Archive for August, 2011

Brazil claim impressive fifth title

August 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Brazil claimed their fifth FIFA U-20 World Cup crown on Saturday, beatingPortugal after extra time in Bogota, the first time they have won the competition since 2003.

The FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 ended as it began, with rain teeming down in prelude to the match for third place at El Campin in Bogota.

And for the second time in the competition, following on from their fightback in the Round of 16 against Cameroon, Mexico came from behind to beat France and take third place on the podium, El Tri’s best finish in the competition since 1977, when they ended runners-up. Les Bleuets did not go away too disappointed, however, having completed their best ever campaign in the competition, despite conceding 12 goals, the joint-worst defensive record alongside Costa Rica and Guatemala.

The battle for the bronze medal was followed by the tournament showpiece, in which Brazil claimed their fifth title in the category, avenging the penalty shoot-out defeat they suffered against Portugal20 years ago and erasing the memory of their loss on penalties to Ghana in the Egypt 2009 final.

Match for third place 
Mexico 3-1 France

Brazil 3-2 Portugal (aet)

Goal of the day 
Brazil-Portugal, Oscar (111) 
Completing an outstanding display and a superlative hat-trick, Oscar collected the ball wide on the right and sent it looping over Mika and into the back of the net, settling a dramatic final in spectacular style.

Memorable moments
Déjà vuUlises Davila’s equaliser for Mexico against France was a carbon copy of the goal El Tri keeper Jose Rodriguez conceded in the quarter-finals against Colombia, a speculative shot from long distance slipping between Jonathan Ligali’s legs and over the line. Mexico’s third goal of the day, a powering Edson Rivera header from a Davila corner, was also a repeat of their third goal in that last-eight win over the host nation.

Portuguese motivation: Portugal captain Nuno Reis urged his team-mates on in unique style before the final kicked off. After shaking the hands of the Brazilian players, the Cercle Brugge player took up position behind them and proceeded to shake the hands of each and every member of his team, a bonding exercise that looked to have paid dividends until the South Americans edged the contest in extra time.

Mika falls short: The Portuguese keeper came within 19 minutes of eclipsing the tournament record of 634 minutes without conceding a goal, set by Brazil between 1985 and 1987. Oscar’s deflected fifth-minute opener in Bogota was the fastest goal in a FIFA U-20 World Cup final since Barkero put Spain on the road to victory against Japan at Nigeria 1999.

The stat 
5 – The number of goals scored in Saturday’s final between Brazil and Portugal, the highest tally ever in a FIFA U-20 World Cup final one more than the previous highest number scored in the competition showpiece (at Tunisia 1977, Japan 1979, Australia 1981 and Nigeria 1999). Five is also the number of FIFA U-20 world titles A Seleçao have now won, one behind the tournament’s most successful nation, Argentina.

Up next 
The next FIFA U-20 World Cup will take place in Turkey in 2013, while the next FIFA competition on the horizon is the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, which begins in Ravenna, Italy, on 1 September.

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A Dark Cloud Over Spanish Soccer

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Top-flight soccer was due to return to Spain this weekend with the start of the new season of La Liga — at least according to what had been scheduled.

Instead, players from La Liga’s 20 clubs, as well as their counterparts in the second division, are almost certain to strike in an effort to secure salary payment guarantees from the Spanish soccer federation.

The players and the federation were set to hold an 11th-hour meeting Friday to avoid what would be the first such strike since 1984. But whatever the outcome of the last-ditch negotiations, their acrimony has served to highlight the severity of Spanish soccer’s financial problems at a time when, paradoxically, the country’s players have accumulated unprecedented victories on the field, including the World Cup triumph in South Africa last year.

Half of the clubs that compete in Spain’s top two divisions have entered bankruptcy proceedings. The list includes all three clubs that won promotion to La Liga earlier this year — Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada.

With Spain’s economy struggling to stay afloat amid the world financial crisis, executives from smaller, debt-laden clubs warn that the workload for bankruptcy courts is bound to rise. The most recent Liga club to throw in the towel is Racing Santander, which sought protection from its creditors last month.

