Archive for category Soccer/Football
Good day from a part of the world where the president is supposedly about to add another jet to the presidential fleet, if he hasn’t. 11 birds for one citizen, albeit the ‘number one’ citizen (how did that happen, Lord?), yet the nation he presides over doesn’t have a national carrier.
Amidst adding to the presidential fleet, the husband of Mama Peace – Lucky Joe – ”quietly” (as the Telegraph rightly put it, seeing as the lawmakers had passed the bill December 17, 2013 and Lucky Joe had signed it as law January 7, 2014) made the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. I mean, is there a better way to start your Tuesday morning?
Before delving into the matter of somewhat flexuous sexuality, have you ever found yourself in public transportation sitting right beside a ninj… a muslim woman dressed to cover all parts of her body?
Always a fascinating experience for a male, at least it is for me. I’m sitting comfortably while she is fidgeting for reasons best known to Allah. I would sniff my armpits to check if I’m being an inconvenience but my cleanliness is like my appetite… satisfied at least twice a day.
The last time I sat beside a nin… woman dressed in niqab, she fidgeted for 10 minutes while I thought up this post. And when I’m thinking, as I’m sure you do, I tend to have a smile/smirk… as I’m sure you, uhm… do.
You should see me while I’m thinking up a blog post in the bedroom… or not, your preference. Bringing us back to Lucky Joe and the bill he just passed since it’s the least one could do on a Tuesday morning.
In a country where ”there’s no network” forever at Union Bank, where the Stella Oduah trust fund worth ₦225m as at 2013 has been dwarfed by the joint trust fund of NNPC and CBN worth varying yet equally staggering sums between $12b and $48b…
… in a country where the amounts budgeted to fuel power generators at government offices is ‘necessary’, in a country where the CBN Governor is asked to resign by the President for the leak of letter when Stella Oduah is still on the matter… what I’m concerned about at the moment is this…
A basic Nike football advert. Sorry, we’ll get to the gay rights bill in a bit. For now, the Nike advert has five players in Brazil national team colours making up a wall for what looks like an icon of Cristiano Ronaldo about to take one of those freekicks.
Each time I see that picture, ‘every each time’, all I think about is how Luis Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo’s careers panned out; very much like this picture. In case you didn’t see him, Nani’s the one in the back… ”to the left to the left. Looking-for CR-lite? Look to the left!”
Why would a creative be so wickedly creative and do that? My God! If I was at the brainstroming session that led to this creative (master)piece I’d have the Portuguese touchline as the background with Ricardo (fake charisma) Quaresma about to come on for none other than Nani (noni).
Writing of, Ronaldo was awarded the Ballon d’Or, congratulations. Lionel Messi, knowing full well he wasn’t getting the Ballon d’Or decided (actually, I assume) to wear that to the ceremony. (No, don’t bring Ballon d’Suit-esque jokes here. The award itself isn’t a bad enough joke already?)
Then… Franck Ribery. After being frontrunner for the prize before FIFA thought it wise to extend voting, Ribery didn’t even finish as runner-up but in third place. At least he’s got the cups in the Bayern Munich trophy cabinet to cry into, consolation.
I feel for Ribery, really. All he didn’t do better than Ronaldo or Messi in 2013 was be the only player in his team that was in extraordinary form. Sentiments aside, all he didn’t do better than the other two was score endless goals.
One now must really cherish the moment Fabio Cannavaro was crowned world player of the year in 2006. Dare a defender (or anyone who doesn’t play upfront) to win the award now… dare you!
… but que sera sera. The Ballon d’Or mockery, which became crystal apparent based on some of the players listed in the team of the year, has happened. ”Deal with it!” is what I’ve told myself.
Which is what I’ll say to debaters arguing in favour of the ‘anti-gay’ law. You guys do realise showing public support of homosexuality could see you spend a decade in jail right? Jail where the myth of the dropped bar of soap came from?
Deal with it, please!
Or, what would you do when you find out the manager of your favourite (title winning on a regular) football club is gay? Call for his sack? And risk becoming what Manqueester United is becoming?
Look, my opinion on homosexuality is…
… anyway, whether you like it or not, the law basically says being homosexual is wrong. Be a ”law abiding citizen” (like Gerard Butler’s character was) and deal with it (… not like Gerard Butler’s character did though).
Besides, as Chief Edochie once asked, “would you have your plantain bare and feed it to the wrong person through their anal hole rather than to the right person through the proper hole?” and indeed, what pleasure do some people derive from anal sex?
Hmm… it is time to rest, Punkenstein.
Following Sunderland’s 3-0 loss at West Brom in a Premier League match on Saturday, a match former player as at a fornight ago Stephane Sessegnon scored the first, travelling fans of the Black Cats sang to Paolo Di Canio he was getting sacked in the morning. How wrong they were… he got sacked in the evening, but no matter as they got their wish anyway.
But after only 13 matches? Appropriately if you’re the superstitious type and expectedly if you’re the analytic mind having watched the Italian sell a number of players, bring in 14 players, openly criticise his team individually and collectively on a number of occasions and, rather dramatically, communicate with the fans with his exaggerated goal celebrations or aggrieved gestures culminating with the aggrieved gestures to fans who sang his imminent exit to him.
Di Canio’s exit splits opinion though. Why allow him change the team so if he won’t be given time to make them gel? However, one point from five matches this season and three wins from 13 matches since being appointed late last season is more than enough to get him sacked (although the official statement from the club says they ‘parted ways’).
Most of all, the Italian shot himself in the foot time and again by continuously criticising his team, subtly exempting self from blame over the dire situation at the club by so doing. Even Jose Mourinho would be amazed by Di Canio’s drama, but the Portuguese has his own crate of eggs to watch over.
Having left Juan Mata out of the squad and David Luiz for ‘form reasons’, Chelsea got a 2-0 win at home to local rivals Fulham with goals from Oscar who’s keeping Mata out of the team and, for his first ever since joining the Premier League, John Mikel Obi. The Nigerian’s goal completely wiping off the gloom that was previously on Roman Abramovic’s face all afternoon.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Simon Mignolet’s stock rose further after making seven saves yet his Liverpool team still managed to lose 1-0 at home to Southampton and drop from top to fifth with 10 points, Merseyside rivals Everton came from behind to get a thrilling 3-2 win at West Ham United through a Leighton Baines brace of freekicks and Romelu Lukaku’s first for the club.
Loïc Remy scored twice and missed a late chance as Newcastle United lost 3-2 at home to Hull City (Tigers), Christian Benteke went off injured (to send fantasy league managers wailing) in Aston Villa’s lone goal win at Norwich City while Swansea City is now ninth with seven points behind Manchester United on goal difference thanks to a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.
More fantasy league managers and indeed every red devil began wailing when news that Robin van Persie got injured just before the derby filtered out, a precursor for the terrible Sunday afternoon they were to endure as Sergio Agüero scored twice to help Man. City to a crushing 4-1 win, sending the blue side of Manchester up to third with 10 points ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.
Unusually, the north London clubs hold the league’s top spot, with Tottenham Hotspur second with 12 points courtesy of a 93rd minute earned 1-0 win at Cardiff City while Arsenal töp the league ahead öf their löcal rivals ön göal difference föllöwing a 3-1 win at höme to Stöke City thanks tö göals from Aarön Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna, all directly and otherwise assisted by Mesut Özil.
Özil’s former club Real Madrid were unable to hand Gareth Bale his home debut after the Welsh, just like former Southampton teammate Theo Walcott, got injured just before the match against local rivals Getafe, a match comfortably won 4-1 nonetheless with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a brace to go past Hugo Sanchez on the all time Madrid scoring list.
Barcelona however remain top of the league with a perfect record after five matches ahead of Atletico and Real Madrid on goal difference and by two points respectively following a 4-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, with Lionel Messi not scoring in his 250th appearance and Pedro Rodriguez getting a hattrick instead.
Napoli also maintained its perfect start in Italy, getting historic 2-1 win at AC Milan in a match Mario Balotelli failed to score a penalty for the first time in his career, before scoring from open play only to get himself sent off after full time for dissent. ”Why always me?”
Napoli however dropped to second behind AS Roma on goal difference after the Giallorossi won a fiery derby di capitale 2-0 ‘at home’ to 10-man SS Lazio on Sunday. Champions Juventus remained fifth, two points behind the leading duo, despite a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona.
