• Tuesday, 28 February 2012

    Vague round-up #8

    Wild celebrations in London where a famous old club beat a lower league side after one of the worst penalty shoot-outs in history. Also in London, a derby turned on it's head and an impish manager who isn't really under pressure admits to being under pressure.
    Blue and white stripey Italians about to look for a third manager of the season? Well, it isn't going well for them and their city rivals top the standings. Still, it ain't over til the Old Lady sings.
    The two main men in Spain both got winners for their respective clubs, but with games running out, the race looks over. Pity the friendly club, adrift in third with nobody for company.
    In the low countries, the six-way fight may have become five with the dockers going down to the electronics magnates.
    On the Atlantic coast, the Eagles drop more points, the Quarrymen win big and what looked like being a walkover is now a three-way tussle.
    The German second division is now even more stupid with 2 (two) points covering the top 5 (five) sides and 1860 (6th) now THE form team in Europe. Unbelievable.

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #22

    Dino Zoff

    Happy 70th birthday, you absolute legend.

    Monday, 27 February 2012

    That's Conference! #12

    Not the players this time, but a systemic failure of officialdom at the Milan v Juventus game at the weekend. First, Sulley Muntari's header was adjudged not to have crossed the line. The referee appears to award it, but the lino has other ideas despite being in a great position:

    Later in the game, was this the officials making up for their earlier blunder? Same lino incorrectly flagging Alessandro Matri offside. Bonus points for Matri making the prayer-hands gesture. "Mother of god, how could I be offside", he seemms to say in that wonderfully idiosyncratic Italian way:

    That's Conference!

    Saturday, 25 February 2012

    That's Conference #11

    One from our sister site at CONMEBalls. Semi Final of the Taça Guanabara at the Engenhão on Thursday night between Vasco da Gama and Flamengo. Ronaldinho Gáucho releases Leo Moura who does well to get to the byline and get the cross in. All Deivid has to do it put it in the back of the net, it's a open goal.

    So what does Deivid do?

    Shows amazing skill to hit the post from all of three feet when it's actually easier to put it in the back of the net.

    Flamengo went on to lose the game 2-1

    That's Conference

    Tuesday, 21 February 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #20

    Bodo Illgner

    If you're wondering about the shirt, don't. It was the '90s. Everyone was doing it.

    Pragmatism in the court of the oligarch

    The Premier League in England needs a crisis club. Not a genuine one, obviously, not one serially mismanaged and run into the ground like a Portsmouth, but one of these crises that can only happen at well-funded clubs stuffed to the gills with millions of pounds worth of players. The sort of crisis that only losing a few games that many expected them to win. A lot of time lately, it's been Arsenal. Now it's Chelsea.

    Appointing Andre Villas-Boas signalled an intent to change the way Chelsea play football. Villas-Boas's hallmarks are all over the Porto side that British viewers had a look at in last week's Europa League game against Manchester City - a high line, constant pressing, shift it wide early and get it forwards. It's exciting, it's vibrant and that's the brand of football he was charged with taking to the Bridge. However, it also needs a certain type of player and a willingness to buy into the style as a group. While he has been able to bring in some players to help him achieve his vision - Juan Mata, for instance and has a number of existing players who can play that way, the overhaul of the squad is an ongoing process as Chelsea's policy of buying players at their peak and subsequently finding themselves with ageing assets on high wages and of no resale value bites them on the bum. Consequently, it just isn't quite working out on the field for Chelsea at the moment.

    Needless to say, this has been blown up into a major issue and pressure piled onto the young manager - isn't it odd that age only matters when things aren't going so well? - to the point that it's all he's ever asked about at press conferences. Responses are scoured over for hidden meaning, hints of rifts with the owner jumped upon and the merest hint of discontent from the squad shown to 'prove' he's lost the dressing room. This culminates in the situation we find today where a Champions League loss to Napoli - perfectly plausible despite Ray Wilkins saying "they're not a threat" when the draw was made - is painted as being potentially the last time Villas-Boas takes charge of a Chelsea match.

    A corrollary of all that is incessant speculation about potential successors and today's Daily Mirror suggests that Marcelo Bielsa is the one to come in should Roman Abramovich put Villas-Boas out of the press's misery. Now, if Villas-Boas was having difficulty imposing his style on the Chelsea squad, how on earth is the madcap Argentinian supposed to do that?

