May 30, 2024, 01:06:56 PM

Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - xixgon

Pages: [1]
World Cup Lows

by Tom Adams - July 11, 2010

After enjoying a spectacle that comes around only once every four years, it seems somewhat churlish to pick out the bad parts, but pick them out we must, and South Africa certainly had its fair share of low points.

From technological failures to very human flaws, these are the five aspects of South Africa 2010 that will not be remembered fondly.

1. The scourge of simulation

The World Cup is supposed to be the four-yearly event in which football enchants the world, demonstrating just why it is beloved of billions across the globe. Sadly, certain events in South Africa threatened to provide ammunition to those who maintain footballers are nothing but a bunch of preening prima donnas. Perhaps the most notable, and most infuriating, was the reaction of Ivory Coast's Kader Keita as he threw himself to the floor after walking into Kaka, earning the Brazil playmaker a ridiculous red card. While Brazil were incensed, the mind immediately wandered back to 2002 in Ulsan and Rivaldo's deception to get Hakan Unsal sent off.

In 2010, Keita was far from the only offender. Swathes of players were sent sprawling to the turf, tenderly clutching their faces, as replays revealed the merest of brushes from an opponent's shoulder. Time and again, games witnessed more theatrical spills than Oliver Reed on a particularly unsteady night out. Let's name and shame a few: the Italy defence against New Zealand, Arturo Vidal getting Valon Behrami sent off and Switzerland's Steve von Bergen embarrassing himself in the same game were all notable examples of behaviour that must be eradictated.

2. FIFA's Black Sunday

As staunch opponents to the introduction of technology, FIFA's bigwigs must have been shifting uncomfortably in their executive seats, prawn sandwiches left uneaten, when two glaring mistakes from match officials left a black spot on the competition on June 27. Firstly, and most notably, Frank Lampard's shot clearly crossed the line against Germany, only for Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda to wave play on, sparking confusion in pubs across England. Replays confirmed the horrible truth, and surely moved the game a step closer to welcoming technology, rather than fearing it. However the suspicion remains that Sepp Blatter will continue to be the John Connor to Hawk-Eye's Skynet.

In the evening kick-off, Carlos Tevez then scored a blatantly offside goal as Argentina defeated Mexico 3-1. Somehow, the replay was broadcast live to the Soccer City crowd so referee Roberto Rosetti immediately knew his assistant had made a horrendous call. Aware of the grievous mistake but bound by the rules to ignore the evidence in front of his eyes, the Italian had no option but to ignore Mexico's pleas to disallow the goal. Not a great day for the governing body.

3. Vuvuzelas

We understand the argument that the vuvuzelas are part of South Africa culture and a legitimate way to express delight at a sporting occasion, but they are, in a word, annoying. Drowning out chants and songs from supporters inside the crowd, the constant drone from the dreaded horns came to infuriate television spectators as well. They were especially irritating when played in unison to create a pulsing sound; like having a particularly nasty migrane while sitting in a beehive.

After the opening game, South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune even had the cheek to complain that the vuvuzelas were not loud enough. Abu Dhabi officials had the right idea when issuing a fatwa against the instruments on Thursday. We now fear a vuvuzela influx in time for the new domestic season.

4. Empty seats

These were a constant source of frustration throughout the tournament. There really should be no excuse for failing to fill a stadium for a World Cup game, and we are talking semi-finals as well as Slovakia v New Zealand here. If there are tickets remaining, FIFA should have given them to local schoolchildren rather than letting them lie fallow.

FIFA will say there are mitigating circumstances, with the global recession playing a part, transport problems highlighted and no-shows in the corporate seats having a significant effect, but the failure to sell out games is a disappointing one. Games between Algeria and Slovenia, and Japan and Cameroon had in excess of 10,000 spare seats going - a fact that reflects badly on the organising committee and indeed the tournament.

5. The Jabulani

The advent of every major tournament sees goalkeepers complain about the state of the official ball, no doubt looking to get their excuses in early when a shot squirms under their body, but this year was different. Goalkeepers, outfield players and coaches all lined up to lambast the Jabulani. Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo described it as "horrible", Iker Casillas said it behaved like a "beach ball" and, perhaps most damning of all, USA 'keeper Marcus Hahnemann simply said: "Scientists came up with the atom bomb, doesn't mean we should have invented it."

And when play got underway, there was something not right about the much-discussed ball. The vast majority of long-range shots were awful, accurate free-kicks were few and far between and even cross-field passes looked a real effort at times. However, Fabio Capello's attempt to blame the Jabulani for Robert Green's inability to grasp Clint Dempsey's shot was fairly laughable.

