Sunday, September 30, 2007

Did Someone Just Play a World Cup?

Below find a game report of the 2-0 victory today by the German Woman’s National Team over Brazil in the final of the Women’s World Cup. This was a strangely underreported tournament that really went underground in this country after the US Women were eliminated. Tonight, for instance, the game was only reported on the ‘Fox Soccer Report’ (a soccer news show broadcast every night at ten on FSC) at the twenty minute mark, after the scores of the Everton-Middlesboro were reported, along with a bunch of other meaningless games. Keep in mind that this was World Cup Final. If women’s football can’t make the top story on a soccer newscast on this day, than the sport is in trouble. As I said in an earlier post, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put a lot of money down on the Women’s Football League opening next year to be open for very long.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Weekend Matches: September 29-30

It's football dawn-to-dusk this weekend with good matches being played out all over Europe and even in the MLS. I have been particularly drawn to Series A all season, as some of the best games this year have come from Italy. This week we have a Turin derby as well as Milan and Fiorentina playing in separate, interesting matches. The match of the weekend, however, will hopefully be Roma-Inter, as Inter is getting back on form and Roma sees if they can recover from the draw put on them by my boys from Florence on Wednesday. Hope you enjoy it!


7:30am Manchester City vs Newcastle Utd Setanta Sports

10:00am, Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich GolTv

10:00am Chelsea vs Fulham FSC

12:00pm Birmingham vs Manchester United FSC

1:00pm Roma vs Inter FSC

4:30pm Livorno vs Fiorentina FSC

7:30pm New York vs Salt Lake FSC


9:00am AC Milan vs Catania FSC

1:00pm Getafe vs Real Madrid GolTv

2:30pm Torino vs Juventus FSC

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More US Women Fallout

Yikes. Check out this video of US Women's National Team starting goalkeeper Hope Solo (no relation to Han) ripping her coach and her teammate for being benched in favor of backup Briana Scurry. Not that she's wrong (Scurry was apparently terrible) but its rare to hear an athlete go off like this on a coach and teammate. Good times are apparently NOT being had by all.

US Women Lose in World Cup

Today the United States Women lost in their semi-final World Cup match to Brazil. Apparently they were destroyed to the tune of 4-0. You can read about it here:

It will be interesting to watch how this plays out for women’s football here in the States. Organizers were hoping to build on a US victory in the World Cup, as well as a possible victory in next year’s Olympics, to start another professional women’s football league here in the US. As many readers remember, there was a women’s league in the States in the 1990s and 2000s, but it eventually closed down shop due to very poor attendance. Bearing in mind that that league was built on the American team that won two World Cups and the celebrity of all-time great Mia Hamm, it is hard to see how this league will compare. They have no momentum coming from a World Cup that few paid attention to, and did not even make the finals. Perhaps they will do better at the Olympics. But the league will have no stars the caliber of Hamm or Julie Foudy, and no base of potential fans as they did after the 1999 World Cup held here in the states. I hope women’s football succeeds in the US, but this performance at the World Cup did not help matters.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Programming Note

Today there is a great game being broadcast on FSC at 2:30 EST. It is a Series A matchup between Roma and Fiorentina (probably my favorite team). It should be great.

Roma, of course, has pretty much been the best team in Italy this year. Even without striker Francisco Totti (who is out with a thigh strain today) they are still a formidable team. But keep your eye on Fiorentina. With young guns Sebastian Frey, Dario Dainelli, Fabio Liverani, Riccardo Montolivo, Martin Jorgensen, Adrian Mutu, and especially Giampaolo Pazzini, and along with grizzled vet Christian Vieri, they are one to watch for the future. They should be right in the thick of title races for the ext few seasons. But frankly, with a few breaks, they could be right in the middle of it THIS season. Look for them to put up a game fight at home in Florence today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rumors: Spain and England

As readers know, I provide a link to Phil Ball’s column nearly every week, because he is both very good and also because he provides a very useful window into la Liga, a great football league that tends to get overlooked here in the States because of the focus on the Premier League.

Two or three times a year, however, Ball’s columns are transcendent, and move from being “really good” to “almost beautiful.” This week’s column is an example of the later. Not only is it a summary of the weekend that was in Spain, but it is also a charming meditation of how football is integrated into everyone’s life in that nation; how they live and breath football just as they do their food, friends, and family. It’s a must-read.

On a more pedestrian note, Ball thinks that Ronaldinho is gone after the telling events of this week. (Reports are that the smiling Brazilian was clubbing and boozing 48 hours before his latest game.) Ball thinks Barca was the source that ratted Ronnie out to the press, a sign that he will be sold either during the winter or next summer. Interesting. Ball certainly knows what he’s talking about, but we will see what become of Ronnie’s performance over the next few weeks.

In England, rumors are circulating as well; this one has it that Martin Jol has already been fired from Spurs. Spurs and Jol are denying, but separation can’t be far off if the draws and losses mount.

One hope by Spurs fans does need to be quashed: they won’t get Mourinho. Apparently there is a clause in Jose’s contract that states he can’t be hired by an English club for a specified period of time. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes sense. Would Ramos from Sevilla come over to coach Spurs? Probably not mid-season. The question remains, then, of who would guide Tottenham to their traditional 5-th place finish. Although the way this season is going, it might be a more un-traditional 18th place finish…

Monday, September 24, 2007

Premiership Review

After a very exciting weekend of games, we have my friend Matt's typically excellent summary of weekend action in the Premiership. See below for his thoughts on who already has the league wrapped up in a bow and also what Sammy Lee can do for work after he gets the sack.

