Saturday, February 21, 2009

Things Could Always Be Worse, Gunners.

I realize today was crushing for the sizable Arsenal contingent hanging around UF, but even in these uncertain times, we must look to the lower leagues to get some perspective. After all, you could always be Weymouth.

Why Weymouth? Well, because they're a club that's been around 119 years, and today might well be the end of the road for the "Terras" from Dorset (think Kansas, but with beaches), as their team is falling apart.

The club has been struggling since the beginning of the year. I'll let an anonymous fan on BBC's livetext fill in the blanks:

"Stevo, please spare a thought for Weymouth today, playing what could be their last ever game. All our senior players left the club yesterday because the club couldn't afford to pay them in 2009! We have our under-18 team playing today, and despite lots of hard work by the fans, it looks like the end of the road for us today. Our 119-year history could be coming to an end at 5pm..."
And what happened today?

Their young'uns got pistol-whipped to the tune of 9-0 by visiting Rushden & Diamonds.

They lost their manager, who is stepping down, their chief executive is leaving because he doesn't have the 150,000 pounds needed to right the ship, and they no longer have a team (if you overlook, of course, the poor schoolboys currently subbing in). Management has tried to revive their finances by offering shares for 50 cents to supporters, and yet their future hangs in the balance.

So next time our team draws 0-0 or fucks up at home to some lesser side, remember the plight of the poor Terras.

Read more on "Things Could Always Be Worse, Gunners."...

Weekend Preview and Saturday Open Thread

It seems we have now reached the point of the season where the leagues turn quite serious. Two-thirds of the way through, around a dozen matches to go, about time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

After the jump, have a look at the weekend's action. And, as always, have your say in the ol' comments.

As usual, let's start with the EPL....

7:45 EST Aston Villa v. Cheslea
10:00 EST Arsenal v. Sunderland
10:00 EST Middlesbrough v. Wigan
10:00 EST Stoke v. Pompey
10:00 EST Bolton v. West Ham
12:30 EST Manchester United v. Blackburn

The big match would be the early game, with Aston Villa, Chelsea and Arsenal locked in a battle for third and fourth. Villa's upcoming matches will likely determine their season -- if they can stay in the top 4 through early April, than they're looking quite good indeed. Meanwhile, Arsenal and Man U should each have no trouble at home against lesser competition. And after that it's just the big jumble in the lower half of the table.

Tomorrow's matches:

8:30 EST Fulham v. West Brom Albion
10:00 EST Liverpool v. Citeh
11:00 EST Newcastle v. Everton

Further down the English leagues, Bigus' Norwich host Burnley as they try to get out of the Championship relegation zone. My own Exeter City should be in good shape in League Two against Chester City, who are on a six-game skid.

Elsewhere, in the Bundesliga, here are the highlights (all matches at 9:30 EST)....

Stuttgart v. Hoffenheim - The Hoff try to get back on track
Bayern Munich v. Cologne - Featuring Lukas Podolski's former and future employer
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Hannover 96 - A battle of Americans: Michael Bradley against Steve Cherundolo
Wolfsburg v. Hertha Berlin - Can Hertha stay top of the league?

Tomorrow there's another big match with Bayer Leverkusen v. Hamburg SV. Hamburg is in title chase and Leverkusen could haul itself back into the discussion with a win.

And in la Liga...

2:00 EST Barcelona v. Espanyol - It's a derby match.
4:00 EST Sevilla v. Atletico Madrid - Does baby Agueradona make a difference? Can Atletico get back into CL contention?

And tomorrow is Osasuna v. Numancia in a relegation 6 pointer.

Enjoy all the action! And big ups to the Fan's Attic with the assist with the previews above.

Read more on "Weekend Preview and Saturday Open Thread"...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Now you are 2

Happy second birthday wishes to The Beautiful Game. Way to enter the Terrible Twos in style.

The gals at Hottie World Cup have released their squads. Here's the US team. They, at least, have their clothes on [Hottie World Cup]
Scottish sports writers duped into watching gay porn. At least it wasn't man on sheep [The Spoiler]
Martin Hansen will never make the first team at Liverpool [Dirty Tackle]
Fabio Capello can't understand half of his team's accents [Guardian]

Adriano has a barbecue for his birthday. No word on whether it was mustard- or ketchup-based [Sports Crackle Pop]
Tottenham to play an even weaker squad for next week's UEFA Cup match [BBC]
C Ron billed for his run in with a tunnel [Off The Post]
Abramovich has spent $342 a minute since taking over Chelsea [The Offside]

Can you name these footballers as kids? [The Best Eleven]

Read more on "Friday Backpasses: Now you are 2"...

The National Front Disco

Really and truly, only in Liverpool. Everton's match against Stoke at Goodison Park on March 14th has been rescheduled by one day. Why? Because the British National Party has planned a march that day and the Merseyside police can't be in two places at once.

For all of our American readers, let's just say that the British National Party is right-wing. Very right-wing. As in, expel all the immigrants right-wing.

As the head of the Northwest Trade Union aptly put it: "It is disgraceful that Everton fans find themselves forced to watch their team on a Sunday in order for the BNP to march in our city on the Saturday. Over 35,000 football fans are being put out for the sake of a few hundred BNP members."

One can only wonder what the BNP would have to say about inconveniencing a team that includes so many non-Englishmen. Probably something along the lines of "England for the English," etc.

Read more on "The National Front Disco"...

Hail the birth of Agueradona

Not Mrs. Maradona, and obviously not the baby. But still, look what he has to look forward to!

Let's all take a moment on this chilly Friday to hail the arrival on earth of what could well be the next Maradona, but considering the odds, will probably be just another human being in a desk job, or something far worse. Whatever he does in later life, you can bet soccer blogs, or whatever information-sharing technology we use in 20-odd years, will be following him closely.

Sergio Aguero's son was born yesterday, little Benjamin Aguero [The Offside went with Maraguero, whereas I fancy Agueradona. Personal taste, you know], and the mother is Maradona's daughter. You know the rest.

And so, we celebrate with a video of each player below the jump, to spark the imagination regarding the coked-up, temperamental goalscoring we might soon expect from this innately blessed child.

Welcome to earth, Benji. And remember: no pressure whatsoever.

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The Manageress: An Update.

Donna Powell in charge of Fisher Athletic.

Earlier in the week I scribbled about Donna Powell and her temporary gig as manger(ess) of non-league Fisher Athletic of the Blue Square South division. Alas the fairy tale ending we all hoped for was not to be and her reign was short lived with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Eastleigh on Wednesday evening. However, Donna may have a future in football after all.

Ms. Powell, age 27, was not expecting miracles. She took charge of a team who had lost their last ten games. Eastleigh however, are third in the table. A 2-1 defeat at the hands of a worthy opponent showed some stones on the lass. According to Fisher's chairman, the second half performance was the best he'd seen this season:

I was delighted by the players' response in the second half. I feared for us at half-time and thought it was only a matter of time before Eastleigh ran away with it but the team's response was fantastic and they put in one of our best performances of the season after half-time.

Powell enjoyed her stint as the gaffer so much that she wants in on a full-time basis. She is currently taking her coaching badges and says she is desperate to succeed in football:

I enjoyed it very much and the boys played really well - they battled hard and obviously Eastleigh are third in the league. I just congratulate them for getting a goal back and not losing big scores. They lost 2-1, but well done to them.

Not everyone is keen for Donna to be part of Fisher Athletic in the future. Ms. Powell told the BBC after the game...

It was a bit tougher than what I expected but it was good. It was tougher from the fans more than anything else. They were shouting "stay in the kitchen," but I've never been in a kitchen and I'll never go into a kitchen.

I have a feeling we will be hearing more from Donna Powell in the future. Good luck girl!


Read more on "The Manageress: An Update."...

