Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming Full Circle on Starting Eleven Guide to Euro 2008

On June 5, I posted a guide to Euro 2008, but more than a guide, it was spot where I could spout off about what I thought would happen during the tournament. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to call myself out, look back at my predictions, and slap myself upside the head because I got a bit of it wrong.

To get things off on a positive stance, kudos to me for picking at least one of the finalists: Spain. I had the all-Iberian final with Portugal beating Spain. Alas, 1 outta 3 there ain't bad. Check that, yes it is. Unfortunately, my final 8 picks go downhill from there.

My biggest bust was Poland. I had the Poles finishing second to Germany in the group stage--not quite. Same goes for the Czechs. Though not as big a darkhorse as the Poles, the Czechs were as big a bust.

I nailed Portugal winning the group, but missed out on Turkey. In B, I had Germany first, and missed that one too--ho-hum. Croatia got through instead, and I never figured Austria would get as close as it did.

And boy oh boy did I cough up a hairball in Group C, the Group of Death. The Netherlands were the stars of the G.O.D. in the group stage, and Romania was a darkhorse threat to make it to the quarters. I got Italy correct, but man did I overrate France.

In Group D, again, I overrated Greece and shame on me for doing so. These guys didn't play well in getting to the tournament, but I figured the Greeks' defense first philosophy might get them through. Defense wins, right. Oops, wrong kind of football! Spain, well I got that one right, but that was a gimme.

Clearly again, I blew it on Portugal getting out of the quarters. In fact, Spain was the only semifinalist I got right.

I did a little better with some general, more granular thoughts on Euro 2008. For example, I put it all on Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal. More dives than goals? I asked. Got that one. Portugal was undone by its lack of finishing, and Ronaldo's single tally wasn't enough in the end.

And Cannavaro's absence for Italy turned out to be massive. The Azzurri were a shell of themselves on defense and it cost manager Roberto Donadoni his job. Shoulda taken that severance package Robbi!

So far, so good.

Studs and Duds: Again, not too bad on the studs, well kinda. I got Ballack and Fabregas sorta right. But man was I off on the duds. Everyone I called out was immense in the tournament: Ibrahimovich, David Villa, Jens Lehman, van Nistelrooy, Deco. Thanks boys, appreciate it really.

Stud match? Pissed on that one too: Spain-Greece. Meaningless. Dud match? Got one! France-Italy

ESPN: I'll give ESPN a B for its coverage. Andy Gray was tremendous and saved the day for the worldwide leader. Derek Rae and Adrian Healey were also in top form. But Tommy Onion Bags and Julie Foudy and rest of that studio crew were laughable. Can we just simulcast the BBC next time? And not that it was their fault, but the blackout during the Germany-Turkey game must have given a few execs in Bristol the poops.

Aragones, meanwhile, another one I screwed the pooch on. Give it to the old man, Spain's keep-away style won them the trophy, and David Villa, Silva and Guiza were tremendous, and for good measure, Torres pots the cup-winning goal. Nice way to go out.

His Iberian counterpart, Big Fil Scolari, well, his announcement prior to the quarters that he was Chelsea-bound may have undone his team; not to mention him keeping EIGHT STARTERS ON THE BENCH against the Swiss. Continuity in a short tournament is kinda crucial Fil.

So it's over. Overall, I think Euro was an A-. Tremendous games, great personalities emerging and a great table-setter for the World Cup. Maybe I'll get better at forecasting by then too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fabregas Poised to be Star Attraction in Euro 2008 Final

Sunday's Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain (2:45 p.m. ET, ABC) will test Spain's depth. David Villa's second-half leg injury will keep him out of the final, taking his tournament-leading four goals with him.

Cesc Fabregas, the Arsenal superstar, will likely start in Villa's place.Fabregas set up Spain's third goal yesterday, scored by David Silva. Spain hammered Russia, 3-0, to earn its spot in the final. Outgoing Spain coach Luis Aragones doesn't sound too shook up over losing Villa:
"Cesc is 21, he and other players have acquired the experience that you might have of an older player. This is something that matters for the 2008 tournament but I'm sure it will matter for the World Cup as well.''
True, he's leaving his successor in good standing for the South Africa World Cup. He's rotated his team well throughout Euro and going into 2010, Spain cannot lament inexperience.

Fabregas for one could emerge as a giant hero for Spain if he contributes to a victory. Russia's Andrei Arshavin was the rising star of this tournament, but Fabregas has a chance on the game's biggest stage Sunday.

