Friday, July 29, 2011

TV Preview: 29 July - 4 August 2011

Friday 29 July

16.45 Czech Republic v Serbia, UEFA U19 European Championships Semi Final, British Eurosport/HD
Everyone still keeping up with all these summer tournaments? This one in Romania is nearly over and a place in the Final is at stake. The Czechs topped Ireland's first round group with three wins out of three while Serbia trailed well behind Spain in the other.
18.45 Spain v Republic of Ireland, UEFA U19 European Championships Semi Final, British Eurosport/HD
A rare shot at glory for the Irish, regardless of the competition. After a win over Greece and a goalless draw against the tournament hosts, they now face four-time winners Spain. The Irish have the spirit, but do they have the skill? Stay tuned to find out...
20.45 England U20 v North Korea U20, FIFA U20 World Cup, British Eurosport/HD
Ooh look, another tournament. Hoping to do better than their best ever 3rd Place finish in Australia in 1993, coach Brian Eastick will initially be setting his Young Lions the task of ending a troubling run of 10 World Cup U20 matches without a win. The tournament continues in Colombia right through until August 20th and we'll try to pick out the key fixtures for you as things progress.

Saturday 30 July

12.00 St Johnstone v Rangers, SPL, ESPN/HD
The Saints struggled somewhat against Aberdeen last weekend but managed to hold out for a goalless draw. They'll be lucky to do the same against the reigning SPL champions who are also looking for their first win of the season.
22.25 Flamengo v Gremio, Brazilian National Championship, Premier Sports
A Ronaldinho hat-trick helped the Rubro-Negro come back from 3-0 down against Santos to win 5-4 this week. Against a Gremio team that have won only one of their last eight matches, Ronaldinho should score, ooh, about ten, we reckon.

Monday 1 August

18.00 Czech Rep/Serbia v Rep.Ireland/Spain, UEFA U19 European Championships Final, British Eurosport/HD
If the form book has any bearing on the occasion, we should be seeing a Czech Republic v Spain final, and if that's the case, we should also be seeing another piece of silverware heading back to the land of paella, bullfighting and inebriated English holiday-makers.

Wednesday 3 August

18.00 Malmo v Rangers, UEFA Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round 2nd Leg, Premier Sports
Rangers have to score at least two and shut out their hosts if they’re to go through to the next round - failing that, a single goal and a shut out will force the game into extra time. Ally McCoist must by now be wondering if he's still got Sue Barker's number on his mobile, let alone Walter Smith's.

Thursday 4 August

18.00 Hajduk Split v Stoke City, UEFA Europa League Qualifying Round 3 2nd Leg, Premier Sports
Before the first leg of this match, Stoke's last Euro outing was against Ajax in the 1974-75 UEFA Cup. Sadly they were defeated on the away goals rule in the First Round back then, but last season's FA Cup Final appearance means they now have an excellent chance to give a better account of themselves sur le continent.
23.00 Mexico U20 v England U20, FIFA U20 World Cup, British Eurosport/HD
England's third fixture in the group, three days after an untelevised second fixture against Argentina. By now, we'll know if England are still able to qualify for the next round, so it could all come down to who did best between themselves, Argentina and Mexico against the North Koreans.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #199

Start as you mean to go on
The 13 Biggest Victories From The Opening Round Of Fixtures Per Season In Premier League History

1. Chelsea 6 - 0 West Bromwich Albion (2010-11)
2. Crystal Palace 1 - 6 Liverpool (1994-95)
3. Everton 1 - 6 Arsenal (2009-10)
4. Leicester City 0 - 5 Bolton Wanderers (2001-02)
5. Blackburn Rovers 5 - 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (2003-04)
6. Manchester United 5 - 1 Fulham (2006-07)
7. Chelsea 4 - 0 Sunderland (1999-2000)
8. Charlton Athletic 4 - 0 Manchester City (2000-01)
9. Middlesbrough 0 - 4 Arsenal (2001-02)
10. Newcastle United 4 - 0 West Ham United (2002-03)
11. Manchester United 4 - 0 Bolton Wanderers (2003-04)
12. Chelsea 4 - 0 Portsmouth (2008-09)
13. Wigan Athletic 0 - 4 Blackpool (2010-11)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Split defence: The fall and rise of RNK

To know the history of any Croatian club is, to a certain extent, to know the history of Croatia. Accordingly, RNK Split has undergone many transformations and has embodied many ideals and identities during its 99-year existence to get to where it is today – an ambitious, confident team making great strides in its progress.

It was on 16 April 1912 that the team came into being. Wanting to bring about a change in the fortunes of the hard-working but poor local people, the club was originally called Anarch (‘Anarchy’) to bring greater publicity to the plight of those living in such dire circumstances. To reflect the anarchistic principles of the club, the team wore a black strip in its early days.

RNK quickly took on the mantle of ‘The Workers Club’ with many local supporters earning a living in the nearby Split dockyards but the club, like so many other things, was thrown into turmoil when World War I broke out. When Croatia emerged from the conflict in 1918, it had become a component part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Anarch were forced to regroup under a new name – JNSK Jug – but constant political interference and upheaval meant the club endured a long and turbulent time in its history.

It wasn’t until 1933 that the team finally became known as RNK Split, whereupon they opted to wear the red of Communism instead of black. In the years leading up to World War II, RNK consolidated its position as the best team in the Dalmatia region but the outbreak of hostilities saw the team pay a heavy price for the battles that ensued. RSD Split, the sports society that incorporated RNK, was dissolved and many of its members entered the conflict to fight among Tito’s band of Partisans. Over 120 people associated with RSD Split were captured in the fighting and were taken to a nearby town where they were shot. A monument still stands in Ruduša as a permanent memorial to those that lost their lives.

After the war ended, Yugoslavia and RNK Split went about the business of rebuilding but The Reds would have to wait until the late 1950’s before they took their place among the top teams in the first national league. Sadly it proved difficult for RNK to stay there and the struggle they endured, often in the shadow of local rivals Hajduk Split, would see them slip far down the league pecking order during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In the early 1980’s, RNK showed re-emerging signs of a fighting spirit, earning them the nickname ‘Little Nottingham’ – an association that no doubt flattered Brian Clough’s side more than the other way around. It was to be another short-lived period of hope, however, as the team once again slipped down the rankings. When the former Yugoslavia was dismantled and Croatia reappeared as an independent state in 1992, RNK Split was floundering in the regional depths of the country’s second tier.

For all that, RNK were still fighting the good fight and had moved up to the national second division by the end of the 90’s but then disaster struck. A large build-up of debt at the club resulted in RNK being declared bankrupt. Its punishment was demotion and a steady freefall to the fourth tier from which there seemed no immediate return.

Yet in 2007-08, following several seasons in the lower orders, a veritable miracle was set in train. RNK Split won the 4. HNL South-A title, then the following year won the 3. HNL South. The year after that, they won the 2. HNL championship and in 2010-11, they made a triumphant return to the Croatian First Football League (1. HNL), incredibly finishing third in the table. Their amazing rise and rise to Croatia's top table was rightly rewarded with a place in this season’s Europa League qualifiers and after such a history of adversity and struggle, few can deny them their chance to achieve further glory.

