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Jun 122013

The Japanese national soccer team is, if nothing else, consistent.

They’ve won the AFC Asian Cup more than any other Asian nation and the last time they didn’t qualify for the FIFA World Cup was 1994. They just locked up the first spot in 2014 for a team not named Brazil and there’s no reason to think they’re about to slow down. They are led by Italian head coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who has experimented with his preferred 3-4-3 formation ever since taking the job after the conclusion of Japan’s 2010 World Cup campaign.


Japan won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup (their fourth Asian title) to cement their place in the 2013 Confederations Cup. They beat the other two powerhouses of Asia, South Korea and Australia, in the semifinals and final respectively. With their place in the 2014 World Cup locked up, the Japanese are free to use this tournament as an opportunity to prepare against stiff competition. They’ll be joining Italy, Mexico, and hosts Brazil  and they will relish the chance to compete against high caliber opposition.


Japan is a very technical side that values possession and discipline. They have a lot of creative forces who can give opposing defenses fits. Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United) are the household names, but there are other equally valuable individuals throughout this squad. Shinji Okazaki, who plays for Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, was the leading scorer during the 2011 Asian Cup run and fullback Atsuto Uchida is very underrated and extremely valuable given the 3-4-3 formation Zaccheroni prefers. Uchida plys his trade for UEFA Champions League participants Schalke 04; also of the Bundesliga where many more players on this squad make their living.

Their group will difficult to get out of, but Mexico is currently in crisis and Italy doesn’t usually take tournaments these “lesser” tournaments very seriously. They have the talent to challenge Brazil for the top spot in the group. The other group has Spain, Uruguay,  Nigeria, and Tahiti. The Japanese are capable of beating three of those teams. They’ll need some help, but watch out for a run similar to that of the United States in 2009.


The biggest knock on Japan has always been their lack of players with great physical stature and strength. They get out muscled by a lot of teams. The way you beat Japan is to physically rough them up and try to take them out of their rhythm. They lack a traditional No.9 striker who can go stride for stride with the big, strong center backs that Brazil and Italy deploy. And one of the reasons the 3-4-3 is such a good fit for them is because they have a dearth of physical center backs who can slow down big, strong center forwards.

They’ll struggle to keep goals out of the back of the net against the likes of Neymar, Mario Balotelli, and Chicharito. They’re probably the third best team in this group and they’ll need some help to make it to the final.


Although the Stuttgart forward has seen his playing time drop in Germany, he continues to do well for the national team. He led them in scoring in the 2011 Asian Cup and he scored the winner against Iraq that clinched their 2014 spot. It was his third goal in three appearances in 2013. He’s not very big, but he’s a clinical finisher and he gets his service from Honda and Kagawa. If Japan are going to advance, he’s going to be the one who scores the goals.


Goalkeepers (3): Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege-BEL), Shusaku Nishikawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima-JPN), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo-JPN)

Defenders (8): Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata-JPN), Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart-GER), Yuto Nagatomo (FC Internazionale-ITA), Atusto Uchida (Schalke 04-GER), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka-JPN), Yuzo Kurihara (Yokohama F-Marinos-JPN), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96-GER), Maya Yoshida (Southampton FC-ENG)

Midfielders (9): Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow-RUS), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka-JPN), Hiroshi Kiyotake (FC Nuernberg-GER), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United-ENG), Hajime Hosogai (Bayer 04 Leverkusen-GER), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale-JPN), Makoto Hasebe (VfL Wolfsburg-GER), Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt-GER), Hideto Takahashi (FC Tokyo-JPN)

Forwards (3): Shinji Okazaki (VfB Stuttgart-GER), Mike Havenaar (Vitesse Arnhem-NED), Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo Iwata-JPN)

Jun 112013

Before the start of the Confederations Cup, Mexico is scheduled to play a World Cup qualifying match Tuesday against Costa Rica. This comes after playing to a scoreless draw against Panama in qualifying last Friday.. El Tri has been in a goal drought in the last several qualifying matches. The team has scored only twice in Hexagonal qualifying, both against Honduras. Including friendlies, El Tri has only netted five goals this year.

