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  • Saturday, 31 December 2011

    That's Conference! #5 - A Mario Gomez special

    'The home of the Mario Gomez fan club' it says at the top of the page. That's more than tongue-in-cheek - it's an outright lie. Gomez, for all he keeps scoring goals, is rubbish. If you look at him for long enough, you'll be blinded by the goals into ignoring the fact that they're all either penalties, rebounds from crap penalties or two-yard tap-ins after someone else has done all the hard work. His constant goal-scoring exploits are therefore, to us anyway, a source of both bafflement and annoyance. With all that in mind, here's a special edition of That's Conference! dedicated to the big man.

    First, three yards out, open goal. He can't possibly miss:




    Next, great work from Franck Ribéry, neat cut back. He's eight yards out. All he has to do is pick his spot:



    Edge of the area, license to shoot. Head over the ball, keep it down...


    Trip over the ball, why not?


    It would only be fair to end with an actual goal, by way of balance. Here, he bags a consolation for Stuttgart after being routed by FC Bayern (a one-yard tap-in, naturally). And what's the thanks he gets? A punch in the swingers:



    Mario Gomez: That's Conference!
    Here's to more in 2012.

    Poetry corner: More lines on Ancelotti at PSG


    So Carlo is in the place
    to give the Parisians a new face
    And to get the girls to drop their kecks
    He's going to go and sign Dave Becks
     
    And there's bound to be a different offer
    To which a certain striker may be proffered
    And to put more noses out of joint
    Drogba's coming to prove a point
     
    So all is well in with the riches
    At the stately Parc des Princes*
    With a side you could pick on football manager for the Atari
    This is actually real life for the Qataris


    * - Yes, we know. Artistic license yeah

    Friday, 30 December 2011

    Poetry corner: Lines on the PSG coaching job

    So farewell then Antoine Kombouaré.
    You may have been a decent player,
    You may have done well at Valenciennes,
    But you were never the 'name' the Qataris wanted.
    Let's face it;
    Your goose was cooked as soon as the sale was complete.
    Sacked
    With your team top of the league.
    That sucks.

    So hello Carlo Ancelotti
    And your permanently raised eyebrow.
    You now have to make PSG play sexy football
    Which isn't something you've ever done elsewhere.
    It may be handy to learn the Arabic
    Word for 'catenaccio'.
    You seem a likeable chap
    But it'll still be funny
    If you don't win anything.
    Sorry about that.

    Saturday, 24 December 2011

    The Euroballs review of 2011

    Over our traditional festive drink-a-thon, we've started to get all emotional and retrospective. Here's how we saw events of the past 12 months.

    Coach of the year


    There are lots of contenders for this. Young coaches with fresh ideas and philosophies - Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel - old masters still being absurd and brilliant in equal measure - Marcelo Bielsa - but it's from the first bracket we pick our man: Heiko Vogel. The former PE teacher wasn't ruffled by the departure of his boss Thorsten Fink, quietly took the reins at FC Basel and guided them to the knockout stages of the Champions League without fuss and without worrying about the club talking to other potential gaffers.

    Worst run club of the year

    What a competition we had for this award. Kettering Town went close, Portsmouth have become perennial contenders, but our winners go that bit further because they go against an entire nation's stereotypical reputation for efficiency: Neuchatel Xamax. Run by a egomaniac gangster who seems to want to rival Palermo's prolific Maurizio Zamparini in terms of sacking coaches.

    The 'shouldn't this have been sorted months ago' award

    Strong competition for this, especially over the English FA's lengthy deliberations over a pair of racism charges and the Luis Suárez bird-flip at Fulham, but the case of FC Sion dragged on past christmas before a final resolution. That resolution was the Swiss FA docking the club 36 league points for their use of ineligible players - players signed during a transfer ban. Had the Swiss FA not acted, FC Basel's tremendous run to the knockout stages of the Champions League was under threat. Nobody has come out of this well. It could and should have been apparent before the Europa League qualifiers and dealt with then. Sion's recourse to as many courts as possible looks costly and wasteful and now they're about to be relegated, 16 points adrift at the bottom of the league on a QI-esque score of -5.

    Teaboy of the year

    Paul Dickov, handing out refreshment on a freezing Oldham afternoon - one chap had to be taken to hospital with hypothermia - as Latics fans queued for tickets for the big FA Cup tie at Anfield.

    The 'you didn't want to do that' award

    The lad that got booted by Esteban Alvarado at the Amsterdam ArenA. Sore bollocks and a six-month sentence. And while Bas Nijhuis was probably correct to send Alvarado off, the red card has been rescinded. Common sense reins at the KNVB.

    Dick-swingers of the year

    Strong showings here by Barcelona, Chelsea, even Liverpool. New boys PSG and Anzhi Makhachkala rose to the task, but in posting a £195m loss for the year, it's a retention of the title by transfer-market distorters extraordinaire, Manchester City.

    Man Of The Year

    Well it should probably be someone who has given us huge amounts of pleasure like Lionel Messi, Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz or Esteban Alvarado. Instead, we'll take the cynics route out and say Sepp Blatter. A Machiavellian delight, he survives by smearing all potential opposition as corrupt while continuing a cosy arrangement over World Cup rights sales through his nephew's company. Which is quite an impressive trick to pull off when you think about it.


    Here's hoping for more strong contenders in these categories in 2012.
    Best wishes to all (both) our readers and keep it here for the best in football nonsense.