Team Spotlight
Scoring top marks for retro nostalgia is RNK's manager Ivan Katalinić. For a three year spell in the early 1980's, he played in goal for Southampton (that's him in green on the right) and notched up 54 appearances before they went and bought Peter Shilton in 1983.

Prior to his spell at The Dell, Katalinić spent almost the whole of the 1970's between the posts for RNK's great rivals Hajduk Split. It was while there that he also got the chance to represent Yugoslavia 13 times between 1977 and 1978. After that, a lengthy coaching career beckoned that included three spells at Hajduk (where he won the Croatian 'double' in 1995) plus a year at Ittihad of Saudi Arabia and Hapoel Haifa in Israel.

Undoubtedly his proudest achievement was acting as assistant coach with the Croatia national team that finished third at the 1998 World Cup, and a little of that glory would do very nicely as he attempts to guide HNK Split past Fulham in the present Europa League campaign.

Current form
The 2011-12 1.HNL is only a week old but it's already a week too long for Split. Playing away at Cibalia last Sunday, they fell behind to an early goal by Mladen Bartolović but RNK defender Filip Marčić thought he'd got the equaliser two minutes from the end. Unfortunately for Split, Frane Vitaić scored the winner for the home side four minutes into injury time to earn Cibalia all three points.

Road to Bucharest
The 2nd Qualifying Round of the Europa League this season provided RNK Split with their first ever European tie, a trip to another part of the former Yugoslavia to play NK Domžale of Slovenia. The first leg finished 2-1 to Split but the Croatians had to work hard for their advantage. Duje Cop gave them the lead just before half time but Damir Pekic equalised just after the interval. With both teams looking tired in the second half, the game deteriorated in quality until Ante Vitaić hit the winner from 10 yards out, leaving Split to hang on to their victory for the remaining 14 minutes.

With an away goals advantage, Split returned to home soil last Thursday intent on defending their lead but were put under pressure when Domžale's Lucas Mario Horvat levelled the aggregate score from the edge of the box in the 46th minute. Fortunately for Split, the pressure didn't last long as Duje Cop was on hand once again to complete a beautifully direct passing counter-attack to make it 1-1 on the night.

Velimir Vidić, sent off in the league match against Cibalia on Sunday, made it 2-1 with a crisp strike from a corner in the 72nd minute and the cherry was placed firmly on the cake when another corner resulted in Split's third courtesy of a simple shot from Goran Milović. The tie finished 5-2 on aggregate and with it, Split head into a 3rd Qualifying Round tie against Fulham knowing that the standard of opposition will be altogether tougher than that offered by Domžale.

The Football Fairground is proud to be part of the Europa Legion, a network of Europa League bloggers. Follow the Europa Legion on Twitter.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Football Americana Week 19: Nyassi and Braun hit the headlines

LA's unbeaten run in MLS now numbers 13 games after a thrilling week of action in the North American first division.

DC United were beaten by New England for the second time this season, being edged out by Steve Nicol's men 1-0 thanks to a goal inside the last 20 minutes. Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis came out of a first half duel with Dwayne De Rosario smelling of roses, and his side took full advantage when Stephen McCarthy found the winner with a header to the unmanned far post from a corner. By that point New England had also to survive a scare late in the first half, when Charlie Davies' penalty was skied after a Pat Phelan handball.

It was the same scoreline as FC Dallas defeated Toronto FC and BMO Field. The winning goal arrived just after the break and it was worth waiting for. The talented Brek Shea picked up the ball in his own half, drifted past TFC new boy Torsten Frings like he wasn't there and then ripped a shot from 30 yards that clipped the post on the way into the net.

A poor week for TFC was completed by a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. Three goals in eight first half minutes did the damage for Sporting. The first two were scored by Kei Kamara, who bagged his first with a lovely acrobatic volley and then powerfully heading home his second. Omar Bravo quickly made it three, springing the offside trap, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting in a tody finish. Danny Koevermans pulled one back after the break with his first MLS goal, but Bravo restored the three-goal cushion with a simple finish from Chance Myers' cross. Ryan Johnson scored his first Toronto goal to make it 4-2 but there was no comeback from Aron Winter's side.

Colorado Rapids sent New York Red Bulls packing in midweek, thumping them 4-1. Sanna Nyassi (pictured) scored past Frank Rost after 80 seconds to begin a hat-trick performance. Wells Thompson made it 2-0 mid-way through the first half by stroking in the rebound after a superb Nyassi strike hit the base of the post, and the Gambian got his own second with a fantastic individual goal on 30 minutes. Nyassi's third was yet another that saw him skip past defenders at pace and the Red Bulls could do nothing about it. Thierry Henry's composed 67th minute was a mere consolation but was his tenth of the season, taking him to the top of the scoring charts.

New York and Dallas both returned to action on Saturday, and the result was 2-2 in the scorching heat of New Jersey. Juan Agudelo gave the Red Bulls the lead, turning Dane Richards' cross over Kevin Hartman with a huge amount of good fortune. After the break Marvin Chavez turned the scoreline upside down to make it 2-1 Dallas with a deflected shot of his own and a clever snapshot from 15 yards. Richards then walked for RBNY, picking up his second yellow card with ten minutes to go, but Henry had the last say with a brilliant equaliser to save a late point for Hans Backe's men.

The Rapids and the Revolution met in their respective second games of the week, and late drama saved a point for the Revs. They started well, and opened the scoring thanks to Benny Feilhaber's diving header from Kevin Alston's long throw, but the lead disappeared mid-way through the second half. Nyassi was again in the thick of it, this time being brought down by Chris Tierney who saw red for his troubles. Caleb Folan stepped up to take the spot kick and rolled it calmly past Reis for 1-1. With eight minutes left the Rapids took the lead in remarkable fashion - Kosuke Kimura's long ball from 70-odd yards bounced inside the area and found its way over Reis and into the net. Couldn't happen to a nicer goalkeeper. The Revs went on to win their own penalty with a minute left, and Shalrie Joseph smashed it past Matt Pickens.

LA Galaxy hosted Columbus Crew in midweek and picked up three points thanks to a 1-0 win. Sean Franklin scored the only goal of the game with 20 minutes left, firing in a deflected effort from distance after David Beckham's free kick had ricocheted to him off the Crew wall.

The Crew got a 1-0 win of their own over the weekend, defeating Portland Timbers at Crew Stadium. They won it with an own goal and Futty Danso was the unfortunate man after a relaxing spot of penalty area pinball.

Chris Wondolowski and Eric Hassli exchanged two goals each as San Jose Earthquakes had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home against Vancouver Whitecaps. Wondo's first was a neat striker's finish past Joe Cannon on three matches, blasting it home after watching the line closely to remain onside. The Frenchman scored his first equaliser with a few minutes left at the end of the first half, crashing a low half-volley past Jon Busch in the Quakes goal. Nine minutes into the second period Wondolowski restored the lead with an elegant header from a set play, but Hassli had another trick up his sleeve seven minutes later. Shea Salinas did well to keep his balance in the area before putting it on a plate for Hassli, who lifted it effortlessly past Busch.