Mexico will be facing tough opponents in Group A. The group consists of Japan, Brazil, and Italy. El Tri will have to hope that Chicharito can find the back of the net, and that they will make it out of group stages. Mexico will begin their Confederations Cup tournament against Italy, before facing Brazil, and then Japan.


Mexico qualified for the 2013 Confederations Cup after defeating the U.S. 4-2 in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final. Not only did the 2011 Gold Cup win them bragging rights and a title, but it also qualified them for this year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil. El Tri was crowned Gold Cup champions in 2011 for the second consecutive time in a game that dominated the U.S. and all of CONCACAF.

Chicharito Hernandez was named Most Valuable Player of the Gold Cup  with his performance through out the tournament. The trophy marked their sixth Gold Cup title. The fairly young squad has several players who also played in last year’s 2012 Olympics and beat out Brazil for the gold. Mexico were also winners of  the 1999 Confederations Cup and were semifinalists in 2005.


Mexico will win only if Chicharito continues to find the back of the net. The focus will be on the team to strategize offensively. El Tri must use this opportunity to show that they are contenders for next years tournament.  The squad will have to show the same attitude and skill Mexico has presented at the Gold Cup, the 2012 Olympics, and the Under-17 World Cup.

El Tri’s strong defense is led by goalkeeper Cruz Azul’s Jose Corona who will be vital in defeating powerhouses like Brazil and Italy. Corona remains in form and led his club team to Liga Mx finals. Mexican fans will hope Corona can do the same for their country. Their solid backline mixed with the speed and agility of the offense will help them in-group stages. The defense consists of strong players from the Mexican League including Carlos Salcido, Severo Meza, Diego Reyes, and Gerardo Flores. Their midfield is made up of an organized and talented group of players that includes Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado. Their form and their ability to make crosses will be vital in setting up plays and pressing offensively. Jonathan dos Santos and Hector Herrera, both members of the Mexico’s winning Olympic team, will join them.

Mexico is currently ranked 16th in FIFA rankings, and it is expected for the team to make it out of group stages. The Confederations Cup serves as a learning opportunity for next year’s World Cup. Anything short of advancing out of their group will be a disappointment for manager de la Torre. Mexico’s strong technique and defense are what will lead the team to a possible victory.


The team has been struggling in front of the goal. This year the team has played to scoreless draws against Jamaica, the U.S., Peru, and now Panama. Mexico also played a friendly leading up to their World Cup qualifying matches against Nigeria that ended in a 2-2 draw. Manuel de la Torre recently added America’s Raul Jiminez to the roster to help assist the team in the front of the net.

Carlos Vela’s absence is affecting the team offensively. Vela scored 14 goals for his club team Real Sociedad. Chicharito has scored four of the teams five goals this year, while players like de Nigris and dos Santos have been struggling in front of goal. Worst-case scenario, the defense becomes unorganized and the team fails to address their offensive problems. de la Torre will have to think through his strategy going into the Confederations Cup.

Competition will be tough for the CONCACAF team. They are facing teams like Brazil, Italy, and possibly Spain who are made up of players who play in Europe, while most of El Tri’s squad plays in Mexico. They will face a dangerous Italian side with strong players like Mario Balotelli, and a Brazilian team with players like Neymar who will want a rematch of their 2012 Olympic final. It may seem that Mexico will be outclassed by the likes of Brazil and Italy, but El Tri has a strong defense to counter their opponent’s attacks. The farthest the team will  possibly make it is through group stages, and if so they would then be matched against either Spain or Uruguay.


Manchester United’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has scored four of his team’s five goals this year. His partnership with Peralta upfront will be a dangerous pairing. Chicharito is Mexico’s go-to for scoring. Chicharito ranks 5th in numbers of goals for Mexico. His form and technique and speed will challenge his opponents defensively. Chicharito was the top scorer during the 2011 Gold Cup. He is the most well known Mexican player, and has the European experience to take on and threaten his opponents. The success of the team will largely depend on how many goals he scores.