    Wednesday, 21 December 2011

    Unbelievable Jeff! #3

    So, tonight's Dutch Cup match between Ajax Amsterdam and AZ Alkmaar was abandoned after this incident when an idiot fan ran onto the pitch to attack the AZ goalkeeper Esteban. The fan comes running on with a flying kick at the Costa Rican stopper who manages to avoid the idiot before landing a couple of hefty boots himself. Esteban was subsequently sent off by Jeremain Len's best friend Bas Nijhuis after the incident, so the whole AZ team did the decent thing and trooped off behind. The match was suspended and subsequently abandoned.

    As we thought, the YouTube video got pulled so here it is on the BBC Sport Website

    Unbelievable Jeff!



    Unbelievable Jeff! #2

    The wonderfully named Kevin Harbottle of Universidad Católica in Chile comes up with one of the all-time great nutmegs and then backs it up with a second, slightly more orthodox one.

    With thanks to Rupert Fryer who bought this to our attention via the CONMEBalls Twitter feed


    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Tuesday, 20 December 2011

    Unbelievable Jeff! #1

    This is actually a bit harsh for That's Conference! But it's unbelievable and needed sharing with the wider world so we decided to create a new feature into the bargain as well.

    This one comes from the the Hong Kong First Division game between Sunray Cave JC Sun Hei and Citizen AA at the weekend. Citizen were three nil up thanks to a hat-trick from Yuto Nakamura when, with ten minutes left, Nigerian import Festus Baise decided to be a bit fancy dan with a clearance and only succeeded in looping it over goalkeeper Tse Tak Him and into the back of the net. It gave Sunray Cave JC Sun Hei some hope and five minutes later they reduced the gap to one goal but couldn't complete a remarkable comeback to go down 3-2.


    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Sunday, 18 December 2011

    Barcelona dominate in Yokohama

    Barcelona dominated the Club World Cup final from first to last and handed Santos a lesson into the bargain as they added yet another trophy to the frankly ridiculous collection they're building up in what will no doubt become known as the Guardiola era.

    The Catalans dominated from the off and it proved something of a surprise that it took a full quarter of an hour before they took the lead. They did with a quite outstanding goal; Xavi with a sublime touch and Lionel Messi with a delightful, cheeky, impish, just plain sexy chip over the stranded Cabral. Xavi turned finisher a few moments later as the Blaugrana carved open their South American rivals, Dani Alves prominent on the right. There was so much space on the flanks, the ball came in from the right and Xavi was on the edge of the box to sweep it home.

    A goalmouth scramble - Barca can even make those look amazing - saw the third goal come on the stroke of half time. A wonderful back-heel from Messi played in Alves down the right and the ball found it's way, via half a dozen other feet, to Cesc Fabregas, unmarked on the back stick, and he passed it across goal and inside the far post. Santos trudged off the field, heads on chests, already a beaten side.

    The second half started as the first ended with Fabregas starting the move and the eventual shot grazing the outside of the post via Cabral's fingertips. Andres Iniesta was almost a peripheral figure in the first half, but he too went close after a stereotypical passage of intricate passing, but aside from that, Barcelona were content to keep the ball away from Santos and preserve the lead they'd built. The third goal had killed the game.

    A fourth eventually arrived with eight minutes to go, Alves playing Messi in whose initial control was poor, but it served a purpose in drawing Cabral out of his goal allowing the little Argentine to take the ball round him and pass it into the net.

    This was as comprehensive a win as it's possible to see. Barca, with a staggering 72% of possession, starved Santos. They were clinical in the first half, pragmatic in the second. Xavi's control and pass for the opener was pure porn and Santos were a beaten side from there on in. It's difficult to be too critical of the Brazilians: they were just beaten by a far superior side.


    Earlier in the day, Asian champions Al Sadd won the third-place play-off against Kashiwa Reysol on penalties after a dismal 0-0 draw.

    Saturday, 17 December 2011

    Brainless - slight return

    Earlier this week, we brought you what we thought was the most brainless red card in football history when Jeremain Lens was booked twice within the space of a few seconds.
    Well whadda you know? It's been beaten already. While the ball was in play for a fraction of a second between yellow cards for Lens, Franck Ribéry managed to pick up two yellows without the ball ever coming back into play. We've said it before and we'll say it again - massively talented player he may be, but Ribéry really does come across as a mega-tool. And this came on a day when he'd already lost a couple of million to a former agent who'd taken him to court.



    Friday, 16 December 2011

    That's Conference! #4

    Now, we just bought you Robinho missing from about four feet. Werder Bremen youngster Lennart Thy takes this a stage further by blazing it over the bar from in front of an open goal from all of about three yards takes some beating. It’s not even just over. He’s cleared it by yards and put the Jabulani into Row Z.


    That's Conference!

    That's Conference! #3

    After a nomination from our sister site at CONMEBalls, we were looking for a miss by Masakatsu Sawa in the Kashiwa Reysol v Santos game on Wednesday which would have graced this feature nicely.

    So after a search on that well known video site came up with nothing, it bought us this little pearler instead from one Robson de Souza. More commonly known as Robinho, this one took place last year, while he was on loan at Santos from Manchester City, in a Brasileirão game against Fluminense at the Vila. He's basically missed an open goal from a yard out, it was harder to miss than score. As they old saying goes, my Grandmother could have scored from there.



    That's Conference!

