Friday, December 4, 2009

2010 World Cup Draw

Here are the videos (sound might be a bit low but the picture is good)

If you haven't see the videos or know the results, spoilers are below!

Pictures of the Groups:

You could hear the gasps in the crowd when both Cote D'Ivoire and Portugal went into Brazil's Group. South Africa is also unlucky to draw both Mexico and France, arguably the top teams in their respective Pots.

American fans didn't get Group A but must be fairly pleased to be in with weaklings Algeria and Slovenia. Even though Bradley is not impressed.

Italy and Spain in absolute cupcake groups. Should be easy.

Here's the bracket for the 2nd round.

Assuming it's chalk and the top seeds win their groups:

South Africa (A) VS B2
England (C) VS D2
Holland (E) VS F2
Brazil (G) VS H2

would be the top half

Argentina (B) VS A2
Germany (D) VS C2
Italy (F) VS E2
Spain (H) VS G2

would be the bottom half

Bottom half seems stronger at the moment.

If you finish 2nd you move to the other side of the draw.

Some juicy 2nd round matches possible like


More analysis from ESPN

And Skysports

What are your thoughts of the draw? How did your favourite country fare?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World Cup Seeding Announced!

Sacre Bleu! No seed? Zis is an outrage!!

Source: Guardian

FIFA had determined it's seeding for Friday

Pot 1: South Africa, Argentina, Holland, England, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Germany

Pot 2: (CONCACAF/Asia): USA, Mexico, Honduras, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand

Pot 3: (South American/Africa): Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Cote D' Ivoire. Algeria

Pot 4: (Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia

Some thoughts:

FIFA decided not to use any complex formulas this time around. They simply took the Oct 2009 rankings.

As anonymous stated in the previous post, FIFA is protecting South Africa ensuring they get one of the weak South American teams and 5/8 chance of getting a weak Asian.

Brazil and Argentina MUST draw an African team.. if they get an strong European team as well, that would be a Group of Death.

USA's only hope is to:

A) Be the first team picked out of Pot 2 and go directly to South Africa's Group

B) Draw a South American instead of an African because US has a 5/8 chance of drawing an African and if they do so 2/5 chance that that Group will have someone named Brazil or Argentina in it.

If the US draws a European team they may survive. If they draw Brazil or Argentina then they must draw another european and african, they're toast.

Overall this draw might screw Brazil and Argentina more than anyone. America fans may feel slighted again but I know for sure there are 24 teams right now shaking in their boots that they don't draw USA.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World Cup 2010 Seeding

The news the last few weeks after all 32 teams have qualified is how will FIFA manipulate the seeding for it's own benefit.

The formula in 2006 was taking the last two World Cups, with the more recent one double the value, and the last 3 years FIFA year-end rankings. This prove to be very fair as the 8 seeds were Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Spain, with USA just missing out. Amazingly if Denmark had qualified, they would have been seeded ahead of Argentina because Denmark made the quarters in 1998 and the 2nd round in 2002. Argentina didn't make the 2nd round in 2002.

Making the quarterfinals and beyond of a World Cup puts a country in a good position to be seeded in the next tournament.

I have complied a spreadsheet using the exact same formula for South Africa 2010.

I believe this is very convenient for FIFA as 2006's formula gives them the 8 seeds they want, I would think. The host South Africa, 6 former World Champions (Argentina, Brazil, Italy, England, France, Germany) and the European Champions Spain.

So FIFA would luck out and get brownie points for being consistent and having the big teams seeded. Proving to the media that they did not manipulate anything.

I would also say that FIFA lucks out again because there are exactly 8 European teams remaining. (Portugal, Holland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, Switzerland and Greece). Thus there is no controversy like in 2006 of putting a team (Serbia) in a special pot or anything. The remaining European teams go into Pot 2.

Of the remaining 16 teams, 5 are African, 5 are Asian (I'll make New Zealand Asian), 3 are South American and 3 are North American. FIFA is lucky again because 5 and 3 make 8 so it's easy to geographically make 2 pots of 8.

But the question everyone is asking is... which 3 go with which 5? Because the Asian Confederation is by far the weakest, whichever Group of 3 goes with the Asians would feel very unlucky. Rankings wise, the 3 CONCACAFs are stronger with powerhouses USA and Mexico, consistant World Cup participants. So they should go with the Africans.

Another thing to look at is Brazil and Argentina cannot play a fellow South American. So if the 3 South Americans were to be Grouped with the 5 Africans than and African team MUST be in Brazil and Argentina's group. FIFA tends to like giving Brazil easy draws and with the tournament in Africa, perhaps FIFA wants the Africans to do well... and you do well by avoiding Brazil. Another reason CONCACAF should go with Africa.

So I believe CONCACAF/Africa will be Pot 3 and South America/Asian will be in Group 4. This ensures Brazil gets an Asian team and easier road, which FIFA likes.

Here is my somewhat radical suggestion, I would only have 3 pots. Pots 1 and 2 would be the same as above with Pot 3 being all 16 remaining non-European teams. The 16 teams would simply be drawn left to right while avoiding countries of the same confederation. So using Brazil again, they could get an Asian and an African, an Asian and a CONCACAF or and African and a CONCACAF, like Nigeria and USA. This would make it more exciting I think and no one would be able to complain that seeding wasn't fair cause they're all in the same bowl.

I made a mock draw using my system and and got the following

Group A: South Africa, Holland, USA, Uruguay
Group B: Argentina, Denmark, North Korea, Cameroon
Group C: Germany, Switzerland, Chile, New Zealand
Group D: Brazil, Portugal, Japan, Honduras
Group E: Spain, Slovenia, Ghana, South Korea
Group F: France, Slovakia, Cote D'Ivoire, Mexico
Group G: Italy, Greece, Australia, Algeria
Group H: England, Serbia, Paraguay, Nigeria

What would be your format?

Charlize Theron to co-host World Cup soccer draw

Source: CBC

South African actress Charlize Theron will serve as co-host of Friday's World Cup draw in Cape Town, FIFA announced Tuesday.

Theron, who won the Best Actress award at the 2004 Oscars, will join FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke as co-host of the 90-minute show that will be televised live to an estimated global audience of more than 200 million people in 200 countries.

The draw, which is expected to be attended by around 800 media representatives, will determine the eight first-round groups and the match order for the 32 teams who will contest the FIFA World Cup from June 11 to July 11, 2010.

Theron is just one of a number of dignitaries who will take part in the draw. Others include soccer star David Beckham, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Nobel Peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Frederik W. de Klerk

Former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, who played a major role in bringing the World Cup to Africa, is expected to address the celebrities and soccer officials via video message.