Football / A3K - The Ultimate Football Skills Showdown
« on: June 08, 2010, 04:54:13 PM »

<a href=";fmt=18" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">;fmt=18</a>

The coaches and scouts who first spotted Rooney, Torres, Messi, Kaká, Schweinsteiger, Tevez and Robben share their stories of discovery

Bob Pendleton, the Everton scout who spotted Wayne Rooney when he was an eight-year-old with Copplehouse

You always hope to discover someone who'll make the first team but what Wayne has achieved is incredible. He has matured so much. When I look at him now he reminds me of Roy Keane, a winner and a leader, and while as an Evertonian it would have been nice to see us win something with him in the team, his move to Manchester United has been fantastic for him. He deserves it and it's nice to think I have helped somewhere along the line.

I still vividly remember the first time I saw young Wayne. It was at the Long Lane playing fields, pitch No2, and young Wayne was eight. I've been involved with the Walton and Kirkdale Junior League since 1977. I'm now the fixture and registration secretary and that day I had to have a word with Copplehouse Juniors because they owed raffle fees of Ł4.50.

As I was asking their manager, Big Nev, about the money I noticed this little striker trying to do something different every time he got the ball. When he got the ball, the ball belonged to him, and when he passed the ball, he always wanted it back. He was eight and the other players were all 10, which wouldn't be allowed now, but he was scoring goals for fun. Wayne had turned the season around for Copplehouse and Big Nev was devastated when I asked about him. He didn't want to lose his best player, not even to Everton.

Fortunately Wayne's mum and dad were watching the game so I strolled over and invited them to bring their son to Bellefield, Everton's training ground, later that week. It's a big help to a scout if the parents support the team he's working for and thankfully Wayne senior and Jeanette are massive Evertonians. They were made up when I invited them to Bellefield. We were in.

Before they arrived on the Thursday night I went to see Ray Hall, the youth academy director at Everton, and asked him to sign this eight-year-old on the spot. It was an unusual request as Ray hadn't seen him play but Ray showed a lot of trust in me and made a huge fuss of young Wayne and his dad when they arrived. They went up to Ray's office and I can still remember big Wayne telling his lad to sit up straight in the chair and to make a good impression. Then Ray came in and deliberately left his door open. I knew he was up to something. The next thing Joe Royle, who was manager at the time and one of big Wayne's boyhood heroes, walked past and Ray invited him in. Joe was great, really friendly, although he misheard young Wayne when he asked him where he was from and told him everything he knew about Toxteth rather than Croxteth. Then we signed Wayne Rooney.

You could tell he was something special immediately. Coaches who had been around for years were all talking about him, referees would ring me up after games to talk about what they had just seen and even older players at Everton were lifted when he trained with them. I think big Wayne always believed his son would make it. Other dads would stand on the sideline shouting and screaming but Wayne's dad never did. You would have a good laugh with him before kick-off, big Wayne is full of jokes, but once the game started he would be focused on young Wayne's performance. Jeanette was more protective but even at eight years old Wayne didn't need much protection.

I've no doubt he is going to captain Manchester United and England. He will thrive on that and he will lead by example. I just hope he stays clear of injury this summer and takes England all the way. I'm made up for him.

Abraham Garcia, the Atlético Madrid youth team coach who first worked with Fernando Torres when he was 15

When Fernando Torres scored the winning goal at Euro 2008, not only was I delighted as a football fan and a Spaniard but I felt enormously proud to have worked with him from the age of 15 until he made his first-team debut at Atlético Madrid in 2001. I have so much admiration for Fernando and was delighted that he had achieved such a remarkable feat: he had scored the winning goal for Spain's under-16s, under-19s and now for the senior side in the European Championship. Every time Spain had won 1-0 and every time he had got the goal. He deserved it.

I remember the first time I saw him very clearly. He surprised me: he was barely 15 years old and yet he was already very physically imposing. He was a great athlete, tall and strong and quick. His physical condition was incredible. He was very much a modern footballer. In modern football you need to have speed and power and he had it right from the start. I have been fortunate enough to work with a lot of kids who have made it as first division professionals – over 30 of them – but you could see that Fernando was special. He was elegant in his running, like a sprinter.

Talent is innate and you could see that Fernando had it but there is always a chance that players won't make it. A lot depends on their attitude and their mentality. Our job as coaches is to make the players see that with sacrifice, consistency and effort you can make things happen. It's not enough just to have talent. Fernando grasped that right from the start. In fact, he had that attitude anyway. He was never happy 100% with himself and kept on pushing. He listened and he learned and he kept on practising. He still does, in fact.