Readers of the blog will know I am not as careful a follower of the EPL as Matt; I try to distribute my game watchin' between England, Italy and Spain. I did watch a bunch of Premiership games this weekend, however, and I must say I was entertained by a number of them. Three games in particular were wildly different in style, but I found all three to be great:

1). Fulham v. Man City: Any 3-3 draw with that much back-and-forth action is going to be fun to watch. Lots of entertaining players on display as well, including Dempsey, Richards and David Healy. Conventionally, the "best " game of the weekend.

2). Arsenal v. Derby: By any conventional measurement, conversely, a 5-0 drubbing would be a bore, but I have found Arsenal riveting in recent weeks. They play gorgeous football with gorgeous passing. The beautiful game, anyone?

3). Man United v. Chelsea: Essentially a 1-0 game with a lousy penalty scored at the end, the supposed highlight game of the weekend seems to have been a dud. But in fact I enjoyed the game immensely; not for the goal chances created but for the skill on display at virtually every position for both teams on the field. The television announcers correctly noted that it took players some time to sub-in to the games; that is essentially because the ball never went out of bounds. Also, Avarm Grant kind of scares me.

Don't think I'm going soft on the Premiership, however. The best game in Europe this weekend was still probably the Juve-Roma thriller which ended in a 2-2 draw. But that is digression; I do hope you enjoy Matt's excellent Premiership review.


Before I begin this week's review, I wanted to inform the readers why I talk about certain teams. For starters, I'm a Newcastle fan, so despite who they play I will watch the game, and despite how bad of a result, I will usually have something to say on the matter. I then follow other teams that either have a player I like to watch and follow, like Clint Dempsey at Fulham and David Bentley at Blackburn, or who not only have a player I like, but also have a history I'm fascinated with (Steven Gerrard and Liverpool) or love their style of play (Fabregas and Van Persie and the lovely football of Arsenal). Besides that I tend to watch and comment on the big games of the weekend, which usually feature the big 4 or teams that believe they should be in the big 4. So you most likely won't see me writing about the likes of Wigan, Derby, Reading, Bolton, Portsmouth, or Birmingham unless they involve the teams above. With that in mind, here is my weekend review.

I start with the best team right now in the Premier League, who also have the current best player in the League: Arsenal and Cesc Fabregas. I know it is still early in the year, but both are my current choice for champions of the league and player of the year. While the chances of Arsenal winning the Premier League will be discussed further in a little bit, I wanted to begin discussing the amazing talent of one Mr.

Fabregas. In a word WOW!!! This 20 year old is simple amazing, and is quickly making Arsenal fans forget about the departure of Thierry Henry. Now some may say I'm a bit biased based on my previously mentioned feelings on the player, but it can't be debated how well his form has been lately. This is a player that his manager, Arsene Wenger, this week compared to the great Michel Platini, which is quiet a complement, and hopefully that rings true for both fans of Arsenal and Spain. The past couple of years, Fabregas has reminded me of Cristiano Ronaldo, prior to Ronaldo's season last year and minus the latter’s penchant for diving. Fabregas has always had pin point passing, but the thing that was missing was his finishing, much like Ronaldo prior to last season.

However this has clearly been cured with Cesc seeming to score in every game he plays, and usually with some amazing shots. He was at it again this weekend, when Arsenal demolished Derby 5-0 (that's what you get Derby when you beat my beloved Newcastle). While Adebayor led the way with a hat trick, and Diaby had a beautiful goal to get the route started, it was once again Fabregas tearing apart the Derby defense with his pin point killer passing from midfield. Arsenal looked like champions, and did so while playing entertaining football. Also the continued success of Gael Clichy at left back has made Arsenal fans forget about Cashley Cole. The only thing I see stopping Arsenal to the title is some shady defense by Phillipe Senderos and not so strong goal keeping by Manuel Almunia, but that should be taken care of when William Gallas returns from injury and Jens Lehmann get his game back on if not from the January transfer window (maybe they will get out of favor goal keeper Shay Given from Newcastle).

Now I know that before the season began I predicted Liverpool to win the league, but at that time I thought Rafa Benitez had decided to given up on his rotational system and focus on winning the league title. I couldn't have been more wrong. Picking up a topic from last week, Liverpool dropped two points again, this time at home to lowly Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM!!! AT ANFIELD!!! Not only did they drop two points, they couldn't even score a goal in a very poor and boring 0-0 score line. How could this be?? Well look no further than the gaffer, who decided to start Kuyt with Voronin, while leaving the 27 million pound summer transfer hit-man Fernando Torres on the bench. Didn't Benitez learn anything from last week's nil nil result at Pompey, when the star striker started the game on the bench there as well. Why spend all that money on a striker if you aren't going to start him? You can't tell me that his was resting him for the "big" league cup draw this week with Reading. As I mentioned last week, it doesn't appear that Rafa is focusing on winning the title, and I don't think it will be long before the Kop end start chanting that he be sacked. Furthermore, if his plan was to get the ball into the box by playing wide, why did he wait till the 80 minute before putting Peter Crouch in who would be his best target man?? What is this gaffer thinking?

One further note from the game is that Steven Gerrard was given man of the match. For what??? I love Gerrard, he is one of my favorite players, and god knows he tries hard and wanted to win the match badly, but he played poorly. There simply didn't deserve to be a man of the match in this lackluster display by Liverpool.