Looks good. Anyone but Pele! I'm tired of him always being at the draws. Somehow he always gives Brazil an easy group!

Monday, November 30, 2009

World Cup 2010 Song

The official video of the " FIFA World Cup 2010" Anthem by Somalian artist K'naan

First impression is that it's so-so. Doesn't really catch World Cup fever yet.

Here's are some other from previous World Cups. My favorite is from 1998.

2006 - Toni Braxton & Il DIvo - The Time Of Our Lives

2002 - Voices of Japan/Korea - Let's Get Together Now

1998 - Youssou N'Dour & Axelle Red - La Cour des Grands

1994 - Sounds of Blackness - Gloryland

1990 - Gianna Nannini & Edoardo Bennato - Un Estate Italiana

1986 - Stephanie Lawrence - Hero

Sunday, November 22, 2009

MLS Cup 2009

Before the start of the game, I wasn't sure who to support. The 3 big galaxians (Arena, Beckham, and Donvan) have all won loads already. Plus, Becks is a bit of a muppet with an awful haircut. RSL is the 8 seed, a plucky side with a white, neo-Rastafarian captain, an ex-Galaxian forward, and a young manager. However, as a USMNT fan looking forward to the World Cup, it has become clear that Landon Donovan is the best US player, and I wouldn't mind seeing him do something fantastic to win it.

As soon as I started to think that I didn't like the neutral site, the fans began a deafening "Sound-ers" chant. It made it feel slightly less sterile than a Super Bowl. While the Seattle fans are great, they don't have a true rooting interest. Home and home has to be a better option if MLS fans will not travel for the Cup final.

The other major problem with the game being held in Seattle is the field turf. It is an awful surface for soccer. Players were falling, the ball acted more like a ping pong ball, and both teams passing was off.

The game started pretty sloppy with neither team looking like they had trained on the artificial surface. Other than Clint Mathis coming on for the injured (and crying) Javier Morales, there wasn't much to report until the Galaxy's fantastic first goal. Beckham led Donovan well, and Landon played an inch perfect pass to Magee to tap in on the left side of the goal.

Salt Lake had to put Ned Gravaboy (best name in MLS) on for Will Johnson to begin the second half. Both sides got their sea legs in the second half, and the play on the field increased significantly. Robbie Findley got clear on the right and came in hard as Donovan Ricketts came out to challenge him. The two came together in a collision that initially appeared to hurt both players equally. However, it became apparent that Ricketts' right hand got the worst of it. Minutes after play restarted, Findley slotted home Real's equalizer.

Ricketts had to go to ground once before Findley's goal, and it appeared that he had a hard time using his right hand to help himself back up. He also didn't fully extend his arm in his attempt to save Findley's shot, and wisely pulled himself off after giving up the game tying goal.

For as much as the first half was relatively bad to watch, the second half offered a great deal of excitement for the American soccer fan. It wasn't a particularly well played half, but between the collision, injuries, and the game tying goal, there was enough drama for even a non-devotee.

Each team had a few chances at the end of regular time, but neither could convert. As the extra 30 minutes went on, it was clear that these players were not in shape to run as much as they had earlier. The field turf had to play a part in their fatigue.

When the match went to penalties, Real was the favorite. While L.A. had fantastic attacking players in Beckham, Donovan and Buddle, Salt Lake had Nick Rimando. One week ago, Rimando's work in penalties in Chicago got RSL to the MLS Cup final.

Each team began by converting their first two penalties. Then each side missed their next attempt before Landon Donovan Roberto Baggio'd his shot over the crossbar, to leave Salt Lake with the advantage. They would lose it shortly thereafter when Andrew Williams' meek attempt fell right to Josh Saunders. In the seventh round Edson Buddle's shot was saved by Rimando, and Robbie Russell converted to give Real their first MLS Cup.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Van Persie

The current international break may hit Arsenal the hardest. With Chelsea about to face the loss of all of their African players, ManU not in sync, and Liverpool playing laughable football, Arsenal looked to be the favorite for the premiership this league. Robin Van Persie going down early in the friendly versus Italy has to knock the Gunners back a bit. That's a shame, considering how entertaining they have been this season.

Luckily, some woman's placenta will not be eaten, or buried in the yard, or needlessly thrown away, but rather used to massage the Royal Dutch ankle. I hope Kate Gosselin and octomom aren't paying attention to this new therapeutic technique.

UPDATE - Apparently, the placenta treatment didn't take, and Robin will have to undergo surgery.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barnsley fans Vs. Manchester United

Another example of security asleep.

This isn't funny. Security were still standing around, didn't even chase them! What if instead of them kicking the ball, they attacked Foster?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Copa del Rey

Real Madrid fell 4-0 today in the Copa del Rey to Alcorcon. The hot seat under Pelligrini has got to be blazing after today's drubbing at the hands of the third division side.

ETA by JoeyClams: Sid Lowe in the Guardian gives the lowdown on what the Spanish press are saying about the Real humiliation in the Copa del Rey. Basically, new Madrid president Florentino Perez, who went through 6 managers in 3 years during his last stint as president, is ready to throw his current manager under the bus. Seems this is a pattern for Perez. What isn't a pattern is buying defenders for his Galacticos 2.o experiment. Perez spent over £254m this summer and only £3.5m was spent on a defender. I guess he figured his team could just win games 10-9 or something. Whatever he thought, it's clear that Pelligrini is going to take the fall when all Perez has to do is look in the mirror to figure out what has gone wrong.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do Kevin and Tom Realize this is an important game too?

Tonight DC United travels into Mexico to face Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League. They are leaving Ben Olsen and Clyde Simms at home to rest from last Saturday's big league game and prepare for this weekends big league game, which have playoff implications.

DC wins and they are in. Any other results puts DC's fate in the hand of Marathon playing at San Juan Jabloteh (DC and Marathon are tied with 9 points but DC has the first tie breaker). San Juan is the bottom dweller in the group and home field advantage is not going to make up the skill difference.

DC on Saturday needs several things to fall there way to move into the MLS Playoffs but not win and in guarantee. MLS teams have not won a competitive game in Mexico since the league was founded. Why would you not try to own the thing you can control. A win and you are in versus saving players for a shot at a place in the MLS Playoffs.

Clearly DC has prioritized making the playoffs over this tournament. I don't know the economics of that decision but bet that is the reason.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mess with the Bulls you get the Horns

While the defending champions University of Maryland are off to a solid start this year (including a late goal on Friday for a 1-0 win over UNC), their little brother is starting to put together a solid season. University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) raised their record to a perfect 9-0-0 last night with a 3-0 win at La Salle. Two more goals were scored by sophomore Andrew Bulls. Bulls is the nation's leading scorer with 12 goals this season.
Bulls, who manged to confuse Soccer By Ives (thought the team nickname was Bulls not Retrievers), is helping Pete Caringi's team gather some attention. As a Freshman, Bulls was the Team's MVP (started all 17 games, 8 goals, 2 assists) and has not let up in 2009.

