• Tuesday, 31 January 2012

    Deadline day: The good, the bad and the downright panicky

    January 31, the day when everyone awaits the visit of the Transfer Pixie and hopes they find the star striker/dominant centre-half in their stocking that was diligently hung over the fireplace the previous night. Only the good get what they want, while the very bad boys and girls get an Ade Akinbiyi. So who has been good and who ended up with the booby prize? Let's have a look at what highlights there were:

    Steve McClaren
    The former England manager has definitely been good this year. Indeed, his signing of Wesley Verhoek from ADO is perhaps more significant in terms of his recent career choices for Verhoek it was that McClaren wanted at Nottingham Forest only the board to blanch at the prospect of actually having to pay for him. By contrast, the FC Twente board were happy to compensate the Den Haag club and pay Verhoek some wages. Good bit of business that, replacing the outbound Mark Janko. McClaren also picked up Glynor Plet and hung onto Luuk de Jong. ADO got Ebi Smolarek which will also do nicely to replace Verhoek.

    West Ham
    Ravel Morrison. £650k. £1m agents fees. This just smells bad from the off.

    Swiped back Lucho Gonzalez from Marseille and got Janko from FC Twente, offsetting the loss of Fredy Guarín to Italy. That looks a good swap to us.

    The Olsson twins
    Someone at Blackburn has a dodgy internet history. File under P for panic buy.

    Donal McDermott
    After terrorising Huddersfield in four games for Bournemouth last season, the Terriers moved quickly to sign McDermott from Manchester City in the summer and then proceeded to either not play him or play him in a totally unsuitable position. He's well out of that and away to Bournemouth again where he'll probably do well. Good for him. Meanwhile Huddersfield are crying out for defenders and signed one, 19-year old Murray Wallace from Falkirk. And loaned him straight back there. Good for Falkirk, bonkers for Huddersfield.

    Took Philippe Coutinho on loan from Internazionale. It looked like he was working his way into Claudio Ranieri's first-team plans, but hadn't played for a bit. Instead, the 19-year old - marked out as one of the top 100 young players in the world by In Bed With Maradona - represents a bloody good bit of business for the Spaniards.

    Sotirios Kyrgiakos. Wayne Bridge. Panic!

    Sent Coutinho out on a low-risk loan to gain experience and brought in Guarín on loan from Porto with an option to buy. Again, that's a low risk move. If it doesn't work out, back he goes, but it will work out because he's a classy operator. They also bolstered their attack by moving Sulley Muntari on. Best of all, they palmed him off on their stadium buddies. Just good business all round.

    Kevin de Bruyne
    Not the player, but a transfer symptomatic of a sick system. Chelsea paid decent wedge for de Bruyne and immediately loaned him straight back to the Belgians. He'll be off out on loan somewhere next season too. See also Thibault Courtois, Gael Kakuta, Josh McEachran, Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffrey Bruma, Tomas Kalas. It's no wonder the Chelsea gaffer is the one to pop his head up above the parapets and call for B teams to play in England's lower tiers. It'd save him having to sort out loan moves for his stockpile of young players. Bad.

    Ryo Miyaichi
    Injury robbed Bolton of their two best midfielders - their two best players really - before a ball was kicked this season: Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong. Miyaichi, more like the latter than the the former, is a talented player who did well on loan at Feyenoord last season. Bolton have a good track record in taking young players - Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, for two examples - and looking after them, so this looks a good move beneficial to all parties; Bolton, Arsenal and Miyaichi.

    There's probably more to be said and more analysis to be done, but frankly it's too much like hard work to sift through all the deadline day moves. What do you want from us? Anyway, time to put the Deadline Day Stocking away until the end of August now and Jim White can return to hibernation. Sleep well children and be good, unless you don't want the Pixie to come in summer.

    That's Conference! #10

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is having quite the Coupe d'Afrique des Nations and his goals - one in each game - have carried Gabon through to the knockout stages top of the group with three wins from three. He had a bit of help with the only one in the 1-0 win over Tunisia. Real time, it looked like it took a deflection, but repeat viewings show it didn't.
    Rami Jridi was the goalkeeper, diving away from the ball:

    That's Conference!

    Vague Round-up #4

    Here are the Vague headlines:

    BONG! Racists 2, Victims 0 in Cup.
    BONG! Rivals slip up to hand Whites supremacy.
    BONG! Loan striker's hat-trick seals massive derby win.
    BONG! Ex-England boss still doing very well, thank you.
    BONG! Blue and black stripey people lose for first time in ages.
    BONG! Black and white stripey people keep on winning.
    BONG! Top four in Europe's economic driver still covered by a single point.
    BONG! Can small island club be one of the continent's form team? Corsi-can.
    BONG! Blue Dragons lose to hand rivals intitiative.
    BONG! Managers panic buy left, right and centre on deadline day.

    More soon.

    ACN Day 10: 42 years of hurt.....

    Monday saw the finale of Group B. Ivory Coast had effectively already qualified from the group so for their final game they fielded a weakened side against Angola who were in the running for the second qualifying spot. The other game saw Sudan facing Burkina Faso with Sudan knowing if they
    could achieve a win for the the first time in the tournament in 42 years they would be in the quarter finals, pah easy!

    Half hour into both games and the deadlock was broken in one of the games, Emmanuel Eboué
    scoring a simple goal for Ivory Coast and just a few minutes later Sudan take the lead against 'Faso with Mudather Eltaib scoring for Sudan. Could the dream about to become reality?!

    As half time came, the games remained the same. Angola needed something and quickly to save
    themselves.The Angolan hearts then took another blow a few moments after the hour mark. Bony scored a goal from nothing short of a few inches from the goal, suddenly Sudan had the chance here and they took it with a second late into the second half. Sudan had achieved the impossible!

    A late goal from Burkina Faso couldn't dampen the spirits and Sudan qualified for the quarter-finals where they will face Zambia. Ivory Coast will face Equatorial Guinea on Saturday in what will be a tasty affair. A shock there? Oh I think there could be.....

    Monday, 30 January 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #11

    Oleksandr Rybka

    Naughty boy.

    ACN Day 9: Group A Finale

    So Sunday saw Group A play their final games and both kicked off at the same time with Zambia and Libya both going for second place behind Equatorial Guinea. Libya faced hapless Senegal and Zambia faced the already-qualified hosts.

    Libya started brightly against Senegal and took the lead after four minutes with a strike from Ihab Albusaifi but just five minutes later Senegal pulled back with a goal from Deme Ndiaye who headed in a corner. As half time came it remained 1-1 with the game involving 'the freedom fighters' and 0-0
    in the game with the co-hosts.

    Both games saw nervy starts to the second half then a goal came half an hour in as Zambia took the lead against Equatorial Guinea with Chris Katongo firing in a low shot from the edge of the area, now this gets interesting as Zambia take the second spot in the group if it stays like this.

    With a few minutes of normal time left in both games Albusaifi scores again for Libya to make it 2-1. This now meant they needed co-hosts Equatorial Guinea to help them out by scoring twice against
    Zambia to help them qualify.

    However it was all in vain as Zambia beat the co-hosts 1-0 to seal their place in the quarter-finals. Sadness for Libya though but the shock of this group has to be how bad Senegal have been, pointless in too many ways.

    Equatorial Guinea will face the Group B winners and Zambia with face either
    Angola or Sudan in the last eight.

