Wednesday, November 30, 2005

UEFA takes on racism

UEFA came out strong today against racism but threatening teams with exclusion if they do not control their fans. They also encouraged refs to "...wake up - because the referee can do a lot in a specific game. Either to stop it, to listen, to report and eventually to abandon the game if that kind of abuse is taking place."

UEFA is hoping to get the European Parliament to sign off on their new proposal to toughen action against racism, thus making it an EU resolution.

Are the Earthquakes willing to wait a year?

Yesterday the City Council of San Jose started looking at the possibility of giving up some downtown land so the Earthquakes could build a new soccer stadium. It was some good news for fans, however there might be a bit of a snag.

By law, if the city were going to make anything more then a limited investment, like just the land, they would have to go to voters to get approval. This would require the city to conduct various studies that evaluate the effect this stadium will have on the area. This would take at least 6 months, so the earliest this could end up on the ballot would be around next November.

Would an ownership group be willing to wait till then to see if they will be able to build a home? Would they then be willing to wait two more years to move into that home? Three years of loosing money is a long time.

Of coarse a new group could side step this if they decided to fund the stadium without city money. Think of the commitment that would show to the fans and the city. It would be a wonderful thing to see, but sadly, very unrealistic. If they can't get the money out of San Jose, I'm sure they will look to get some from somewhere else (hello Houston).

The San Jose Mercury has two good articles on the new stadium idea. One wants the city to go for it while the other is a little more timid

FIFA Delay Decision on Turkish-Swiss Violence

After initially signaling that the investigation into the violence that fallowed the Nov. 16th World Cup playoff match between Turkey and Switzerland would be finished before the Dec. 9th World Cup draw, FIFA has delayed the final report to early next year. They have already interviewed 22 people in connection with the events of the 16th, but it seems that they now want to expand the investigation to look at the match in Switzerland on Nov. 12th.

I am not surprised at all by this delay. The results of this investigation are going to generate headlines about something FIFA would prefer not talk about. By putting it off to next year, they will prevent these stories from eclipsing the draw.

All and all, I don't think Turkey or the Swiss will be removed from 2010. I expect both sides to get some sort of punishment with Turkey getting it a bit harsher. I suspect that they will have to play a few of their games in an empty house.

Hooligans brawl in Germany

Fears of violence ruining next year's World Cup climbed yesterday as Germany police investigated a secret battle between 100 hooligans near Berlin. The fight took place between jackasses from Berlin and about 50 assholes that bused in from Poland.

From the article:

"German anti-hooliganism police had been tipped off but arrived too late to prevent the fight, which took place in woodland at Briesen, off the motorway linking Berlin and Poland. Hooligans who suffered cuts and bruises refused treatment and police were unable to make any arrests as they had not seen the fighting.

It is thought that among the German gang was Karl-Heinz Elschner, a ringleader of a group who beat up a French policeman during the 1998 World Cup in France, leaving him wheelchair-bound."

These "might makes right" folks need to screw off and stop using the beautiful game as an excuse for this sort of behavior.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bruce Arena ready to call Freddy Adu up is reporting that US Coach Bruce Arena will give Freddy Adu a chance during January’s training camp. Arena gave this hint while speaking at a symposium in California.

"Arena said he has about a dozen places reserved for European-based players. This means only about ten places are open to players in MLS, with a couple of those earmarked already for players like Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and Pablo Mastroeni.

"'We went through an important year in 2005 where neither Eddie Johnson, John O'Brien, Claudio Reyna nor Cory Gibbs were around much due to injuries, and those are four players that you would think are clearly going to be on our roster for Germany,' said Arena at the Futbol de Primera 2005 Honda Symposium in Los Angeles."

The odds of Adu making the big team are very much against him (as they should be), but I think it is an excellent decision to allow him to train with team. He needs this kind of involvement to improve over time.

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Oceania Changes World Cup Qualifying for 2010

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has decided to get rid of their traditional qualifying tournament in favor of a more traditional home and away group series. With Australia leaving the OFC for Asia next year, I'm not surprised to see this change happen. They were always the driving force behind the old tournament system.

For those who don't know, the OFC decided their World Cup spot in three stages. The first stage was composed of two groups of five competing in a tournament with the top 2 teams in each group advancing to the second stage. Both Australia and New Zealand got byes for the first stage. In the second stage they played in a tournament with the other four sides. The top two teams from this stage played each other in a home and away playoff. The winner of that playoff faced the fifth place South American side. Simple, right?

For 2010, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tahiti will join a sixth team (decided by an earlier tournament, you didn't think they would go cold turkey did you?) in a group home and away series. The winner of this group will become the Oceania Nationals Cup champions.

As champions, the winner will represent Oceania at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and in the inter-confederation World Cup playoff. By the way, they plan on having a champion by April 1, 2009, giving the champion about 8 months to prepare for the playoff.

Talking about the playoff, there is a push from Asia and many teams in the OFC to change things up. The two confederations would rather face each other then either of the Americas. If these two did end of meeting in a playoff, then CONCACAF would play against South America. This change makes a lot of sense. Why have teams flying halfway across the world to play on another when they could have a more local affair. That would allow more fans the opportunity to see the game and build better local rivalries. I hope FIFA gives this idea a good once over.

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San Jose looking at a site for a downtown soccer stadium

There has not been much great news for San Jose soccer fans since LA came to town, but they might just have some now. The San Jose City Council is looking at the possibility of providing land downtown to build a new stadium for the Earthquakes.

The land is currently used for a firefighter-training center and is just south of property the city is considering for a potential Major League Baseball stadium.

The council will consider the proposal form Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, a group looking at purchasing the Earthquakes from Anschutz Entertainment Group.

San Jose Redevelopment Agency director Harry Mavrogenes said, "In order to keep them here long-term, we have to look at a better facility, a larger facility, somewhere in the range of 22,000 seats.

"We are preliminarily looking at least one site. What we're trying to do tomorrow is lay out a schedule of if we want to keep them in San Jose, here are the things we have to look at."

The most interesting thing about this whole article is that this in the city's "first formal attempt" at keeping the club in town. With all the talk that has been going on for over a year now, it seems odd that the city has not brought this up before. Then again, I know nothing of San Jose politics, so who am I to talk. If you live in the San Jose area and want to keep your team, you should contact city officials and let them know how you feel.

Garber now at "No Comment" stage with the Wizards

Almost one week has passed since MLS Commissioner Don Garber stated that KC would retain the Wizards, but has since shifted his words. Actually, he is now saying nothing on the matter according to MLS press officer German Sferra.

The clubs owner Lamar Hunt was a little surprised by Garber's statement saying, “We’re still in the same negotiating posture that we’ve been in and in fact have two of the same basic two groups … that we’ve been talking to. As of yet, we don’t have anything to announce.”

As I stated earlier, I don't think last week's statement was an accident. I think he was trying to put some pressure somewhere. Where, I don't know. I also don't know if it worked, but I guess we will know soon enough. If the Wizards do end up leaving the Land of Oz, them Garber will look like someone who is out of touch with his own league.


Turkey angry with FIFA over the Kurdish language

The Turkish Soccer Federation is upset with FIFA over the listing of Kurdish as an official language in the Almanac of World Football 2006. Turkish is the only official language in Turkey, however many in the southeastern part of the country speak Kurdish. This is a part of the country were a "low level" civil war has been happening since 1984.

FIFA says that they had "no editorial authority over the book, and that he had already apologized for the misunderstanding." They say that the information came from the CIA World Factbook.

This is sure to increase the already high tension between Turkey and FIFA.

Soccer for peace

A team of Israeli and Palestinian soccer stars will team up in just a bit to play Barcelona in the Camp Nuo stadium.

"The Israeli delegation to the event is comprised of more than 200 people, including politicians, former soccer stars and coaches, as well as a group of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers taking part in the Peres Center for Peace-sponsored school project for soccer and peace, a project which brings together Israeli and Palestinian youths.

Peres, who took a break from his deliberations on whether to stay in the Labor party or move to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new party Kadima, sat in a special press conference next to British actor Sean Connery.

"Football is a great contributor to the peace process," Peres said in the press conference, which was held in the impressive building of the Catalonian government, near Barcelona's Gothic quarter.

"I think all of us are coming here with one message, and that is peace has a future," he added.
Peres stressed that it is important to show people that it is possible to live together, adding that Soccer is an international language, without boundaries.

Connery said that "what we really need is to get back some of the optimism we had five years ago (in the Middle East peace process), and I'm sure there's going to be a change in the climate within a week."

He added that he is a supporter of Peres and of everything he does, and that football is the answer to violence."

Let's all hope that the unity they show during the match will flow off the pitch and inspire at least a few to look past the hate.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ronaldinho gets the hat-trick

He won the inaugural FIFPro World Player of the Year trophy in September, he is going to retain the FIFA World Player of the Year next month and now he has a Golden Ball. Yes, the 25-year-old Brazilian has won the Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) trophy, thus making him the European Footballer of the Year.

The vote was organized by French soccer magazine France Football. Second place went to Chelsea's Frank Lampard while Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard got the third spot due to his role in the Reds' surprise Champions League triumph.