Real Salt Lake battered San Jose Earthquakes, returning to form with a 4-0 win over an under-strength Quakes side. All four goals came after half time, indicating the different levels of tiredness between a team that had had a break and a team playing its third match in eight days. Alvaro Saborio broke the deadlock from the penalty spot (an award that saw Bobby Burling given a straight red card after an initial case of mistaken identity, a harsh decision either way) before notching his second, a knock-in from a fortunate rebound off Jon Busch. Number three was clipped into the top corner by Kyle Beckerman, and the fourth was scored late on by Jamison Olave, a simple header from six yards.

The week's second hat-trick hero was Justin Braun (pictured), who scored all three for Chivas USA as they defeated Houston Dynamo. He ran across his defender to prod in his first before doubling his tally for the night with a lovely lob over Tally Hall. Houston's night effectively ended with the dismissal of Je-Vaughn Watson, who was given a second yellow for a horrible late tackle on Nick LaBrocca after being booked in the first half for a foul on the same player. All that remained was for Braun to complete his trio, sliding in to secure the matchball from close range.

LA still lead the way in the West, with Dallas three points behind and Seattle keeping pace in third. At the bottom, a point for the Whitecaps finally dragged them onto a paltry 15 points. In the East, Columbus leap New York into second behind Philly, while Toronto and Chicago are level on 18 points at the bottom.

You can see those tables here and the Week 19 action here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fulham 4 Crusaders 0 - Damien's Strike is a bad Omen for Split

These southern contingent of the Europa Legion works outings to Fulham to watch the early rounds of the Europa League are becoming something of tradition after our second trip to Craven Cottage last Thursday. I've not been to every football stadium in the world but would suggest that the walk from the Temperance bar to the football ground is probably the most pleasant.

If you have the dubious pleasure of my company, on such a journey, then be sure to keep walking when we pass All Saints Church, lest I bore you with film trivia about Father Brennan, played by former Doctor Who Patrick Troughton, getting impaled outside that very church in the 1976 film, The Omen.

Anyhoo, after having such a great time in the First Qualifying Round against NSI Runavik from the Faroes, we were only too happy to wander along for the Second Qualifying Round, this time against, Northern Irish opposition, Crusaders. This was the second leg and the Belfast club were already 3-1 behind so we weren't expecting a fiercely contested encounter. Possibly anxious to avoid a hiding, the visitors adopted a very defensive posture which, unfortunately for them, did not pay off. Andrew Johnson’s strike was his second of the competition, a crisp finish that put the tie beyond doubt.

For the rest of the first half it looked like the game would turn into a training exercise with the Premier League players practising possession. However, while the second half lacked intensity, the home crowd were treated to two cracking goals by Damien Duff and Bobby Zamora. Duff's goal was from a sharp angle that beat Crusaders ‘keeper Sean O’Neill at the far post. But we were particularly pleased with the Zamora strike, sat as we were right in front of the ball as it curled around O’Neill. Whatever else you may think of the Europa League, we have seen some quality goals from top class footballers for less than the price of a ticket to a Ryman League game.

Star of the show was Steve Sidwell who hit the post once and missed a plethora of easy chances. His ability to disappear from the game, only to reappear at crucial moments to ruin everything was acknowledged by the Aston Villa supporting contingent of our party who were more than happy to pour scorn on on the former Villa player. Needless to say, Sidwell finally stuck it to his critics by heading Fulham’s fourth goal in the 70th minute, in off the bar.

The crowd left the stadium happy and the several hundred Crusaders fans were generous to their players at the final whistle. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that this was one of the biggest games in their history.

For Fulham, it is onwards to the Third Qualifying Round, this Thursday with a trip to Croatia and RNK Split. On current form your money should be on the Premier League side progressing to the play-offs. By coincidence their compatriots, Stoke City, enter the competition at this stage and will also travel to Split to play Hajduk.

The Football Fairground is proud to be part of the Europa Legion, a network of Europa League bloggers. Follow the Europa Legion on Twitter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

TV Preview: 22 - 28 July 2011

Saturday 23 July

12.30 Rangers v Hearts, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Yes, the SPL kicks off, sort of, in July. Over on my own site, Ryan Keaney explains exactly how Scotland's stop-start season opening came to be, and why it's been introduced. Suffice to say it's a desperate measure for desperate times. 2010/11 champions Rangers get their season underway at home against a Hearts side that's been plenty distracted in its prep for the season.
19.00 Peru v Venezuela, Copa America 3rd/4th Playoff, ESPN/ESPN HD
After scrapping with Paraguay after losing out on penalties in the semis, the Vinotinto are aiming to turn their greatest ever Copa America into a podium finish. Standing in the way are Peru, who lost out to Uruguay.

Sunday 24 July

12.30 Celtic v Hibernian, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Neil Lennon and last term's runners-up Celtic return to our screens on Sunday with a clash in Glasgow against Hibernian. Hibs have, at the time of writing, managed to hold on to Colin Calderwood despite apparent overtures from Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest, and will want to improve on a disappointing campaign.
19.00 Uruguay v Paraguay, Copa America Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
The final of this year's Copa America will be the Guay Derby, with Uru clear favourites over Para, who've drawn their way to the last hurdle. I think Uruguay are too good for their opponents here and tipped them before the competition began, so get yer monies on the Albirroja before it's too late.

Monday 25 July

19.45 Dunfermline v St Mirren, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
This glamorous evening game in Fife pits First Division champions Dunfermline against The Buddies, who avoided SPL relegation thanks in part to a terrible season for Hamilton Academicals.

Wednesday 27 July

01.00 (Thursday) MLS All-Stars v Manchester United, MLS All-Star Game 2011, MUTV
Okay, so it's MUTV and that most certainly doesn't warrant a listing, but you know we love a bit of MLS action here. The game takes place in New York Red Bulls' Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, under the stewardship of the club's head coach, Hans Backe. The same fixture resulted in a 5-2 United win in Houston last season.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #198

When they were up, they were up...
10 Teams Who Were Champions One Season And Relegated The Next

1. Barry Town (Wales) - champions 2003, relegated 2004
2. FC Nurnberg (Germany) - champions 1968, relegated 1969
3. Haka Valkeakoski (Finland) - champions 1995, relegated 1996
4. Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Israel) - champions 1988, relegated 1989
5. Herfølge BK (Denmark) - champions 2000, relegated 2001
6. IFK Göteborg (Sweden) - champions 1969, relegated 1970
7. LDU (Ecuador) - champions 1999, relegated 2000
8. Manchester City (England) - champions 1937, relegated 1938
9. SK Brann (Norway) - champions 1963, relegated 1964
10. Universitario (Bolivia) - champions 1969, relegated 1970

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Football Americana Week 18: Philadelphia beat New England to go clear

With apologies for a week off (Football Americana was relocating yet again), here's your weekly helping of Major League Soccer recappery.