Even When Beckham Actually Shows Up, People Lose Money

Beckham Beckham Beckham Beckham!
Beckham Beckham Beckham Beckham!
Beckham Beckham Beckham Beckham!

(When I was in college many, many moons ago, I took a linguistics course. We were taught an exercise where you repeat a word so often that it loses its meaning, and you only hear the word for the actual sounds that it makes. As in, "Beckham." And with that, here it is, our contractually obligated Beckham post!)

One of the benefits of Golden Balls' signing with the LA Galaxy was going to be all the increased revenue for all involved -- including the fantastic international matches that the team would play -- in order to recoup Becks' $300 billion salary. At least in the United States that money was coming from private funds. In New Zealand, not so much....

Turns out that Auckland, New Zealand's local government officials are furious over learning that taxpayers footed the bill for the NZ$1.79 million (around US$900,000) shortfall in bringing Becks and the LA Galaxy "down under." According to the New Zealand Herald, the problem is that only 16,600 people showed up to watch the LA Galaxy v. Oceania All Stars match last December, and the Auckland city council had previously agreed to guarantee any net losses from the event. Oops.

Having seen enough episodes of Flight of the Conchords, I'm fairly sure that New Zealand government officials have nothing better to do than to grandstand about wasted expenditures on aging football stars. Witness Auckland government minister Rodney Hide: "It shows a cavalier attitude to ratepayers' money, and the ease which local authorities undertake expenditure outside of their core job."

In true bureaucratic fashion, this outrage has sparked several levels of internal investigation. I'm picturing multiple spiral-bound reports with shiny plastic covers. All because one David Beckham came to play for the LA Galaxy, and lots of people erroneously thought they could make lots of money in return.


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That's One Way To Prevent Excessive Celebration

It is not as if we needed more evidence that South American soccer is utterly insane, but it just keeps coming into our mailboxes. Yesterday, in a match between Brasil (not the national team) and Ulbra, a fight broke out ostensibly because Rogerio Pereira of Ulbra scored the final goal in a 5-2 victory and celebrated the goal in front of the Brasil supporters. But, more likely is that these folks are insecure ninnys.

Brasil has already faced tragedy this season when the team bus went off the road killing three players. While not as tragic, this fight was definitely not a positive for the team, or soccer in general. Witness the weak ass fighting the club does with its Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon flying kicks and then running away. Reports suggest that this candyass mentality goes all the way up to the Brasil president who appears in the video giving his own flying kick.

I award no points and may God have mercy on their souls.

Read more on "That's One Way To Prevent Excessive Celebration"...

EPL Gestapo Targets Blogs

We're a little late in addressing this, but last week The Offside earned a golden ticket of recognition--a cease and desist letter from the Premier League (or perhaps The FA). Seems the League did not appreciate The Offside making it more famous by using team crests to identify the squads.

So, we'll probably be using crests like this one:

This post is not intended to discuss the legal merits of the League's position. But, I posit the question to the readers, does the EPL/FA's internet policy make sense? Are they approaching the internet in right manner or are they being obstinate and close-minded?

In my mind, the League's attempt to control every bit it can and wring every last cent/pence out of its product is short-sighted. I liken it to the schoolyard bully that beats up everybody until the victims decide to cooperate and fight back. The question is which victims will ban together and fight back.

There are two significant reasons the EPL internet policy is hogwash. First, the goal of the league is to expand the interest in it and the easiest way to that is to make it easier for potential fans to see the product. Luckily for the league, the internet came around when the EPL formed and was able to expand the reach of the league beyond the British Isles to the world. If it weren't for the internet, the league probably would have had a much harder time reaching the world.

Second, the current model of broadcast rights is an efficient model and the market hates inefficiencies. The league sells certain packages of games to different broadcasters that are not always available to every cable/directv/etc. subscriber. Additionally, the costs to watch these games are prohibitive for some. The internet compensates for these inefficiencies by making available the games for viewing--for free. If the league was smart it would develop a strategy that would capture this lost revenue and not attempt to just squash and redirect the viewership, which ultimately will mean less revenue for the league and less exposure. A double loser in business.

What say ye?

Read more on "EPL Gestapo Targets Blogs"...

Pocketbook Ouchie for Owen

Little, but not so young, Mikey Owen seems to have found himself in a spot of bother thanks to Stanford Financial and the allegations of fraud against the investment company. Owen was a celebrity endorser of Stanford Financial and will likely not be seeing any more money from the company.

It's unclear whether Owen has invested any of his own personal fortune in Stanford. It is clear that Owen's refusal to take a pay cut from Newcastle was a wise decision because he'll need that extra money now.

Read more on "Pocketbook Ouchie for Owen"...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Mao, part dos

Get ready. Clericus Cup the Third is here [Clerical Whispers]
Interview with the Masal Bugduv hoaxer [Sport is a TV Show]
England's answer to Madin Mohammed [Dirty Tackle]
Jens Lehmann takes on Khaild Boulahrouz. The winners--all of us [101 Great Goals]

Fake shirts on eBay, who would have thought it? [BBC]
Mark Clattenburg's lifelong ban reduced to eight months [Daily Mail]
MLS All-Star opponent? May be Inter Milan (but probably not) [NYT Goal Blog]
Craig Bellamy is ready to go golfing [The Spoiler]

UEFA tells Liverpool "we'll think about it" when Liverpool requests not to play on the anniversary of Hillborough [The Offside]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Mao, part dos"...

Also On Sale Soon: The Hottie World Cup

As we noted earlier, World Cup tickets go on sale tomorrow, which might already be today given the time change and all.

But you can also pick up tickets to The Hottie World Cup. The best part is, they are free. In fact you probably don't even need tickets... unless there are major changes coming to the interweb that we're unaware of.

What is the Hottie World Cup? Well, it's a lot like the real World Cup as it looks like England is headed for an early exit.

Actually, this version of the World Cup is just what it sounds like, we think. It's a tournament where you can vote of the hottness of international teams. They are even ranked and bracketed up.

If we understand the rules correctly, each team's players have been ranked 1 through 5 (at least it looks like only 5) and the #1's will face off against each other, as will the #2's and so on. Whichever team wins the best-of-5 individual match-ups, wins the round and advances (And does it make me gay if I suggest that Italy A v. Spain A looks more like a final than a first round match-up?).

There was probably a better way to explain that.

Jesus, Italy and Spain are fielding B teams. And I still don't like the US's chances. Do girls think Duece is cute? He looks like he's befriended the meth dealers around Fulham.

Anyway, this is exactly what the ancient Greeks had in mind when they came up with voting. So, accordingly, the Greeks were left out of the competition. Well, played, ladies.

Oh irony.

Voting starts the 23rd. Don't think you can vote early but you can check out the teams starting the 20th.

We're guys here at UF, so we're more about the WAGs but if you're going to put up a pic of David Villa saying "Luca Toni? Bitch, please," then we'll gladly pimp your endeavors. Plus we're pretty certain that our frequent commenter and Gunner lover Sarah is at least partially behind this.

Read more on "Also On Sale Soon: The Hottie World Cup"...

New Jersey Coach Salisburies Kids

We'll admit we're a bit squeamish about posting on these stories because we only ever run with the accusations and never bother to follow up on what happens down the road. Yeah, we're far from perfect, but at least we're aware of our shortcomings.

But this one contains that extra little bit of stupidity that makes it a little too hard to pass up.

That's Kieth Ammermann. He's a soccer coach for the Watchung (Baby!) Hills Soccer Association. And he likes taking pictures with his cell phone. Of his junk. Then sending it to people.