Villa and Silva, meanwhile, still seem to be in Liverpool's plans, joining fellow Spain star Fernando Torres. Everton also has Villa in its sights, but the price may be too high for the "other" Mercysiders.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Euro 2008: Turkey-Germany, a Heidi Game for a New Generation

For any of you reading this from outside the United States, I need to tell you about the Heidi Game. In November 1968, the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders were playing a football game (American style)--these were the top two teams in what was then known as the American Football League. The Jets were leading 32-29 with 1:05 remaining in the game, which was broadcast nationwide by NBC Sports.

The game, which began at 4 p.m., preceded the broadcast of the children's film Heidi. NBC has some kind of contractual obligations to the sponsors of the film and were forced to cut away at 7 p.m.--with the Jets leading by three and one minute remaining in the game.

Well, while viewers were watching the little, blonde, curly-haired Heidi skipping across the Swiss Alps (how ironic!), naturally, the Oakland Raiders scored twice in the final minute to beat the Raiders, 43-32. Naturally, 40 years ago, there was no Internet, no immediacy of news and viewers found out the shocking result only when NBC ran a crawl across the bottom of the screen a few minutes into Heidi.

The result was a backlash of anger, venom and fury toward NBC. The game is forever known as the Heidi Game here in America.

Fast forward four decades to yesterday, and the modern-day version of the Heidi Game.

Several times, the international feed of the broadcast of yesterday's Turkey-Germany thriller were interrupted by lightning and wind either in Austria or Switzerland (oh, the irony); it still isn't known. But what anxious viewers do know is they missed two goals during the blackouts, including Turkey's emotional game-tying tally at 85 minutes that at the time seemingly was going to send the game to extra time.

Luckily, the feed did return for Lahm's game-winner in the 90th minute. In the interim, we were treated to shots of the Fan Zone in Basel (how did those guys have power any way?), and no doubt the ears of television producers at the game were burning with the worldwide cursing directed their way.

I guess, the TV blackout just adds to the lore of the game, which is forever a Euro classic considering the backstory to Turkey's appearance in the game and the monumental upset the Germans were on the verge of absorbing.

Just wondering: What's the Turkish word for Heidi?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Euro 2008: Germany-Turkey, Running Commentary

It's Euro 2008 semifinals No. 1, Germany against 11 Turks brought in off the street. Can't wait to see how this one turns out.