Like this column, Vancouver Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake had an unexpected weekend on the sidelines after their game was called off due to heavy rain, so it was Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids who kicked off the weekend's action with a barnstorming 4-3 Sounders victory. Wells Thompson put the Rapids ahead after just 60 seconds, taking advantage of a weak clearance to fire low past Kasey Keller. Alvaro Fernandez equalised in the seventh minute and did well to stay strong before beating Matt Pickens for 1-1. Despite the setback and the loss to injury of Conor Casey, it was Colorado who took a lead into half time thanks to Jeff Larentowicz's crisp shot in off the post.

After the break, the Sounders took complete control. Mauro Rosales' cross was teased home by Roger Levesque to equalise, and Fredy Montero's diving header on the line made it 3-2. Rosales slotted in the fourth a minute later but Colorado did give their hosts a scare thanks to Caleb Folan's poacher's goal.

No such excitement in Ohio, where Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes played out a 0-0 draw in which goalkeepers Jon Busch and Will Hesmer were completely in control throughout. The scoreline was identical between FC Dallas and DC United. Marvin Chavez should have won it for Dallas in the 67th minute and Jackson's late effort clipped the crossbar, but it was United who created the better of few chances in a less than stellar match. New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA also drew 0-0, their goalless draw in Carson doing little to raise the excitement levels this weekend.

Portland Timbers ended a long winless run and furthered Chicago Fire's even longer winless streak at home, winning the second meeting of these two this season from the penalty spot. Jorge Perlaza was fouled just inside the box in the middle of the first half and the referee blew his whistle without hesitation. Captain Jack Jewsbury took the spot kick and smacked it past Sean Johnson to score the only goal of the game. Chicago's Yamith Cuesta was sent off in the second half after picking up two yellow cards, the first for a tackle from behind and the second for a body-check on Jewsbury with the Timbers attacking.

Houston Dynamo almost held on to a 1-0 lead over Sporting Kansas City against the odds, but succumbed late on with just nine men on the field. Brad Davis scored their goal inside ten minutes, bending in a lovely free kick from 25 yards. Their first dismissal came a few minutes after the break, when Colin Clark was given a straight red for a disgraceful two-footed assault on Aurelien Collin, and Brian Ching earned the second with 20 minutes to go with a trip on Collin that was both petulant and vicious and gave no indication of an intention to win the ball. Inevitably, it was defender Collin who equalised for Sporting, firing a deflected shot low from outside the area with boos ringing around Robertson Stadium.

The week's action ended with Philadelphia Union's 3-0 away win over New England Revolution. Philly took the lead after 11 minutes, when Carlos Ruiz volleyed into the roof of the net from inside the six yard box. Carlos Valdes doubled the lead with a close range finish from another far post nod-down. Steve Nicol's awful day got worse when Benny Feilhaber (him what's in the picture) was sent off mid-way through the second half. Sheanon Williams put the icing on the cake, playing a neat one-two with Danny Mwanga to score his first MLS goal in stoppage time.

That win takes Philadelphia two points clear of New York in the East with two games in hand. Columbus also have those two games and are a point behind the Red Bulls in third. New England stay bottom.

In the West, LA are a point ahead of Seattle and four ahead of Dallas in third. Four losses on the spin for Vancouver leave them bottom of the Western Conference and of a hypothetical single table.

Those tables are here and you can see all the action at

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nouveaux Maillots 2011/12 (Part 3)

Saint-Etienne (away) 2011/12
Some of the greatest club sides in the world have worn green and white hoops - Celtic, Sporting Lisbon... er... well, those two, and now Saint-Etienne aim to join them with their new away shirt. Looking not unlike a giant packet of Pacers (ask a grown-up), L'ASSE have replaced their plain white away shirt with some horizontal stripes. A nice touch given their home shirt this season has incorporated the vertical equivalent.

Apart from the stripes, all that's left to note are some white sleeves and the new Adidas cross-over collar which is original if not to everyone's taste. Throw in a pair of fairly plain green shorts and some green and white stripy socks and you have a very nice away kit indeed. What is it with Adidas this season?  Did the designers get a pay rise or something?

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Toulouse (home/away/3rd) 2011/12
A triple-bill of TFC topicality now as Kappa bring us their full range for the team from the south-west. First, there's the traditional violet and white shirt which looks very smart in a no-nonsense way. It has a round neck, violet sleeves and a series of small kappa logos in white running the sleeves which looks not at all bad. The rest of the strip is almost completely violet and sets the whole thing off a treat.

Score: 8 out of 10

Away from home, Toulouse will wear white shirts with a single vertical stripe down the middle in violet and a colour which can only be described as 'battleship grey'. While grey is a largely overlooked colour in the football kit market, I can't help but feel it's out of place here. Violet and black would have worked better, but hey - I'm not a designer. (Probably should be one, though...) As with all three shirts, there's a round-neck collar and this time there's the oft seen large-style Kappa logo on the shoulders in violet. The rest of the kit is white and again, the overall effect is clean and crisp.

Score: 8 out of 10

As a third strip, Kappa have sought to extend the violet and battleship grey combination (Kappa are calling it 'middle grey', by the way - not that it lessens its unsuitability) with a half-and-half shirt design which, again, would look better if the grey was black. Instead, half the shirt looks like it's made out of cheap grey plastic and, by the look of this picture at least, not even the same shade of grey as the accompanying shorts. To me, this is a kit that aimed high but ultimately scored low. Better luck next time, Kappa.

Score: 6 out of 10

Paris Saint-Germain (home) 2011/12
Anyone that likes playing 'Spot the Difference' will love this one. Yes, it's very smart and dignified but Nike didn't exactly push the boat out when it came to making wholesale changes. All they've really done is widen the middle red band, change the shape and colour of the neckline and throw the badge and Nike logo into the middle. 'Merci beaucoup', I hear the manufacturers cry, as they take another £65 off another customer with more money than sense.

Sorry Nike. It's all well and good, but you can do better than that.

Score: 6 out of 10

(This article is also available via French Football Weekly.)

Midweek TV Preview: 19 - 20 July

Tuesday 19 July

16.45 Flora v Shamrock Rovers, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Round 2 2nd Leg (0-1), Premier Sports
The Dublin side take a slender lead to Estonia with the eventual winners going on to play the Danish champions FCK in the next round. Hopefully any travelling fans will be wandering around Tallinn asking attractive young ladies how to say "12 months" in Estonian. I certainly would be.

17.45 FSV Mainz v Borussia Dortmund, Liga Total Cup, ESPN/ESPN HD
The German League Cup sits in that murky place between pre-season friendly and actual competition - the fact it's hosted in one venue and the games are only 30 minutes each way doesn't really help you take it any more seriously. Mainz host the tournament after impressing greatly with their young side last season - they've had a lot of transfer activity this summer so even to fans the team playing today may look very unfamiliar. Dortmund have held on to most of their title winning side, with exception of Sahin now at Real Madrid. His replacement, Ivan Perisic - bought from Bruges for half the money they got from Real - looks like a smart investment.

