Archive | August, 2010

German Wonder Kid

30 Aug

This is Noah Shawn. He’s 7 years old and plays in Bayern Munich’s academy. I must say that I’ve watched plenty of videos of little boys…playing soccer of course, and I have never seen talent like this. We’ve all watched the Messi videos and there’s also this kid, Hassan Ayari, but Shawn looks to be a different beast altogether.

If you’ve got five minutes to spare, sit back and enjoy. If not, at least jump ahead to 2:17. Then I promise you’ll make yourself available for the whole video.

Always Wear Protection

30 Aug

Ok. I don’t really feel bad anymore.

Top Goals of the Weekend

30 Aug

The best of the best from a wild weekend of football throughout Europe.

It all started with on Friday as newly promoted side Kaiserslautern hosted Bayern Munich, and subsequently blanked them 2-0. The rookies now sit top of the league after two matches. This was the first goal from Ivo Ilicevic rocketed into the top corner:

http://www.youtube.com/v/YFC9lqvq6pk?fs=1&hl=en_US

Why must Dimitar Berbatov make everything so difficult? I guess he realizes how pathetically inept he is at finishing off easy chances. So instead, he goes out and does something like this:

http://video.rutube.ru/3da344e25887ec9aef8f8bde464cacbd

The slow motion of this overhead kick actually makes it better. Giandomenico Mesto (what a first name) gave Genoa their only goal needed to defeat Udinese:

http://www.youtube.com/v/cO-MC7K40Ho?fs=1&hl=en_US

Don’t knock MLS!! It made be a tad bit slower than most leagues, but there is still plenty of class on the field. Dane Richards, not a stranger to highlight reels, put together this beauty against San Jose:

http://www.youtube.com/v/xsJdsiUbyCg?fs=1&hl=en_US

Thank goodness for Spain. The home of the world cup trophy and the most tactically proficient players on the planet is finally back in our living rooms. It’s goals like this one from Xabi Prieto that are as much about the build up as they are the actual finish:

http://www.youtube.com/v/M-1wlUdKSDM?fs=1&hl=en_US

La Liga Table Preview

27 Aug

La Liga kicks off this weekend, and this column couldn’t be any more excited for it to start. As such, here’s how it will turn out.

1. Barcelona

2. Real Madrid

3. Atlético Madrid

4. Athletic Bilbao

5. Villareal

6. Valencia

7. Sevilla

8. Getafe

9. Espanyol

10. Deportivo La Coruña

11. Real Sociedad

12. Almeria

13. Mallorca

14. Osasuna

15. Real Zaragoza

16. Sporting Gijon

17. Málaga

18. Racing Santander

19. Hercules

20. Levante

Platini guarantees 0% chance of human error

27 Aug

Speaking in Monaco yesterday ahead of the Champions League draw, UEFA president Michel Platini went on a bit of a rant regarding referees in the forthcoming competition. Notably, he stressed a “zero tolerance” policy towards referees screwing up calls. Right.

He then went on to discuss the brand new five referee system that will place an extra pair of eyes on the end line next to each goal.

“I think it’s a very good system. If they cannot see if it’s gone in they should get another job. If you cannot see the ball has crossed the line from three metres away then you are no good.”

“There should be near zero tolerance with regard to referees because they should be able to see everything now.”

“The Champions League final with only three referees makes me nervous because when it comes to decisions they can’t see everything. With five referees we can be 99% or 100% certain.”

A couple things here. First, all Platini really cares about is one thing only – goal line vigilance. Preventing botched calls of whether the ball has crossed over the line. Something that happens, and let’s be honest, not too often. What about every other missed offsides and handball and foul? I have watched plenty of Europa League matches to inspect the new system and those extra refs are clowns. They do nothing and say nothing.

