirational. Their efforts will not only provide encouragement to other athletes but also inspire many ordinary men and women to take up a sport and make healthier, positive changes to their lifestyle." -Alex Salmond.

Just not football, eh Mr Salmond?

Maybe Liz McColgan would like to give back all of her medals? What about David Wilkie, shall we wipe out his achievements too, Scotland?

Giving them back folks? I thought not. This year's Scottish/Great British medal winners.

It seems as if young Scottish athletes are not only proud to be part of Team Great Britain, but encouraged too, so why the objections over a Great British Soccer team? What's the real reason behind all this?

Well it's just a theory but I can't name one Scottish player that would make the team. Can you? So the Scottish fear embarrassment in the form of a Great British soccer team without any Scots. That's more like it isn't it Scotland? They can make a fuss and make a stink if they wish, we can all see the transparency of this hypocritical farce of a campaign.

Should a Great British team compete in the Olympics in 2012 it is highly likely that the team will have a Scottish manager. Now there is something to be proud of Scotland.

I think there is just one thing left to say. There is absolutely no chance of a long-term GB team outside of the Olympics. So Scotland, you can sleep at ease tonight, your FIFA World ranking of 33rd is very safe.


Read more on "Guhreat Buhritin? Get tae Fook."...

UF Quick Throw: Really, Zidane?

(Click to enlarge; the absurdity is in the first paragraph)

We've been talking a bit about ol' Zinedine today in our emails (for reasons you'll soon see), and as part of the research, this popped up in his Wikipedia entry. An internet encyclopedia that virtually anyone can edit? Yep, a wonderful idea.

And if any of this was true, we'd love Zidane 1,000,000 times more.

[It looks like it's been changed back, but still: one giant leap for comedy.]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Really, Zidane?"...

The EPL Weekend Ahead: Life and Death in Stoppage Time

I'm rubbish at predicting scores, and he's rubbish at running a club. Couldn't hurt for us to switch, could it?

Well, I was outright crap last week (4 winners, 0 exact scores), thanks to a slew of 91st and 92nd minute goals that choked any fun out of the rest of the weekend. Stoke daggered my hopes of collecting on a Newcastle win that appeared rock-solid at half-time, Man U needed every last second to steal 3 points that they most definitely deserved, while Hull left it wonderfully late to score their 2 goals and win against 'Boro. Oh, and the Everton/Aston Villa game!

Note to refs: when the wristwatch says 90:00, please just blow the damn whistle. Note to Everton: just because you've equalized late doesn't mean it's full-time. Idiots.

So what awaits this week? Which manager will be canned next, and right before the holidays too (like so many corporations)? It has to be Ince. Yet again they've made headlines in the papers about some meetings they had this week, although if Paul tells us they were routine and par-for-the-course, we should just believe it. Definitely no crisis summit at Ewood Park, nope. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. After all, they haven't completely bottomed out yet.

One thing he could do before leaving is figure out the Curious Case of Roque Santa Cruz. Does he only score when he feels like it?

Come thinktank with me and my terrible glimpse into the future. It's full of score draws!

Middlesbrough v. Arsenal (kick-off: 7.45am)
I'm just waiting for the letdown, although does midweek count? Their fondness for winning one week, losing the next, means this could be more dropped points for Wenger. I'll go with that again, just because 'Boro have been unlucky lately and Arsenal aren't dominant away from home. 'Boro 1, Arsenal 1

Aston Villa v. Bolton
Might be tougher than expected, but should still be comfortable for the luckiest side in the Midlands. Aston Villa 3, Bolton 1

Liverpool v. Hull
Ugh, this match has TRAP written all over it in big, bold letters. That said, Hull have fatigued a bit over the last 7 weeks (1 win, 3 draws, 3 defeats) but their away form is still impressive: 2nd in away goals scored with 15 (to Chelsea's 21), and they've scored in every single away game too. Surely that run will continue, but LFC have turned it around after those two momentum-killing draws to Fulham and West Ham. Keane will score. How's that for confidence? Liverpool 2, Hull 1

Manchester City v. Everton
A team that's all-strikers v. a team that has no strikers at all. This should be fun. The Mark Hughes Rollercoaster Fun Ride will continue tomorrow with another win against good opposition that will awaken yet more false hope. Poor Joleon Lescott must be soiling himself considering how many small, fast men he'll have to man-mark.
Man City 2, Everton 0

Stoke v. Fulham
Do I have to choose? Stoke 0, Fulham 0

Sunderland v. West Brom
Do I have to choose (Pt.2: Electric Cisse-aloo)? Sunderland 1, West Brom 0

Wigan v. Blackburn
This is Paul Ince managing for his job yet again, although I'm not exactly confident for him. Perhaps it'd be best to just get the messy break-up over and done with now, instead of that weird half-week workweek between Christmas and New Year's Day. They put up a battle when LFC were in town, but Wigan at home should do better than they did last weekend. Wigan 2, Blackburn 1

Tottenham v. Manchester United (kick-off: 12.30pm)
Berbatov will likely wuss out of this sparkling return trip to his old stomping grounds, which is sad considering Spurs fans really do deserve the satisfaction of hounding him mercilessly. Spurs will give up a lot of space in midfield (because that's what they do!), and Fergie's cult will gladly take the early xmas gift. Let's hope Rooney gifts us with another petulant, violent outburst. Tottenham 0, Manchester United 3