That might be mildly amusing if those people weren't kids:

Keith Ammermann, 51, of Piscataway was charged with four counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest said. He was arrested Tuesday night at Watchung police headquarters and held on $25,000 bail. As a condition of bail, he is prohibited from having contact with children younger than 16.
I might still be a little leery of letting him around a 17-year-old. A total of three 13-year-old boys have come forward with accusations that Ammermann showed them inappropriate pictures on his cell phone.

That's bad enough. But then police recovered video from his residence that "depicted him also showing material from his cell phone to a 14-year-old girl."

Really? You're going to video yourself showing a 14-year-old girl sexually explicit pictures on your phone? "Dude, videotaping this crime spree was the best idea we've ever had."

The WHSA president described Ammermann as a person who loved soccer. And apparently technology.

Read more on "New Jersey Coach Salisburies Kids"...

Quick Throw: Eduardo out for two weeks

After the wonderful display on Monday, everything is brought crashing back to earth with the news that Edu's picked up hamstring knack and needs a fortnight to recover.

Said Wenger: "He picked up a hamstring injury two minutes before I took him off. What a nightmare."

Sorry Gooners. At least it's a small injury, right?

[BBC News]

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Look what you've done, David!

Finally, we get the nitty-gritty fan reaction from those hardcore Galaxy fans. Best not call it a protest though, naughty Sun newspaper... I only count two people with t-shirts and they don't look like they coordinated beforehand.

Even so, I wasn't aware that there were many hardcore Galaxy fans; perhaps I miscounted.

I thought they were all in Aspen until April.

So he's lost that ember of a Galaxy fanbase... does it really matter?

The bigger issue here is the depressing emptiness of the stadium (see below). Granted, it's the attendance for a meaningless, artificially-designed Mickey Mouse tournament that barely anyone even knows about (hooray for marketing!), but even so, can we really expect the place to be packed to the rafters consistently during the regular season without the coiffured moron?

It's doubtful.

You see, and allow me to make some rather blanket judgments here, Los Angeles is the epicenter of celebrity in the US, and the bulk of the population serve to idolize and chase these celebrities wherever they go. Beckham obviously transcends the beautiful game, along with his ugly robot wife, as irritating, ubiquitous global brands, and thus, they become a simple, natural draw for the Galaxy.

To serve the point, I'll ignore the fact that a. the team were utter shit during his time there, and b. the stadium still wasn't overflowing on those balmy summer evenings when he did decide to turn up and prance around on the right wing.

Remove him from the equation, and you're left with what MLS is littered with: mediocre franchises with minimal regional pull and a void of star power.

Sad, really, innit?

Thankfully, the brave supporters pictured do manage to get their point across, that they too are sick of their blond savior-who-didn't-really-save-them. He'll have to open a hundred more nominal soccer camps for children to atone this goodwill.

I'm certain that the pile of money and designed clothes foisted upon him by the Milan crowd (not to mention - gasp - competitive soccer!) will cushion the blow of these handmade t-shirts.

Read more on "Look what you've done, David!"...

Twenty Bucks... Not Including the $3000 Air Fare

Tickets for the World Cup go on sale tomorrow. Woo hoo!

We're totally getting in line and camping out. We're rock and roll that way.

But the 2010 World Cup does pose and interesting question: How do you buy a ticket for a seat that doesn't exist?

Answer: You don't. The ticket sales just make it more of a clusterf*ck when FIFA has to take the Cup away from South Africa.

Because not only are stadiums behind schedule, but workers are on strike. They have been since February 6th (Really, how'd we miss that?): "About 400 of the [1000] construction workers at Mbombela stadium, most of them members of the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM), who have been on illegal strike were sacked on Tuesday,"

Good, fire 40% of the workforce. That'll totally accelerate the construction.

Actually we hope that South Africa pulls this off. Okay, we secretly hope that they fail and it gets scuttled to over in the States but, short of that, we still would rather see South Africa host a nice party than this become a disaster, political or otherwise.

The good news is that some of the tickets are cheap (as low as $20).

The bad news is that you don't actually purchase tickets tomorrow. Phase one (of four) starts tomorrow, where you simply apply on line for a lottery to buy.

* There are three types of sales phases: random selection (phases one and three), first-come-first-served basis (phases two and four) and a last-minute sales phase
* The first phase closes on April 15 after which applicants will be told whether or not they have succeeded in their bid to buy tickets. The second phase is from May 4-Nov. 16, the third is from Dec. 5 until Jan. 22, 2010, the fourth is from Feb. 9 to April 7 and the last one starts on April 15, 2010, when FIFA still expects tickets to be returned to the pool.
So curb your enthusiasm. For Germany, I roped about 15 people into applying on my behalf (if I recall correctly, it was unnecessarily cumbersome, right down to needing a passport number), and not a single one of the lot had won the right to actually purchase tickets. That really confirmed my suspicions that everything FIFA does it totally and 100% above board.

Of course my friend who works for a sponsor called me after the fact and said, "Oh we had all kinds of extra tickets for the semi." That being the Germany v. Italy semifinal match. Or as I like to call it now, "The greatest soccer game that I could have attended if I had more thoughtful friends." Sorry, where was I...?

Oh yeah, tickets, stadium construction issues, FIFA is corrupt, etc.

Read more on "Twenty Bucks... Not Including the $3000 Air Fare"...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Pot meet kettle

Fox News "humor" program equates soccer with Terrorism [The Beautiful Game]
Someone was asleep at the switch at the PFA website [Off The Post]
Ryan Babel's new rap translated for all of us English-only guys [The Run of Play]

An interesting interpretation of the Beckham's Armani ad [Daily Mail]
Who from Liverpool could make Man U's starting XI? [Daily Mail]
Giuseppe "The Traitor" Rossi interviewed [ESPN]

UF favorite Antonio Cassano may be on the move to Juve. Not sure if this is before or after he gets really, really fat [Soccernet]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Pot meet kettle"...

A Few Bad Days Is More Like It

Raul Albiol probably wants to bury his head under a pillow for a bit.

The Valencia central defender has hit rough patch here in the middle of February. First, he was credited with an own goal against Malaga on Saturday, allowing the home side to earn a 1-1 draw against a Valencia team now well within their sights on the table (just two points back). Not good when a true six pointer becomes a push.

But hey, it happens to the best of defenders. And to John Arne Riise.

Unfortunately for Albiol, it has happened twice to him, and in successive matches. In today's UEFA Cup match against Dinamo Kiev, Albiol netted a 63rd minute own goal so that the Ukrainians could level at 1 in their home leg. Video here. Although 101 Great Goals has it credited to Artem Milevskiy, the official score sheet has it as an own goal for Albiol. Milevskiy did get red carded in the 72nd but the Spanish side was unable to push another across, obviously.

Poor Albiol, perhaps he and the Dweez can commiserate.

Read more on "A Few Bad Days Is More Like It"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF *Now Doubly Updated*

Color me impressed. Initially, I thought the eBay listing for this week's shirt was full of bunk. After a good five minutes of interweb searching, I find out it's only halfway full of bunk. Good on you, eBay seller sunglasses-de.

Back on September 11, 1991 (make your own joke here), Germany visited England for a friendly. Because both teams wear white, Germany was compelled to put on its away shirt. Adidas had reworked the away shirt since the last time the two teams met in World Cup 90, and had brought it in line, design-wise, with the home shirt that Germany won the World Cup in. That was a mistake. How bad of a mistake? See for yourself below.

Ay yi yi. I would curse in German, but I have no idea how to do those extra-squiggly B things on my computer. Even as a life-long Dolphins fan, I realize that there are just some times you don't go with this shade of green. Like when the rest of your outfit consists of red, black and yellow. Mind-numbingy hideous.

As the eBay seller correctly points out, this version of the German NT shirt only saw pitch time once, in that aforementioned friendly against England. From there he extrapolates that since he only remembers players wearing long-sleeves that night, and this one has a number on it, this must be some über-rare shirt that's worth a thousand pounds. Mmm, okay.