    Sunday, 29 January 2012

    Unbelievable Jeff #10

    Christian Eriksen, ladies and gentlemen:

    EDIT: Crikey, the KNVB are very quick these days. Enjoy it courtesy of 101greatgoals.com here

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Unbelievable Jeff #9

    So you're level at 2-2 deep into stoppage time at the end of a thrilling game. You get a free-kick just outside your opponents box. Scoring it would eliminate them and send you, the co-hosts, through to the next round.
    Up steps Zita:

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    ACN Day 8: Does D stand for Group of Death?

    On Day 8 of the ACN saw Group D play their 2nd games. The day started with Botswana facing Guinea. Botswana who had been unlucky against Ghana in their first game were looking to get a win to hopefully push for a place in the Quater Finals.

    However the half time scored made horrible reading for Botswana, 4-1 to Guinea and Botswana were down to ten men after Patrick Motsepe is sent off for a horror challenge, ouch! The first half had been a cracker for Guinea and a horror show for Botswana, could the second half get better for them? In a word no, two late goals by Guinea sealed the defeat and a horrible scoreline of 6-1. The promise shown by Botswana against Ghana was now in ruins.

    This left the next game looking very interesting as the two big names in Group D, Ghana and Mali facing off against each each other knowing a win was cruical. A tense first half saw no goals by either side but the breakthrough came with a lovely goal from the 'Middle Eastern Cash Wallet' Asamoah Gyan who scored with a stunning free kick. The lead for the Ghanaians was doubled short after with a lovely taken goal from 'Dede' Ayew to seal a 2-0 win.

    Group D now looks like being the group of death in the tournament. Ghana being top with 6 points and Guinea and Mali on 3 points each. The final group games on Wednesday will be very tense.

    Saturday, 28 January 2012

    ACN Day 7: Another one bites the dust

    Short but sweet review of day 7 of the African Cup Of Nations

    The first game saw Tunisa take on Niger and beat them 2-1, Niger dominated the game and let a goal in just few minutes before the end to see their hopes crushed by the Tunisians who make it through to the Quarter Finals. Although credit must go to William Tonji Ngounou, who scored Niger's first ever goal in this tournament. Well done that man!

    The second game saw another cruical game involving a big side. Morocco had to beat co-hosts Gabon to stand any chance of making it through to the Quarter Finals (Senegal again anyone?)easy!
    A goal from their captain Houssine Kharjah midway through the first half had settled any nerves. They looked to be cruising until the 77th minute when deja vue in this tournament kicked in again. Aubameyang scored for the co-hosts with a stunning volley which sent the home fans mental. Two minutes later the party could start Daniel Cousin (the ex Hull City man) made it 2-1 to Gabon. Then more drama, a penalty to Morocco close to 90th for handball which Kharjah slotted home 2-2.

    Then came the twist. 94th minute free kick from Bruno Zita Mbanangoye for Gabon made it 3-2. Wow! Morocco like Senegal are out of the tournament

    This tournament is breathtaking this year, get watching!

    Friday, 27 January 2012

    That's Conference #9

    Heard of a 50p head? This is the ultimate.

    That's Conference!

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #10

    Andoni Zubizarreta

    Whatever you say, skipper.

    Unbelievable Jeff! #7

    As we alluded to in the last ACN round-up, the last few minutes of the Equatorial Guinea v Senegal game were quite something. Let's pick the action up just as Moussa Sow equalises for the Teranga Lions:

    Unbelievable Jeff

    ACN Days 5 & 6: I was wrong......

    So Day 5 of the ACN saw Group A sides play their second games of the tournament. By the end of the day someone had fallen by the wayside who I wouldn't have expected.

    The first game of the day saw Zambia and Libya play a 2-2 draw. However in my opinion, both sides were the winners. The game was delayed by horrendous rain which meant the kick off was put back by an hour and fifteen minutes and the game was played on a very heavy pitch. Libya took the lead after a few minutes with a goal from Ahmed Saad Osman and a brilliant pass to him. The lead lasted till just past midway through the first half when Zambia pulled one back through Emmanuel Mayuka who smashed in a sublime volley. Half time came and saw both sides level.
    The second half saw a goal in under 3 minutes, Ahmed Saad Osman grabbed his second for Libya, 5 minutes later it was all square as Zambia pulled level through Christopher Katongo. Thats how it remained. A fantastic effort by both sides in awful conditions. How would the next game cope on this pitch? Could Senegal overcome these conditions and get their tournament back on track?!

    'The National Lightning'- Equatorial Guinea's suitable nickname - now knew if they beat Senegal they would knock the favourites out and put themselves into the Quarter Finals, simple! The first half ended 0-0 and it was all Senegal. 62 minutes came and the host nation went ape as a gorgeous cross was headed home by Randy to send the home fans mental. Senegal were now in panic as they had to get a positive result to stay in this tournament and in the 89th minute it came, Moussa Sow grabbing an equaliser with a volley from a few yards out. Senegal then went into "Hail Mary" mode and threw everything into attack.
    Then their world collapsed. Equatorial Guinea's Kily sent the hosts into the quarter finals with a 25 yard wonder strike that sent the favourites out and one of the co-hosts into dreamland. As I type this I am still in shock as this result as I would never have expected this to happen!

    Could Day 6 have any shocks? Unfortunately not. Sudan and Angola played out a thrilling 2-2 draw which saw Sudan get their first ACN point for 36 years. Ivory Coast knocked out Burinka Faso with a 2-0 win. The second goal was a peach of an og from 'Faso's Koné who headed into his own net from around the edge of the area. Unimpressive from Coast but now they know one of their rivals are out.

    Wednesday, 25 January 2012

    ACN: Day 4

    Short and sweet review of day 4 and the opening games of Group D.

    Day kicked off with Ghana vs Botswana (Ghana I think could be easily be a Semi Final/Finalist in my humble opinion). Ghana went on to to win 1-0 with a goal from their captain John Mensah after 25 minutes from a deflected shot just outside the area. However he went from hero to zero midway through the second half making a clumsy challenge on a Botswana breakaway midway through the second half to see a red card, Ghana hung on to win 1-0.

    The second game saw Mali take on Guinea which also ended 1-0 to Mali. They took the lead after a ball cut back to Bakaye Traore is hit from outside the area but takes a deflection and goes into the back of the net, unlucky Guinea! This is how it remained and Mali get the three points.

    So all the teams have played their first games now and the second set of games start today (Wednesday) as in Group A Libya take on Zambia (1-1 I think) and Equatorial Guinea face Senegal (2-1 to Senegal I think)

    Til tomorrow...

    Tuesday, 24 January 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #9

    Continuing the African theme we've got going on round here at the moment, take it away Carlos Kameni:


    Unbelievable Jeff #6

    More from the Africa Cup of Nations, and here's something quite exceptional from Youssouf Msakni making it 2-0 for Tunisia against North African rivals Morocco.

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Vague Round Up #3

    Plenty of games across the continent at the weekend. Some teams won, some teams lost, some teams drew while some teams are still on holiday.

    More games coming up this weekend as well.

    We'll be back with an update sometime.

    ACN: Day 2 & 3

    After the opening day shocks could day 2 live up to the first day?

    The first game on Sunday saw the 'Elephants' from the Ivory Coast take on Sudan. The 'Coast fielded a strong side to take on the unfancied Sudan and took the lead after Drogba scored shortly before half time, was that enough to take them to a half time lead? It was, only just though as the Elephants 'keeper Boubacarr pulled off a sensational save with moments to go from a superb shot from Sudan's Moutata.

