Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Almost Random A-Z of Dubious Football Knowledge: C

C is for...


Singular entrants to the World Cup in 1986 which began with a creditable 1-0 defeat to a French side featuring Platini, Battiston, Giresse, Papin and Tigana. Further 2-0 defeats against the Soviet Union and Hungary put paid to any fanciful notions of glory which to this day have not been repeated. Later success came in the form of a 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup win that enabled them to compete in the 2001 Confederations Cup where they held Brazil to a goalless draw. The last five years have seen The Canucks yo-yo between 51st in the FIFA Rankings and as low as 105th earlier this year, although they’re back up to 72nd in the global table. Domestically weak, they now boast two clubs in the MLS – Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps. Both are yet to make a significant impact after a very short time in the competition.


The festive season was made for football, and vice versa. World War I even came to a brief halt on Christmas Day 1915 when the two sides called a ceasefire and played a game in No-Man’s-Land, the final result being a win for Germany on penalties, somewhat inevitably. Boxing Day games are now part of the British tradition, as was the annual ridiculing of modern-day footballers in Santa outfits in Shoot! magazine up until only a few years ago. These days, Christmas and football are most tangibly forged in holy alliance on the cheesy end-of-year Soccer Saturday reviews presented by Jeff Stelling on Sky Sports, thereby ensuring you don't go short of turkey during the festive season.

Cooke, Charlie

Classic winger of the great Chelsea side of the late-60’s and the relegation-bound Chelsea side of the mid-1970’s. Scorer of 59 goals in 512 appearances throughout a British football career that started at Aberdeen in 1960 and took in Dundee and Crystal Palace before the lure of the NASL took hold. Made a name for himself at LA Aztecs (see right with Franz Beckenbauer) and latterly Memphis Rogues where he played under manager and former Chelsea team-mate Eddie McCreadie. A great passer of the ball and capable of brilliantly accurate passes like the one that opened the scoring in this match against Arsenal in 1969.


(cf. “kawnaz” – Ray Winstone, 2009 onwards)

Temporary and occasional hiatus occurring in every match, less frequently so since the retirement of Crystal Palace’s Geoff Thomas. Corner kicks can be short, long, deep or, if you’re Charles N’Zogbia, a combination of all three. Corners used to require the ball be placed inside one of the quadrants on the pitch but later the ball only had to be in contact with the quadrant markings and nowadays doesn’t have to be anywhere near the quadrant at all. All-time master of the corner kick is undoubtedly Steven Davis who even managed to incorporate a stationery flag into his routine as part of his routine.

Coventry City

Originally known as 'The Singers' because the club was founded by a worker at the nearby cycle manufacturers of the same name, we can’t help but wonder if a club could ever be nicknamed 'The Choppers' because of a similar connection. A fully fledged member of the Football League straight after World War I, their first season saw them go without a win until Christmas Day and they went on to finish third-bottom in Division Two. After World War II, they gradually slid down the leagues to the point where they were one of the founder members of the new Division Four in 1958, but hope soon arrived in the form of Jimmy Hill. He suggested the kit be changed from all white with blue trim to all sky blue, a fact that was reflected in Coventry’s new nickname which, prior to that point, had been 'The Bantams'. In 1966-67 they clinched promotion to Division One, after which Jimmy Hill left to be Head of Sport for London Weekend Television. City initially struggled but held their place in the top flight and their hard work was rewarded with an FA Cup Final win over Tottenham in 1987. A host of well-known faces have graced the managerial, coaching and playing staff since then, but the Sky Blues now find themselves in the second tier, hoping to stave off possible relegation to League One.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 28 November - 1 December 2011

Monday 28 November

19:45 Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield, League One, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Huddersfield take their 43 (forty three) game unbeaten run to the Valley. Charlton have not lost at home in the league since last April and have only dropped points on three occasions this season. This could be the moment where the Terriers magnificent run is halted. Something else to consider, however. The team that beat the Addicks back in April was... Huddersfield Town.
20:00 Malaga v Villarreal, La Liga, Sky Sports 4
Santi Cazorola may not be one of the more celebrated signings for Malaga this season but he represents the measured approach to transfers that the recently enriched club have taken under coach Manuela Pellegrini. Cazorola has score four goals this season from midfield and tonight welcomes his old club, Villareal, who are languishing in mid table.

Tuesday 29 November

20:00 Arsenal v Man City, Carling Cup 5th Round, Sky Sports 2 / HD2 / 3D
A chance to measure the relative depth of each club's squad as one assumes that both managers have bigger fish to fry. Despite its profile the Carling Cup is providing a valuable platform for all clubs to test their fringe players. As such, it is a competition worthy of interest.
20:15 Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano, La Liga, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
These two have not played each other since 2003. Vallecano, are having a solid mid table season put should not present too stiff a challenge for the home side.
20:15 Catania v Novara, Coppa Italia, ESPN / ESPN HD
One for the Italian football purists this. Two reserve teams playing in front of three blokes and a dog. Again, these game provide useful data and a good run out for the understudies.

Wednesday 30 November 

18:00 Braga v Birmingham City, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ITV4 / ITV4 HD
Braga must fancy their chances against second division opposition even if the English second tier is better than many European firsts. Birmingham's run in this competition has been most revealing. If only Championship clubs could play in Europe every year...
18:00 Celtic v Atletico Madrid, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN / ESPN HD
Celtic should be congratulated for their efforts in what has been a very tough group. If they can take advantage of an Atleti side who have just been horsed by neighbours, Real Madrid at the weekend then they are in with a shout of qualifying for the next round.
19:45 Man Utd v Crystal Palace, Carling Cup 5th Round, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Palace enter this match in the middle of a dismal run of form which has seen them fail to produce a goal in six matches. Presumably, Sir Alex will field an understrength team which should still be a match for the south Londoners. The game will still prove to be a banker for Palace, however. The ticket prices for the considerable away support has been set at £42 (forty two) of which CPFC will be entitled to a sizable chunk. Good work boys.
19:45 Wrexham v Darlington, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Darlo have three straight wins behind them as they travel to the Racecourse Ground. But Wrexham seem to be keeping it together, despite losing their coach, Dean Saunders to Willie McKay's Doncaster. The Red Dragons have not lost at home since September.
20:05 Standard Liege v Hannover 96, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN / ESPN HD
Hannover's form has dipped in recent weeks, domestically. Coach Mirko Slomka will probably settle for a point against the group leaders. This will put them in the box seat for their final group game at home to Vorskla.Liege will have to go to Copenhagen in the final round so will feel they need all three points.
20:05 Tottenham Hotspur v PAOK, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, Channel 5 / Channel 5 HD
Despite being in third place in Group A and facing the leaders, PAOK, Tottenham should still be favorites to triumph at the Lane. A win pretty much settles matters as Spurs travel to Dublin on the final day.
23:45 Univ. Chile v Vasco da Gama, Copa Sudamericana Semi Final 2nd Leg, Premier Sports
1-1 from the first leg. The winner will probably play Quito in the final.