If you have seen Ronaldinho play you know why he won this award. Game after game he amazes. He creates on the pitch. His style is such that he can always figure out an opposition’s weakness and find a way to exploit it. This award is much deserved.

By the way, George Best won this award in 1968 for his wonderful play with Manchester United.

Let the investigation begin

FIFA announced the start of "the biggest disciplinary investigation in its history" today. They will look into the events that took place after the Turkey-Switzerland World Cup playoff.

FIFA says the enquiry in Zurich will involve interviewing more then 20 people including, "...the two national coaches, players, officials and technical staff from both countries."

They went on to say that due to, "...the scale of the inquiry and the possible sanctions we have to ensure that legally everything is done exactly right."

Right after the match, Swiss native and FIFA President Sepp Blatter suggested that Turkey could be banned from 2010 competition. He was rightly criticized for his statements. He has since changed his tone a bit to suggest both sides could be in trouble. He has promised that the investigation will be concluded by the World Cup draw on December 9, but also that both countries could be suspended if they are found guilty of gross misconduct.

If both teams were suspended, something I really don't think is going to happen, I'm guessing it would start after the World Cup. However, it would be very interesting to see what would happen if the Swiss were kicked out of the 2006 Cup.

Great news for Fulham; Great news for the USA

Brian McBride had a wonderful day for his club yesterday by getting two goals in the first 18 minutes.

McBride got his first in the fourth minute when he lightly knocked in a low ball from Tomasz Radzinski that found Brian near the post. His second goal came in the 18th minute when Bolton's defender Radhi Jaidi made a bad judgment call on a goal kick by Fulham's Mark Crossley, allowing the American International to slap a strong volley right on goal. Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen didn't have a chance. McBride almost added a third goal later in the match, but it was just saved.

McBride was doing so well that Bolton had to sub out his marker before halftime.

Fulham have got to be thrilled with this result. Bolton could have moved into third place with a win, but instead they ended up so frustrated that El-Hadji Diouf got his second yellow of the day after the game when his annoyance with the officials boiled over.

Bolton's only good point of the match came late when Fulham's Sylvain Legwinski scored an own goal.

The great news for Fulham fans is that when McBride gets hot, they have a chance of winning most nights. Hopefully Brian will keep producing while getting his confidence and skill up just in time to help the US out in Germany.

Racism in Italy - Cop dies in Cyprus soccer riot

The Italian Soccer Federation has decided to try and rid racism from the stadiums. This comes after Messina's Ivory Coast defender, Marc Andre Zoro, was insulted and booed by groups of Inter Milan fans during a Serie A match on Sunday.

Inter has apologized for the behavior, but further action could be taken against the club.

One thing the Federation has decided to do is start all Italian Cup and Serie A matches five minutes later this week. They will use that time to have players hold banners against racism at midfield.

I don't know if people holding signs will be able to stop racism, but I do applaud the Italian Federation for doing something. I just hope this is not all they do to stamp out the chants, but truth be told, if someone is going to be a racist ass, no set of fines or slogans is going to stop him from being a racist ass. Still, good luck with all your efforts.

In other news, a police officer died during a soccer riot in Cyprus on Saturday.

Marios Malekos, a 43-year-old riot police officer, is thought to have died of a heart attack in the southern town of Limassol when fans attacked police after the game between AEL Limassol and APOEL Nicosia.

The rioting broke out when fans of the home team gathered outside the stadium’s changing rooms after the game ended in a 1-1 draw and began throwing stones at riot police, who fired tear gas in return.

I really don't understand rioting after a soccer match (actually, I don't really get the whole rioting in general, but let's just stay focused on soccer). In this crazy world of ours were so many people need help and where so many big issues are being decided every day, why is the result of a soccer game something to riot over?

Power Soccer

For all those who are not familiar with Power Soccer, the Courier Post has a great write up on a team out of Philadelphia. Quick description, it is a 4 on 4 soccer matched played on an indoor basketball court. It is a non-contact sport opened to power wheelchair users. Players have plastic cards attached to their chairs to knock the ball up and down the pitch.

The sport is growing all around the world. Just this past February, power soccer players from the US and five other countries met in France to standardize the rules of the sport. The work continued last month in Portugal. They hope to test these rules next year in Atlanta.

Their ultimate goal is to have the sport included in the 2012 Paralympics Games.

Chivas Guadalajara fire Coach

Looks like Bob Bradley won't be the newest coach in the Chivas organization for long since Chivas USA's sister club has also fired their coach. Guadalajara fired their Spanish coach Javier Azcargorta after a 3-0 defeat by Toluca on Saturday. This forced Chivas out of the Mexican league playoffs.

Azcargorta was only hired on in August but his results were a bit lacking. During his three months, the team won two, drew five and lost five resulting in a 13th place finish for his side. Needless to say Chivas owner Jorge Vergara wants more.

Some folks mentioned Hans Westerhof (the man Bob Bradley replaced at Chivas USA) as a strong contender for the job, but I just don't see that happening. How would Chivas Guadalajara fans react to the hiring of a coach that failed so badly in the US league? I'm going to guess not so well.

More bad news for Kenya

Kenya's national soccer team has been disqualified from participating in the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup in Rwanda, regional football ruling body confirmed Sunday.

They came to this decision after Kenya's national team refused to participate in the tournament till they are paid for matches they played earlier this year.

The Kenya Football Federation (KFF) has been fined $2000 for not showing up at the tournament.

Back in September, FIFA gave the KFF three months to get their house in order or face disciplinarian action. FIFA will hold a meeting in a couple weeks to decide what progress has been made. If the actions of the last few days are any indication, Kenya is a long way from having an organized house. KFF officials were saying earlier today that they could have a team at the tournament before they were needed to play, however the Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) doesn't want to hear any of it. My guess is the CECAFA is tired of excuses.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Garber says Wizards to stay in KC; News to Hunt

It seems MLS commissioner Don Garber said that the Wizards will stay in KC for 2006. He spoke these words on a Houston radio station on Wednesday night.

“I said, ‘What’s going on with KC?’ and he just said, ‘We’ll remain in KC for the 2006 season,’ ” Davis said Friday.

However, the owner of the club, Lamar Hunt, says that no deal has been made.

“I’m not aware of what he said or what context it was,” Hunt said of Garber’s pronouncement. “I have not talked to him in about eight or nine days, but I’m not sure what the context was of what he was saying. But from our standpoint, we have nothing to announce yet.”

I'm not sure why Garber would say this if he didn't feel it was true. Could it be that the team is going to stay, but Hunt wants to wait till next week to make the annoucement? You are not going to get much media attention if you put something out during Thanksgiving week. Or could this be frustration on Garber's part? I'm sure he wants this and the San Jose situations resolved soon. When 1/6th of your league is in limbo, it must be a little straining.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

J League results - 26 November

Oita Trinita 2-1 Omiya Ardija
F.C.Tokyo 1-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Shimizu S-Pulse 2-2 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F・Marinos 1-1 Cerezo Osaka
Gamba Osaka 1-2 JEF United Chiba
Kashiwa Reysol 5-1 Tokyo Verdy 1969
Urawa Reds 1-0 Jubilo Iwata

Gamba Osaka continues to under perform losing their third straight and 5th of their last 6. They now sit in second place, one point behind Cerezo Osaka who could only make it out of today's match with a tie against a Yokohama team they really should have beat.

The real interesting news is that there are now 3 teams just 2 points off the leader since the Reds, Antlers and United Chiba all won today. That means with just one game remaining in the season, there are still five teams that could end up as champions. Since none of the top 5 teams play each other next week, it will be all about getting your result and hoping the other teams fail.

Pos - Team - Pts
1 Cerezo Osaka 58
2 Gamba Osaka 57
3 Urawa Reds 56
4 Kashima Antlers 56
5 JEF United Chiba 56
6 Kawasaki Frontale 50
7 Jubilo Iwata 48
8 Yokohama F・Marinos 47
9 F.C.Tokyo 46

10 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 44
11 Oita Trinita 43
12 Omiya Ardija 40
13 Nagoya Grampus Eight 39
14 Shimizu S-Pulse 39
15 Albirex Niigata 39
16 Kashiwa Reysol 35
17 Tokyo Verdy 1969 27
18 Vissel Kobe 21

Friday, November 25, 2005

Some news on KC and San Jose

I'm sure all MLS fans were hoping to have some news by today about the future of the transferable two, but it looks like things are still up in the air. However, a decision has to be made soon or both sides are going to have real bad seasons next year no matter where they end up. Tickets need to get sold and excitement needs to build.

The KC Wizards got some good news, a site has been found for a soccer specific stadium, now they just need a team to play there. The KC Star reports, "A study released in October said a soccer complex in Johnson County, with a Wizards stadium as its centerpiece, could be an economic boon. But besides a few meetings, little progress has been made toward getting the project kick-started."

They were hoping to get construction of the site underway by April 2006, so things would be ready by MLS opening day 2008, but they want a commitment from the Wizards. However, the Wizards will not commit without a stadium. How dizzy it is.

Hopefully the recently mentioned local KC group will purchase the team and agree to move to the site in Johnson County.