Some also accuse Spain’s two soccer powerhouses — Barcelona and Real Madrid — of being content to see rivals sink deeper into financial problems, whatever the consequences for a league that has increasingly becoming a duel between its two biggest protagonists. In fact, Barcelona has won the past three Liga titles with an average lead of 24 points over the third-placed team. Valencia was the last team to disrupt the Barcelona-Madrid duopoly, winning the Liga title in 2004.

Besides defeating each other, critics argue that Barcelona and Real Madrid’s only real interests lie in shining in the European Champions League, as well as increasing their fan base and commercial presence worldwide.

“The Liga is abandoning its status as a top-level tournament because of the huge differences in economic revenues,” said Ramón Planes, sporting director of Espanyol de Barcelona, a crosstown rival that is also one of La Liga’s oldest clubs. “I believe the big teams have no interest in fixing these differences, because that way they ensure their participation in the Champions League each season.”

While smaller clubs have struggled recently to find corporate backers, Barcelona reached the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in the history of soccer with the Qatar Foundation last December, worth €165 million, or $238 million, over five years.

But the most recurrent complaint made by Mr. Planes and other club executives concerns the gap in revenue from television coverage. Spain’s to-each-his-own approach, whereby every club has been negotiating its own television agreements, has allowed Real Madrid and Barcelona to pocket about half of the €650 million of annual television revenue generated by La Liga, as well as develop their own television channels. In contrast, Getafe, a Liga club from the Madrid suburbs, has received about €6 million.

Perhaps more tellingly, La Liga’s television revenue is less than half what clubs in the English Premiership share, and are dwarfed by the €915 million in television rights generated by the Italian Serie A in the season that ended in 2010. France’s top league, meanwhile, produced €607 million in television revenue that year, almost on par with Spain, according to a study published last month by José María Gay, a finance professor at the University of Barcelona.

Mr Gay suggested that Spanish soccer operated “without any sense of solidarity, in an environment where clubs never think about how to maximize their collective worth.” The risk, he added, was that viewers would eventually switch off, except for European clashes and “clásico” encounters between Real Madrid and Barcelona. “People watch French soccer not because of the higher standard but because it’s a very open and unpredictable competition,” he said.

Some form of solidarity, however, has been on display in the recent salary dispute, which centers on the players’ demand for more money to be set aside by the federation as part of an emergency fund to guarantee that players get paid even if their clubs are bankrupt. The strike planning has been led by star players like Carles Puyol of Barcelona and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who reportedly earns €10 million a year at Real Madrid. According to the players’ association, Liga and second-division clubs already owed a combined €50 million to 200 players at the end of last season. The clubs, meanwhile, owe the Spanish state almost €650 million in unpaid taxes.

Threatened with a strike, the federation might have to improve salary arrangements for players. Changes are also afoot in television rights, even though most of the contracts struck by the clubs will not expire until 2014. Under an agreement signed last year, most clubs have pledged to share more fairly future television revenue and to guarantee that clubs that get relegated to a lower division maintain a slice of the television proceeds to ensure a smoother financial transition.

Spanish clubs will also have to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play rules, which come into effect in 2013 and are designed to limit transfer spending and help weaker clubs.

In the meantime, however, most clubs have shown little desire to alter their strategies, however financially unsustainable. Some have even continued to pay record transfer fees while under bankruptcy protection, taking advantage of lax Spanish legislation that allows such spending — much to the dismay of healthier rivals that claim unfair competition. For instance, Real Zaragoza, which is under bankruptcy protection after accumulating €134 million in debt, bought Roberto, a goalkeeper, from Benfica in Portugal for €8.6 million this summer.

The result is that several Spanish clubs have salary bills that are higher than their total revenue, even though FIFA, the world soccer body, recommends that salaries should never exceed 50 percent of revenue, according to José María Arrabal, a former executive of Real Madrid and Málaga who now runs a consulting firm that helps soccer clubs develop their business. “We need to impose professional management and the idea that you spend what you can afford, but that’s very hard to do when everybody feels under intense pressure to keep up with the biggest spenders,” he said.

Indeed, Real Madrid and Barcelona, which are also Europe’s two biggest clubs by revenue, have continued to write massive checks for new players this summer in order to bolster already sizeable squads.

Meanwhile, the difficulties of many clubs have also been exacerbated by past ties to now-collapsed industries, most notably construction companies that provided teams with massive sponsorship deals during Spain’s economic boom that came to an abrupt halt in 2008. Furthermore, some clubs budgeted ambitious real estate and stadium infrastructure projects that have failed to materialize.