    Bielsa is, needless to say, brilliant. He's taken his philosophy to Bilbao and he's achieving something quite remarkable. It took time though as Athletic lost three of their first four matches. Were that to be subject to the same press scrutiny as Villas-Boas's Chelsea reign, he'd have been run out of town by mid-September. But, like Villas-Boas, Bielsa was hired because of his philosophy, to implant that at the club and allow it to become the new culture. He was backed by a sympathetic board who bought into his vision.

    Abramovich has proved himself to be a capricious boss during his time at Chelsea and has rarely thought overlong about binning the money spent on hiring managers before. However, he did spend big on acquiring the services of Villas-Boas and one presumes that the vision that Villas-Boas has on how football should be played was a major factor in the reasons for his recruitment. If so, there is no crisis and everyone can just stop the incessant rambling about nothing. If not, then Villas-Boas is best off out of it and someone else is going to acquire an extremely talented coach.

    Vague round-up #7

    Loads of goals, more firings, more hirings, more invented crises and even more real ones.
    The Atomic Flea proved unplayable, it's a genuine six-way fight in the low countries and the Teutonic second division might just be the most exciting league on the planet.
    Meanwhile, famous old English club have a new chap called Own Goals newly installed as their joint third-highest goal-scorer this season.

    Wednesday, 15 February 2012

    Unbelievable Jeff! #15

    Who wouldn't want to see a video of Michel Platini booting a lad and swinging a massive haymaker?

    Not that Michel Platini, of course (sadly), but rather the Brazilian attacker currently playing for CSKA Sofia who were involved in a friendly - yes, a friendly - with Dinamo Bucharest during the winter break out in that part of the world.

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Tuesday, 14 February 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #18

    Roy Carroll

    Instant hero.

    Vague Round-up #6

    All the latest European news digested and regurgitated:

    Still a bit nippy, so not everyone played.
    Derby upset in the low countries, giants toppled in Navarre.
    Money worries in the frozen north and balmy south off the continental coast as clubs fall prey to chancers, shysters and crooks.
    With no transfer window to panic-buy a way out of trouble, managers begin to get sacked; some after five years, some after five months and others after five games.
    The standard of apology has really gone downhill recently as well.

    Monday, 13 February 2012

    Unbelievable Jeff! #14

    What's better than a one-two? How about two one-twos and a really nice finish?
    Yes, it's the irrepressible and resurgent Gladbach again, this time with Mike Hanke on the end of things:

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Friday, 10 February 2012

    Unbelievable Jeff! #13

    From a few weeks ago, when Gladbach gubbed Bayern. It's the Foals' second goal, scored by the Chimbonda'd Patrick Herrmann. What's particularly Unbelievable Jeff about it is that they allow Bayern to knock it about, but then get bored and counter, as if to say "yeah, yeah. Enough of that. Give it here and see what we can do with it".

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #17

    Vitor Baia

    If looks could kill.

    Definitely not about the England job

    If you pick a person for a job based on the court of public opinion, it's a bad selection.
    If you pick a person for a job based on that person's courting of press opinion, it's a bad selection.
    If you pick a person for a job based on the opinion of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer, it's a bad selection.
    If you pick a person for a job without addressing the glaring issues that lie at levels below that role, it's a pointless appointment.
    If you expect someone to achieve different results with the same tools as the previous person in that same role, you are an optimist at best.
    If you're bemoaning the lack of suitable candidates for a role from a specific part of the world, you might want to look at the reasons for that and see if there's anything you can do about it.
    If you disregard candidates based on where they come from, you're an idiot who deserves to fail.
    If you cower before other organisations and press opinion and take the short-term view whilst disregarding the opportunity to implement a lasting solution to decades-old problems, the issue is not with the appointment you're about to make. The issue lies with you.
    If you can undermine a supremely well-qualified person who is willing to miss his own son's wedding to fulfil his contractual obligations, then yours is your little fiefdom and everything that's in it. And what is more, you'll have ruined any chance of making some good out of this whole sorry mess.

    With apologies to Kipling

    The joys of Lego and TSG Hoffenheim

    Lego* is brilliant. The toy of choice for generations. Hours, days even, could be spent building elborate constructions, alone or with siblings. From simple moon bases to complex cities and civilisations were not beyond the ken provided you had imaginations, enough bricks and a mother who didn't insist on 'tidying all this mess up before your father gets home'.