Portsmouth v. Newcastle (Sunday, kick-off: 8.30am)
Do I have to choose (Pt. 3: The Re-Kinnearing)? I'm sure Michael Owen's brace last weekend means he's going to go another month without so much as a sniff at goal. That'll bode well for a trip to Fratton Park and the insane fluky volley stylings of Glen Johnson. Portsmouth 2, Newcastle less than nil

Chelsea v. West Ham (Sunday, kick-off: 11am)
Thankfully there's no Monday game this week, but this one will make you long for the workweek's most wretched day, and frankly, that's a sad thing indeed. It's been a while since Scolari ran up the score on someone. Chelsea 4, West Ham 1

Read more on "The EPL Weekend Ahead: Life and Death in Stoppage Time"...

UF Quick Throw: Sol Campbell abusers in jail

Seven more mindless idiots arrested in connection with the Sol Campbell abuse. Only 8 more to go!

[BBC News]

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UF Quick Throw: Let the mindgames begin!

Normally Fergie is first to open his mouth (normally only long enough to take breaths in-between swigging from the whisky bottle), but Rafa's trying his hand at this psycho-babble, and early too! (Though if Jose were still in the league, he'd have started back in September).

So Rafa thinks his side need a miracle to win the EPL. Brutal, shocking honesty? Headgames with his rivals? Attempts to temper expectations ahead of the xmas break? You decide.

[Guardian UK]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Let the mindgames begin!"...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: The sun is a mass of incandescent gas

10 infamous club Christmas parties [Mirror]
Myanmar keeper upset about third goal. Blames referee. Gets red card [World Cup Blog]
Partizan Belgrade fans riot after a 0-0 draw [101 Great Goals]

Former Bulgarian chief of referees charged in match-fixing claim [Guardian]
WAGs say they make a boring sport interesting (with NSFW pic/gallery) [Daily Star]
LDU Quito player has a dream--to get C.Ron's shirt [Soccernet]
Euro 2012 looks to be less ready than World Cup 2010 [NYT Goal Blog]

And, finally:
The Sun is rarely correct. Take these with as many grains of salt as you need.
Fabregas wants to quit Arsenal (in 2014) [The Sun]
Alex wants away from Chelsea [The Sun]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: The sun is a mass of incandescent gas"...

Hull's Star Hitman.

Hull hit man Marlon King has turned out to be one off the pitch, as well as on. Mr King was arrested yesterday for punching a woman in the face, in a bar in Laaandons trendy west end last weekend. Yes you read that right, he punched a woman in the face, alledgedly breaking her nose.

He was repeatedly pestering her and grabbing her bottom. She kept asking him to leave her alone and at one point he just turned and punched her. It was not a slap and it looked like she had a broken nose. There was blood dripping on her clothes and handbag.” -Eyewitness report.

Married father of two King was apparently annoyed at his alleged victim after she spurned his advances, including a cheeky pinch on the botty. Nice. Police are in possession of CCTV footage and the victim is said to have a broken nose and cut lip.

King was celebrating Hull's 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on Saturday night, a game in which he scored from the penalty spot. But he certainly couldn't score on Saturday night and was a long way from the celebrations at home. London is 200 miles from Hull, but not far enough for a Premiership footballer to get away with assault. Mrs King will not be amused!

King has been bailed to appear in court in Feb.


Read more on "Hull's Star Hitman."...

A Very Unprofessional Christmas

What does Santa Seppy Claus have in his magic sack this holiday season?

While we here at UF respect the holidays of many faiths (...any excuse to drink...), it's obvious that the 800 lb gorilla this time of year is Christmas. In my family, Christmas means one thing (two actually, if you count liberal self-medication) -- good ole fashioned consumerism. If you're part of our clan, whether by blood or relationship, my mother demands a wishlist from you. And in the interest of self-preservation, you'd had better give her one in a timely fashion.

This year, outside of the 3rd season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (seriously, if you don't watch this show, do it now) and assorted Liverpool swag, I'm not really wanting for much. But that's not to say that aren't those who are, though.

So, let's take a peek at what's on the wishlists of some of our Favorites (and non-Favorites) from around the World of Football.

Roy Keane:
A new job and a razor to shave his Unabomber beard ahead of his next interview. Better yet, how about a job as the next pitchman for Gillette razors? Unfortunately, that gig comes to an abrupt end after the red mist descends and he chokes out Titi during the filming of his first commercial.

Kevin Keegan:
Forget the razor, this man just needs a job. Do you have any idea how important it is to a man's self-worth to have a job which he can quit at the first sign of trouble? In lieu of gainful employment, a fat, undeserved pay-out from Newcastle would be welcomed.

Michel Platini:
The Beatles' complete catalog and a lifetime's supply of Thomas' English Muffins, simply because he appears to depise all things English so much.

South Africa:
Luck. With 2010 looming and continued doubts over their ability to stage the next World Cup properly, they're going to need it.

Cristiano Ronaldo:
A body-length mirror to admire himself in and which will tell him who's the loveliest in all the land. Also, lessons from a six-year old on what to do when the ball is headed for your face/head.

Vinnie Jones:
A taste of his own medicine. Oh, he already got it. Then, a tampon to sop up all the blood.