A case in point is Valencia, which sits on an unfinished, 75,000-seat stadium that was due to open two years ago but whose construction was instead halted because of mounting financial problems.

“Soccer is largely a reflection of what has been happening in our economy, with people spending way beyond their income, relying on fanciful growth forecasts and ending up with unsustainable debt and an asset pricing bubble,” said Mr. Gay, the Barcelona university professor.

Should such financial woes persist in Spain, executives expect that more clubs will follow the example of Málaga, which was taken over last year by Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.

So far, however, Málaga is the exception rather than the rule in Spain — in stark contrast to the English Premiership, which is replete with Russian, U.S. and Middle Eastern funding.

“Perhaps the general economic difficulties of Spain have made foreign investors wary for now, but I do think that more foreign money will be the best and perhaps only way to breathe some fresh air into our soccer,” said Fernando Sanz, a former Real Madrid player and former president of Málaga, who engineered the club’s Qatari takeover last year.

New York Times 

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Premier League set for kick-off

August 12, 2011 Leave a comment

The familiar faces of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are still around, while new characters such as Andre Villas-Boas have entered the drama that is the English Premier League. One certainty is that, between Saturday and 13 May, there will be great games, great goals, controversy and plenty of talking points.

But who will emerge triumphant? For the past seven seasons, the Premier League trophy has remained at either Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford, but this time around both Liverpool and Manchester City have designs on the prize, having spent serious money to improve their squads over the summer.

The defending champions
There has been joy and pain, as well as hellos and goodbyes, at Old Trafford following the end of last season. The elation of winning a record 19th championship was somewhat diminished when United were convincingly beaten by Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final in a game that marked the farewells of Edwin van der Sar and Paul Scholes. However, while another club stalwart, Gary Neville, also announced his retirement earlier in the same season, Ferguson appears to have acquired fine replacements.

Talented youngsters David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young have arrived at the club, with rumours of a further big-name midfield signing to come. Last season United only dropped two points at home, but they will need to improve on their away form in order to distance themselves from the chasing pack once again. However, their stunning comeback against Manchester City in last Sunday’s Community Shield suggests that they are once again the Premier League’s team to beat.

The contenders
United’s biggest threat appears to be from the team Ferguson once called his club’s “noisy neighbours”. However, Manchester City had good reason to create a racket last May when they won the first piece of silverware for 35 years. Backed by wealthy owners and great self-belief, they have improved their team still further with the signing of Sergio Aguero and the impending arrival of Samir Nasri. Roberto Mancini’s squad will also have to cope with a debut appearance in the Champions League but the depth of their squad suggests that they can mount a challenge on multiple fronts.

On the final day of last season, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as manager of Chelsea and replaced by Villas-Boas, who followed the Jose Mourinho route of arriving at Stamford Bridge via FC Porto. The 33-year-old has inherited a squad of contrasts, with experience in the form of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, and potential, with Josh McEachran, Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku all tipped to make a major impact with the London club this season.

The outsiders
Kenny Dalglish has been backed with a war chest of over £100m by Liverpool’s American owners as they seek to re-enter England’s elite once again. This summer, the Scotsman has signed England internationals Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, together with former Blackpool captain Charlie Adam, to complement the January acquisitions of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.

Arsenal’s credibility as genuine outsiders for the Premier League title received a double blow on Thursday, with Arsene Wenger confirming the departures of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to City. Wenger has been promised the cash to spend on new players, and the impact of any potential new arrivals could be key to how the Gunners perform this season. It has now been six years without a trophy for Wenger and many fans are growing restless.

Star signings
Despite signings made by the top four clubs hitting the headlines, it is arguably Sunderland who have operated best in the transfer market. Former Manchester United defenders Wes Brown and John O’Shea will add quality to their backline, midfield trio Seb Larsson, Craig Gardner and David Vaughan all have Premier League experience and, in Connor Wickham, signed for £9m from Ipswich Town, they have a future England international.

New Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has attracted Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia following the departure of Brad Friedel, Young and Downing. The signing of Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long from Reading may turn out to be a real coup for West Bromwich Albion, while former England internationals Kieron Dyer and Jonathan Woodgate have been handed last chances by Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City respectively as they enter the veteran stage of their injury-plagued careers.