Thursday 1 December

18:00 FC Twente v Fulham, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN / ESPN HD
Twente are through to the second round and have the luxury of playing to avoid a relegated Champions League team. Fulham are almost there but a win would make things comfortable.
20:05 Red Bull Salzburg v Paris St Germain, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN / ESPN HD
The rich kids of their respective leagues. This is the energy drink concerns best chance of finishing in the top two. If they can beat a PSG side who may be more focused on matters, domestic then they travel to Bratislava in the box seat.
20:05 Stoke City v Dynamo Kiev, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ITV4 / ITV4 HD
It's been great to see most of the English sides enjoy their European adventure. Stoke have struggled, domestically and will be grateful for the Winter break. Not before they make sure that they will be back in the New Year though. A win now makes takes the pressure off what will be a tough trip to Beziktas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 26 - 27 November 2011

Saturday 26 November

12.45 Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Desperate times for both clubs. Rovers' woes are well documented, but Stoke are in an awful run of four consecutive defeats. Blackburn could sneak this one for just their second away win of the calendar year.
15.45 Port Talbot v Llanelli, Welsh Premier League, S4C
With just five games to go before the end of the Welsh Apertura, Port Talbot's recent run of poor form has left them six points adrift of the top half. Llanelli are just two points behind top team Bangor.
17.20 West Ham v Derby County, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Probably selected as a live match when Derby were having a decent run at the start of the season, but just one win in the last nine has seen the Rams slip down the table. The league's meanest defence will add to Nigel Clough's problems.
17.30 Arsenal v Fulham, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Every time Robin Van Persie goes to ground, 60,000 hearts around the Emirates stop. With 44 goals for club and country in 2011 it's no wonder so much attention is focused on him and his chocolate leg. Fulham face a second tough journey next week when they face one of Martin Jol's former playing clubs, Twente, in the Europa League.
19.00 Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Ok, here's the plan. We land in Madrid at lunchtime, we go and watch Rayo Vallecano play Valencia - then jump in a cab up the Calle 30 for the 20 minute journey to the Bernabeu to watch the Madrid derby. Then... (continued after a Serie A match)
19.45 Lazio v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Second plays top - my guess is this will end as a draw and Milan will overtake them both and go top on Sunday. OK, back to Madrid!
21.00 Getafe v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1 (on Red Button)
.... we high-tail it from the Bernabeu at full time, jump back in the cab, bomb it down the A-42 to Getafe and watch the European champions. Come on - what do you say? It's doable, just.

Sunday 27 November

11.00 Real Betis v Real Sociedad, La Liga, Sky Sports 4
What a Sunday morning treat, not. Both teams are in shocking runs with the home team having registered just one point in their last eight games and the visitors just two in that time. Desperate stuff.
12.45 Kilmarnock v Rangers, SPL, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Killie will have to hope that an early Sunday start will help prevent a tenth consecutive defeat at the hands of a Rangers side who have won their last 14 away games. That run of results already includes a win against Kilmarnock and, of the teams in the SPL, only misses Celtic and Hibs - both of whom they play before the end of the year.
13.30 Swansea City v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
If you've not seen Swansea play this season you really owe yourself a couple of hours to sit down in front of this game. Any repeat of Villa's frankly pathetic performance against Spurs on Monday will see the points staying in Wales.
14.00 Siena v Inter, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Siena sit mid-table three points above their more illustrious visitors and with an enviable home record. Only Juve have managed to get a win against the Tuscans who came back up from Serie B last season. Inter have the small crumb of comfort knowing that their midweek draw against Trabzonspor means they are already through to the next stage so can concentrate on trying to build some form in the league.
16.00 Liverpool v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
So when it comes to getting the better of Man City, what do European sides know that English sides don't? I have a strange feeling Liverpool are going to nick this - though, it could be wind.
16.30 FSV Mainz v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
A few weeks ago it looked like Bayern were simply going to romp away with the title. After last week's narrow defeat to Dortmund though, it looks a lot different at the top of the Bundesliga. Just three points separate the top four, but with Schalke away to Dortmund in the Ruhr Derby this could be the perfect opportunity for Bayern to reopen a gap at the top of the table.
19.00 Figueirense v Corinthians, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Just two games to go in Serie A. Corinthians could win the title with a victory here depending on the result of second-placed Vasco de Gama away to third placed Fluminense (both matches kick off at the same time). Figueirense are one of five teams still in with a realistic shout of the last Copa Libertadores berth.
19.45 AC Milan v Chievo, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Talk will be all about the supposed impending arrival of one Carlos Tevez. If he does sign it'll make for a fearsome looking strike force for the Rossoneri.
20.30 Real Zaragoza v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
All the good Spanish football was yesterday. While Sevilla are in a better position than their city rivals, Betis, their form isn't much better. Both teams here are without a win in five games and Sevilla's last four away trips have all ended 0-0.
22.10 Godoy Cruz v Boca Juniors, Argentinian Apertura, Premier Sports
Boca sit eight points clear with four games of the Apertura remaining. Godoy Cruz's 24 goals in their 15 games sees them as the division's tops scorers - despite their mid-table position. Goals have been pretty rare all around - Racing Club hold second place having scored only 11 in their 15.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #216

Tickets still available...
The 8 Lowest Attendances For An England International Match At The New Wembley Stadium

1. 48,876
(v Sweden, Friendly, 15 November 2011)

2. 57,897
(v Andorra, World Cup qualifier, 10 June 2009)

3. 67,232
(v Slovenia, Friendly, 5 September 2009)

4. 69,738
(v Czech Republic, Friendly, 20 August 2008)

5. 71,233
(v USA, Friendly, 28 May 2008)

6. 72,024
(v Hungary, Friendly, 11 August 2010)

7. 73,246
(v Bulgaria, European Championship qualifier, 3 September 2010)

8. 73,451
(v Montenegro, European Championship qualifier, 12 October 2010)


Monday, November 21, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 21 - 24 November 2011

Monday 21 November

20.00 Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A betting man might put plenty on the home side in this match. Villa haven't won at White Hart Lane in a decade and Harry Redknapp is unbeaten in his last 10 Premier League games against them. Villa are, however, on an unbeaten league run of two, however.

Tuesday 22 November

19.15 Stourbridge v Plymouth Argyle, FA Cup 1st Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
A week of FA Cup 1st Round replays gets underway with what could be a feisty encounter at the War Memorial Athletic Ground. The first match ended 3-3 with both teams getting a goal each in the last 10 minutes and Plymouth ending the game with nine men. The winner of this game is at home to Stevenage in the next round.
17.00 CSKA Moscow v Lille, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Bottom-of-the-group Lille must win this and their next match to qualify from Group B. Sadly, in their 12 previous away games played at this level, they've only won one. That record looks likely to continue against a tricky Army side.
19.45 Napoli v Man City, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
With City second in Group A and Napoli two points behind in third, Roberto Mancini knows that a win at Maine Road would take them through to the last 16. Sorry - isn't anyone calling it that anymore?
19.45 Man Utd v Benfica, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Both sides are level on points at the top of Group C and a win for either would secure a place in the next round. United have lost just once in their last 34 Champions League games at Old Trafford, so you wouldn't fancy the visitors' chances tonight.
19.45 Lyon v Ajax, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Lyon's run of eight consecutive qualifications to the Champions League last 16 stage could be about to end. A draw (like the goalless one in the reverse fixture last September) would leave Remi Garde's men with an Everest-like goal difference to overcome in the last match, so victory is essential for L'OL.
19.45 Bayern Munich v Villarreal, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Hold the front page! Bayern in defeat shocker! Impressive though Dortmund's win was on Friday, it won't put a dent in Jupp Heynckes' plans for this match. Villareal are effectively out of the running for a qualification spot in Group A while Bayern will go through with a draw.
19.45 Otelul Galati v FC Basel, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Otelul Galati (pronounced 'GA-LATZ') are all but planning next year's assault on the Champions League. As for Basel (pronounced 'THROAT-WOBBLER-MANGROVE'), they'll be doing the same if they fail to win this match.
19.45 Real Madrid v Dinamo Zagreb, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
As dead as a rubber can be. Top-of-the-group Real face bottom-placed Dinamo knowing they're already through to the last 16 and that the Croatians are already out.
19.45 Trabzonspor v Inter, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Inter lead the group by four points but are still haunted by the 1-0 defeat at home to the Turks on Matchday 1. A win here would see them win the group altogether, and with two successive wins under their belts might just have the self-confidence to do so.