Goalkeepers- Jose de Jesus Corona, Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera

Defenders- Hiram Mier, Hector Moreno, Jorge Torres Nilo, Diego Reyes, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Salcido, Gerardo Flores, Severo Meza

Midfielders- Javier Aquino, Pablo Barrera, Jesus Molina, Angel Reyna, Gerardo Torrado, Jesus Zavala, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera

Forwards- Raul Jiminez, Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos, Aldo de Nigris


June 16th: Mexico vs. Italy

June 19th: Mexico vs. Brazil

June 22nd: Mexico vs. Japan

Jun 102013

The term “minnows” may not adequately describe the Tahiti squad that will play in Group B of the 2013 Confederations Cup with Spain, Uruguay, and Nigeria.

Tied for 138th with Syria in the latest FIFA rankings, Tahiti has already been eliminated from 2014 World Cup qualifying. With limited international exposure, Tahiti will use the Confederations Cup as opportunity to get their players some exposure for the rest of the world.


Despite failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup out of the Oceania region, Tahiti used a 1-0 victory over New Caledonia in the final of the 2012 Oceania Nations Cup to qualify for the Confederations Cup. The Tahitians won all five matches, including the final, and looked to be a force to reckon with come World Cup qualifying. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.


They won’t.

But if they did, they would need a lot of help just as the United States did in their run to the 2009 Confederations Cup final. They would definitely need to beat Nigeria (not entirely impossible given the inconsistent play of the Super Eagles) and hold on for draws against Uruguay and Spain and hope for mixed results in the remaining matches between the other three nations.

Never underestimate the power of the proverbial underdog. Many try to play this card, but Tahiti truly embodies the spirit of your traditional plucky upstarts.

(But seriously, they cannot win. Sorry.)


Because they’re Tahiti.

Only one player in this squad plays outside of Tahiti as a full time professional. More on him in a moment.

A decent chunk of this roster is still very young, having worked their way up to the senior team from the team that participated in the 2009 U-20 World Cup. This tournament could wind up being a coming out party for a few of those individuals, but other than that don’t expect much from the team as a whole.


The 33 year old forward has had a pretty successful career in France ever since he joined the academy team for Nantes at the age of 18 and progressed to the senior team by the age of 21. After six years with Nantes, he went to play for three seasons at both Nice and Lorient. After a couple brief spells with Monaco and Nancy, he now finds himself at Panthrakikos of the Greek first division.

The only player from Tahiti to win Oceanie Player of the Year, Vahirua will need a few gulps from the fountain of his youth to score some timely goals and lead this team to an upset or two; should the football gods desire it.

Jun 092013


**Courtesy of Vincent La Rosa**


International tournaments in odd-numbered years are… well, odd. Once the crown jewel of Saudi Arabian soccer, started in 1992 originally as the King Fahd Cup, the Confederations Cup was taken over by FIFA in 1997 and scheduled every four years starting in 2005. Held at the eventual sites of the following year’s World Cup, the Confed Cup is routinely referred to as a dry run for the host nation, and while its proximity to the World Cup might lead some to make conclusions in regards to the more prestigious tournament the following year, no Confederations Cup winning team has gone on the hoist the World Cup trophy the following year.

Add to the fact, most teams are still in the midst of qualifying for said World Cup the following year, in addition to the grueling domestic and cup seasons many of the teams’ players have just concluded, and the Confederations Cup appears to be little more than a speed bump on the road to Brazil 2014.

But I digress.


As one might guess, the Confederations Cup is challenged by the victors of regional tournament’s held by FIFA’s six confederations. To round out the tournament’s field, the winner of the World Cup and the host of the following year’s World Cup are invited to play and put on the tournament.