Players to watch
In a league which has its fair share of foreign talent, there are plenty of young English players to keep an eye on this season. As well as Chelsea duo McEachran and Sturridge, two other ‘Blue’ boys, namely Ross Barkley and Jack Rodwell at Everton, are tipped to have good seasons under the watchful eye of David Moyes.

Marc Albrighton showed flashes of excellent form for Aston Villa in 2010/11, while Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck appear to have benefited immensely from loan spells at Wigan Athletic and Sunderland respectively, and have returned to Manchester United expecting to make their mark on the Red Devils’ first team.

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Germany down Brazil, Italy slay Spain

August 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Germany claimed an impressive 3-2 scalp of Brazil in Wednesday night’s international friendly in Stuttgart.

The impressive Bastian Schweinsteiger opened the scoring from the penalty spot for Germany before Mario Gotze doubled their lead, capping off a fine attacking move.

Robinho reduced the deficit on 72 minutes, slotting home a spot-kick, but Andre Schurrle restored Germany’s two-goal advantage as he lashed into the top corner before Neymar scored a curled consolation.

Italy secured a notable 2-1 triumph over Spain. Riccardo Montolivo broke the deadlock on 11 minutes, but Spain restored parity before the break as Xabi Alonso kept his cool from the penalty spot.

However, with six minutes left on the clock, Alberto Aquilani scored the winning goal versus the European and world champions, who saw striker Fernando Torres substituted in the first half due to a head injury.

France were denied a success by Chile after Cordova cancelled out Loic Remy’s opening goal in a 1-1 draw. Elsewhere, Fulham’s summer signing John Arne Riise was on target for Norway as they beat Czech Republic 3-0.

Two goals from Shinji Kagawa and an effort from Keisuke Honda ensured Japan defeated rivals South Korea 3-0 in Sapporo, in a game that saw late defender Naoki Matsuda remebered with a minute’s silence. Russia, meanwhile, edged out Serbia 1-0 thanks to a strike from Pavel Pogrebniak.

Tim Cahill was among the goals as Australia downed Wales 2-1, while Republic of Ireland played out a goalless draw against Croatia, for whom Luka Modric featured.

Scotland recorded an impressice 2-1 win over Denmark thanks to an own goal by William Kvist and a first international strike for Robert Snodgrass.

Ivory Coast played out a seven-goal cracker against Israel, triumphing 4-3 as Didier Drogba scored his 50th international goal. For Sweden, meanwhile, Tobias Hysen’s goal proved decisive in a 1-0 win against Ukraine.

Colin Kazim-Richards helped himself to a brace as Turkey eased to a 3-0 triumph over Estonia, with Belozoglu Emre also on target from the penalty spot.

Recent Manchester City addition Stefan Savic scored twice for Montenegro but was on the losing side as Albania emerged 3-2 victors.

Portugal thumped Luxembourg 5-0 in their friendly outing. Helder Postiga got the ball rolling with a strike on 23 minutes before Cristiano Ronaldo got in on the scoring act.

Real Madrid new boy Fabio Coentrao made it 3-0 and then Hugo Almeida netted a brace to seal a convincing success.

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A season at the crossroads

August 11, 2011 Leave a comment

ESPNsoccernet’s predictions



John Brewin


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea
Premier League relegation: Blackburn, Wigan, Swansea
FA Cup: Man City
Carling Cup: Arsenal
Europa League: FC Porto
Champions League: Real Madrid
Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney
Young Player of the Year: Chris Smalling




Martin Williamson


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool
Premier League relegation: Blackburn, Norwich, Swansea
FA Cup: Man Utd
Carling Cup: Chelsea
Europa League: Lottery
Champions League: Real Madrid
Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney
Young Player of the Year: Jack Wilshere




Jon Carter


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal
Premier League relegation: Wolves, Wigan, Swansea
FA Cup: Chelsea
Carling Cup: Man City
Europa League: Benfica
Champions League: Barcelona
Player of the Year: David Silva
Young Player of the Year:Jack Wilshere