Wednesday 23 November

17.00 Zenit St Petersburg v APOEL, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Both sides are looking to qualify for the Last 16 stage of the Champions League for the first time ever and either could do so, depending on whether Porto beat Shakhtar or not. Unbeaten APOEL lead Group G by a single point ahead of Zenit, but the Russians have won their last nine European games at home.
18.00 BATE Borisov v Viktoria Plzen, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Both sides are battling it out for third place in Group H and a place in the Europa League at the start of 2012. The reverse fixture ended 1-1 in Prague back in September and in all likelihood, so could this one.
19.15 Bath City v Dagenham & Redbridge, FA Cup 1st Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Daggers are in the sort of form that make the words 'giant' and 'killer' so synonymous with the FA Cup. That said, Bath aren't playing convincingly enough to pull the plug on their opponents' campaign either (sorry). Winners at home to Exeter or Walsall in Round 2.
19.45 Bayer Leverkusen v Chelsea, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, ITV1/ITV1 HD
A win for Leverkusen will mean a first group defeat for The Blues and a strong chance of ending the round-robin top of Group E. Robin Dutt's team had the perfect preparation by beating lowly Kaiserslautern 2-0 last Friday while Chelsea's misery continued with a 2-1 loss at home to Liverpool.
19.45 Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Two teams that started the season slowly but have certainly found their mojo again in recent weeks. Sadly for BVB, it may have come too late to avoid a drop into the Europa League this season (or worse still, drop out of European competition generally), but hope springs eternal in this very open group.
19.45 Milan v Barcelona, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4/HD4/3D
Both teams have Group H carved up between them and the only thing left to play for is top spot in the table. Barcelona currently lead Milan by two points.
19.45 Marseille v Olympiakos, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Marseille's recovery in Ligue 1 was brought to a shuddering halt with a 1-0 defeat at the impressive Montpellier last weekend. Luckily for them, they've been saving their best football for the Champions League and a win over Olympiakos looks very likely.
19.45 Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Porto, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Last season's breakthrough campaign for Shakhtar looks all but a distant memory as they sit bottom of Group G. Like Shakhtar, Porto have also started badly but a win for either side would put them within touching distance of APOEL and Zenit and, more than likely, secure a place in the Europa League post-Christmas.
19.45 Valencia v Genk, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Much to play for on the part of Los Che. A win over the Belgians could be enough for Valencia to rise to second in Group E, as long as Bayer Leverkusen lose to Chelsea. Anything less than a win could be disastrous for Unai Emery and his band of merry men.

Thursday 24 November

13.00 Genoa v Bari, Coppa Italia, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both teams scored four in their previous Coppa Italia games in Section 7 but this should be a comfortable win for the Serie A side, especially with home advantage.
17.00 Fiorentina v Empoli, Coppa Italia, ESPN/ESPN HD
Fiorentina might be something of a disappointment in Serie A at the moment, but their opponents, Empoli, are already flirting with relegation from Serie B at this early stage of the season. Home win.
19.45 Kettering Town v Grimsby Town, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
17th plays 16th. Both teams have forgotten what a win looks like, but fear not - Premier Sports hopes to capture the moment when the penny drops for one of them.
20.15 Cagliari v Siena, Coppa Italia, ESPN/ESPN HD
Otelul Galati (pronounced 'GA-LATZ') are all but planning next years assault on the Champions League. As for Basel (pronounced 'THROAT-WOBBLER-MANGROVE'), they'll be doing the same if they fail to win this match.
19.45 Real Madrid v Dinamo Zagreb, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
As dead as a rubber can be. Top-of-the-group Real face bottom-placed Dinamo knowing they're already through to the last 16 and that the Croatians are already out.
19.45 Trabzonspor v Inter, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports Interactive
Inter lead the group by four points but are still haunted by the 1-0 defeat at home to the Turks on Matchday 1. A win here would see them win the group altogether, and with two successive wins under their belts might just have the self-confidence to do so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #215

Here's some I made earlier...
12 Football Kits I Designed In My Early-20's During The Early-1990's

1. 'Arsenal home'

2. 'Aston Villa away'

3. 'Blackburn away'

4. 'Bolton home'

5. 'Celtic home'

6. 'Derby home'

7. 'Greece home'

8. 'Liverpool away'

9. 'Manchester United home'

10. 'Novara'

11. 'Sheffield Wednesday away'

12. 'Tokyo'

Weekend TV Preview: 18 - 20 November 2011

Friday 18 November

15.30 Zenit St Petersburg v Anzhi Makhachkala, Russian Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Monetarily mighty Anzhi, home of Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto'o and Fairground favourite Jucilei, face actually mighty Zenit St Petersburg in the Russian Premier League. Zenit once again lead the table and are a couple of points ahead of CSKA Moscow ahead of this perfectly-timed Friday dossing clash.
19.30 FC Kaiserslautern v Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Leverkusen look to take advantage of playing in the weekend's early Bundesliga game and jump into the nominal European places with a win over Kaiserslautern. Their hosts this evening are just five points behind them and will no doubt be relishing the opportunity to close the gap in front of the ESPN cameras.