He was quiet and reasonably shy but very determined. He competed with kids who were older than him but it was never a problem, either on the field or off it. He was strong enough and mentally tough enough to compete and he didn't let himself get led astray either.

Fernando doesn't have exquisite individual technique but football is not just about that. You need to be able to apply your talent and use it properly. He had to work on improving his left foot, especially when it came to control and finishing. But that is a partial reading of his limitations because there is nothing to say that you must use your left foot if there is an alternative and he has proved that he is one of the best. There are lots of ways to score goals and he finds them. He has improved technically. And he has scored plenty of beautiful goals too.

What Fernando has achieved with Liverpool is admirable. He is improving and the English game suits him – he has grown stronger because so much more physical contact is allowed; he enjoys that side of the game and with space in front of him he is lethal. When he plays for Spain he has to drop deep and use space more judiciously. But he can do that too. He gets better and better.

Guillermo Hoyos, Lionel Messi's youth coach at Barcelona when he stepped off the plane from Argentina

I first met Messi on a trip to Japan. I had just joined Barcelona as youth manager and we met at the airport going to a youth tournament. Our first match was against Feyenoord and we were losing 1-0. In the second half Messi turned the match around, he just took control of the game and carried the whole team on his shoulders: we won 3-1 without him scoring but totally turning the game around on his own.

We bonded from the start. I was the only foreigner working at the club at the time and I think the fact that we were both from the same country helped. I remember one of the first things I asked him was which team did he support. He said "Newell's" and we started talking about the clubs back home. That was the start of a friendship which quietly goes on to this day.

Football-wise he was the most similar to Maradona I had ever seen and I said as much. I chose the comparison because I wanted to make sure his name transcended – at the time no one knew Lionel. And I had played with Diego in the 1979 youth squad for Argentina, so I knew exceptional youth internationals: I remember clearly doing an interview for an Argentinian paper in 2003 and saying: "He is going to be the best player in the world."

The very first training session I knew he was extraordinary. I've coached players like Pedro, Pique, Suarez and Busquet but Leo was out of the mold. Very soon it became obvious to me he was ready to move up the club ranks. I felt Lionel was wasting his time training with us. Not that he wouldn't improve or didn't have things to learn but I felt he was ready to train with the first team. The view in Europe was that he was too young and shouldn't be playing against "men" but, where we come from, kids make their debut for the first team at a very young age if they're ready. I did at 16 and Lionel was clearly tough and able to take the tackles and hacks even from bigger players; in fact he could dribble past them.

I made him captain. He was a reserved boy, never one to speak much, but he's not shy at all like people think and he has a very strong sense of teamwork and very ingrained notions of friendship and solidarity. He is able to generate trust and confidence in a team without needing to say much – I think of him as a silent leader.

Beyond how Argentina do this World Cup, Leo will be the top player, I'm sure. He hasn't had much exposure to football in Argentina and a whole team needs to be built – it's not just Leo alone. But football in Argentina is an industry and today the president of that industry is Lionel Messi.

Carlos de Lorenzi, Săo Paulo's youth coach when he spotted Kaká, then a 12-year-old prodigy

Sometimes I wonder how many times I would wake up sweating had I passed up the chance to take Kaká on board after seeing him playing in a big, noncompetitive kids' tournament in the outskirts of Săo Paulo. Make no mistake: he was only 12 but still had a lot of skill and, above all, initiative. The only thing that did not make me jump straight away was the fact that the boy was quite skinny. But we brought him in, thankfully. Soon we realised that, alongside the talent, Kaká was also full of initiative. We went to a tournament once and one of our games went to a shoot-out. Even though he was the tiniest and youngest in our under-15 side, guess who was the first to step forward to take a penalty?

In our profession spotting talent is fundamental but, even when you reckon there is a rough diamond in front of you, it still gives you goosebumps when the kids make it at the top level. It could be easy for me to say that one could see all the way that Kaká would end up being one of the world's top players and even win the Fifa award but in fact he surpassed everybody's expectations because players like him do not show up every week. It's remarkable that Kaká has achieved so much in the game without becoming a prima donna. Right after the World Cup we met and laughed together about the old times.

The only case I can remember of a kid who would basically smell of World Cup material was Ronaldinho, whom I saw while working in southern Brazil. Gosh, he used to tear the other kids apart – the difference in talent was brutal. There is no way I buy these theories associating talent to mere work-rate. Genetics do play a part, although these natural gifts can be squandered. That's why it's so important to worry about more than immediate results. Kaká had other coaches scratching their heads thanks to his frail physique and some even suggested he should try following his father's career as an engineer but Săo Paulo kept believing.