    Ivory Coast went on to win the game 1-0 but a far from convincing display by them took them home but sudan can hold there heads high as they certainly gave the stronger opposition a lot to think about

    The second game of the day saw Burinka Faso take on Angola, a largely dull first half lead to a bright opening after the half time oranges with Angola taking the lead early in the second half after a balls up in the Faso defence let in Mateus to score to take the lead for Angola.
    Then six minutes later the first contender for Goal of the tournament, a superb free kick which beat a six man taken by Traore, superb.

    Then Faso hearts were broken, 10 minutes later came a goal from Manucho who hit a shot from outside the area to take the points, heartbreak for Burinka Faso but Angola get their first points

    Day three of the competition saw Group C kick off and the other joint hosts Gabon make their debut in this years tournament as they took on Niger. Gabon took the lead after about half an hour through a goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon's main man of course) who managed to head home after Niger keeper flapped at the cross. The Gabon joy eurupted again 4 minutes before half time. Stephane Nguema tapped in from a few yards after the Niger keeper couldnt hold to a save. The scoreline didn't changed in the second half and Gabon walked away with the points after a good display.

    The second game of the day saw Morocco taking on Tunisa, the two big North African Rivals come clasing horns. a pacy first half with chances with both saw Tunisa scoring late in the first half through a free kick from Korbi but this game going into half time had plenty of goals still in it.

    At the half time break Morocco decided to bring on QPR's Adel Taraabt, he should be able to boost there goal scoring chances surely?! It didnt, and after 76 minutes his and Morocco's hearts took another kick as another superb goal in this tournament was scored by Tunisa's Msakni as he danced through the defence and slot home. Morocco got a goal back 10minutes later through their Captain, Kharjah. It wasn't to be a revival though and Tunisa held on

    Group D starts today (Tuesday) with Ghana, Botswana,Mali & Guinea entering the fun

    Ladies and Gents of the Euroballs community.....

    The first joke of 2012 is this.....

    Zlatan Ibrahimović has been named the 2011 Serie A player of the year.

    Rumours that Zlatan was responsible for counting the vote remain unconfirmed.

    Monday, 23 January 2012

    That's Conference #8

    I thought this league was one of the best in the world full of the best players. Robin Van Persie proves everyone wrong with this shocking miss.

    That's Conference

    Sunday, 22 January 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #8

    Rogério Ceni

    Happy birthday, you freaking legend. 38 today.

    The Opening Day Of The African Cup Of Nations

    So arriving home from a family meal last night I thought I would switch the old tv on to check the results of the opening day of the tournament just to see if anything exciting had happened.

    Blimey, my jaw nearly hit the floor

    The opening game saw one of the joint hosts, Equatorial Guinea pull a shock 1-0 win over Libya. A game which saw many chances and more goals ruled out than awarded. The hosts won the game with three minutes left when Javier Balboa (Ex-Real Madrid, La Liga fans) curled in the winner with three minutes left to break the "Freedom Fighters" (see what I did there) hearts. A shock win for me on this one

    The second game looked a simple game on paper, Zambia taking of Senegal, easy peasy for Senegal, after all they are one of the favourites and have 'Strawberry Syrup' boy on fire.

    It finished 2-1, to Zambia. Yes, Zambia. 2-0 after 20 minutes through goals from Emmanuel Mayuka and Rainford Kalaba, Senegal pulled one back through Dame Ndoye. In the second half Syrup boy slammed a header against the post when it was harder to do that then to put it in the goal, doh!

    An interesting day one of this tournament and already one of the fancied teams could be in trouble

    More updates to come through the week

    Saturday, 21 January 2012

    (Ex) Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #7

    Michel Preud'homme

    You never lose it.

    While we were looking for Preud'homme pictures, we found this. We like the man, but that's going a bit far.

    Friday, 20 January 2012

    That's Conference! #7

    East Bengal v Pailan Arrows in India, uh oh.....

    Nice touch with the header off the line, but taking your own goalkeeper out? That's Conference!

    Why I love the Africa Cup of Nations

    As we are now past the midway point of January we now suddenly have the first major footballing tournament of 2012 rearing its lovely head in to our view. That's right, its time for the Africa Cup of Nations!

    This biennial tournament (although there is one next year, confused? Yes....) is quite simply the most bonkers football tournament on the planet. That is a bold statement I hear you say but this tournament has everything; passion, emotion and some great games. Yes the quality of the games can at times be terrible and dull but the atmosphere is invariably incredible.

    So the 2012 tournament is here. South Africa? check.....oh no celebrating too early and sitting back cost them, Nigeria?....oh under exile, Cameroon? Choked. Egypt and Algeria? They also fell by on the wayside.

    So who does this leave as the front runners? Senegal, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Ghana have to be considered as potential champions going into the tournament but could the hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea be dark horses? Unlikely, both will need good home support to get them going. Home field advantage could spur them on but both lack consistent form.

    My eyes focus on one team; Libya. Call me Mr Soppy but there is something slightly emotional about seeing the Mediterranean Knights qualify for the tournament given what has happened to this country in the last 12 months and one of their players, Walid Kahatroushi, fought against Gaddafi in the uprising.

    Given this is Euro Football blog this tournament could well be a dream for European clubs; unknown stars could from some of the surprise qualifiers could prove to be a bargain in the summer (or late January, if they're quick) transfer window and lets not forget that 20 or so Premiership stars could be on show.

    So settle back, close the curtains, put your TV on and be warmed by this special tournament.

    follow Loz on Twitter. He's our main man when it comes to the ACN

    Wednesday, 18 January 2012

    Unbelievable Jeff! #5

    Celtic legend Shunsuke Nakamura hits a free-kick onto a moving bus. It's about a minute into this clip

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Coupe d'Afrique des Nations previews - group C

    The fourth and last of our Coupe d'Afrique des Nations previews, following A, B and D, is, inevitably, C.

    Nickname: The Panthers. Some of these countries don't even try.

    Co-hosts Gabon name St Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, but his two brothers don't make it due to injury. As an aside, Aubamayeng senior captained the country on their first appearance in the finals in 1994. Pierre-Emerick is the star man with the ageing Daniel Cousin alongside him.

    Goalkeepers: Yann Bidonga (Mangasport), Stephane Bitseki Moto (US Bitam), Didier Ovono (Le Mans, France)
    Defenders: Georges Ambourouet (Missile FC), Moise Brou Apanga (Brest, France), Bruno Ecuele Manga (Lorient, France), Rémy Ebanega (US Bitam), Edmond Mouele (Mangasport), Rodrigue Moundounga (Olympique Beja, Tunisia), Charly Moussonou (Missile FC), Henri Ndong (US Bitam)
    Midfielders: Andre Biyogo Poko (Bordeaux, France), Cedric Boussougou (Mangasport), Lévy Madinda (Celta Vigo, Spain), Bruno Mbanangoye Zita (Dinamo Minsk, Ukraine), Cédric Moubamba (US Bitam), Lloyd Palun (Nice, France)
    Forwards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (St Etienne, France), Daniel Cousin (FC Sapins), Fabrice Do Marcolino (Laval), Roguy Méyé (Zalaegerszeg, Hungary), Eric Mouloungui (Nice, France), Stéphane Nguéma (US Bitam)

    Nickname: Lions of the Atlas. The Barbary lion is extinct in the wild, but remains the national emblem. The same fate befell the Atlas bear and Barbary leopard. You have to conclude that Moroccans just like killing things they hold dear.