    That's Conference! #2

    Now we kinda skipped over this in the match report yesterday, but we though this was comical and stupid enough to become number two in our new series of That's Conference!

    Nadir Belhadj ended up passing the ball back to Al Sadd keeper Mohamed Saqr, who in a total act of lunacy that would be mocked at Sunday League level didn't know if to pick the ball up or boot it. By the time he'd decided to kick the ball, Adriano had turned up on the scene and Saqr more or less passed it into the Brazilian and it ended up in the back of the net.

    We get the feeling this may not be the last time Mr Saqr will feature in this spot




    Thursday, 15 December 2011

    Sion Saga Resolved

    The long-running saga over FC Sion's expulsion from the Europa League - as detailed in our 'Glory nights return to Scottish football' article - has finally met a resolution at CAS, the upshot being that their spurious appeal was chucked out.

    It's quite apt that it's taken exactly the same amount of time as the group stage to reach this conclusion, with a series of pointless exchanges in far-flung parts of Europe with little to no interest paid by the vast majority.
    In some ways, it's something of a shame that they've lost as the Europa League is a farce anyway and trying to parachute Sion back in - and Celtic back out, presumably - would add a level of nonsense that would be hard to satirise. UEFA, should they have felt a rare need to be consistent, could have dropped them straight into the knockout phase without having earned the right to be there, just like they do with the unhappy losers from the Champions League.

    But sense has, probably, reigned. Back in the day, Stuttgart were turfed out for a breach of player eligibility rules after knocking out Leeds, so UEFA are doing the right thing. Sion's action through the courts first and CAS second must have cost them a fair wedge and for what? It's said that any publicity is good publicity and we certainly know more about FC Sion than we did previously. While the whole sorry episode gave us a chance for a laugh at Scotland's expense earlier in the season, we find it difficult to see what else the Swiss club have achieved.

    Barça Cruise Through To Final

    Al-Sadd 0-4 FC Barcelona

    Barcelona have booked their place in the FIFA Club World Cup final an easy 4-0 victory over Qatari side Al-Sadd. It was be nothing more than a training session for the reigning UEFA Champions League winners as two first half goals from Adriano set Pep Guardiola's team on the road to victory. Second half strikes from Seydou Keita and Maxwell wrapped up the vitory but it was marred David Villa's broken tibia.

    With Lionel Messi, Villa and Pedro leading the charge, Barcelona dominated possession but with twenty five minutes gone they were gifted the lead. Former Portsmouth man Nadir Belhadj passed the ball back to goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr and the keeper simply blasted the clearance into Adriano and the ball ended up in the back of the net.  Then six minutes before the break, came the injury to Villa as he appeared to catch his studs on the turf and fall to the ground in agony. A blow not only for his club side but his national side with UEFA Euro 2012 only six months away. It didn't deter Barcelona as Aadriano doubled the lead just four mnutes after the departure of Villa. Belhadj switched off and allowed Thiago Alcântara to gain possession his suiperb pass found the well timed run of Adriano and the Brazilian full back smashed the ball home passed the helpless Saqr for his second of the game.

    It was business as usual in the second half as the Catalan giants dominated possession and made it seem like the Al-Sadd side, clearly out of their depth, were constantly chasing shadows. Just after the hour, Lionel Messi set up Seydou Keita for the third with a fantastic through ball from the Argentinian superstar. The with eight minutes left substitute Maxwell capitalized on a super through ball from Thiago Alcântara and some more generous defending and goalkeeping from the Qatari side as Mohamed Saqr did best to avoid the ball rather than stop it from going into the net. Santos now await Barcelona in Sunday's final, who will hopefully provide better opposition than the AFC Champions League winners. Al-Sadd will face Kashima Reysol in the 3/4th place play off, a game they are likely to lose unless they play a hell of a lot better

    Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Careful what you wish for

    Life hasn't been kind to Monaco fans recently. Dumped from Ligue 1 last season after a year-long struggle to do anything other than draw, they now find themselves bottom of Ligue 2 with one win from 18 games. But, lo, is that a light on the horizon in the shape of Russian fertiliser magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev? Well hold on and make sure that it's not a train coming the other way.

    There are plenty of Russian owners around. By contrast to many, Roman Abramovich seems to be one of the best - well, he did right up to the point at which he forced Andriy Shevchenko on Jose Mourinho. It's been a bit of a mess since. Then there's Ramzan Kadyrov at Terek Grozny, the Chechen leader, noted warlord, ballot stuffer and overseer of gross human rights abuses. Still, he got Hilary Swank to go to his 35th birthday, so he can't be all bad, right? Ruslan Chagaev takes the biscuit though. Another Chechen, he took over at Neuchatel Xamax - a solid enough if unspectacular club - and started with a bang, sacking the entire coaching staff a mere month after hiring them to replace the previous lot. Today, reports come in that Neuchatel have had four league points deducted for non-payment of wages. The club's former president, Gilbert Facchinetti, said at the time of Chagaev's takeover of the stricken club "We are not familiar with these people. But we have to be honest with ourselves: we have no other way".

    Rybolovlev may be the saviour that Monaco are looking for as he promises €200m of investment. But for crying out loud, Monagasques, do some due diligence. It'll be worth it in the long run.

    Tuesday, 13 December 2011

    That's Conference! #1

    Reviving a theme from the blog of one of our contributors from some years ago, a celebration of things that make all of us feel better about not being professional players.