Major League Soccer:
A g*ddamn clue. You don't have the talent pool for continued expansion. Why do you refuse to heed the lessons of the NASL?

More of the same, please. The UF Crew collectively pities the fools who draw the Catalan club in the knock-out stages of the Champions League. [Ed. Note: And we collectively wish that our teams avoid Barca at all costs]

Sam Allardyce:
A do-over. After passing up the Sunderland job, leaving it for Roy Keane, Big Sam is hoping somebody remembers what wonders he worked at Stupid F-ing Bolton. Also, the Jawbone Bluetooth so he'll continue to look like a fast food drive-thru employee upon his return to management.

Robbie Keane:
A rich vein of form in front of goal. Despite his claim that he's not worried about himself and therefore nobody else should be, it's time for the ₤20M man to start banging them in for Liverpool.

Michael Owen:
Rescue from Newcastle. Not that he deserves it.

The UF Crew:
Handjobs. Much like Polaroid pictures and Scottish football, what once was thought to be an obsolete relic of the past is making a comeback. (Just joking, Scottish football isn't making a comeback)

So, what's on your list?

Read more on "A Very Unprofessional Christmas"...

UF Quick Throws: A Rumor Confirmed

We heard about this late last weekend or early this week but could not confirm it. But, apparently US Soccer Global can confirm that Roman Abramovich, Chelsea owner, was in NYC last weekend and stopped by Nevada Smith's to watch the Chelsea Spartak London-Bolton match.

I know Chelsea is tightening the purse strings these days, but I hope Roman wasn't so chintzy as to not buy a round for the bar.

Read more on "UF Quick Throws: A Rumor Confirmed"...

UF Quick Throw: Headline we are jealous of

It's a link to a screenshot! While we are contemplating cleaning up our act around here, has no such illusions. They will put innuendo wherever they can fit it. Such as in this gem of a headline.

Image stolen from The Offside, who just plain took it from Goal (obvs). Hit the link for their joke. [The Offside]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Headline we are jealous of"...

Soccernet Gamecast Commentator Gets Interactive

I usually cannot watch Champions League matches because they are always in the middle of the workday for me. My MO for the CL matches is to follow the highly underrated UF open threads or liveblogs and open up ESPN Soccernet's Gamecast for the match. The former usually is more entertaining as the Gamecast commentary is generally quite droll and only factual, like "Robbie Keane misses a shot wide left" or "Petr Cech collects the shot."

Sometimes, if the match is big enough the commentator will actually put some analysis, opinion and even humor into their entries. Those are decent. Tuesday's match between Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven, however, was the highwater mark for Soccernet Gamecasts.

I have no idea who was doing the commentary during the match, but apparently the match was dull and his job was boring him. So, he did what any good liveblogger, because that's essentially what he is, and solicited emails from the readers. Even posting the email address ( to reach him.

The readers didn't disappoint nor did the writer. I captured one entry that didn't seem like it would last long on tWWL's webpages but it's still there.

After the jump see the screen cap.

For those of you without magnifying glasses, it reads:

53' Jay Nielsen writes: "The game is only as exciting as your
lame ass half-hearted attempts at humor. Comment on the match and skip the
bitching." Jay, there's hardly anything to commentate on. Would you
perfer [sic] white space?
Jay Nielsen, you are not funny and I think white space would have been hilarious.

Read more on "Soccernet Gamecast Commentator Gets Interactive"...

UF Quick Throw: Generation Adidas is doing well

They were spanked again, this time by Chelsea reserves to the tune of 4-0, with Scott Sinclair grabbing a hat-trick. The story notes that the Chelsea side "featured several players who have played with first team this season." Really? I only count two.

Ah well, media spin is needed when the next wave of US players gets humbled. Next stop: West Ham today!

[MLS Net]

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Lesson Learned: Don't anger Wayne Rooney

There are several unwavering lessons in soccer: never bet against the Germans, if you're going to tackle from behind, make sure it counts, and the latest one: don't mess with Wayne Rooney. If the irascible, potato-headed striker gets frustrated or flustered, well, let's just say the results aren't pretty.

Yesterday's unlucky recipient of this logic was Aab Aalborg midfielder Kasper Risgaard, who received his wisdom via flying feet and cleat marks somewhere in the chest region.

To the tape! And, to the post-match quotes!

First, the video evidence. I am not a physicist by any means, but there's more than just gravity at work there. Perhaps a soupcon of malice? Wayne was surely irritated at his side's scrappy performance against the eliminated Danish side, not to mention the lack of success in front of goal at Old Trafford. The video shows a couple of other incidents, including a baffling kick on a defender with the ball nowhere near, and some shoving with a defender once the ball has gone. I'm not saying he should be sent off, but there's some middle ground there! The ref didn't do a thing!

Unsurprisingly, everyone's weighing in, including coaches and players.

We get the victim's response first. What say you, young Risgaard?

"I don’t know what he was thinking but he jumped on my chest. I don’t know why but I think he was a little bit frustrated. But I don’t understand it because they were playing good football and the score was 1-1 at the time. Anywhere else but here and it would have been a red card. But the referee didn’t say anything. I think referees are frightened to punish players at Old Trafford, and especially players like Rooney. But I can see the marks on my chest - big marks. He’s apologized, so that’s OK. But there was another incident too when he used his arm to hurt one of our players. I don’t think it looks good on television."
Fair point about Old Trafford, and there is definitely something about Rooney and his temper that we've seen before that makes me wonder. He's a fiery player (in the best and worst sense of the word), but it looks like he did get lucky with this one.