For Italy’s party, after taking place in the 2009 version of the Cup as World Cup winners, they’ve entered this year’s tournament through the proverbial backdoor. Having finished second to Spain in the Euros, Italy was guaranteed a spot before the Euro final of 2012 even took place, as Spain would already be an entrant as the 2010 World Cup winner.

Keeping in mind Italy’s less than enthusiastic approach to summer friendlies and odd-year tournaments, one might assume many of Italy’s players might have wished said backdoor had been locked in regards to their entrance into the tournament.

But again, I digress.


As I just mentioned, Italy are notorious for lackluster performances in matches of little consequence to them. Even in qualifiers and group stage matches, the Italians are nothing if not solely business-like, only getting what they need and rarely expending any excess energy if possible.

However, in recent years, the Mister of the Italian National Team, Cesare Prandelli, has set about reinventing a squad that takes all matches seriously, friendly or not. Prandelli’s proactive brand of soccer has the Italians playing in a style much more pleasing to the eye, while still remaining effective in the results column.

Encouraging intricate interplay in attack and high pressing without the ball, Prandelli’s Italy is a product of the modern game. And while it surprised some, Italy’s run to the final of the Euros in 2012 was a just reward for the new philosophy and players Prandelli has integrated into this Italian team. Possessing much of that same team for the Confederations Cup, and with another year under Prandelli’s tutelage, if Italy can build upon their Euros success, they may just surprise people again.


Having said so many kind words regarding Prandelli’s Italy and their new mindset in all matches, those seriously expecting Italy to challenge in a set of “glorified friendlies” are probably mistaken. This is still Italy we are talking about; it’ll take more than a few years under Mister Prandelli before the old habits completely die.

Case and point: Italy’s most recent World Cup qualifier. With the chance to all but wrap up their group by exerting themselves just a bit more in a difficult away match to the Czech Republic, the Italian players appeared vaguely interested in doing little more than sewing up a road point and calling it a day. As ESPN commentator Janusz Michallik so expertly summed it up on Twitter after, “Italy are the masters of getting what they need even when they play badly.” Sadly, a Confederations Cup is of little need to the players from the peninsula. Couple that with the fact Italy find themselves in a difficult group with the hosts Brazil and two very technical teams with high work rates in Japan and Mexico, would it surprise anyone if the Italians did a bit of a trot about for three games then packed it up to continue their holidays after a long season?


While Italy may have a saint in goal in the form of Gigi Buffon and a maestro in midfield in Andrea Pirlo, it is the Milan striker’s performance that will be the true barometer of Italy’s performance in the tournament.

Think of Mario Balotelli along the lines of Barney Stinson’s Hot to Crazy Scale. Like some of the crazy exs of your past, the hotter they are, the very real possibility that their crazy level raises steadily as well. Poor Mario fits nicely along this proven correlation line. But trade hotness for talent and sadly, keep the crazy. That’s our Mario.

Balotelli’s talent and antics were well-documented long before last summer’s Euros, but his brace in the semifinal against tournament favorites Germany announced his true introduction on the world stage for all the right reasons.

Seemingly uncontrollable, Prandelli’s patience and father-like approach to Super Mario has routinely gotten the best of the striker, even if he still has his moments of insanity – like picking up two yellows in the space of three minutes in the qualifier against the Czech Republic. On the field, Balotelli is a specimen. Strong on the ball, quick, able cut in from the outside or play with his back to goal, Balotelli can score from all over the pitch. Couple that with the fact this hothead is actually one of the coolest customers around when presented with a chance in front of goal – Balotelli has converted every single one of his penalty attempts in his profession career – and you’ve got a danger man in all manners of speaking.

Still just 22, it’s important to note Balotelli could very well be playing with Italy’s U-21s in the Under-21 European Championships this summer instead of with the senior side, so much of the expectations heaped upon him might be a bit unfair. But then again, if there’s one player you’d be right to expect the unexpected from it’s Super Mario. If he’s focused and up to it, he very well could set down a marker in Brazil this summer with an encore performance on a bigger stage a year later.