Saturday 19 November

12.30 Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
I See Tea are languishing forlornly at the bottom of the Scottish Premier League table and the visit of Celtic is hardly going to help lift the mood. The wounded Bhoys are a long way behind rivals Rangers and cannot afford to drop anymore points - or indeed to drop the points they already have - so it could well be plain sailing on Saturday lunchtime.
12.45 Burnley v Leeds United, Football League Championship, BBC1/BBC1 HD
A win for Leeds in the early Championship kick-off would take them into the top four of the division and they'll fancy their chances against a Burnley side that sits way down in 18th, at the messy end of a jam-packed mid-table. If only there were some historical cliche I could use to build up a game between these two teams based on their geography.
12.45 Norwich City v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
After the Canaries' bright start, they've taken to dropping points in recent weeks and are now winless in three. Unfortunately for Paul Lambert, his team now face the visit of a resurgent Arsenal. The Gunners have won four league matches on the spin and could leapfrog Spurs with a big win.
17.30 Swansea City v Manchester United, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
In more lamb-to-the-slaughter news, Manchester United head to Wales to face a Swansea side unbeaten in three. Ho ho. Anyway, if goals and drama are your thing, you should probably set aside 105 minutes of your Saturday night for this one. You can have a cup of tea in the middle 15, if you like.
17.45 Fleetwood Town v Stockport County, Blue Square Bet Premier, Premier Sports
FA Cup battlers Fleetwood host turmoil magnets Stockport in a bizarrely timed Conference match on Premier Sports. The hosts are gradually clambering their way to the top of the table, where I've predicted previously they'll stay. County, meanwhile, are in appalling shape and haven't won in three.
19.00 Barcelona v Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Remember when Spain and Barcelona were unbeatable? The latter aim to prove they still are when they host Zaragoza. More dropped points for Pep Guardiola's side in their last outing leaves them three points behind the Real Madrid powerhouse, so this is a must win. Good luck, Zaragoza!
19.45 Fiorentina v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The in-form Rossoneri get an early chance to grab the Serie A weekend by the balls and go top of the division when they visit Florence. Milan have won their last five consecutive league games and you might want to tune into this one; those games have produced 24 goals.
21.00 Valencia v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Real continue to be a phenomenon. Their short-term form is absolutely flawless, and they've still only lost one and drawn one league game this season. In Valencia, however, they face Spain's third-placed team on their own soil. Unhomely it may be, but it remains a tricky trip for Jose Mourinho's league leaders.

Sunday 20 November

11.30 Bologna v Cesena, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Cesena head back out on the road in their hunt for the first win of the season. They have just three draws to their name and already look a cert for relegation. Bologna have just ten points but have picked up slightly, their three wins all coming in the last five matches.
13.15 Millwall v Bristol City, Football League Championship, Sky Sports 1/1HD
Times are tough at Ashton Gate, and Bristol City are likely to remain in the relegation zone regardless of their result against Millwall. Kenny Jackett's Lions are at the bottom end of mid-table but, like Bologna, have begun picking up points of late.
14.00 Juventus v Palermo, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
With the ugliness of Calciopoli rearing its head again, the Old Lady will be keen to get back to business on the field. They're right up there with Milan behind Udinese and Lazio, and are the league's only unbeaten side. Palermo would go level on points with the Bianconeri with a win.
16.00 Chelsea v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Remember when this was the big Premier League game, when the rivalry between the two was further fuelled by numerous dramatic Champions League battles? Remember Luis Garcia? Anyway...SUPER SUNDAY!
16.30 Hamburg v Hoffenheim, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hamburg have battened down the hatches of late, settling down an inexperienced defensive line to arrest an alarming slump that resulted in a change of coach. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, are beautifully mid-table with five wins and five losses under the 2011/12 belt.
19.00 Atletico Madrid v Levante, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two defeats on the spin have seen Levante's flash-fairytale come to an end, but they're still flying high in fourth place in the Spanish top flight. They head from Valencia to Madrid this weekend aiming to put another three points on the board against a below-par Atleti, who've won just three times in the league this season.
19.45 Roma v Lecce, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Lecce are unbeaten in two and are looking for another win to drag them out of the bottom three. They're faced with a difficult trip this Sunday if they want to do so, with Roma now level on points with rivals Napoli (well, they're rivals to me) and keen to go past them and push on into the European places.
21.00 Granada v Mallorca, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Granada are also unbeaten in two - hurrah! The La Liga newcomers have hopped over the top of Real Sociedad and another win could drive them into mid-table. One of the victims of such a leap, Mallorca, have the power to prevent it on Sunday evening when they travel to Andalusia.
02.00 (Mon) LA Galaxy v Houston Dynamo, MLS Cup, ESPN/ESPN HD
That's right, folks, it's all over. The 2011 Major League Soccer season reaches its climax at the Home Depot Center when Western champions LA meet Eastern champions Houston. The Dynamo have a huge task on their hands, with LA boasting three designated players and a surprisingly strong squad besides. Houston, meanwhile, will be without their key player, the injured Brad Davis.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 14-15 November 2011

Monday 14 November

16.45 Brazil v Egypt, International Friendly, ITV4/ITV4 HD
After comfortably winning their own hosted Nile Basin Tournament in January, the Egyptian national team has been in dis-array following the political upheaval in the country. They finished bottom of their group in the African Cup of Nations qualifying, only winning one game against an already qualified Niger. Now under former USA coach Bob Bradley, win or lose here in Doha, a decent performance against Brazil could lay foundations for a rebuilt side.
17.30 Holland U21 v Scotland U21, UEFA U21 Euro 2013 Qualifying Group 10, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Scotland will welcome back Jordan Rhodes to the starting line up after coming on late for his first senior cap at the weekend. During October, the Huddersfield Town striker netted an astonishing 14 (FOURTEEN) times in six games for club and country - including three hat-tricks. It's no wonder he's attracting the attention of Premier League sides but he'll have plenty of chances to show off his skills in Team GB next summer. Oh wait...
19.00 Belgium U21 v England U21, UEFA U21 Euro 2013 Qualifying Group 8, ESPN/ESPN HD
Stuart Pearce's charges are steam-rollering their way to Israel 2013. They registered another impressive win against Iceland last week without the likes of Jones, Wellbeck and Rodwell who all featured for the Senior side against Spain.

Tuesday 15 November

19.05 Croatia v Turkey, UEFA Euro 2012 Play Off 2nd Leg (3-0), ESPN/ESPN HD
Both broadcasters pick the wrong matches to cover as Croatia calmly shut-up shop at home to a shell-shocked Turkey. The Montenegro v Czech Republic (0-2) could still provide a shock - one the UK audience will have to miss out on...
19.45 Republic of Ireland v Estonia, UEFA Euro 2012 Play Off 2nd Leg (4-0), Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Meanwhile, Trappatoni's men go through the motions at the Aviva. The Bosnia v Portugal game (0-0) kicks off at 21.00 - sadly, there's no indication at the moment that anyone will be carrying it in the UK.
20.00 England v Sweden, International Friendly, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Woo! Yeah! Poppy Power! After the FA's lowering expectations plan spectacularly back-fired at the weekend, Fabio has another chance to regain the status quo with a turgid disappointing performance against a fellow Euro 2012 qualifier.

Thursday 17 November

22.10 Libertad v LDU Quito, Copa Sudamericana Quarter Final 2nd Leg (0-1), Premier Sports
The Ecuadorians snatched a late goal to hold a slender advantage over Libertad. All to play for here to see who joins Vasco de Gama and Velez Sarfield in the Semi-finals.
00.40 Universidad de Chile v Arsenal, Copa Sudamericana Quarter Final 2nd Leg (2-1), Premier Sports
A late penalty gave the Chileans a vital lead against the side from Argentina. Univeridad de Chile are currently riding high nine points clear and unbeaten in 15 games at the top of the Primera Division - though another Arsenal (the one we're more familiar with in the UK) are said to be interested in their 21 year old top scorer, Eduardo Vargas.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interpretations of Africa: Football, Art and Design

These days the launch of a new football strip isn't what it used to be. When I was young, you were lucky if you caught a glimpse of England's new kit on John Craven's Newsround, but my, how that ten seconds of footage would have lingered in the mind until you saw it for real in their next international match. As for every other new kit, a token picture in Shoot! magazine was all you could really expect.