    Eric Gerets names a strong squad, though Mounir El Hamdaoui pays for his lack of involvement at Ajax. Ahmed Kantari has only just returned from an Achilles injury, but is included. They've a wealth of talent up top. Keep an eye on Nordin Amrabat, Oussama Assaidi and the mercurial Adel Taarabt. Karim El Ahmadi, Younes Belhanda and the veteran Youssouf Hadji are all classy. They also have Marouane Chamakh. These lads are in with a shot.

    Goalkeepers: Nadir Lamyaghri (Wydad Casablanca), Issam Badda (FUS Rabat), Mohamed Amsif (Augsburg, Germany)
    Defenders: Jamal Allioui (Al Kharytiyath, Qatar), Michael Chrétien (Bursaspor, Turkey), Badr El Kaddouri (Celtic, Scotland), Abdelhamid El Kaoutari (Montpellier, France), Mehdi Benatia (Udinese, Italy), Abdelfattah Boukhriss (FUS Rabat), Mustapha Mrani (MAS), Ahmed Kantari (Brest, France)
    Midfielders: Houcine Kharja (Fiorentina, Italy), Adil Hermach (Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, Netherlands), Younes Belhanda (Montpellier, France), Mbark Boussoufa (Anzhi Makhachkala, Russia), Youssouf Hadji (Rennes, France), Mehdi Carcela (Anzhi Makhachkala, Russia)
    Forwards: Nordin Amrabat (Kayserispor, Turkey), Oussama Assaidi (Heerenveen, Netherlands), Youssef El Arabi (Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia), Adel Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers, England), Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal, England)

    Nickname: The Ménas. That, as if you needed telling, is the Hausa name for the Dama gazelle, a Saharan native whose numbers are dwindling as their habitat is destroyed. Bit of an over-reaction to a homewares store closing.

    For their first appearance in the finals, Niger name seven locally-based players. Moussa Maazou who plays in Belgium is their star man and it was he who scored against reigning champions Egypt that set up both their qualification and Egypt's failure to do so. Jimmy Bulus and Jimmy Bullard are two different people.

    Goalkeepers: Daouda Kassaly (Coton Sport, Cameroon), Rabo Saminou (Sahel SC), Lossény Doumbia (DC Motema Pembe, DR Congo)
    Defenders: Koffi Dan Kowa (ES Zarzis, Tunisia), Kader Amadou Dodo (Olympic FC), Mohamed Chikoto (Platinium Stars, South Africa), Mohamed Soumaïla (Olympic FC), Djibrilla Moussa (AS Garde Nationale), Souleymane Mazadou (Union Sportive Marignanaise, France), Jimmy Bulus (Hussein Dey, Algeria), Issiaka Koudizé (AS Garde Nationale)
    Midfielders: Idrissa Laouali (AS FAN), Abdoul-Karim Lancina (Coton Sport, Cameroon), William Tonji Ngounou (IF Limhamn, Sweden), Olivier Harouna Bonnes (Lille, France), Yacouba Ali (Africa Sports, Ivory Coast), Idrissa Saïdou (Coton Sport, Cameroon), Boubacar Talatou (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Moutari Amadou (Akokana FC), Issoufou Boubacar (FC Phuket, Thailand)
    Attackers: Moussa Maazou (Zulte Waregem, Belgium), Issoufou Alhassane Danté (Raja Casablanca, Morocco), Kamilou Daouda (CS Sfaxien, Tunisia)

    Nickname: Eagles of Carthage. I went to Carthage once. The place is in ruins (thank the Romans at the end of the Punic Wars for that), I saw no eagles, but I did get bollocked for taking a photo of the President's house. That President was Zine El Abadine Ben Ali. AND WHERE IS HE NOW? Take that, you massive, corrupt, murdering arsehole.

    Sami Trabelsi's side are a decent outside bet and look a solid outfit. Sami Allagui is the man to watch up front alongside Issam Jemaa and Karim Haggui is a solid Bundesliga performer, but there's a good range of experience across the 23 players. Winners? No. Semi-finalists however...

    Goalkeepers: Rami Jeridi (Stade Tunisien), Aymen Mathlouthi (Etoile du Sahel), Moez Ben Cherifia (Esperance)
    Defenders: Khalil Chammam (Esperance), Anis Boussaidi (Rostov, Russia), Aymen Abdennour (Toulouse, France), Bilel Iffa (Club Africain), Karim Haggui (Hannover, Germany), Ammar Jemal (FC Cologne, Germany)
    Midfielders: Adel Chedli (Etoile du Sahel), Oussama Darragui (Esperance), Mejdi Traoui (Esperance), Khaled Korbi (Esperance), Wissem Ben Yahia (Mersin, Turkey), Yassine Chikhaoui (FC Zurich, Switzerland), Hocine Ragued (Karabukspor, Turkey), Jamel Saihi (Montpellier, France)
    Forwards: Issam Jemaa (Auxerre, France), Zouhaier Dhaouadi (Club Africain), Youssef Msakni (Esperance), Saber Khelifa (Evian, France), Amine Chermiti (FC Zurich, Switzerland), Sami Allagui (Mainz, Germany)

    Going through from this group: Morocco and Tunisia in no particular order.

    The fun and games begin on Saturday with hosts Equatorial Guinea playing Libya and Senegal against Zambia later on that evening. We'll be covering it as best we can, hopefully with new writers for all you that are bored of the usual drivel.

    Tuesday, 17 January 2012

    That's Conference! #6

    FA Cup replays today in England including a local skirmish in the Midlands where Nottingham Forest travelled to Leicester City. Leicester ended up comfortable winners, but it could have been oh so different had USA international Robbie Findley not made an absolute mess of an open goal opportunity.

    Findley has never scored for his country. And That's Conference!

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #6

    Peter Schmeichel

    The undoubted king of the genre

    Coupe d'Afrique des Nations previews - group D

    We did group A and group B in conventional order, but y'know what? Screw convention. Here's a look at group D.

    Nickname: The Zebras. Safety in numbers, but a weak one is always liable to be picked off by a hungry leopard.

    Botswana's preparation threatened to be spoiled by a row over bonuses for the players who had threatened to strike over the issue. Had they done so, the under-20s were set to represent the country at their first finals. All bar seven are locally based with six playing over the border in South Africa and their qualification is a genuine feel-good story.

    Goalkeepers: Modiri Marumo (Bay United, South Africa), Noah Maposa (Gaborone United), Kabelo Dambe (Rollers)
    Defenders: Mompathi Thuma (BDF XI), Ndiyapo Letsholathebe (Police XI), Musa Ohilwe (Gaborone United), Mosimanegape Ramohibidu (BMC), Monametsi Kelebale (NICO), Tshepo Motlhabankwe (Mochudi Centre Chiefs)
    Midfielders: Mogogi Gabonamong (SuperSport United, South Africa), Joel Mogorosi, Pontsho Moloi, Othusitse Pilane (all Mochudi Centre Chiefs), Boitumelo Mafoko (Cape Town Santos, South Africa) Ofentse Nato (Gaborone United), Phenyo Mongala (Bloemfontein Celtic, South Africa), Patrick Motsepe, Tshireletso (BDF XI), Mogakolodi Ngele (Rollers)
    Forwards: Jerome Ramatlhakwane (Unattached), Diphetogo Selolwane (SuperSport, South Africa), Onalethata Tshekiso (Rollers), Moemedi Moatlhaping (Bay United, South Africa)

    Nickname: Black Stars. So called because there's a black star on their flag, nothing Ron Atkinson about it at all.