Inter Milan rose to third with 10 points, ahead of Juventus and Fiorentina on goal difference, after easing to a 7-0 demolition of newly promoted Sassuolo while Giuseppe Rossi continued his scoring streak after two years without a goal (or decent run of games even) in Fiorentina’s 2-0 win at Atalanta.
In France, the billionaire clash between PSG and AS Monaco ended in a 1-1 draw with Radamel Falcao cancelling out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s early opener for the Parisians, keeping Monaco top of Ligue 1 with 14 points ahead of PSG and St. Etienne with 12 points while Olympique Marseille have 11 points in fourth place ahead of Nice and Rennes on goal difference following a goalless draw against newly promoted Bastia – Sebastien Squillaci’s club.
Bayern Munich went level on 16 points with Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen a point behind in third courtesy of a 4-0 crushing of Ruhr side Schalke 04, with Dortmund ending a frustrating week with a 1-1 draw at Bavarian side Nürnberg having lost at Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
In the CAF Champions League, defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt secured top spot and a semi-final berth from Group A following a goalless draw at Orlando Pirates, a result convenient enough to send Pirates through in second spot ahead of Zamalek that demolished AC Leopards 4-1 hours earlier in Egypt on Sunday.
Al Ahly will now face Coton Sport of Cameroun that finished second in Group B even before their 2-1 loss at group winner Esperance, with the Tunisian side now set to face Pirates in the other semi-final holding on the first weekend of October with the return fixtures a fortnight later.
Nigerian league title holders Kano Pillars meanwhile edged closer to competing for the Champions League next season and retaining the Nigerian league title after a 2-0 win over Warri Wolves in Kaduna.
With five matches left in the season, Pillars lead with 57 points and lie two points ahead of Bayelsa United that beat Enyimba by a lone goal and send the Aba Elephants down to fourth with 52 points, two points behind El-Kanemi Warriors that got a lone goal win over Gombe United.
In other matches, Kwara United remained fifth despite a 1-0 loss at Dolphins, Shooting Stars remain in the relegation zone despite a 2-1 win at home to Rangers with Wikki Tourists now level on 42 points with the Ibadan side after a 3-0 win over Nembe City, sending Nembe bottom of the league behind Shooting and Wikki on goal difference.
Finally, to the top of Formula 1 where Sebastien Vettel put in another devastating performance to win the Singapore Grand Prix and widen the gap between him and Fernando Alonso, who finished second in the race, to 60 points with six races left in the season.
Though Vettel, reigning back to back to back champion, had opened a significant lead before the safety car was deployed, the German driver went Johnny Blaze on his rivals in the final 30 laps after the safety car went off, finishing the race half a minute ahead of his nearest rival Alonso with Kimi Räikkönen taking the last podium place ahead of the Mercedes’ of Nico Rosberg and former world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Only way Alonso can overhaul Vettel now is to win the remaining six races and watch Vettel fail to finish in a podium position once. Hamilton, who is a handful of points from being four races behind Vettel on the championship table… it’s ridiculous bringing up these permutations even as Vettel looks odds on to win a fourth successive drivers championship.
With that, it’s a wrap here. Plenty to look forward to thid week including Nicklas Bendtner’s first match for Arsenal in two years when the Gunners face West Brom in the Capital One Cup, and Luis Suarez’s likely return from a 10-match ban in Liverpool’s match against Manchester United in the same competition.
On this day in history, Nintendo is founded in 1889, Bisexuality Day is observed in the United States, Juan Martin Del Potro celebrates his 25th birthday, Saudi Arabia their national day and the Week for the Poor begins at St. Dominic’s Church today.
Be charitable as you have a pleasant week wherever you are. Cheers.
For a tournament a good nine years from starting, football’s 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar has generated a courier load of discussion all inspired by the dilemma of whether one of the world’s biggest sporting events should hold in the unusual winter period from January rather than the usual summer schedule from June.
The logic behind a winter World Cup is that temperatures above 50 degrees, which could be attained during a Qatari summer and would pose a danger to human health during the mundial, would be avoided by shifting the tournament to the Qatari winter.
Now, while a whole lot of a certain continent’s people probably aren’t bothered about under what weather the football would be played, Australia are not only bothered… the folks from down under are considering to seek about $43m in compensation having lost in the votes for the hosting rights to Qatar after spending some £25m on its bid.
According to a statement from Football Federation Australia’s chief Frank Lowy, “… with increasing speculation about a change that will impact on us as one of the bidding nations, and because our competition will be affected, we have made our position public.” adding that “just and fair compensation” be given to the nations that “invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event”.
The Qataris meanwhile, via the 2022 Supreme Committee, are saying there really is no need for the World Cup to be moved from summer and all should keep calm and observe as they go about “creating comfortable conditions for public areas, walkways, training pitches and stadia both during and after the World Cup, (which) means being able to play and watch football matches in summer throughout the country.”
The committee stated further that “cooling technology has existed at Jassim bin Hamad (Al Sadd) Stadium since 2008. This June, the stadium (in Doha) hosted a FIFA World Cup qualifier in cool and comfortable conditions. We are now in the process of developing and perfecting sustainable cooling technologies to ensure that our Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup stadia, training grounds and fan zones offer the optimal temperature for players and fans to enjoy the games.”
Putting aside potentially awesome cooling technologies along with alleged ‘politics’ and ‘pressure’ involved in awarding Qatar the hosting rights, the FFA’s position on the matter strays offside in my view based on the suggested compensation which leads to a few other subfactors.
£25m is a lot of money to spend on a bidding process, and lose, but that would require FIFA to be paying the nations that lose out in every bidding process from now on, which amounts to a lot of money considering that three other nations (Japan, South Korea and the United States) would also have to be compensated.
But I’m even thinking qualifying for the World Cup itself should serve as good enough compensation to be honest. For the 2010 World Cup for instance, countries that failed to qualify from the group stages received $8m for their participation, while those that fell in the second round and quarter final stages received $9m and $14m respectively from FIFA/LOC.
While it’s no where near the $30m FFA spent on their failed bid, I reckon that by 2022, prize money for the above stages would be much higher than what obtains at present. Not to mention that for the World Cup winner, which was $30m when Spain broke Dutch hearts in 2010.
The Spanish and Dutch FAs meanwhile have submitted five cities to UEFA to be considered as a host city for the 2020 European Championship which will be ingeniously hosted by different cities across the continent in a bid to make the tournament a truly continental championship.
Spain, who submitted the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia for consideration and the Netherlands who submitted Amsterdam, are among 32 nations that have submitted at least a city for consideration to host at least one match of the championship to UEFA whose president, Michel Platini stated at a meeting of European associations in Croatia that he would make a decision of running for FIFA presidency during or after next year’s World Cup.
Some of the other nations and their cities include the British nations who submitted London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Dublin for consideration, Italy with Rome and Milan, Portugal with Porto and Lisbon, Ukraine with Kyiv and Donetsk, Russia with St. Petersburg rather than Moscow (refreshingly in fact) and France very oddly with Lyon rather than Paris.
In the end, the UEFA Executive Committee will in September 2014 select 13 cities to host the 2020 Euros, which will be the 60th anniversary edition, with the package for chosen cities either being the standard package of hosting three group matches and a knockout round match or the showpiece package of hosting a semi-final match and the final.
Other nations and their cities include Germany with Munich, Israel with Jerusalem (aye!), Croatia with Zagreb, Finnish capital Helsinki, Prague in Czech Republic, Poland with Warsaw and Chorzow, Belarus with Minsk, Kazakhstan with Astana, Belgium with Brussels, Turkey with favoured city to be given the showpiece package Istanbul and from the nation where some of the world’s finest chocolate, wristwatches and bank accounts are found… Basel.
For the week, Switzerland also serves as the nation from which one of the world’s finest football clubs is found (little bit exaggeration yeah, but Kagawa-a-care none) after FC Basel came from behind to defeat reigning Europa League champions Chelsea in their opening match of this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Oscar had put the Blues ahead in Stamford Bridge just before half time before second half goals from Mohamed Selah and Marco Streller handed Basel a first win on English soil while also inflicting a first home defeat in 29 European matches on Chelsea on the heels of a lone goal loss at Everton last weekend.
Elsewhere, Lionel Messi became the second leading Champions League scorer of all time courtesy of a hattrick in Barcelona’s 4-0 thumping of Ajax on Wednesday, a day after Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his new contract – that makes him the highest paid footballer – with a hattrick of his own in Real Madrid’s 6-1 drubbing of Galatasaray at Istanbul.