01.45 (Wed) Peru v Uruguay, Copa America Semi Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
A replay of these sides' first match in this tournament. That ended 1-1 with Luis Suarez equalising in first half injury time. Uruguay have to be the favourites to go on to win the tournament after the elimination of Brazil and hosts Argentina on penalties in the previous round.

Wednesday 20 July

17.45 Liga Total Cup Third Place Playoff/Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
The climax of the German League Cup (or sorts). Two back-to-back hour long games featuring Mainz or Dortmund against Bayern or Hamburg.

19.45 Dundee United v Slask Wroclaw, UEFA Europa League Qualifying Round 2 2nd Leg (0-1), Premier Sports
These sides met in this competition's fore-runner in 1980 with the Tangerines winning 7-2 in the second leg. Slask were runners up in their League and this is their first European campaign for 24 years.

01.45 (Thur) Paraguay v Venezuela, Copa America Semi Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
A semi final for Venezuela is a fantastic achievement for a side that have historically been the whipping boys of South American football. Sadly they'll miss Hamburg's Tomas Rincon - red carded in the last minute of their quarter final win over Chile. Paraguay have yet to win a single match so far - drawing all their group stage games and beating Brazil on penalties after their goalless quarter final.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #197

'B' Lions
43 Footballers That Played for the England 'B' Team But Never The Full England Team

1. Dalian Atkinson (Aston Villa, 1990)
2. Brendan Batson (West Bromwich Albion, 1980)
3. Peter Beagrie (Everton, 1989)
4. Ian Bishop (West Ham United, 1991)
5. Kevin Bond (Manchester City, 1979)
6. David Burrows (Liverpool, 1991)
7. Steve Bruce (Norwich City, 1987)
8. Nigel Callaghan (Watford, 1984)
9. Steve Daley (Wolverhampton Wanderers, 1978)
10. Paul Davis (Arsenal, 1991)
11. Julian Dicks (West Ham United, 1992)
12. Shaun Elliott (Sunderland, 1980)
13. David Fairclough (Liverpool, 1978)
14. Justin Fashanu (Nottingham Forest, 1979)
15. Mike Flanagan (Charlton Athletic/Crystal Palace, 1978/1979)
16. Raul Fox (Norwich City, 1994)
17. Marco Gabbiadini (Sunderland, 1990)
18. Vince Hilaire (Crystal Palace, 1979)
19. Dean Holdsworth (Wimbledon, 1992)
20. Darren Huckerby (Coventry City, 1998)
21. Terry Hurlock (Millwall, 1989)
22. Craig Johnston (Liverpool, 1987)
23. Brian Laws (Nottingham Forest, 1991)
24. Andy Linighan (Arsenal, 1989)
25. John Lukic (Leeds United, 1990)
26. Dominic Matteo (Liverpool, 1998)
27. Steve McCall (Ipswich Town, 1984)
28. Richard Money (Liverpool, 1979)
29. Dennis Mortimer (Aston Villa, 1978)
30. Derek Mountfield (Everton, 1984)
31. Tony Mowbray (Middlesbrough, 1989)
32. David Needham (Nottingham Forest, 1978)
33. Mike Newell (Everton, 1989)
34. Gary Owen (Manchester City, 1978)
35. Kevin Peach (Southampton, 1979)
36. Paul Power (Manchester City, 1981)
37. Kevin Pressman (Sheffield Wednesday, 1994)
38. Nigel Quashie (Queens Park Rangers, 1998)
39. Glenn Roeder (Orient, 1978)
40. Steve Sims (Leicester City, 1978)
41. Alan Stubbs (Bolton Wanderers, 1994)
42. Mitchell Thomas (Tottenham Hotspur, 1987)
43. Rod Wallace (Southampton, 1990)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Weekend TV Preview 16 - 17 July 2011

Saturday 16 July

20:00 Colombia v Peru, Copa America Quarter Final, ESPN / HD
Group winners above Argentina with Falcao continuing his good form from last season at Porto, Colombia are back on the rise. So, it seems, are Peru who have been the continent's whipping boys in recent years. You could argue that the Peruvians benefited from a poor Mexico team but that seems uncharitable. Colombia should be heavy favourites though.
23:15 Argentina v Uruguay, Copa America Quarter Final, ESPN / HD
A bad case of early tournament jitters affected both these teams which has placed them together a round earlier than anticipated. This is great news for the neutral, though, as both teams seem to be regaining some form. Could be an extra-time winner.

Sunday 17 July

19:45 Japan v USA, FIFA Women's World Cup Final, BBC3 / British Eurosport / British Eurosport HD
Alas, the afternoon kick-offs and general lack of understanding of women's football has resulted in the Fairground's inability to engage with the Women's World Cup. We can only hope that the coverage of this match rises above the objectification of Hope Solo which seems to be quite prominent.
20:00 Brazil v Paraguay Copa America Quarter Final, ESPN / HD
Both teams qualified from Group B. Brazil might have been expecting easier opponents as Paraguay were quite fancied before the Copa America started.
23:15 Chile v Venezuela, Copa America Quarter Final, ESPN / HD
Harsh draw this for Venezuela who have qualified for the knockout stage for the second Copa America in a row. Chile has emerged as one of the top teams in South America and should progress. Having said that, who can argue against the team that held the Brazilians to a draw? We would also direct you to Jose Rondon of Venzuela as a player to watch. For Chile, Bayer Leverkusen's Arturo Vidal, is the subject of transfer speculation in Germany.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Europa League Second Qualifying Round Background - FC Gagra of Georgia

Most international fan's knowledge of Georgian football clubs will be restricted to Dynamo Tblisi. Since the former Soviet republic was formed in 1992 this relatively small nation, in Soccer terms, has not being pulling up too many trees in the forest of Football, preferring understandably to focus on domestic matters as it struggles to define it's borders following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Participation in European competition is restricted to only three clubs that face a long journey to the group stages. Among them is FC Gagra who clinched a place in the Europa League Second Qualifying Round after lifting the Georgian Cup by beating FC Torpedo Kutaisi 1-0. Sevast Todua with an extra time winner.

Gagra's achievement is all the more impressive given that they were a Second Division side when they achieved their Cup success. Relegated in 2009, the club won promotion back to the Pirveli Liga this season and will go up as Cup Winners, and Europa League participants. Not a bad record of success for a club formed in 2004 and does not have a home stadium to call it's own.

The city of Gagra itself is based in Abkhazia, a region of Georgia that is bitterly disputed. Separatists with the region have attempted to break away and form their own republic. While Russia and a number of other countries have recognised the region as an independent state, Georgia and pretty much everyone else in the World does not and neither does UEFA.