    First up, Edgar Prib of Greuther Fürth in a top-of-the-table clash away to Eintracht Frankfurt in what is becoming a really good tussle in 2.Bundesliga. How has he missed from here?





    That's Conference!

    Monday, 12 December 2011

    Brainless

    When you get sent off, after coming on as a substitute, for being booked twice in the space of ten seconds.

    Stand up, Jeremain Lens of PSV Eindhoven who acheived this in his sides 1-0 victory over NAC Breda on Sunday. Booked needlessly for kicking the ball away after conceding a free kick, Lens then compounds this by not retreating ten yards from the resulting free kick and he's promptly shown a second yellow and dismissed by referee Bas Nijhuis.

    The fun and games being in this video about 4 minutes and 30 seconds in.

    We also recognise and acknowledge the KNVB as the rights holder in this video.


    Sunday, 4 December 2011

    The Languid XI

    You know the sort. The player who looks like football is just a bothersome task that gets in the way of looking effortlessly cool. Like exerting oneself is the worst thing a person can do. Like they could take to the pitch with a cigarillo and a brandy, do something amazing without spilling a drop or knocking the ash off the end.
    Here's our Languid XI, lining up in the formation of languidity, 3-4-3:

    Goalkeeper:
    Vitor Baia
    Goalkeepers are normally highly strung individuals, bawling and shouting a lot, flinging themselves about and blaming everyone but themselves for their failings, which made our search for a suitable custodian difficult. But the former Portuguese number one gave off such an air of calmness that he was the obvious choice. No histrionics, no pretending he was really a midfield general but was just helping out by going in nets, economy of movement and stylish hair.

    Defence:
    Paolo Maldini
    Mats Hummels
    Gerard Pique
    All three of our defence exude casual brilliance. It's one thing to be brilliant, quite another to be brilliant while looking like you just don't care, like the fact you're better than the rest is actually quite banal. Hummels being flagged for offsides is not uncommon, and we all love a centre-back being offside, though his obvious delight in the Netherlands falling apart in front of him betrayed his lack of inner languidity. Pique is very similar - a midfield stroller trapped in a centre-back's body.
    What else is there to say about Maldini? Just look at him...



    Midfield:
    Andrea Pirlo
    Sócrates
    Juan Sebastian Véron
    Rui Costa
    Sócrates is the coolest person ever to pull on a pair of boots and the captain of the coolest team the game has ever seen. His grace of movement was completely at odds with his gangling frame, but it was off the field that he became cooler still with the drinking, smoking, philosophising and democracy activism. What a guy.
    The renaissance in Pirlo's career since leaving Milan has been quite staggering. The movement has become even more economical with age, but if anything that's made him more dangerous as a player. Feared, respected, admired, bearded. It doesn't get much better than that.
    The latter pair exemplify the archetypal midfield stroller. Socks half-way down shins, pads flapping, cruising around the middle of the park like they owned it and spraying passes around for fun. Those are the guys young lads aspire to be, the players that make you fall for this often stupid game in the first place.

    Forwards:
    Giorgios Samaras
    Dimitar Berbatov
    Bryan Ruiz
    Sleeves down below hands? Check. Lank-haired (or formerly lank-haired) masters of the stroll? Check. Routinely shouted at by fans for not doing enough and then go and do something totally bloody amazing? Check. If you want any more than that from your front three, you have a heart of stone. Of course, Ruiz and Berbatov are now team-mates, regularly competing for the award for doing the most brilliant thing while also looking a bit bored by it all. And they have that dreamy away kit - the black with the white and gold sash. All properly languid teams should wear the sash, the kit of cool.
    Samaras is a lot better than people give him credit for. Like many of our team, his apparent lack of effort weighs against him in terms of image, but he's alright, y'know, and stylish with it which is, of course, far more important.

    Would this team win many games? Who cares.

    Thursday, 17 November 2011

    Barcelona aim to emulate Anzhi

    After Samuel Eto'o claimed in a major broadsheet interview that his new club, Anzhi Makhachkala are aiming to emulate the Barcelona model, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell told us "that's funny, because we're trying to emulate Anzhi".

    In a candid interview, Rosell explained his vision for how the self-styled 'mes que un club' could go about achieving this. "For starters", began Rosell, "we're going to totally scrap that outdated mechanism by which we're owned by our members and somehow remain responsible to them. To this end, like Anzhi, we're going to find a trumped up gangster-turned-oil baron and flog the club to him. Anzhi have Suleyman Kerimov, Chelsea have Abramovich, Terek have Ramzan Kadyrov and Neuchatel Xamax have that loony Bulat Chagaev. I know that sounds like all the Russian warlords are spoken for, but I'm sure we can find another one".

    Another feature of Anzhi is that they play in an impoverished region with the constant threat of attacks by Islamic separatist terrorists. "We will relocate the club to somewhere where we can maximise the difference in the wages of our players compared to the local average, just so the whole exercise looks as grotesque as possible", Rosell went on, "and we'll fly the players in from their gilded mansions in northern Spain for matches and straight back out again in case they have to mix with the hoi-polloi". Our man probed further to see if any locations had actually been scouted and Rosell responded by saying "We've had positive talks with the town of Castleford in West Yorkshire. Grinding poverty, a constant threat of low- to mid-level violence - I tell you, the people of Makhachkala haven't seen anything like this".

