Tagged: UEFA

The dominance of football’s superclubs shows no sign of ending – ESPN FC

The dominance of football’s superclubs shows no sign of ending – ESPN FC

Always a good read from Gabriele Marcotti and some great points throughout. I don’t think many supporters mind the big boys fighting it out for titles season after season but they don’t want repetition. We do like it even more when a Leicester City or Atletico Madrid surprise happens but I think most have already accepted the status quo.  Not that that’s a bad thing.

Michel Platini must explain all about Sepp Blatter and Fifa’s payment | Football | The Guardian

Michel Platini must explain all about Sepp Blatter and Fifa’s payment | Football | The Guardian

Oh, by the way, we’re back. Sort of. Just in time for all the latest FIFA news too. How fun.

Is Platini still the most likely winner of this thing when it’s all said and done? Probably. We’ll see how far these investigations with Sepp Blatter go.

Uefa must show more flexibility towards Europa League to restore past glories | Paul Wilson | Football | The Guardian

Uefa must show more flexibility towards Europa League to restore past glories | Paul Wilson | Football | The Guardian.

Interesting read. It is coming more from the point of view of Premier League sides but good points made. I still think maybe the Premier League sides should actually just start to give a crap about the tournament. What does a sixth placed finish in the Prem and a Europa League win get you these days? Tons of money and automatic Champions League qualification. No-brainer there really. It may be tougher on the club but a big-ish side should be able to handle it if rotated well.

UEFA Europa League – The Europa League needs to change current format to gain more interest – ESPN FC

UEFA Europa League – The Europa League needs to change current format to gain more interest – ESPN FC.

I’m actually pretty intrigued by that idea. Turning the Europa League back into the old UEFA Cup.

I guess, as the author states, the added incentive of entry into the Champions League next season will make this seasons knockout rounds even more interesting.(Now I know why Tottenham and Everton are so underwhelming in the Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino and Roberto Martinez have their eyes set on the Champions League through winning the Europa League. Hmmm.)

I think the FA Cup style would be great for the Europa League. I know I’d probably watch it more during the entire season than just during what is considered the knockout stages now.

Last International Break of 2014 Provides Plenty to Talk About

The last international break in 2014 was notable for a number of reasons. Some interesting story-lines off the pitch, coupled with career-defining moments on it, provided some entertainment in the absence of club football.

First and foremost, there was the release of FIFA’s summarized report on the investigation surrounding Russia and Qatar’s respective World Cup bids, and eventual wins. Absolute b*$#%#@t is what it was, and the reaction from investigator, Michael Garcia, and key whistle-blowers who were laid out so unceremoniously, will hopefully lead to further scrutiny for Don Sepp Blatter and his cohorts. The latest news is that the full report will be released to, and analyzed by, FIFA’s compliance chief.

Elsewhere, Inter Milan welcomed back the scarf connoisseur that is Roberto Mancini, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, unfortunately, got injured again. I’ll probably miss, or just plain omit, a few things along the way but we’ll take a look at the international break by looking at any notable news, performances etc. from each confederation.


Jamaica won the Caribbean Cup for the fourth time in the last six editions.  Costa Rica beat Uruguay (again) this time on penalties  The US ended 2014 with two losses, which is probably less important to some US fans than the fact that Jurgen Klinsmann has basically gone about dissing the MLS recently.

Mexico welcomed back Carlos Vela into the fold, or maybe it’s the other way around, and boy did he silence any doubters with his 2-goal performance versus the Netherlands.


Copa America 2015 is around the corner so everyone in South America’s involved in friendlies. Brazil continued to win, and try out new talents in the process, while the marquee match-up of Argentina vs. Portugal turned out to be a downer for anyone willing to pay tickets as seen here on Bleacher Report.

Uruguay beat Chile in their second friendly of the break while Colombia ended the year with two victories over the US and Slovenia.


France ended a very good 2014 on a somewhat disappointing note with a draw against Albania and a narrow victory over Sweden. The Euro 2016 host have another year to find the right balance and win the country’s first trophy since Euro 2000.

Germany and Spain again showcased the depths of talent available in both nations in a game that Germany squeezed out a 1-0 win. England won the latest edition of football’s longest rivalry game versus Scotland after Wayne Rooney won his 100th cap for his country while leading his country to victory over Slovenia. Rooney may not be the all-conquering hero English fans wanted but what he’s done in his career so far is astounding and he deserves credit for that achievement.