Now to this guarantee. 100% certain?! No sir – humans are not perfect and we never will be. If the referees were secretly terminators that’s a different story. But he just sounds like such a moronic idiot when he throws percentages out there like that. Does he really think the intellectual public believes that two extra referees is more fullproof than technology? Apparently so. And Sepp Blatter at FIFA is even worse.

These are the people running the sport at the moment. Until they’re out, we’re stuck with an outdated, juvenile system.

Champions League Group Stage Draw

26 Aug

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and the holiday season is still months away. But for Europe, and football fans worldwide, the holidays have officially begun with the group stage draw of the Champions League. There is, as always, a group of death (or is it?) and a couple snoozers. However, many of the groups are wide open – at least for second place.

I wouldn’t say the groups look weak, but there is parity and fresh faces. Five teams reach this stage for the first time, while others are back after lengthy absences. So there are plenty of rookies and novices, and a handful of veterans who bring many question marks into this season.

Here’s how they sorted out group by group.

Group A
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Tottenham
FC Twente

Everyone waited with baited breathe to see where Tottenham would land, and no better place than group A with holders Inter Milan. As Tottenham were never going to win their group, it was the remaining two teams which would seal their fate. Well, Werder Bremen are coming off a 4-1 drubbing to start their season and sit in last place in the Bundesliga. Twente, last year’s Dutch champions, lost manager Steve McClaren after the season and are off to a decent start. Inter should have no problem progressing. If Tottenham can rid themselves of those bad nerves suffered in the first leg against Young Boys, they should do well to progress here as well.

Group B
Lyon
Benfica
Schalke
Hapoel Tel-Aviv

I’m not gonna lie, I was rooting for the bagel boys to get the best draw possible and they did. Hapoel could very well finish last in the group, but they will have more of a fighting chance than many other of the Pot 4 teams. Lyon are off to an average start, like the other top French teams, but will surely turn on the jets with their addition of Gourcuff. Benfica has lost it’s opening two matches of the Portuguese season and Schalke are getting their bearings straight with the addition of Raul. If I had to pick, Lyon and Schalke will progress.

Group C
Manchester United
Rangers
Valencia
Bursaspor

When you get more than a few Scots in one group, you know you’re in for a roller coaster. It’s also safe to say you know you’re in for that Scottish team to get absolutely tonked by whichever heavyweights share the group. In this case, Sir Alex and Manchester United will battle Rangers twice. No doubt SAF loves trips back to his homeland. Unfortunately for Rangers fans, it won’t even be close. Valencia are a tricky group in that we don’t know what to expect. Once their season gets under way this weekend we’ll have a better idea, but after losing Marchena, Silva, and Villa over the summer, the jury is out on this team. Speaking of, I wouldn’t doubt seeing David Silva in the stands at Manchester to cheer on his old mates. As for the fourth team Bursaspor, it’s their first time in the group stages. And it doesn’t matter what level of club you are, any trip to Turkey for a match is difficult. United should have no problem getting through. I think Valencia will prove a lot of us wrong and finish second (although there really isn’t so much to prove against the likes of Rangers and Bursaspor).

Group D
Barcelona
Panathinaikos
Copenhagen
Rubin Kazan

Call this the group of death minus one. Barcelona got themselves a cake walk. The other three will have a dogfight to claim the second spot. Barca, Panathinaikos, and Copenhagen will be none too pleased with drawing Rubin Kazan. Fun fact about Rubin Kazan…it’s in the middle of nowhere! It’s as far east as Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Don’t forget, it was this Kazan squad who actually beat Barcelona last season in the Camp Nou. Three of these teams will also dread traveling to Greece. The last place any club wants to be is in Athens, where riots, Molotov cocktails, pitch invaders, ultras, and hooligans run the show. They show no sense of decency or respect to civilized order, and I hope visiting teams return home unscathed and unharmed – not much a fool’s hoop since recently, Greek fans have been burning and beating their own stadiums and coaches. Barcelona and Copenhagen to move on.