Nowadays I am working for Luverdense, a third division side in central Brazil. I have already found some interesting kids there but since I am the manager now I have to keep it secret.

Hermann Gerland, who worked as Bayern Munich's youth coordinator from 1990-1995 and 2001-2009, on Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian was one of Germany's brightest skiing talents when he came to us as a 13-year-old from 1860 Rosenheim but football quickly won out. Five days a week he would get up at six, take a train to school, then a bus to Munich to train with us. By half-eleven was back home. He didn't mind.

I saw him play quite often as a youngster; he stood out. Things became very serious when he joined the Bayern Munich academy (and boarding school) and played in the "B" youth final 2001 in Dortmund.

I felt that he didn't quite show enough at the time, at 15 or 16. He didn't recognise the extent of his own talent. He wasn't lazy, you can't say that. But it took him a long time to realise just how much potential he had. Later, when he played in the first youth team, I saw him more and more. At 17 he was already established in our amateur side. I wanted him to improve gradually. Unlike others he would never let a bad game take away from his confidence. He had the soul of a fighter.

At the time we would line up on the right or left side of midfield. I remember that the youth teams always had Wednesdays off but Basti never took a day off. He was always on the pitch. He was obsessed and eager to learn, and you have to be like that in order to succeed. His talent was exceptional. He had the stamina, he had technique, he had a good shot, only his heading was a problem. I sent him to train with a pendulum for hours in order to improve that side of his game.

As a teenager he was a bit of joker. At times he didn't do that well but that's normal for a youngster at his age. And in his first year as a professional he sprang one or two surprises off the pitch [when a night guard caught Schweinsteiger and a girl in the training complex Jacuzzi].

But I like this type of player. He's always in a good mood, friendly and happy. I also don't mind that he can be a bit mischievous off the pitch. We at Bayern want players with character who are clever and bold in the game; we don't want streamlined pros.

He did some stupid things when he came through as a young professional. But I knew he had his heart in the right place. I liked the fact that he would go and see matches of the amateur or youth teams in his spare time. I was less happy about his penchant for pulling up the socks over his knees, however. I thought he looked like a woman. He grew out of it eventually.

It's wonderful to see him play so well these days, to see him win all these titles. In his position, defensive midfield next to Mark van Bommel, Basti has become world-class. In 2008 he was a runner-up in the European Championship; in 2006 he was in the side that won the World Cup third-place play-off. Maybe he'll be able to make the next step in South Africa. He's got the goods to achieve that. I'd be really pleased if he did because he's a lovely guy. People ask me if I'm proud of "my" players. I tell them that pride is the wrong word: when you're working with exceptional talents, it's your duty to make them succeed. I'd say I have done my bit to mould Basti. I've been his guide along the way. But I'm only one of many people who have helped him. I don't want the spotlight; others have done just as much.

Barend Beltman, Arjen Robben's trainer for five years (age 11 till 16)

I was his trainer for four years. He joined FC Groningen when he was just shy of his 12th birthday. To set the record straight, no one individual can be deemed 'discoverer' of Arjen Robben; he joined our club at a showcase day for talented pupils. I just helped him a little bit during his time with the club. I am not going to take credit and say I told him how to play; his intuition and ingrained sense of play were so good that I just enjoyed the ride.

One immediately saw the vast potential of the boy: a real lefty who never scored an ugly goal. I only worried about the strength of his body. Would this tiny boy be strong enough to make it in professional football? From the beginning he was really good, sometimes exceptionally good, or downright amazing.

His third year in our youth academy wasn't an easy one. He had always been a tiny boy. Really tiny. All of a sudden he began to grow and his back became injured in the process. It was as if his body couldn't cope with the power generated as a result of the growth. Arjen couldn't play for weeks, and when he did play it was brief.

When he finally returned to the team, he tried to do too much on his own. Arjen isn't egoistical, not in the least. It was most likely because he enjoys the game so much, he just wants to go for it, and he's always in attack mode. He showed resilience during these tough times. When things go wrong physically, he always fights his way back.

Arjen was driven and determined at a young age. He was always on time, never late. But one Friday afternoon he showed up 15 minutes past the start of practice. I asked him what was going on. "We were at the market square, having fun", he said. There were some girls with him and his friends, so I asked, "Was she worth it?" "Yes, trainer, she was", he told me. I told him to get his gear and join the training session. At his wedding, I heard the woman he met that day was now his wife and mother of his children. Bernadien is her name.