    Over time, the original kits to build a specific items were merged with others into a generic pile of bricks. Where one kit started and ended wasn't important as the pile of bricks grew and grew, enabling you to break free from the shackles imposed by the creators and build something previously unimagined in scale and practicality. But no matter how complex and impressive your creations were, they did have to be dismantled, whether it was before your dad got home or otherwise, and often the destruction process was more enjoyable than the initial planning, design and build phases. And that's like Hoffenheim.

    The Sinsheim club are the Lego creation of SAP founder Dietmar Hopp. Having seen his approaches rebuffed by a number of clubs, instead he took the side he once played for, in the suburbs of Sinsheim, and took them rapidly upwards to the Bundesliga under the stewardship of Ralf Rangnick. He spent on infrastructure too, building a stadium into which the population of Hoffenheim could fit ten times over. But now he's in the process of taking the whole project apart.

    Whether he's bored or not, you'd have to ask him, but the rot set in when he sold Luiz Gustavo out from beneath Rangnick against the master-coach's expressed wishes. Rangnick left. Holger Stanislawski was persistently undermined in his short tenure and, frankly, he's best off out of it. Having spent 19 years with St Pauli as player and coach, the likeable Stanislawski has seen his shot at the big time blow up below him. He deserves another chance. His successor is Markus Babbel. Fine player though he was, he's not made a great fist of jobs at Stuttgart - where the requirement to attend courses in Koln to do his badges having been given dispensation by the DFB didn't help - and Hertha BSC who offed him during the winter break after a complete breakdown of relations. This smacks of self-sabotage by Hopp.

    What does Hopp want? If he is bored, then he needs to have a sustainable model that someone else can take on. That does not exist - the club is entirely reliant on regular injections of cash from Hopp to keep operating as it does currently. If he's winding it down, the club will end up back where he picked them up from - the regional leagues - but with a 30,000-seater reminder to ambition mixed with hubris.

    The house that Dietmar built is falling down. The question now is whether he has the will to build it back up again.

    * - other building blocks are available

    Thursday, 9 February 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #16

    Bruce Grobbelaar


    Fabio & 'Arry - how they compare

    Breaking our self-imposed blackout on all things Ingerlund, Chris has a look at how the now ex-England manager and his heir apparent compare:

    Fabio CapelloHarry Redknapp
    Clubs ManagedAC Milan, Real Madrid, AS Roma, JuventusBournemouth, West Ham United, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur
    Domestic Top Level League & Cup Titles121
    European Titles1 Champions League, 1 European Super Cup1 Intertoto Cup
    ReputationAutocrat, Disciplinarian, Shrewd TacticianGeezer, wheeler-dealer, motivator
    Number of times charged with cheating the public revenue01
    Number of clubs who have gone into administration after he’s managed there03
    Win Percentage of teams managedAbove 60% at all teams bar first spell in charge of AC MilanBelow 47% everywhere except Tottenham Hotspur
    InterestsArt Collecting, TV Punditry, Bullying Stuart PearceDogs, forgetting bank accounts, giving journalists good quotes

    Just saying, like.
    Blackout will now resume.

    Unbelievable Jeff! #12

    What's not unbelievable, Jeff, is that Lionel Messi features in this clip. But it does contain three of our favourite things about the game: a great through-ball, a great first touch and a goal.

    Unbelievable Jeff!

    Tuesday, 7 February 2012

    Quick round up of last of the ACN Quarter Finals and Semi Preview

    Gabon 1-1 Mali (Mali won 5-4 on penalties)

    Shock. Thought Gabon would get there but no, horrible penalties and wasted chances saw the co-hosts crash out. Well played to Mali, go into the Semi on Wednesday looking confident (and maybe a bit tired)

    Ghana 2-1 Tunisia (after Extra Time)

    Ghana have never lost to Tunisia in the ACN and still that remains after a tense battle on Sunday evening which saw Ghana edge in late into extra time.

    So the Semi Finals are Zambia vs Ghana (Ghana for me) & Mali vs Ivory Coast (Coast to win). Plus, ladies and gents, you can still buy tickets for the final as it has yet to sell out. Shame, as this has been a top tournament so far

    Vague round-up #5

    Man it was cold. Maybe it's time to think about having a break for winter.
    And some daft, lanky, self-opinionated tosser slapped someone.