So how does a kid like this end up at UMBC? He was a member of the 2006 and 2008 national club championship with the Casa Mia Bays (a top club team in the US that has a relationship with Chelsea). and a 2007 Adidas High School All American at McDonogh. He was recruited by ACC, Big 10, and Big East schools but I guess it help
s to get a kid to come your school when your brother was a 4 year member of the program.

Here is hoping the success continues for the past president of the McDonogh's cricket, scrabble and table tennis clubs, Andrew Bulls.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Juventus/Livorno Serie A Matchday 4

I am really curious about the Livorno players’ high jersey numbers. They started with only Nico Pulzetti sporting a single digit number. It reminded me of a spring training baseball team loaded with minor leaguers trying to make the big squad. The game featured lots of end to end action in this game, and the teams were relatively evenly matched, save for two players: Gianlugi Buffon and Mauro Camoranesi. Without these two, this game surely ends in a draw or Livorno win.

Buffon’s value to Juventus cannot be understated. A la Cech and Van der Sar, he has the stereotypical, tall, lanky keeper’s body. His imposing frame is matched by his ability to always get into the right position, and his quickness to react. My game notes show 6 different times where I made a point to write down that he made an excellent save. The thing that kills me about him is he seems so cool about everything as well. It really must drive opposition strikers mad. Livorno played well throughout the match, but when their own finishing didn’t fail them, Buffon was always there to protect his goal.

The scoring began when Juve struck first in the 8th minute when Vincenzo Iaquinta neatly headed home Camoranesi’s cross from outside the box. The bianconeri added a second goal in the 30th minute when Claudio Marchisio chipped a shot over Alfonso de Lucia. Mauro Camoranesi assisted both goals and was all over the pitch all night. He tracked back to strip Livorno players of the ball. He pressed forward to feed his own strikers. His work rate was excellent. His positioning reminded me a bit of Andrea Pirlo, but with perhaps a little bit more ambition forward. Last week I wrote that I thought that perhaps Mauro was a bit overconfident. This week his play supported all of his self-assurance.

On a night when stars Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro del Piero were unavailable due to injury, both Buffon and Camoranesi imposed their will on the game to ensure a Juve win.

Monday, September 21, 2009

FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009

The FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 gets underway on Thursday.

The biggest news coming out of qualifying is that two-time defending champion (and 5 of the last 7) Argentina didn't not qualify out of South America. They had a disasterous tournament and were beatn out by Venezuela! It hasn't been a good year for Argentine football.

Here are the groups. Top 2 teams plus top 4 3rd place team advance to the knockout stage.

Group A - Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, Italy
Group B - Nigeria, Venezuela, Spain, Tahiti
Group C - USA, Germany, Cameroon, South Korea
Group D - Ghana, Uzbekistan, England, Uruguay
Group E - Brazil, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Australia
Group F - UAE, South Africa, Honduras, Hungary

Players to watch:

Giuliano - Brazil
Abel Hernandez - Uruguay
Gavin Hoyte - England
Fran Merida - Spain
Hernan Perez - Paraguay
Brian Perk - United States
Roger Rojas - Honduras
Ransford Osei - Ghana
Cho Young-Cheol - South Korea
Richard Sukuta-Pasu - Germany

A Few Questions Come To Mind:

Will Brazil win? Brazil are always favourites but have only won twice win 1993.
How many goals will Tahiti concede? I'll say 12.
Can Czech Republic take that extra step and improve on the 2007 Silver Medal.
How far can a CONCACAF team go? If the US gets far, perhaps they should play more games in Africa.

What is your prediction? I'll take Ghana to win it all.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Matchday 1 Marseille/Milan

Fox Soccer's coverage of the Champions League games is something to behold. No longer are we tied to ESPN's choice of which game we are allowed to watch. 10 of this week's 16 matches are available either live or on a delay. That is unbelievable, and a massive step forward.

It poured rain throughout the game in Marseille on Tuesday, and Milan's white Champions League kits do not have a sponsor. It's a good thing this isn't the women's champions league. Or maybe it isn't. Pato, Pirlo and Flamini all play an attractive style of football and I was excited to see what they could do against Marseille. Early on, the cameras caught Ronaldinho chewing gum on the bench. That certainly won't help him in his losing battle to appear less ugly.

The two man announcing booth did a good job calling the game. They were never overbearing, but they added comments and descriptions when needed. The Marseille crowd was consistently into the game, singing in full voice throughout the downpour. Milan is an excellent passing team. If they only had the youth to take advantage of such gilded opportunities, they could be a force in both the scudetto race and Europe. Clarence Seedorf had a nice dribble towards goal, then set up Pipo Inzaghi for his 67th European goal in the 28th minute. Marco Storari had a massive save in added time on a shot from Cheyrou.

Gabriel Heinze leveled the home side in the 49th minute with a nice header off a free kick that ultimately nutmegged the keeper. The crowd remained fully involved after the goal. Champions league group stage crowds are great. Manuel Flamini earned a yellow in the 61st minute for a two footed tackle that probably should have been a straight red. Marseille had more gas in the tank at this point in the gam, but their inability to advance offensively ultimately let them down. Seedorf fed Inzaghi again in the 74th minute for Milan's second goal.

Even though the rain never let up, the pitch stayed in perfect condition. nice work groundskeepers. Milan has to be happy with the away win against a plucky Marseille side. Marseille's problem after this game is that they're one match down against their main rivals to finish second in Group C behind Real Madrid.

Who throws a shoe? Honestly?

Besiktas/Manchester United - CL Matchday 1

The lineups were introduced and Besiktas’ consisted of a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of with a lot of accent marks and umlauts in their name. Man U started with Neville, Vidic, Evans and Evra in the back, two English speakers playing center midfield (Scholes and Carrick), two Portuguese speakers on the wings (Anderson and Nani), and Rooney and Valencia up front. New man, Antonio Valencia ended up playing a little behind and a little wider than Rooney, but 4-4-2 it is.

FSC’s coverage was not so good. Only one man in the booth? No crowd noise? C’mon Fox, you’re better than that. While they fixed the lack of crowd noise problem around 10 minutes into the match, they never get around to fixing the announcer problem. Tim White grew more frustrating as the game went on, announcing all of the scores for the other CL games being played. I understand that the game was not aired on television in the states until 10 pm EDT, but I imagine lots of viewers recorded a few of the Matchday 1 games and planned to watch them on delay. If you spent all day avoiding updates, it’s no good to have the announcer ruin it for you. Also, at one point in the second half he referred to Besiktas as “Fenerbahce”.