So what about our other questionable side? The San Jose Earthquakes are still the San Jose Earthquakes. Yes, nothing has happened. However, Jeff Carlisle of ESPN weighs in with his thoughts on the matter. To sum up, it would be bad for everyone but AEG (the 'Quakes owners) if San Jose moved.

I think it would be great if San Jose kept their team and Houston got an expansion team, but if that doesn't happen and the 'Quakes end up in Texas, I think things will not be as bad as Carlisle suggest. I also think that the rivalry against LA could still stand plus they could get a new one against FC Dallas.

Roque Santa Cruz out off World Cup

Paraguayan Soccer Association got some bad news today as striker Roque Santa Cruz (pictured in red & white) informed them that he will not be able to recover from his recent injury in time for the World Cup. Roque underwent knee surgery a couple weeks ago for an injury he suffered during a 29 October match. This is going to hurt Paraguay as he was their biggest threat on the pitch.

Roque has had some good news of late. Bayern München recently extended the strikers contract till 2009 and his wife Giselle also recently gave birth to their second son.

George Best is dead

Soccer great George Best has died at age 59.

Best humiliated defenders and frustrated coaches during his wayward career. He scored 180 goals in 465 appearances for Manchester United, helping the team win the 1968 European Cup. He also played in the North American Soccer League, scoring 54 goals in 139 games for the Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Jose Earthquakes.

Pelé once called Best, "the best player in the world." Best said viewed this as the honor it was and said, "Pele called me the greatest footballer in the world. That is the ultimate salute to my life."

Unfortunately Best was also one of the great drinkers of the world and often missed important events (interviews, TV commentary, games, etc.) due to his drinking. This also led to him needing a liver transplant three years ago. He had been in and out of the hospital since Oct. 1 due to complications related to infection and reactions to medication meant to control his drinking.

Best was told never to drink again after his liver transplant, but he went back to his old ways and was regularly seen at pubs. He once said, "Unfortunately there is no solution to alcohol, you can't make it go away. Drink is the only opponent I've been unable to beat."

In his lighter moments he could give some good quotes. Most of them had to do with drinking ("In 1969, I gave up women and alcohol and it was the worst 20 minutes of my life." or "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."), but one of his best know is about David Beckham:

"He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."

Best is survived by his son Calum.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

US and Mexico drop in FIFA's Nov. Rankings

There was only minor movement in the top 20 this month. Both Spain and Iran moved up two spots. Spain's move caused both Mexico and the US to drop a space. The US now stands as the 8th best team in the rankings, which is still one better then England. Costa Rica fell out of the top 20, but not by much as they now rest at 21st.

If FIFA uses the same seeding formula they used during the last two World Cups, these are the rankings they will use for this year.

Pos - Team - Pts - (Oct Rank)
1 Brazil 841 (1)
2 Czech Republic 796 (3)
3 Netherlands 791 (2)
4 Argentina 774 (4)
5 France 772 (5)
6 Spain 771 (8)
7 Mexico 768 (6)
8 USA 766 (7)
9 England 757 (9)
10 Portugal 754 (9)

11 Turkey 749 (11)
12 Italy 741 (12)
13 Denmark 732 (14)
14 Sweden 731 (13)
15 Japan 713 (16)
16 Germany 710 (15)
17 Greece 708 (18)
18 Uruguay 706 (17)
19 Iran 702 (21)
20 Croatia 701 (19)

The biggest move on the overall FIFA list was Belarus who moved up 11 spots to 59th. Chile moved up 9 to 63rd. Both Bulgaria (39) and Ivory Coast (41) moved up 7.

The biggest loser was St. Lucia who fell 8 places to 125. World Cup bound Togo also saw a big drop by sinking seven spaces down to 56th. Iraq also fell 7 to 74th.

So how do World Cup teams stack up?

Angola (62), Cote d'Ivoire (41), Togo (56), Ghana (50), Tunisia (28)

Japan (15), Iran (19), Korea Republic (29), Saudi Arabia (32)

Germany (16), Ukraine (40), Netherlands (3), Poland (23), England (9), Croatia (20), Italy (12), Portugal (10), Sweden (14), Serbia and Montenegro (47), France (5), Switzerland (36), Spain (6), Czech Republic (2)

USA (8), Mexico (7), Costa Rica (21), Trinidad and Tobago (51)

Australia (49)

Argentina (4), Brazil (1), Ecuador (37), Paraguay (30)

The highest ranked team to not make the Cup is Turkey in 11th place. The lowest ranked team to make the Cup is Angola at 62nd.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

FC Dallas trades Scott Garlick

FC Dallas has sent goalkeeper Scott Garlick and midfielder Carey Talley to Real Salt Lake for a position of an allocation slot. Garlick was steady between the posts this year and keep FCD in the running for the West. They now have Jeff Cassar, who was looking good before his injury in August and Argentine Dario Sala who they picked up before the international transfer window closed during the summer.

Real served notice of their intention to get a new goalie when the by waiving D.J. Countess. This will mark the second time Garlick is brought in to replace Coutness. The first time was back before the 2004 season when Countess was sent to Chicago when Garlick came to big-D.

RSL head coach John Ellinger explain the situation as such:

"Obviously, [Countess] has been in the league awhile, but yet we felt that an opportunity presented itself for somebody like Scott -- getting that kind of experience, more experience than D.J. as far as organizing the defense, and just kind of being able to settle us down. That experience is something that we felt was too good an opportunity to pass up.

"Knowing D.J. the way I know him, D.J. wouldn't be too happy in the backup role, so to speak. So it kind of made sense ... to get the veteran and an up-and-coming young 'keeper [Nolly]."

Jay Nolly saw 450 minutes of action during his rookie season.

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Champions League Round 5 - Day 1 - Wrap

With game five over for the first four groups lets take a look at the tables.

Group A Table
1 Bayern Munich 12
2 Juventus 12
3 Club Brugge 6
4 Rapid Vienna 0

Group B Table
1 Arsenal 15
2 Ajax 10
3 FC Thun 3
4 Sparta Prague 1

Group C Table
1 Barcelona 13
2 Udinese 7
3 Panathinaikos 4
4 Werder Bremen 4

Group D Table
1 Villarreal 7
2 Lille 6
3 Man Utd 6
4 Benfica 5

Both Bayern and Juventus should be happy as their wins see them through to the next round. Arsenal was already in from Group B, but Ajax will now join them. Udinese put themselves in a good spot, but their final match is against Barcelona. They will want Panathinaikos to win against Werder just incase they don't get a result. Then there is Group D. Why does no one want to win this one? For Man U, they need to either beat Benfica in Lisbon or draw provided that Villarreal beat Lille. Man really should have won today's game. Their failure to do so will only make people doubt them more.

Torrow sees Group E-H take the field. Here are the matches:

Fenerbahce v AC Milan
Schalke 04 v PSV Eindhoven
Real Madrid v Lyon
Rosenborg v Olympiakos

Anderlecht v Chelsea
Liverpool v Real Betis
FC Porto v Rangers
Inter Milan v Artmedia Petrzalka

Champions League Round 5 - Day 1 - Live

Bayern Munich 4-0 Rapid Vienna (FT)
Juventus 1-0 Club Brugge (FT)
Ajax Amsterdam 2-1 Sparta Prague (FT)
FC Thun 0-1 Arsenal (FT)

Barcelona 3-1 Werder Bremen (FT)
Panathinaikos 1-2 Udinese (FT)
Lille 0-0 Benfica (FT)
Man Utd 0-0 Villarreal (FT)

The matches are over.

Updating as things happen or every few minutes. Just hit reload on your browser. If it is taking a long time to reload, click here. This is just the live blogging page. You should be able to reload faster here. The Juventus and Arsenal matches have had little flare.

Update 24: Nigel de Jong scored a second for Ajax, but Martin Petras pulled one back for Sparta in the final moments of injury time.

Update 23: Robert Pires gets the pk for Arsenal.

Update 22: Udinese get two goals within three minutes to put them one up over Panathinaikos.

Update 21: Arsenal get a pk

Update 20: Juventus get the goal they have been looking for thanks to a great header by Alessandro Del Piero. Pavel Nedved centered.

Update 19: Bayern is slaughtering Vienna. Toy Makaay gets his second in 5 minutes to put his side up by 4.

Update 18: Frustration is on the rise for Man U after Van Nistelrooy fools Senna. Rooney gives a stupid foul just moments later. The magic from the first half seems to be gone.

Update 17: Bayern are well on their way after Roy Makaay puts them up by 3.

Update 16: After 16 shots, the 17th proves to be the big one for Ajax as they take the lead off a header by Nigel de Jong. Ajax has earned this goal.

Juventus is coming on strong in the second half with lots of shots.

Henrik Larsson gets a third for Barcelona. He can thank Ronaldinho for the center.

Update 15: The Man U match is starting to get out of hand as both sides are fouling just to foul.

Update 14: The crowd at Old Trafford is hushed as Man U cannot figure out Villarreal's defense.

Update 13: An injured Alexandre Song Billong is replaced by Francesc Fabregas for Arsenal

Update 12: Ali Karimi gets a great strike off a Bastian Schweinsteiger cross to give Bayern a second goal.