Group E
Bayern Munich
Roma
Basil
CFR Cluj

This one doesn’t bring much to the table. Cluj were a tricky side in the group stage two seasons ago, managing to draw with Chelsea 0-0. They, and Basil, are out of their league in this group. Munich and Roma in a canter.

Group F
Chelsea
Marseilles
Spartak Moscow
MSK Zilina

Defending French champs Marseilles are off to a terrible start winning one and losing two. However, with the recent additions of strike tandem Loic Remy and Andre-Pierre Gignac, they should expect the tide to turn in their favor. Chelsea are Chelsea, ripping teams to shreds at the moment. To be honest, I’m more interested to see how Roman Abramovich spends a Champions League away leg in his home country. Put the camera on that guy and his flashy girlfriend, lavish dinners, floating hovercraft, penthouse suites, million dollar bars of soap. Chelsea and Marseilles will move on.

Group G
AC Milan
Real Madrid
Ajax
Auxerre

The very first European Cup was lifted by Real Madrid in 1955-56 (so were the next four). In the 55 years since, Madrid, AC Milan, and Ajax have won the competition an astounding 22 times!  That’s almost half!! I questioned calling this the group of death because Milan and Ajax are nothing like they used to be. Perhaps “Group of Pedigree” is better suited. Who knows about Milan. New coach, and the same aging bodies we’ve seen for the past decade. Will Pato break out? Will Ibra join them? To be honest this team is no better than Ajax and Auxerre at the moment. Auxerre will try to duplicate the success of last season while Ajax can look no farther than in-form striker Luis Suarez as the key to their success. Let’s face it, Mourinho and Real Madrid will be out for blood. His personal accolades speak for themselves. However, he now has a more powerful squad than ever before as Madrid try to erase a six year trend of getting knocked out at the round of 16. I got a feeling they’ll be ok. Tough to pick the rest as Milan has yet to begin the season, but I’ll choose Milan regardless.

Group H
Arsenal
Shakhtar Donetsk
Braga
Partizan

A fairytale reunion for injury-prone flop Eduardo. The ex-Arsenal man will have a chance to square off against his old teammates for Shakhter. Fairly easy draw for Arsenal by the looks of it. Remember last season’s group stage though. Arsenal’s boys are still prone to nervous hiccups on the road. I hope – rather I expect – they have grown up and will brush aside the rest of the competition here. Partizan actually reached the final back in 1966, only to lose to Madrid. For THAT reason and none other whatsoever, I’m picking them to shock everyone and finish second behind Arsenal.

Teams in groups A-D and E-H each play on the same night respectively.

Anchorettes Part 2 – Spain & Italy

26 Aug

Aaaaah Mediterranean women. Elegant…smooth…olive colored skin…blissful perfumes and aromas. They’ll romance you with fine wines and rose petals. Think antiquity – beautiful women draped all over you, feeding grapes into your mouth. It’s quite an ideal utopia for any right-minded man. Back in reality though, we do our best to constrict to society’s rules of seduction and courting, and quite often find it a bit more difficult to conquer than our dream world…

In the same respect is our quest to meet, marry, and man-handle every hot body we see on television, all to often futile. The only thing that enables our fantasy to evolve is fixing our eyes on that television every week hoping our dream anchor will appear before us.

So, after a proper introduction to England and France’s cream of the crop a few weeks back, we turn to Italy and Spain whose domestic campaigns commence this weekend. Italy packs a strong punch, with supermodel looks and cunning reporting. The world champions, on the other hand, report their football the same way they play it – with class and a soft tenderness. Making beauty so incredibly simple. We are all blessed to bear witness to such magnificence on a weekly basis.

Let the battle for Mediterranean supremacy begin!

ITALY

Laura Esposto – Sky Sport Italy and the Milan Channel. If these aren’t enough for you, and work is a bit slow today, feel free to check out her website for plenty more.

Federica Fontana – Move over boys. Not only will she promptly melt your screens, but she’s been known to commentate matches on occasion as well!! Don’t worry though, she still finds time to submit monthly photo shoots to GQ. Wow.