Then after these 2 games, I checked on the best American playing soccer right now. Mr. Clint Dempsey.

Unfortunately the team he plays for isn't that good, but they never give up and keep on fighting. The Fulham v. Man City match was probably the best of the weekend as Fulham came back from a goal down to earn a point in an exciting 3-3 draw keeping them just above the relegation zone. Although Clint couldn't score a goal in his 4th straight game, it was interesting to see him and Micah Richards go head to head (literally) in a heated dispute. I wonder what they said to each other, but I'm sure they weren't congratulating each other on their recent form.

In other notable games, Middlesbrough and Sunderland drew 2-2 in their northeastern derby, but we all know that the real team from far up north is the Toon Army.After a disastrous display this past Monday when they lost to the worst team in the league, Newcastle bounced back with a 3-1 win at home over West Ham. Mark Viduka decided he wanted to play, and scored 2 goals, Martins , who started on the bench in favor of Michael Owen missed an open net, and speaking of Mr.Owen, he got hurt. AGAIN! Big surprise. The Jekyll and Hyde team of the premier League currently sit in 5th place. Also it the battle of which gaffer will get the sack next, Sammy Lee's Bolton came back to draw 1-1 with Martin Jol's Tottenham to keep both teams in the relegation zone. How about both teams sack them both tomorrow, the Spurs can hire Mourinho (although I doubt he would go there), Jol can go to Bolton, and Sammy Lee can be Gary Busey's stunt double in his next straight to video film.

Speaking of the Special One, I am sad to see him go. Believe me, I won't be missing his boring style of play while in charge of Chelsea, but I will miss his quotes and his attacks on Ferguson, Wenger, and Benitez. It seems that the Big 4 have just dropped to the big 3 with his departure. Which leads me to the so called "game of the weekend". I must say last week I wasn't looking forward to this match as I figured that with Chelsea's style of play and the poor start from Man U we would be looking at a dull 0-0 game. However with Mourinho leaving Chelsea, I was curios to see how they would react at Old Trafford and the game wasn't all that bad. Ok it wasn't great, but at least there was some attacking from Chelsea until Mikel Jon Obi (whose first and last names have switched over the past couple of weeks) was unjustifiably dismissed with a Red card. Carlos Tevez scored his first goal as a Red Devil, and someone in the stands shot Louis Saha while he was in the penalty box, allowing him to make 2-0 from the spot and secure Man United 3 points. Although the win puts Man U in second place, they still don't look all that good to me. As for Chelsea, it looks like they might not get a Champions league spot this year, but both teams have a plethora of good players that I can count either one out at this time. You never know what will happen when Saturday comes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weekend Matches: September 22-23

We have a loaded weekend of very good football coming up, with some great head-to-head matches to enjoy. First, I am very lad to see that GolTV apparently has settled their issues with Spanish television, so they are now once again allowed to show Barcelona and Real Madrid games. I’ll believe it when I see the games this weekend, but I’m very excited. The Barca-Sevilla game should be very exciting, in spite of Sevilla getting spanked by Arsenal this week. In Italy Roma v. Juve is surely the pick of the litter, but football fan-atics everywhere will have their eyes on Old Trafford on Sunday. The Manchester United — Chelsea clash has always been a big game, but most fans will want to see how the blues do without Mourinho at the helm. I know I’ll be watching. Finally, you will note that I even have a game listed from the Women’s World Cup, the Saturday morning match between USA and England. How progressive!


7:55am USA vs England ESPN2

10:00am Arsenal vs Derby County FSC

12:00pm Fulham vs Manchester City FSC

2:30pm AC Milan vs Parma FSC

4:00pm Barcelona vs Sevilla GolTv


8:30am Newcastle Utd vs West Ham Setanta Sports

9:00am Roma vs Juventus FSC

11:00am Karlsruhe vs Bayern Munich GolTv

11:00am Manchester United vs Chelsea FSC

3:00pm Valladolid vs Real Madrid GolTv

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Champions League Overshadowed

Today’s post was supposed to be a brief recap of the action in Matchday One of the Champions League. And it certainly wasn’t a bad two days. We saw Arsenal absolutely dominate a very good Seville team, (the gooners might now very well be favorites for the cup, as well as other trophies) Thierry Henry score his first for Barca, Manchester United squeak by Sporting in a snoozer, and we watched Real Madrid do what it has done for the past eight months: turn on the jets in the second half and outlast the competition.

All of this has been overshadowed, however, by the most shocking result so far: Chelsea drawing with lowly Rosenborg at home in front of a half-empty stadium that had seemingly become bored by their home team. Or, to be more specific, the Champions League was overshadowed by what seems to be the direct result of that match. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has resigned.

Although there have been rumors circulating about Mourinho leaving Chelsea for quite some time now, the particular timing of the resignation could not be more shocking. Yes, it’s true that Chelsea have not been getting the results they wanted in the Premiership, and the draw in Europe was a bad omen, as was the sparse attendance. But with key players injured and Manchester United hosting on Sunday, this was the worst time for Mourinho to walk away (or be pushed away; details of what exactly happened will surely become clearer in a few days). Avram Grant has taken over the club for now; he has a “good guy, good coach” reputation but we don’t know much about him.

So this could be, at the very least, a short-term problem for Chelsea. They are already a little behind in the standings and missing key players Drogba and Fat Frank. Dropping three points at Old Trafford on Sunday could drive them out of the top four for the first time in recent memory.