Update 11: Nestor Sensini gets a yellow for Udinese after a bad foul.

Halftime Update: Bayern Munich has looked good against Vienna, but there is some weakness on the backline that Vienna could exploit. Ajax has controlled the ball for 70% of the match and has had some mean looks at goal, but some how thaey have nothing to show for it.

Barcelona look ready to beat Werder. Lille seems to be having some trouble. Man U has brought a lot of attack, but Villarreal has been able to absorb it.

Update 10: Costas Charalambides gets the close in goal right before the half to put Panathinaikos on top.

Update 9: Mauro Lustrinelli gets a late yellow card for dissent for FC Thun as does Silvan Aegerter. Upset about an offside call.

Update 8: Bayern Munich and Rapid Vienna seem to be trading fouls at the moment.

Update 7: Wayne Rooney has been looking very sharp for Man U. They have been putting on the pressure. At some time, something is going to break.

Update 6: Ronaldinho flashes his big grin after scoring a long shot to put Barcelona back on top.

Update 5: Tim Borowski converts on a pk to tie the game for Werder Breme. Deumi Tchami gets a red card to put FC Thun down to 10.

Update 4: Sebastian Deisler nails a right footed shot from outside the box into the bottom left corner for Bayern Munich.

Update 3: Panathinaikos has controled the first 20 minutes of their game out shooting Udinese 7-0, but they cannot find net.

Update 2: Gabri Garcia sinks a left footed shot into the bottom right corner of goal to put Barcelona up by 1.

Update 1: Man U have come out shooting. They know they need a win and they are trying to get one early.

Turkey's assistant coach quits while FIFA loves Coke™

Turkey assistant coach Mehmet Ozdilek resigned on Tuesday amid reports of his involvement in the mayhem that broke out after last Wednesday's WCQ against Switzerland.

The Turkish FA released a statement confirming Ozdilek's resignation, but did not give any details as to why. However, from various photos and other footage, it does appear that Ozdilek tried to trip a Swiss player while he was leaving the pitch. This action lead to the brawl.

I think those in charge of Turkish soccer are starting to realize how serious this situation is and are taking steps to appease FIFA ahead of their investigation. It was a good idea for Ozdilek to resign (and I'm sure he was pushed), but I don't know if it will be enough to save their team form banishment. I'm sure at some point they will need to accept full responsibility for the events that happened on their field.

But now on to more sugary news. FIFA and Coca-Cola signed a contract today that will extend their commercial partnership till 2022! The contract is worth about $500 million.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he was happy to have the deal worked out and that Coca-Cola has been a great partner for many years. He specifically pointed to 1975 when FIFA was desperately looking for sponsors to shore up its rocky finances, saying, "We asked many, many companies to help us and there was one answer from Coca-Cola which said, 'We believe in the future of football.' And we said, 'We believe in the future of your soft drinks.'"

Coke will have exclusive rights to all non-alcoholic beverage sales at all FIFA's major competitions. Coke will also sponsor a "FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour" and be involved in a plan to bring discounted tickets for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to ordinary African soccer fans.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The goal Bahrain feels they scored against Trinidad and Tobago

For those of you that have not seen the footage of the goal Bahrain feels should count, here is a link provided by US Soccer.

As you can see, the keeper does drop the ball, but that is only because he is about to kick it. As anyone who has watch a soccer match before knows, goaltenders do this action over and over in any given match. However, Bahrain says that the keeper has lost control of the ball, thus allowing their player to go after it.

As US Soccer points out (some CONCACAF love), FIFA rules dictate that "Once the goalkeeper has gained possession (also known as "control") of the ball, an opponent may not interfere with or block the goalkeeper's distribution of the ball." Since he was in the process of distributing the ball when the opposition's player kicks it away, it is a foul. For anyone to say otherwise is dishonest. If FIFA had overturned this decision, every time a goalie went to kick a ball, the other side would attack them.

FIFA was right, Bahrain was wrong and Trinidad and Tobago heads to the World Cup.


Death threats, injuries and South Africa 2010

What do these three things have in common? Today they are all related to various World Cup news.

First the death threats.

Swiss international Benjamin Huggel (pictured) has received a number of threats of violence against himself and his family ever since the brawl that ended last week's WCQ with Turkey. Huggel attacked Turkey's assistant coach Mehmet Ozdilek during the chaos. The threats were sent via his personal website.

FIFA is looking over the incident, but Huggel feels he will be suspended for kicking Ozdilek.

Then there is the injury.

Real Madrid captain and Spanish international Raul Gonzalez seriously injured his left knee during yesterday's lose to Barcelona. Madrid said, "Raul is suffering from a tear in his external meniscus and a partial tear of his anterior cruciate ligament, as well as damage to his knee cap." This injury could keep him out of league play for up to three months. It also puts his ability to play in the World Cup in question.

And now South Africa.

South African President Thabo Mbeki and FIFA president Sepp Blatter laid the foundation for a new soccer facility today. FIFA will pay for the building that should be finished by next July. It will serve as headquarters of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee and the temporary home of FIFA during the tournament. At the dedication Blatter said, "It is time to build this house upon which foundation lies trust and confidence from FIFA that South Africa will host a good World Cup in 2010." When the 2010 Cup is over, the building will be the home of South Africa's FA.

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Wizards might just stay in Kansas City

After a year of looking for a local buyer, there are signs that Lamar Hunt might have found one. The interested group is made up of Cerner Corporation co-founders Cliff Illig and Neal Patterson, Robb Heineman, Greg Maday and David French, of Rock Island Capital and an unnamed sixth member.

Shortly after Hunt announced the sale, he stipulated rules for buying the team. These rules involve funding capability, ownership stake, a general business plan, potential funding sources and location for developing a soccer-specific stadium. It seems this group has met all these requirements.

Hopefully an official announcement will happen soon and KC will reopen season ticket sales. For all KC Wizard fans, this might just be the great news everyone has been looking for, however, waiting to celebrate till the deal is done might be a very smart move.


Blind soccer coming to New Zealand

On Wednesday, Wellington will host the first games of blind soccer ever played in New Zealand. These games will be possible due in part to Government of Brazil’s Ministry of Sport donating 50 audio soccer balls to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB).

These games will have a team of four blind and vision-impaired RNZFB members will take on four Brazilians. The game will be either in our outdoors on a 20 by 40 meter surfaces. All players will wear blindfolds to insure fairness.

So what is an audio soccer ball? It is a ball with bells in it. As it rolls, people players will be able to track it.

Blind soccer was developed in the early eighties and the first international championships were held in Spain in 1986 and since then the sport has a strong following worldwide.

I have never experienced blind soccer, but it does seem like a player would have to have great skill to make anything happen. Even a simple pass would become an exercise and finding a player by their voice, letting them know it is coming their way and placing it near where their voice was. I hope to watch a match some time.

Bob Bradley hired to coach Chivas USA

It didn't take Bob Bradley long to find a new job. After being fired by the MetroStars two months ago, he has found a new home with Chivas USA. The strange thing is that not very long ago, Chivas owner Jorge Vergara made a big deal about keeping current coach Hans Westerhof (who replaced Thomas Rongen mid-season). Westerhof gave up his title of director of football for Chivas Rayadas de Guadalajara, Saprissa of Costa Rica and Chivas USA to coach the team. No word on what his position in the Chivas operation will be.

For Bradley the goal is a simple one, stick it to the MetroStars. Wait, no. I think his goal is to turn Chivas into something other then the butt of MLS jokes. It will also be interesting to see if Bradley can keep his playoff bound streak alive. Every MLS team he has coached during his eight seasons in the league has made the playoffs.

Without giving full details, Chivas says this is a multi-year deal that will keep Bradley as the highest paid coach in the league.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

FIFA Reject Bahrain's Appeal

It is official, Trinidad and Tobago is in the World Cup after FIFA denied Bahrain's appeal of a call late in Wednesday's match. This was the right call by FIFA.

J League results - 20 November

Oita Trinita 1 - 1 Kashima Antlers
Kashiwa Reysol 1 - 2 Shimizu S-Pulse
FC Tokyo 2 - 1 JEF Utd Chiba
Yokohama FM 3 - 1 SF Hiroshima
Jubilo Iwata 2 - 3 Albirex Niigata

Nagoya Gr Eight 2 - 1 Gamba Osaka
Cerezo Osaka 2 - 0 Kawasaki Fr
Vissel Kobe 0 - 1 Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds 4 - 1 Tokyo Verdy

Gamba Osaka is continuing to have problems down the stretch as they lost to bottom half of the table Nagoya Gr Eight. They have now dropped 4 of their last 8. Cerezo Osaka was able to make use of the defeat and move ahead of Kashima Antlers who tied with Oita Trinita. There are now three weeks left in the season and it looks like at least four teams are still challenging for the top spot.

On another note, Kawasaki Frontale will keep their coach Takashi Sekizuka for at least one more year. This is bad news for Kashima Antlers who were hoping to bring him over to their side. Sekizuka lead his team to promotion last season and they currently sit in sixth place.