Abkhazia is on the north west of Georgia and shares its border with Russia and Gagra is located on the coast of the Black Sea. Apparently it is a picturesque location and back the days of the Soviet Union it was a tourist resort. Unfortunately, it's people paid a bloody price for the war in the early 90s as it was a focal point of the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists.

Amidst the geo-political backdrop, life continues and so does football. FC Gagra's inaugural European match is against Anorthosis Famagusta who know all about disputed territory. Anorthosis have not played in Famagusta since the Turks moved in back in 1974. They play in the Greek Cypriot city of Larnaca and despite their relocation, the club have enjoyed great success culminating in an appearance in the Champions League in 2008. In fact they were the first Cypriot club to do so.

The Great Lady failed to reach the group stages of the Europa League, last season and will almost certainly see a draw against a newly promoted European debutant as a chance to progress.

The Football Fairground is proud to be part of the Europa Legion, a network of Europa League bloggers. Follow the Europa Legion on Twitter.

Friday, July 8, 2011

TV Preview: 8 - 14 July 2011

Friday 8 July

23.15 Peru v Mexico, Copa America Group C, ESPN/ESPN HD
CONCACAF champions Mexico last met Peru in Copa America back in 2001, when Roberto Holsen's lone goal brought El Tri back down to earth after an earlier victory over Brazil in Cali, Colombia. The most recent meeting of the two was a 4-0 win for Mexico in a friendly back in 2008.
01.45 (Sat) Uruguay v Chile, Copa America Group C, ESPN/ESPN HD
Chile started brightest of these two in Group C, coming from behind to beat Mexico. The Uruguayans also went behind in their game against Peru and needed a Luis Suarez equaliser to take a point from their opening match.

Saturday 9 July

17.00 England v France, Women's World Cup Quarter Final, British Eurosport
England go toe to toe with France after topping Group B with seven points. Ellen White and Rachel Yankey scored the goals as England defeated Japan in their final group game against fellow quarter-finalists Japan.
19.45 Germany v Japan, Women's World Cup Quarter Final, British Eurosport
As group runners-up, Japan face Group A winners Germany, who beat France, Nigeria and Canada as they cruised into the last eight on home soil. Japan's Homare Sawa has already scored three goals in this World Cup, a hat-trick against Mexico.
20.00 Brazil v Paraguay, Copa America Group B, ESPN/ESPN HD
The last player to score a goal for Paraguay against Brazil was Salvador CabaÒas, who was shot in Mexico City six months later. Robinho and Nilmar struck back to give the Brazilians a 2-1 win in qualifying for World Cup 2010.
22.30 Venezuela v Ecuador, Copa America Group B, ESPN/ESPN HD
Ecuador have struck seven goals in their last three meetings with Venezuela, but crucially they all came in two friendlies. The last competitive match resulted in a 1-0 win for La Vinotinto, Jose Rey scoring the only goal in South American World Cup qualifying.

Sunday 10 July

12.00 Sweden v Australia, Women's World Cup Quarter Final, British Eurosport 2
The Swedes topped Group C with a 100% record thanks to a 2-1 victory over the USA on Wednesday evening, and will face Australia in the last eight. Their opponents have only lost once so far, to Brazil...
16.45 Brazil v United States of America, Women's World Cup Quarter Final, British Eurosport 2
...and it's hardly surprising. The Brazil side won all three Group D matches, conceding not a single goal in games against Australia, Norway and Equatorial Guinea. Two fancied sides meet on Sunday, opening up a route for someone else to make an unexpected run to the final.
19.55 Fluminense v Flamengo, Brazilian Championship, Premier Sports
The Flu-Fla Rio derby takes place in various competitions, but the last league meeting was a 3-3 draw (home for Flamengo) back in September. Two goals from Rodriguinho helped the Tricolor take three points away on that occasion, and these two have made similar starts to the 2011 season.
20.00 Colombia v Bolivia, Copa America Group A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Colombia top the group after beating invitees Costa Rica and holding favourites Argentina to a goalless draw in Santa Fe. A positive result here sees them safely through.
22.00 Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders, Major League Soccer, ESPN/ESPN HD
John Spencer's Portland Timbers are now winless in six since losing their unbeaten home run to DC United, and have lost five of those matches. This fixture brings one of America's greatest soccer rivalries back to Portland after a 1-1 draw between these two sides in Seattle in May.

Monday 11 July

01.45 (Tue) Argentina v Costa Rica, Copa America Group A, ESPN/ESPN HD
When regular invitees Japan finally pulled out of the Copa America as the effects of the March earthquake continued to take their toll, Costa Rica stepped up to the plate with a young squad (due to CONCACAF Gold Cup commitments). They'll face their sternest test against a fancied Argentina side, even if the Albiceleste haven't been firing on all cylinders.

Tuesday 12 July

22.30 Chile v Peru, Copa America Group C, ESPN/ESPN HD
These sides last met in March 2009 and the big players showed up for the occasion, with Alexis Sanchez, Mati Fernandez and Humberto Suazo on the scoresheet for Chile as they eased to a 3-1 victory against their 10-man hosts.
01.45 (Wed) Uruguay v Mexico, Copa America Group C, ESPN/ESPN HD
While France were being beaten by the hosts in South Africa, Uruguay and Mexico met in World Cup 2010 Group A as the top two sides in the group. Luis Suarez headed Uruguay to victory as Uruguay made their way to the semi-finals.

Wednesday 13 July

23.15 Paraguay v Venezuela, Copa America Group B, ESPN/ESPN HD
Venezuela incredibly lost 14 consecutive Copa America matches - that's a losing streak dating from 1995 to 2004, but in 2007 they progressed out of the group stage for the first time since 1967. In a tough group in Argentina, a point against Brazil was just the start Venezuela needed.

Note: The semi-finals of the Women's World Cup will be shown on British Eurosport at 5pm and 7.45pm.
01.45 (Thu) Brazil v Ecuador, Copa America Group B, ESPN/ESPN HD
Eight-times champions Brazil are the current holders of Copa America and are looking to win the competition this year for the fifth time in six attempts. Ecuador hosted the competition in 1993 and came fourth, equalling their best ever Copa America performance.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #196

Unlucky 13
13 English Clubs That Never Got To Play In The UEFA Cup Because Of The 'Heysel' Ban

1. Derby County (1989/90)
2. Everton (1988/89)
3. Liverpool (1987/88)
4. Luton Town (1987/88, 1988/89)
5. Manchester United (1986/87, 1988/89)
6. Norwich City (1985/86, 1987/88, 1989/90)
7. Nottingham Forest (1988/89, 1989/90)
8. Oxford United (1986/87)
9. Queens Park Rangers (1988/89)
10. Sheffield Wednesday (1986/87)
11. Southampton (1985/86)
12. Tottenham Hotspur (1985/86, 1987/88, 1989/90)
13. West Ham United (1986/87)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Profile: Arturo Vidal

It’s turning into a tough night in San Juan. Chile are embroiled in a surprisingly difficult Copa America match with a surprisingly obstinate Mexico side. It is a night where Chilean international Arturo Vidal finds himself apologising to his team mates, once again. After an ill conceived volley has almost gone out for a throw in, a few minutes later some edge-of-the-box trickery has resulted in another hasty and fruitless shot. Mexico are defending a one-goal lead and despite their dominance, Chile are running out of options.