Elena Di Cioccio - Remember that bit about the “cunning reporting?” Well here she is, the one and only Italian reporter who tried getting a handful of Beckham’s crown jewels earlier this year.

SPAIN

Sonia Ferrer - The darling of Catalunya, Sonia wears her Barcelona pride on her sleeve for local channel TVE.

Sara Carbonero – No words can capture the essence of this woman…oh I almost forgot! Rumors abound (unsubstantiated to be fair) that Sara plans to pose for Brazilian Playboy. Please don’t let us down!

Drinks on the House

25 Aug

Bayern Munich took time out of their busy training schedule this week to, well, sip a couple beers and shoot a commercial for Paulaner. Not a bad gig.

On closer look, something is a tad bit fishy…like those beers are fake!! Lahm’s center of gravity is off as he tips the glass towards himself, only the beer and foam are in the exact same position. No overflow.  The foam actually looks more like marshmallow fluff…

I was also unaware of the lederhosen class system.  Schweinsteiger, Van Bommel, and Klose all have the fancy suspenders with their outfits, while Louis Van Gaal, das manager, sports the landowners’ diagonal suspenders.  Then of course you’ve got the surfs who can only afford the white shirts. However, Lahm is the “captain” of Germany and dressed like a serf. So perhaps seniority isn’t the dividing factor. Maybe it’s height…

Let’s also note the fact that everyone is completely hairless. No facial hair, no leg hair. Of course, one cannot truly enjoy a fresh glass of Paulaner with bestial follicles protruding from the skin. It’s disgusting and classless.

To be honest, it’s all a bit too complicated for my liking. Just give me a das boot and be done with it. 

More photos after the jump…

Hans-Jörg Butt – WHAT are you doing? This is no time to have a staring contest with the camera guy.

“Franck, can you give me that prostitute’s number?! Girls my age don’t put out.”

Müller is probably telling his buddy Philipp about the speeding ticket he talked himself out of on the way to the shoot.

Worst Shootout Performance in History

25 Aug

Congratulations to RSC Anderlecht of Belgium for giving us one of the most shocking displays of penalty kick taking in history. With the barrage of spot kicks landing in the parking lot, it seemed more like a long distance competition than anything else. I’m sure more than a few supporters were greeted by a few dents in their cars after the match.

The English commentators kept going on and on and on about how sub-par the pitch was, and that Champions League football shouldn’t be played on such surfaces, bla bla. Give me a break! Stop being so nearsighted. From the looks of it (and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out), the Partizan players didn’t seem to have any real issue putting the ball in the back of the net.

This came down to technique. Something the Anderlecht players simply didn’t have. That divot in the ground from the 1st kick wasn’t the result of a bad pitch. Although it depends who you ask, since more than a couple golfers would have marvelled at what were exquisite pitches of the ball. Don’t divots mean you made good contact and got under the ball to send it to the stratosphere?

Anyway, you can judge for yourself. In fairness to Anderlecht though, they did produce this one piece of magic in the losing effort.

Party in the Holy Land

25 Aug

FC Salzburg lost. Good. After reports (unconfirmed to be fair) of despicable chants by the fans in the first leg calling on the Israelis to go back and burn in the ovens (and there were supposedly more), those fans, and that city, didn’t deserve the privilege of hosting the kings of Europe on the grandest stage on the planet.

As for Hapoel Tel-Aviv, it is their first appearance in the group stages in the club’s 83 year history. With a performance in the second leg that, outside the first ten minutes, was quite frankly abysmal (an own goal and the one in stoppage top to seal it), Hapoel escaped. But it was predicated on an impressive 3-2 away win in the first leg. With a win like that on the road they deserved to move on. And, UEFA can breathe a sigh of relief at the now moot prospect of rampant, racist fans showcasing the tournament.

Let the festivities begin in Israel.

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