I vividly remember a game in Enschede, played on May 13th, 2000. At half time he had scored six or seven goals and said to me, "Trainer, I've never scored ten goals in a game." "Go ahead and do it", I told him. After he scored his ninth, he zipped past a couple of players, and headed towards the goal. All of a sudden he passed the ball to a player who almost never scored. That play exemplified his true character: a sweet and nice boy and a team player. When he returned to the sidelines I told him, "Now go for ten". Of course, he made the tenth goal. Throughout the game the dugout reverberated. We found out later that a fireworks factory exploded in Enschede, just a couple miles down the road. The explosion had been shaking our dugout. 23 people died that day as a result of the explosion.

I do follow him, but from a distance. I am not the type of guy who keeps scores or collects news clippings. When I see him, he's always kind. He hasn't changed much since that time and is still the same down-to-earth individual he was when he joined FC Groningen at age 11.

Is he going to be one of the stars at the World Cup? I don't know. He is one of the best players in the tournament and he'll definitely show the world things we'll show to our kids 20 years from now. Is that enough for Team Orange to make it to the semis or the final? That depends on the other 10 players, our opponents, or sheer luck. I am going to enjoy the matches, that's for sure. I just hope Arjen enjoys the journey and plays with candour.

Ramon Maddoni, Carlos Tevez's youth coach at Club Parque
I first saw him playing for a small neighborhood team called Santa Magdalena. He was nine. I trained the team playing against him and after a few minutes I knew I wanted him. Terribly impressive player: Rhythm, technique, aggression – and he was difficult to mark. I was at Argentinos Juniors at the time and I wanted to take him to our kiddy side but he didn't want to come. He wanted to play in his neighborhood team.

Then, in 1996 I moved to Boca and I insisted. "No, Ramon, Not to Argentinos," he said. By then we always had the same conversation. "I'm at Boca now," I said and he said "Ok. Boca, yes". So he joined me.

His whole family were Boca fans, and so is he – really fanatical - so he was happy to come to Club Parque, which is the club I run where we train kids before they're old enough to properly sign for a club. He came on a trip to Brazil with me and I think pretty much after that he signed for Boca's youth scheme. You can join Club Parque without signing for a club but my deal with Boca is if the club signs a kid he trains at Club Parque for two years. Carlitos started both pretty much simultaneously.

Every Monday he used to stay and have dinner at Club Parque after training. It's a tradition I've maintained coming up to 30 years now … on Monday evening we all gather at the club café and everyone is welcome to join in. Carlitos ate with us every Monday and I bumped into him recently by chance and he said he wants to find the time to come back on a Monday to eat with us.

I knew the minute I saw him he was special. The first think I look for in a kid is technique – does he know how to play football? Aged 9 Carlitos had very good technique: he knew how to stop the ball with his chest, how to caress it, was able to use both legs, and had control of both inside and outside of the feet.

There is a lot you can improve and work on, but his rhythm and aggression came from within. We worked on a lot of areas: heading, shooting with his left leg (because he was right-footed), lots of things. Some boys are born knowing how to play football but with work you can learn to head with your forehead, to control in a small space … Carlitos had it all inside him but he needed work to evolve and develop his full potential.

I followed him everywhere before he agreed to come train with him. I had a strong sense he was the player of the future – my intuition told me not just that he would play for Boca's first team but for Argentina too.

I've had lots of Argentina internationals come through Club Parque as kids: Sorin, Placente, Jonas Gutiérrez, Cambiasso, Riquelme, Gago, Coloccini – I know an extraordinary kid when I see one. Carlitos was different. Aged 10, 11, he stood out. I always laugh when I remember a match he played against us. He scored twice and came right up to me and started dancing to celebrate them. I just cracked up and said to him: "Dance all you want, mate. You'll be dancing for me soon enough".

I have no doubt he will be among the best players of the World Cup. We still have to see what kind of team Maradona builds, but Carlitos has a fire that will see him through wherever he goes, wherever he plays. I follow his career with joy – he has been amazing all season with Manchester City and you can see the fans always enjoy his game. He's won the hearts of the Brazilians and the English … not bad for a boy who didn't want to quit Santa Magdalena.

Football / Nike's "The Chance" (Write the Future)
« on: May 27, 2010, 08:59:16 PM »
<a href=";fmt=18" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">;fmt=18</a>

Football / The Story of Past Treble Winners - ESPN Soccernet
« on: May 21, 2010, 02:40:26 AM »
The Treble club

By Tom Adams

Etching a club's name onto the European Cup always guarantees immortality for the group of players involved, but on Saturday, both Bayern Munich and Inter Milan have added incentive to emerge victorious at the Bernabeu.