Pos - Team - GP - Pts
1 Gamba Osaka 31 - 57
2 Cerezo Osaka 31 - 56
3 Kashima Antl 31 - 55
4 Urawa Reds 31 - 53
5 JEF Utd Chib 31 - 50
6 Kawasaki Fr 31 - 49
7 Jubilo Iwata 31 - 45
8 SF Hiroshima 31 - 43
9 Yokohama FM 31 - 43
10 FC Tokyo 31 - 42
11 Oita Trinita 31 - 39
12 Albirex Niig 31 - 39
13 Nagoya Gr Ei 31 - 38
14 Omiya Ardija 31 - 37
15 Shimizu S-Pu 31 - 35
16 Kashiwa Reys 31 - 31
17 Tokyo Verdy 31 - 26
18 Vissel Kobe 31 - 21

Saturday, November 19, 2005

San Jose gets another week to keep the 'Quakes

Earlier in the week, San Jose Earthquakes owner AEG indicated that this past Friday would be the day that they would decide where the team would play next season. However, AEG spokesman Michael Roth now says that Friday was a goal, not a deadline. Whatever it was, it seems like it has worked in some way since there seems to be a sudden growth in interest in keeping the 'Quakes in the area.

It seems that talks have focused on having the team play in near by Santa Clara, with Councilman Kevin Moore saying that there are two sites in Santa Clara that could host a stadium.

Back in San Jose, Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez said that they are looking at a plan to keep the Earthquakes, but he added that, "It's not done. My hope was we could have something by Monday or Tuesday.'' As with most things, that probably means nothing till after Thanksgiving.

It seems one of the major problems with building a stadium in San Jose is the need for public approval via a vote to make it happen. Oh democracy, why do you hate soccer so?

Anyway, this can only been seen as good news for fans in San Jose. By the way, the article also mentions the possibility of Ajax taking part in the ownership of the club. Good to see that getting some media attention.

Brazilian match fixing games reinstated

The saga out of Brazil continues as a civil judge has reversed the ruling of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation (CBF) by saying that all original results from the 11 matches that the CBF order replayed due to a match-fixing scandal, will stand. Seeing as most of the results from these 11 matches changed with the replay, this is a major change.

This order has not taken effect yet because the CBF has not officially been notified of the decision. However, once the results are reinstated, the table is going to shuffle. There is a strong possibility that this will change the league champion.

The judge made this ruling after it could not be proven that match fixing had happened in all 11 games. If the CBF do not obey this ruling, they will be fined 100,000 reals (US$45,600) per day.

With only three matches left in the Brazilian league, I'm sure many will be happy when this season ends. No matter who stands on top of the table, they will always be viewed as tainted champions.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cristiano Ronaldo signs with Man U says "Russia too cold"

Portugal's favorite Cristiano Ronaldo has signed a two-year extension to his contract with Man U. This signing ends speculation of a move to Real Madrid, Barcelona or Dinamo Moscow. The rumor of a move to Russia was my favorite, but it looks like it will have to wait at least two years for it to happen.

Ronaldo told the United website: "I am very happy and proud to finally put a deal on paper. It is important for the development of my career."

By the way, Ronaldo didn't actually say anything about Russia, but I'm sure he was thinking it. Have you ever been to Moscow in January. Down right chilly it is.

Turkey fights back while Australia brings in the money

Turkish coach Fatih Terim has accused the soccer world of being prejudiced against Turkey adding that "...rival countries use this to their own advantage even if nothing has happened."

Newspapers in Turkey went even further when they accused FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Swiss national of being bias. The headline on the Fotomac sports paper read, "He's gone crazy. Fifa's Swiss president Blatter spits hatred." This went along with an image of Blatter's head impaled on the corkscrew of a Swiss army knife (pictured).

This whole mess has spilled over into politics with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey sending a letter of complaint to the Turkish government. The letter describes the events surrounding the Swiss squad's arrive in Istanbul as "unacceptable behaviour".

Although Turkey has not responded to that letter, their Sport Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin has given his thoughts on Blatter's suggestion of banning Turkey from the 2010 Cup. "I am disappointed to hear the statement of the FIFA president before the reports of the match are unveiled. He spoke as a Swiss fan instead of as a president... These kinds of statements are misleading the decision-makers." Sahin did say he was upset with the way some Turkish fans acted.

I do think that Blatter went a bit far by even suggesting that Turkey could be dismissed from 2010. That is an option, but I think for the head of an organization to make such a statement before an investigation has happened is foolish. It only adds to it that his native country is involved.

As far as the Turks, I think they need to step up a bit more and admit that they let things get out of hand. I don't think this was done on purpose, but they seem to be downplaying their role in this whole thing.

On the other end of the happiness scale we find Australia who are going to their first World Cup in 32 years. They only earned the spot on Wednesday, but they have already turned it into marketing gold. Football Australia has already negotiated $12 million in sponsorship from Qantas, Telstra, Hyundai, National Australia Bank, Coca-Cola, Nike and Westfield.

FA chief executive John O'Neill says there is probably room for 2 more sponsors to join ahead of Germany. This has beer brewers salivating. Australia's own Foster's is looking at making a big bid to back their Socceroos. However, it is believed domestic Lion Nathan and several European brewers are also planning on making a go at sponsorship.

This is great news for soccer in Australia. Add this money (and the money for making it to the cup) plus their move to the Asian Confederation after the World Cup and they are setting themselves up to become a soccer powerhouse. It will be fun to see how far they can go next summer.

Roy Keane leaving Man U

In a bit of a shocking move, Manchester United's Captain Roy Keane (pictured) has decided to leave the club today. The decision is said to have been mutual been Keane and Man U. Keane was expected to leave at the end of the season, but after the rant against his teammates last month, everyone seemed to think it was best if the end came sooner rather then later.

Midfielder Keane joined United in 1993 from Nottingham Forest and has been a focal point of the team ever since. During his 12 and a half years, Keane helped Man U win the Premier League seven times and get the double, winning the FA Cup as well, three times (1994,96 & 99). United also won the European Cup in 1999.

Keane had this to say:

"It has been a great honor and privilege for me to play for Manchester United for over 12 years. During my time at the club I have been fortunate to play alongside some of the best players in the game and in front of the best supporters in the world."

Coach Sir Alex Ferguson spoke highly of Keane:

"The best midfield player in the world of his generation, he is already one of the great figures in our club's illustrious history. Roy has been central to the success of the club in the last 12 and a half years and everyone at Old Trafford wishes him well in the rest of his career and beyond."

Keane had not played since September 14th due to injury.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kenya to Hold Emergency Soccer Meeting

The Kenya Football Federation (KFF) will hold an emergency meeting on Dec. 5 to address the issues FIFA has raised about their organization. Back in September, FIFA gave the KFF three months to restore administrative order or face sanctions. The meeting will take place two days before FIFA meets to make a decision.

"FIFA is concerned that the KFF has not made any steps to adhere to its directives to avoid a ban on the country from all international activities."

This is a very serious issue and will probably end with Kenya being banned from international play.

The Good Day After WCQ

Yes, the fights and appeals have got the most attention on this the day after qualifiers finished, but there is some positive news in the soccer world today. Australia seems to be going soccer crazy after their side's triumph with some saying that this might be the 'defining moment' for Australian soccer. Seeing as their FA will get $5-8 million for making it to the finals, that might just be on to something. The Socceroos are now the talk of their country.

Then there is the joy of Trinidad and Tobago where they declared a public holiday today to celebrate their sides first trip to the World Cup. "The team was scheduled to return home on Thursday and Prime Minister Patrick Manning urged people to take part in welcome celebrations that would start at Port of Spain's airport and continue with a drive into the city. In the western township of St. James, known as the party capital of Trinidad, traffic was blocked on the main thoroughfare as thousands of flag-waving fans gyrated, sang and hugged each other, crying and laughing. Musicians beat drums, steel pans, and bottles and thousands flooded into streets to dance after watching the game at pubs, sport bars, restaurants, offices and homes." Again, it is great to see a country go soccer crazy.

German Referee Going to Jail

A Berlin court handed disgraced German referee Robert Hoyzer a 29-month jail sentence for his role in fixing soccer matches. His lawyer says they will appeal.

It seems that the whole idea for this scam started with a night of drinking. Hoyzer became friends with Croat Ante Sapina, the ringleader in the scandal, while drinking at a bar run by Sapina's older brother. The two dispute who first suggested it, but on that night in May 2004, the idea of fixing matches took shape. This little idea went on to earn over $2.3 million and give Germany a black-eye just months before it hosts the World Cup.

The plot grew to involve various other people including another official named Dominik Marks who Hoyzer 'recruited.' In the end Hoyzer got 29-months, Sapina got 35-months and Marks, who cooperated with the prosecutor, received a suspended sentence of 18-months.

Germany now has seven months to repair their tarnished image before they host the finals.

On a very different note, but still about referees, a Bosnian referee may be banned from soccer for a year after he knocked out a player who disagreed with one of his calls. I would much rather see this happen then what Hoyzer did.

Brazilian Ping-Pong Video

I saw this video a little while back and it is truly amazing if it is real. If you do not know about it, it is a recording of Ronaldinho for a Nike commercial where he seems to defy the laws of physics. Anyway, I have noticed that some people have been looking on this site for a link, so here it is.