Jun 042013

As always, these deals have been signed, sealed, and confirmed by multiple sources.


The red hot Colombian striker will join newly promoted AS Monaco in Ligue 1 next season. He signs a five year deal worth approximately €14 million ($18.2) in annual salary.

Felipe Santana

The Brazilian center back, who has been stuck behind Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic, has agreed to leave Borussia Dortmund and join their hated rivals Schalke for a three year deal.

Sokratis Papadopoulos

The Greece center back will presumably fill Santana’s role at Dortmund as he completes a five year move from Werder Bremen.

Jakub Blaszczykowski

The Polish midfielder has signed a new five year deal to remain at Dortmund.

Ricardo Carvalho

The center back from Portugal departs Real Madrid at the age of 35 and will join Monaco next season on a one year deal.

Kolo Toure

The veteran center back from the Ivory Coast (age 32) has agreed to join Liverpool next season after his contract with Manchester City expires in July.

Daniel Carvajal

A talented right back, Carvajal will return to Real Madrid this summer after spending 2012-13 on loan with Bayer Leverkusen.

Aurelian Chedjou

One of the top center backs out of Cameroon, Chedjou has completed a four year move from Lille to Galatasaray.

Leo Baptistao

Atletico Madrid’s attempts to replace Falcao’s production started when they signed this Brazilian striker from Rayo Vallecano to a five year deal.

Marcos Alonso

The 22 year old fullback out of Real Madrid’s youth system will depart Bolton for free when his contract expires this summer and join Fiorentina in Serie A.

Cedrick Makiadi

Freiburg’s talisman of a midfielder will join Werder Bremen on a three year deal.

May 272013

They have no permanent home. They have no coach. They have no official colors/uniforms. They won’t start playing for two more years.

But none of that stopped MLS from announcing that New York City FC (doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?) will become the 20th franchise in 2015.

The league chose to pass on the newly revived New York Cosmos (and vice versa) as well as the fully functional Lions of Orlando City in the USL-Pro division. The team will be owned, in part, by Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan as well as Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees. The move is being hailed as a saving grace for the young league, partly due to the reported $100 million franchise fee.

It’s somewhat appropriate (and perhaps not entirely coincidental) that this move first gathered steam in November after it was announced David Beckham would depart Los Angeles to join France’s Paris-Saint Germain in the international transfer window in January. Beckham, after all, was the last “sure thing” to hit MLS when he arrived in 2007. He brought about the creation of the Designated Player Rule (a player whose salary does not count against the $2.9 million salary cap) and produced a flurry of youth jersey sales and sellout crowds.

For one year anyway.

Yes, Beckham has had on the field success leading LA Galaxy to back-to-back MLS Cup titles but he was always a sideshow first and foremost; an excuse to get the casual sports fan in America to pay attention to the best MLS has to offer. During his first two season in Los Angeles, almost every road game he traveled to would sellout.

But then people lost interest. Suddenly teams like the Columbus Crew, a team in a “small” city with a lot of soccer moms and youth teams aching to see the star power of Beckham, couldn’t even sell out their home match with the Galaxy in advance. TV Ratings fell off the map; not that they were all that high to begin with. Suddenly the league found itself back at square one in need of more consistent national TV ratings and further increases in attendance.

This isn’t entirely Beckham’s fault though. Upon his arrival, new franchises like Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers entered the fray and briefly propped up TV ratings due to their boisterous fan bases. Half of MLS’s national TV audience simply wanted to hear drunk Pacific Northwestern-ers sing in unison. This was, after all, part of the appeal of watching teams in other countries play. The atmosphere was fun to take in, even on television.

Now there are loud whispers that NBC will not renew its current deal with Major League Soccer as it turns its attention to the English Premier League. These rumors, coupled with the departure of Beckham, have left MLS with nothing traveling circus act to make people pay attention. With no form of promotion/relegation and countless financial/personnel restrictions, teams cannot grow their presence organically. Everything must be force fed.