Both clubs are champions of their respective countries and have captured their primary domestic cups, meaning either Italy or Germany will be celebrating its first ever Treble winners come Saturday, as Inter or Bayern become the sixth European club to have secured a Holy Trinity.

The Treble club is an exclusive one. So apologies to Liverpool fans, but we do not count the class of 2001 in this list of the few clubs that enjoyed a perfect season on three or more fronts.

1. Celtic, 1967 - the Lisbon Lions

With a local squad famously all recruited from within 30 miles of Glasgow, Celtic set the benchmark for British clubs when securing a historic Quadruple with triumphs in the Scottish League, European Cup, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup. Under legendary manager Jock Stein, and with a team that included the likes of inspirational captain Billy McNeill and gifted winger Jimmy 'Jinky' Johnstone, Celtic enjoyed domestic dominance over rivals Rangers. But it was their victory in Lisbon that was the defining moment of a memorable year.

Facing an Inter Milan side that under Helenio Herrera, the godfather of catenaccio, had won the European Cup in both 1964 and 1965, Celtic met defensive resolve with attacking intent. Though they went 1-0 down to a penalty from Sandro Mazzola, Celtic took the game to an unadventurous Inter and prevailed thanks to goals from Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers. Having countered the Italians' pragmatism, Stein said: "There is not a prouder man on God's Earth than me at this moment. Winning was important, but it was the way that we won that has filled me with satisfaction. We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football. There was not a negative thought in our heads."

What happened next? Celtic were unable to defend the trophy the following season when losing to Dynamo Kiev in the first round, and though they returned to the final in 1970, they lost to Feyenoord. In Scotland, they went on to win nine league titles in a row until 1974, as well as numerous cup victories.

2. Ajax, 1972 - a Total success

Only a second-placed league finish behind Feyenoord had prevented Ajax from claiming the Treble the previous year, and while iconic coach Rinus Michels departed in the summer, to be replaced by Stefan Kovacs, the legacy of the Dutchman's 'Total Football' philosophy lived on in a mesmerising campaign. Inspired by the untouchable Johan Cruyff, Ajax scored 104 goals in 34 league games, conceding only 20 and losing just one match, before defeating Den Haag 3-2 in the final of the Dutch Cup on May 11. Attention then turned to May 31, and a meeting with those committed exponents of the defensive game, Inter Milan.

Ajax had already seen off Dynamo Dresden, Marseille, Arsenal and Benfica to reach the final at Feyenoord's De Kuip stadium, and only 90 minutes separated the Amsterdam club from immortality. For 46 of those, Inter's asphyxiation of the game had served to frustrate Ajax, but with superior exploitation of space and clever movement built into their DNA, they could not be denied and Cruyff struck twice to secure a well-deserved victory. Remarkably, Kovacs had almost lost his job in April after an unconvincing semi-final win over Benfica. "The results show that Kovacs was not wrong," Cruyff said, in a wonderful piece of understatement.

What happened next? Ajax secured their third successive European Cup the following season when beating Juventus 1-0 in Belgrade, but Cruyff subsequently joined Barcelona. Though Ajax remained a formidable force in domestic football, they would have to wait until 1995, and a 1-0 victory over AC Milan, before being crowned champions of Europe once more.

3. PSV Eindhoven, 1988 - All hail Hiddink

Following a rather ordinary playing career, a certain Guus Hiddink enjoyed a quite remarkable first full season in management as he secured the Eredivisie title along with the Dutch Cup and European Cup, despite selling Ruud Gullit to AC Milan in the summer of 1987. With players of the calibre of Ronald Koeman, Soren Lerby and Eric Gerets remaining, PSV won the title by a clear nine points from Ajax, scoring 117 goals in the process. The Dutch Cup final in Tilburg on May 12 was to be settled after extra time, a goal from Lerby giving PSV a 3-2 win over Roda, and supporters were subjected to another nervy night two weeks later in Stuttgart's Neckarstadion.

Bordeaux and Real Madrid had been narrowly defeated on the away goals rule in the previous two rounds, and PSV were again in cagey form in a largely uninspired 90 minutes plus extra time against Benfica. The game went to penalties and goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen would emerge as the hero, saving from Antonio Veloso's spot-kick in sudden death to hand the trophy to PSV. Van Breukelen would go on to win Euro '88 with Netherlands, commenting: "It was a season that could not have been more perfect and you can only dream about achieving so much in such a short space of time. To collect so many major medals in six weeks was incredible for me."

What happened next? PSV won the domestic Double the following season but their European Cup challenge was ended by Real Madrid at the quarter-final stage. European success has eluded them since, although Hiddink returned to the club and led PSV to the semi-finals in 2005.