As you can see from this lovely back shot that's not exactly a number style that would be hard to replicate. I'm sure any screenprinter from 1960 on could heat-transfer that on there for you without much of a problem.

So where does the high price come from? Well, the seller thinks this might be a training shirt. He has no proof to back it up, only the high price and the hopes that someone fails at reading comprehension. Good luck, German dude!

Looking at this shirt leaves me with one question. In the hopes that someone will be able to answer it, I will gift a youtube for you below. Where did Germany pull this color green from for its away shirts? Why did they used it for so long before dropping it of late as their second shirt color?

Update: Bill, from the wonderful Bill Sports Maps (so good, even my mom sent me a link to it), answers my question. He earned you a video!

Germany wore green as their second jersey for many years, in honor of Ireland. Ireland was the only national team willing to play Germany, right after World War II, as the rest of the world was still mad about the whole Nazism/genocide/invasion thing.

As promised, a gift from the youtube. As you probably know, Jurgen Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham in the mid-'90s with the reputation as a bit of a diver. He jokingly played into that stereotype with his diving goal celebration once at Spurs. I think the reputation came from England fans, peeved at losing in PKs to Germany in the 1990 World Cup, who watched the Final and saw this. Behold, one of the greatest dives I have ever seen.

Second (and maybe final) update: I've done some digging on the subject and come up with the following possibilities. Unfortunately, none are definitive, as such a reason has been lost to the sands of time.

1. what Bill said (which is disputed everywhere it is brought up)
1a. That Ireland were the first team to agree to a friendly after WWII. Plausible, I think.
2. That it is out of respect for Ireland staying neutral in WWII. Why not the Swiss red then? Besides, Ireland was still under the yoke of commonwealth until 1949.
3. German passports were green. Whatever
4. The DFB colors were green and white. (from the DFB, but based on supposition since no one wrote down why they did so)
5. West Germany's capital was Bonn, in the Rhineland. Rhineland's traditional colors (from heraldry) were Green and Silver. This information was based on the idea that one very strong man (whose name I forget) was in charge of everything. You may count this as the historical perspective.

I guess the real answer may never be known.

Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF *Now Doubly Updated*"...

Another New Zidane.

New Zidane sighting, sound the alarms...

This is fleet footed six year old Madin Mohammed. Madin has been signed up by the French national academy and is attracticing attention from clubs all over Europe including Real madrid and Chelsea.

Young Madin is the latest to be compared to the retired French master. There have been many 'new Zidanes' in the past. And I mean MANY!

Be warned, the below video is highly entertaining.

Madin Mohammed. New Zidane number 456?

Read more on "Another New Zidane."...

What's Wrong with Martin Taylor?

No, I'm not going to use the picture of THAT tackle, you sadists.

We all remember it. Arsenal v. Birmingham at St. Andrews, late February of 2008. THAT tackle. Martin Taylor comes in high and late, breaking Eduardo's leg, and rightly receives a red card. Followed by death threats. Eduardo spends a year rehabbing his leg, gets a few games under his belt with the reserves, and then bursts back onto the scene with a brace (hmm, poor choice of words?) against Cardiff in the FA Cup 4th round replay.

Just a few days later Eduardo told the British papers that he forgave Taylor, and that injuries were a risk one took in playing professional football. But it was still an incredibly painful experience, both mentally and physically, for Eduardo to recover from that tackle. And if we believe Taylor, it was mentally difficult for him as well, wondering if he had ended someone's career. Thus, Taylor says that he was relieved to see the Crozilian striker perform so well in the FA Cup match, noting that he followed the minute-by-minute account of the match.

Taylor has consistently stated that the tackle was accident, that he simply got there late due to Eduardo's speed on the ball. He has also said that he went to the hospital numerous times to see Eduardo, twice speaking with an Arsenal press officer and once actually speaking to the striker, although the latter was still in a drug-induced haze. During the course of the recovery, Taylor claims that he was "able to liase with [Eduardo]", but it's not quite clear what that means.

And here's the thing - Eduardo says that Taylor has never apologized to him.

"But he still struggles to understand why Taylor never picked up the phone to say sorry. Eduardo said: “Some friends told me he was saying he’d spoken to me — but he never did. I’ve never met him...[and]he’s never sent anything directly to me."

So what's wrong with Martin Taylor? Is he exaggerating his efforts to reach out to Eduardo? Well, consider what else Taylor has to say for himself:

"If I had lost my head, or decided to hurt him, then I would feel differently to how I do now. I know in myself I went to get the ball that was there. That was the only thing on my mind. Eduardo’s speed made sure he got there before I did. It’s a difficult one. I can’t say I felt guilty, like perhaps you would do if your intentions weren’t honest ones. I empathised with him because of what had happened."

Of course, Taylor has also said that he would not blame Eduardo if the striker did not shake his hand the next time they met on the pitch. Umm, what? Why should Eduardo have to make the gesture? Isn't it up to Taylor to beg for forgiveness for such a reckless tackle? Even the Gunners among us (after we calmed down) agreed that the tackle was not malicious, but it was certainly dangerous, and Taylor should be ashamed of himself for not apologizing. If all he can say for himself is that he visited Eduardo in the hospital while the striker was still doped up (and likely wouldn't remember anything), shouldn't Taylor make a more genuine effort (even if only for PR (public relations, not Precious Roy)) to set things right?

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No Soup for U

Last summer LDU Quito won the Copa Libertadores on PKs after a crazy 5-5 aggregate with Brazilian side Fluminese. In so doing they became the first non-Brazil non-Argentine side from CONMEBOL to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup.

There, they advance to the finals and lost 1-0, ceding Manchester United the first 20% of their seemingly inevitable quintuple that we're never going to hear the end of.

So, the LDU Quito players are doing what any side on top of their region would do: Going on strike. Wait, wha...?

Seems LDU Quito is having cash flow problems and players are reportedly owed wages from December and January, so they are going on strike until they get paid. Says el capitán Luis Fernando Saritama: "At the start of the season there was a promise the club would meet its obligations. We're doing ours by getting results but we're not seeing the same (from the directors)."

Won't play, won't train, won't shag WAGs.

Eh, two out of three ain't bad. They're probably doing nothing but that and X-Box until this is settled.

This isn't the first financial spat the club has faced. Just days after the Copa Lib win coach Carlos Sevilla resigned in a disagreement with club directors over bonus money.

This is kind of a big deal because, well, LDU Quito has a title to defend. They opened their Copa Lib campaign with a 3-2 win over Palmeiras yesterday. And have a match next week against another Brazilian side in Cruzeiro. Says the wire services: "Deportivo would face heavy sanctions if they forfeited the game."

No kidding?

LDU Quito. South American Champions. World Finalists. Broke Ass Ecuadorians.God, South American soccer is crazy.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: That's a lot of shirts

One hell of a great video from 1977. The intro to a Tampa Bay Rowdies-NY Cosmos match [The Best Eleven]
Umbro opens up their shirt archives. Bigus would like the last one, but not its caption Been fixed [EPL Talk]
More footballers charged in Stevie G's bar fight [BBC]

Want to know why AZ Alkmaar haven't lost since September? Well, playing in the Eredivisie might be part of it, or maybe it's Total Football 2.0 [Guardian]
Gazza's stepdaughter takes after her newer pops. Make sure you see all of the pictures [Daily Mail]
High school soccer game called at halftime because referees felt threatened by fans and summarily walked off [El Paso Times]
Robbie Williams can't spend money on Port Vale. Hell, he can't even afford a decent hat [BBC]

Chivas USA had cheer/dance team tryouts. There's video. Four minutes worth [The Offside Rules]

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But Doesn't Milan Touch Us All?