Enter New York City FC.

A team within the Five Boroughs of New York City will try to become the latest “attraction” for MLS. So powerful is this move, that it was announced without a permanent home for the team or even official colors and a logo. We know absolutely nothing about this mysterious new team other than they will have owners with deep pockets. But what good are said pockets under the MLS rules. Yes, they can go out and find 3 Designated Players, but will any of them garner the star power that Beckham brought? What aging international stars will come collect their pension from America’s top professional league?

These questions are all part of the “mystique” that will accompany NYCFC when they finally do take the field in 2015; reportedly at Yankee Stadium. The mystique may last for the first full season, but teams like Columbus, FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids, and Chicago Fire will not benefit directly from the existence of this 20th team. The money will not trickle down, even under the current single entity structure of the league as a whole. They may sell out their home match with the new guys from New York in 2015, but unless they bring the likes of a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo with them the “effect” will only last for that one season. Houston and Kansas City soccer fans will not suddenly consider NYCFC “must-see TV” and tune in with increased numbers.

The league will continue be stagnant and there will be little overall growth.

This is what happens when the league and the people who run make short sighted decisions (like this sudden announcement of a 10% complete team) and try to grab short term success with a long term plan in place. These are the same men who thought it was a good idea to give “their” league rules and procedures (mandatory shootouts and backwards counting clocks) that were fundamentally different from the universal laws of the game that the rest of the world abides by. These are the same men who milked an aging superstar for a few jersey sales and a temporarily successful national TV deal.

Even if New York City FC takes over the Five Boroughs and has a “Cosmos Effect” on the city itself (something that is hardly a certainty) it won’t help promote the rest of the league. It won’t help New England Revolution and DC United find their own soccer specific homes. It won’t produce a lucrative national TV deal. It won’t help grow the game at a grassroots level.

It is a band aid for a league that is really in need of surgery.

But none of that will matter. The league will milk its latest sideshow attraction for a couple years and come right back to square one.

Then what?

May 272013

As a reminder, these are deals that have been signed, sealed, and delivered by multiple media outlets.

Yes, Robert Lewandowski’s agent says he’s headed to Bayern Munich, but nothing has been signed yet. Sorry.


The 21 year old Brazilian forward has announced he will in fact join Barcelona and sign a five year deal thus July. The two timer South American Player Of The Year was supposed to remain with his native Santos until next summer, but clearly things have changed.

Joao Moutinho/James Rodriguez

The FC Porto starlets have both completed five year moves to France’s Monaco beginning in July. Expect to see Monaco appear more often in the headlines as they have just won promotion into Ligue 1 and do not have the same stringent tax laws that can be found throughout the rest of the French mainland.

Sergio Aguero

The Argentinian striker has signed a new deal to remain at Manchester City until 2017.


The left sided midfielder/winger/fullback has signed a four year extension to remain at Barcelona.

Diego Reyes

The Club America/Mexico center back will leave Mexico to join FC Porto this summer. The 20 year old leaves Club America on a high note his side defeated Cruz Azul on penalties in the second leg of the Liga Mx final.

Nils Peterson

The Bayern Munich striker will make his loan deal with Werder Bremen permanent. He signs a four year deal with Bremen.

Filip Djuricic

The 21 year old Heerenveen winger will join Portugal’s Benfica this summer; possibly to replace current winger Nico Gaitan should he depart.

Derek Boateng

The Ghana international midfielder has completed a free transfer to Fulham.

Oleksandr Yakovenko

The Anderlect forward will join Serie A’s Fiorentina this summer. The Ukrainian international’s deal is good through 2016.

Razvan Rat

The Shakhtar Donetsk fullback of Romanian descent joins West Ham United this summer via a free transfer.

Hajime Hosogai

The Japanese midfielder has completed a four year move to newly promoted Hertha Berlin from Bayer Leverkusen.