    Blatter declared polio "ended"

    After declaring racism over yesterday, the head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, today also eradicated polio. "It is over", said Blatter whilst wearing a Zeus costume. "I decree it, therefore it shall be so".

    "While I'm here", Blatter continued, "you see that Eurozone debt crisis? Gone. It is ended by the power of the word of Blatter!".

    Other things that Blatter wiped away with a swipe of what looked like a toy magic wand out of one of those crappy magic sets for five-year olds during a bizarre and rambling address to the press corps included gravity which Blatter said "has been holding us all down - literally and metaphorically - for far too bloody long" and the concept of light and dark. "Night and Day are ended", he said, "instead we have a universality of grey which I call Blatter-time.

    All hail Emperor Blatter, ruler of the universe!" he garbled as several men in white coats wrestled him to the floor and administered haloperidol.

    Helmes dropped to Wolfsburg reserves

    Wolfsburg striker Patrick Helmes has been banished to the reserves by autocratic boss Felix Magath. "He has not learned how to do defensive work" said Magath of the 98-goal striker.

    "Also", continued Magath, "Diego Benaglio's frankly pisspoor goal-scoring record means he's going to the reserves as well and the less said about Josué's tap-dancing the better. He's out too".

    Getting into his stride by this point, Magath went on to say that Alex Hleb "had better work on his foxtrot" if he were not to suffer the same ignominy and that Tomas Hitzlsperger had better "learn how to prepare a proper tarte tatin by the time the transfer window opens or he's gone".

    Our reporter asked whether central defender Alexander Madlung's defensive shortcomings might be in more urgent need of remedy than that of Helmes, Magath fired back saying "he's too busy learning how to juggle chainsaws while unicycling across a high wire. Now get out of my way. This interview is over"

    Saturday, 5 November 2011

    Man is 'older than he was 25 years ago'

    A Scottish man has this week been celebrating being 25 years older than he was this time in 1986. During this period, he has maintained an almost unsurpassed record of becoming older to the point now, where it's impossible to think of him doing anything else.
    The man was born in Glasgow 70 years ago and started getting older from a very young age. Those close to him at the time say that he was a natural ager, but when his first choice of career was cut short by injury it looked like his ageing days may be behind him.
    But the man reinvented himself and continued to get older in a completely different way. In many ways, he's defined what it is to get older and he's become a mentor to other people who wish to get older in the same way.
    Not that it's always been plain sailing. Others have always sought to wrest the man's crown away from him, but he has endured while many of them have fallen by the wayside.

    It really has been a remarkable period of success for the man. He's become the template for what it is to see time pass and when he does finally stop getting older, then there is a huge - nay, impossible - act to follow for whoever succeeds him.

    Saturday, 29 October 2011

    Balotelli, Mario

    Italian performance artist currently working on a long-term installation piece based in Manchester. Previously the house artist of a major gallery in Milan.

    Wednesday, 12 October 2011

    Vidic retires from international football

    Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic announced his international retirement last night as his country failed to make the finals of Euro 2012 following defeat to neighbours Slovenia.The 29-year old Manchester United player said that it is "time for a change of generation and for some older players to make way". He continued, saying "I do accept however, that I could have picked a better time than half-way through my run-up to take that penalty".

    It wasn't the best time at all. With Slovenia hanging on to a 1-0 lead and just under half an hour left, Vidic had the chance to bring Serbia level in a game they needed to win in order to stand any chance of making the play-offs, when Aleksander Kolarov went down under a challenge from Marko Suler. It looked innocuous, but referee Frank de Bleeckere pointed to the spot. Up stepped Vidic who later described his thought process. "The old cliché when taking penalties is that you shouldn't change your mind. If you look at the tape, you can see the point at which I do precisely that and change my mind about carrying on and decide to retire. That made it too easy for the keeper".
    Estonia progress to the play-offs instead of Serbia for one of the remaining four places in the finals.


    New suggestion for dealing with divers

    Sat here watching re-runs of the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Cristiano Ronaldo has just gone tumbling to the floor, letting out an agonising scream after running into the tiny and ancient frame of Dennis Rommedahl. That, sirs, was a dive. Booking Rommedahl was the wrong course of action by the referee - play on should have been the call.
    However, taking this as a starting point, should the referee have deemed it a dive, he would have been duty bound to book Ronaldo, but this is clearly having no effect on the diving pandemic across football. Therefore, we propose that an additional sanction be applied. Yes, by all means caution the diver, but also allow the person the diver claims fouled them to issue a kick in the ribs of roughly approximate force to the scream/contorted dive/number of rolls post contact with floor. In the example above, Rommedahl would have been coming off about an eight-pace run-up to elicit the same response as that which ensued after slightly getting in the way of the pouty Portuguese.
    Seriously, FIFA, we're doing your job for you here.