    Asamoah Gyan was a big doubt for the Black Stars, but makes the squad after making good progress following a hamstring injury. Kevin Prince Boateng's controversial retirement from international football and Michael Essien's injury woes are big blows, but it's still a strong side. The Ayew boys both make it and they are top players, André is the new African Player of the Year. These guys could go all the way.

    Goalkeepers: Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset, Norway), Daniel Adjei (Liberty Professionals), Ernest Sowah (Berekum Chelsea)
    Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Dnipro, Ukraine), John Paintsil (Leicester City, England), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege, Belgium), Masawudu Alhassan (Genoa, Italy), Lee Addy (Dalian Aerbim, China), John Boye (Rennes, France), John Mensah (Lyon, France), Jonathan Mensah (Evian, France), Isaac Vorsah (Hoffenheim, Germany)
    Midfielders: Charles Takyi (St Pauli, Germany), Emmanuel Agyemang Badu (Udinese, Italy), Derek Boateng (Dnipro, Ukraine), Anthony Annan (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), Mohammed Abu (Stromsgodset, Norway), Kwadwo Asamoah (Udinese, Italy), Sulley Muntari (Internazionale, Italy), Andre Ayew (Marseille, France)
    Forwards: Prince Tagoe (Bursaspor, Turkey), Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain, UAE), Jordan Ayew (Marseille, France)

    Nickname: National Elephants. Trying to dissociate themselves from the ivory trade, presumably and understandably, Guinea go to great lengths to make sure they're only domestic elephants and not imported ones.

    Former France u21 international Abdoul Razzagui Camara is awaiting international clearance, but is included in Michel Dussuyer's squad. Kevin Constant, the Genoa midfielder, misses out with injury and that's a blow. Bobo Balde and Pascal Feindouno are set for their fourth finals.

    Goalkeepers: Aboubacar Camara (Alcoyano, Spain), Abdoul Aziz Keita (AS Kaloum), Naby Yattara (Arles-Avignon, France)
    Defenders: Thierno Bah (Lausanne, Switzerland), Dianbodo 'Bobo' Baldé (Arles-Avignon, France), Ibrahima Sory Bangoura (Djoliba, Mali), Lanfia Camara (WS Woluwe, Belgium), Morlaye Cissé (EGS Gafsa, Tunisia), Ibrahima Diallo (Waasland Beveren, Belgium), Kamil Zayatte (Buyuksehir, Turkey), Oumar Kalabané (Al Dhafra, United Arab Emirates)
    Midfielders: Mamadou Dioulde Bah (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Habib Jean Balde (Universitatea Cluj, Romania), Sadio Diallo (Bastia, France), Pascal Feindouno (Sion, Switzerland), Naby Soumah (CS Sfaxien, Tunisia)
    Forwards: Alhassane Bangoura (Rayo Vallecano, Spain), Ismael Bangoura (Al Nasr, United Arab Emirates), Ousmane Barry (Etoile du Sahel, Tunisia), Abdoul Razzagui Camara (Sochaux, France), Ibrahima Conté (Ghent, Belgium), Ibrahim Traoré (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Ibrahima Yattara (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia)

    Nickname: The Eagles. Soaring majestically across the planes, picking off small rodents but never the larger prey. Sums Mali up about right. They've got style and will crush smaller nations before running out of ideas of how to take on the really big fish.

    Another decent outside bet, Alain Giresse has a decent squad to pick from. Barcelona's Seydou Keita is undoubtedly the star, but there are plenty of others to watch, notably Modibo Maiga up top and a phalanx of Traorés in midfield

    Goalkeepers: Oumar Sissoko (Metz, France), Soumbeyla Diakité (Stade Malien), Alimamy Sogoba (As Réal)
    Defenders: Ousmane Coulibaly (Brest, France), Idrissa Coulibaly (Esperance Tunis, Tunisia), Drissa Diakité (Nice, France), Cedric Kanté (Panathinaikos, Greece), Mohamed Fofana (Toulouse, France), Adama Tamboura (Metz, France ), Mouhamadou N'Diaye (Vitoria Guimarães, Portugal), Abdoulaye Maiga (USM Alger, Algeria)
    Midfielders: Seydou Keita (Barcelona, Spain), Kalilou Traoré (OB Odense, Denmark), Bakay Traoré (Nancy, France), Abdou Traoré (Bordeaux, France), Samba Diakité (Nancy, France), Mahamané Traoré (Metz , France), Sidi Koné (Lyon, France), Samba Sow (Lens, France)
    Forwards: Modibo Maiga (Sochaux, France), Garra Dembélé (Freiburg, Germany), Cheick Tidiané Diabaté (Bordeaux, France), Mustapha Yatabaré (Guingamp, France)

    Going through from this group: Ghana top, Mali second.

    Monday, 16 January 2012

    Vague Round-up #2

    All you need to know about last weekend's action around Europe, vaguely...

    The headlines:

    • Red team lose to blue team who go six-in-a-row while handing title boost to black-and-white team in the boot-shaped country.
    • Oil-rich northerners and surprise package southerners pull clear on the Hexagon.
    • Big two Iberians extend their lead, stripey Basques make a push for Europe.
    • Differing fortunes for two capital sides on the island. Two wins in a row for a blue one mean their crisis is over, passing the crisis baton to red neighbours who have lost two in a row. Interlopers from small Principality prove capable at passing the ball around in pretty triangles.
    • Purple side from sprout capital of Europe pull out big gap at the top of their league, but with a stupid and over-complicated play-off system, it doesn’t mean a great deal.
    • Everyone with African (except Cameroonian/Nigerian/South African/Egyptian) players prepare ready-made excuses for poor showing.
    • Holidays winding down for Germanic nations. Back to work next weekend.

    You are now informed. More next week.

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #5

    Julio Cesar

    Kaká getting it in the ear.

    Coupe d'Afrique des Nations previews - group B

    Group A got a going over here and we continue now in highly predictable, orthodox fashion by running the rule over group B next.

    Nickname: Sable Antelopes. The critically endangered Giant Sable Antelope is native to Angola. That's all we got.

    Former German u21 international Nando Rafael is included by Lito Vidigal, though doesn't yet have FIFA permission to use him. Rafael fled Angola's civil war as a child and needs to be granted change of international status before being able to play. With or without him, they look a bit tasty up front, less so at the back.