Aalborg manager Allan Kuhn was also non-committal as to intent, although upon further review (something that UEFA said they might do as both linesmen and the referee missed the incident) he might change his mind:
It is not good for a fantastic footballer. You have to keep your head and stay calm in situations like that - but that man was a little bit frustrated. I was not sure during the game and I have not seen the pictures, so I cannot be 100% sure, but some of my people have seen it and said it was."
Of course Fergie looked at it the other way: AaB were the dirty ones, not Wayne! "Aalborg are not short of tackles are they? They got stuck in and the one on Carlos was a blatant attack. Probably what saved him was that Carlos got straight up."

You have to admire the man's ability to deflect and change the subject completely. What we should be talking about is the goalkeeper's tackle on Tevez, not young Wayne!

Will anything come of this? Probably not - the news cycle is fickle and fast-paced like that. But it still merits some debate, mainly because Rooney is that type of character, capable of moments of brilliance and moments of madness at any given time. We've seen it in an Everton shirt, in the England shirt, and plenty of times in Manc red.

Read more on "Lesson Learned: Don't anger Wayne Rooney"...

Thursday Morning Backpasses: Automation blows, sometimes

Sorry about that.

Serialized look at the SPL so far. Part 1 of 3 [Inside Left]
Funny player names. Johnny Moustache is my new alter ego [Soccer Lens]
Referees have been arrested in ever-growing scandal probe in Poland [Rafael's Point of View]
Player gets red card for tripping pitch invader in Greece [Live Leak]

Why Italian managers seem to always go back to the clubs that fire them [Four Four Two]
FA Cup fair play. Manager learned his lessons at Aberdeen, natch [BBC]

And, finally:
In California, if you shoot players during a youth soccer match, and you are 17, you will not be charged as an adult [Contra Costa Times]

Read more on "Thursday Morning Backpasses: Automation blows, sometimes"...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

CL Open Thread: Now with added Hulk!


It's the final day of the final CL matchday for this year, with plenty of mathematical jostling to determine group winners and runners-up, which is longhand for "figuring out who has to play Barca in the Round of 16."

Good luck to whoever pulls that poisoned chalice.

Oh, and Norwich are playing Watford tonight as well. It's all happening!

Will those Canaries shape up and continue their impressive form of the last 5 days? Will Hulk go crazy when faced with so many children in the Arsenal starting XI? Will Alex Ferguson complain about something? Will we ever understand why the Man U game ended up on ESPN2 today? Will Celtic salvage some self-respect and dignity from their dreadful showing in the CL this season?

So many unanswered questions. Let's find some answers in the comments, shall we?

Come turn green and SMASH with us after the jump.


FC Porto v. Arsenal
Porto: Helton, Fucile, Rolando, Alves, Emanuel, Gonzalez, Fernando, Meireles, Lopez, HULK, Rodriguez.
Subs: Nuno, Stepanov, Guarin, Mariano Gonzalez, Lino, Sektioui, Costa.

Arsenal: Almunia, Eboue, Gallas, Silvestre, Djourou, Ramsey, Diaby, Song, Denilson; Vela, Bendtner.
Subs: Fabianski, Wilshere, Gibbs, Hoyte, Merida, Randall, Simpson.

Manchester United v. AaB Aalborg
Man Utd: Kuszczak, Neville, Ferdinand, Evans, O'Shea, Nani, Gibson, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney, Tevez.
Subs: Foster, Park, Vidic, Scholes, Rafael Da Silva, Fletcher, Possebon.

AaB: Zaza, Bogelund, Olfers, Jakobsen, Pedersen, Curth, Enevoldsen, Augustinussen, Risgaard, Due, Saganowski.
Subs: Kenneth Nielsen, Nomvethe, Caca, Braemer, Sorensen, Kristensen, Ronnie Schwartz Nielsen.

Celtic v. Villareal
Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Wilson, Nakamura, Scott Brown, Hartley, McGeady, Maloney, Samaras.
Subs: Mark Brown, McDonald, Loovens, Mizuno, O'Dea, Caddis, McGowan.

Villarreal: Viera, Angel, Fuentes, Rodriguez, Bruno, Cani, Senna, Edmilson, Fernandez, Franco, Ibagaza.
Subs: Diego Lopez, Eguren, Pires, Santi Cazorla, Cygan, Nihat.

The draw for the next round is at noon on Friday, December 19. Remember: teams from the same country can't play each other. I eagerly await Spartak London getting the easiest draw possible. No really, I can't wait for that.

Read more on "CL Open Thread: Now with added Hulk!"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

As tough as it may be to believe now, just over 20 years ago, Olympique Lyonnais, otherwise known as Lyon, was floundering in Ligue 2. It took the efforts of two men to get them out of there and on their way to the seven consecutive Ligue 1 championships the team currently enjoys. The first of these men is Jean-Michel Aulas, who invested in the club and took over as president. Upon taking over in 1987, he stated his intention of reforming the club into a French power within 15 years.