Appeals and Fights - WCQ a day later

After falling at home to Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahrain Football Association is thinking about appealing to FIFA about a late disallowed goal. The "goal" came deep in second half stoppage time when Hussain Ali kicked a ball out of T&T's goaltender's hands and into net. Since a player cannot kick a ball out of the goalie's hands, this was ruled a foul. However, Bahrain’s coach Luka Peruzovic says the keeper lost control of the ball, thus it was a legal play.

As you might know, Bahrain got a favorable ruling from FIFA during their Asian playoff series, which nullified a 1-0 win by Uzbekistan due to a bad call by the ref. I think this was one of the dumbest FIFA decisions in a while, but it was made. Might they rule in favor of Bahrain again?

Personally, I think the keeper had control so one of the rules under Law 12 in the FIFA handbook (PDF link) should come into play (look at pages 28-29) and the goal should not be allowed. But who knows, maybe FIFA wants to keep the qualifiers going a few days longer.

But all that action in the state of Bahrain pales in comparison to the insanity that followed the Turkey-Switzerland match. As objects such as coins and lighters rained down from the crowd in Istanbul, players clashed in the tunnel leading back to the locker room. In the end, Swiss defender Stephane Grichting was taken to a hospital after allegedly being kicked in the groin.

Turkish players and fans say the anger was a result of Swiss substitute player Benjamin Huggel kicking the back of the legs of a Turkish assistant coach right after the final whistle. Huggel was next seen in the tunnel putting a headlock on Turkish defender Ozalan Alpay. The Swiss say that Huggel was responding to the actions of Alpay who he says aimed a kick at Swiss forward and the man who scored their late second goal Marco Streller.

The Swiss intend to lodge a complaint with FIFA. FIFA could go as far as banning Turkey from competing in the 2010 finals.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Houston Earthquakes?

Updated here on Dec 15, 2006.

It looks like the 'Quakes of San Jose might be on their way to Houston, Texas. The MLS has approved a transfer of the franchise to a different market, now owner AEG has to make the call.

They say that there really is no place in the San Jose area where they can "find a facility [existing or new stadium] that (would) allow the team to have some shot of making financial sense." AEG's president and chief executive officer Tim Leiweke added, "What we like about Houston is twofold. One, the temporary situation there (a new 12,000-seat stadium) is better than anything we've seen in San Jose. Two, a permanent solution is on the table." An announcement might come as early as Friday.

If the team moves out of California it will be the first time a club as moved markets in the MLS. Even with the new city, some things will stay the same as the Earthquakes will still of an intra-state rivalry just now with FC Dallas.

I'm sure there are a number of soccer fans that do not want to see this happen, but the MLS is not in a place to lose money on a club just to keep it in a city. It would be great if a deal could happen to keep the team in CA, but failing that, greener pastures are needed.

Since the last earthquake to hit the Houston area was some time during the formation of the surface of the Earth (no I didn't look that up), I'm guessing a name change will be in order. What about the Houston Oilers? Wait, been done. Maybe something like the Houston Petrochemicals sponsored by Texas Petrochemicals LP. Perhaps there is a piece of space hardware that a Houston team has not been named after. Or maybe we can keep ripping off European clubs and call the team the Houston Magpies. Are you with me?


Teams of the 2006 World Cup

Here are the teams for the World Cup 2006 in Germany.

African Confederation
Cote d'Ivoire

Asian Confederation
Korea Republic
Saudi Arabia

European Confederation
Serbia and Montenegro
Czech Republic

North, Central American and Caribbean Confederation
Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago

Oceanian Confederation

South American Confederation

It's great to see each confederation represented. It's also interesting to see CONCACAF with as many teams in as Asia and South America.

We have a full Cup!

The qualifiers are over and what a last day. Just like the Australian match I wrote about earlier, these final four games were fun. But now it is done, so lets take a look at how things ended.

Bahrain 0-1 Trinidad and Tobago
T&T surrendered a goal at home to Bahrain, so they knew they had to score to move on. As the match moved along, Bahrain became more and more defensive as they looked to hold the tide of T&T players throwing themselves at the goal. Bahrain made it through the entire first 45 without giving in, but then early in the second half, Dennis Lawrence became a hero. Dwight Yorke managed to curl a corner-kick right to Lawrence who headed it through the mess of players and into net. Bahrain then changed tactics and started pouring on the offense. They had some great chances, but the Soca Warriors were able to hang on (even through Lawrence almost scored an own goal in the 77th) and earn passage to their first finals. (For information on Bahrain's appeal concerning this match, please look here)

Turkey 4–2 Switzerland
The Swiss had a big scare as Turkey recovered from some early mistakes to almost take the ticket right out of their hand. Turkey needed to win by three going into the match, but in only the first minute, they were down by 1 after the visitors won a pk. However, Turkey responded getting a goal in the 22nd and 36th minutes. After halftime, the Turks came out looking determined and got their third in the 52nd. All they needed was a fourth and then to hold and they were going on. However, with all their focus on attacking, they left holes in their defense. This was something the Swiss were able to exploit as the snuck in a goal on the counter-attack in the 84th. Turkey needed two goals fast, but was only able to get one in the 89th. A great game right to the end. (For information on the fight that happened after this match, please look here)

Czech Republic 1–0 Norway
Norway fought had, but they just didn't have enough. Tomas Rosicky made sure his side would advance with the games lone goal. The Czechs then showed their defensive might by holding Norway.

Slovakia 1-1 Spain
Just a bit into the second half, Filip Holosko got a goal for Slovakia give moments of hope that an upset of upsets might happen. However, David Villa silenced such ideas when he scored in the 71st to give Spain back their 4-goal advantage.

Australia 1-0 Uruguay (4-2pks)
As I wrote in an earlier post, Australia advanced on kicks.

So how did I do with my predictions?
Australia 2-0 Uruguay (Australia wins series)
Bahrain 0-1 Trinidad and Tobago (T&T wins series)
Turkey 2-1 Switzerland (Switzerland wins series)
Czech Republic 2 – 0 Norway (Czech R win series)
Slovakia 1-1 Spain (Spain wins series)

As you can see, I was off on the scores in 3 of the matches, but I still picked the winners in all five matches and all five series. Let my ego begin to grow.

An All Confederation Affair

The Socceroos of Australia have done it! In a thrilling match, they took out two time Cup winners Uruguay and avenged their defeat from four years ago. Uruguay was up a goal coming into the match, but Mark Bresciano tied it up for the men from down under in the 35th. Although there was plenty of action over the next 85 minutes, no balls found their way into the back of the net. So with the series tied at 1 a piece, it all came down to penalty kicks.

This was the moment in the sun for Australia's goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Australia went first and Harry Kewell connected. It was then time for Schwarzer to do his thing, as he was able to stop Dario Rodriguez shot giving Australia an advantage. Both sides made their next two shots. The fourth round of shots saw Mark Viduka miss for the home side, setting up a situation where Marcelo Zalayeta could tie it for Uruguay. Zalayeta stepped up, fired and Schwarzer dove in the right direction. He was just able to get a hand on it and knock it away (pictured). Crowd goes crazy. It was time for the fifth round. If John Aloisi made it, his team would be heading to Germany. Aloisi takes the run up, kicks and lands the ball right in the back of the net. Australia win! After 32 years, Australia is going to a World Cup.

Australia now gets to prepare for the Cup as the lone representative from the Oceanian Confederation. I might be wrong with this, but I think this is the first time since 1982 that an Oceanian team has gone to the finals (I believe New Zealand went that year - mental note, fact check this later). It will be interesting to see what Coach Guus Hiddink can do with this side after having so much success with South Korea in 2002.

Congratulations to Australia.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

WCQ - The Final Five - Part 2

We are in the final 24 hours of World Cup Qualifying. By this time tomorrow night, we will know the full 32 teams making up the German roster. But before we get there, we’ve got 5 more matches to watch.

The Australians host Uruguay down a goal. If they are going to change their fortunes and make their first finals appearance since the 70’s, they will need to get past Uruguayan defense star Diego Lugano. The Socceroos can pull this off, but Guus Hiddink will need to get his side clicking. They have an advantage of having returned home a few hours ahead of Uruguay, which might just give them the advantage they need.
Australia 2-0 Uruguay (Australia wins series)

Bahrain - Trinidad and Tobago
The Soca Warriors almost lost at home on Saturday, but unlike their hosts, they will almost be at full strength for the second leg. Bahrain will be without their captain Mohamed Salmeen and defender Abdulla Marzooq due to suspension. Still T&T must be a little scared about the way their defense played the other night. This situation is very familiar for Bahrain as they also tied in their first leg during their Asian playoff. They ended up tying 0-0 with Uzbekistan to advance to this playoff. However, I think T&T might just have it in them.
Bahrain 0-1 Trinidad and Tobago (T&T wins series)

Turkey – Switzerland
Poor Turkey, they have fallen so far from their 2002 success. They have a big challenge ahead of them tomorrow night as they are down by two to Switzerland without an away goal. Emre Belozoglu will need to make things happen for Turkey. If he cannot, the Swiss will win. As much as I wish Turkey would win this one, I think this is just too much of a challenge for them.
Turkey 2-1 Switzerland (Switzerland wins series)

Czech Republic – Norway
The Czech’s are happy walking into this match after winning 1-0 on the road. However, Norway can do it if Kristofer Hæstad, Christian Grindheim and Jan Gunnar Solli step up and challenge the occasional mistakes made by the Czech’s mid and back line. However, the Czech’s are the better team and should be happy with the way this ends.
Czech Republic 2 – 0 Norway (Czech R win series)

Slovakia - Spain
Spain’s bus showed up in Italy today, allowing Slovakia to take the win on an open pitch. Unless that is the headline tomorrow, Spain will be going to the World Cup without much of a challenge.
Slovakia 1-1 Spain (Spain wins series)

Oguchi Onyewu Suspended for Four Matches

As reported over at Yanks Abroad, Standard Liège defender and US international Oguchi Onyewu has been suspended for four matches due to earning two red cards in a three-week span. He will miss a few critical matches for his club including one against second place RSC Anderlecht.