In other results, Aaron Ramsey continued his good form in Arsenal’s 2-1 win at Olympiqur Marseille, Borussia Dortmund had their manager and goalkeeper sent off in a dramatic 2-1 loss at Napoli, PSG humbled Olympiacos 4-1 in Greece, the Manchester clubs got wins over Bayer Leverkusen and Vitoria Plzen while Bayern Munich began their title defence with a 3-0 win over CSKA Moscow.
In the Europa League group stage which began on Thursday, Adil Rami got sent off after just nine minutes in Valencia’s 3-0 home loss to European debutantes Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur got same score in the win at home to Tromsø, Wigan Athletic commendably drew goalless at Zulte-Waregem and Kevin Gameiro scored with 13 minutes left in Sevilla’s 2-1 win at Estoril.
In some other matches, Sevilla’s neighbours Real Betis drew goalless with Olympique Lyon, Giuseppe Rossi’s resurgence continued as he scored his fourth in as many matches in Fiorentina’s 3-0 win over Pacos de Ferreira, PSV Eindhoven fell to a shock 2-0 home loss to Ludogorets Razgrad, Rubin Kazan won 5-2 at Maribor, Bordeaux lost 3-0 at Frankfurt and SS Lazio got a lone goal win at home to Legia Warsaw courtesy of a Hernanes goal.
The Roman side will now prepare to face second placed city rivals AS Roma in the Rome derby on Sunday in one of several high profile matches to be played across European leagues this weekend. League leaders Napoli travel to Milan to face AC Milan later on Sunday in another Serie A match.
In France, the big spending clubs face off in the capital when Ligue 1 leaders AS Monaco pay third placed PSG a visit on Sunday, Bayern Munich visit Schalke 04 in a Bundesliga match and champions Manchester United will be guests of Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.
Finally in Nigeria, Enyimba followed up Sunday’s Federations Cup win with a 2-0 win over Wikki Tourists on Wednesday to go second on the league table with 52 points, two points behind league leaders and defending champions Kano Pillars that lost by a lone goal at Nembe City of Bayelsa.
Bayelsa United meanwhile dropped to third behind Enyimba on goal difference following a 2-1 loss at Nasarawa United, El-Kanemi Warriors remain fourth, three points behind Pillars following a 1-0 loss at Sunshine Stars while Kwara United replaced Warri Wolves in fifth place thanks to a 2-0 win over Gombe United in Ilorin coupled with Wolves’ goalless draw with Lobi Stars.
Wolves will visit leaders Kano Pillars on Saturday, Shooting Stars host Rangers in Ibadan, Dolphins and Kwara United meet in Port Harcourt, El-Kanemi host Gombe United in Maiduguri and Enyimba visit Bayelsa United in this weekend’s top match in matchday 33 of the Nigerian Professional Football League.
That’s the bit from here today. On this (yester)day in history, revered secondary school King’s College Lagos was founded in 1909.
Then on this day in 1937, JRR Tolkien’s ”The Hobbit” is published, in 1995 the Hindu milk miracle – in which statues of the Hindu god Ganesh began drinking milk when spoonfuls were placed near their mouths – occured. And in 2004, construction of Burj Khalifa (formerly called Burj Dubai), which is now the world’s tallest building since its completion and opening in 2010, began.
The Burj Khalifa cost $1.5billion to construct, is made up of 163 floors (the most in a building since New York’s World Trade Centre with 110 floors) and stands at 2,722ft tall from ground to tip though the top floor is only at a height of 1,918ft. Both heights however set other new records.
Today also marks the birthday of (my favourite) author Stephen King, comedian Bill Murray, rapper Wale and blogger Kemmiiii. Many happy returns to them and all others born today. And a good man, Robert Onyia, was buried last night. May he and others departed rest in peace, amen!
Have a pleasant weekend!
Not sure what should have me more pissed off, that the C in one of Apple’s two new iPhones – after the hype around it – does not stand for cheap apparently or that Cape Verde got themselves bundled out of the 2014 World Cup race by world football’s governing body FIFA?
The latter came about after it was found that the Islanders had fielded an ineligible player in what was an historic match at Tunisia, which Cape Verde had won 2-0 on the field but eventually lost 3-0 in the ‘boardroom’ no thanks to Fernando Varela.
Varela was given a straight red card in the 88th minute of an earlier qualifying match at Equatorial Guinea and was consequently punished with a four match ban; with the trip to Tunisia for that crucial qualifying match supposed to be the last match of that ban.
But all that is nothing to the great and amusing irony the football gods had in store in this dramatic episode… Varela was sent off in a match that was later awarded as a 3-0 win to Cape Verde, after it was found that Equatorial Guinea had fielded an ineligible player. Wherever realm it is these gods reside, the song of the day there was Justin Timberlake’s ”What Goes Around… ”.
The melodramatic mood of the song can be said to be same aura under which the penultimate round of World Cup qualifying in Africa ended. On other continents meanwhile, a number of countries sealed their passage to the World Cup including the Netherlands and Italy while Germany and Switzerland moved a step closer to doing just that.
A Robin van Persie brace helped the Dutch men to a 2-0 success at Andorra, Switzerland got a 2-0 win at Norway, goals from Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Mesut Özil as well as another from Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller gave Germany a 3-0 win over Faroe Islands and Italy on their part were made to sweat a bit, coming from behind to subdue the Czech Republic 2-1.
That loss all but ended the Czech’s hope of at least finishing in a playoff spot, falling four points behind second placed Bulgaria in Group B after the latter won 2-1 at Malta to remain a point ahead of third placed Denmark that won by a lone goal at Armenia.
Scandinavian neighbours Sweden also won by a lone goal scored after only 30 seconds by Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Kazakhstan and edge closer to claiming a playoff spot ahead of third placed Austria that trail by three points following a lone goal win at home to the Republic of Ireland.
In other groups, Russia defeated Israel 3-1 to go top of Group F, a point ahead of Portugal who were busy getting beat 3-1 by Brazil in a friendly match, Turkey began yet another reign under Fatih Terim with a crucial 2-0 win at Romania while Hungary went second in Group D, a point ahead of those two, courtesy of a 5-1 win over Estonia.
Then there was England’s bore draw at Ukraine, which put the Three Lions top of Group H with 16 points and – coupled with Poland’s 5-1 win at San Marino – meant the top four nations in that group are separated by three points and each now have a chance of picking the World Cup spot or settle for the playoff spot.
Four nations also are meanwhile vying for two World Cup spots while a further fifth nation remain outsiders to clinch a playoff spot from the South American section of qualifying. All of that would be none of Argentina’s business however, following a 5-2 win at bottom nation Paraguay.
PSG’s record signing striker Edinson Cavani meanwhile scored in Uruguay’s 2-0 win over Colombia, preventing Monaco’s record signing striker Radamel Falcao and compatriots from joining Argentina right away.
Uruguay now lie fifth with 22 points, behind Ecuador on goal difference while Chile is third with 24 points and travel to Colombia, who have 26 points, in the next round of qualifying matches next month.
By that time, a more likely destination of this season’s Nigeria Profesional Football League title would be clearer. For now, Kano Pillars remain on course to defend the league title after claiming a lone goal win at home to former champions Enyimba in a Matchday 31 encounter during the week.
The result left Enyimba trailing Pillars by five points with seven matches left in the season. El-Kanemi Warriors meanwhile remain in second spot with 52 points, two points behind Pillars, after a lone goal win over Kwara United while Bayelsa United stay third on goal difference following a lone goal win at home to Enugu Rangers.
Other results saw ABS beat Sunshine Stars 2-1 in Ilorin and Kaduna United lose 3-0 at Gombe United. Nembe City lost by same score as Kaduna United in their match at Lobi Stars, Nasarawa United beat Wikki Tourists by a lone goal and Warri Wolves lost 2-1 at Dolphins of Port Harcourt… far from ideal preparation for Wolves ahead of the Federations Cup final.
Wolves’ opponent in Sunday’s final also lost during the week but, being their fourth appearance in the last five finals of the Cup, Enyimba will head into the encounter a bit more confident. Wolves could gain some courage from the fact that Enyimba have lost two of the previous three final appearances.
In far away England meanwhile, Sunderland have won just one of their last nine home meetings with Arsenal in the league, making the Gunners favourites in this weekend’s Premier League match at the Stadium of Light; a match that could see record signing Özil make his highly anticipated debut for the visitors.
Elsewhere, Marouane Fellaini could make his Manchester United debut when Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford, Romelo Lukaku will be ‘team tied’ when Everton face his real employer Chelsea while Merseyside rivals and league leaders Liverpool travel to Wales to face that nation’s finest team Swansea City on Monday.