The second man who had much to do with Lyon's ascent from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 is, I kid you not, Raymond Domenech. That's right, the man who manages by the stars and thought a post-match news conference after being eliminated from the Euros was the best time to propose, used to be a pretty fine coach. Under Domenech, Lyon won Ligue 2 at the first try. The team solidified their Ligue 1 place next season and, in 1992, finished fifth in league, guarenteeing a European berth.

The upshot is that in 2002, or 15 years after Aulas took control, Lyon won their first of seven straight Ligue 1 titles. Mission accomplished, I'd say. Go buy yourself a banner.

Okay, now that all of that has been explained, I guess I should tell you why I went through all of that. You see, these are the shirts the Lyon wore in their first seasons back in Ligue 1, and I think they are kind of swell.

The one thing I'm not so sure of is the dual chevrons on the front. I am a fan of Bordeaux's look, when it's simple. One solid colored field with a contrasting chevron in the center. This seems to be a ripoff of that look. Future incarnations of OL shirts would not have the chevron on there, and I can't find compelling evidence of it being a traditional look. Odd that the team would copy something so uniquely defined by one team in the same country.

As for that shirt sponsor, it would appear that is has something to do with the Departement that Lyon is the capital of. I'll let The NY Kid fill in the blanks on that one. One thing I can fill in the blanks on is that whenever I look at the pictures here, I instantly hear Bill & Ted with a French accent. "Le 69, dude! (insert guitar solo)"

All in all, I really do like these shirts. I'm not a big fan of the contrasting reflective material of the shirts. I'm not a damn crossing guard, why do flash photos of the shirt make me look like one? I would choose the red one over the home white, but that's just me. Consider this one of the rare Goods that we just don't see enough from this era.

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

UF Quick Throw: Babel admits his loan looking

Ryan Babel confesses to looking for a loan move back to Holland. Really, who can blame him? He's pacy, dangerous and works hard on the pitch (alright, so his dribbling could use some work), but he's done nothing to deserve continually seeing only the last 20 minutes of games. Here's hoping Rafa has the good sense to play him more regularly.

[The Guardian]

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UF Quick Throw: Vassell assailed

Christmas parties in Manchester sure are dangerous. What's more disconcerting is why they picked Darius Vassell, something Mark Hughes hasn't done in weeks. [BBC News]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Vassell assailed"...

Better Late Than Never. (WITH AN UPDATE)

Ever wondered what a racist and homophobic individual looks like? You have? Well after the jump ye shall be enlightened. Cops have released images of the 16 morons who they wish to nab in connection with the abuse that Portsmouth defender and ex-Spurs man Sol Campbell received when the two sides met back on the 28th of September.

Here they are. What a bunch. A number of them look young and ignorant but there are a few who should know better! Yes you, Mr top right and you, Mr third row middle left. Hmm, how embarrassed will you be when the old bill march into your place of work and take you to the station.

The Police are taking the matter very seriously. They failed to arrest those responsible at the time of the game due the logistics of dealing with such a large crowd and have been comparing the images to database records of known hooligans. Now they have released the images of the men they believe to all be from London, so people who know them and dislike them can turn supergrass.

'We want to send a clear message that abuse of this kind will not be tolerated and that we are taking robust action. I'd urge anyone who recognises these people to contact us as soon as possible.' -Superintendent Neil Sherrington of the Hampshire fuzz.

I am surprised how good the images are, watch out footy fans, big brother is watching. I guess they will have to use game footage and lip reading experts in court to decide if this bunch are actually guilty. Police arrested two men in connection with the incident last Friday.

Campbell has been victim to abuse on previous occasions from Spurs fans who still hold a grudge over the defenders unique move to hated neighbors Arsenal back in 2001. This is not the only case of this nature to be investigated recently. Just last week, 2 men were arrested in Newcastle for racially abusing Egyptian striker Mido.

I am glad to say than UF's own Likely Lad is not in one of the pictures above.


[UPDATE: According to the Guardian news ticker, they've arrested one this morning in connection with the incidents. Let's hope the rest are captured so easily.]

Read more on "Better Late Than Never. (WITH AN UPDATE)"...

UF Quick Throw: Andrei For Real?

Andre Arshavin has said today, that he is likely joining Real Madrid in January.

"I can confirm that officials from Zenit have begun preliminary negotiations with Real Madrid about my transfer. At the moment there is nothing concrete on the table. " -Andre Arshavin.

Looks as if Juande is getting one over on his old team Spurs, who refused to meet Zenit St Petersburgs price tag for the speedy Russian back in the summer. I doubt this move has anything to do with Ramos though as he was only handed a deal to manage Madrid until the end of the season and they will be reluctant to hand him any money after the mess he made at Spurs. Ramos is on a short leash and will surely need to have Madrid in the top two at the end of the season to gain a contract extension. Real are currently nine points behind leaders Barcelona and sitting 5th in La Liga. Juande Ramos was appointed Real Madrid boss yesterday.

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Andrei For Real?"...

Portland's MLS Expansion Bid - An UF Field Trip

Yesterday, Timbers supporters packed the City of Portland Council Chambers donning club colors and scarves as MLS and Merritt Paulson put on its dog and pony show for the City of Portland. It was the first meeting of the MLS Soccer/AAA Baseball Task Force, a group of private citizens who were selected to sift through Merritt Paulson's proposal to bring MLS to Portland and eventually provide a recommendation to the City Council before March 2009, the deadline MLS has set for the expansion bids.