Sure that's a dynamite headline—theirs not ours—but of relevance here is the story below.

If you can't see it, it reads: "After days of indiscretions and refutation, it seems that David Beckham has finally obtained this that it wanted."

That's some top notch reporting. Okay, it's actually run through a translator, but it seems as if the Italian iteration of (oh, should probably mention that's a screencap of Goal's website) thinks the L.A.-to-Milan deal is done.

There's a full screenshot available here.

Compare that to the English version of the page found here. In the English language version of the Goal story, Beckham is still in limbo (or in a really bad movie with flying dogs).

Anyway, from these two stories we can conclude one of three things:

A) The Italian story is actually the result of some horrible Babelfish work.

B) Editorial and factual consistency across languages isn't a priority at

C) Beckham is like some sort of footballing Schroedinger Cat, who is in some probabilistic state where he's both in Milan and L.A. and only by observing him, do we force him into one or the other.

This last one might be true if we wait until the Wednesday match and all observe him in Milan colors and force him into the Italian state of being. Although after being declared fit for the UEFA Cup match, Ancelotti has now backed off those comments and said both Becks and Pato are doubtful for the match.

The MLS deadline obviously came and went on Firday. Then Milan declared Garber's deadline a 'tactic' and said they were still sending an entourage to L.A. this Friday (or maybe Thursday) to continue negotiations.

This is getting boring. Worse, it's making us sympathetic towards Beckham. He's not even in a money grab, he just wants to play soccer at a level high enough to give him a chance for South Africa in 2010. And with its $2.19M salary cap, that ain't MLS.

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Bayern Munich May Not Be Too Interested in Signing Lando

Looks like the resurrection of Landon Donovan might've hit a snag. While speaking with the German press over the weekend, Bayern's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was quoted as saying:

Donovan is an interesting player. But when you have Klose, Toni and Olic already under contract, we think the fourth player (striker) should really be a young player with perspective.

After chalking up the last bit about young players having perspective as lost in translation, what's left is either feigned non-interest in an attempt to bring down the transfer fee, or legit non-interest. We're guessing it's a little bit of both.

As others, such as our friend Greg Lalas have speculated, one of the sticking points appears to be that MLS would want in the neighborhood of US$15 million for Landycakes. For that price, Bayern probably could snatch up a 19-year-old up-and-comer as opposed to a 26-year-old fourth striker.

The other thing to consider is that Lando was ostensibly brought in by Jurgen Klinsmann, who may not have the highest standing with the club at the moment. Let's just say that if the Kaiser admits that Bayern aren't favorites to win the Bundesliga, than the manager is on shaky ground. And that's even assuming that Klinsy would want Donovan to stay in the first place.

So where does that leave our beloved pygmy striker? To his credit, Donovan has gone over to Europe with the right attitude and seems intent on dispelling all those many criticisms that have been lobbed his way. Although his performance this weekend subbing on for an injured Luca Toni was pretty abject (according to the NY Kid, who actually watched the match), some of that has to be chalked up to jetlag after the US v. Mexico match. Otherwise, Lando has looked okay, scoring in friendlies and subbing on late in games. But maybe that's simply not good enough to earn a contract from Bayern -- or, at least, the $15 million outlay to sign said contract.

Meanwhile, if the Galaxy/MLS have proven anything lately, it's that they are fast becoming experts on protracted transfer negotiations. Our guess for how this ends? Donovan winds up in Europe in the next few months, but not with Bayern. The only way to justify his transfer fee is if he's starting regularly. And Donovan has probably done enough during this loan spell to earn that, even if it's with another club.

(Photo: AP/Christof Stache)

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A Woman's Touch

It's been a while since women battled so bravely to discard the wooden spoon for a leg on the corporate ladder. Women have rights! They can vote, they can be the boss, they can drive the car, they can run the line, they can speak their cute little minds damn it, so why shouldn't a woman manage a football team? Tonight one will.... But not everyone is happy about it.

Fisher Athletic will take on Eastleigh in the Blue Square South division tonight, and Fisher turnstile operator Donna Powell will manage the first team. That's right... I said Donna (that's a birds name) Powell will manage the first team. 27-year-old Ms. Powell will take the reigns for one night only. Why? Because she raised 500 pounds for the debt-stricken club and her reward is to manage the team!

It's not exactly like my mother taking over, Ms. Powell knows her stuff. She currently manages a boys under-11 side. As she explained:

I am no shrinking violet and do not suffer fools lightly. I'll be picking the team and they'll be playing my way, none of this long ball nonsense - we'll be passing the ball on the floor, playing the game the right way. Sure, I'll be nervous - I realise there's a difference between kids' football and the Conference South but I see it as football is football no matter how old they are - and I know my stuff.

You go girl! Regular boss and hoofball merchant (apparently) Dave Mehmet better watch out, his job could be on the line. Fisher press officer Joe Arif stated:

If Donna can turn things round, then who knows - maybe there's a permanent position in future. It's a great opportunity and Donna knows it, she's already attended a few training sessions and was introduced to the squad a couple of weeks ago.

But not everyone is keen on Donna's new gig. Eastleigh director of football Dave Malone thinks Donna should not be allowed near the mainly manly managerial duties of the footy world, but not because he is sexist:

It devalues the league. I'm not particularly happy about it, simply because we've got to concentrate our minds on getting three points from the game. I think what they've done is unprofessional, Fisher have done it for financial reasons, and I can partly understand that, but I don't think being manager of a Blue Square South team is a saleable commodity.

Lets be honest. She can't do any worse. Fisher have lost their last TEN games and sit one lonely point off the bottom of the table. I will update you on Donna's big game tomorrow.


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Jimmy Bullard In Colorado to Ski Have Knee Surgery

It seems the tweak of Jimmy Bullard's knee is a little more serious than just a tweak. According to the Hull City official website, he's got a small tear in his cartilage.

We're a little confused by this episode—titled "The One Where Fulham Fucks Hull"—because here at UF we like Fulham (Deuce), Hull (for being smart about dealing with the media—and WSD listeners will know more about that), and Bullard.

If Fulham knew about the injury, then it makes sense they'd unload him during the transfer window. Bad on them if they shipped damaged goods (and bad on Hull for not doing due diligence).

But didn't the breakdown in new contract negotiations occur well before he was shipped out from Craven Cottage (meaning that the lack of contract from Fulham couldn't be injury related)? He made an appearance for Hull. Was he already injured when he played? Or is it just bad luck for Hull and their record £5M signing?

Bullard has already somewhat famously come back from one horrific injury which put him out the better part of a year and a half. We'll just hope this is something he can recover from quickly. If not, we're not sure who we're going to have to stop liking.

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Quick Throw: Scolari to Citeh?

Thus forever damaging the news-worthy sanctity of the Quick Throw, I present this wonderful, media-driven slab of conjecture: Big Phil could be at Eastlands soon to replace Mark "Inept" Hughes.

Stunning, right? Because only in soccer could mediocrity and dismissal from a big, rich club land you a job at a smaller, richer club that's trying to get big.

One thing is certain: Citeh sure have an eye for quality. Oh look, there's Wayne Bridge now!

[Guardian Sport]

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Sepp Blatter's Defensive Driving Class Has Awesome Benefits

UF loves Sepp Blatter.

Not because he's particularly good at his job of running FIFA, but because everything he says and everything he does is blog fodder. He's like Herpes: permanent, recurring, unsightly, embarassing, and, seeing how he's been in charge in Zurich since 1998, the only way to get rid of him might also be through death.

Usually there is a comedic air to his fuck-ups. Not today, kids. Not today.

Seems among other things Blatter sucks at is driving. From something called "Transparency In Reporting":

Last week Zurich journalist Jean Francois Tanda revealed in Sonntags Zeitung that multi-millionaire Sepp Blatter had persuaded a judge to impose the lightest possible fine after a car crash in which the FIFA president nearly killed another driver.