One of Rooney’s former teammates, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, basically confirmed his status as the Ballon D’Or winner(something we’ll talk about in due time) by becoming the all-time leading scorer in European Championship qualifying thanks to his goal against Albania.


There will be a new champion in Africa(hopefully Ghana) as Nigeria failed to qualify for the tournament as an automatic qualifier in first or second, or as the best third-placed team.

That wasn’t the only big news as far as the 2015 African Cup of Nations is concerned. Morocco relinquished their status as hosts, and were kicked out of the tournament as a result, so Equatorial Guinea is now the place for Africa’s showpiece event.

Here are the list of participants for the 2015 African Cup of Nations; Equatorial Guinea(hosts), Cape Verde, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Zambia, Cameroon, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Congo, DR Congo.

AFC and Oceanic

Not much big news going on in either confederation as teams in Asia gear up for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and the Oceanic teams prepare for the 2016 OFC Nations Cup.

Most Interesting International Matches on Paper During the Break

The international break is sometimes an annoyance to those who love club football but it shouldn’t be. These are the rare moments throughout the year where a country can put together arguably its best talent, and prepare for the next big tournament in World Football.

With the 2015 African Cup of Nations(possibly), Copa America 2015 next year, and Euro 2016 around the corner, there’s plenty of games of varying interest.  The South American sides are preparing for their tournament with some high-profile friendlies but if you want more competitive play the qualification for Euro 2016 is ongoing, and African Cup of Nation qualifying is in its final stage.

As far as the African Cup of Nations is concerned reports from AlJazeera.com state the initial hosts, Morocco, have been kicked out of the tournament after refusing to host the competition due to concerns about the recent Ebola outbreak. We’ll see who the next host is soon.

So let’s take at the fantastic football on display, shall we?


International Friendly Matches

Turkey vs. Brazil(Today)

This Turkish side isn’t the same team that troubled Brazil in the 2002 FIFA World Cup but there is usually a good amount of quality and solid work ethic in the squad. Brazil’s play during the early part of Dunga’s second reign has been good so far but this is the first European team they’ll face. With the Copa America drawing ever closer, Dunga will be trying to get more productivity out of his other attackers so that Neymar gets some help.

USA vs. Colombia

The progress of the US national team will be interesting to watch during the next few years, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s side has a tough test in their next friendly. Radamel Falcao will still be missing from Colombian ranks but the World Cup showed this team is extremely potent. The in-form James(Ham-ez) Rodriguez and the likes of Jackson Martinez and Carlos Bacca could run riot against an inexperienced defense.

Argentina vs. Croati(Today)

This is a mouth-watering clash on paper. Croatia were disappointing at the World Cup but have been undefeated in Euro 2016 qualifiers so far. Argentina is a work in progress under Gerardo Martino but Sergio Aguero is on fire in club football. The European side will have one eye on an important qualifier against Italy but the quality on display should make this fun to watch.

Netherlands vs.  Mexico(Today)

The Netherlands have been poor under Guus Hiddink since the end of the 2014 World Cup. Mexico was one of the teams they beat on their surprising run to the semifinals, and the Oranje will be hoping history repeats itself. A boost of confidence is definitely needed with another important qualifier after the friendly. The main talking point for Mexico is the return of a certain Carlos Vela to the national setup. I’ve always liked him since his time at Arsenal, and it’s sad it took this long for the differences to be sorted but hopefully he can help Mexico push on now.

Uruguay vs. Costa Rica

Anybody willing to pass up a rematch of the biggest surprise in the World Cup? Maybe Joel Campbell can put himself back in the limelight with a repeat performance, and then Arsenal will be able to sell him as Arsene Wenger seemingly wants to do. Costa Rica may be out of the mind of most nations since the World Cup concluded but they showed they should be respected, and many of their players are still available for years.

Spain vs. Germany

What’s there to say about this one. Germany  has taken over the mantle of best team in the World and all Spain can do  is tryto regain some credibility with a victory. Neither side is at full strength but given the vast amount of talent available there will still be lots of quality on display.

Argentina vs. Portugal

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. Really don’t need to say much more than that. Ronaldo has wrestled the World’s best player title back from the Argentinian so it’ll be interesting to see if they try to one-up each other in their second meeting of the season. Both sides are in transition, and Carlos Tevez is finally back for Argentina.

France vs. Sweden

These games just advertise themselves, don’t they? The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a Swedish shirt should be fun but France, the Euro 2016 hosts, have continued their good World Cup form in recent friendlies.