The Merritt Paulson and MLS presentations were long on bromides and short on substance. The proposal, according to Paulson whose wife gave birth only the day before, will have a positive economic impact on Portland and enrich the community. He warned that public funding was necessary and this would be Portland's one chance at getting an MLS club. But, Paulson evaded a task force member's question on whether the Paulson family would individually guarantee the revenue that would be used to pay off bonds to finance the upgrades.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber put in his two cents saying MLS wants to come to Portland, although he probably tells this to all of the bidders. He praised Portland's passionate fanbase as evidenced by Timbers supporters grumbling at any suggestion that they would support and watch the Seattle MLS expansion club. Garber also noted that MLS did not consider the lack of local Fortune 500 companies to be a detriment to Portland given the "national" presence of MLS mentioning the Rio Tinto sponsorship in Salt Lake, although that was probably not the best choice considering Portland's political leanings the Rio Tinto's track record.

Garber again noted that PGE Park needed upgraded facilities and that only one of the MLS soccer specific stadiums was completely privately funded saying most were public/private ventures. The current proposal calls for only public money to upgrade the facilities of a publicly owned facility.

The one piece of new information came from Garber who indicated MLS is going to announce a "game" at a soccer specific stadium that will attract international attention to highlight the benefits of a soccer specific stadium. Garber gave no other details.

Mayor-elect and current council member Sam Adams appears supportive of the attempt to bring MLS to town, but cautioned that there is much work to be done in securing a development agreement and financing. Mayor-elect Adams acknowledged the current economic climate makes such a proposal difficult.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard also was supportive of the proposal so long as the proposed moving of the AAA baseball team is moved to the Lents neighborhood an area he has represented for many years.

The Task Force will meet bi-monthly until the March deadline, although it certainly won't have the attendance of this initial meeting. I will try to attend some of these meetings.

Read more on "Portland's MLS Expansion Bid - An UF Field Trip"...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Tango, fat boy, tango

Arsenal are a better team when Eboue plays [The Spoiler]
Martin O'Neill is awesome [Kornheiser's Cartel]
There were other frozen pitches in Scotland this weekend. Two call offs force East of Scotland League team to consider forfeit [Scotsman]

Shalrie Joseph has his own website. He's getting into webcasting. Could be fun [Youtube]
Shalrie's buddy Michael Parkhurst goes to Denmark on a free []
That Generation Adidas squad lost to Reading's reserves [MLS Net]
Bremen loses two players to bans for fighting [101 Great Goals]

And, finally:
While in India, Maradona used Madonna's dance "guru" [Telegraph India]

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CL Open Thread

Today is the first of two matchdays which are the last of the group stage. Most of us are hoping for a Bordeaux win coupled with Chelsea failing to secure all three points in Group A. Autoglass, of course, is not. If that scenario happens, Chelsea would drop to the UEFA Cup.

Group breakdowns, matches and selected lineups after the jump.

Group A
Chelsea-CFR Cluj (ESPN 2)
As stated above, Chelsea need all three points at home to secure passage to the knockout round. Bordeaux will not get an easy game at Roma, however, as Roma could still drop to the UEFA Cup with a loss and Chelsea win or, depending in the result, draw.

Group B
Werder Bremen-Inter Milan
The game to watch is the one between the Greeks and the Cypriots. Contrary to a belief held by some, this is not a tilt with political undertones, as Anorthosis reside in the Greek-backed half of Cyprus. Still, a spirited match will be expected between the two as a place in the knock outs is at stake. Panathinaikos need just a draw, while Anorthosis need the unlikely away win. In the other match, Inter are through, but still need points to secure first place. Werder could still make the UEFA Cup with a convincing win coupled with a Anorthosis loss.

Group C
Barcelona-Shakhtar Donetsk
FC Basle-Sporting Lisbon
Barcelona are through as group winners, while Shakhtar will go through with a win and Sporting loss. Don't count on it. Basle are playing out the string, already eliminated from moving on in Europe.

Group D
Olympique Marseille-Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven-Liverpool
Atletico and Liverpool are vying for first in the group, both on 11 points at this time. Atletico have a single goal advantage. L'OM and PSV are similarly on equal points at the bottom and cannot move on in the competition. L'OM have the decided advantage of a five better goal differential for a UEFA Cup slot, but need to equal PSV's result today to make sure of going through.

From wikipedia: Tiebreak rules in the group stage
1. higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
2. superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
3. higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
4. superior goal difference from all group matches played;
5. higher number of goals scored in all group matches played;
6. higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.
(I think I got it all correct)

Lineups from Sky Sports. Blame them for any mistakes.
Spartak London (4-5-1) Cech. Cole, Terry, Alex, Bosingwa. Kalou, Deco, Obi wan Mikel, Ballack, Cole. Anelka. Subs: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Drogba, Bridge, Ferreira, Belletti, Stoch.
CFR Cluj (4-5-1) You're not going to recognize anyone.