    Sunday, 5 February 2012

    Unbelievable Jeff! #11

    Happy 47th to the Maradona of the Carpathians:

    He was a bit good wasn't he.

    ACN: Quarter Final Day 1; Yaya Toure- 'Rocket Man'

    As the UK ground to a halt over a few flakes of snow. the African Cup Of Nations has reached fever pitch as the tournament reached the quarter final stage. The first game on Saturday looked a tasty opening course to this 4 course meal with Zambia taking on Sudan.

    The game really kicked into gear after 15 minutes when Zambia took the lead with a goal from Stoppila Sunzu heading in a goal with little marking from the Sudanese it was an easy opener.

    However Sudan kept on the pressure but couldn't get an equaliser before half time and it remained 1-0 to Zambia. 20 minutes into the second half and Sudan were dealt a huge blow, Ali Idris was sent off for a foul in the area which gave a penalty to Zambia. Christopher Katongo took the penalty but the first attempt was saved but he slotted in the the second attempt. It was all uphill for Sudan now. Their misery was compounded with a few minutes left when James Chamanga sealed a 3-0 win for Zambia.

    Harsh on Sudan was this result as they do seem to have improved as the tournament has gone on but they will learn a lot from this years tournament.

    The second course on Saturday was Ivory Coast taking on co-hosts Equatorial Guinea. Could they be the first side to score a goal against the 'Elephants' in this tournament?

    A first half which saw plenty of possession and attack from the 'Coast saw them win a penalty after half an hour after Drogba was fouled however his penalty was saved and the home fans went ballistic. Their Joy was soon to be short lived as Drogba made up for his penalty miss with a shot drilled in to take the lead
    10minutes before half time. The hosts needed to do something which no one else so far had, score!

    Midway through the second half and the tie was effectively over, a powerful free kick by Yaya Toure was headed in by Drogba, a fantastic effort. However that a thumping 3-0 was guaranteed when Yaya Toure hit a 30 yard thunderbolt free kick into the top right of the net. Stunning strike which has to be my favourite goal so far of the tournament.

    Zambia and the Ivory Coast through, who will join them in the final four?!

    Friday, 3 February 2012

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #14

    Jérémie Janot

    The man who also brought you this team photo and this advice on how to keep warm. And has a bad tattoo on the back of his head. And is a borderline certifiable loony.

    Groups C & D finale day action from the ACN and a Quarter Final preview

    Here is a quick, late catch-up with the final day's action from group C and D. Group Cwent into the final games with everything all tied up with Gabon and Tunisia already qualified for the quarter finals and these two met in their final game whilst the other game saw Niger and Morocco lockhorns. It ended up with Gabon beating Tunisia 1-0 and Morocco rescuing some pride from an otherwise awful tournament by beating Niger 1-0. Big shock for me with the co-hosts qualifying from this
    group but they have deserved it with some fantastic football. As for Morocco, less said the better.

    The Group D finale saw a potential classic situation where the final group games would sort everything out. Ghana were top but were taking on Guinea who could still qualify and Mali faced Botswana knowing a win was vital. The end result saw Ghana draw 1-1 with Guinea and Mali beat Botswana 2-1 to see Mali qualify with Ghana for the knockout stages.

    So the quarter finals look fascinating with two games on Saturday as Zambia play Sudan (Come on Sudan!)  and Ivory Coast facing the co-hosts Equatorial Guinea (heart says the co-hosts but head says Coast). On Sunday the other two fixtures commence with Gabon taking on Mali
    (Gabon.....extra time) and a potential decider for the winners of the tournament in my opinion, Ghana squaring up to Tunisia (Ghana for me)

    Let the fun begin.....

    It's worth having a look at the predictions in the group-by-group previews. In Group A, we said Senegal and Zambia - Zambia and Equatorial Guinea prevailed. In group B, we went for Ivory Coast (got that one right) and Angola (wrong - Sudan). Group C saw us go for Morocco and Tunisia. Sub Gabon for Morocco and we're there. And in Group D, we got them both right, and in the right order, as Ivory Coast and Mali progress. Five out of eight quarter-finalists. Not bad.

    Goalkeepers yelling at defenders #13

    Rustu Recber

    War paint.