Stay tuned for more as the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Falcao, and many more look poised for official moves in the coming weeks.


Rio Ferdinand

Despite the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the veteran center back has signed a new one year deal to remain at Manchester United next season.


May 162013

When London’s Wembley Stadium welcomes Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday May 25 for the UEFA Champions League final, there will be plenty of history being made.

This will be the first time two German clubs have met in the final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition; format not withstanding. It’s also the first time one venue will have hosted two finals in three years. 2011 saw Barcelona reach the peak of their proverbial power by defeating Manchester United at Wembley by a score of 3-1, but more on that in a moment.

Let’s take a look back at the other finals that have been played at Wembley.

1963-Milan 2-1 Benfica


18′-Eusebio (Benfica)

58′-Jose Altafini (Milan)

66′-Jose Altafini (Milan)


The European final has been particularly cruel to Benfica and Portuguese legend Eusebio. He scored the opener in the first half, only to be outdone by Milan’s Brazilian forward Jose Altafini. It was the first title for one of Italy’s premier sides, but only 45,700 turned out to see the match that was officiated by English referee Arthur Holland.


1968-Manchester United 4-1 Benfica


53′-Bobby Charlton (Manchester United)

75′-Graca (Benfica)

93′-George Best (Manchester United)

94′-Brian Kidd (Manchester United)


Ten years after the tragic Munich air disaster, Manchester United rose to power thanks to a “golden generation” of British talent. After a lackluster first half, Sir Bobby Charlton opened the scoring only to have the Portuguese side 22 minutes later. From there it was more stalemate action as the Red Devils kept the legendary Eusebio on lock down.

Then extra time came and Benfica (once again) found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline. This was all prior to the “golden goal” rule so Manchester United would go on to tally three extra time goals courtesy of the great George Best, newly turned 19 Brian Kidd, and a second for good measure from Charlton.

92,225 fans passed through the turnstiles that day.


1971-Ajax 2-0 Panathinaikos


5′-Dick van Dijk (Ajax)

87′-Arie Haan (Ajax)

Panathinaikos became the first Greek side to reach a European final in club competition and they were quite the plucky underdogs in this match going up against the Johan Cruyff and the birth of “total football”. Unfortunately, there was no fairy-tale ending in this one as Ajax forward Dick van Dijk (no, not THAT Dick van Dyke) scored in the fifth minute and put the Greek side on their heels from the get go. Midfielder Arie Haan, who came on after halftime as a substitute, added a second for good measure just before the final whistle blew.

A solid crowd of 83,179 turned out for this one and there was still an English presence on the field as Jack Taylor oversaw the match as head official.


1978-Liverpool 1-0 Club Brugge


64′-Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)

Once again, an English side was at the peak of its power when the final returned to Wembley. This time it was Liverpool representing the host nation and they searching for their second in a row after defeating Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in 1977.

The Belgian side made its first appearance in a final, but it was ultimately Liverpool who won thanks to a Kenny Dalglish strike midway through the first half. The match was hardly entertaining and both sides essentially blamed the other for the lackluster display. Still, 92,500 showed up to see the Reds clinch back-to-back titles.


1992-Barcelona 1-0 Sampdoria


111′-Ronald Koeman (Barcelona)

After a bit of hiatus, the European final returned to Wembley in 1992, just several months prior to one participant (Barcelona) hosting the summer Olympics. The Spanish side would go on to win in extra time thanks to Dutch defender Ronald Koeman’s free kick effort.

Several future high profile managers could be found on the field in this match including Swansea’s Michael Laudrup, former Barcelona/soon-to-be Bayern Munich manager Josep “Pep” Guardiola, and now former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.

This was Barcelona’s first European conquest and a meager 70,827 would wind up turning out to see. If only they knew what was to come.


2011-Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United


27′-Pedro (Barcelona)

34′-Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

54′-Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

69′-David Villa (Barcelona)


Sometimes knockout tournaments don’t allow for the two best teams to meet in the final. This was not the case in 2011 as the eventual champions of Spain and England went head to head in front of 87,695 people. Pedro opened the scoring midway through the first half, but Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils hope when he equalized in the 34th minute.