PSV (4-3-3) Isaksson. Culina, Marcellis, Brechet, Salcido. Mendez, Simons, Dzsudzsak. Bakkal, Lazovic, Amrabat. Subs: Cassio, Rodriguez, Koevermans, Pieters, Nijland, Manco, Wuytens.
'Pool (4-5-1) Cavalieri. Arbeloa, Carragher, Dossena, Agger. Babel, Mascherano, Lucas, Riera, N'Gog. Keane. Subs: Reina, Gerrard, Xabi, Banayoun, Spearing, Darby, Kelly.

Early prediction: PSV through to UEFA Cup. Enjoy!

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SPL Wrap

Welcome back to Scotland, where it's mighty cold out. How cold? So cold that the main story from this weekend isn't about Rangers scoring a touchdown on Hamilton, or Celtic thinking they were playing a Euro match. Instead the story is all about frozen pitches, and who screwed up more.

Motherwell and Kilmarnock both had matches called off on Saturday because part of their respective pitches were frozen. The SPL has launched an inquiry to find if either of these clubs is at fault. You see, SPL rules stipulate that clubs must have working undersoil heating to keep these kind of things from happening. Motherwell, at the very least, appear to be in the clear. Fir Park had their undersoil heat switched on overnight, and took the additional precaution of placing covers over the pitch as well. It wasn't good enough, though, as the referee decided that areas around one goal mouth were too hard to play.

Kilmarnock, on the other hand, did not turn the heating on at Rugby Park. Not willing to admit wrong-doing, they have affixed the blame to faulty long-term weather forecasts. Not that I am an expert, but I have watched the local news for decades now. If there is one thing I know, it's that the short-term forecasts are more accurate than the long-term ones. Perhaps Killie should put away the Scottish equivalent of the Farmer's Almanac and invest in a radio.

I will admit to a personal vendetta here against Kilmarnock. Now that Gretna has gone tits up, Kilmarnock-Aberdeen is the longest road trip in Scottish football. Killie and the SPL refused to run an Aberdeen request for an earlier pitch inspection, and, as a result, fans from Aberdeen had to already be on the road to make kick-off by the time the game was postponed. The team for Aberdeen was already in town, though, so at least there's that.

Rangers 7-1 Hamilton Academical
Hamilton went up early at Ibrox, then sat down, apparently. Hamilton came out in an unwise 4-3-3, determined to play their hosts with attacking football, instead of sitting back. The visitors went ahead through James McArthur in the 2nd minute after keeper Allan McGregor misplayed a cross. After that, it got ugly. The only thing that broke the monotony of Rangers' scoring was a red card for the Accies' Martin Canning in the 51st. Kris Boyd, who almost quit Rangers over the summer like he quit Scotland, had a hat-trick for the Blues.

Hibernian 2-0 Celtic
Hopefully, you have seen the video of Artur Boruc woefully misplaying a shot from the center circle. If you have not, it's here. That was the first of two goals for Hibs on Sunday, who put an end to Celtic's 12-game SPL win streak. John Rankin was the longshot hero for Hibs, while Colin Nish got in the way of Rankin's volley to claim the other. Methinks this will be the last time Wee Gordon Strachan decides to sit Samaras and Nakamura in the same game.

Inverness CT 1-3 Dundee United
SPL's northern-most club had no problem with a frozen pitch, though they may have wished that they did. The Tangerines were always on the attack, though it did not pay off until the second half. Jon Daly was the United man to break through, breaking the deadlock on 51 minutes. Craig Conway claimed the second and David Robertson got the third for the visitors with 19 minutes remaining. Caley pulled one back two minutes later, scored by Adam Rooney, but could not find thier way back into the match. United's win move them level on points with a Hearts squad who could not play their match against Motherwell. Dundee United do get sole claim of third place by goal differential.

Falkirk 1-2 St Mirren
St Mirren move off the bottom with the away win. Even with only four matches to cover, I can't bring myself to say anything nice about the lower-half clash.

The Table through 17 rounds (Team; Points; GD)
Celtic; 43; +23
Rangers; 39; +28
Dundee United; 29; +7
Hearts*; 29; 0
Hibernian; 23; -1
Aberdeen*; 21; -1
Kilmarnock*; 19. -8
Falkirk; 18; -4
Inverness CT; 17; -8
Motherwell*; 17; -8
St Mirren; 15; -10
Hamilton; 14; -18
teams with an asterisk have a game in hand

It should be noted that this is the de facto halfway point of the season before the SPL split. The split occurs after 33 games, when each team has played the others three times each. The top six teams then meet each other in a round robin to determine European slots, while the bottom six do the same to figure the lone relegation spot. Points are cumulative from throughout the season, and no club from the bottom six can move up into the top half, regardless of how many points they have.

It's a headache. Just let me think about it, okay?

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Vinnie Jones' Latest Film Role

Vinnie Jones has a new movie out. Yeah!!! Although, I'm pretty sure he won't be doing any promotion of his latest work.

See, it's the CCTV video of his barroom brawl in South Dakota. What you don't see is Jones on the receiving end of a beer glass to the face that required 48 stitches. What you do see is a very large plumber's butt.

Update: Here is a local newspaper article on the fight with the two opposing stories.

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No WAG For You!

Here at UF, we love a good WAG. Big Phil Scolari, however, does not.

The Spartak London gaffer and Gene Hackman look-a-likey has asked that his players find some nice un-wag-like ladies to settle down with, due to his disdain for the glitz and glamour that so easily sidetracks players and derails a season faster than you can say "Jermain Defoe."