United controlled the play during the first half, but had nothing to show for their efforts. Valencia, while talented, seemed just a bit off throughout the opening half.

The Red Devils came out of halftime buzzing around the pitch, looking even more dangerous than before. Patrice Evra continued to make bombing raids down the left side. He really has quite a motor. Besiktas were dangerous in spurts, but both the defense and keeper Ben Foster continued to deny them a goal. Sir Alex removed Carrick for Berbatov in the 63rd minute, and shortly thereafter he called off Rooney for Owen. Rooney was none too happy to be replaced, shaking his head the whole way off the pitch. The camera caught Wayne gesturing to the crowd just above the visitor’s bench, and throwing his boots down in disgust.

United finally got their well deserved goal in the 77th minute after a nice set up by Nani and Valencia led to a Scholes header into the upper right corner. The Ginger Ninja was left without a marker, and buried the chance. Park came on for Valencia in the 84th, and helped close out the 1-0 win.

Denizli’s men will certainly rue losing at home, especially after keeping the game scoreless for over an hour. However, United proved to be too much last night, and the Turkish club’s Champions League chances are bleak considering Wolfsburg’s thrashing of the Muscovites.

Chelsea's First Loss of the Season

Chelsea FC's chief executive Peter Kenyon has resigned from the club effective October 31st. He'll remain as a non-executive director and ambassador. This is an unexpected move by the club since it was Kenyon's move to Chelsea in 2003 from Manchester United that some say sparked the London club's revival. During his time at Chelsea, Kenyon oversaw the signings of huge stars (Shevchenko), up and coming stars (Drogba, Robben, Essien) and a few busts (Shevchenko, Maoluda, Alex). But he also oversaw the running of a team that won the EPL title twice, two FA and League Cups and a UEFA Champions League Final in 2008 that they eventually lost to Manchester United.

Now, is this a move by someone that has done as much as he could for the club and wants a new challenge or is it a move by the club in response to the Big Phil Scolari hiring by Kenyon? Hard to know for sure but after a period of undeniable success, the failures of the past couple of seasons - UCL Final loss, a one year FIFA transfer ban, a revolving door of managers, the debacle that is Frank Arnesen - may have finally caught up to Kenyon. It will be interesting to see the fallout from this over the course of the season as well as who Chelsea bring in to replace Kenyon. I hear Rick Perry is still looking for work.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Serie A Matchday 3 Lazio/Juve

Looking at the Serie A table going into last weekend, the Lazio/Juventus matchup presented the most promise. Each team had won its first two games. Would this game produce beautiful, flowing football that might serve to entice a Serie A neophyte? In a word, no.

The first half was almost completely forgettable. Other than Aleksandar Kolarov’s exceptional run past two Juve defenders, which ultimately led to a fine save by Buffon, there was little to keep a mind from wandering until Lazio had a goal disallowed in stoppage time. Referee Andrea Gervasoni made the correct call to disallow the goal as Julio Cruz clearly impeded a Juve man in the box to free up room for Sebastiani Siviglia’s shot. Maybe the players were distracted by the magenta kits worn by the referees. Words cannot describe their hideousness, and I cannot find a picture anywhere on the intertubes. You’ll have to take my word for it. Speaking of uniforms, Lazio appears to be following Man U and Everton in their attempt to be outfitted as ugly as possible this year. When you have such a great blue as your color, why would you screw it up by adding a vee-neck stripe thingy?

Watching Serie A on FSC is perplexing. The match announcer added almost nothing to my experience. When watching sports, I don’t normally appreciate a color man in the booth. However, in a game where I know very little about either team’s backstory, it would have been helpful. As it was, the announcer was Captain Obvious, adding nothing helpful to any viewer with two working eyes.

The game started to finally pick up as each team began to get stuck in around the 64th minute. Juve had an excellent display of passing, and began to look threatening, only for David Trezeguet to meekly roll the ball towards Fernando Muslera. Tiago replaced Mauro Camaronesi in the 69th minute. I can’t determine what I think of the Oriundi. He certainly has talent, but I get the feeling he thinks he is better than he truly is. That overconfidence leads to him wasting opportunities.

Juve new boy Martin Caceres opened the scoresheet in his first game for the bianconeri in the 72nd minute, pouncing on a ball in the box and slotting his shot past the Lazio keeper. As Lazio pressed for the tying goal, Juve got their second goal in the 4th minute of added time as David Trezeguet scored his first goal of the campaign.

The teams were pretty evenly matched on the day, but Juventus finished where Lazio could not. As it were, Juve completed the “away to Rome” double by week three.

The Champions

Group stages begin shortly. Matchday 1 for groups A-D brings us the following matches:

Atlético APOEL
Beşiktaş Man. United
Chelsea Porto
Juventus Bordeaux
Maccabi Haifa Bayern
Marseille Milan
Wolfsburg CSKA Moskva
Zürich Real Madrid

followed tomorrow by groups E-H

Dynamo Kyiv Rubin
Internazionale Barcelona
Liverpool Debrecen
Lyon Fiorentina
Olympiacos AZ
Sevilla Unirea Urziceni
Standard Arsenal
Stuttgart Rangers

The Besiktas/Manchester and Marseille/Milan fixtures are already scheduled to the DVR for today. Inter/Barca is can't miss football for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are Man City For Real?

Manchester City passes their first test as they defeated Arsenal 4-2 to remain undefeated in the English Premier League.

I expected Arsenal to control play with the better midfield but in fact it was the Man City midfield of Wright-Phillips, De Jong, Barry and Ireland who controled the entire match.

Adebayor haunts his own team with two goals and over-celebrating. He might be reprimanded for that.

It'll be interesting to see how Man City does in their 8 matches against the BIG Four. Match 1 of 8 passed with flying colours.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The leagues are back. It feels like it was much longer than two weeks. While I enjoyed the World Cup Qualifiers, I am happy to be back to club football. Managers across the globe must be infinitely frustrated by having to have a long break at the beginning of the season.

There are some tasty fixtures on tap this weekend.
On FSC has the EPL's third place United at second place Tottenham at noon Saturday. They follow with Juventus at Lazio from Serie A. Those four teams have taken 33 of a possible 36 points this season.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Big World Cup Qualifying Matches

There are a bunch of big matches today.


Group 1

Portugal must win or else Ronaldo will be staying home next year.

Group 3
Northern Ireland-Slovakia

Northern Ireland could take the lead in Group 3 with a win. Incredibly the two teams in the group who made Germany 2006, Czech Republic and Poland have had disasterous campaigns.