4. Manchester United, 1999 - the late show

"Football, eh? Bloody hell!" was a yet-to-be-knighted Alex Ferguson's reaction to an unforgettable season that ended in one of the most dramatic climaxes in the history of football. The first of ten days that would prove a defining period in United's history came on May 16 when they came from behind to defeat Tottenham 2-1 and take the Premier League title following a bitter battle with Arsenal. Having also defeated the Gunners in a thrilling FA Cup semi-final replay, courtesy of a Ryan Giggs wonder goal, strikes from Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes saw them beat Newcastle at Wembley to add a second trophy on May 22.

United were deprived of both Scholes and captain Roy Keane for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich due to suspension though, and fell behind against Bayern Munich in Barcelona when Mario Basler scored after only six minutes. But on what would have been Sir Matt Busby's 90th birthday, United had luck on their side and after Bayern twice hit the woodwork, Ferguson's side orchestrated a remarkable comeback in injury time when Sheringham and then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wrote their names into club folklore. Camp Nou was shaken to its very foundations and for once, Ferguson was almost lost for words. Not so his opposite number, Ottmar Hitzfeld: "It could take days, even weeks to recover from such a blow. Losing in such a way is very tragic. It is inconceivable what has happened tonight."

What happened next? United maintained their domestic dominance, despite sporadic flourishes from Arsenal and the emergence of Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, but European success would prove elusive until John Terry's slip on the Moscow turf allowed Ferguson to claim a second Champions League trophy in 2008. The knight of the realm remains in place, though Solskjaer and Sheringham have since retired.

5. Barcelona, 2009 - Guard of honour

In his first 18 months as a coach, Pep Guardiola set a benchmark that may never be matched. A surprise choice to replace Frank Rijkaard in the summer of 2008, Guardiola quickly galvanised a Barca side garnished with the genius of Lionel Messi, securing the 2008-09 Primera Liga title by nine points and scoring 105 goals. A 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao delivered the Copa del Rey and Barcelona headed to a Champions League final against Manchester United in Rome hoping to be named European champions for the third time in their history.

United were reigning champions, but Barca outclassed and outpassed Sir Alex Ferguson's side, with midfield magicians Xavi and Andres Iniesta in mesmeric form. Samuel Eto'o, soon to depart for Inter, scored the first goal, while Messi secured the victory with a placed header from a Xavi pass. Their semi-final win over Chelsea may have been mired in controversy thanks to the suspect refereeing of Tom Henning Ovrebo, but victory in the final was nothing other than fully deserved. Guardiola joked: "I'm leaving, I'm leaving tomorrow, right away. I can't do anything else. I'm delirious. We are not the best team in Barcelona's history. But we have played the best season in history."

What happened next? Guardiola didn't leave, and Barcelona's annus mirabilis continued. Athletic Bilbao were beaten in the Spanish Super Cup, Shakhtar Donetsk defeated in the European Super Cup and Estudiantes had no answer in the final of the Club World Cup. The first ever Sextuple had been achieved, and while Barca were knocked out of the Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2010, they beat Real Madrid to the title when amassing a record 99 points.

Football / FA Chairman resigns following World Cup 'bribe' storm
« on: May 16, 2010, 08:49:42 AM »
Head of England's World Cup bid steps down after accusations of opponents' corruption - ESPN Soccernet

Lord Triesman has resigned as the chairman of England's 2018 World Cup bid team following a report that he claimed Spain are attempting to bribe referees at this summer's World Cup.

The Mail on Sunday details a conversation between Triesman and a former aide in which the official, who was leading England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, reportedly makes the allegations of corruption.

Triesman is quoted as saying that Spain could withdraw from the race to host the 2018 World Cup if rivals Russia helped them to pay off match officials in South Africa. Spain would then switch their support to the Russian bid.

"There's some evidence that the Spanish football authorities are trying to identify the referees...and pay them," Triesman allegedly said.

"My assumption is that the Latin Americans, although they've not said so, will vote for Spain. And if Spain drop out, because Spain are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe the referees in the World Cup, their votes may then switch to Russia."

The Mail on Sunday claims the FA tried to issue a High Court injunction to prevent the publication of the story on Saturday but the governing body have not issued any statement on the controversy as yet.

However, Triesman has resigned following the arrival of damaging headlines at such a sensitive time for England's 2018 bid team. It is understood that he will remain in his other role as FA chairman for the time being.

It is believed that the bid team has faxed letters of apology to its Spanish and Russian rivals, as well as FIFA, in an effort to distance itself from Triesman's alleged comments.