    Goalkeepers: Carlos (unattached), Hugo (Kabuscorp), Wilson (Primeiro Agosto),
    Defenders: Amaro (Primeiro Agosto), Dani Massunguna (Primeiro Agosto), Kali (Primeiro Agosto), Marco Airosa (AEL Limassol, Cyprus), Mingo Bille (Primeiro Agosto), Zuela (Atromitos, Greece)
    Midfielders: Andre Makanga (Al Jahra, Kuwait), Dede (AEL Limassol, Cyprus), Gilberto (Lierse, Belgium), Mabina (Petro Atletico), Miguel (Petro Atletico), Osorio (Recreativo Caala), Xara (Petro Atletico)
    Forwards: Djalma (FC Porto, Portugal), Flavio (Lierse, Belgium), Jose Pierre Vunguidica (Preussen Munster, Germany), Love (Petro Atletico), Manucho (Real Valladolid, Spain), Mateus Galiano (Nacional, Portugal), Nando Rafael (FC Augsburg, Germany)

    Burkina Faso
    Nickname: The Stallions. Either some MOR indie rock band like Foals or a tribute to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

    Chelsea's 16-year old midfielder Bertrand Traoré and he's set to be the third-youngest player at the finals. He's named alongside his brother Alain of AJ Auxerre in France. Burkina Faso's participation was only confirmed after a protest from Namibia about the eligibility of Cameroon-born defender Hervé Zengué. They were cleared, but Zengué has failed to make the cut for the tournament.

    Goalkeepers: Daouda Diakité (KV Turnhout, Belgium), Moussa Germain Sanou (St Etienne, France), Adama Sawadogo (Missile, Gabon)
    Defenders: Ibrahim Gnanou (Alania Vladikavkaz, Russia), Bakary Koné (Olympique Lyon, France), Paul Koulibaly (Charleroi, Belgium), Saidou Mady Panandétiguiri (Valletta, Malta), Mamadou Tall (Persepolis, Iran)
    Midfielders: Wilfried Balima (Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova), Charles Kaboré (Olympique Marseille, France), Mahamadou Kéré (Konyaspor, Turkey), Mohamed Koffi (Petrojet, Egypt), Djakaridja Kone (Dynamo Bucharest, Romania), Jonathan Pitroipa (Stades Rennes, France), Florent Rouamba (Sheriff Tiraspol. Moldova), Bertrand Traoré (Chelsea, England)
    Forwards: Aristide Bancé (Samsunspor, Turkey), Moumouni Dagano (Al Khor, Qatar), Prejuce Nakoulma (Gornik Zabrze, Poland), Issiaka Ouédraogo (FC Admira Wacker Modling, Austria), Abdou Razak Traoré (Lechia Gdansk, Poland), Alain Traoré (AJ Auxerre, France), Narcisse Yameogo (AD Camacha, Portugal)

    Cote d'Ivoire
    Nickname: Elephants. Big, lumbering, physical specimens. A bit like Didier Drogba, but without the falling over.

    Another of the favourites, it's a strong Elephants squad named by Francois Zahoui. All the familiar names are there; Drogba, Tioté, the Touré boys, Kalou, Zokora, Gradel, Eboué... they just keep coming. They have underperformed in recent tournaments, but there can be no excuses with this squad.

    Goalkeepers: Barry Boubacar (Lokeren, Belgium), Gerrard Gnanahouan (Avranches, France), Daniel Yeboah (Dijon, France)
    Defenders: Siake Tiené (Paris St Germain, France), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart, Germany), Benjamin Angoua Brou (Valenciennes, France), Igor Lolo (FC Kuban Krasnodar, Russia), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Emmanuel Eboué (Galatasaray, Turkey), Kolo Touré (Manchester City, England), Souleymane Bamba (Leicester City, England)
    Midfielders: Kafoumba Coulibaly (Nice, France), Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso (Orduspor, Turkey), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover, Germany), Cheick Tioté (Newcastle United, England), Max Gradel (St Etienne, France), Yaya Touré (Manchester City, England)
    Forwards: Gervinho (Arsenal, England), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Didier Drogba (Chelsea, England), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea, England), Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), Abdul Kader Keita (Al Sadd, Qatar)

    Nickname: Nile Crocodiles. The longest crocodiles in the world.

    It's an entirely domestically-based squad - the only one at the finals - named by the Nile Crocodiles, so at least these boys know each other. The country hadn't split when the qualifying began, so this is the last time they'll appear as a single nation.

    Goalkeepers: Mouez Mohjob (Al Hilal), Bhaldien Mohammed (Al Merreikh), Akram Al Hadi (Al Merreikh)
    Defenders: Mosab Omar (Al Merreikh), Ngemaldien Abdullah (Al Merreikh), Ahmed Al Basha (Al Merreikh), Bala Jaber (Al Merreikh), Mowaia Bashir (Ittihad Madani), Siefaldien Ali (Al Hilal), Khaliefa Ahmed (Al Hilal)
    Midfielders: Hisam Mustaffa (Al Hilal), Baderaldien Aldoud (Al Merreikh), Faisal Musa (Al Merreikh), Amier Kamal (Al Merreikh), Nazer Hamed (Al Hilal), Mohamed Al Tahir (Al Hilal) Alaadine Yousif (Al Hilal), Mohammed Ahmed Bashir (Al Hilal), Mohammed Moussi (Al Nsoor)
    Forwards: Ramadan Alagab (Al Mourada), Mohammed Sheikh Eldin (Al Hasahesa), Eltaib Mudather (Al Hilal), Abdulrahman Hassan (Al Merreikh)

    Going through from this group: Cote d'Ivoire top by miles, Angola to join them in the second round as they look likely to score more than they concede, i.e. do a Newcastle.

    Sunday, 15 January 2012

    Coupe d'Afrique des Nations previews - Group A

    Yes, this is Euroballs and not Africaballs, CAFBalls or whatever, but for a month or so, we'll be sat in front of the TV watching the Africa Cup of Nations. It's generally entertaining fare and gives us a look at players we wouldn't otherwise get to see. We also love the nicknames.

    Trivialising things is something we do well and suffice to say that 2011 was quite a year for Africa. Revolutions in the north, it's biggest country divorcing from itself, it's biggest economy seeking draconian media laws and uprisings in the south against self-styled Sun Kings. And this is before Zimbabwe kicks off it's traditional pre-election brutality. Again with the trivialising and possibly distasteful analogy, it was quite a year for football as well. A changing of the guard, if you will. Egypt's revolution exposed huge rifts in the squad and the three-time reigning champions failed to qualify. Neither did big-hitters Cameroon and South Africa while Nigeria were banned by their own government from participation and Togo were late inclusions in qualification after the amoral ban by CAF for failing to fulfil fixtures at the last edition of the tournament on the trifling grounds that they'd been shot up in Cabinda. All of which leaves Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana as stand-out favourites. It's a co-hosted affair with the tiny, mineral-rich Equatorial Guinea making their first appearance at the finals and big neighbours Gabon sharing duties and taking two of the 16 spots on offer with Botswana and Niger also appearing for the first time.

    We start our previews in the alphabetically-ordered fashion by having a look at Group A.

    Equatorial Guinea
    Nickname: Nzalang Nacional. Bit of a mouthful, not especially inspiring. Same number of syllables as the name of the country (FACT!) which makes neither particularly chantable on the terraces.

    Brazilian coach Gilson Paulo names seven naturalised players in his squad. Danilo Emanuel is Brazilian while Lawrence Doe is from Liberia and Thierry Fidjeu is Cameroonian by birth. Former Spain u18 international Ivan Zarandona does not make the cut though. Co-hosts, this is their first appearance at the finals.