Group 5

Bosnia are 4 points ahead of Turkey for 2nd place and can secure a playoff spot with a win.

Group 6

England, who have a perfect record, are 4 points ahead of Croatia and with a win will qualify for the World Cup.

Group 7

Serbia are 4 points ahead of France and with a win will qualify for the World Cup, reducing Les Blues to a playoff spot.

Group 9

Scotland need a point ensure 2nd place in the group. However the worst of the 2nd place teams doesn't make it to the playoffs and with a draw, Scotland's 11 points may not be enough. Scotland would be in a more comfortable position with a win against a possible weakened Dutch side.


Group A

Incredible Gabon currently leads this Group of Death. Gabon can take a big lead and almost ensure qualification with a road win here.

Saudi Arabia-Bahrain (0-0)

2nd leg of the Asian playoff in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia should be favorites after a 0-0 in Bahrain.

Winner plays New Zealand for a trip to South Africa

South America:


Argentina are on the ropes. A Paraguay win qualifies them for the World Cup and could possibly knocked Argentina down to 6th place with 2 matchdays to go.

Chile qualifies for the World Cup if they beat Brazil.


Honduras and USA are tied at the top with Mexico on point behind.
No one can qualify in this round but can take one important step closer.
Consider it moving day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Argentina On The Ropes

I don't know how the schedule for the South American qualifying was made but for Argentina to have a week where they play Brazil at home and Paraguay on the road is as hard as it gets. It's even worse when they lose 3-1 to Brazil.

Maradona's team looks lifeless and I can't see them getting anymore than a draw in Paraguay. If Ecuador beat Bolivia and Columbia beat Uruguay, Argentina could find itself in 6th with only 2 more matches to go. Even in 5th place, they would have to be in a playoff. If Maradona is somehow still at the helm, they'll lose that playoff no matter who their opponent is.

A World Cup without Argentina? The last time they failed to make it to the dance was in 1970 when they were knockout by Cubillas' Peru.

Friday, September 4, 2009

To a Career Well Done

We are not closed, just not open for to the public

The 30-year old National Soccer Hall of Fame is shutting its doors to the public and reducing staff from 8 down to 2 according to this story. This is a shame as I have never been and wanted to add it to the list of HOFs on my bucket list. Well you can't expect anything less when a US Open Cup out draws its annual attendence.

National Champions Start Their Defense

Packed house in College Park, MD for the #8 Maryland Terps v. #9 UCLA Bruins. Unlike tomorrow's football game in California, the Terps are not 22 point road dogs. Terps havehad good home field support in recent years which has pushed for expanding the stadium this year (now holds 7000). Maryland students (as you can see in the picture) sit right behind the visiting goalie and make sure they are in his year all game.

As for the Terps, well they have a returning goalie from that national championship, but all 4 full backs are replacing folks now in the Pros.

Also in action this weekend is the DC College Cup with top 20 George Mason. They are coached by an ex-MLS staff and have Fro Adu (yes Freddy's brother).


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why are Croatians still going to the EPL?

In an uneventful transfer deadline, transfers included two Croatians going to the EPL.

Spurs sign Niko Kranjcar from Portsmouth
Bolton sign Ivan Klasnic on loan from Nantes

Why are Croatians still going to the EPL? Don't they know they're gonna get a hurt real bad?

Croatian FA president claims his footballers are deliberately targeted in Premier League

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2nd Half Thoughts

* See my comments below in the Check Your Head Post
* Fair amount of extra time
* Seattle deserved the win, they were the better team
* Actually a pretty well officiated match
* Keller's aggressive long outlets created some great changes. He is old but can still play
* The We Win Trophies campaign is going to be put back in DC's face

Check Your Head

Seriously? Stomping on the guy who just scored on you? Bush league.

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

In like a lion, out like a lamb. OK, so the transfer window is not during the month of March. Nonetheless, there was very little activity at the deadline.

Maybe there was no one left after Real Madrid purchased Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, my mom, your mom, and Andrew Shue.

Maybe the down economy left most clubs with no money left to spend.

Maybe team owners around the world all agreed to sit tight, knowing someone would post this awesome picture of a lamb.

Whatever the reason, this was a boring end to the transfer window.

First Half Thoughts (Open Cup Final)

1.) Montero is a very good player but not having his best night. The MLS recently acquired his contract, which is good because he will get sold to Europe. However, I wonder how much will get passed on to his original team and how much will stay with the MLS.
2.) Wicks is standing on his head tonight and making up for some dodgey defending on through balls by Seattle.
3.) FSC announcers make me want pine for ESPN coverage.
4.) Atmosphere at RFK seems pretty good. Can't remember why I did not go to the game tonight.

Time to Lift a Cup

Tonight 7:30 US Open Cup Final

DC United returns to defend one of the oldest trophies in the US against Drew Carey's boys. There have been a few words between the organization because Seattle felt they should have gotten the chance to host the game. Sure Seattle has sold more season tickets than the Mariners. Sure Seattle packs the stadium and plays in an outstanding stadium. When the only game time you can offer is 1PM on a Tuesday, you are not going to get to host a Cup final. This is especially true when everyone in the MLS and US Soccer are trying to make this tournament more meaningful.

So DC United will get to host the game at RFK and successfully host all of their games in the this year's Cup. (Many of the games were held at a small stadium in the Maryland Suburbs and DC refused to sell hosting the game to USL competitors because of travel concerns for the packed DC schedule). DC has been pushing this game pretty heavily in the community. They launched the We Win Trophies web site and have been having trophy events at bars throughout the city. Last year DC drew just over 8000 fans to a midweek game for the US Open Cup. This year they have already sold 12000 and expect a strong walk up (it is going to be a beautiful night in the city). DC is also offering $2 16-ounce beers, $2 dogs and ticket prices starting at $12 and going up to $30. Pretty good deal for a championship match (FOX Soccer will be broadcasting live).

DC is playing A TON of games right now because of the MLS and CONCACAF Champions League and not playing all that well. However, they got a 1-0 win at Chicago over the weekend. Seattle is a good team and I think the favorite, but DC has been here before.

Although it is not locked in yet, much like last year the winner of this game should get an invitation to the CONCACAF Champions League next year.

Here's to DC lifting another trophy

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rainieri To Become Roma Coach

Many reasons to smile!

Former Chelsea and Juventus manager Claudio Ranieri is set to be named Roma's new coach, according to the Italian's lawyer.

Ranieri, 57, would take over from Luciano Spalletti, who resigned after Roma began Serie A with two defeats.

Amazing to me that Spalletti survived numourous calls for his head and votes of confidence as Roma struggled to a 6th place finish last season.