That country’s finest (in the financial and talent context) player meanwhile is set to make his debut in Spain for Real Madrid in a La Liga match at newly promoted Villarreal that have began the season on a high and lie in third place with nine points, ahead of Real on goal difference.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed this ahead of the match, despite Gareth Bale only just playing competitive football for the first time this season with a substitute’s appearance in Wales’ 3-0 home loss to Serbia in a World Cup qualifying match.
Elsewhere in Spain, Kevin Gameiro’s Sevilla embark on daunting trip to face Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona while second placed Atletico Madrid, Falcao’s former club, host Almeria in another Liga match on Saturday.
Falcao on his part will be out to help his Monaco side regain top spot in Saturday’s Ligue 1 match at home to Lorient, after champions PSG went top of the league with a 2-0 win at Bordeaux on Friday night, courtesy of goals in each half from midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Lucas.
In Italy, the match of the weekend comes up on Saturday at the San Siro between champions Juventus and an Inter Milan side enjoying an early bloom in the Walter Mazzari era. Another Turin vs. Milan match will be played right after when AC Milan visit Torino.
Over in Formula 1, two big names will compete for same team from next season after Italian Formula 1 giants Ferrari announced Kimi Räikkönen will be driving the for the stallion from next season alongside Fernando Alonso, completing a return to the team where he won the drivers championship half a decade ago.
Räikkönen’s arrival also marked the end of Felipe Massa’s time with Ferrari, finally leaving having drove all his time there as second driver behind the great Michael Schumacher, Räikkönen and till the end of the season, Alonso. Admittedly, the accident he survived four seasons ago at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It is hoped that with two former champions competing side by side; despite assertions that Räikkönen’s arrival would upset Alonso, Ferrari will be able to launch a real go at the drivers and constructors title next season, more so the former which has been dominated by RedBull’s German driver Sebastien Vettel who has won the last three championships and currently holds a two-race lead over Alonso with seven races left this season.
While a Spaniard and a Finn prepare to get acquaintted and upstage a German, Serbian tennis star and world number one Novak Djokovic is out helping his nation in the Davis Cup, handing Serbia the lead in their semifinal clash against Canada with a straight sets win before Janko Tipsarevic was beaten in five sets by Milos Raonic in the second rubber match to bring the Canadians back on level terms.
The second semifinal sees defending champions Czech Republic well on their way to another final after taking a 2-0 lead against Argentina thanks to wins by Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych over Juan Monaco and Leonardo Mayer respectively.
Hoping Djokovic is able to see Serbia through just as I’m looking forward to Özil’s debut more than Bale’s or Fellaini’s… or Eto’o’s… or James McCarthy’s… or whoever else is making a debut this weekend.
And… it’s a wrap from here. Happy birthday to American rapper Nas and every one else born on this day, including my cousin Tinuke. Best wished to them, and a pleasant weekend to us all. Cheers!
Seeing as that game I returned to on football manager was lost eventually, thus adding propane to my already blazing virtual hatred for Javier Hernandez, it’s better to indulge in this writing distraction some more and salvage my season afterwards. Something I fear Arsenal will end up doing yet again this season in the league.
Arsenal could’ve been a true title contender if £55m was spent on Gonzalo Higuain and Marouane Fellaini/some other workhorse of a midfielder such as Luiz Gustavo who’s recent link turned out as nothing having now signed for Wolfsburg. Even Jack Rodwell, if the club had made an effort to sign him early in the window, would have been a very good signing for me.
Alas! Arsène Wenger’s let the economist he is get the better of him so far, to the detriment of his dearly beloved club. News of Mikel Arteta being set to miss four to six weeks with a thigh strain has further dimmed the optimists at the Emirates Stadium, something a Gustavo arrival would’ve prevented.
Wenger’s previously been always on about how the quality players who can fit into the Arsenal way are not on the market or the money to get them isn’t available. A first XI’s worth of those were available this transfer window as was the money (let’s give him and Gazidis the benefit of doubt on the money bit), yet it came down to him expecting Brendan Rodgers to be the fool this year and sell a prized asset to a rival. Such delusion!
Wenger’s continued stance to not adapt entirely to the transfer market dynamics (despite the clear fact that breaking ‘the bank’ for two quality players will not scratch Arsenal’s finances) will have Arsenal not in the running for the league title once more. The Gunners however could finish higher than usual in third, if his (a bit thin) squad, show the grit and form from the closing weeks of last season.
Having virtually same set of players allows for a sustained progression, off that close season run from the night in Bavaria which every player at the club would readily want to remind fans and critics alike. But injuries (as Arteta’s might show), possible suspensions and inevitable burnouts (Cazorla and Giroud will testify) will greatly threaten that.
The best Arsenal can do now is win a Cup, something they embarrassingly refrained most casually from doing last season. That would tear a veil of sustained failure from the club’s loins and set it on track for further successes, especially in the league.
Take a look at Swansea City. Despite switching off in the league for about two months after romping to the Capital One Cup, one can argue that the Swans had a relatively better last season than Arsenal. It was understandable that the Welsh team, with a decent (numerical) but very talented squad, faded in the league after winning a Cup.
Which makes the summer signings there all the more impressive. Wilfried Bony hit 30+ goals last season. You may want to be condescending about it since it was only the Dutch league, then you remember, a lot of very good players such as Luis Suarez came from that league. Make no mistake, Bony and Michu will bring torment upon the rest of the league and I expect that to start right from Matchday One, fittingly against the reigning champions.
Michael Laudrup did very well to keep Ashley Williams at the club, my thought being that Laudrup played the Sinclair card there. He also did well to get Jonathan de Guzman back on loan for a second season just as the arrival of Jonjo Shelvey gives his midfield more depth to ensure they put up a commedable display in their debut in Europe while also faring better than last season in the league.
In fact I feel the Swans can finish in the top 5 this season, making them the biggest threat; not Tottenham Hotspur, not Liverpool and certainly not Everton, to the teams that finished in the top four last season. I’m even envisaging Liverpool having a better season than Spurs would… it’s just a thought, I don’t necessarily believe it but it’s an enticing thought.
Of all the pretenders, Spurs have quite a bit to prove largely no thanks to the Modric-esque saga of Gareth Bale. The Welsh winger should’ve been cashed in, replaced with Gervinho (who’s now at Roma) or a Scott Sinclair with a fraction of the transfer fee received, using the rest to bring in good defenders. Instead, Spurs will start the season with a makeshift defence.
The arrivals of striker Roberto Soldado, winger Nacer Chadli and midfielders Paulinho and Etienne Capoue add needed potency and stability to their respective positions. Succeeding in keeping Bale would go a long way as well, but the defence – if left without reinforcement – will be their undoing this season.
Spurs’ back line is up for easy picking this season, as newly promoted Ligue 1 side Monaco vehemently showed the world just over a fortnight ago. Jan Vertonghen’s absence should’ve been highlighted much more than Bale’s was. Even then, having him fit does little to sort the similarities with a poorly built structure in ghetto Lagos.
The backline at Anfield is in a fairly better state, Simon Mignolet is a good goalkeeper, Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique and Aly Cissoko on loan from Valencia are good full backs and while not world class, the combination of Martin Skrtel, Sebastien Coates, Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure at the centre should be decent enough through the course of the season.
Liverpool’s midfield is usually climatic; one day piss poor irrelevant only to be championship (no, not the lower league) material the next day, and Philppe Coutinho – along with a fit Lucas Leiva – will be central to whatever orchestrations are composed from there this season for a forward line that actually can be impressive on their day. Given, Daniel Sturridge can be a pipe of a player at times, he always is a threat in the area.
Suarez may sulk through the opening weeks of the league but fortunately (when the big picture is well observed) for the Reds, he’s going to sit out the opening six matchdays… enough time to quell a good number of the demons toying with his emotions about leaving Anfield or staying.
Unlike Christian Benteke who had a sudden epiphany at Villa Park and signed an extension to his Aston Villa stay, the latest instalment in Suarez’s eventful time at Anfield could end up being a good catalyst that’ll see Rodgers’s side having a real go at Champions League qualification next May. It is Suarez’s desire to play Champions League football, Rodgers is very determined to keep the Uruguayan forward at the club hence, the ambition there would be to finish in the top four this season or have little choice than to let go of their prized asset.