Chile vs. Uruguay

Most of the South American teams seem to be playing each other leading up to Copa America 2015. This friendly is interesting on paper but won’t be indicative of what happens when they meet in the tournament proper. Alexis Sanchez and Edinson Cavani are the men on fire for their respective clubs but with Luis Suarez working his way back to form the edge may go to Uruguay.

Scotland vs. England –

The oldest game, and rivalry, in world football deserves a watch doesn’t it? Well, maybe. Wonder if we’ll here about anymore tired English players.

UEFA Euro 2016 Championship Qualifying

Czech Republic vs. Iceland

Both these teams have won against the big boy in the group, Netherlands, and sit with perfect records. One of them will want to get a good lead on the sleeping giant as you really would except the Netherlands to at least nab the second spot and avoid the playoffs. Some decent quality in these teams as well.

Belgium vs. Wales

These two sides are battling it out for a Euro 2016 spot along  with Bosnia and Herzegovina. I really would like to see all three of them there, so hopefully one gets the “best third-place team” spot. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will lead Wales against a very talented Belgian side but with Ramsey off-form it may be up to Bale to drive his side to a win.

Italy vs. Croatia

Italy had a good start with life under Antonio Conte and Croatia is keeping pace, with both sides winning three out of three. They’ll want to avoid the playoffs, and with Norway lurking, a good result in this match could go a long way. These two sides are favored to go through automatically but avoiding the playoffs is the name of the game. It will be interesting to see how Conte makes use of Mario Balotelli, if he does at all.


CAF: 2015 African Cup of Nations Qualifying

Cameroon vs DR Congo

DR Congo, surprisingly, has a chance to get into the African Cup of Nations ahead of the Ivory coast. They’ll need to match Ivory Coast’s expected win over Sierra Leone by beating Cameroon though. Should they then get a tie against the Elephants then they should go through.

Congo vs Nigeria

Nigeria needs win to get level with Congo and tie for second place, as South Africa may be wrapping up first place with an expected victory over Sudan. A draw or loss against Congo could well see the defending champions out of the competition as they would find it difficult to catch Congo, who face the less challenging test of Sudan in their last game.

Senegal vs Egypt

There’s a one-point difference between Senegal and Egypt right now, with Tunisia three points ahead and looking to effectively put themselves into the competition with a win over Botswana. Senegal can do with draw, at least, versus Egypt as they face Botswana next and should feel confident beating them again to make sure they progress. Egypt’s need for a win should make this game interesting.


European Leagues Weekend Roundup

The last international break of the year is here, and we’re coming off a round with some interesting results. The big one heading into the break will be the return to the hot-seat for everyone’s favourite Scottish manager. I’m talking about David Moyes of course. The former Manchester United man is taking a bit of a risk with a move to La Liga but I think he may do okay. Real Sociedad is a talented team that were in the Champions League last year but more on that later.

Another big bit of news, which we’ll have more on as well, is Morocco’s continued insistence on not wanting to host the African Cup of Nations due to the recent Ebola outbreaks.

For now, let’s take a look around the European leagues and see how the big sides fared.

Primeira Liga(10) and Eredivisie(Round 12)

Porto retained their status as the only unbeaten big boys in the Primeira Liga with a late equalizer against Estoril. That result means they sit two points off Benfica in third place. Benfica won their game over weekend while Sporting Lisbon were held to a tie. Those results allowed Guimaraes to take second place.

Things were pretty much business as usual in the Eredivisie, with PSV and Ajax both winning and Feyenoord picking up a draw. PSV still hold a four-point advantage over their rivals and FC Twente stays in third place with a victory of their own.

Ligue 1(Round 13)

Le Classique proved to be a very good match, not least because of the return of Zlatan. Paris Saint-Germain came out winners but Marseille showed that they will be challenging all season, especially with one or two additions in January. Elsewhere, Lyon continued to climb up the table after some really good form, and there’s only two points separating first from third. Lille lost over the weekend while Monaco drew and continued their slow ascent up the league.

Ligue 1 highlights here


Serie A(Round 11)

Juventus sent out a title warning with a 7-0 thumping of Parma but things should get very interesting moving forward. Roma is still three points behind, and now Napoli is finally in the running after another win in a solid run of form. AC Milan and Inter Milan both drew, and AC Milan will be especially frustrated with an inability to make use of their lack of European play thus far.

Serie A highlights here


Bundesliga(Round 11)

Bayern Munich continues to roll on with a 4-0 victory over the weekend but VFL Wolfsburg remained in touching distance with a victory of their own. Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 victory over Borussia Mochengladbach showed that even quality sometimes needs a little luck to get out of a rut, as this unfortunate own goal by Christopher Kramer provided the three points. Schalke continued to fall down the table with another loss while Bayer Leverkusen were held to a draw.