  • God Bless Andy Gray. Fahti is on "extra time" Perfect.
  • Hmm, the Turks are loose, the Germans on their heels and a little tight. Can you tell I'm rooting for the upset here?
  • Colin Kazim-Richards is a pain in the ass early, and three Turk rushes have been promising, especially the latest one at 8 mins. German defense afraid to mess up.
  • The Turks hit the bar at 13. The German back four have a great seat for this game because they're doing a lot of sitting and watching. Kazim hits the bar. Wow.
  • Gray-ism No. 2 "The bar isn't the only thing that's rattled. The Germans are too."
  • Anyone seen Eva Longoria? This is some Desperate Defending from the boys in white.
  • Hate to see Turkey give one up against the run of play. Happens a lot. Although, you'd think it would be Turkey playing the counterattacks.
  • Corner at 18, first test of Turk defense against German height. Poorly taken by Germany.
  • Buddy of mine is at a German bar in Lebanon, N.H. -- don't ask -- "These guys are losing their minds." Sums it up nicely, I'd say.
  • Gray-ism No. 3: "If I'm Fahti Teram, first job accomplished. 20 minutes and I'm in this match."
  • GOALLLLLLLLLL 21 minutes -- Sloppy defense finally does in the Germans. Lehman just LOST. Ball is looped off the bar and rebounds to Burol. WOW
  • Report from N.H. "Dead Silence."
  • GOAL. Germans tie it up at 26. Schweinsteiger converts a Podbolski cross, a great bang-bang play against the run of momentum and quickly it's 1-1. Curious now to see how Turkey responds.
  • Say this for Turkey, they're creative. I just wonder how long before fitness becomes an issue in this match and the Germans' real advantage surfaces.
  • The Germans continue to do a lot of standing and watching in very inopportune moments.
  • Altintop delivers a great free kick; probably intended as a pass but hit too well. Lehman stretches for the punch over the ball.
  • Someone check the German team bus. Anyone find some collective heart?
  • Nine shots from Turkey. This has been a fast first half hour.
  • Podolski blows a breakaway. Gray is right; he should have made the Turk keeper eat that one.
  • Ballack has been strangely quiet for Germany.
  • 37 minutes, dangerous foul and free kick for Turkey.
  • Kazim again in the middle of the fray for the upstarts.
  • Fine save from Lehman. Boral hooked it right at the keeper who punched it out. Can't these guys catch?
  • Gray-ism No. 4: "That's not the most convincing of punches."
  • First blood: Simon Rolfes. Amazing how thin the skin is around the eye. Ugh, they're using a staple gun on teh field to stitch him up.
  • 41 minutes: Turkey blows a 1-2 in the box. Altintop!!
  • Sabri threatens with a bomb, a meter too high. Turkey has another goal in them.
  • So. Great underdog stories? Hoosiers. 1980 U.S. hockey team. Chico's Bail Bonds. 2004 Sox.
  • HALFTIME. 1-1
Second half begins as I try to come up with other great underdogs, such as Barnsley in the FA Cup and Greece (Euro 2004).
  • Gray-ism No. 5: "Can the Turks play any better? I'd say they were pretty much at maximum in the first half."
  • How long was the ref going to allow Lahm to drag Altintop there at 49.
  • A lot of long through-balls from Turkey. What do they see in the German back line?
  • Wow. Klose was taken down in the box. A gift for the Turks. That should have been a penalty.
  • Controversial moment for sure. We'll see how it plays out once the final whistle blows. The Germans may need that one.
  • 53 mins. Definite physical tone has taken over the game. Definite advantage Germany there.
  • Not only do they wear down the Turks, but slow the game down to a crawl.
  • German passing is fantastic right now. Hitzlesperger should have done better with his shot after a tremendous sequence.
  • 57 mins. Ballack fouled. Dangerous free kick for Germany.
  • Momentum has totally shifted; a little muscle goes a long way.
  • Ballack blows the free kick.
  • ESPN has lost its feed from the game. WTF.
  • Holy crap, now I gotta look at Tommy Onion Bags and Julie TeaBag Foudy. Wow, I didn't sign up for this.
  • 65 minutes and ESPN is back. A bolt of lightning takes out the TV signal worldwide. Interesting.
  • Great run from Sabri at 68
  • Boral has been outstanding on the left for Turkey. Scored a goal, won a couple of corners, sweet free kick.
  • Is it me, or has the ref changed his tone too? Calling it tighter, especially against Turkey. Kazim foul in particular at 70. He blew the PK against Germany, gotta make up for it.
  • 20 minutes to go, and it's 1-1. I got my wish so far.
  • AGAIN?? Where's my game??
  • By the looks of the Fan Zone, Germany has scored.
  • GOALLLLL Klose puts the Germans up 2-1. Tired Turkey? Good thing it's not Thanksgiving.
  • This is a travesty for ESPN et. al. A nightmare. They missed a goal, likely the game-winner. God forbid, for their sakes, Turkey doesn't score in the final minute to tie it and ESPN is dark.
  • No amount of makeup covers up that mole on Julie Foudy's eyebrow, especially in HD.
  • Hideous defense on the Klose goal.
  • Turkey ties it!!!!
  • Sabri starts it again! Great look through the box to Semhi who tips it home 2-2 with 5 to play. Where was Lahm again on that one? He sets up Klose's goal and loses Semhi to give that one up. WOW.
  • This hasn't been the prettiest game, but it's been good on drama and goals. WOW
  • GOALLLLLLLLLLLL Germany. 3-2. Lahm.
  • A great give-and-go, the lone Turk fullback not knowing whether to stick with Schweinsteiger or Lahm chose incorrectly. Amazing.
  • ESPN loses its feed again! 3-2 in injury time.
  • Gray-ism No. 6: "This tournament should have come with a health warning."
  • That's a great way to end this running commentary. A classic game.
If you've been following, please send me a shout. I'd hate to think this was in vain.

Euro 2008: Turkey Miracle, Take 4?

Turkey has been the best story of Euro 2008. Not only are the Turks responsible for the biggest comeback in tournament history with three goals in the closing minutes against the Czech Republic to escape the group stage, but their presence in today's semifinal against Germany is against the highest of odds.

A miracle victory today could be considered the biggest upset in SPORTS HISTORY!