His club has stressed that Onyewu is an honest player and was not looking to harm his opponent.

This puts Onyewu in a difficult position. You don't want to get a reputation for playing dirty because then the refs pay more attention to you and are less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in foul situations. This can hurt a player’s ability to make things happen from his position.

I don't think a physical player like Onyewu wants to head to Germany with the refs eyeing him.

English FA Downplaying 2018 Talk

It is about time someone steps forward and tells everyone to hush up about the 2018 World Cup. Okay, the English FA didn't really say hush up, but they did say that no decision would be made about bidding the games till next autumn at the earliest. Seeing as FIFA has not committed to bring the Cup back to Europe in 2018 and that the decision on the 2014 games is still three years away, I think it's a good move to not push things. Who knows, maybe the Cup will end up in the land of CONCACAF in 2018. I'm sure all the Europeans would love that.

Anyway, can't we all just let Germany have their moment in the World Cup sun without all the talk of an event 13 years away?

Monday, November 14, 2005

MLS Cup 2005 review

Let it be known far and wide that the LA Galaxy is a far better team then just about any soccer commentator knew. The bulk of us thought LA was done against San Jose, but they proved us wrong. We then, for the most part, figured that New England was going to snap the things back into alignment and again, we were wrong. If it wasn't for the fact that most of us undervalued Colorado more then LA, we would be looking down right foolish about now. Anyway, great show by LA and congratulations to all the Galaxy fans.

With that stated, I feel that I must point out that LA did not win the game as much as New England lost it. That was the worst match I've seen the Revolution play since they lost to Chivas back in July (oddly enough also 1-0). What was up with their plan of attack? Let's try to drive it down the middle of the field and see what happens? Does that ever work? Did they forget that they had Taylor Twellman on the team? They only got 11 shots off and only 2 of those were on goal. The strangest thing of all for me was the way the Revs played during most of the second overtime session. They didn't seem to be going for the win. They were not getting their guys up and that let LA stop any and all forward momentum they had. A very bad day for the Revolution and still, they only lost by 1.

For LA, their plan seemed to revolve around frustrating their opponents and then catch them sleeping on counter attacks. A bit risky with the Galaxy's backline problems, but it worked out for them. They were able to stop New England from stringing passes together and kept their backline solid enough to catch the Revs offside seven times. And let's hear it for Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez! He came out of nowhere to get only his second goal of the season.

As far as the game in general, I'm sure this is not what MLS was hoping for. Yes, everyone loves a high-scoring game, but people are also fine with few goals provided there is a lot of action around the nets. Too bad that yesterday's match was a midfield affair with a lot of weak ball control. At least there were lots of fouls allowing for endless replays of people slamming into each other resulting in one or both of them falling down. There was some great excitement during the overtime periods, so hopefully that will be what people remember. One last thing, who thought that band was a good idea for half time? Could they be any less excited about being there? At least the band for the All-Star Game got into the whole soccer mood.

So to sum up, New England played remarkably bad while LA had moments of joy. The game was not really that interesting to watch and the half-time show will hopefully soon be a distant memory in my mind. You know, I'm starting to wonder if Pizza Hut Park might be cursed. Of all the games played there, none of them have been that interesting. The best I can remember is the FCD vs. DC United US Open Cup game. Maybe it is the name; it just sounds "blah."

But enough of my ranting, LA Galaxy are the best in the US and deserve their moment in the sun. Few of us thought they had it in them, yet they made it happen, proving once again that great teams answer critics on the field.

WCQ - The Final Five - Review of Game 1

The first leg of the playoffs if over and done with, so who stands were?

Uruguay 1-0 Australia
It seems everyone is writing about the bad shape Australia now find themselves in, but all and all, I think they should be happy. They are going home only needing to win by 2. Yes, that is a lot, but it is very doable. They were able to shut Uruguay down on the road. They almost tied it in the 47th. Their team looked strong. Four years ago the lost the road match 3-0 after winning at home 1-0. In that 3-0 outing, they were dominated, but not this time. They do have their collective back against the wall, but it is something they can over come. Uruguay, for their part, will need to figure out how to breakdown the Aussie's midfield. They will also need to figure out how to win without lead scorer Diego Forlan who left early due to an injury acting up.

Trinidad and Tobago 1-1 Bahrain
Bahrain have got to be heading home feeling good about their situation. They were outplayed by T&T, but are still walking out with a good chance at their first ever finals. For T&T, they need to figure out how to get the ball into the box. Bahrain was able to interrupt the T&T flow in the midfield enough to prevent them from having more serious chances. However, when Bahrain went up in the 72nd, T&T were able to rally back to get the tie. This is going to be a wild finally.

Spain 5-1 Slovakia
It looks like Spain will be making their eighth straight World Cup appearance, unless they just collapse on Wednesday night. Even a full on collapse would more then likely end up with them heading to Germany, so they don't have much to worry about. Spain's Luis Garcia came to life in this on by getting a hat trick. The most exciting moment for Slovakia came in the 18th when their coach Dusan Galis got a red card for arguing over Spain's second goal.

Norway 0-1 Czech Republic
The Czech's are in good shape after taking the road leg, but due to suspension, they will have to play on Wednesday without captain Tomas Galasek. Norway can still pull out a surprise here, but they will need to step up the ball handling and attacking.

Switzerland 2-0 Turkey
The sad times continue for Turkey as they surrender two on the road and never really mount a continuous attack. Switzerland now has Turkey feeling insecure as the series heads back to Istanbul. Turkey will need to find some way of breaking apart the Swiss defense if they are to have any hope of winning. It was a very deflated team that left the pitch for Turkey on Saturday, so the Swiss have got to be happy.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

LA Galaxy - 2005 MLS Champions

Guillermo Ramirez (pictured) is the hero. That was not the headline I thought I would be typing tonight, but sure enough it is true. Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez were minor factors in this outing for LA. On the other side, New England was just flat. It was not till the final couple minutes of the second overtime that NE started playing their game. However, even then, they just didn't seem to be playing for the win. This was a very off game for the Revolution. No matter how you slice it, LA has now done the domestic double by winning both the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup.

Los Angeles 1 - 0 New England


MLS Cup heads to OT

After 90 minutes of lack-luster play, we get to witness some overtime. For New England, they have just not been able to put anything together. There have been short periods were things have looked good for them, but over all, they are not playing their game. For Los Angeles, they have just been unlucky. Donovan had a great chance about 3 feet from goal, but the backline of the Revs managed to keep Landon off the board. If New England can actually open things ups, they will win this. For LA, all they need to do is finish one of their many chances.

By the way, LA has out shot NE 18 - 7 but only 4 of those shots for LA have been on goal. There are also 10 players on the pitch with yellow cards. How long till a double yellow shows someone the showers?

Update: Fifteen minutes till glory and LA find themselves up 1-0 off a wonderful strike by Guillermo Ramirez. He banged a redirected corner kick past NE's Matt Reis. Now New England have got to get their offense feet a moving. I seem to recall that they scored 2 goals in 15 minutes against the MetroStars, so it can be done. Either way, I think this is about to be 15 great minutes of play to finish up the MLS season.

MLS Cup Starting lineups

The game is about to start, so are the lineups:

Tune in to ABC to watch the game

New England
Starting Lineup
1 - Matt Reis (GK)
2 - Clint Dempsey
3 - Daniel Hernandez
6 - Jay Heaps
8 - Joe Franchino
11 - Pat Noonan
14 - Steve Ralston
15 - Michael Parkhurst
16 - James Riley
20 - Taylor Twellman
21 - Shalrie Joseph

Los Angeles
Starting Lineup
22 - Kevin Hartman (GK)
2 - Todd Dunivant
5 - Chris Albright
8 - Peter Vagenas
10 - Landon Donovan
11 - Ned Grabavoy
13 - Cobi Jones
14 - Tyrone Marshall
15 - Ugo Ihemelu
16 - Herculez Gomez
28 - Paulo Nagamura

LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution - MLS Cup time

Just about an hour to go before the tenth MLS Cup begins and this one is shaping up to be on of the best. The game is going to be played in brand new Pizza Hut Park, home of FC Dallas. Weather conditions look to be great with the temperature hovering around 76 at kickoff.