That situation will bear watching, as will considerations about Mourinho’s time in London as a whole. I, for one, have mixed feelings abut the man the press insists on referring to either as “The Special One” or, perhaps even more stupidly, as “The Portuguese,” as if the newsmen from The Sun had never met someone from Portugal before. On one hand, I sort of liked Mourinho personally (not that I knew him, but from afar); he was smart, funny, and spoke his mind. He also obviously won, which is kind of the point of football in the first place.

But Mourinho was also increasingly making me despair. His version of football was getting grimmer and grimmer, as his team ground out one 1-0 win after another. It got to the point for me personally that I couldn’t stand watching Chelsea; I really can’t tell you the last time I watched an entire Chelsea match. Reportedly, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich first wanted to buy a football team after watching the now-legendary Real Madrid-Manchester United Champions League match in 2003 in which David Beckham came off the bench to score two goals, a game so good that Beckham ran into the locker to get an extra jersey so he could swap shirts with more than one player. Obviously, Abramovich loves attacking football, and he wasn’t getting it with Chelsea. Mourinho, for his part, was clearly getting players he didn’t want (like Andy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack) and felt he was getting undercut by front-office men brought in by Abramovich.

So the Mourinho era is over at Stamford Bridge. For all the boring games, I will miss Jose. As he once said, however, he will simply take some time off, watch professional wrestling with his son (Jose is a huge fan of the WWE, bizarrely) and then get another million-dollar contract to coach another team. Chelsea, on the other hand, must now see if they can continue the winning tradition they only so recently started.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


As all the readers of this page presumably know, the Champions league begins today and continues tomorrow. Below please find a guide to all of the Champions League games that will be televised in English in the United States. I eliminated Spanish-speaking television because, obviously, this website is in English and thus, presumably, all of my readers speak English. ESPN Deportes, however, (the Spanish-language ESPN channel) has some great games.

So, ESPN2 shows one game each day at 2:30, live. Setanta Sports also shows a live game at 2:30 and other games on tape later in the day. ESPN Classic usually shows a game on tape at 5:00, but is doing so only on Wednesday this week. (I will get to that in a moment.) The website shows pay-per-view games on its website as they are being played. I have never done that, so I can’t vouch for quality.

I am very much looking forward to seeing Real Madrid (since it is the first chance I’ve had to see them) against a good opponent in Weder Breman. Barca-Lyon should be good, and most people see Arsenal v. Sevilla as the pick of the litter. It should be, on the whole, a very good slate of games.

Finally, you will note that ESPN is only showing one game and not two today. Why? Because they are showing a Woman’s World Cup game instead. This leads to a question sent to me by a reader who asked about my thoughts on the Cup. My answer, unfortunately, is that I don’t have any. I’m not watching. I have too much football on my plate, and I just don’t care enough about woman’s football. I wish my country well, and will (maybe) watch the Cup Final, but to be honest I would rather watch the Champions League. Unfortunately I have to watch one less game of it than I wanted.

More coming later!


2:30pm Chelsea vs Rosenborg Setanta Sports

2:30pm FC Porto vs Liverpool ESPN2

10:00pm Real Madrid vs Werder Bremen Setanta Sports


2:30pm Arsenal vs Sevilla Setanta Sports

2:30pm Sporting CP vs Manchester United ESPN2

5:00pm Barcelona vs Lyon ESPN Classic

8:00pm Barcelona vs Lyon Setanta Sports

10:00pm Fenerbahce vs Inter Setanta Sports

Monday, September 17, 2007

News from the Front: Spain

Last season I almost always linked to the columns of Phil Ball, a writer for as well as a gifted chronicler of the history of Spanish Football. His weekly review of the action in Spain was always essential reading because he is the most literary football writer I have found on the Internet.

This season, however, Ball's work is more necessary than ever to American readers, as Real Madrid and Barcelona games are STILL not being shown on GolTV. Even though I am huge Real Madrid fan (and I desperately want to see how Henry is fitting in at Barca) my first chance to see them will be this week when the Champions League starts.

I don't know what the specifics of the problem are, GolTV, but you better get your act together soon. People here in the states are finding less and less reasons to watch your channel. In the meantime, readers, below please find a link to the latest Phil Ball round-up of action in Spain to keep your interest whetted.

Premeirship Weekend Review

We are going to start this week with another excellent and comprehensive look at the weekend that was in the Premiership with my good friend Matt. In this column he explores the idea of the “good” draw and the “bad” draw, and also asks if Rafa really has the Premiership title in mind, or if his eyes are again turned towards Europe.

Also, this week marks the start of the group stages of the Champion’s league, and we will spend much of the rest of the week previewing and then reviewing the start of the most entertaining club competition in the world. Now, onto Matt…


A few weeks back, Liverpool played Chelsea at Anfield, and what should have been a win for the Scousers ended as a draw when Chelsea were awarded a dubious penalty on a non-existent foul in the box, and which Frank "I ate all the pies" Lampard slotted home for the 1-1 draw. At the time, Liverpool were furious, and Mourinho couldn't comment because he didn't have the opportunity to see a video replay. Despite most pundits calling for replay to be introduced to fix these poor referee decisions, most also agreed that these calls and decisions even themselves out over the course of the season. That statement bore fruition this weekend, when a perfectly good goal by Salomon Kalou was disallowed because of a mistaken offside decision by the ref. As a result, Chelsea were left feeling blue as their game with Blackburn ended nil-nil. Not that I'm complaining.