Nowadays, kits are launched with fashion shows, pop concerts and all manner of hullaballoo. It's all well and good, but what do we actually learn about the kit itself? Quite often, we learn very little at all.

Fortunately the launch of Puma's new range of strips for teams competing in the 2012 Cup of African Nations Cup has bucked the trend. On November 8th 2011, the Design Museum in London provided the setting for ten kits to be introduced to the world – and for a new exhibition showing how they were designed.

A wander around the second floor of the museum is most enlightening. Admittedly before I arrived, I expected to see nothing out of the ordinary beyond a few mannequins sporting de rigueur outfits accompanied by industry waffle telling of the ‘unique breathable nature of the fabrics used.’

Fortunately, this was altogether more inspiring. The kits themselves were predictably colourful. The vivid green shirts of Cameroon, the bright yellow of South Africa, the searing white of Ghana and the deep red of Namibia were all there to be seen. That, however, was only half the story. What makes this such an incredible range of kits is the fact that Puma have commissioned ten artists from their Creative African Network to produce the new shirt designs. Not designers - artists.

The distinction is worth making because of the way each of them has looked to their soul and the identity of their home nation for the ideas that are made manifest in each new shirt. Luckily for people like me who visit the exhibition, those thoughts, ideas, dreams and stories are all writ large for everyone to see.

We hear how Zineb Sadira used the geometric patterns of the tiles found in Islamic buildings to create the design for the new Algeria shirt. We see how Samba Fall drew a Baobab tree for Senegal’s new shirt to symbolise the coming together of fans from across the country as they follow their team in international competition. We also discover how Hasan and Husein Essop depicted a series of rainbows on the South Africa shirt to symbolise the diversity of cultures celebrated in the post-Apartheid era.

As well as the words and the kits themselves, there are also the original sketches made by each artist providing a fascinating insight into the original ideas that led to each shirt design. There are also videos to watch featuring interviews with the designers and all the visual imagery you need to understand the passion of Africa football and the part these kits will play in perpetuating it.

The exhibition ‘Interpretations of Africa: Football, Art and Design’ runs at the Design Museum, London until 27 November 2011 and is well worth a visit if you want to fully appreciate this innovative approach to football kit design.

My thanks to John Devlin at for bringing the exhibition to my attention.

Further information:
Design Week
Design Museum

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #214

Those we have lost
38 People From The World Of Football That Have Died During 2011

1. Jimmy Adamson (died aged 82)
Made over 400 appearances for Burnley between 1947 and 1964 before going on to manage the club between 1970 and 1976. Later managed Leeds United towards the end of the 1970’s.

2. Flórián Albert (died aged 70)
Legendary striker for Ferencváros and Hungary. European Footballer of the Year in 1967. Scorer of 256 goals in 351 appearances for his club and 31 in 75 for his country. Shared the Golden Boot award as joint-top scorer in the 1962 World Cup.

3. Juan Arza (died aged 88)
Scored 182 goals in 349 league games for Sevilla between 1943 and 1959 and was the only player from the club to win the Pichichi Trophy as top scorer during the 1950-51 season.

4. Ken Bainbridge (died aged 90)
West Ham winger who holds the record for the fastest goal scored to date at Upton Park - just under 11 seconds after kick-off in a match against Barnsley in 1949.

5. Jimmy Briggs (died aged 74)
Dundee United full back that made 334 appearances for the club between 1955 and 1970.

6. Allan Brown (died aged 84)
Former Scottish internatonal that played for and managed both Luton Town and Blackpool between 1950 and 1982.

7. Richard Butcher (died aged 29)
Macclesfield Town midfielder who made 104 appearances for Lincoln City between 2002 and 2005.

8. Ronnie Coyle (died aged 46)
Defender that made 253 appearances for Raith Rovers, scoring nine goals between 1988 and 1996.

9. Mike Doyle (died aged 64)
Most notably a long-serving central defender for Manchester City for whom he scored in the 1970 League Cup Final and was captain in the 1976 League Cup Final.

10. Adrián Escudero (died aged 83)
Striker and one-time leading goalscorer for Atletico Madrid with 170 goals in over 350 games.

11. Jackie Fatton (died aged 85)
Legend of the Servette and Swiss national sides between the mid-1940’s and mid-1950’s. Scored twice against Brazil in a 2-2 draw during the 1950 World Cup and once against Italy in a 4-1 defeat on home soil four years later.

12. Maurice Guigue (died aged 98)
French referee who officiated at the 1958 World Cup Final.

13. Nasser Hejazi (died aged 61)
One of the greatest goalkeepers ever to play for the Iranian national team who took part in the 1978 World Cup.

14. Laurie Hughes (died aged 87)
Enjoyed a 17-year career as a midfielder for Liverpool and was the first player to represent the club at the World Cup when playing for England in 1950.

15. Valentin Ivanov (died aged 76)
Torpedo Moscow striker and latterly manager of the club on six separate occasions. Made 60 appearances for the Soviet Union national side for whom he scored twice in the 1958 World Cup and an equal-best four in the 1962 World Cup (with Florian Albert - see above)..

16. Tomislav Ivić (died aged 77)
Former Croatian footballer who went on to manage (amongst others) Yugoslavia (1973-74), Ajax (1976-78), Porto (1987-88 and 1993-94), Paris Saint-Germain (1988-90), Atletico Madrid (1990-91), Marseille (1991 and 2001) and Croatia (1994-95).

17. Tony Kellow (died aged 58)
Made 332 appearances for Exeter City over three spells during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

18. Kuno Klötzer (died aged 89)
Coach of the Hamburg side that beat Anderlecht 2-0 in the European Cup-Winners Cup Final of 1977.

19. Bora Kostić (died aged 80)
All-time leading goalscorer for Red Star Belgrade during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

20. Nat Lofthouse (died aged 85)
One of the all-time great strikers of the English game. Spent his entire career at Bolton (from 1946 to 1960) where he scored 255 times in 452 appearances. Footballer of the Year in 1953 despite scoring a goal and finishing on the losing side in the ‘Matthews’ Cup Final that year.  Scored both goals in Bolton’s FA Cup Final win over Manchester United in 1958. Scored 30 goals in 33 appearances for England including three during the 1954 World Cup. Inaugural Inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

21. Aleksei Mamykin (died aged 75)
CSKA Moscow striker that scored for the Soviet Union against Uruguay in the 1962 World Cup Finals.

22. Jesús María Pereda (died aged 73)
Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder that played for the Spanish side that won the 1964 European Championships.

23. Naoki Matsuda (died aged 34)
Centre back that played over 500 games for Yokohama Marinos and represented Japan in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

24. Frank Munro (died aged 63)
Scottish international defender who made 296 appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers between 1968 and 1977. Scorer of Aberdeen’s first goal in European competition in a 10-1 win over KR Reykjavik in 1967.

25. Ladislav Novák (died aged 79)
Winner of 8 league titles with Dukla Prague and member of the Czechoslovakia team that finished runners-up in the 1962 World Cup Final.