Eventually, the Chileans strike back with two set-piece goals. In a Copa America tournament where the favourites are struggling, Chile laboured to narrowly beat a massively under strength Mexico team. The second goal was a bullet header from that man Vidal. As the whistle blows, relieved and elated, Vidal celebrates with his team mates. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Germany, some very anxious people in Leverkusen and Munich are waiting for Vidal's return as they'd like his help in resolving a transfer issue, namely his.

Vidal is one of those players who confounds the tacticians. Technically, he’s supposed to be a defensive midfielder. However the ten Bundesliga goals and eleven assists to his name last season suggests a slightly more rounded player, to put it mildly.

In fact, Vidal is the epitome of the kind of modern midfielder who can do pretty much everything a modern football coach asks of him. They may be different players in many respects but in terms of football values, he is similar to Nuri Sahin or Luka Modric. More than an all-rounder, in the sense of a utility player. More like the cricketer Ian Botham who was brilliant with the bat, ball or in the field, Arturo Vidal is a jack of all trades and master of all, to boot.

There is an element of romance about his back story. Vidal hails from San Joaquin, a working class community in Santiago. No doubt he had to emerge from a congested field of hungry boys, desperate to fulfil their dreams of professional football and improve their lives. Vidal joined the youth ranks of the Santiago giants, Colo Colo. Two Aperturas and one Clausura later, he made the move to Europe and Bayer Leverkusen.

Needless to say, as a Leverkusen player, he has found domestic honours somewhat hard to come by, although he has come pretty close to the Bundesliga title since his arrival in 2007. Last season, however, was his big season and Vidal, perhaps benefiting from his experience in Marcelo Bielsa’s Chilean World Cup team, has matured into one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga. Next season, he should be regarded as one of the best in the world as he takes his place in the UEFA Champions League. The question is, for which club will he be playing?

Vidal’s contract is up next year with no suggestion that he intends to renew. Leverkusen’s position is that they plan to keep him for the remainder of his contract, even if that means letting him go for no transfer fee. Presumably, the rationale behind this is that if he helps last season’s League runners up finally win the Bundesliga title and steers them into the Second Round of the Champions League then he will have easily made back the roughly €10 million that Bayern Munich have offered to take him a year early. Alternatively, Sporting Director Rudi Völler is making big noises to try and extract more money.

An added complication is a bid from Italian club, Juventus. However, to what extent Vidal can be lured by the prospect of Serie A football and no Champions League may depend on whether the Old Lady can convince him that at 23 he still has time to grow into a renewed Juve or how much cash they are prepared to offer him.

At the time of writing, the smart money seems to be that he will stay at Leverkusen for another season before joining his old boss Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich. However, for all we know he could arrive at the airport to take him back to Germany from Argentina, with or without a Copa America winner’s medal, only to find a Learjet waiting for him on the runway containing a well known sausage merchant holding a flight plan to Munich.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Football Americana Week 16: Dallas gaining ground as Shea strikes again

More great goals, more red cards and more horrible defending were the order of the weekend as Major League Soccer ploughs through the middle section of the season.

MLS resumed last week above the border, with Vancouver Whitecaps visiting Toronto FC, with the Reds getting their own back for their opening day defeat. Nick Soolsma scored the only goal of the game, coolly scoring from the penalty spot after he'd been fouled in the box by Greg Janicki - and after his original spot kick had to be retaken.

Dwayne De Rosario made his debut for DC United on Saturday and by half time against Philadelphia Union he was doing the funky chicken after putting a goal right on a plate for United skipper Josh Wolff. Philly equalised quickly after the break, Perry Kitchen's own goal a real horror show at the back for the hosts. United almost hit back immediately when Chris Pontius' effort squeezed off Faryd Mondragon and the post, but the goal that did come was utterly breathtaking. Andy Najar got a bit of luck on the halfway line, romped into Philly's half and unleashed a screamer from 30 yards to restore United's lead. Carlos Ruiz turned in the Union's second equaliser of the night with fewer than ten minutes to go.

FC Dallas welcomed Columbus Crew and defeated them 2-0. Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer somehow avoided dismissal when he was adjudged to have handled the ball outside the area, but that decision in itself was borderline. Brek Shea (pictured) poked in from close range to open the scoring and Jackson doubled the lead, dinking the ball over Hesmer to bank the three points. Andy Iro went on to earn his second yellow card in the final ten minutes for the Crew.

The Chi-Chi Derby ended 1-1, with Chivas USA pegging back Chicago Fire after the visitors took a first half lead. The Fire broke away after 25 minutes and found Dominic Oduro, who slotted past Dan Kennedy for 1-0. The Goats equalised after half time, Nick LaBrocca's volley snapping in off the crossbar past Sean Johnson.

Stanford Stadium hosted San Jose Earthquakes versus New York Red Bulls, whose difficulty winning continued in California. Joel Lindpere put RBNY in front early, completing a beautiful passing move in only the seventh minute, but another goalkeeping error from Bouna Coundoul would contribute to the Quakes taking a lead into the last ten minutes. Khari Stephenson pounced to punish Coundoul's mistake before half time and Steven Lenhart made it 2-1 mid-way through the second period with a big header after some great pressing by his team-mates. Lindpere had the last laugh, equalising late with a deflected strike from the edge of the box. San Jose's Bobby Burling got a red card, his first yellow for a bodycheck on Juan Agudelo and the second for another over-aggressive challenge on Teemu Tainio.

Two quickfire goals for Sporting Kansas City were enough to ensure a victory over Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Rookie CJ Sapong got the first, turning Eric Brunner superbly and the calmly finding the finish to make it 1-0. The second was scored by defender Aurelien Collin, who headed home from a poorly-defended long throw. The consolation was the real highlight of the game. A Sporting clearance found rookie Darlington Nagbe on the edge of the box, and he controlled it before the bounce, knocked it up once more and then controlled a wonderful volley into the top corner.

The 0-0 draw between Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo was far from a highlight of Week 16, and Jamie Smith's header off the post was a rare moment of drama in a match otherwise dominated by Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall. The frustration clearly got to Colorado substitute Quincy "Captain" Amarikwa, who was sent off after the final whistle (a straight red after an initial booking seconds earlier) as he lost his temper.

Real Salt Lake and New England Revolution more than made up for the lack of goals in Colorado, splitting six down the middle and sharing a couple of red cards for good measure. The Revs roared out to an early 2-0 lead, the first goal coming by way of Rajko Lekic's Panenka penalty after Nat Borchers felled Benny Feilhaber and earned a red card in the process - a very poor decision by the referee. Chris Tierney rubbed salt in the wound with a pea-roller free kick from 30 yards. RSL fought back admirably, with Will Johnson pulling one back in the middle of the first half after Andy Williams' free kick rebounded right to him off the post, taking the game into half time at 2-1 to New England.