Chelsea's style of play usually puts me to sleep, although I must say they did attack the goal quite a lot, and were stopped from scoring by a combination of good goalkeeping from Brad Friedel, poor marksmanship from Shevchenko, and the above erroneous call. It was funny to see that Jose Mourinho had a video replay device at hand this time to show the 4th official that they got it wrong on the disallowed goal. It must have been the fact that he was at home that he had the capability to have this device available.

Speaking of Stamford Bridge, I couldn't help to think of the difference between a good draw and a bad one. Here the draw was certainly not bad for Blackburn considering they were on the road, but it was certainly a disaster for Chelsea as they blew 2 points in a game in which they dominated, and to a team that they should beat at home. It was a result that might come to haunt them at the end of the season.

Carrying on the topics of both bad draws and blowing points that may lead to losing the title race, I move to the equally bland 0-0 result between Liverpool and Portsmouth. I guess Liverpool should be thankful that they got the draw after Kanu choked on his penalty shot on what was once again a poor decision by the referee (is anyone noticing a pattern here?). And while it is true that Liverpool got a point on the road at Fratton Park and did so without Kuyt playing or Gerrard and Torres starting, I can't feel that Rafa's boys threw away an additional 2 points against Pompey, and the blame should go to Mr. Benitez. It was his rotation policy that kept their above mentioned best players on the bench to start the game so that they can be fresh for the Champions League game this week against Porto. But Liverpool fans aren't craving Champions League as much as they want to win their first Premiership title, and his decisions should be made with that in mind by putting forth his best team in League matches. If Liverpool fails to win the league, this game will certainly be looked back upon on contributing to the failure.

Which leads me to Man United, and their match at Goodison Park against Everton. For anyone who watched the game, Man U still does not look all that good.

Tevez can't seem to do anything, and they aren't jelling like they did last season. I know they have had their injuries and suspensions, but I just don't think they are going to do it this season, and see it as a transition year of out with the old of Neville, Scholes, and Giggs and allowing players such as Anderson and Nani to grow into their replacements. Be that as it may, Man U did something this weekend that championship teams do; they found a way to win on the road even when they didn't play so well. Everton deserved a draw, but the Red Devils found a way to knick a goal from a Vidic header to get a crucial 3 points in 1-0 victory over the Toffees, and put themselves back in the title race. Liverpool, I hope your paying attention and taking note of this.

Now on to what I thought was the game of the week: the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal. Wow. What a fun game to watch, with both all the goals, and the saves. Seriously this game could have ended up 6-5 to Arsenal, but for the great goalkeeping in the first half by Paul Robinson, and the equally poor finishing of Keane, Berbatov, and the 16 MILLION pound man, Darren Bent, in the second half. Instead the result was a 3-1 victory to Arsenal as Robinson came back to earth in the second half. The Spurs took the lead on a beautiful free kick from Gareth Bale, but a strong header from Adebayor, a cracker of a shot from early player of the year candidate Cesc Fabregas, and then a goal of the year candidate once again from Adebayor, gave Arsenal both the win, and sole possession atop the Premiership table. Keep it up Arsenal. Your by far the most entertaining team to watch, and this is coming from a Newcastle fan. As for Martin Jol, I'd get my things packed because me thinks you might be gone before the end of the week. Maybe you should have spent that 16 million on some more defenders. But don't worry, they will be a position waiting for you at Bolton in a few days.

Lastly a quick shout out to Deuce. Once again Clint Dempsey scored a goal, and is quickly becoming both a fan favorite at Craven Cottage and the best current American outfield player in the world (Sorry Landy-Cakes). Unfortunately, Fulham gave up a late equalizer and had to settle for a draw again. I just hope they find a way to win a few games so that this great talent isn't playing in the Football League Championship next season. Then again, if they are, maybe he will be sold to Newcastle and experiencing European football with them in the Champions League.

Don't laugh!! With a win against Derby on Monday, the Magpies will be sitting in the fourth spot and the last Champions League birth. As they say, Fourth is the new First!!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Weekend Matches: September 15-16

Happily, club football is back on the field and back on the air. No more of this international nonsense. For me the pick of the litter this weekend is Sienna v. Milan, but that is purely for personal reasons. (Believe it or not, I am wearing a Sienna shirt right now. In fact, I kind of wish I was relaxing in the beautiful piazza of Sienna right now, but I digress.) Bayern v. Schalke should also be a good game, as should the Sevilla game, particularly for the chance to see if Dani Alves is as good on TV as he is live. The best English option this weekend is probably Spurs v. Gunners, but even that doesn’t get me very excited. Manchester United gets Christiano Ronaldo this week, so their attacking potency should increase.

I will be back later with a book review. Enjoy the games this weekend.


7:00am Everton vs Manchester United Setanta Sports

8:30am Tottenham vs Arsenal FSC

9:30am, Bayern Munich vs Schalke 04 GolTv

10:30am West Ham vs Middlesborough FSC

12:00pm Chelsea vs Blackburn FSC

2:30pm Lazio vs Empoli FSC

4:30pm Sienna vs Milan FSC


9:00am Juventus vs Udinese FSC

11:00am Murcia vs Atl. Madrid GolTv

1:00pm Sevilla vs Recreativo GolTv

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Brazil v. Mexico Roundup

Last night my wife and I, along with some good friends, attended the Brazil-Mexico friendly held in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It was our first time attending a Brazil match, and it was quite an experience.