Rodgers (AVB and maybe Moyes too) obviously hasn’t sought Paul Lambert’s advice on such matter, seeing as the Aston Villa manager managed to keep his prized asset. Not to say Villa will fare greatly this season but Benteke’s presence upfront, along with Brad Guzan’s in goal, will help Lambert steer Villa through a decent season.
Lambert’s former club Norwich however look like they’ll fare better this season, with Ruddy back in goal after missing most of last season injured. Then there are the quite impressive signings of strikers Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel, arrivals that should ensure the club won’t miss Grant Holt who now plays at Birmingham City.
Newcastle United have reinforced their options upfront, adding Loic Remy on loan from QPR and Yoann Gouffran on a permanent basis from Ligue 1. The Magpies also got right back Mathieu Debuchy from the French league, to add to the dominantly French speaking squad, which the club would hope translates to a good enough season fighting for a Europa League spot at best.
Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux and Moussa Sissoko will be key in midfield for Alan Pardew’s side, who also has the options of Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Obertan and Dan Gosling to make for quite a decent group of midfield players at St. James’ Park to last a gruelling season.
Pardew will also be pleased to have Remy and Gouffran to call upon now should first choice striker Papiss Cisse fail to show a more lethal touch in front of goal as he largely did last season. All that said, Newcastle have the potential to finish in the top half of the league and even go for a spot in next season’s Europa League.
Newcastle, on paper, should perform better than Everton even. Unlike Pardew who’s been at St. James’ for a bit, Roberto Martinez is new at Goodison, but that’s about it really. Martinez is a talented manager who is attack minded, a philosophy players such as Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Stephen Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas, new signing Arouna Kone and, to an extent, Bryan Oviedo, Victor Anichebe and Nikica Jelavic can live up to.
Martinez couldn’t deliver much while at Wigan Athletic due to a shambolic defence. He however has a resilient set of defenders at Goodison Park so all he can hope for is that the players deliver in the final third for him. It’s that or opposing teams will pick the Toffees apart on the counter and Tim Howard then won’t be able to keep balls from the net.
There’ll be goal line technology to assist Howard and other Premier League goalkeepers and defenders settle controversial moments now, having being installed in all Premier League stadia. Could end up being the difference between a team being relegated or staying up.
My favourites for relegation this season include West Brom; now without Lukaku who’s back at Chelsea and still with a poor back line, Stoke City now managed by Mark Hughes, Hull City despite some decent signings and whose chairman wants to change the club’s name to Hull City Tigers… rugby union behaviour!
There’s also Crystal Palace (and I promise you it’s not because Marouane Chamakh has joined them) and Cardiff City; promising dealings in the transfer market but still doesn’t seem right to me. I’d like to be proven wrong with Cardiff though.
Fulham and West Ham should do well for a midtable finish, as should Southampton ably led by Ricky Lambert. Sunderland, with almost a new set of first team players signed so far, including American forward Jozy Altidore and Italian midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini from Juventus, Black Cats manager Paolo Di Canio could leave quite a good impression on the league this season. (Wanted to comment on the quality of his goal tenders but that would overshadow the potential of the rest of the team, so… ).
… so I’ll end it here and look forward to the opening weekend, which kicks off at Anfield where Liverpool host Stoke City in the early kickoff. Arsenal then host Aston Villa, Manchester City welcome Newcastle’s French gang to the Etihad, Chelsea host Hull City (Tigers) and champions United embark on a tricky trip to face Swansea in Saturday’s evening kickoff.
Here’s to another entertaining season. And to all Arsenal fans… just take it easy.
Liverpool vs. Stoke City (12:45)
Arsenal vs. Aston Villa (15:00)
Norwich City vs. Everton (15:00)
Sunderland vs. Fulham (15:00)
West Ham United vs. Cardiff City (15:00)
West Brom vs. Southampton (15:00)
Swansea City vs. Manchester United (17:30)
Crystal Palace vs.Tottenham Hotspur (13:30)
Chelsea vs. Hull City (16:00)
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United (20:00)
Going into a match, having just come out of a gruelling Christmas schedule with a six match unbeaten run to lie third on the league table, two points off the top, my team fall behind midway through the first half against a team two places off the relegation zone.
Rubbish! And perfect time to pause football manager and feel most inclined to put down this preview of the 2013/14 Premier League season, a season which comes with a sense of the new mixed with the usual, high octane drama we’ve become accustomed to season after season.
Last season, Manchester United reclaimed the league title from the noisy neighbours and as a result went past Liverpool as the team with the most league titles, thanks largely to the goals of Robin van Persie; the last genius gamble of long serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson who finally let go of the thinking cap and chewing gum at the Theatre of Dreams.
Inevitably, the new man at the helm will be banking on the flying Dutchman in his quest to begin a reign as Fergie’s successor on a high, off what has been a turbulent run up to the season, no thanks to speculation on Whine Rooney’s future at the club as well as failed bids for Barcelona duo Thiago Alcantara (who opted to join his former boss Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich) and Cesc Fabregas who ‘decided to stay put’ as well as for his former boy Leighton Baines.
That leaves David Moyes with pretty much the same squad that came from behind on numerous occasions to win the league. Only difference now from then is, can Moyes’s charisma evoke that similar spirit Fergie was always conjuring from his players on their way to a 20th crown last season?
Having gone fruitless years being a pain in the a.k.a.-donkey of the bigger clubs while at Everton, the expectation is that having a better squad and much better budget at his disposal now would make a ‘better’ manager of him. His ability to make the best out of what he has and potential to be at the helm for long – stability – is what got him the job and what is hoped would ensure sustained success at Old Trafford.
But his failure to land transfer targets however, point to an inferior character incapable of commanding a presence, a respect where it matters. It certainly cannot be at the level of Fergie’s but it right now is quite far from convincing even most fans of the club that Moyes is the ideal man for the job.
As a result, rivals for the league title, swirling around as sharks would at the presence of blood, have made their moves and all that’s left now is for them to go for the kill and take the league title from the Red Devils.
First shark in the tank is Manchester City that finished second last season, having failed to replicate the drive which led the club to a most dramatic title win minutes after Man. United thought the title was theirs in 2012. Hence, the hierarchy at the Etihad relieved Roberto Mancini of his job and replaced him with seasoned Chilean tactician Manuel Pellegrini.
A number of players have also been added to the squad there, with Fernandinho joining from Shakhtar Donetsk, quickfeet Jesus Navas from Sevilla, followed later from same club by striker Alvaro Negredo, with Montenegrin forward Stefan Jovetic arriving from Fiorentina some time between the two Spaniards.
Fernandinho’s arrival gives the spine of City’s midfield a bit more dynamism to the one already provided by Yaya Toure. Javi Garcia never got going last season and with Jack Rodwell still in the mix of the hustle to be Toure’s starting partner in midfield, it’s looking like it’ll be a long season for Garcia.
Upfront, Pellegrini has an enviously potent forward line consisting of Negredo and Jovetic joining Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko, with support over the season from Fernandinho and Navas joining a midfield already rich with Yaya Toure, Silva, Samir Nasri, James Milner and Javi Garcia… not to forget Rodwell and Scott Sinclair who may leave the club on loan for this season.
However, Man. City’s main failing last season was the defensive lapses that brought about a number of unexpected losses, an issue that should not be a bother this season after all if the goals are regular from the wealthy choice of forwards he’s assembled. Otherwise, Pellegrini’s got a coming headache.
Having captain Vincent Kompany and the rest of the back line fit and in form (Joe Hart’s bipolar form comes to mind here) all season would be crucial to Pellegrini’s main test as new manager, which will not necessarily be how well he performs in the league, as he could lead City to a third place finish and still be regarded a success based on how well he does in the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup, especially in the former where the real test is.
Man. City’s embarrassing displays in the last two European seasons pose a threat to their domestic ambition. Doing well in Europe could hamper their league performance and vice versa. Pellegrini’s job will therefore be to strike a right balance in the Premier League and Champions League or end up only delivering what Mancini could to the oil money, unsatisfactory success.
From the blue side of Manchester to London’s, a shark swirling about Moyes, also with a new man at the helm but, unlike the previous two clubs, a man who is returning to familiar terrains.
Chelsea have satisfied the yearn for European success unlike City, and in fact won the Champions League and Europa League in successive years. The Premier League, last won 2009/10, will be the main goal at Stamford Bridge and Jose Mourinho knows all to well how to go about winning it.
He was the one who won the Blues a first league title in half a century, going right ahead to retain that title the following season. Now armed with more experience from Inter Milan and Real Madrid along with a diabetic wealth of choice in players, without forgetting his undying love of life in the Queen’s most pretigeous league, Mourinho and Chelsea are the genuine favourites to win the league and break the recent hold of Manchester on the title.