Turkey comes into today's match at St. Jakob Park in Switzerland minus eight regulars, four of whom are suspended via an accumulation of cards, and the remaining four are injured. The ugly list looks like this:
  1. Tuncay Sanli (SUSPENDED)
  2. Arda Turan (SUSPENDED)
  3. Volkan Demirel (SUSPENDED)
  4. Emre Asik (SUSPENDED)
  5. Nihat Kahveci (INJURED)
  6. Emre Gungor (INJURED)
  7. Servet Cetin (INJURED)
  8. Emre Belozoglu (INJURED)
Give the Turks credit however. At least publicly, they're not intimidated. Turkey coach Fatih Terim is relying on Colin Kazim-Richards, one of the few England-born players at Euro, to settle down the remaining youngsters. Terim admits he'd rather have Germany's experience, but he's backing his young squad, especially since that young squad has already pulled off three miracles in this tournament.
"Before coming here, many people were asking whether experience or hunger was the most important thing. My players may be inexperienced but they are definitely hungry. With Kazim, I have been putting him in the team since the beginning - he can control his excitement. Experience is important, but dynamism from players is just as important and can benefit the team."
Things are so bad, third-string keeper Tolgan Zengin may have to play in the field; Turkey may field only 13 players for today.

It's a fascinating story, and if this game is 0-0 at the half, or 1-1 into the second half, look out. That noose will get awfully tight on the Germans, who by all rights, should win this game in a cakewalk.

Euro 2008: Sack Cinched for Donadoni, Domenech?

Wow, Euro 2008 has turned out to be quite the coach-killer. Usually that moniker is reserved for whiny, under-achieving, ass-kissing high-end players who have the owner's ear, dog it during training and score three useless goals in a 6-0 win. Not this time. Europe's continental championships are about to claim Italy's Roberto Donadoni and France's Raymond Domenech--for starters.

Reuters reports that Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi is on his way back to the manager's throne, and Donadoni is about to be out. The kicker is that Donadoni apparently put the brakes on a severance package offered by the Italian federation. Donadoni was offered six months salary during negotiations should he be let go, but the former Azzurri said no thanks.
"I'm not interested in the economic side of things. If I'm no longer the coach for him, I'll go without asking for anything," Donadoni told La Gazzetta dello Sport. Wow.
Domenech, meanwhile, has Franck Ribery on his side. The Arsenal star doesn't want the France manager to get fired; neither does Patrick Vieira. Ribery says the mistakes made by Les Bleus weren't made only by the manager.

The manager says his biggest gaffe came in relying on a new generation of players, rather than going with the veterans in trying to win Euro. Domenech says he may have been guilty about looking ahead to the 2010 World Cup, and giving the youngsters a taste of the limelight.
"You have to transfer the group the spirit of the older heads who have this maturity and this experience. That was one of his functions, but there was a lack of homogeneity (between the older and younger players)."
Meanwhile, the French federation says it will decide on the coach's future on July 3. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

Sad part is, Euro 2008 is almost over. Euro is in many ways much better than the World Cup (I best South Americans say the same thing when it comes to Copa America). With that, our weekly tour of the football blogosphere tracks down some talk on the semifinals. Imagine, this time next week, we'll have a champion.

mCalcio kicks us off with every gory detail of Italy's loss to Spain, including video and stats. Read between the lines, and you too will feel his pain.

Blogcritics points out that Spain is the only team remaining to have followed its expected path to the semis. Remember Spain hammered Russia 4-1 to open their group play; this is not the same Russian team, however.

CityTilIDie writes about the surprises of the tournament, Russia and Turkey, and leaves no doubt as to which nation he's not happy about seeing in the semis. He even has a shout-out for Colin Kazim-Richards, the lone Englishman in the semifinals.

What If? What if Scotland and England had made Euro? Well, look no further. The Onion Bag has the answer. Yes he plays it out quite well, What If Style, and he's a clever boy at the Onion Bag. Click through to see how this one turns out.

Real Madrid Talk has much love for Casillas, and says he's sick of all the Ronaldo talk. BTW, anyone seen Ronaldo? I haven't since a rainy night in Moscow in May.

The Reuters Soccer Blog points out something that should be obvious. Portugal, Holland and Croatia have plenty in common, mostly that they are all group winners here, all rested players in the third game of the group stage--and all are watching the rest of the tournament from home. Continuity my friends. There's something to be said for it.

MySoccerBlog has some insight into the U.S. getting past Barbados in World Cup qualifying, and Pele getting robbed in Brazil.