We live only a few minutes from the stadium, but left our house nearly two hours before the start to make sure we arrived in time, and it was a good thing we did. 495, one of the major interstate highways that leads to the stadium, was jam-packed with cars full of revelers, with many hanging out of their windows waving giant flags. The Brazil fans outnumbered Mexico’s (probably by a ratio of 8-1) but the Mexican supporters were very noticeable in their large sombreros.

After negotiating 495 and the equally treacherous Route 1 (the notorious two-lane blacktop that directly feeds Gillette Stadium) we arrived at the parking lot, and forked over $40.00 for parking. Because the Kraft family (owners of the stadium and the MLS team the New England Revolution) haven’t ripped us off enough this year.

Eventually we made our way into the stadium. It was a beautiful sea of yellow. The crowd was already going crazy ten minutes before kick-off, and just got louder as the teams came out. We were lucky, too. We had great seats behind the goal and both national teams brought their stars: Mexico had Rafa Marquez in defense and Brazil brought Robinho, Dani Alves, and Elano. Oh, yeah. Also Kaka and Ronaldinho.

The first half was great. Brazil played in constant attack and we sat right behind the Mexican goal and watched one shot after another. Ronaldinho was particularly fine the whole night; his incisive passes set up countless attacks, and he really looked like one of the best players in the world (often times he does not when he plays for Barca.) Clearly everyone on both sides came to play. Kaka was quoted after the game as saying everyone played so hard at least partially because of the fanatical Brazilian support from the stands.

Although Brazil was clearly the better team in the first half, Mexico struck first on a lightening-quick counter-attack finished by Juan Carlos Cacho in the 42 minute. Brazil got it back moments later on a corner finished by Klebler, and Brazil never looked back. In the second both teams opened it up and really starting attacking. Brazil got a second on a sweet goal by Kaka and a third on a killer strike by Alfonso Alves. The big stars stayed on the field until nearly the end, and thus I left feeling I got my money’s worth. Everyone played, everyone played hard, and I saw some fantastic football played by genuine world stars.

Other assorted thoughts from the game…

  • It isn’t hard to figure out why Dani Alves is one of the best players in the world if you watch him closely. The right back was constantly moving up to threaten in attack, and would then zip back to break things up on defense. Truly a two-way player, and a clear threat on offense. Chelsea, he might very well have been worth it…
  • I wish both teams would have put names on their shirts as well as the numbers. I thought Elano scored the first goal, and I didn’t even realize that 18-year-old Barca starlet Giovani Dos Santos had taken the field as a sub for Mexico. I would have watched this up-and-comer much more closely had I known.

  • The ‘Keystone Kops’ level of security at Gillette was laughable. Our section (right behind the goal) was flooded with people from the cheap seats who wanted to be closer to the action. Many were sitting in seats they didn’t buy and the aisles were completely blocked. Twice security tried to clear things out and openly gave up the second time, clearly intimidated by the Brazilian and Mexican supporters. If something bad had happened, it could have been a bloodbath. Luckily, everyone we encountered, from both sides, was good natured, so everything was fine.
  • But, as my wife has pointed out, the security goons at Gillette don’t mind busting chops and cracking heads when it’s the 13-year-old girls who attend the Revolution games. Then security keeps the aisles clear.Let’s not be frightened just because some guy is wearing a sombrero, okay fellas?

  • Finally, the Boston Globe is reporting that the game was considered such a success that Brazil will almost definitely come back again. I say great: this was a fun experience for any football lover, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Porno Fiorentina?

In my excitement about the upcoming Brazil-Mexico match being played down the street from my house, I almost let an important footballing story slip through the, um, cracks.

Readers know that Fiorentina is one of my favorite clubs in the world. (Fiorentina is the club of the beautiful city of Florence in Italy.) They are off to a particularly bright start this year and have an exciting team of young stars. Now comes news that they will be broadcasting at least one of their games (an Italian Cup match) on a hard-core Italian porn channel.

Now, between the violence and the deaths and the corruption that is infecting the Italian game, one knew that the sport would have to go in dramatic new directions to revive interest. I thought this would mean taking steps to reduce the corruption in the league, hiring honest refs, etc. But no. Instead they are just going to show footie on a porn channel. That should work.

For more on this bizarre story, see here:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Brazil-USA Clash

Below find a link to a story about the upcoming Mexico-Brazil game that is being played in Foxboro, Massachusetts tomorrow night. It is gratifying to know how many tickets have been sold. This, more than David Beckham, indicates that there certainly are football lovers in the US. Sometimes they are just a little hard to find...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Internationals and Qualifiers

Below please find notes from my friend Matt on this past weekend’s internationals. As usual, I agree with almost everything he says, and the things I don’t agree with (his summary of the USA/Brazil game) stems from the fact that I haven’t seen the match yet. I’ll catch it on my DVR in a day or two.

Other than the flood of internationals, the only other big football news from this weekend was that everyone’s favorite chubby center-forward, Ronaldo, will be hurt for at least another month. Apparently he has a bum knee. Whether the bad knee resulted from having to lug around an extra 25 pounds of Ronaldo is largely beside the point; sadly, we won’t see the big fella in the black and red for some time yet.

Finally, note that my friend says he can’t wait to see Brazil live. That’s because, as I said, we have tickets to the Brazil-Mexico match in Foxboro, Massachusetts, on Wednesday night. We are both looking forward to it, and I will report back here to the fanatic after the game.


Just a quick note on this weekend’s internationals. Not that I could watch them, but apparently England looked impressive for once. At least for the first time under McClaren. I guess his job is safe until Wednesday. I’m glad to see that Owen scored. Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come for Newcastle.