26. Uche Okafor (died aged 43)
Nigerian international defender that played in the 1994 African Cup of Nations and the 1998 World Cup.

27. Ján Popluhár (died aged 75)
Legendary sweeper for Slovan Bratislava and the Czechoslovakian national team for whom he played in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup Finals.

28. Dean Richards (died aged 36)
England Under-21 defender for Bradford City, Wolves, Southampton and Tottenham between 1992 and 2005.

29. Reg Stewart (died aged 85)
Made 268 appearances for Colchester United, many as captain, and played in the club’s first ever Football League match.

30. Trevor Storton (died aged 61)
Made 396 appearances as central defender for Chester City between 1974 and 1984.

31. Jozef Štibrányi (died aged 71)
Right winger for the Czechoslovakian national team and scorer of the winning goal against Spain in a 1962 World Cup Finals match.

32. Ferenc Szojka (died aged 80)
Salgótarjáni midfielder that represented Hungary in the 1954 and 1958 World Cup Finals.

33. Les Stubbs (died aged 81)
Inside forward for Southend United and member of the Chelsea championship-winning side of 1955.

34. Thorbjørn Svenssen (died 86)
Norwegian defender, 1947-1962. Second player in world history to reach 100 international caps after England’s Billy Wright.

35. Eddie Turnbull (died aged 88)
Member of the great Hibernian side of the 1940’s and 1950’s who went on to manage the side to victory in the 1972 Scottish League Cup Final.

36. Jan van Beveren (died aged 63)
One of the finest Dutch goalkeepers of the 1970’s and stalwart of the PSV Eindhoven team that won several trophies including the UEFA Cup in 1978.

37. Tonny Van Ede (died aged 86)
Made 455 appearances for Sparta Rotterdam who named the main stand of their stadium after him.

38. Neil Young (died aged 66)
Ever-present in the Manchester City side of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Scored in City’s successful 1969 FA Cup Final against Leicester and 1970 European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final against Gornik Zabrze.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Weekend TV Preview 11 - 13 November

Friday 11 November

18:00 Cyprus v Scotland, International Friendly, BBC2 Scotland
With the rise of APOEL in the Champions League, things are going great for Cypriot football at club level. However, a quick look at the form guide of the national team and it's terribly easy to see why they're playing Scotland in a friendly rather than duking it out for a play off spot for the Big Show in the Summer.Only one win in their last 13 games. If Scotland lose to this lot then there will be trouble.
19:00 Turkey v Croatia UEFA Euro 2012 Play Off 1st Leg, ESPN / ESPN HD
Nuri Sahin is back from injury but not named in the Turkey squad. Nevertheless, Turkey finished second in a tough qualifying group. Croatia were disappointing and disappointed to finish runners up to Greece.
19:45 Estonia v Republic of Ireland, UEFA Euro 2012 Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
No one knows anything about Estonia (with the possible exception of Jonathan Wilson) so everyone is frightened that they'll catch Ireland out. For the Republic, Robbie Keane interrupts his preparations for the  MLS Cup Final appearance with the Galaxy.
19:45 Cambridge United v Wrexham, FA Cup 1st Round, S4C
A non league FA Cup encounter at the Abbey for those of you who prefer to keep it real. At the time of writing, Wrexham are still minus an owner but top of the Conference National. The neutral romantics will hope the Welsh club can make it to the third round, possibly to play Arsenal.

Saturday 12 November

12:30 Newport County v Shrewsbury Town, FA Cup 1st Round, ESPN / ESPN HD
More Welsh action, this time at Newport County, once of the Football League. They face a much sterner test against a Shrews side as they are in fourth place in League 2. Still, the magic of the Cup and all that.
15:00 Wales v Norway, International Friendly, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
A chance for Gary Speed's improving side to pit their skills against a Poland/Ukraine bound Norway. One of the reasons behind the visitor's resurgence was the fact that they started to take their friendlies very seriously and thereby accumulating FIFA ranking points. Hopefully, Speed can impress the importance of the Rankings on his players.
17:15 England v Spain, International Friendly, ITV1 / ITV1 HD
A game designed to lower the expectations of an entire nation. Go get 'em boys!

Sunday 13 November

12:30 FC Halifax Town v Charlton Athletic, FA Cup 1st Round, ITV1 / ITV1 HD
Now this is what I call a Super Sunday. Ex-League, phoenix club Halifax take on League One giants, Charlton at home. Just what the Cup is all about. Come on The Shayman! Send those Clowns packing.
15:15 Morecambe v Sheffield Wednesday, FA Cup 1st Round, ESPN / ESPN HD
Another great occasion for one of the smallest clubs in the League. Wednesday are in reduced circumstances but the name exudes history and they'll bring a stack load of supporters. A replay is not completely out of the question. After anything can happen in the FA ... oh you know the rest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Poppies

As if English football has enough trouble with race rows it now finds itself embroiled in a deeply emotive argument about the annual tradition of displaying a poppy to remember the soldiers who died in battle during Great Britain and its Commonwealth's numerous wars. The English FA, as a gesture of support and remembrance, want the England players to wear shirts featuring a poppy motif this weekend in their friendly match against Spain. FIFA have refused on the basis that wearing the poppy contravenes their rule on the use of political symbols during their football matches.

Needless to say, large sections of the English media and the British government are up in arms. Everyone from Sepp Blatter to the Germans seems to be responsible for FIFA's refusal to break their own rule and make an exception for the Poppy. However, I believe that, not for the first time, the English media and the British government are wrong.

Expressing solidarity with soldiers who have died in battle is a political statement and wearing a poppy symbolises that statement. The poppy is also a fundraising device for the Royal British Legion which, although charitable in nature, is political.

As much as the poppy may represent a harmless act of charity and remembrance it is still a political symbol and as such is against FIFA rules on political neutrality.

FIFA have to deal with some federations whose national governments have some pretty strange views on how things should be done. This is one of the reasons why they banned political symbols on football shirts in the first place.

I know it's easy and fashionable to attack FIFA. However, on this occasion, they are right. Were the poppy to be exempt from the rule, the door would be open to politicians and other ne’er-do-wells to use football to propagate dodgy ideologies and odious politics. If FIFA were to refuse then they would be accused of bias and double standards. If they were to agree they would be accused of supporting those same views by the same people criticising them now for not allowing the England team to wear poppies on their shirts.

Unfortunately, I believe there are some folk who are using the poppy ban to push their own anti-FIFA agenda. I find this distasteful and disrespectful to the memory of those who died and to those who survived the battlefield.

Between banning political symbols and people who exploit the memory of the fallen in order to pursue their own agenda, I am with the former.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Football Americana: Conference Finals

2011's MLS Cup match will be played at the Home Depot Center between LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo on 20th November.

The Galaxy added the Western Conference Championship to their Supporters Shield victory by defeating Real Salt Lake 3-1 in the conference final at HDC. The sides exchanged blows in the middle of the first half, with LA drawing first blood. Omar Gonzalez was adjudged to have been pushed by Andy Williams and the referee pointed to the spot in the 22nd minute. Landon Donovan overcame his Nick Rimando issues, clipping the ball past him to make it 1-0. Salt Lake quickly equalised, Alvaro Saborio glancing Jamison Olave's header past Josh Saunders.