    Goalkeepers: Danilo Emanuel (America, Brazil), Felipe Ovono (Sony de Ela Nguema), Achil Pensi Muokembe (The Panthers)
    Defenders: Lawrence Sokota Doe (Al Shabab, Oman), Jose Bokung (Deportivo de Mongomo), Rui Fernando da Gracia Gomes (Logrones, Spain), David Álvarez (Langreo, Spain), Armando Sipoto Buale (Badajoz, Spain), Raúl Ivan Fabiani Bosio (C. D. Alcoyano, Spain)
    Midfielders: Ben Esono Konate (The Panthers), Daniel Vazquez Evuy (Villaviciosa, Spain), Rolan de la Cruz Biyogo (Fortaleza, Colombia), Juvenal Edjogo Owono (Sabadell, Spain), Narcisse Ekanga Amia (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Raúl Juan Máximo Eyama (Deportivo de Mongomo), Jose Javier Balboa Osa (SC Beira-Mar, Portugal), Fousseiny Kamissoko (Al Shabab, Oman)
    Forwards: Ellong Douwala Viera (Sony de Ela Nguema), Rodolfo Bodipo (Deportivo de A Coruna, Spain), Ivan Bolado Palacios (Cartagena, Spain), Iban 'Randy' Iyanga (Union Deportiva Las Palmas, Spain), Thierry Fidjeu Tazemeta (Konyaspor, Turkey), Daniel-Bladimir Ekedo (San Roque de Lepe, Spain)

    Nickname: Mediterranean Knights. A new nickname for a reborn nation, even if it does sound like a seedy porn star, a crap Wham single or a themed fancy dress party aboard a cruise liner. If they really wanted a new image for the nation, we'd have suggested 'FUCK YOU GADAFFI'.

    Despite the upheaval in the country, Libya were quietly impressive in qualifying, going unbeaten, but finishing second behind Zambia. Veteran striker Osama Al Fazaani pulled out citing personal reasons, but Ahmed Zuway and Younes Al Shibani return after missing the Pan-Arab Games. Braga's Djamal Abdallah is the star man.

    Goalkeepers: Samir Aboud (Al Ittihad), Joumaa Gtit (Al Ahly), Mohamed Nachnouch (Al Ittihad)
    Defenders: Mohamed Al Moghrabi (Olympique Khourigba, Morocco), Mohamed Mounir (FK Jagodina, Serbia), Younes Al Chibani (Olympique Khourigba, Morocco), Ali Salama (Olympique Beja, Tunisia), Oussama Achtiba (Al Najma, Lebanon), Ahmed Al Alwani (Al Madina), Rabii Al Lafi (Club Africain, Tunisia), Abdelaziz Belrich (Al Ittihad)
    Midfielders: Jamal Abdallah (FC Braga, Portugal), Mohamed Al Snani (US Monastir, Tunisia), Marwan Al Mabrouk (Al Ittihad), Aboubakr Al Abidi (Al Nasr), Moataz Ben Amer (Al Ahly Benghazi), Walid Al Khatrouchi (Al Ittihad), Abdallah Al Cherif (Al Madina), Oussama Abdelsalam (Al Akhdhar), Faicel Al Badri (Al Hilal)
    Forwards: Ahmed Saad (Club Africain, Tunisia), Ahmed Al Zwei (CA Bizertin, Tunisia), Ihab Al Boussifi (Al Ittihad)

    Nickname: Lions of Teranga. Not just any old lions, oh no, but lions of Teranga. Which are different and better than normal lions.

    One of the favourites for the tournament, Senegal name a strong side packed with familiar names. Demba Ba, Moussa Sow and Papiss Demba Cissé make for a formidable strike force and while it looks light in midfield, there's plenty of versatility in the players named. Armand Traoré switches allegiance from France for whom he was a youth international.

    Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye (ASC Linguere), Bouna Coundoul (New York Red Bulls, USA), Pape Latyr Ndiaye (Ouakam)
    Defenders: Kader Mangane (Rennes, France), Souleymane Diawara (Marseille, France), Lamine Sané (Bordeaux, France), Jacques Faty (Sivasspor, Turkey), Moustapha Bayal Sall (St Etienne, France), Pape Malickou Diakhaté (Granada, Spain), Cheikh Mbengue (Toulouse, France), Armand Traoré (QPR, England), Omar Daf (Brest, France)
    Midfielders: Rémi Gomis (Valenciennes, France) , Mouhamed Diamé ( Wigan, England), Guirane N'Daw (Birmingham City, England), Ndiaye Dème Ndiaye (Arles-Avignon, France)
    Forwards: Issiar Dia ( Fenerbahce, Turkey), Moussa Sow (Lille, France), Papiss Demba Cissé (Freiburg, Germany), Souleymane Camara (Montpelier, France), Mamadou Niang (Al Sadd, Qatar), Demba Ba (Newcastle United, England), Dame N'Doye (FC Copenhagen, Denmark).

    Nickname: Copper Bullets. Sounds like a euphemism in Viz's matchless Profanisaurus for turds.

    James Chamanga was an injury doubt, but has recovered sufficiently to boost Zambia's attacking options. Young Boys' forward Emmanuel Mayuka is the star man. Gabon has unhappy memories for Zambia. It was there in 1993 that the brilliant national team was wiped out in a plane crash.

    Goalkeepers: Kennedy Mweene (Free State Stars, South Africa), Kalililo Kakonje (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Joshua Titima (Power Dynamos)
    Defenders: Francis Kasonde, Hichani Himonde, Stopilla Sunzu (all TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Nyambe Mulenga (Zesco United), Davies Nkausu (SuperSport United, South Africa), Joseph Musonda (Golden Arrows, South Africa), Kampamba Chintu (BidVests Wits, South Africa)
    Midfielders: Nathan Sinkala (Green Buffaloes), Rainford Kalaba (TP Mazembe DR Congo), Noah Chivuta (Free State Stars, South Africa), Isaac Chansa (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Clifford Mulenga (Bloemfontein Celtics, South Africa), Chisamba Lungu (Ural Oblast, Russia), Jonas Sakuwaha (El Merreikh, Sudan), Felix Katongo (Green Buffaloes), Christopher Katongo (Henan Jienye, China)
    Forwards: Evans Kangwa (Nkana), Collins Mbesuma (Golden Arrows, South Africa), Emmanuel Mayuka (Young Boys, Switzerland) and James Chamanga (Dalian Shide, China)

    Going through from this group: Senegal top by plenty, Equatorial Guinea last by plenty. Probably Zambia to edge out Libya for the second spot.

    Friday, 13 January 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #4

    Maarten Stekelenburg


    Unbelievable Jeff! #4

    So you're a striker. Your first touch is rubbish - even takes you away from goal. What do you do? Hows about taking another touch away from goal and back-heeling it back past the lackadaisical keeper?

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Tuesday, 10 January 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #1

    Apropos of conversations with the good folk @NutmegRadio, an idea came about to document pictorially the myriad ways goalkeepers blame everyone but themselves for their failings.

    So here's number 1 in an ongoing series and someone we reckon has had a lot of practice at this, Liechtenstein international Peter Jehle:

    Give those useless buggers what for, Peter.

    Seen a keeper berating a defender? Snapped an angry custodian yourself? Let us know on the Twitter or leave us a comment.

    Vague Round Up

    A surprising start to the year in Italy where there were lots of goals scored as the new year maybe bought a new attitude. The top three were all winners, two by big margins while the third had to settle for a single goal away win. The biggest losers of the day were were thumped away from home by a side near the foot of the table. Big transfer news also sees a player moving from one club to another for a significant sum of money.