The Italy v. France game was a bore, but good for Scotland, who are in second place in the group. They have a big game with France on weekend, and if they can pull out a win or even a draw, they will be sitting pretty. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland wasted a chance to put some distance between themselves and Spain after they lost to Latvia, and Spain failed to beat Iceland. Speaking of Spain, they are even a bigger disappointment than England. I think it could easily be argued that they have better players than the England squad, yet they always have a hard time qualifying for tournaments, and when they do qualify, if they get out of the group stage, they promptly get dispatched in the quarterfinals. I know they used the same old excuse about players from different regions of the country not getting along, but that is bullshit. If Iraq can win the Asian Cup with a team of Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis, then there isn’t any reason why a team of Basques, Catalans, and Catalonians can’t do better as well.

Then there was the USA/Brazil game, which can be looked at from two points of view if you support the USA. The pros include the fact that Dempsey had another great game, the Americans hung tough, they played tough by challenging the Brazilians, especially in midfield, the first goal against them was a joke, and they weren’t getting any of the calls (they should have had at least one penalty call go their way). On the con side, they still lost by 2 goals to a Brazil team that was on top gear, they were playing at home, and Bocanegra’s goal was a joke. It just happened to hit him and go in. All in all, I guess the US could be somewhat pleased with the result, but they are a long way from being in the elite of soccer nations. In any event, watching the game wet my appetite for Wednesday’s game. I can’t wait to see Brazil live!!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fantasy Football

This weekend, in America, the 2007 NFL seasons begins. For anyone outside the U.S. who doesn’t know, the NFL is the National Football League, and the sport they play is football on the gridiron, much different from the sport we celebrate here on this website.

That means this weekend also marks the start of the 2007 Fantasy Football season, and it is quite possible that each event equals the other in importance.

Fantasy Football is remarkably popular hear in the States, and I most certainly don’t have to explain it to any American readers. In a nutshell, a group of friends or co-workers get together and draft real players from the NFL, and their play in real life mirrors how well you do in your fantasy league. The system works wonderfully well because anyone can play, it’s fairly easy, and it generates massive interest in the NFL. For instance, I watched with great interest a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints last evening, even though I did not care at all who won the game. I “had” players in the game on my fantasy team. I am the commissioner of a Fantasy Football league and also participate in a fairly serious fantasy baseball league. This keeps my interest high in both sports, even though at heart I am a fanatic only for real football.

In the United States, at least, this fantasy craze has not caught on to the sport of Soccer. In England it obviously has more traction, but it has still not reached the massive level of popularity here in the states.

Fantasy Soccer (I use the term to differentiate it from American football) has two broad types. One can either participate in a league where all the players in, say, the premiership are available for all fantasy players. You just have to fit them under your salary cap. Thus all of the teams in the fantasy league can employ, say, Christiano Ronaldo if the owners so wish. The other format is an auction league (the format that I suspect will be more successful in the long run.) In this format participants use monetary value to draft players; thus the fantasy owner who wants Christiano Ronaldo the most will bid the highest for him. This format is probably the more challenging and rewards the fantasy participant who knows the most about the game.

Still, as I said, Fantasy sports have not caught on in Europe like they have in America. This is probably because, unlike the American sports of baseball and football, soccer is not driven by statistics. It is difficult to measure the worth of a player in soccer by statistics. For instance, anyone who watches Chelsea knows what a great player Michael Essien is; the fact that he can play anywhere on the pitch only adds to his value. But he doesn’t score as many goals as, say, Andy Johnson, a so-so striker for Everton. Someone who knows his football would never swap Essien for Johnson, but in fantasy value Johnson is close to being more valuable, since he scores more goals. That is because, of course, in soccer goals, along with assists, are virtually the only useful measurable statistics. Everything else is just noise. To know a great player we must watch the game with our eyes, and not read about it on a stat sheet.

Does this mean Fantasy soccer will never take off the way fantasy football and baseball has? Perhaps. It is a shame, on one hand, for clearly fantasy sports brings new and enthusiastic converts to the table all the time. On the other hand, however, I like the game just as it is, with the game being played on the field and not on the stat sheet. And it is my fantasy that it stays that way.

Weekend Matches: September 8-9

I guess I am supposed to be excited about this weekend’s upcoming international matches, but I just can’t get all that worked up. I am moderately interested in the Italy-France game, which is a rematch of last year’s World Cup final and also the best game of the weekend. The most hyped game in the English-speaking world, however, is surely England v. Israel, as the pinheads at the FA still cling desperately to the hope that they can qualify for Euro ’08. England will be playing with approximately 28 of their 29 best players out injured, and Paul Robinson will be in goal. So it should be interesting.


11:00am Russia vs Macedonia FSC

12:00pm England vs Israel Setanta

12:00pm Iceland vs Spain FSC

2:30pm Italy vs France GolTv


4:00pm USA vs Brazil ESPN2

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Premiership Report: September 1

My very good friend Matt is another football fan-atic. He was the person who was most influential in encouraging me to follow football more closely, and he himself is a massive fan of English football in general and Newcastle United in particular. He is a very close and careful observer of the English game, and he always has interesting things to say about the premiership matches of the week.

Because of this, we have decided to try a little experiment here at the Fan-Atic. We are going to publish Matt's thoughts and summaries from the premiership action he watched the previous weekend, both because I think there is some smart analysis there and also because I think it is useful to get the perspective of football fans who are watching from the U.S.. That is, after all, what this website is all about.