Tanda disclosed that Sepp Blatter escaped with a derisory 600 francs fine (£360, 400 Euros, US$500) after losing control of his 525 bhp Mercedes SL 63, hitting a car in front of him and then careening across a double white line into the other carriageway and striking an oncoming VW Golf so hard that it was flung in the air and landed upside down.
The driver of the flipped car had a good laugh when he was informed that the reason Blatter was driving so recklessly was because he was late for a round of golf. He quipped "I hope he drives better on the course."

Not really.

As we understand it, the fine should have reflected Blatter's total income, implying that he received special treatment, or he did not properly disclose his actual income to the court. Or both actually: special treatment for a) a lower fine and b) not having to report his actual income to the court.

The latter is kind of a deal because nobody knows what Blatter makes. It's a secret. As well as many of the other dealings of football's governing body (fun backstory: when a 2006 book was published with accounts of the corruption under Blatter, FIFA obtained an injunction to prevent the sale of the book in Switzerland).

Figure Bud Selig makes $18M for running MLB into the ground*, what's Blatter make for running the world's game?

As the article intimates, Blatter's fine reflected that of a person making around $65K or a little more than the occasional honorarium allegedly paid to executive committee members.

The rest of the gold here is in the comments and responses. As the article highlights some:

"Ronnie König asked, ‘How corrupt is our country anyway? and was answered by Veronique Duchand: ‘We now have a legal system that is comparable with those in China and some African dictatorships.’ Ludwig Baggenstos thought it was more like ‘South America.’"

Woo hoo. Our legal system escaped comparison with some of the worst countries in the world. USA! USA! USA!

Oh, Blatter did address the issue saying, "I have no comment."


(*We're aware that attendance numbers have soared in the post-World-Series-killing strike era, but much like with Blatter at FIFA, MLB seems to thrive despite the actions of it's leadership, not because of it).

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Racism Abounds

On March 3rd and 4th, the Unite Against Racism conference will be held in Warsaw, Poland. The conference is a partnership between UEFA, the players' union FIFPro and the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network designed to deter racism both on and off the pitch. Sadly, this can't come soon enough.

Although Lyon were happy with their 3-1 victory over Le Havre to cement their place atop the Ligue 1 standings, the game was marred by John Mensah (seen above) receiving 2 yellow cards. The reason for his angry play on the pitch appears to be the racial insults hurled his way by a Le Havre supporter, who was eventually arrested in the 55th minute.

The entire Olympic Lyonnais club has rallied around the Ghanaian defender. Gaffer Claude Puel has stated publicly that he should have substituted Mensah when it became obvious that the player was psychologically affected by the racist taunts. In addition, club president Michel Aulas noted that the taunts began during warm-ups and were directed towards Kader Keita, Frederic Piquionne and Karim Benzema as well as Mensah, but that the latter seemed to bear the brunt of the "monkey noises" that were made.

Really? Monkey noises? Why can't people just make Titus Bramble jokes?

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Backpasses: Watch out

Was this on purpose? Some out there think it was.

Eduardo calls his return and brace the best day of his life. Sarah cries [Arsenal]
Samir Nasri is quite good at playing with himself (on PES) [Independent]
Hull City are good guys to the bloggers [The Offside]

Fluminense keeper gives up penalty, then earns one, all in the last 10 minutes [101 Great Goals]
You have to wonder if this ref's name is D-Bo, cuz he got knocked the **** out [The Spoiler]
Scary goings on in Italy. Genoa supporters, unhappy at giving up a three goal lead to Fiorentina (and Adrian Mutu) pelt the away team with coins. Then, when attacking the leaving bus, one Genoa supporter gets run over (scroll down for videos) [Dirty Tackle]

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FA Cup Liveblog: Arsenal v. Cardiff City

The ominous ball of Champions League, EPL and FA Cup matches begins to gain in size and gather steam.

Through the hilarity of scheduling, we present a fourth-round replay for the Gooners, despite their fifth-round opponents already playing to a replay next week, and despite the fact that the quarter-final draw has already been made.

I love the FA sometimes.

So, will they get it done tonight, or will fixtures continue to pile up for Arsenal like a giant Katamari?

Lineups and livebloggery after the jump.

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Gibbs, Nasri, Song, Denilson, Vela, Eduardo, Bendtner.
Subs: Almunia, Van Persie, Ramsey, Wilshere, Clichy, Bischoff.

Cardiff: Heaton, McNaughton, Rae, Purse, Johnson, Parry, Ledley, Kennedy, Burke, Bothroyd, McCormack.
Subs: Capaldi, Whittingham, Johnson, Comminges, Scimeca, Blake.

The big news is that Eduardo is in the starting XI, next to the world's most egotistical/delusional striker, Nicklas Bendtner. Even though he's certifiably insane, you have to admire his gusto.

Couple of issues with a feed, but I'll be in business shortly. It's not like anything ever happens in the first 5 minutes!

5 mins: Bendtner proves why he shouldn't start every game, heading over from close range. To be as fair as possible, the cross was high, and he did well to reach it, but still - shouldn't the best Arsenal striker tuck those away with ease?

6 mins: Bendtner is denied again, as Tom Heaton (on loan from Manchester United) makes two good saves in quick succession, the first to parry a venomous shot from Carlos Vela, and the second with his legs as NB pounced on the rebound. All Gooners, all the time.

11 mins: A rare attack by Cardiff! Chris Burke gets behind Gibbs down the right wing and puts in a decent enough cross, but the linesman reckons that crossed the touchline first.

The difficulty of liveblogging with an Arabic audio feed is becoming apparent. Despite most English-language commentators being absolutely insufferable, they do help in at least keeping you up to speed. This is like watching a game live; you have one chance to see it, process it, and write it down. Most times, the audio at least gives you a second chance. It's also impossible to keep up with who's currently in possession.

14 mins: Eduardo decides to shoot from the center circle, apropos of nothing, but it's always heading wide. Heaton was back anyway.

15 mins: Sagna has a go down the right, lofting a cross in front of Eduardo's run but it's too strong and Heaton collects on the edge of his area.

Nice flowing football by Arsenal, which is par for the course at this point. However, the inability to play a simple pass behind the defense is still as apparent as ever. No, it can't be a simple pass. It has to be a backheel or chip, or sidefooted tap. It must be taking years off Wenger's life expectancy.

17 mins: Lovely move by Arsenal again on the edge of the box, as Eduardo does get behind the backline, but his square pass is blocked by captain Darren Purse and cleared. Crisis averted.

Oh, and Bendtner again! Lovely run by Vela down the left, cutting it back from the touchline and somehow finding NB in front of goal. His first touch beats his man, but he lingers too long to shoot and its blocked by two sliding tackles at once. Think one of 'em was Darren Purse again. The window of opportunity was small, but you'd expect better from the great Arsenal striker.

20 mins: NB plays Eboue in behind Purse but his shot is easily smothered by Heaton. Will Cardiff ever manage to get the ball beyond the halfway line?

21 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and finally Cardiff crack. Another lovely bit of play down the left, as Eduardo releases Vela, and Vela's cross floats right along the six-yard box, sitting up perfectly for Eduardo to power in a header, leaving Heaton with no chance. Wonderful interplay by Vela and Eduardo. NB was right there for the rebound, it must be noted. That lad is special. Meanwhile, the heartwarming recovery of Eduardo continues. He's engulfed by teammates at the corner flag, and rightly so. Good to see him getting his form back. Arsenal 1, Cardiff City 0

24 mins: Poor Bluebirds. The rout is surely on, as Cardiff's backline looks as stiff and useless as the Maginot Line. Arsenal appear to have no trouble getting 'round the back. This time, it's Vela again, but Eduardo can't control and shoot under pressure from Purse.