OhYouBeauty reviews an interview with Hicks and Gillett on Canadian radio. The upshot: Liverpool fans may be stuck with these guys for a while.

101GreatGoals links to an interview with Cesc Fabregas, who says he doesn't mind playing 30 minutes a night.

Finally, a plug for Michael at EnglishSoccerTalk who appears on Kartik's American Soccer Show.

Lame Laments: Four Fine Whines from Euro 2008

Work travel made it impossible to update my little space last week, and I lament how much prime snarking time I missed. Where oh where to begin?

  1. Curse of the Ricardos -- Woe is Portugal because of thee. What was worse? Sitting back on the line waiting for Michael Ballack to crush a header or leaving Schweinsteiger free to roam in the middle of the field? Both were goals, and both were the fault of Ricardos. Ricardo the goalie and Ricardo [Carvalho] the fullback proved to be Portugal's undoing in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals last week. Germany deservedly won, earning a semifinals date with upstart Turkey. Portugal deservedly lost, earning another date with disappointment. Let the speculation begin on a Scolari successor? Queiroz anyone? Bueller?
  2. Turkey and All the Fixins -- It's all or nothing with Turkey. Before 2002, Turkey had played in one World Cup. In South Korea/Japan, the Turks get in, finish second to Brazil in their group, knock out Japan and Senegal before losing 1-0 to Brazil in the semifinals. Turkey finished third beating South Korea in the third-place game. Now at Euro, they put up the greatest comeback in tournament history against the Czech Republic and rally to beat Croatia in the quarters to reach the final four. Germany-Turkey. Um, go Turkey.
  3. Counterintelligence -- Netherlands and Russia. OK, the 1988 Euro final rematch pits former Dutch coach Guus Hiddink against his motherland, and he gets it done with two goals in extra time. With one spirited move, Russia sends the tournament's best club home. How Ruud! In the meantime, Euro 2008 has its second darling team in the final four. Imagine a Turkey-Russia final?? Will anyone watch?
  4. One Prediction Comes True -- Finally, I get one! Spain. In the semifinals. Spain needed penalty kicks to get past Italy yesterday in the quarterfinals -- and if there was ever a lockdown wager, it was Spain-Italy going to penalties. Talk about a battle of deliberate playing styles, Spain and Italy was a glamour match that fizzled once the players hit the field. Talk about anticlimactic! Spain awaits Russia; Spain has probably been the best team in the tournament, especially now that Holland is out and a Spain-Germany final holds great promise. Me? I go with the hockey analogy that never fails: Always go with the hot goalie! No one is better than Casillas right now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

F.C. Porto Reinstated into Champions League: Score One for Corruption

So how much do we figure F.C. Porto shelled out to UEFA to overturn its Champions League ban? Well if Porto stood to lose 13 million Euros from its suspension from next year's competition, not to mention the exodus of players that surely would have followed, you can bet it was a handsome sum. and many others reported the news yesterday. Apparently, UEFA was enamored by Porto's appeal, which excluded statements from Benfica and Guimaraes officials, that it turned the matter over to its Control and Disciplinary Body for further review. UEFA told news agency Lusa:
UEFA has now confirmed that FC Porto will indeed play this season's Champions League as it would be impossible to reach a conclusion on this matter before the start of the competition. "The case won't be analysed by the Portugese Federation's Justice Council before the start of the Champions League and won't thus be analysed by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body before the start of the competition."
What a joke. Talk about a bag-job! Apparently, the exclusion of Benfica and Guimaraes forced the case to be returned to the control board. That board doesn't meet until Aug. 1--after the Champions League draw. As a result, Porto is allowed back in. Amazing. Here's a thought: MOVE THE MEETING UP!

Here's an organization convicted of bribery charges, whose president is suspended for two years, whose levied an unprecedented punishment, especially considering Porto is a two-time champion of this tournament, and this is the end result. Come right on in boys, no waiting.

Benfica Upfront has an excellent analysis of the situation and spares nothing in hammering the Portuguese federation for its corrupt ways and how it managed to help wrangle Porto out of this mess. From his post today:
It's a f%*&ing disgrace and UEFA are guilty as well, having not given Benfica or Vitória de Guimarães a chance to prove what the FPF refused to. Just as it was looking as if Portuguese football had changed for the better, regrettably, it made a 180-degree turn and now continues on in the same direction.
Granted, Benfica has a stake here and will have to play in the UEFA Cup rather than the Champions League had the ban been upheld. But they have a legitimate gripe. Not only are they tossed into the lesser competition, but Porto is not penalized, keeps its players and likely wins the domestic title AGAIN next season with Sporting, Benfica etc. looking up again at the cheating Dragoes, relegated to playing for second place!