After all that, it only took 2 matches this year before he resigned. Now what can Ranieri do? I know it's a long season but 6 points is alot fo make up already for the title. Can they a Champions League spot?

Is Maradona Loco?

Diego Maradona has selected Martin "I missed three penalties in a match" Palermo for the crucial World Cup clash against Brazil this Saturday.

What? Palermo might be still banging in the goals in a mediocre Argentine League but he can't possibly keep up with players both 10 years younger than him and making their money in the best European Leagues. Lucio would eat him alive.

Palermo's last appearance for Argentina was in a World Cup qualifier in November 2000, a 2-0 win over Chile. There's a reason for that. Cause he's crap.

Ah the memories.

Monday, August 31, 2009

One Week at a Time: Serie A 2

Milan vs. Inter

Could the Derby della Madonnina, the first big derby of the 09-10 season in any European league, live up to the hype? Inter came into the game favorites to win the scudetto after mostly adding to the squad that has won the Serie A four years running. AC Milan did not add much in the offseason, and suffered the huge losses of Carlo Ancelotti, Paolo Maldini and Kaka.

Milan got off to an expected start last week, winning at mid-table Siena. Inter were held to a tie at home by newly promoted Bari. On Saturday, Milan was the better side throughout the first half hour, and Inter looked out of sorts for a large portion of the beginning of the game. That would not last. Early on, Pato and Flamini seemed to have possession for a great deal of time and play off each other well in Milan's attack. Flamini even came in to protect his teammate shortly after Lucio's hard, clean tackle took down Pato, and brought down the Inter captain, earning a yellow card in the process.

Things were looking up for the rossoneri until Gattuso picked up an injury to his ankle about 20 minutes into the game. The nerrazurri started to take control of possession and impose their will on the game, and had an almost "Argentina v Serbia in the '06 World Cup"-like goal, stringing together eleven passes in a row before Thiago Motta placed a well taken shot past Storari for Inter's first goal.

Whatever knock Gattuso picked up sapped him of some of his pace, and in the 34th minute he lost Eto'o down the wing and resorted to bringing him down in the box to give Inter a penalty which Milito promptly buried for Inter's second goal.

Gattuso began to demand his way off the pitch in the 37th minute, and before Leonardo could make his move, Gattuso earned his second yellow with a harsh tackle on Wesley Sneijder. On his way off the pitch, Gattuso was yelling at someone on the sideline, and if it was Leonardo, it would be hard to blame him. It took entirely too long to get him off the pitch.

At the end of the first half Maicon and Milito had a nice give and go to set up Maicon for Inter's 3rd goal.

The second half began with Milan taking off Boriello and Flamini for Seedorf and Ambrosini. They would not be enough to salvage the game for a team playing a man down. There is not much else to say about this game. Watching the second half was almost a complete waste of time. Sure, Inter scored another goal on Stankovic's rocket shot, but could we really learn any more about these teams after a 3-0 first half where the losing team lost a vital cog to their midfield?

While Milan came out strong early in the game, they lost their legs early on giving way to the onslaught that is Inter. Overall, Maicon, Eto'o, Lucio, and especially Wesley Sneijder impressed for the black and blues.

Business As Usual

Barcelona begin defense of their Spanish Championship with a 3-0 over Sporting Gijon.
I thought Sporting Gijon played quite well and had alot of possession. They didn't bunker down and defend in numbers like Shakhtar did on Friday night.

However, they got burned on set pieces. If they could defend a bit better, they might be a team to look out for and improve on their 14th place finish last year.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

World Football Phone-In 4 Hour Special


Listening to it on and off throughout Sunday. It's the Brazillian shirt name reunion at Dotun's studio.

Did you know Bura, the Turkish expert, is only 19? Would have never guessed.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Carling Cup Third Round Draws

Per the BBC:

Arsenal v West Brom
Chelsea v QPR
Bolton v West Ham
Barnsley v Burnley
Hull v Everton
Leeds v Liverpool
Manchester United v Wolves
Manchester City v Fulham
Sunderland v Birmingham
Peterborough v Newcastle
Carlisle v Portsmouth
Nottingham Forest v Blackburn
Stoke v Blackpool
Scunthorpe v Port Vale
Preston v Tottenham
Aston Villa v Cardiff

To me, there are no true "must see" matches in this round, although the Leeds vs. Liverpool match could be interesting. Simon Grayson, who has been a major boost to Leeds since his arrival from Blackpool earlier this year, will have his lads up for that match.

Stoke vs. Blackpool will be of great interest to me and others on this blog, as Blackpool is the unofficial League Championship team of It's a Straight Red! The Seasiders, who are unbeaten this season, ousted Wigan 4-1 Wednesday, and continued their hot play today by beating Cardiff City 3-0.

Otherwise, the rest of the draw looks a lot like a standard week of EPL play.

Big Weekend

Two massive games for the beginning of the season in Arsenal/Man U and Milan/Inter. La Liga kicks off today with Real Madrid/Deportivo La Coruna, and Roma/Juventus tomorrow morning.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Europa League Group Stage Draw

Group A: Ajax, Anderlecht, Dynamo Zagreb, Timisoara

Group B: Valencia, Lille, Slavia Prague, Genoa

Group C: Hamburg, Celtic, H. Tel-Aviv, Rapid Vienna

Group D: Sporting Lisbon, Heerenveen, Herta Berlin, Ventspils

Group E: Roma, Basel, Fulham, CSKA Sofia

Group F: Panathanaikos, Galatasaray, Dynamo Bucharest, Sturm

Group G: Villareal, Lazio, Levski, Salzburg

Group H: Steaua, Fenerbahce, FC Twente, Sheriff

Group I: SL Benfica, Everton, AEK Athens, FC BATE

Group J: Shakhtar Donetsk (Holders), Club Brugge, Partizan, Toulouse

Group K: PSV Eindhoven, Copenhagen, Sparta Prague, CFR Cluj

Group L: Werder Bremen, Austria Vienna, Atheltic, Nacional

I don't think I've ever seen a Group L before... unless the World Cup one day goes to 48 teams and lets teams like Solomon Islands in!

Looks like Everton and Fulham are in tough. Celtics have a fairly easy road with two minnows in their group.

I'm still cheering for Dynamo Bucharest! I may adopt them at the team of Straight Red!

Steven and Kenny are back

WSD is now known as World Football Daily, and it will be a for-pay podcast/Ustream. According to the lads, it wasn't planned when Steven abruptly ended the show last Friday. The new show begins Monday 8/31.

Apparently Skype will be involved, and viewers/callers will be shown on the video stream if they have the capability.

They are planning a lot of giveaways, including sending someone to WC 2010. The early word on the cost is $9.95 per month.

OK, I'm Confused

Why is there no mention of Real Madrid?