27 mins: Cardiff winger Paul Parry works hard for the money, so hard for it honey. He wins a corner off Sagna but makes a mess of the delivery, and it's time for the Gooners to play keepaway for the next 15 minutes.

28 mins: It's Nasri's turn to sting Heaton's palms, scurrying through the midfield and shooting from 25 yards, causing the goalie far more trouble than it should have.

30 mins: Some 6 or 7 minutes since Nicklas Bendtner offered anything of merit to proceedings, making me wonder if the poor fella's only gone and overrated himself with his own hype and bluster. Eduardo and Vela appear quite useful without him, it must be said.

32 mins: We are slowly entering into that lull that's commonplace in a game like this. Lukas Fabianski tries to avert the boredom by coming out some 35 yards from his line to shin the ball to safety. Gallas and Toure were both there to clear, but that wouldn't have been nearly as fun, would it?

34 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and it's the great, the epic, the legendary, the gargantuan Arsenal great, Nicklas Bendtner. He gets his broad Danish noggin on a fine inswinging corner by Nasri, directing it nicely inside the far post. He did well there, momentarily living up to his own billing in coming all the way across the area to outjump both Cardiff defenders to get on the end of that one. Arsenal 2, Cardiff City 0

38 mins: I've solved the audio problem by muting the bugger and enjoying some Gordon Ramsay on the TV at the same time. The day is truly complete; sumptuous, free-flowing football on the computer, and profane cookery on the telly.

Cardiff look shellshocked. They earned their big-money replay at Emirates, make no mistake, but they're horribly outmatched this evening. Ex-Gooner left-back Lee Dixon on the BBC reckons they're giving Arsenal too much respect, but could it be something much simpler, like a gulf in class? If I were an Arsenal fan (thankfully I'm not), I'd be watching this game in two minds: one greedily enjoying the quality of play from the team, the other wondering just where on earth these performances are week in, week out. Maybe I'm overanalyzing considering that they're playing Cardiff, but still.

45 mins: Tom Heaton is rather good. It makes me sick to think he'll end up back at Manchester United at some point. He saves twice from close range to deny Eduardo and Bendtner (related question: where on earth are Cardiff's center-backs?), although Nicklas does well to deny himself, hitting the post with Heaton sprawling and the goal wide open. Moron.

To recap: Eduardo's initial turn-and-shoot was parried to the Amazing Bendtner's feet, and with time to shoot, he sidefoots the ball against the post with Heaton stranded. Bendtner collects his own rebound and shoots again, by which time Heaton had recovered enough to make another diving save.

The ref's seen enough, and I'm surely not far behind.

HALF TIME: Arsenal 2, Cardiff City 0
One of the more deserved leads you'll ever see, although the wunderkind Bendtner must reconsider his own greatness after missing that sitter on the stroke of half-time.

Now to watch Gordon cook a chicken leg with bacon before the second half. Oh, and time to make some Bagel Bites, the official half-time snack of any self-respecting liveblogger.

The feed I'm watching has a rather wonderful half-time show, consisting of the two presenters, both sporting facial hair, beer guts, and the hangdog look that one develops through years of being hungover every single day, superimposed over highlights of the first half. It's glorious in its low budget, green-screen approach, and I applaud their minimal aesthetic. When compared to the sturm und drang graphics-gasms frequently provided by ESPN.

To elaborate further: the two men are perched atop bar stools some two feet apart, no table or podiums to lean on, and the lad with a mustache has a clipboard that he is fixated upon. Sportscasting 101: look at the f*cking camera. Still, they're better than JP Dellacamera.

They're back out and ready to kick off. NB is ready to atone for that ghastly miss with a second-half brace, surely. If Arsenal hold on, they'll play their fifth-round tie the same weekend that the quarter-finals are happening. Hilarious.

46 mins: Cardiff begin brightly with 40 seconds of possession in Arsenal's half, but order is quickly restored. Nasri whips in a free-kick from the left wing, but it's easily cleared. Expect the Gunners to pass Cardiff to death from here on out.

49 mins: The Edu-and-Vela Show continues, but this time, Carlos' low cross from the left is lacking in menace. Still, those two play a 1-2 better than anyone else at the moment. Are they twins? They play with the awareness of a pair separated at birth.

50 mins: For all their poetry in motion, it must be noted that there's still an ugly side to Arsenal's play, and it's ex-skipper William Gauloises. The Frenchman ploughs through Jay Bothroyd like a runaway train, picking up a yellow despite all his best "who, me?" gestures. It matters not, as the Bluebirds bugger up the free-kick. Based on this game so far, you'd think Lukas Fabianski has the easiest job in soccer.

54 mins: Lovely footwork by Vela gets him right through the Cardiff defense, as he skips inside and wrongfoots defender Roger Johnson, but Johnson recovers just in time to block Vela's shot.

57 mins: Don't look now, but it's a Cardiff counter-attack, and their first shot of the game! Jay Bothroyd gets a yard of space as Gallas plays back, and JB duly obliges. He skips to the top of the box and shoots well, forcing Fabianski to fall forward and smother. Be proud, Bluebirds fans... it only took 57 minutes.


GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and Eduardo converts the spot-kick he earned. He sends Heaton the wrong way after being shoved down by Gavin Rae. Cruise control now for Arsenal, although it's been like that since kick-off. Arsenal 3, Cardiff City 0

Wenger looks to be warming up and instructing a couple of subs... presumably Eduardo will be brought off to spare that ankle any potential distress. He's had a wonderful game, and the pairing of Vela and Edu is tough to defend. Why they don't play in the EPL together is anyone's guess.

65 mins: Free-kick Cardiff, in decent position: 25 yards out, just to the left of goal. Luke McCormack gives it a good effort and wins a corner as it deflects off the top of the wall.

Cardiff's best chance of the game, which was barely a chance at all. The outswinging corner found a Bluebird head in the area, and it took some scrambling by Sagna to get it clear. Fabianski didn't look interested in doing it himself.

Then, the Gunners surge down the other end. Eduardo turns his man inside out and puts it wide right for the Stupendous Bendtner. He beats his man round the back and puts a low cross in, but Eduardo can't finish.

It's his last bit of work, too, as he comes off to rapturous applause. He's back, Gooner fans.

Double sub for Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey and RvP on, replacing Nasri and Eduardo.

Cardiff then do the same, bringing off midfielder Paul Parry for Peter Whittingham, and Darcy Blake on for Darren Purse. The Cardiff skipper hasn't had a very good game.

70 mins: Cardiff are getting more possession in the Arsenal half, but it's to be expected when the home side have their fifth-round berth comfortably secured. Sagna breaks down the right wing and feeds the Marvelous Bendtner in the middle, but NB fouls in trying to spin past his marker. No-one at Emirates is surprised in the slightest.

73 mins: Kieran Gibbs snuffs out a one-man Cardiff break for goal, and the passes along the backline have begun. That's the mind-numbing stuff you don't normally see until the 85th minute.

Oh, I didn't see that first time. When Eduardo came off, he was limping slightly and headed right down the tunnel after coming off. I don't wish to be alarmist, but he could have taken a little knock.

Final Arsenal sub: Carlos Vela comes off after a wonderful shift, replaced by Amaury Bischoff.

Cardiff match Wenger with their final sub at the same time (they realize they can sub at any time, right?), removing Gavin "I'm sure he did well in midfield somewhere" Rae with the immortal/33-year-old Riccardo Scimeca, who played for Villa and Notts Forest back in the 90s.

77 mins: All sorts of sideways passing by Cardiff as they forage unsuccessfully for a consolation goal. They might have to make do with their share of the gate receipts, as they've looked rather useless up-front. I'd rather chalk it up to their ineptitude than the brilliance of Toure/Gauloises, because I think the latter to be impossible.