The Galaxy will be looking to Landon Donovan to make the domestic double happen. LA has some depth, but if Donovan is not performing at the top of his game, they will not be winning today. That is where New England's Shalrie Joseph comes in. He and the Rev's backline must disrupt Donovan's flow. However, they will also have to watch out for Herculez Gomez who often punishes opponents for spending too much time looking at Landon. This might just keep Matt Reis busy in NE's goal.

For the Revolution, they will need Taylor Twellman to show why he is the league's MVP. Twellman has not been as noticeable over the last few games, so he will need to right whatever is wrong. Thankfully for the Revs, they have Pat Noonan and Clint Dempsey ready to pickup any slack by Taylor. However, Twellman seems to be a good clutch player, so look for him to awaken with a furry. This should prove an interesting test for the always-shaky LA backline. Chris Albright will have to maintain order on the right side if his side is to stay in this thing. If the NE can force goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to save things for the Galaxy, then they will be on good ground. Hartman has a 1.34 gpg average, so he knows how to let things slip by him.

The big worry for New England fans is injuries. They have a lot of them. Look at this list:

Midfielder Marshall Leonard has (left hamstring strain)
Midfielder Khano Smith (questionable - knee)
Midfielder Steve Ralston (questionable - hamstring strain)
Midfielder Andy Dorman (probable - left hamstring strain)
Defender Joe Franchino (probable - chest pain)
Midfielder Daniel Hernandez (probable - plantar fascitis in right foot)

Here is LA's list:
Rookie defender Benjamin Benditson (sports hernia)
Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa (questionable - right adductor strain)
Midfielder Cobi Jones (probable - right abdominal strain)

In addition to all those injuries, NE will be without Avery John who has been called up by Trinidad & Tobago for international duty.

However, even with all these injuries and the media storm that is Donovan, I think New England comes into this match as the favorite. They have, unlike LA, proved again and again this year that they are a great team. The Galaxy have turned it on for the playoffs, however, championships seldom go to late season chargers. These two teams will make for a very good final (maybe with some overtime action), but in the end, I expect to see Noonan, Twellman and Steve Nicol (head coach) raising the MLS Cup over their heads.

Los Angeles 2 - 3 New England

Sunday - 3:30pm EST


J League results - 13 November

The J League of Japan is coming to a close. There are only four matches remaining for teams to prove themselves. Here are the results from this weekend.

SF Hiroshima 0 - 4 Oita Trinita
Gamba Osaka 2 - 1 Urawa Reds
Shimizu S-Pulse 0 - 1 Yokohama FM
Albirex Niigata 2 - 2 Kashiwa Reysol
Kawasaki Fr 3 - 1 Vissel Kobe

Tokyo Verdy 0 - 1 Cerezo Osaka
JEF Utd Chiba 2 - 2 Jubilo Iwata
Omiya Ardija 3 - 2 Nagoya Gr Eight
Kashima Antlers 1 - 1 FC Tokyo

After losing their last two games, Gamba Osaka beat a strong Urawa Reds squad to stay on top of the table. Kashima Antlers have to be disappointed to only get a point against FC Tokyo. If the Antlers want to make a move at Gamba, they need to stop walking away with ties (5 of their last 6 ended even). Cerezo Osaka have continued their winning ways by dismissing Tokyo Verdy. Gamba is still in charge of things, but just a couple bad games and they will not get the title.

Pos. Team GP Pts
1 Gamba Osaka 30 - 57
2 Kashima Antl 30 - 54
3 Cerezo Osaka 30 - 53
4 Urawa Reds 30 - 50
5 JEF Utd Chib 30 - 50
6 Kawasaki Fr 30 - 49
7 Jubilo Iwata 30 - 45
8 SF Hiroshima 30 - 43
9 Yokohama FM 30 - 40
10 FC Tokyo 30 - 39
11 Oita Trinita 30 - 38
12 Albirex Niig 30 - 36
13 Nagoya Gr Ei 30 - 35
14 Omiya Ardija 30 - 34
15 Shimizu S-Pu 30 - 32
16 Kashiwa Reys 30 - 31
17 Tokyo Verdy 30 - 26
18 Vissel Kobe 30 - 21

Saturday, November 12, 2005

US 1 - 1 Scotland

Even with so many of their star players not on the pitch, the US was able to walk away from chilly Scotland with a tie. However, early in the match it looked like America was going to get their first win in Europe in a long time.

The US came out pushing hard and managed to get a pk due to a foolish Scottish foul. Josh Wolff connected putting his side up. This lead to some excellent ball play by the US for the next 15-minutes. However, they soon seem to slip into a defense mood allowing the Scots to get back into it. In the 37th, Andy Webster beat his defender on a free kick and headed the ball into goal. This would be all the scoring on the night.

If there were any questions about DaMarcus Beasley making the team (and I don't think there were), he showed why he will be in Germany. When no one else seemed to be clicking, Beasley was making himself known. However, he still needs to work on making more of his chances on goal.

Jonathan Spector (pictured) had some troubles early, but in the second half seemed to even himself out. He was able to interrupt the flow of play often enough to keep things from getting ugly.

Josh Wolff looked good, however he had a great chance on goal late in the first that he really should have finished. Seeing as the US has a lot of forwards from which to choice, Wolff must show something more in order to make the final squad (and I think he might have that in him).

Brian Ching had moments of wonder up front and set up the shot the Wolff was not able to finish. He was good, but seemed to miss that killer instinct.

Kasey Keller surprised me. He did not seem as solid in this outing. He was still very good, but there were a couple times he was caught of his line for no real reason.

All in all, the US should be happy with this match. I'm sure they would have loved to get a win in Europe, but this was a nice way to finish off 2005. They still need help defending against set pieces and their backline (especially on the left side) needs some work.

Friday, November 11, 2005

WCQ - The Final Five - Part 1

Ten teams still have dreams of reaching Germany but by Wednesday night, only five will still be holding on to them. All five series are going to be fun to watch as everyone tries to everything to advance. Here is the line up:

Norway - Czech Republic @ 1:30pm EST
Spain - Slovakia @ 3pm
Switzerland - Turkey @ 1:45pm
Uruguay - Australia @ 11am
Trinidad and Tobago - Bahrain @ 4:30pm

Norway - Czech Republic
The big news out of Norway this past week has been rain and lots of it. The field is soaked and devoid of grass. These are not the sort of pitch conditions the Czechs were hoping for and it should lead to some lost balls on their part. However, they do have Pavel Nedved back in their midfield. This should help them at least stay even with their hosts. Prediction: Norway 1 - 2 Czech

Spain - Slovakia
Spain come in as the team that should not be in this situation. They have the talent, but they cannot perform. Just being in this situation has got to be making them feel a little insecure and that is what Slovakia need to exploit. If they can hold them off on defense and then counter strong, the men from Spain will slip. However, Spain has made every Cup since 1974, so they are very much the favorites, but they are a side that often fails when the heat is on. I wouldn't mind seeing Slovakia earn their first trip to the finals and I would not be shocked if it happened. Still, it's best to go with talent over a curse. Spain 3 - 1 Slovakia

Switzerland - Turkey
Of the three teams that got seeded in "Pot A" for the playoffs (Czech R, Spain and Turkey), Turkey have drawn the toughest team on paper. Switzerland had to fight hard to make it out of Group Four (France, Ireland and Israel were there as well), so they have something good in their team. Also, they know that they do not want to have to get a result in Turkey, so they will be looking to sink the dagger deep while at home. For Turkey, they are a great team, but they are also going to be missing many players due to injury or suspension. If there is going to be an 'upset' in Europe, this will probably be the series. Still, I like Turkey and think they are going to pull it out. Switzerland 1 - 1 Turkey

Uruguay - Australia
I hope I have the time right for the Uruguay-Australia. Who knows, by the time I finish writing this sentence Uruguay may have asked to change it again. Anyway, now that it looks like all the time shifting has come to an end; we can concentrate on the game. Australia will be looking for revenge as Uruguay knocked them out of the 2002 World Cup picture with a result in this very playoff. However, they will be without midfielder Marco Bresciano and their captain Craig Moore did not get a call up. Still the Aussies are close to full strength. For Uruguay, they will need Alvaro Recoba from Inter Milan to make some stuff happen on offense. I would love to see Australia win this series since it would be nice to have every confederation represented in Germany, but the truth is Uruguay is a far better team. Unless Australia can force a meltdown, they will be sitting out yet another finals. Uruguay 2-0 Australia

Trinidad and Tobago - Bahrain
Trinidad and Tobago is the Jamaican bobsled team of Concacaf this year. It's hard to believe, but not that long ago, they were at the bottom of the table, then they went on a good three game run (including a victory against Mexico) and here they are in the playoffs. For Bahrain, they got past their first playoff due in part to an odd decision by Fifa. T&T are the better team and should be able to pull it out, however the King of Bahrain has promised a big payout if the side makes it to the finals. Money can make people do some amazing things. All and all, since these two teams are both so inexperienced when it comes to big situations like this, the series should be a very exciting one to watch. It doesn't have the charm of Europe or the controversy / history of Uruguay-Australia, but it will be good nonetheless. T&T 3 - 0 Bahrain