    A split round in an Iberian country saw half the games on one day of the weekend with the rest on the other. The league leaders were big winner while there nearest rivals were held in a tense derby. A foreign player was subjected to animal chants but the president just brushed the accusation aside. Draws were the common denominator this week with 60% of the games ending this way with the Italian 0-0 theme occurring in 50% of those.

    In another Iberian country the players returned from their Christmas break and the second half of the season opened with  a comfortable win for the league leaders. The next two teams met and no goals were scored. The thing about this Iberian league this weekend is only one of the games ended in stalemate with the goals flying in.

    There was a break from the league in another country as the cup took over and there were plenty of shocks as well. An Englishman abroad got a hat-trick in his sides big win. The big tie of the round went all the way to penalties where the away side emerged victorious. The big guns all had a safe enough passage into the last 32. More woe for the team from the Principality – their new Russian sugar daddy has a real job on his hands. Meanwhile, an ex-playing poet has turned his collar up and set his sights on the Presidency

    Cup competitions were a plenty on the Island as well. The derby match was surrounded by controversy while only one top flight team were defeated by lower league opposition. More problems with alleged racism during one game while the top two in the other cup competition both progressed easily as well. North of the capital’s river, the wanderer returned and if they hadn’t already built a statue of him, they’d be starting right now.

    The other leagues are still enjoying their winter break at the moment so all the players will be on the beach in a Middle East location laughing at those running about in foolish temperatures.

    Getting the old band back together

    It turns out that Manchester United's people tasked with finding the new Paul Scholes were looking in the wrong place. In fact, the new Paul Scholes turned out to be the old Paul Scholes. Similarly, when wishing for a new Thierry Henry, Arsene Wenger decided his best bet was to re-hire the old one, a trick he looks like he may soon be repeating by signing the new/old Robert Pires.

    The benefits are obvious. In the case of Scholes, it's mere months since he last played at United and he's been coaching at junior levels so has never really been away from the club he represented over 17 years. While Henry had over four years away, he was there for a long time and has worked with Wenger for even longer than that. The players know the management, a lot of the other players, the fans - everything. It's not a question of whether these guys can settle - that they will is a given and put paid to any notion of it taking however many months to adjust to new environments and new playing styles.

    It would be more difficult going back to a club like Palermo or Atlético Madrid where coaches are changed on a quarterly basis, even if it's during one Francesco Guidloin or Luis Aragonés's multiple appointments at those clubs. Neither would it be sensible to attempt to bring someone back to a club where squad turnover is high - Manchester City or Real Madrid, say. A healthy throughput of younger players who may look up to a returning legend is also helpful, rather than a dressing room full of big egos who would naturally be put out by suddenly having a team-mate whose statue stands outside the stadium. With all that in mind, it's clear there are few clubs better equipped for a move like this to work other than Manchester United and Arsenal, though Everton's re-signing of Landon Donovan also follows the pattern.

    With managers notoriously reluctant to sign new players in the January window, getting the old band back together is a lower cost and lower risk alternative, provided the right environment exists. All of which leads to a mental image of Wenger and Pat Rice sitting in an old Dodge police car: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses. Hit it."

    Friday, 6 January 2012

    We all love a goalscoring goalie

    When Tim Howard's massive, wind-assisted, hoof upfield sailed over Adam Bogdan's head, it reminded us all of how great it is to see goalkeepers score. It's a collectors item to rank alongside outfield players going in goal, dogs on the pitch and people scoring penalties past Michel Vorm.
    The revisionist version of post-1992 history tells you that Howard was the fourth English Premier League goalkeeper to score as though that was somehow significant. Jorge Campos, the Mexican keeper of the 1990s, often played up front to some degree of success, as did York City and Northern Ireland legend Alan Fettis, but Stuart Pearce's deployment of David James as an auxiliary striker was rather less successful. Peter Schmeichel was a serial beneficiary of going up for late corners and the phenomenon of the ball seeming to be attracted to the multi-coloured big unit who is up there to make a nuisance of himself. Paul Robinson managed two types - the massive hoof and ridiculous bounce combo and a header from a corner, but what a header. Near post, craned his neck to turn it in. Vincent Enyeama takes a mean penalty and with 100 yards to run back into position if you miss, you'd better make sure.
    Here though are our top five goalscoring custodians:

    5. Dimitar Ivankov
    A penalty merchant from Bulgaria, Ivankov bagged 25 in a ten-season spell with home-town Levski Sofia before moving to Turkey. With Kayserispor, he won a Turkish Cup medal in 2008 and the run through the competition included scoring two and saving eight penalties. A better 12-yard expert in world football is hard to find.

    4. Hans-Jorg Butt
    Butt makes a decent case for it though. He holds the record (at time of writing) for most penalties by anyone - not just goalkeepers - in any European professional league, a stat helped by his longevity as he's in his 18th season of professional football. He has more goals than any other keeper in the Champions League as well - a modest three - but he's more aware than anyone of what can happen to penalty-taking goalkeepers:

    3. Jose Luis Chilavert
    The flamboyant Paraguayan keeper holds a number of distinctions. More international goals than any other keeper is impressive enough - more international goals than Emile Heskey is perhaps significant too - and included four in Paraguay's run to qualifying for the 2002 World Cup but his hat-trick for Vélez Sarsfield is a mark that will take some beating. 57 goals in all competitions and a red card for punching Faustino Asprilla: quite a legacy.

    2. Rogério Ceni
    Sheer weight of numbers do it for Rogério, the only keeper to pass the 100 goals mark. A one-club man, he's spent the entirety of his 22-year (and counting) career with São Paulo where he's bagged 55 free-kicks and 46 penalties out of 103 (at time of writing) goals. He's made 17 appearances for Brazil, but sadly never managed to find the back of the net.

    1. Jimmy Glass
    Glass only scored one goal in his career, but what a significant one it was for a number of clubs. It was 1999, last day of the season in England's fourth division and Glass was playing for Carlisle at home to Plymouth. He'd only joined on an emergency loan a couple of weeks previously and this was his third and last game for the club. Carlisle were in a fight to stave off relegation to non-league football - the second relegation place being between them and Scarborough.
    Scarborough had drawn their game and with Carlisle losing, the Cumbrians were heading down. At Seamer Road, Scarborough fans were celebrating on the pitch, but the game at Brunton Park dragged on. Deep in stoppage time, long after the classified results had been read, Scott Dobie's shot wasn't held and Glass pounced, prodding it high into the net. Now the Carlisle fans celebrated and the mood changed at Scarborough. The result was significant to both sides. Scarborough were out of business a few seasons later while Carlisle are established in the third tier. It also cheered up York City fans who, earlier in the day, were relegated to the fourth division after a gubbing at Maine Road. For it's significance alone, Jimmy Glass is our top boy.

    Thursday, 5 January 2012

    Steve McClaren returns to FC Twente

    The return today of Steve McClaren to the happiest of his former hunting grounds is the sort of thing you'd probably be expecting us to cover, perhaps even to take the piss.
    Well we won't be taking the piss. We think it's a great move all round and hope that McClaren repeats the levels of success he enjoyed in his first stint at FC Twente. He's back at a well-run club with a talented and young group of players and good luck to the man.

    As for covering it, we did over at the exemplary, award-winning Inbedwithmaradona.com. At the time of writing, Co Adriaanse was still in the job - he wasn't for much longer - and the rumours of McClaren's return were just that - rumours. We had a look at what lies in wait on the Yorkshireman's return to Holland.