In-form Mike Magee made it 2-1 to LA just before the hour mark after both Robbie Keane and Kyle Beckerman had hit the woodwork. David Beckham swung in a trademark cross to set up Magee's header to continue his playoff scoring streak. Ten minutes later the tie was dead, but not before Fabian Espindola fired against the crossbar for RSL with a stunning effort on the half volley. The goal arrived courtesy of Keane, who remained composed to fire the Galaxy into MLS Cup.

Two second half goals were enough to secure the Eastern Conference title for the Dynamo, who defeated Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. The bad came before the good for Houston; MVP candidate Brad Davis tore his right quadriceps and will miss the game with LA, a huge loss for Dom Kinnear. Andre Hainault finished from close range to give them the lead eight minutes into the second half, and although they fluffed a chance to make it 2-0 less than a minute later Houston did get a second to seal the tie. Carlo Costly left it late, but found the net with an easy finish off the post on the break with Kansas City chasing an equaliser.

You can see the conference final highlights here - we'll be back after MLS Cup.

Midweek TV Preview: 7 - 10 November 2011

Monday 7 November

19.45 St Johnstone v Aberdeen, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A quiet week lies ahead due to the international break and a
lack of European cup competitions, and it begins in Perth. The hosts were beaten by St Mirren on Saturday but are sitting pretty in fourth. By contrast, the Dons are second from bottom after an Old Firm double whammy in their last two matches.

Tuesday 8 November

19.45 Sheffield United v Bradford City, JPT Area Quarter-Final, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two Yorkshire sides meet in the Northern Quarter-Finals of the Football League Trophy on Tuesday. Sheffield United overcame Rotherham United in the previous round, while the Bantams needed penalties to defeat Huddersfield Town. The Blades will be favourites, with their visitors struggling in the fourth division with only three league victories to their name.

Wednesday 9 November

19.30 Glentoran v Linfield, IFA Premiership, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Unbeaten since September, Glentoran host top of the table Linfield with their confidence high. The leaders were defeated in their last game by third-placed Cliftonville, meaning that a home win here will take Glentoran to within four points of the visitors at the top.

Thursday 10 November

19.00 England v Iceland, UEFA U-21 Euro 2013 Qualifying, ESPN/ESPN HD
Qualifying for 2013 continues for the England side with the visit of Iceland to Colchester United for this Group 8 clash. England have won all three qualifiers so far, conceding just one goal in the process. They travel to Belgium next Monday for the next qualifier.

23.45 Vasco da Gama v Universitario, Copa Sudamericana Quarter-Final, Premier Sports
If Thursday is the new Friday, you'll be able to stay up late for this one. This is the second leg between Vasco of Brazil and Universitario of Peru, and it's finely poised for a barnstormer. Goals from Raúl Ruidíaz and Johan Fano gave the Peruvians a 2-0 home win in the first leg, setting up a comeback of epic proportions in the second. Maybe.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Football Americana: Conference Semi-Finals

Round one proper of the Major League Soccer playoffs is done, and we now know which four teams will compete in the Conference Finals.


Real Salt Lake took a 3-0 advantage in the first leg of their semi-final against Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium. Alvaro Saborio made the difference in the first match, scoring the first two goals. The first came just after the break and was a simple tap-in after good work by Javier Morales and Chris Wingert, and the second was a delicious backheel seven minutes into the second half. Ned Grabavoy's late goal looked to have the tie won before a single minute had been played at CenturyLink Field.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the second leg in Seattle provided the most drama of the four, with the Sounders getting two of the three goals they required around the hour mark. Referee Jair Marrufo disallowed Seattle's apparent breakthrough goal before the break for a foul on goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and the hosts had to wait. Mike Fucito was dragged down by Tony Beltran in the 54th minute to win a penalty for Seattle which was lashed in by Osvaldo Alonso to make the score 3-1 on aggregate. Lamar Neagle's tidy back-post finish made it 3-2, but even with 30 minutes remaining the Sounders couldn't find the crucial third in Kasey Keller's final match.

New York Red Bulls are guests in the Western Conference Playoffs and received a bitter welcome from LA Galaxy, who defeated them 1-0 at Red Bull Arena in the first leg of their semi-final. Mike Magee's scored some vital post-season goals for LA, and his 15th minute half-volley from a brilliant pass by David Beckham was right up there in terms of importance. Both teams went into the second leg with a player suspended thanks to an altercation after the final whistle. Rafa Marquez was the key culprit in a pathetic confrontation between the two sides, with Juninho of LA also seeing red.

In the second leg at Home Depot Center the Red Bulls got the dream start. In just the fourth minute Luke Rodgers nipped in between the Galaxy defenders and slipped the ball past Josh Saunders to level the tie. LA had other ideas, though, and regained the advantage with Magee's equaliser at the end of the first half, a header again set up by Beckham - this time from the corner quadrant. Landon Donovan put the semi-final beyond New York from the spot in the second half, calmly finishing after Beckham had been clumsily and aggressively bundled over in the box by Roy Miller.


The goals came early in Houston Dynamo's first leg win at Philadelphia Union. Andre Hainault headed Houston in front after just four minutes and 35 seconds but the lead lasted even fewer minutes than had parity. Sebastien Le Toux raced onto a deflected pass to equalise with a simple finish on six minutes. Calen Carr scored the winner for the Dynamo after half an hour, finishing tidily after Brian Ching's through pass.

A single goal from Ching was enough to settle the second leg in favour of Houston and send them into the Eastern Conference final. Brad Davis typically played a big part, swinging in a superb free kick for Ching to head home in first half stoppage time.

Colorado Rapids lost their home leg against Sporting Kansas City as they looked to defend their MLS Cup championship. Teal Bunbury was Sporting Club's hero on the night, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory. He broke the deadlock just after the break, flying clear of the defence and stroking the ball past Matt Pickens. It all fell apart ten minutes later for the Rapids, when Tyrone Marshall hauled Bunbury down and was heading for the shower as the USA striker eased in the penalty.

KC's dominance continued into the second leg, which they also won 2-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park. Defender Aurelien Collin effectively killed the semi-final with a header past stranded 'keeper Pickens just before the 30-minute mark, and the exceptional first-year player CJ Sapong made it 4-0 on aggregate with a header of his own less than 15 minutes from time. Graham Zusi's delivery played a big part in both goals and KC cruise into the Eastern Conference final.

And so, the single-leg conference finals are set. In the East, it's Sporting Kansas City v Housto Dynamo, who meet at Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday. In the West it's LA Galaxy v Real Salt Lake, a repeat of the 2009 MLS Cup, at HDC.