Bundesliga highlights here


La Liga(Round 11)

Real Madrid show no signs of stopping right now with another high-scoring win over the weekend. Barcelona righted some recent wrongs with a win of their own but it was not an easy performance. Those two are now in their familiar top two positions with Madrid leading by two points. Sevilla and Valencia both tied in tough games but Atletico Madrid’s loss to a manager-less Real Sociedad side was a bit of a surprise. David Moyes will be taking over Real Sociedad soon.

La Liga highlights here


Premier League(Round 10)

Chelsea passed another big test in the season by beating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield. At this point the most interesting possibilities in the league lie in the race for the Champions League positions with Southampton, Manchester City, West Ham, Swansea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle, Stoke City and Everton make up the top 10. In that order. Manchester City were held by West Ham at the week, Arsenal lost to Swansea and Tottenham lost to Stoke City, leaving Manchester United as the only other big team to win this weekend. And those results are why things are where they are in the Premier League.

Premier League highlights here


Until next time.

Arsenal 3 – 3 Anderlecht: Did that Really Just Happen?

So, that just happened.

A night’s rest did not wash away Arsenal’s most recent debacle. The Gunners 3-3 draw with Anderlecht means the possibility Arsenal could just slip into the Europa League is still there. It’s unlikely but not impossible.

It was all looking so good too.

There was a liveliness in attack that suggested, even though it took almost 30 minutes, that the goals were coming and that things wouldn’t be as frustrating as against Burnley or as generous as it was from Sunderland. It was still mainly down to Alexis Sanchez though, who had a part in all three goals.

Love that guy by the way. As I stated before, Sanchez is Arsenal’s Best Buy in Recent Seasons. If anyone is going to get the gig as my favorite player when Thierry Henry retires it could well be Sanchez. Cesc Fabregas had his chance and, well, we know what happened there.

It was in midfield and defense, again, that the problems occurred. Mikel Arteta was okay, as were the fullbacks but Santi Cazorla was anonymous and Aaron Ramsey still struggling for form. The wonderfully composed centerback display from Nacho Monreal was a pleasure to watch as well.

As has been the case throughout the season, and pretty much most seasons during Arsenal’s recent history, the Gunners never really looked solid defensively. Even Arsene Wenger admitted as much during his post-game interview.

There’s really not too much else to say about what happened in terms of individual, tactical or other errors as most of them are pretty obvious. It basically boils down to a repetition of the same old gripes.

Anderlecht looked dangerous throughout and, offside goal aside, credit to them for coming back. When Arsenal got through a few early scares including Wojciech Szczesny’s stopping Sacha Kljestan’s abominable mustache from scoring(the US midfielder could seriously play a role in the next Anchorman if he keeps that thing in shape and he resembled Clive Owen in one of his mustache-wearing roles from afar).

The duo of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini seem just able to cut it against the likes of Sunderland and Burnley defensively but when it’s just one of them things are dodgy and sometimes fall apart very quickly. It may be better with a proper defensive midfielder but even they won’t be any help if Monreal continues to play centerback.

A better team may not have needed as long to come back, or may not have been in the comeback position at all. When watching the replay and the stream froze after Anderlecht’s opener I considered calling it a day.

Partly because an ambiguous but, my brother being my brother, Arsenal being Arsenal and me being me, ominous WhatsApp message left me weary of watching the game in the first place.  I just felt that the eventual result was coming once the first goal popped in. Call me a negative Nancy if you want but you can look back through the seasons and see plenty of evidence to know that that’s just typical Arsenal.

One other thing to point to was Arsene Wenger’s substitutions. They weren’t really going to change the game.

Podolski provides a threat in  and around the box but wouldn’t really scare Anderlecht on the break, while Tomas Rosicky showed once or twice that he’s shaking off cobwebs due to a lack of playing time. Arsenal really weren’t enough control at that point for either of them to be effective when you consider those things.

On a side note, let’s again admire a young talent who, for once, I wouldn’t mind Wenger spending money on before other pieces(Not really). Yoeri  Tielemans is still only 17 but I really wouldn’t mind him joining sooner rather than later.

Swansea lies in wait over the weekend before the international break. A tie or a loss will make things even more interesting with Manchester United(home) and Borussia Dortmund(home) the next two fixtures after some rest. We’ll see what happens.

Until next time.