    Thursday, 6 October 2011

    The greatest ever football song

    Irregular visitors may get the impression that we only exist to point out that everything's shit in the world of football. It's not. There is joy to be had, like Jason Walker being the only obvious challenger to Lionel Messi in the race for the Golden Boot. And this is utter joy: the greatest ever song about the game from the ever-excellent Half Man Half Biscuit

    Carragher: Use of foreigners is cheating

    Scouse foghorn Jamie Carragher launched a strange attack on what he sees as cheating by employing foreigners.
    "There's a reason England haven't won anything in donkeys years", calm-downed the former England stopper, "and that's because all the other countries use non-English players that are obviously better than we are. It's unfair and tantamount to cheating."
    Carragher, who has worked under English managers for less than two-and-a-half years during his long career, bemoaned the fact that "Italy can just pick [Gianluigi] Buffon if their keeper isn't up to it. That hardly seems fair. How come they don't have to put some stooge that was sacked by York City for being too fat on the bench? Why don't Italy have to pick Andy Warrington?"
    Managers also came under attack as Carragher continued "they all use foreign managers as well, managers that haven't had it drummed into them that 4-4-2 is the only way to play and that passion and pride for a piece of polyester trumps actual technical ability. Maybe it's something in their culture".

    ben Arfa, Hatem

    French winger of Tunisian heritage. Known to Alan Shearer as "who?".

    Wednesday, 5 October 2011

    Football: "I'm tired of Ibrahimovic"

    Football has hinted that it's getting bored of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and is already looking forward to the day he retires.
    Ibrahimovic, who turned 30 on Monday, has annoyed the world of football with his egotistical rantings, show pony on-field behaviour, rubbish ponytail and the fact that despite this, he's won eight straight league titles in three different countries.
    "Ibrahimovic is no longer burning inside me like back in the day", football told assembled hacks. "Sometimes, I thought of little else. Now it's not like that; I'm interested in other things.
    Today, his antics and self-publicising have become routine and while I still hope he'll do something incredible, he's just not the same player he was when he was younger".

    Saturday, 1 October 2011

    Martínez not expecting hostile welcome "anywhere"

    Wigan manager Roberto Martínez said he did not expect a hostile reaction from any fans when he takes his Wigan side away from home.
    Ahead of taking the Latics to Villa Park to play against a club he's never managed or played at before, Martínez told a press conference "I don't expect a reaction from the Villa fans. I mean, it's not like I have ever had anything to do with Villa, so why would there be? I didn't expect a reaction from Palace fans in the cup last week either as I told you copy-hungry hacks back then as well. And there's only Swansea in the Premier League that I've had an association with and I left there on good terms. Besides, I'm a stylish, impish, loveable little guy, so why would anyone have a problem with me?"
    With absolutely nobody interested in the not-anticipated-at-all clash between Villa and Wigan, this was reported as news.

    Wednesday, 28 September 2011

    Them things

    What a player claims not to have said after publicly falling out with chairman/manager/team-mates, often adding in that they'd been mistranslated from an article written in their mother tongue.

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    Anzhi Makhachkala

    Latest entrants into the world dick-swinging league. Pay their players the entire GDP of Dagestan on a weekly basis.

    Friday, 16 September 2011

    PSG interested in signing anybody

    Big-spending Paris St Germain today declared that they were interested in signing "anybody".

    Sporting director Leonardo revealed that "I've worked with lots of players over the years and I'd be interested in signing all of them. We've proved we're willing to splash stupid amounts of money around and I will sign anybody". Age and recent experience doesn't seem to be a barrier to the Qatari-owned club as Leonardo continued, saying "We're not that bothered about actual playing pedigree so long as the anybodies we sign are big names who keep PSG in the papers both here in France and abroad.

    Frankly, I'll tell members of the press from every country that I'm about to sign one of their biggest legends. I told the Argentine press we were after Maradona, the Brazilians that Pelé was coming, Eusebio to the Portuguese and Alfredo di Stefano to the Spanish. But those British journos were the best. They lapped it up when I mentioned David Beckham."

    The former World Cup winning full-back concluded by saying "The Qatari Foundation didn't hire me just to look pretty in the stands and have my managerial pedigree loom large over Antoine Kombouaré. I'm here to do a job - to make sure that everyone knows that Paris St Germain are cashed up and ready to spunk it all away on player wages and agents fees. And do that job I will. By the way, I'll give you €500m for that dictaphone".

    Ronaldo: "I'm booed for my lack of self-awareness"

    In a candid interview for the Spanish press this week, Cristiano Ronaldo claimed it is his "lack of innate self-awareness" that prompted the boos that rang around the Maksimir Stadion as his Real Madrid side took on Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday night.

    "If I had even the slightest modicum of self-awareness", continued the pouting Portuguese dive-merchant, "I wouldn't keep issuing crass statements to the press about my good looks and how I'm the best player since football was invented. I wouldn't say what an honour it'd be to be tapped up by Anzhi Makachkala and earn in a few seconds what most Dagestanis survive on for a month. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a mirror over there that I need to check out my reflection in".

    Thursday, 8 September 2011

    DHS

    David Healy Syndrome
    Affliction that sees sufferers only able to play well/score for their national side whilst looking total garbage for their club side. Named for the Northern Irish striker who holds the record for number of goals in a European qualifying campaign, but who hasn't scored a top-flight goal since Jesus was still a trainee carpenter/magician back in Nazareth.
    Other notable sufferers include Nicklas Bendtner and every Croatian and Polish player to get a big-money move abroad.

    Saturday, 3 September 2011

    Glory nights return for Scotland

    Scottish football had one of the greatest nights in it's history yesterday as Celtic put on a great performance to seal their place in the Europa League group stages at the expense of FC Sion of Switzerland.