Pass-pass-pass-pass-sidefoot-pass by the Gooners ends with RvP getting the ball a shade offside (but no flag!), and his fierce shot is well covered by Heaton. The scoreline's a bit unfair to the Cardiff goalie, who's generally looked good despite the constant action in his area.

79 mins: Dear, oh dear. The Fantastic Bendter comes in an hour late on Kevin McNaughton, with both feet up (studs showing!) and catching the midfielder on his foot. Another yellow for the Gunners, and another black mark against the Godsent Bendtner, Our Lord's Gift to Football.

81 mins: Bischoff gets free on the left and just misses making it 4-0, whisking his shot across goal and past the far post. Heaton at full stretch looked to get a toe on it, but no corner.

83 mins: After that talk this morning (yes, I realize I'm beating a dead horse, but it's fun) by Nicklas, aside from that goal and hilarious miss, all he's managed to do is get himself booked for a shocking challenge, and that's about it. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to open my mouth at work about how brilliant I am, I'm not going to follow-through by sleeping at my desk and shitting my pants. The statement and the action just doesn't correlate.

86 mins: The Outstanding Bendtner is in the thick of it again, sliding in to Heaton's gut and introducing his studs to the goalie's pancreas. RvP put him clean through with a neat pass, but it was too heavy and close to the goalkeeper, but it wasn't going to stop our favourite Dane! The ref gives him the benefit of the doubt, but really, he was nowhere near collecting that one. Bit lucky, in my opinion.

87 mins: It's all happening now! Sagna sprints from box-to-box, as only Sagna can, and goes down in the Cardiff box, but not much of a penalty shout.

88 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and The Wonderful Bendtner atones for his recent fouling. He puts Robin van Persie through the middle with a lovely pass, and RvP slots home past a helpless Heaton. Bit unfair at this point, as Cardiff have shown some guts in the last 20 minutes. Arsenal 4, Cardiff City 0

90 mins: Two minutes of stoppage time to come, not that it'll matter. A great, confidence-building display by Arsenal today, as Vela and Eduardo turned on the style this evening and things went very much according to plan.

90 mins + 2: Could have been 5! The Peerless Bendtner floats a ball to the far post, and RvP heads wide from 6 yards out. He stands frozen for a moment, stunned by his own profligacy.

FULL TIME: Arsenal 4, Cardiff City 0
That'll do. Wenger must be encouraged by the performance tonight, and he must be close to starting Carlos Vela regularly. With all that offensive firepower, he's going to have a hard time fitting them all in. Can Vela play left-back?

Goodnight all, thanks for following along. I'm all Gooner'd out.

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UF Quick Throw: Inter prevail in Milan derby; Beckham speaks again

Looking at the two teams, it would have been hard to predict anything other than a victory for Mourinho and Inter, so it's no surprise they won 2-1 despite an atrocious goal of the old "head ball onto arm and in" variety by Adriano. Stankovic's goal atoned for the sloppy first, however, and despite a late intervention by Pato, it was Inter's day, and the Serie A title is surely theirs, barring some Mets-esque collapse.

Oh, and afterwards, Beckham said it's be "difficult" for him to return to the LA Galaxy to fulfill his contr-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz just sell him already FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

[Guardian Sport]

Game highlights after the jump, courtesy of the peerless 101GreatGoals.

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It's not all bad news for Spartak London players involved with gorgeous women

What passes for love these days?

Is it those "____ is engaged" or "in a relationship" tags on Facebook? Is it driving 10 hours only to get caught on video sucking a pink dildo by two Scousers? Is it the mighty pre-nuptial agreement? Is is setting a World Record for kissing?

I say no to all these things.

In this day and age, love is turning down a lucrative Playboy offer so as not to ruin good contact with your ex-husband. That's what the delightful Jaciara Dias decided to do, and they might even get back together.

And judging by this picture, Deco, the ex-husband in question, is a very lucky man.

From the Daily Mail, a newspaper whose plan for surviving the economic crash appears to be printing nothing but pictures of hot women in bikinis:

Deco admitted he was shocked by Scolari's sacking last week and explained that he rejected other offers to hook up with his former national team boss in west London. But he may be ready to at least return to Dias's arms following a lengthy split dating back to last March.

She said: 'Playboy offered me a lot of money for me to pose naked. I would say that it was a millionaire proposal. It was a good opportunity, but I didn't accept because I do not want to spoil the good contact that I have with Deco at the moment. I have the opportunity to grow in other ways, to show my value as a model and actress.'
That's lovely! Love is not dead after all!

Deco does have a new girlfriend, or at least did when he signed for Spartak London in the summer, but Dias doesn't care. She still loves the pint-sized midfielder:
"I do not know if they are still together," said Dias. "What I can guarantee is that we have a very good relationship, that all those sorrows and the trauma of separation are left behind. At the beginning everything was very difficult and painful but now... thank God."
Here's hoping it all works out. A new manager at Stamford Bridge who should turn things around, and the chance of love again with his former wife! What more could he ask for?

UF feels like we should offer some advice to Deco, because getting back with exes isn't all fun and games. It helps when they're gorgeous, of course, but the crazy will still be there just under the surface, ready to flare up at any given moment.

Oh, and you'd drive yourself mad thinking about the things she may have been doing while you guys weren't together (including, but not limited to, some dalliances with former teammate and ex-Portugal captain Fernando Couto).

So take it under advisement. In the words of UF's resident love guru MoonshineMike, "it's not all peaches and cream, BUT she is so uber hot so that helps ease the crazy."

To be continued...

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Lamps is missing 12.5 million pounds

Spartak midfielder Frank Lampard might well be looking at a summer of coupon-cutting, with the news this morning that his fiancee, Elen Rives (the bread of this lady-text-lady sandwich), is breaking up with him.

They never married, but she'll probably leave with half his fortune.

This stuff is never pretty, especially as they have two children caught in the middle, but I'm sure they'll sort something out, for their sake if nothing else.

The problems appear to revolve around some cheating on Lamps' part, although as part of the financial deal, she'll likely be signing confidentiality papers, meaning we'll never hear all the sordid details of his infidelities (clearly not a thought that ever occurred to Danielle Lloyd), which is probably a good thing.

And so, the speculation begins. What went wrong?

Friends of Lampard have put the split down to the trauma brought on by the death of his mother Pat in April.

But the seeds of the break-up appear to have been sown when Miss Rives, 30, twice endured allegations of his infidelity. Friends of the model said she has never forgiven him for his alleged fling with an eastern European brunette during a boys-only jaunt to Las Vegas two years ago. Lampard, 30, was pictured with the woman by a tabloid newspaper and is said to have spent four hours with her in a villa.

'Elen felt humiliated by the whole episode,' said a friend. 'Frank has also never given her an adequate explanation for what he was doing, so it has simply festered. 'He has also not followed through on his promise to make her his wife - but it is the Las Vegas trip which has done all the real damage.'

Lampard had been accused of playing away before. In 2006 a woman claimed she had sex with him at a hotel in Barcelona - Miss Rives's home city.
Stay classy, Frank. Apparently, thanks to Mrs. Jay-Z, you should have put a ring on it if you liked it.

However, Elen is no angel either:
The footballer, meanwhile, is said to have been enraged to discover in a Sunday newspaper that his fiancée had been married before. A friend of Lampard said: 'There was Elen going on to Frank about the importance of being honest with one another when she had been married and never told him.'
(I'm betting the friend is EBJT)

And so, another footballer's relationship ends in tatters, and right after Valentine's Day too. Michael Chopra still had it worse.

So Frank. Today, wake up, get down to training, and figure out how to be more influential in games. Your last excuse just walked out the door.

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