The respective winners will meet in 2011 MLS Cup at HDC on 20th November.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #213

Got the lot
9 Players That Have Won The European Cup/Champions League, European Cup-Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup/Europa League

1. Danny Blind (Ajax)
2. Sergio Brio (Juventus)
3. Antonio Cabrini (Juventus)
4. Fabio Cudicini (Roma and Milan)
5. Arnold Mühren (Ajax and Ipswich)
6. Gaetano Scirea (Juventus)
7. Stefano Tacconi (Juventus)
8. Marco Tardelli (Juventus)
9. Gianluca Vialli (Juventus, Chelsea and Sampdoria)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 4 - 6 November 2011

Thursday 3 November

00.30 (Friday) Houston Dynamo v Philadelphia Union, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD
The teams that finished second and third in the Eastern Conference meet up in the second leg of this semi-final. Dominic Kinnear's Dynamoes lead 2-1 from the first leg. The winners on aggregate play Sporting Kansas City in the Conference Final.
03.00 (Friday) LA Galaxy v New York Red Bulls, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD
As far as play-off games are concerned, LA have by far the better track record and that was certainly shown in the first leg which Houston won 1-0. The winners of this tie play Real Salt Lake in the Conference Final.

Saturday 5 November

12.45 Newcastle United v Everton, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Just the one league win in the last five for David Moyes' men. Not the sort of form to take to St James' Park when their opponents know no fear and are unbeaten at home since March of this year.
15.45 The New Saints v Llanelli AFC, Welsh Premier League, S4C
We may have gently mocked these Welsh fixtures in the past, but you really should seek out S4C's live coverage on a Saturday afternoon. As well as seeing some decent football, you can also keep one eye on the videprinter at the bottom of the screen showing the latest scores across the UK. Stick that, Jeff Stelling...
17.20 Middlesbrough v Watford, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Watford's impressive 1-0 win over Brighton during the week is exactly the morale booster they need to maintain their upward movement away from the relegation zone. Middlesbrough will be just as tough to beat, but they're inconsistent at the moment. Where there's life, etc...
17.30 QPR v Man City, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
If it's early evening fireworks you're after [Bonfire Night joke - tick], look no further than Loftus Road where City will be looking to maintain their extraordinary record of scoring almost four goals per game since the start of October. Yes, goals galore AND Joey Barton lashing out at an international superstar player. Don't say this isn't what you wanted the Premier League to be when it started all those years ago.
19.00 Real Betis v Malaga, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Six straight defeats in their last six games - that's all you need to know about Betis. Even bottom-of-the-table Getafe have beaten them. Malaga haven't been in the best of form recently, but frankly an away win is as inevitable as Steve Claridge uttering the phrase "And I'll tell you something else..."
21.00 Levante v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The dream may not yet be over for brave Levante. An impressive spell at the Spanish summit was brought to an end last week by Barcedrid, but a win against 4th-placed Valencia will be just the tonic to open up a five-point gap over them and stay in the title hunt.

Sunday 6 November

11.00 Real Madrid v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Gah, spoil-sports. Why did you have to go and knock Levante off the top of the table, eh Real? Why don't you pick on someone your own size? Ah - you're playing Barca in December, right-ho...
12.00 Motherwell v Celtic, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
'Well are doing well to be above Celtic in the SPL table after 13 matches, but Neil Lennon's side have a game in hand and will go above their opponents if they win this one. Defeat at Fir Park, meanwhile, might convince the Celtic boss to try his luck at Leicester City.
13.30 Wolves v Wigan Athletic, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Wolves' last league win was on August 21st, Wigan's was on August 27th. And you wonder why this isn't being shown in 3D?
16.00 Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
It's vital after someone's had minor heart surgery for them to relax and avoid stress. Just as well Harry Redknapp's side travel to Craven Cottage for what has been in recent years a comfortable fixture for Tottenham.
16.30 FC Augsburg v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Excuse us for a moment while we look up the word 'carnage' in German...
19.00 Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Top of their Europa League group and unbeaten in eight, Bilbao are betraying the supposed crisis they experienced early doors under Marcelo Bielsa. Sadly they might have to write this one off as a defeat given they've only beaten Barcelona twice in the last 10 years.
19.45 Napoli v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Juve have the only remaining unbeaten record in Serie A but they'll do well to retain it against a Napoli side that have been more than a match for The Old Lady in the not-too-distant past.
21.00 Getafe v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Getafe are rock bottom with just one win in their ten games thus far. An Atleti side that's been poor of late may give them a small hope of racing up the table should they double their win total.

The Almost Random A-Z of Dubious Football Knowledge: B

B is for...


Spherical basis for the entire sport that can change its molecular structure to become lighter than air itself, usually around the time of a World Cup. Well-known models include the classic Adidas Telsar (used in the 1970 World Cup), Adidas Tango (used in the 1978 edition) and the Mitre Pro Max (used for the first few years of the Premier League).

Individual examples are occasionally stolen by members of the crowd, members of losing World Cup Final teams and people loitering in the vicinity of Wigan Athletic’s training ground. Nowadays traditionally coloured white, they’ve at times been brown, silver, gold and in adverse weather and natural daylight conditions, luminous yellow or orange.

Can also be represented in miniature form for the purposes of conducting competition draws, although this can complicate matters unnecessarily.


Gold-shirted giants of the game since the late-1950's and the most successful football playing country in history. First game (improbably) was against Exeter City in 1914 which Brazil won (only) 2-0 (improbably). Famously won the Jules Rimet trophy outright after winning three World Cup tournaments but failed to get their hands on the replacement trophy for 24 years thanks to the advancement of Total Football, Claudio Gentile and Argentina, in that order. References to The Greatest Team That Ever Played ® (i.e. that which competed in the 1970 World Cup) are frequent and though the 2002 equivalent side had undoubted quality, no modern-day Brazilian side has yet emerged from the shadow of that which featured Jairzinho, Rivelino and of course, Pele.

Bremner, Billy

Legend of Leeds United and, in diminishing terms, Scotland, Hull City and Doncaster Rovers. Famous aggravator of Dave Mackay in 1966 and Kevin Keegan in the 1974 Charity Shield match. Denied an almost certain goal from close range in the 1975 European Cup Final by Bayern keeper Sepp Maier. Shortly after was flagged offside, thereby ruling out a goal for Peter Lorimer in what was ultimately a 2-0 win for the German side. Immortalised by a statue outside Leeds United’s Elland Road ground and regularly voted amongst the best players ever to pull on the club shirt.


Germany's 'Federal League' and officially the top two flights of football in Deutschland since 1963. The first 1.Bundesliga season contained such giants as Meidericher, Preussen Munster and Saarbrücken but was eventually won by 1FC Köln. Darkest hour came during the 1970-71 season when it was found that 18 matches had been rigged towards the end of the campaign. Arminia Bielefeld and Offenbach Kickers lost their playing licenses temporarily and over 50 people connected with the game were banned or suspended for their involvement. Despite this, Bayern Munich have set a record of 21 league titles, closely followed by Borussia Mönchengladbach with five. The record for most appearances in the Bundesliga is held by Karl-Heinz Körbel who played 602 times for one club, Eintracht Frankfurt, between 1972 and 1991.


League One team based in the Greater Manchester area of England. Known as The Shakers from the moment former club chairman JT Ingham announced before a Lancashire Senior Cup game against Everton in the late-1800's "We'll give 'em a shaking. In fact, we are the Shakers!"  Just as well he didn't promise to murder them, one would have to suppose. Honours include the Second Division championship of 1895, the Third Division championship in 1961 and 1997 and FA Cup winners in 1900 and 1903. Former coaches include Bob Stokoe (1961-65) and Neil Warnock (1998-99). Former players include Colin Bell, Neville Southall and Danny Wilson.