Fernando Torres may not have the chance to be the undoing of Chelsea’s title quest, even though I feel he’s been improving in front of goal lately. Not to say he’s close to his old lethal self but… he’s been improving. And if indeed he falls short again, there’s Demba Ba. The Senegalese however has a prone to going on a drought in the second half of the season following a flourishing first half. What then? Hello Romelo Lukaku.
If there is a set of players highly motivated to prove a point this season, the Belgian striker’s name would be at the top of that list. The imposing young striker left good memories from his loan spell last season at West Bromwich-Albion and has looked good in front of goal this preseason for the Blues.
And with a creative force led by Juan Mata that also comprises Eden Hazard and Oscar, along with Victor Moses and new boys Kevin de Bruyne and Andre Schurlle, the problem for Chelsea won’t be the number of chances created but the number of those taken. Who Mourinho picks as the man with the task to convert those chances will be key to Chelsea’s success this season.
Among the three teams written of in this piece, Chelsea (much to my biased side’s dismay) are favourites for the league title based on the facts that Mourinho knows the league well enough and he is the sort of manager who can get his team to grind out the needed results at crucial stages of the season.
Besides, the Chelsea squad doesn’t seem as one on the brink of tearing apart, unlike City where four internationals are vying for two striking spots, if not one (depending on Pellegrini’s choice of tactics) and the duo of Yaya Toure and David Silva seem untouchable in midfield. As for United, they are title contenders simply because of van Persie. One bad injury… it’s either Rooney or the little pea step up in the Dutchman’s absence or it’s over.
The rest of the league? There’s Arsenal to lead them, followed in no particular order by Swansea City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. I’ll rather write about them in another post, a sequel if you may. But right now, I’ll finish my match on football manager… whose makers by the way have announced and released screenshots of FM14. Exciting times.
When he was on a well earned sabbatical in New York, many football fans must have dreamed of what it would be like to have the man who led Barcelona through a spell of domination in world football join their respective favourite clubs and replicate his success with the Catalans.
It was a rude shock hence, when Pep Guardiola was announced as heir to the dynasty of Juup Heynckes, a man who at the time was on his way to lead the Bavarians to a spectacular treble, with the masterclass over Pep’s former club the crystal bubbles swimming all in that chilled glass of Heineken.
Pep’s ascension at Bayern’s helm was the start of what is turning out to be arguably the busiest and most high profile transfer window ever, with Mario Götze’s switch to Bayern from Borussia Dortmund, a move announced weeks before both met in that dramatic Champions League final which the then Dortmund player unfortunately sat out via injury, causing further stir well before the window opened.
The champions of Europe had made two formidable signings to an already formidable team, and they were made before two of the three titles in the treble were won. Psychological bullying to go with the on-field one they imposed on all season last season.
If Bayern, a team that lost only three matches all of last season; two of those coming at home weirdly, still found it necessary to add Pep and Götze to a team well groomed by a departing Heynckes, a team that had made the Champions League final in three of the last four seasons, then others needed to show their ambition in upstaging the German giants… or at least try to keep up.
Enter Pep’s former club Barça that finally secured the talent of Brazilian ace Neymar from Santos, a player the Catalans could play behind their superman Lionel Messi. But more importantly, Neymar is the signing Barça could rely on when a (12/13) Bayern or (11/12) Chelsea come along with kryptonite.
Then there is Paris Saint-Germain, the French club that has only itself to blame for losing on away goals to Barça in last season’s Champions League quarterfinal.
Le Parisiens paid over €100m to acquire fearsome striker Edinson Cavani from Napoli, defender Marquinhos from AS Roma and left back Lucas Digne from Lille OSC, signings which should be enough to quell the homefront threat of newly promoted AS Monaco that so far have signed Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, Jeremy Toulalan from a very sorry Malaga and James Rodriguez among others.
But the loss of the man responsible for bringing in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura, Director of Football Leonardo, no thanks to his feud with the LFP, could be detrimental on the long run. Cavani’s arrival was his last act and the spotlight will now turn to Laurent Blanc who, for now, is a temporary replacement for Carlo Ancelotti whom they had to let go for Real Madrid.
Los Blancos, losing semi-finalists in the last three Champions League seasons, parted company with manager Jose Mourinho following a fiasco of a season that saw them come out tops in the 2012/13 series of the El Clasico but fall short where it mattered elsewhere, culminating in the embarrassing defeat to Dortmund in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
Florentino Perez has since paid top dollar to get Ancelotti as Mourinho’s replacement, Isco from a sorry Malaga and Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad while also soothing the ego that is Cristiano Ronaldo and holding on to Gonzalo Higuain till interested clubs do like he’s done in the market or the window closes – whichever comes first.
The latter in the above has frustrated Arsenal’s bid to bolster the perennially underachieving talented club, forcing the north Londoners to consider bidding £40m for Liverpool forward Luis Suarez. Which begs the question, why not hand that amount to get Higuain who is your true target in the window?
If indeed Arsenal are looking to piss Real off or force their hand in the Higuain deal by bidding for Suarez, who is admired at the Bernabeu, the Gunners could end up the biggest loser since Real have nothing to lose really while Liverpool aren’t a financially weak side, the type Arsenal enjoy poaching.
The Reds themselves have signed a few in order to help their cause of performing far better in the league at least, although losing out to Dortmund in the race for Mkhitaryan’s signature from Shakhtar Donetsk put a bad dent on that.
Along with the signing of Pierre Emerick Aubemayang from St. Etienne and the will to see Robert Lewandowski play in the yellow and black for the coming season (at least), his final season on his contract with them, Jurgen Klopp has a side that can perform as well as it did last season. You will recall, they lost the Bundesliga to Bayern, lost in the quarterfinal of the German Cup to Bayern and lost in the final of the big one to… yes, them again.
It would be interesting to have Dortmund drawn in the Champions League group stage with Real and Manchester City again. Would Klopp still come out top of the group with a smirk on him? Would Ancelotti and Zidane have made Real better? Can City qualify from the group stage in their third attempt? That would be Manuel Pellegrini’s true test in his first season as the manager of the ‘noisy neighbours’.
Employed from a very very sorry Malaga side, Pellegrini has pretty much stated that ‘eez nuffin’ for City to win the Premier League and do very well in Europe. Time will tell. For now, the arrivals of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Alvrado Negredo hold promise for the Citizens, as does the impending confirmation of Stevan Jovetic’s signing.
The activity at the blue side of Manchester poses a real threat to reigning league champions Manchester United that are still sulking from the inevitable retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and the appointment of David Moyes whose presence is understandably underwhelming.
There’s also the loss of the race for Thiago Alcantara’s signature to none other than Bayern Munich as well as Kevin Strootman’s departure to AS Roma from PSV Eindhoven after being well followed for long by the Red Devils.
They do have Robin van Persie’s goals to bank on but he can only play so many games on the trot, which makes reinforcing the squad with a quality signing or two; hence, going (rather vainly) after Cesc Fabregas, and/or (mostly ‘or’) keeping Wayne Rooney (since he’s now an accomplished midfielder, to his subtle dismay) Moyes’ most important preseason task.
The thought of keeping a player at a club where he’s previously had transfer trouble with may entirely not be a good idea, leaving a hopeful silver lining for the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea who are very interested in the 27 year old Nike UK athlete.
Why Chelsea would want Rooney following the signings of Andre Schurlle and Marco van Ginkel, coupled with the return from loan of Kevin de Bruyne and Romelo Lukaku to complement a squad comprising Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Ramires, Demba Ba (yes!) and Fernando Torres (no sarcasm here)… just why? To bully the competition of course.
Otherwise City wouldn’t have bought those players, PSG probably didn’t need to get Cavani though Digne and Marquinhos were needed, sort of. Barça too probably didn’t need to get Neymar but Bayern left quite the scar.
Real would tell you Illarramendi’s for the future and Isco adds depth to a squad headed in that department by Mesut Ozil, ably backed by Luka Modric and Kaka… and Juventus, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente to complement Fabio Quagliarella, Matri and Sebastien Giovinco?
Bayern tops all that with Gotze and Alcantara joining up with Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Arjen bipolar Robben, Mario Mandzukic, Javi Martinez, Xherdan Shaqiri, Luis Gustavo… and that’s just the midfield up. So unfair. Oh, and Toni Kroos who sat out the titles’ run-in last season injured. Such bulls!