Sure, this was the first time that Citeh has attempted to buy a title, but that shouldn't make them any more scrutinized than Real.

Yeah, the irony/hypocrisy of Abramovich supporting the measure is noteworthy, but still...

Clueless - Thy Name is Arsene Wenger

So, after UEFA does the right thing and charges Arsenal forward Eduardo with 'deceiving the referee', his manager, Arsene Wenger, decides that it's in his best interests to call the charge a 'witch hunt' and 'not an objective judgment of a case.'

Wenger goes on to say that the "charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee. Having watched the pictures again there was nothing conclusive. It singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. UEFA has taken action that is not defendable."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by these quotes from Wenger since he's the guy that never sees anything controversial when it's done by his team but by golly, he sees everything done by every opposition player. In this case, it's pretty obvious that Eduardo dove to win the penalty. Now, I'm sure he didn't enter the penalty box intending to dive but when the challenge came in, he sure as hell intended to dive and see if he could con the ref. The video is pretty damning but you make the call.

I can understand that Wenger is protecting his player because Eduardo will now be labelled a diver and a cheat and every referee in every match he plays will be on the lookout. But Eduardo only has himself to blame. Arsenal already led Celtic by 2 aggregate goals from the first leg so it seems odd that he would choose to dive in a game that Arsenal were pretty sure to wrap up anyway. I figure if you're gonna dive, make it count in a game that really matters. Now, whenever he gets in the box, every ref will have their eyes on him and if he does earn a penalty, odds are it won't be given. That's what cheating gets you, especially when you get caught. It goes for Ronaldo, Rooney, Diego, Henry and many others.

And that seems to be the point that Wenger is missing. If a player cheats, he should be singled out and have refs show more discretion when that player goes to ground to win a penalty or even just a free kick. It's a harsh lesson to learn but the game overall needs this type of lesson. To many potential soccer fans are turned off by this crap. I just hope that this isn't a one off and that UEFA decides to really take a stand this season. But it is UEFA and Michel Plantini so I'm not holding my breath.

Eduardo, the WWE is on line one ...

Arsenal forward Eduardo may face a two-match ban after the UEFA charged him with "deceiving the referee" in Arsenal's 3-1 win over Rangers. For those unfamiliar with Eduardo's epic dive, click here.

Thank you, UEFA, for setting a tone about diving early in the tournament. Soccer fans want to watch proper soccer, not a bunch of overpaid guys writhing on the grass after solidly colliding with air. I have no doubts that part of Americans reluctance to accept soccer as a major sport is diving and fake injuries to draw fouls. Come on guys, if you're going to act like you're injured, take some tips from the pros!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

UEFA Super Cup Preview

Most may think that Friday's UEFA Super Cup match between Barcelona and Shakhtar is more show than substance. Most would expect Barcelona and it's plethora of stars to run over the Ukrainians. However there are a couple of factors in Shakhtar's favour.

Since the Super Cup became a single match affair in Monte Carlo, the UEFA Cup winners have beaten the European Champions 7 out of 11 times. The most common theory would be that the UEFA Cup winners are motivated to beat the best in Europe and go harder while the Champions League winners just want to get the match over with and move on to more important things.

There is even more motivation in this year's edition because Barcelona and Shaktar were in the same Group in last year's champion's league. Barcelona won in a very controversial match.
Barca lucky to get out alive, fumes Shakhtar coach Lucescu

Shakhtar have not forgotten and will be out to prove all the experts wrong.

I hope for an entertaining game. I'll say a 2-2 draw.

To Advance After Abandonment

An incredible story from the newly formed Europa League. Dinamo Bucharest of Romania had to abandon their 1st leg home tie with Slovan Liberec of the Czech Republic due to fan violence (they were down 0-2 at the time). In soccer to forfeit means a 3-0 defeat. Apparently that was not enough because there was a 2nd leg and incredibly Dinamo Bucharest scored 3 goals on the road to send the match into extra time.

Video of the 3 goals and the end of shootout.

I will now follow them closely as I have a cinderella team to cheer for now in a competition I didn't really care about.

The Draw for the Group Stage of the Europa League goes Friday in Monaco before the Super Cup match.

There will now be 12 groups of 4. Top 2 teams in each group advance and those 24 teams will be joined by the 8 3rd place finishers from the Champions League for a 32-team knockout tournament.

Pot 1

Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) (holders)
Werder Bremen (GER)
Villarreal (ESP)
Roma (ITA)
PSV Eindhoven (NED)
Sporting CP (POR)
Hamburg (GER)
Benfica (POR)
Valencia (ESP)
Panathinaikos (GRE)
Ajax (NED)
Steaua Bucharest (ROM)

Pot 2

Fenerbahçe (TUR)
Basel (SWI)
Lille (FRA)
Celtic (SCO)
Everton (ENG)
Club Brugge (BEL)
Heerenveen (NED)
Galatasaray (TUR)
Anderlecht (BEL)
Austria Wien (AUT)
Copenhagen (DEN)
Lazio (ITA)

Pot 3

Hertha BSC (GER)
Sparta Prague (CZE)
Dinamo Bucharest (ROM)
AEK Athens (GRE)
Slavia Prague (CZE)
Levski Sofia (BUL)
Athletic Bilbao (ESP)
Partizan (SRB)
Hapoel Tel Aviv (ISR)
Twente (NED)
Dinamo Zagreb (HRV)
Fulham (ENG)

Pot 4

CSKA Sofia (BUL)
Toulouse (FRA)
CFR Cluj (ROM)
Genoa (ITA)
Rapid Wien (AUT)
Timişoara (ROM)
Nacional (POR)
Red Bull Salzburg (AUT)
Sturm Graz (AUT)
Ventspils (LAT)
Sheriff Tiraspol (MOL)

Any of these teams your favourites?

One Week At A Time: Serie A 1

Is this really a soulless, clinical league? That's certainly its reputation among most followers of the three other "big" European leagues. Reviewing the table after one week doesn't help any defense of Serie A; four draws and six one goal wins. The table can't tell it all, can it? This season, I plan to throw myself into Serie A. For a few years now I've watched a lot of soccer, but not very much of the Italian variety. I did watch last spring's Milan derby, and it was one of the most entertaining games of the 08-09 season. It certainly belied my presumptions about Italian soccer. If this Saturday's game is one half as good as that one, we are all in for a treat. In my quest to immerse myself in calcio, I plan to watch at least one game a week, and then write about it here. I'll try to avoid watching, and writing about, only the big teams, but frankly, that may be harder in practice than in theory.