But this was Barcelona at the peak of their power of Pep Guardiola and second half goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa saw the Catalan side earn their fourth European title. They also defeated United in 2009 in Rome by a score of 2-0.


*If you’re looking for a place to stay for this year’s final, Holiday Inn has several outstanding locations for to choose from. Check out the individual location pages below to see which one best fits your needs.*

Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum -

Holiday Inn London Brent Cross -

Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury -

Holiday Inn London Regents Park -

Holiday Inn London Mayfair -

May 062013

JeffreyWebb EFE Webb chairs first FIFA Anti Discrimination Task Force meeting

Members discuss stronger and consistent sanctions against acts of discrimination and racism

The newly created FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination held its first meeting today at the Home of FIFA in Zürich. The session focused the debate on the application of sanctions in cases of racist and discriminative acts. The proposal studied to uniformly implement the sanctions that already exist in the FIFA regulations in a stronger and more consistent manner.

The group, chaired by FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, included representatives from the football committee and a panel of experts on the fight against racism and discrimination. During the session, members highlighted the need to send a strong message of zero tolerance towards any such acts within football, making sure social justice and racial integration is implemented at all levels of the football community.

“We have a special responsibility in the way we can impact football and society,” said Webb during his opening remarks. “One of the opportunities this task force has is its vast reach throughout FIFA’s 209 member associations where we can implement the resolutions in every region and every country where football is played, bringing universality to the mechanisms that combat racism and discrimination.”

The task force came up with the following proposals, which will be included in a draft resolution to be presented at the FIFA Congress in Mauritius at the end of May:

- Firstly, having an official at the stadium who would identify potential acts of discrimination with the aim of easing the pressure on referees and facilitating the availability of evidence, which is not always easy to obtain, for the disciplinary committees to take decisions;
- Secondly, applying sanctions in two stages, with a list of applicable sanctions for a first or a minor offence, such as a warning, a fine, or the playing of a match behind closed doors, and a list of stronger sanctions for reoffenders or for serious incidents, such as point deductions, expulsion from a competition, or relegation;
- Thirdly, emphasis on the responsibility of member associations and clubs for the actions of their players, officials and supporters, and on the need to implement the existing sanctions in a harmonised way across all confederations, member associations and leagues, with a proposal to request that clubs and member associations provide a concrete action plan showing their intention to fight any forms of racism and discrimination among their supporters.

Reflecting the discussions that took place today, the Task Force will present a resolution on the issue of sanctions at the upcoming FIFA Congress in Mauritius at the end of May. Similarly, at its next meeting the Task Force will focus on education and prevention, which is the second objective that was set when the group was created.

The following personalities took part in today’s meeting:

  • Darren Bailey (Director of Football Governance & Regulation of The Football Association), who was replacing for this session David Bernstein, President of the FA;
  • Yury Boychenko (Chief of Anti-Discrimination Section at United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner), who was replacing the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethemi Pillay;
  • Serey Die (Ivory Coast player at FC Basel);
  • Giovanni Merlo (Italian Journalist representing AIPS Media);
  • Marcel Mathier (Outgoing chairman the FIFA Disciplinary Committee);
  • Osasu Obayiuwan (Associate Editor NewAfrican Magazine);
  • Piara Powar (CEO of FARE);
  • Theo Van Seggelen (FIFpro Secretary General);
  • Claudio Sulser (Incoming chairman FIFA Disciplinary Committee);
  • Howard Webb (FIFA Referee);
  • Véron Moseng-Omba (UEFA);
  • Dr. Thomas Partl (UEFA).

Excused for this first session were players Jozy Altidore and Kevin-Prince Boateng, who had obligations with their respective clubs.

It should be noted that this is still an open list and additional members may be included in the task force in the future.

Apr 222013
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