So what's he have to say about it all? Surely there's a good quote or two...

The WAG culture is set in deep at Stamford Bridge, Ashley Cole is married to super WAG Cheryl Cole. Namesake Joe is currently enjoying his WAG Carly Zucker, and she is enjoying the lime-light of reality TV as she stars in I'm a celebrity, Get me out of here. Anelka also keeps a WAG (Barbara Tausia) in togs. Frankie Lamps likes to hang out with his hot Spanish WAG Elen Rives and Champions League Trophy escape artist John Terry has his own WAG, Toni Poole.

Anelka and his WAG.

Big Phil should surely be thinking about his team's chances of dropping out of the Champions League later today. Maybe Big Phil is trying to launch a second career as a match-maker? He may need a job; if Cluj draw or win at the Bridge and Bordeaux beat Roma, that scenario would see them crashing out of the competition leaving Big Phil without a job. He announced last weekend that he would quit if Spartak London lose to Cluj and fail to make the next stage of the CL. But no, Scolari is only interested in WAGs today...
"The best thing for a player in their football life is to have a good wife. If a player has a good wife, you don't need to worry about him. Today, if a player is intelligent, they have money for their family for the second generation and even the fifth generation. But some players don't think about this. Some players only think about today, spending money for the day, spending money on a car, nights out and on this and on that."
So who would Phil prefer his Spartak stars hook up with? Here is the UF Big Phil Suitable Birds Top Ten as suggested by the UF crew, along with possible players that might be compatible. We realize several of the lads are married, but should their star-studded unions shatter like most do (especially when the ladies concerned are impossibly gorgeous), this list is full of suitable fallbacks.

10. Rachel Ray:
Fairly hot, and she cooks! No more nights out at China White, but nights staring at white China. Would be a good fit for Frank Lampard, a man who knows and appreciates a good meal.

9. Carol Vorderman:
You will never need a calculator again. Just let Carol tally up your ridiculous wages. She will also help you spell your name. A good fit for Ashley Cole, whose vanity might well require a lovely lady to tell him how much money he made switching from Arsenal to Spartak.

8. Katie Holmes:
No fear of her looking at another player across the dance floor at Stringfellows. Oh no. Holmes is, well, a Holmes maker. She will bare your child, chop of her hair and join a cult for you. Now that's dedication. Michael Ballack, obviously! With Tom Cruise playing a German in his latest film, me thinks Holmes is just warming up to a far more authoritarian life.

7. Sarah Palin:
Bit MILFY but she would keep you in check. Saturday nights at the witch doctors house to help that Saturday afternoon knock heal and Sundays shooting dinner from a chopper. Then it's back home for some deer dressin' and some baking, maverick-style. More fun? Days off will involve 20 mile snomobile races and icicle counting competitions. You Betcha! Don't forget to wrap up warm, we don't want those soccer balls to freeze. The perfect foil for John Obi Mikel, a man who could use some backcountry discipline.

6. Anne Robinson:
Available to entertain all the kinky school principal fantasies you ever had. Smart, condescending, and will keep the hungry paparazzi at bay with her 'death stare' and collection of ancient torture weapons. "Did you play well today? Were you the weakest defensive link?" Surely the apple of John Terry's eye, as Robinson can soothe his Champions League pain while dishing out the grit needed to helm the Spartak central defense.

5. Erin Burnett:
Sexy, smart and sassy. Has a real career of her own and is unlikely to show up in a bikini in any sort of public forum (though, yoga attire on the Today Show cannot be ruled out). Plus, we generally lust after her. A perfect match for Deco, one whose baffling inconsistency in form could only be explained by someone who can read the stats and make sense of them.

4. Helen Chamberlain:
She clearly knows the sport well thanks to Soccer AM, and her lifelong love of Torquay United might well make her the most boring wife-to-be on the planet. No danger of trouble in the press (although her Penthouse photo shoot makes her a daring choice - NSFW) Ricardo Carvalho could use some south coast culture. He should be so lucky...

3. Jennifer Aniston:
She's flexible/understanding; Can put up with douchebags (see: Mayer, John), pretty-boys (see: Pitt, Brad), big-game-talkers (see: Vaughn, Vince) or basket-cases (see: Wilson, Owen). Methinks if you give her a baby, she'll give you the world. Didier Drogba would work well, as he's a combination of all 4 types of men Aniston has experience with in her dating history.

2. Brandi Chastain:
The ultimate soccer mom! Made famous by her sports bra, she'll surely be able to help out in training while also making sure the kids understand the offside trap. Boring enough and quiet enough for the lumbering giant in goal, Petr Cech.

1. Natalie Portman:
She looks great and will dress up in Star Wars outfits for you. 'Nuff said. Oh you need more? She speaks French, German, Arabic, Japanese and of course Bocce. Joe Cole, step on down! You're the only one small enough and likeable enough to deserve her.

Honorable Mention: Karren Brady
You would be dating a football boss which would give you an advantage in negotiations either because she's your boss or she would give you pointers. Plus, she ain't bad for a millionaire 39 year old lady. She'd have been good for Shevchenko while he was still at the Bridge, mainly because she could have negotiated him a much better career.

Any other potentials that could keep the Spartak London players quiet?


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