    This great moment came just a week after all Scottish involvement in Europe for the 2011/12 season looked to have come to an end, but a Celtic spokesman told the press that "this result is testament to the hard work and never-say-die attitude of everybody involved at the club from the highest paid player to the lowest paid cleaner". Special tribute had to be paid to the dedicated team of administrators behind the scenes who, according to the spokesman, "are among the best in the world at discovering maladministration on the part of others". He continued, saying "It's all part of the club's plan for European silverware. We already have a team of tax administrators and private detectives poring over Atlético Madrid, Stade Rennais and Udinese Calcio for any dirt that might help us get through what looks an otherwise tricky group. I mean, those Italians are bound to be up to something and Atléti must have some skeletons in the closet. And if there are, we'll find them."

    "It was a classic Scottish line-up" said SFA spokesman Jock McStereotype. "Four nitpickers at the back, a line of four rule-sticklers in the middle and two big lads up front to tut a bit a point to the relevant paragraph in the operational rules. Ah, it was a joy to behold. Mark my words, September 2 2011 will go down in Scottish football history. It's up there with the Lisbon Lions, Dundee United beating Barcelona or Archie Gemmill's goal against the Dutch."

    McStereotype wrapped up the press conference by saying "If you get things right in the back office, it lays a great platform for the players on the field. We've proved we're world class at pointing out other people's deficiencies, so that elusive place in the finals of a major tournament can only be months away" before leaving the venue swigging from a bottle of Buckfast, swearing at the English and singing 'we're on the march with Ally's Army'.

    Tuesday, 16 August 2011

    10 other things Raúl turned down today

    Today, Raúl declined Blackburn's chicken-propelled overtures and decided to remain with Schalke 04. What on earth possessed the man? Does he not know of the charms of that part of Lancashire?
    We reckon the man's a fool, but here are a list of ten other things Raúl turned down today.

    10. Poking his eyes in with a rusty nail.

    9. Having his balls removed by a blind butcher with a grudge against Spain.

    8. A chance to see an interpretive dance version of Women In Love starring Sam Allardyce and Luke Chadwick in the Oliver Reed and Alan Bates roles.

    7. Being buried alive.

    6. Having a live hand grenade shoved up his arse.

    5. Sideways.

    4. By someone with long fingernails.

    3. And little regard for personal hygiene.

    2. A move to Barcelona.

    1. A move to Burnley.

    Thursday, 28 July 2011

    PSG join legion of Europe's biggest dick swingers

    It's taken a while for the Qatari investment in Paris St Germain to really bear fruit, but today the club announced that with their new backers, they're finally ready to swing their dicks like the continents established big spenders.

    The capture of Javier Pastore for a dick-swingingly large €45m puts PSG firmly in the big dick-swinging leagues and they look set to remain there for a while. "As the only club in Europe's sexiest capital", said PSG dick-swinging spokesman Richard Swingeur, "it's about time we started swinging our dicks with best from elsewhere. This move cements us as the biggest dick-swingers in La République and over the next few years, we aim to swing our dicks against the best the rest of the continent".

    Of course, Qatari money is also helping Barcelona to continue swinging their dicks while investment from neighbouring Abu Dhabi has been the source of large amounts of dick swinging at Manchester City. Both those club showed their dick-swinging abilities remain undiminished in light of the new arrival on the dick-swinging scene with the big dick-swinging captures of Alexis Sanchez and Segio Agüero respectively.

    But previous holders of the European dick-swinging record refuse to take the new arrival from France lightly. Real Madrid vowed to carry on swinging their dicks in a statement released to the press. "The world knows how prepared we are to swing our dicks and when it comes to dick-swinging competitions, we bow to no-one". Meanwhile in London, Chelsea seemed more reticent to rest on their laurels when a spokesman said "We've swung our dicks plenty since the current chairman arrived and everybody knows that if we wanted to swing our dicks we could do. We're just choosing not to."

    A word of warning over excessive dick-swinging did come from UEFA through Dutch dick-swinging supremo Kok Waggler. "We warn clubs against excessive dick-swinging. It's shown to be unsustainable and that is why we have introduced our Dick-swinging Fair Play rules to prevent any club gaining an advantage by having a bigger dick and being willing to swing it harder and longer".

    Wednesday, 27 July 2011

    BDGS

    Big Daft Geordie Striker
    Every side needs one. It's not about skill; it's about effort, not knowing the meaning of the phrase 'lost cause' and being totally unintelligible in post-match interviews.

    See also Brodie, Richard; Novak, Lee; Carroll, Andy

    Tiki-taka

    Spanish for 'tippy-tappy nonsense' as peddled by FC Barcelona. Aped by many, mastered by few.
    And yeah, it's all great and that and ooooh and aaaahh and Xavi hasn't ever misplaced a pass and stuff, but - and this is quite possibly sacrilegious - it can get a bit, well, boring can't it. There's only so many commentatorial wankfests over it that we can stand and face it, you'd all like to see Barca just get stuck in. Rough the oppo up by going in hard and fast in the first few minutes, lump it long for the big man up front - preferably a BDGS - to knock down.
    It was fun for a while. Now it's both mainstream and dull.

    Saturday, 28 May 2011

    Makelele, Claude

    French midfielder who got a nosebleed when approaching the halfway line. Would have retired from international football sooner than he did if Raymond Domenech would just have let him, the useless prick.
    So good, he became the definition of an entire position, i.e. that midfielder that sits in front of the back four, breaks things up and gives it easy. As in "Arsenal just haven't got anyone of sufficient quality in the Makelele area of the field".