So here is Matt's first report on Premiership action, which covers the Premiership matches he watched on Saturday, September 1. If this works out, and we both wish to keep doing it, we will presumably post these reports much sooner after the actual matches. This first one took a little while, as we were trying to co-ordinate.

I do hope you enjoy these summaries as much as I do. Let me know your thoughts...


Here is my review of today's games (either seen in entirety or fast forwarded throughout with DVR; shameless plug for DVR).

The day started with what would be the game that actually turned out to be the best one of the day to watch: Fulham v. Tottenham. Tottenham got out to an early 2 goal lead, and Tottenham's defense was so shambolic that I was saying to myself that Fulham will be getting relegated this year. But then came the cavalry led by Clint Dempsey, who scored a fabulous header before halftime to give Fulham a glimmer of hope and make me happy as well as he is on my fantasy team. Things worsened for Fulham at the beginning of the 2nd half, but brightened even more for me, when another one of my players, Gareth Bale, scored, giving a 2 goal advantage once again to the Spurs. However, Fulham kept fighting, and through two more assists from Dempsey (although Yahoo only credits him with one), they salvaged a draw. I wonder if Martin Jol still has the vote of confidence after dropping 2 more points?

The next game I watched was the absolute destruction of Derby by Liverpool at Anfield, as the Scousers won 6-0 behind a 2 goal performance by Torres (yet another player of mine) as my day brightened further. Then came the Newcastle/Wigan game, which had lots of emotion for me. Newcastle absolutely dominated the game, but I was having fits when after 80 minutes the score was still nil nil. In fact at that time it should have been 6-0 to Newcastle, but for 2 incorrectly offside calls, which cancelled an Owen goal and a Steven Taylor goal, two hand balls by Titus Shambles which weren't called, including one in the penalty area that should have rewarded Newcastle a penalty kick, and about a gazillion break-aways and one-on-ones with the goalie in which Newcastle couldn't put the ball in the old onion bag (most of the time Owen blowing them). I was screaming his name until he headed in a beautiful cross from Martins to secure a 1-0 win. Naturally I am happy with the win and the fact that Owen finally scored, but I was upset that he blew so many chances, that Newcastle could have won this game comfortably instead of waiting until the end to secure a victory, and most of all about how terrible the referee’s decisions were once again. Two perfectly good goals had been called off, and the ref was the only person in the stadium that didn't see the hand ball by Bramble. If they had lost because of this I would be fuming, but I can't remember the officiating being this bad last year. Yes there were bad calls last year, but it seems this season has already surpassed all of the one from last season. Newcastle even gained an advantage of a referee blunder when a Wigan player was red carded after receiving his second yellow just as the second half began, which he shouldn't have gotten. They say that these bad decisions work themselves out over the course of the season, but I have my doubts. Still I can't be too upset with a Newcastle win and with them remaining undefeated.

I quickly fast forwarded through the West Ham/ Reading game in which the Hammers won 3-0 so I could get to the game of the day if not the weekend: Man U v. Sunderland. Nothing could have been farther from the truth as this game was an absolute snooze-fest. I thought that I was watching Chelsea play Chelsea except that the players were taken from the Galaxy (without Beckham) and Toronto FC. Even though they eventually won, I do believe that Man U are not going to win the title. With the exception of Saha coming on, they never looked like scoring and with Liverpool running on all gears and Chelsea doing their thing, I think Man U fans are in for a long and trohpyless season.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

International Week......sigh

This season's first international week has ground the leagues around Europe to a halt; after a fun weekend, this gives us a chance to look around and see what is happening in the football world.

* The always candid LA Galaxy GM made a long appearance on FSC's "Fox Football Fone-In" last night. I've got to give him credit; as sleazy as he sometimes appears, he is willing to go on a public forum and take his medicine. Among other gems, he admitted that David Beckham didn't play in New England because of the turf (essentially saying 'Fuck You, suckers' to all the families who paid $50.00 a seat to multiple games to see Becks) and that ESPN put pressure on the Galaxy to make Beckham appear in that meaningless exhibition vs. Chelsea in July. Good job, guys. If anyone gave a crap about the MLS, this would be big news. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this whole Beckham thing could end up hurting American soccer more than it helps it.

* In England, two games within the next week will tell us if Smilin' Steve McClaren will be fired or not. He doesn't have David Beckham, probably doesn't have Fat Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard has a bum toe. Still, I'm pulling for England. The Euro's won't be the same without them losing on penalties in the second round.

* The perpetual circus at Chelsea continues unabated. This week they left midfielder Michael Ballack of the eligible-list for the first half of Champions League play, insisting that he still isn't fit. However, reportedly Ballack told his German national coach that he is ready to go. Nice. They're paying $250,000 per week to a player they don't like. Hey, I'll play midfield for a third of that...

* One thing I am looking forward to: next Wednesday's Brazil-Mexico clash at Foxboro Stadium. Maybe I like international week after all....

More coming soon!

Monday, September 3, 2007

La Liga Roundup

Apologies to the readers this weekend. In the US we celebrate Labor Day today, so I spent the weekend avoiding, well, labor, while relaxing up in the mountains. I will have a more thoughtful post tomorrow, but in the meantime I can link you to Phil Ball's always excellent round-up of action in Spain.

This coming week will be a little slow with the international break, but we will have plenty to talk about, including fun in England, Italy, and elsewhere, as well as a rather quiet close so the transfer season. More soon.