FA sources told Soccernet: "The FA are currently deeply aware of the importance in limiting the damage accentuated by what is now happening, and clearly there is damage as it wouldn't have warranted this resignation of the chairman.

"However, it is vitally important that we put our bid back on track immediately. The fabric of our bid, the material elements of the bid, remain intact."

It is also reported that Triesman discussed the controversy surrounding John Terry, when the defender was stripped of the England captaincy following allegations of an affair with the former partner of Wayne Bridge.

"I thought it was bad behaviour and very disruptive to the team," Triesman said. "The rest of the players pretty much felt that. He doesn't believe he did anything wrong at all. Doesn't see it. His Mum and Dad tell him he didn't do anything wrong."

The story comes only two days after the FA submitted its 1,752-page bid book to FIFA in an effort to persuade world football's governing body that England would be the best choice to host the 2018 finals.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has welcomed the news that Triesman has resigned following the embarrassing episode.

"It's entirely right that he should stand down and that the action should have been taken as quickly as is the case," Robertson told Sky Sports News.

Football / Kerry Baptiste Worth the Gamble for Toronto FC
« on: May 05, 2010, 10:33:59 PM »


by Jeremy Loome - RedNation Blog

In his home country of Trinidad, Kerry Baptiste is a sports hero. Not only has he broken goal scoring records, he's also been named the country's "Sports Personality of the year."

Numbers like 48 goals in a season, and 67 goals in 87 total appearances for a club, will lead to that sort of thing. So will scoring both goals in a 2-2 draw against Mexico in Concacaf qualifiers.

But it's still the Trinidadian league. So would Baptise be a good bet for TFC? A little intuition and a look at his career suggests it would.

Baptiste moved to perennial T&T League Powerhouse Joe Public four years ago, at age 25, after several years as a creative midfielder for San Juan Jabloteh, a typically financially stretched Caribbean club that has nevertheless produced several fine footballers in recent years.

At the time, former English International Terry Fenwick — in his own more famous days not noted for the best of judgment — decided Baptiste should be allowed to leave the club on a free transfer. Though he was already a full international, Jabloteh let him go for a player-to-be-named later, and Fenwick said it made sense because he had younger midfielders coming up.

And even at that point, it wasn't like Joe Public knew Jabloteh was being effectively fleeced: the club signed him to be a midfielder, as he'd always been.

But here's the thing: Baptiste had been a prolific goalscorer from midfield since his teens, and had already shown as well that he could play both wide and inside because of his dribbling skills. He's also tall and strong.

Why he wasn't tried at striker earlier is mystifying. The Lions eventually realized Baptiste demonstrates the right skill set and that the modern trend is towards guys who could be target men, but still have ball skills and dexterity. They moved him up top two years ago.

He hasn't stopped scoring since.

At 28 he has considerable professional experience. His league is middling-to-poor at best, but its clubs have often performed admirably against MLS sides in the Concacaf Champions League.

And with just two seasons under his belt as a striker, Baptiste — also a handful to mark in the box and good with his head — is now the league's leading all-time scorer.

Will that transfer over in full to Major League Soccer, if Baptiste signs on with TFC during the next window?

Probably not in full. Professional leagues in small nations are rife with guys who can achieve great things on technique alone, but fail to keep up to the tactical pace of better leagues. There are about 200 African labourers in France and Belgium alone, unfortunately, who can attest to that.

But Baptiste has also performed admirably in internationals and MLS is not Europe. His recent two-goal outing against Mexico saw him score one from the spot and one with his head, but also force a couple of saves and create a couple of other opportunities, with strength and deft movement.

These are qualities TFC does not have in abundance. Baptiste can easily keep up with Chad Barrett in the ball handling department, and is better at creating space and infinitely better at hitting the target. He also has something to prove, given that teams outside of Trinidad have been looking at him seriously now for two years without taking the leap.

If he's willing to come in for reasonable MLS money — something in the $100,000 to $150,000 range, with bonus potential — embattled Football Director Mo Johnston would have little reason not to take the plunge. Two years of success in MLS might land him a DP deal, and the chance to spend the latter part of his career as a club hero on a larger stage, in front of 21,000 per game, for better pay. It certainly worked for Luciano Emilio.

If he's worried about service, he'll have De Rosario and De Guzman providing, and Barrett — underrated for his ethic and movement, even when his finishing has been down — to partner with.

For TFC, it's not that much of a gamble. For Baptiste? He may think fighting for a roster spot at Ipswich is his shot at greatness — but the first time he scores a brace in front of that riotous assembly at BMO, he'd know he was right at home.

Pages: [1]
1]; } ?>