    Sunday, 15 May 2011

    On sectarianism in Scottish football

    Two men enter a shop. Guns are on display all around in perspex cabinets. The windows have thick bars across them. One of the men approaches the counter.
    "Err... Cannae have a bullet pal?"
    "What? You want one bullet?"
    "Aye. How much?"
    "Well they tend to come in boxes of varying sizes, not singly. Anyway, what sort of gun is it for?"
    "Err.. One that gaes bang when you pull the whatsit. What sort d'you think? You some sort of numpty?"
    "No sir. What calibre?"
    "Ah, it's bloody great. Very high calibre indeed I'd have said. The very finest calibre known to man."
    "You don't own a gun at all, do you?"
    "Course I do. Why would I want a bullet if I havnae a gun?"
    "And why do you want just one bullet?"
    A pause.
    "Look, are you gonna gi' us one or no?"
    The shopkeeper reaches under the desk and switches off the cameras. He takes one 9mm bullet from a loose pack and places it on the counter.
    "Gi' us five quid, take that, fuck off and never come back in here again."



    A few doors down, the men enter a post office.
    "Can I have an envelope?"
    "Just one?"
    "Aye, how much?"
    "Well, what size sir?"
    "Jaysus. Don't you fucking start. I had enough trouble wi' the lad down the road. Just gi' us a fucking envelope eh?"
    "The smallest pack we do is twelve, standard letter size, for a quid sixty."
    "Aye, OK. Gi' us that.
    So, youse are some top post gadgie then eh?"
    "I suppose so, sir, yes."
    "And you know all the addresses round here?"
    "Well, they're all in that big book over there. What of it?"
    The man looks around, leans in conspiratorially.
    "Gi' us Neil Lennon's eh?"

    Tuesday, 10 May 2011

    Our culture, our history

    "Our culture,

    Our history".

    Coming over here

    With their dual nationalities,

    Playing our football,

    Winning our trophies.

    They'll never understand

    Our culture,

    Our history.

    Liberté?

    Egalité?

    Fraternité?

    Ca c'est votre culture,

    votre histoire,

    n'est pas?

    The nation of Camus,

    de Beauvoir and Sartre.

    Of Dac, Spaak, Borrel,

    Curie, Mandelbrot and Werner.

    Thuram, Fontaine, Zidane

    And, yes, Six, Giresse, Papin.

    "Our culture,

    Our history".

    His racism.

    France's shame.

    Friday, 15 April 2011

    Thursday, 14 April 2011

    Goal of the week: Benedikt Höwedes

    The damage had, of course, been done at the Giuseppe Meazza, but Schalke were also very good in the return leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Inter. Everyone expected Inter to come flying out and Schalke set up as if expecting that, but the onslaught never came and the Germans took a while to realise what was happening. They adjusted slowly and took the lead through Raúl late in the first half, again exposing the statuesque Inter defence.

    Revitalised, Schalke were much better after the break despite conceding to Thiago Motta's scrambled effort and Höwedes had the ball in the net from a corner, but had half his left foot beyond the last defender and was flagged offside. Late in the game came the moment. Höwedes started the move by putting Raúl in space and immediately signalled where he wanted the ball, in between the full-back and centre-half. The ball was perfect, chipped into the space, and Höwedes continued his run and lashed in a thunderous shot low to Julio César's left.

    It was a cracking goal all round. The vision of Höwedes, the through-ball from Raúl and the emphatic finish were all pretty much perfect, but it's what it represents that is more important. The tie was over at that stage - Inter weren't about to get five in ten minutes - and any other side, certainly the Schalke of the early part of the season, would have been content to knock it about at the back and play out time. Moreover, under Felix Magath, the likelihood is that Höwedes would never have thought about that gallop forwards. Had it not worked out, perhaps even if it had, the likely first comment from his manager would have been a reading of the riot act. The fear of the bollocking would have seen Höwedes give the ball to Raúl and immediately return to his station in the back four. Ralf Rangnick is a different type of manager who places a great deal of trust in his players to make the right decisions. With this backing from the bench, Höwedes saw the opportunity to create something and went for it. That it worked so spectacularly is almost a side issue.

    The Bundesliga table may lull Manchester United fans into a sense that they're halfway there already. This new Schalke who beat Inter home and away without one of their main strikers are a different beast to the one that began the season with three straight defeats. Benedikt Höwedes slammed that point home emphatically at the Veltins Arena and S04 are live contenders in the semi-finals.

    Sunday, 6 March 2011

    Kuyt, Dirk

    Dutch forward whose surname doesn't rhyme with 'kite'.

    Respect

    Short-lived campaign to get players to behave like grown human beings on the field. Lasted for about as long as it takes someone earning over £100k a week to throw a vein-bulging strop about whose throw-in it is.

    Sunday, 6 February 2011

    Panic buy

    See also Akinbiyi, Ade

    Weir, David

    First choice Scottish centre-back despite being older than Stonehenge.

    Gold

    Substance that strikers are said to be worth their weight in. This is palpably not true. When players were going for around the £1.2-£1.5m mark, this was the case. Even at today's record gold prices, Fernando Torres is worth upwards of twenty times his weight in gold.

    Tuesday, 25 January 2011

    Carlos, Roberto

    Tree-trunk-thighed Brazilian and alleged defender. Once scored an outrageously good free-kick and spent the rest of his career trying to recreate it, but mainly ended up knocking out anyone unfortunate to be sat towards the back and to the left of the stand.