Salt Lake got a spot kick of their own in the second half, another decision that raised questions about the refereeing between the two dugouts. Alvaro Saborio stepped up and equalised with a cool finish from twelve yards. Shalrie Joseph put Steve Nicol's men back in front with a superb header off the post, but personnel parity was restored a few minutes later and it would cost the Revs. Ryan Cochrane was the man who saw red, earning his second booking for having a rubbish beard a soft foul on Williams. Saborio hit the crossbar with a header from the resulting free kick, but the equaliser came in the last ten minutes, a calm finish by Fabian Espindola just when it was needed. Cue stinkeye.

In the final game of the week it was LA Galaxy v Seattle Sounders, both in unfamiliar kits, whose expensively assembled squads combined to generate a grand total of zero goals and not a whole lot else. Omar Gonzalez did literally hand Fredy Montero the chance to score for Seattle, but third-choice LA goalkeeper Brian Perk saved the Colombian's weak penalty.

Philadelphia's point keeps them two points ahead of New York in the East, with Columbus another point behind them in third. New England sink to the bottom. Dallas are just a couple of points behind LA in the West, and Seattle are two points behind them in turn. At the bottom, neither Vancouver nor Portland has picked up a point in the last two games.

Friday, July 1, 2011

TV Preview: 1 - 7 July 2011

Friday 1 July

01.45 (Saturday) Argentina v Bolivia, Copa America Group A, ESPN / ESPN HD
It's Copa America time once again, and here's the opening fixture from La Plata. Had we been any kind of decent blogsite, we'd have written you a guide to the tournament. As it is, we'll be nicking bits off the guides that other people have written because (a) it's easy, and (b) we intend to ridicule their judgement. Should be a by-the-numbers win for Sergio Batista’s men.

Saturday 2 July

19.30 Colombia v Costa Rica, Copa America Group A, ESPN / ESPN HD
There's always a guest team in every Copa America (two if you count Mexico), and this year it was supposed to be Japan. Unfortunately they dropped out twice - once in the aftermath of the earthquake in March and once because European clubs wouldn't release Japan's best players. As Colombia are a team that finds goals hard to come by, this could be a low-scoring affair.

Sunday 3 July

20.00 Brazil v Venezuela, Copa America Group B, ESPN / ESPN HD
Three Match Ban tells us that Brazil "should be fascinating to watch, especially if the young guns upfront gel and deliver the sort of football the Brazilian public craves after the Dunga era." Never a truer word said, and with no World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, now would be a good time for that attacking partnership to take shape.
21.00 Uruguay v Uzbekistan, FIFA U17 World Cup Quarter Final, British Eurosport / HD
The South Americans were runners-up to England in Group C and have since ended Congo's hopes of progressing. A win for them here could set up a tasty tie with Brazil in the semi-finals.
22.30 Paraguay v Ecuador, Copa America Group B, ESPN / ESPN HD
An ever-improving Ecuador side may be no match for Paraguay who matched the achievements of Brazil and Argentina by reaching the quarter finals at the World Cup last year. Sambafoot are right to give us a heads up about Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dortmund) and Hernan Perez (Villareal) among the Paraguayan ranks while Ecuador can boast Man City's Caicedo and Man United's Valencia.

Monday 4 July

21.00 Germany v England, FIFA U17 World Cup Quarter Final, British Eurosport
Having dumped one old enemy out of the competition in Argentina, England now face Jerry for a place in the last four. The progress by John Peacock's side thus far has been wonderful, but Germany are looking ruthlessly clinical. A record of 15 scored and 1 conceded tells you everything you need to know, and few would argue that England will probably be favourites to win the competition outright if they can prevail here.
23.15 Uruguay v Peru, Copa America Group C, ESPN / ESPN HD
Over at Just Football, Christopher Atkins reminds us of that great Uruguay team of last year's World Cup at the mere mention of the name Nicolás Lodeiro. "Ajax's 22-year old attacking midfielder... can change his status from promising youngster to international star with a good performance in this tournament." Against a Peru side that lost all nine of their away qualifiers for South Africa last year, he'll have every chance.

Tuesday 5 July

01.45 (Wednesday) Chile v Mexico, Copa America Group C, ESPN / ESPN HD
Ed Malyon writes on GibFootballShow: "The [Mexico] squad is largely made up of under-22s, and further affected by the drug suspensions handed out to several Mexican internationals in early June." Crumbs... A chance for Chile to shine again as they did last year, perhaps?

Thursday 7 July

21.00 TBC, FIFA U17 World Cup Semi Final, British Eurosport / HD
At the time of writing, it's too early to know who will feature in this first semi-final, but our money's on Uruguay v Brazil. Throw in a Guadalajara setting and some baking hot sunshine and you've got all the ingredients for a classic encounter. That said, if it's Uzbekistan v Japan and it's pissing down, don't blame us.
23.15 Bolivia v Costa Rica, Copa America Group A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Calling all MLS fans: Costa Rica's side features Roy Miller of the NY Red Bulls, Alvaro Saborio of Real Salt Lake and Rodney Wallace of Portland. Bolivia's team may contain Colon's Ronaldo Raldes, and not the other way around, in case you're wondering.
01.45 (Friday) Argentina v Colombia, Copa America Group A, ESPN / ESPN HD
A battle between the two teams who are favourites to occupy 1st and 2nd spot in the group. It's conceivable that they may settle for a draw ahead of weaker opposition in their respective last group games, but let's hope for a shining performance from Messi, Aguero and co. instead. Unless you're a Colombian fan, that is.

Europa Legion Podcast 1

If it's the end of June, it must be the start of the new football season... well it is for us, anyway, because the First Qualifying Round of the 2011-12 Europa League has finally arrived.

Under the Europa Legion banner, Chris Oakley, Terry Duffelen, Graham Sibley, Gary Andrews, Charlie Anderson and Ryan Keaney manfully set off to watch the first leg tie between Fulham and NSI Runavik at Craven Cottage and an excellent time was had by all. We even bumped into blogging and podcasting legend James Appell!

To find out what we thought of the game and to get a taste of what football during the UK summer is really like, download the first episode of our new Europa Legion podcast.

Download Europa Legion Podcast 1

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #195

Sotiris Ninis* - The telegraphist's friend...
The 12 Members Of The Greek World Cup 2010 Squad Whose Names Would Take The Longest To Tap Out On A Morse Code Machine

1. Sokratis Papastathopoulos (66 taps)
2. Christos Patsatzoglou (56)
3. Konstantinos Katsouranis (54)
4. Avraam Papadopoulos (53)
5. Konstantinos Chalkias (51)
6. Dimitrios Salpingidis (51)
7. Nikos Spiropoulos (48)
8. Alexandros Tzorvas (47)
9. Georgios Karagounis (47)
10. Vasileios Torosidis (47)
11. Alexandros Tziolis (46)
12. Sotirios Kyrgiakos (46)

(* Sotiris Ninis - 28 taps.)