Siena and AC Milan opened their season in Siena's Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday. Figuring out if there is life after Maldini, Ancelotti, Kaka, and to a lesser extent, Beckham, has to be the first question for supporters of the Rossoneri. New additions Oguchi Onyewu and Klaus Jan Huntelaar did not make the starting eleven as Milan relied heavily on old hands. Watching Pato in action was one of my main goals of the game, but I quickly became more enamored with the team oriented style of play than any individual brilliance. There may not be a more talented midfield in any league than what Milan have in Pirlo, Gattuso, Ronaldinho, and Flamini. Each excels in his own distinct midfield role.

Both managers were dressed like GQ models or Europeans on Miami Vice (the TV show, not the movie). Are the Europeans fashion forward...or twenty years late? Other random pregame thought: Did I just see an ad for Sex Beans?

The game began average enough, each team possessing enough energy to seemingly run for days. However, both teams' adrenaline wore off after about 20 minutes and Milan's class began to show. Other than Pato, and perhaps Flamini and Silva, Milan is filled with players on the downside of their career arc. What they lack in youth, they make up in tactical superiority. The outpossessed Siena 2:1 over the course of the game. Milan's supremely professional style of holding the ball as much as possible should serve them well against the minnows of Serie A. Whether they have enough youth to challenge for the scudetto remains to be seen.

Pato opened the scoresheet in the 29th minute off a well weighted pass from Ronaldinho that took advantage of Siena's lazy offside trap. The duck was clearly onside, and he slotted past Gianluca Curci easily. Siena's only goal of the game came completely against the run of play, when Ghezzal tapped home a wide open rebound from Lukas Jarolim's shot from the left. The game tying goal, and subsequent confident Siena play forced Gennaro Gattuso to send a trademark growl to his teammates.

Other than Ronaldinho's assist of Pato's goal, he was not as involved in the game as I would have thought beforehand. He plays a role reminiscent of Juan Roman Riquelme. He doesn't run much, but when he does get the ball, he tries to supply well weighted passes to his attacking teammates.

Milan began the second half buzzing around which quickly led to Pato's goal in the 48th minute from Mathieu Flamini's unselfish cross. Other than a five minute stretch beginning in 75th minute or so, Siena did not offer much to challenge the Milan defenders. When challenged, Jankulovski and Silva were rock solid.

After the game ended, tempers flared with a few Siena players going after Pato. He must have said something while he ended the game by killing time in the attacking corner, and earned a yellow for berating the linesman. His teammates quickly came to his rescue as he was surrounded by Siena players. Pato made his exit with a smug look on his face. Can't really blame him for that.

One game in and it remains to be seen if this league is soulless and overly tactical. While it’s no Boca/River superclasico, Saturday's Milan derby is certain to have its share of passion in the stands. Let's hope the play on the pitch is deserving of it.

Carling Cup, 2nd Round

This week, Premiership Teams entered the Carling Cup for the first time this year as the 13 teams not involved in European Competitions entered into the 2nd Round.

Twelve of the thirteen teams survived. Close calls for West Ham, Stoke and Burnley as they needed extra time to advance. Even closer for Wolves who needed penalties. Teams also advancing to the next round were Sunderland, Bolton, Man City, Hull, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Birmingham City, Spurs

The one casualty was Wigan who lost to mighty Blackpool FC 4-1!

Wigan coach Roberto Martinez has been hailed as the next great young manager who likes to play offensive football. But they've been lacking goals so far. The last 3 matches Wigan have played, they've scored a combined ONE goal.

UEFA Champions League Draw - Group Stage

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, Maccabi Haifa
Group B: Man Utd, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsberg
Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich
Group D: Chelsea, FC Porto, Athletico Madrid, APOEL Nicosia
Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni
Group F: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Dynamo Kiev, FC Raban Kazan
Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, Stuttgart, Unirea Urziceni
Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiacos, Standard Liege

No Death Groups for the English Teams with three of them being extremely easy. Only Liverpool has a competitive group. I watched both legs of Debreceni and they were pretty organized and had alot of skill. They might surprise a few people.

Rangers got the easiest group they could have imagined. If they don't advance then they're just crap.

Group A and Group F probably the toughest.

Eduardo The Diving Cheat

Celtic players are furious and want UEFA to punish Eduardo for his blatant dive in their Champions League Qualifier on Wednesday night. As you can see in the slow motion video, the keeper didn't touch him. Did you think it was a dive at full speed. Did anyone watch it live and yell "Penalty" only to fell guilty later? The commentator seemed to know right away there was no contact.

So waht does UEFA do? Either the ref or Eduardo has to be punished right? The ref for making an error or Eduardo to diving. What do you think UEFA will do?

Thursday's Champions League Draw

The top 32 teams in Europe will discover their fate on Thursday 17:30 European Central Time as they are placed into 8 groups in the UEFA Champions League

They are places into 4 pots as follows:

Pot 1
1. FC Barcelona (ESP, holders)
2. Chelsea FC (ENG)
3. Liverpool FC (ENG)
4. Manchester United FC (ENG)
5. AC Milan (ITA)
6. Arsenal FC (ENG)
7. Sevilla FC (ESP)
8. FC Bayern München (GER)

Pot 2
9. Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)
10. FC Internazionale Milano (ITA
11. Real Madrid CF (ESP)
12. PFC CSKA Moskva (RUS)
13. FC Porto (POR)
14. AZ Alkmaar (NED)
15. Juventus (ITA)
16. Rangers FC (SCO)

Pot 3
17. Olympiacos FC (GRE)
18. Olympique de Marseille (FRA)
19. FC Dynamo Kyiv (UKR)
20. VfB Stuttgart (GER)
21. ACF Fiorentina (ITA)
22. Club Atlético de Madrid (ESP)
23. FC Girondins de Bordeaux (FRA)
24. Beşiktaş JK (TUR)

Pot 4

25. VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
26. R. Standard de Liège (BEL)
27. Maccabi Haifa FC (ISR)
28. FC Zürich (SUI)
29. FC Rubin Kazan (RUS)
30. AFC Unirea Urziceni (ROU)
32. Debreceni VSC (HUN)

Two teams from the same country cannot be in the same group

VfL Wolfsburg, FC Rubin Kazan, AZ Alkmaar, R. Standard de Liège, AFC Unirea Urziceni, Debreceni VSC, APOEL FC and FC Zürich will all be making their debuts in a competition which sees 18 nations represented in the group stage this year.

A couple of thoughts. Seville is probably the weakest team in Pot 1 and since they cannot get Real Madrid, they only ones they really have to dodge are Lyon and Inter. This may result in a very easy group. Real Madrid have a 2/3 chance of drawing an English team. Rangers are fortunate to be in Pot 2 as they will probably avoid a death group. They have a 50/50 chance of drawing an English team.

What's a good death group?

How about