It’s no contest that these are the clubs that would figure prominently in their respective leagues’ title race. Their performance among Europe’s elite is where the spotlight would really be.
Finally, the bullish nature of these clubs just goes to show how well thought through by UEFA the Financial Fair Play rule was, a rule that has as its victims this season an oh so verily very very sorry Malaga and Turkish side Besiktas among others whose financial muscles aren’t so Tyson.
The Brazilian national team have inadvertently granted their government massive reprieve by winning the Confederations Cup to appease a population discontent with the government; mostly triggered by a recent increase in bus fares and sustained by the amounts spent to ensure the South American nation successfully host next year’s World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016.
For the moment, the manner of the Samba Boys’ 3-0 humbling of Spain, achieved through a Fred brace early in each half either side of a Neymar striker, will be remembered for a long time in the same manner Bayern Munich’s masterclass over Barcelona in the semifinal of last season’s UEFA Champions League is remembered.
Worthy of being remembered as well is the third place match between Italy and Uruguay, a match of three well taken freekicks which the Italians eventually won 3-2 on penalties after scores was level at 2-2 after regular and extra time.
Victory for the Italians was ensured by Juventus stalwart Gianluigi Buffon who saved three penalties in the shootout and redeem (or more like reaffirm) his status as a legendary goalkeeper, which was brought to question in regular time by Edinson Cavani’s brace for the reigning South American champions.
Cavani’s goals, including a 78th minute peach of a freekick to get Uruguay on level terms again, would certainly tempt Napoli president De Laurentis to increase his €63m valuation of the striker who has been linked to Real Madrid and Chelsea.
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s value could’ve increased as well if he wasn’t on the books of Championship side QPR… but not for long if reports that he is Arsenal bound are to be followed. Heading to north London with him is midfielder Paulinho, but to the White Hart Lane side of NL, whose fans would surely be highly expectant of his arrival following a good display at the Confederations Cup.
Already highly expectant are Barcelona fans of Neymar who put in another good display to further more debunk arguments that he may be a tad bit overrated. Imagine a front trio there with him and Pedro just behind Lionel Messi, ably supported by Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets or Fabregas… or Thiago Alcantara who basically snubbed Manchester United via Instagram on Saturday (damn, that’s just cold blooded!).
In danger of getting snubbed as well, unless they find a fix to the mess of rubber made in Formula 1 is Pirelli, whose tyres ensured the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was eventful to the extreme while costing championship leader Sebastien Vettel valuable points.
It all started in the practice sessions when Sergio Perez suffered a punctured tyre. Then Mark Webber damaged his front wing at the very start of race proper, debris from which may have caused home favourite Lewis Hamilton’s left rear tyre getting destroyed in the eighth lap to have him relinquish his lead, followed by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who suffered exactly same fate at same area on the track as Hamilton in the 11th lap… followed soon after by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne with the same puncture.
Vergne later became the first driver to retire on the day after 37 laps and was soon followed out by Vettel after the German driver lost his gearbox while in the lead. Then Perez’s terrible weekend came to an end as he had to retire from the race with a tyre failure in the 46th lap.
Hamilton recovered very well from last position to tussle for third spot and a podium finish with Fernando Alonso, but eventually settled for fourth. Massa did well too to come from well behind and finish in sixth, just behind a seemingly weary Kimi Raikkonen.
In the end, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg (friends with Lukas Podolski) won the dramatic race, holding off the late charge of Red Bull’s Webber by 0.7 seconds while Alonso finished third after he usurped Raikkonen.
As for the tyre drama, blame is in fact being pointed at the teams after it was revealed that three teams had voted against Pirelli bringing in new tyres made specifically for the Silverstone track, tyres which were secretly tested with the Mercedes team earlier in the season, around the time David Moyes was revealed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United.
The Scotsman officially begins work at Old Trafford today; as does Manuel Pellegrini down the road at the Etihad, with the transfer situation with Wayne Rooney his prime concern for the moment. The Red Devils also have had a £12m bid for Leighton Baines rejected by their manager’s former club Everton.
To ease the bit of headache for him on the transfer front and in the backroom where Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen have left is the appointment of Steve Round as his assistant along with a couple more entrants to OT from his backroom staff at Goodison Park.
Wrapping up, it is sad to hear of the death of former Super Eagles midfielder Thompson Oliha, aged 44. Until his death, Oliha was the head coach of the Kwara Football Academy (KFA) in Ilorin, Kwara State. May he soul rest in peace, amen.
On that note, it’s a wrap from me. Looking forward to Nigeria’s U20 national team take on their Uruguayan counterparts on Tuesday in a second round match at the ongoing World Youth Championship in Turkey. All the best to the Flying Eagles there, vengeance must be attained following the Super Eagles’ loss to Uruguay at the Confederations Cup last week.
Before then Wimbledon resumes today with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray scheduled to play against veterans Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny respectively.
On this day in 1903, the first Tour de France began and today, the 100th edition of cycling’s most prestigeous competition rode off. Also on this day in 1881, the world’s first international telephone call was made between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada and Calais, Maine in the United States. Today however, my sister in the bedroom could call me; just right there in the living room, on my mobile when a simple yell of my name would suffice… if I’m bothered enough to answer.
Today also marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Abramovich era at Chelsea, the birthday of former American athlete Carl Lewis (52), American rapper Missy Elliott (42), former Dutch internationals Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooij (both 37)and actress Liv Tyler from the Lord of the Rings fame (36).
Late Princess Diana was born today in 1961 as was Carol Chomsky, deceased wife of foremost linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky. And today marks the ninth anniversary of the death of actor Marlon Brando.
Have a great week ahead wherever you are, mine began yesterday with my brother’s birthday. Many happy returns to him and to everyone else celebrating this week. Cheers!
In a week that witnessed more withdrawals from it than bank customers at an ATM (please don’t sue me), Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer must be wondering how it would have been better to be on the withdrawal bandwagon rather than suffering rare and embarrassing defeats.
First was world number five Nadal, brimming with a champion’s confidence having just won his favourite Grand Slam, the French Open, a record eighth time on the back of losing just two matches since making a return from a long term knee injury, fell to a player ranked 130 places below him at that point… worse still, in straight sets.
Steve Darcis’ shock 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 win in the first round paved way for an equally shocking defeat in the second round as world number two Roger Federer, after winning the first set, ended up losing 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 7-6 to 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky.
And to make their losses as frustrating as humanly possible, Darcis withdrew from Wimbledon with a shoulder problem (side effects of beating a hard hitter like Nadal) while Stakhovsky, in the very next round after beating Federer, lost 6-2 2-6 7-5 6-3 to Jurgen Melzer. Would Melzer have beaten Federer? We’ll never know.
The shock losses spilled into the women’s section with third seed Maria Sharapova losing in straight sets of 6-3 6-4 to Michelle Larcher De Brito while French Open semifinalist Sara Errani was bundled out earlier in the first round.
Those shock exits, coupled with the withdrawals of Jo Wilfred Tsonga (who was down two sets to one when he did, go figure), Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek and John Isner in the male section as well as Viktoria Azarenka in the female means that – much as they would want you to believe otherwise – the path to the final is much less perilous than originally would have been (at least on paper) for top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams as well as Britain’s shining hope Andy Murray… maybe David Ferrer too.
As to claims that the playing surface is to blame for the diluge of withdrawals, organisers of the third slam on the calendar stated “The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality”. Simply put, ‘quit whining and get on with it’.
So we move on from the grass surface of SW19 to the grass at Brazil where Spain will face the host nation in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup after edging out the Italians 7-6 on (well taken) penalties following a goalless 120 mnutes; much better than last time both met at the final of the Euros last year where the Spaniards ran out 4-0 winners.
This final, which is the very fixture anticipated by all from the start of the Confederations Cup, will be a major test of how good or otherwise the Brazilian team is ahead of next summer’s World Cup just as it would inevitably serve as a stage to see what Neymar can pull off against pretty much the players he will play with and against when La Liga kicks off for the 2013/14 season.
As for Spain, it’s a chance to fare much better than the third place finish they managed at the last Confederations Cup in South Africa as well as extend an unbeaten run of matches that has been since November 2011 when England beat them in a friendly.
Spanish fans will also be looking out for their U20 national side vying for the World Youth Championship in Turkey, having just made the first knockout round there by finishing top of Group A with nine maximum points ahead of France, Ghana (who have a slim chance of qualifying as one of the best third placed countries) and the United States.