Dale Johnson


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool
Premier League relegation: Bolton, Blackburn, Swansea
FA Cup: Liverpool
Carling Cup: Tottenham
Europa League: Paris Saint-Germain
Champions League: Chelsea
Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney
Young Player of the Year:Tom Cleverley




Dom Raynor


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool
Premier League relegation: Wigan, Swansea, Norwich
FA Cup: Arsenal
Carling Cup: Tottenham
Europa League: PSG
Champions League: Barcelona
Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney
Young Player of the Year: Seamus Coleman




Robin Hackett


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool
Premier League relegation: Wigan, Blackburn, Norwich
FA Cup: Chelsea
Carling Cup: Arsenal
Europa League: Roma
Champions League: Barcelona
Player of the Year: David Silva
Young Player of the Year:Jack Wilshere




Mark Lomas


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal
Premier League relegation: QPR, Swansea, Blackburn
FA Cup: Tottenham
Carling Cup: Chelsea
Europa League: Lille
Champions League: Real Madrid
Player of the Year: Nani
Young Player of the Year:Daniel Sturridge




James Dall


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal.
Premier League relegation: Swansea, Blackburn, Newcastle.
FA Cup: Chelsea.
Carling Cup: Arsenal.
Europa League: Paris Saint-Germain.
Champions League: Barcelona.
Player of the Year: Sergio Aguero.
Young Player of the Year: Daniel Sturridge.




Rob Brooks


Premier League top four: Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal
Premier League relegation: Swansea, Blackburn, Norwich
FA Cup: Manchester United
Carling Cup: Arsenal
Europa League: Paris Saint-Germain
Champions League: Real Madrid
Player of the Year: Sergio Aguero
Young Player of the Year:Jack Wilshere




Richard Jolly


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal.
Premier League relegation: Swansea, QPR, Blackburn.
FA Cup: Chelsea.
Carling Cup: Liverpool.
Europa League: Roma.
Champions League: Real Madrid.
Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney.
Young Player of the Year: Josh McEachran.




Kevin Palmer


Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs
Premier League relegation: Swansea, Norwich,Wigan
FA Cup: Liverpool
Carling Cup: Man City
Europa League: Arsenal
Champions League: Real Madrid
Player of the Year: Sergio Aguero
Young Player of the Year: David De Gea


Chris Murphy



Premier League top four: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal.
Premier League relegation: Swansea, Norwich, Wigan.
FA Cup: Liverpool
Carling Cup: Tottenham
Europa League: Sevilla.
Champions League: Barcelona.
Player of the Year: Nani.
Young Player of the Year: Chris Smalling.


Have a word on this prediction

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Kenya blames Fifa for national polls delay

August 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Kenyan sports minister Paul Otuoma said on Wednesday he would disband the election process set up by Fifa to organise the national football federation polls.

Otuoma said he had lost faith with the Independent Election Board (IEB) set up by Fifa earlier this year to organise the elections, which have already been postponed twice since April.

“Enough is enough. The government cannot allow for discussions to go on for a year now and yet the football standards are falling. We are ready to face the consequences,” Otuoma told reporters.

“The government options are very clear that we are going to disband this whole exercise. As a country we are going to back to the drawing board, build up our management systems and build our teams from the country.

“Thereafter we will make fresh applications and they (FIFA) will admit us anytime they feel they are ready to admit us.

“This whole exercise is not adding any value to Kenya because if you look at our rankings, we are currently at 130 — that is even below a human development index. A country like Kenya should not be in such a place, so we are just embarassing ourselves on the international stage. There is nothing we are doing,” he added.

Kenyan football has not held national elections since December 2005 and two rival bodies have been fighting for control of the sport in the country.


© Sapa – AFP
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United beat Cosmos in Scholes testimonial

August 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Paul Scholes opened the scoring in his testimonial match on Friday as Manchester United beat the New York Cosmos 6-0 at Old Trafford.

Scholes fired home a trademark shot from 20 metres and England striker Wayne Rooney converted a penalty to give a full-strength United a 2-0 lead at the break.With a Community Shield match looming against local rivals Manchester City on Sunday, United manager Alex Ferguson reshuffled his side for the second half.

The Cosmos, watched by its director of football – former United great Eric Cantona, went on to concede further goals from Anderson, Danny Welbeck and Mame Biram Diouf (2).

© Sapa – AP
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