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles are also through to the knockout round after finishing Group B in second place with six points, a point behind Portugal, after beating South Korea by a lone goal in their final group match on Thursday. And as it stands, Nigeria may well be the only African nation left competing after the final round of group matches in Groups E and F are played later today.
For one, Egypt, without a point, need a big win against England in Group E to either qualify or at least keep England from doing so for Ghana’s sake, just as Uruguay must be beaten by table topping Uzbekistan in Group F to aid Ghana’s cause while also sealing their (the Uzbek’s) qualification.
Murky, twisted situation that but no where as murky as Silvio Berlusconi’s situation with the law in Italy, after a ruling by three judges in a case of sleeping with an underaged girl found him guilty, sentenced him to seven years in prison and also banned him from partaking in politics… but there’s a catch.
Apparently, Berlusconi, who is the owner of Serie A giants AC Milan, was sentenced to four years in prison last year after being convicted of tax evasion but hasn’t served a minute in prison. Why? An appeal process must be completed in both cases (yes, the man has appealed) and due to the multiple stages involved in the appeal process, it could take years before being settled.
Hence, Berlusconi may well never serve jail time for his convictions. Lionel Messi on his part, would also likely not serve jail time over the tax evasion allegations levelled against him recently in Spanish court after agreeing to pay an amount between €15m and €21m to the tax authorities there. So not only are the Spaniards winning on the field of play, they also are in the court and more so against a No. 10 touted as the best ever. Tough world.
Likely tougher for those who will face Juventus next season, especially in the Serie A, after the league champions completed the deal to bring Argentine forward Carlos Tevez over from oil rich Manchester City in a £7.6m steal that could rise to £12m… still a steal of a deal for Juve.
Other players that have or will be moving include Andrei Arshavin who returned to Zenit St. Petersburg after the expiration of his contract at Arsenal, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who joined Liverpool from Sunderland, Chelsea’s Marko Marin who will spend next season on loan at Sevilla, Lille’s Dimitri Payet who will sign for Olympique Marseille next week and Isco who will be Carlo Ancelotti’s first signing (per se) from sorry Malaga.
Malaga have now lost manager Manuel Pellegrini to Manchester City and Isco to Real right after losing Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal to Arsenal in the last year. Heap on the ban from UEFA competitions due to not meeting certain Financial Fair Play regulations and you can’t but feel sorry for a modest side that made the Champions League quarterfinals last season.
A bit of sympathy too for Red Bull driver Mark Webber who announced during the week that he would quit Formula 1 at the end of this season to join Porsche’s new sportscar programme and will compete at the LeMans 24 hour race with them.
Webber had been in the midst of a controversial team ‘bust-up’ this season, when teammate and world champion Sebastien Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber at the Malaysian grand prix. Vettel apologised soon after, only to then state that he would do same if both drivers were in the same situation again.
While Webber would deny that incident isn’t responsible for his decision to quit the sport, all indications point to it really, more so after it was confirmed that he received offers from at least one top team to join them next season. For the moment, that’s about it with the roundup from the week.
On this day in 1880, France annexed Tahiti and probably annexed every ounce of the latter’s footballing talents along. And in 2007, Apple Inc. released its first mobile phone, the iPhone.
Happy birthday to gospel singer Don Moen (63), pop singer Nicole Scherzinger (35), Argentine football midfielder Ever Banega (25), French football midfielder Yann M’Vila (23) and the young doctor Obinna Nnewuihe (20-I really can’t tell you). Best wishes to him and everyone else celebrating today.
Have a pleasant day wherever this post meets you.
I’m sorry for being away for long from here, however credible my reasons are. Between the top two women’s tennis players meanwhile, Serena Williams apologised to Maria Sharapova… also without stating exactly what she was apologising for.
Williams had earlier made comments concerning an unnamed tennis player – presumed Sharapova – and a man with a black heart; Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, comments which Sharapova deemed uncalled for from a person who isn’t morally pious herself.
“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.” – Sharapova.
Interestingly, Sharapova’s comments on Serena’s comments came days after Serena supposedly apologised to her sporting adversary at a WTA party last week. Serena believes Sharapova accepted her apology, but Sharapova making those comments days later however implies the contrary.
More interestingly is that Dimitrov and Serena dated briefly last year but it gets even better as it is Dimitrov that suppodedly introduced Serena to her present getting-a-divorce-and-has- kids boyfriend Patrick Mouratoglou.
While reminding self that this media spat between Serena and Sharapova sparked off due to Serena’s remarks about a 16 year old girl’s rape in Ohio, it’s worthy to remind self also that the third grand slam on the calendar serves off today in London.
Dimitrov, who is 22 years old (yes, Serena was a cougar), will also participate at this year’s Wimbledon just as Mouratoglou, his former coach will be in London to support his former trainee’s ex-girlfriend, his girlfriend Serena.
Not far away, Gustavo Poyet will be chasing an appeal against Brighton and Hove-Albion after the latter bizarrely made the former their former coach while he was working as an analyst of Spain’s Confederations Cup match against Nigeria for the BBC.
And while the club claim Poyet was informed before then, the fired live on air Uruguayan, visibly rattled upon being told the news by BBC staff, denied any prior knowledge of the club’s decision to sack him.
Former Chelsea midfielder Poyet joined Brighton as manager in late 2009 and led them to promotion to the Championship, before leading them to the Championship playoffs last season where they lost to Crystal Palace that eventually won the playoffs and gained promotion to the Premier League.
Would’ve mattered little to Poyet hence that his country’s second team sealed qualification to the semi-final of the Confederations Cup with an 8-0 win over Group B’s whipping nation Tahiti.
The South American champions will now face hosts Brazil in the first semi-final on Wednesday after finishing second in the group behind world and European champions Spain that claimed a well earned 3-0 win over African champions Nigeria thanks to a Jordi Alba brace either side of Fernando Torres’s headed goal.
Indeed Spain could have scored more, with Vincent Enyeama denying Roberto Soldado while Cesc Fabregas somehow shot an effort to the foot of the post when scoring was the likeliest outcome, helplessly watching as Enyeama recovered to save.
Nigeria could have scored at least two as well, with Brown Ideye deciding to grow cold feet when tapping in to goal seemed the likeliest outcome for him. Spain now will face Italy in the second semi-final on Thursday while Nigeria’s senior national team head home.
The Super Eagles’ U20 counterparts as well fared no better against Iberian opposition after coming from two goals down to draw level at 2-2 with Portugal only to end up losing 3-2 in the opening Group B match of the U20 World Cup in Turkey.
Mali was Africa’s only representative among the four that started fairly, picking a point in the 1-1 draw with Paraguay’s U20 side in Group D. Egypt however lost 2-1 to Chile in a Group E match while Ghana’s U20 got beaten 3-1 by their French counterpart in a Group A match.
The Flying Eagles next face Cuba later today needing a win to keep alive hopes of making the second round before rounding off with a match against South Korea on Thursday.
By then, Wimbledon would be well underway. Hopefully, Serena and Sharapova will be on course for a showdown in the final of the women’s section while Novak Djokovic doesn’t mess up the better looking side of the draw he’s been given compared to the tougher looking side of the draw in which Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal find themselves.
To wrap up today’s post, is starting off a few more paragraphs to the biweekly posts, which would celebrate a few birthdays and notable historical events which you may or may not know of. An ‘On This Day’ section pretty much.
So here’s wishing worlds’ (yes, not world’s) footballer of the year Lionel Messi a happy 26th birthday. Hopefully he gets over his tax evasion case in the Spanish court.
Happy birthday also to ace comedian Alibaba, former Argentina playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme (33), delectable American actress Minka Kelly (33), Bayern Munich player David Alaba (21), singer/songwriter Solange Knowles who turns 27 today and to every one else born today.
Also on this day, American tennis player John Isner defeated Nicholas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68 in the longest match in professional tennis history in a first round at the 2010 Wimbledon. The match lasted for 11 hours and five minutes over three days, with the final set alone going for just over eight hours.
Also on this day in 1947, the first widely reported sighting of a UFO was made near Mount Mournier in Washington DC by Kenneth Arnolds. Since then, we’ve had Steven Spielberg’s ET, the Men in Black franchise, Prometheus, the Fifth Element, Star Wars and a galaxy of others.
Finally on this day in 1374, a sudden outbreak of St. John’s Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion. Believe me, I didn’t make this one up and I would swear to it… but God says we shouldn’t swear so…
… on this feast day of St. John the Baptist, have yourself a great week wherever you are. Bless!