Portugal is a Mickey Mouse league run by corrupt little men who put out a shoddy product and live for the bottom line. Scumbags all.

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

A day late is better than a dollar short--or whatever. It's Tuesday and it's not usually Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup day, but I missed out yesterday, so I'll give you an extended version today.

Euro 2008 is winding down, and you never really appreciate the first round the way you should. Now that we've hit the final matchday, there are no more early games, and soon enough, you're going to get one game a day and before you know it, the tournament is over. It's a downer, and there's certainly withdrawal.

Regardless, it's been a fun tournament so far, referee faux pas aside. The Turks' comeback; Italy and France being so horrific; Austria taking Germany to the wire; David Villa!; Switzerland winning a game! Here's a glass to the rest of the Euro, and a wish that each successive game tops the one before it!

Reuters Soccer Blog reminds us that Spain fans are no longer clamoring for Raul. David Villa's four goals have quickly quieted the chants for No. 7, but let us not forget that Aragones has won nothing--ever--and that those chants will quickly be resurrected if Spain flames out in the quarters.

More on Villa: SidelineSoccer says it's refreshing David Villa brushed off Chelsea, claiming to be happy playing in LaLiga. Villa, meanwhile, is interviewed by Guillem Balague, a Sky Sports dude. In the gab, Villa rebukes reports that he's interested in playing for Liverpool, and that he's totally focused on Euro 2008.

Villa or Podolski? That's the question being asked at GUNNERockYA. Are they both in Arsenal's sights? Which would Gunner fans want? Why not both? This post compares the two in depth, and settles on an eventual winner. Can you guess who?

Techtainment points out that Germany hasn't been out of the group stage at Euro since 1996. They also point out that Osterrich, an Austria newspaper, put a nude Michael Ballack on its front page yesterday. Ballack's revenge? The game winning free kick of course.

Soccernews, meanwhile, takes a more analytical look at Germany's win and speculates a bit about the impending quarterfinal classic between Germany and Portugal.

mCalcio looks at today's G.O.D. World Cup final rematch between Italy and France. Both need to win. Both could go home. It's a complete preview, stats, history, very interesting, sticky post.

Nick Webster on the Fox Soccer blog breaks down the France-Italy match, and points at the managers. The loser, he says, is on the unemployment line in the morning.

Love Footy, meanwhile, has another preview of France-Italy, and questions Donadoni's rampant lineup reshuffle prior to the Romania game. Someone say: "Over coaching?"

Soccernews also checks in on France-Italy with a superb look at the match, and points out that the road to Euro glory gets no easier should one of these teams gets through. Spain awaits the winner.

The Big Lead--yes The Big Lead--checks in with a look at the Turkey comeback, and reports accurately that the result will carry the Turks over for a decade.

USmensnationalteam blog looks at the U.S.' 8-0 debacle over Barbados to open World Cup qualifying. What a sham CONCACAF is.

Matt Johnson at Going to the Mat points out, however, the U.S. didn't look so hot potting eight goals on Sunday.

Finally, Deadspin has an amusing look at the 8-0 result.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Euro 2008: Howard Webb, Too Bad We Know Your Name

Last gasp? No. More like last grasp!

Again, Euro 2008 is in a situation where you know a referee's name better than you do the players on the pitch--and that's never a good sign. First it was Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt's non-offside call against Ruud Van Nistelrooy that set up the Netherlands' 3-0 win over Italy this week. And then yesterday, Howard Webb's injury-time penalty kick call against Poland that leveled the Group C match with Austria 1-1.

Now, I'll concede Van Nistelrooy was by the letter of the law onside and the goal counted. Ultimately, Holland won the game justly and Frojdfeldt's call was of little consequence. But yesterday, Webb's call in the final seconds more crucial because of its timing and outcome for Poland. The Poles went from almost sure quarterfinalists (my pick) to just about on the outside looking in and needing a lot of help to advance.

Webb blew his whistle on Polish midfielder Mariusz Lewandowski who had a handful of Austrian Sebastian Proedl’s shirt. Proedl went down in the box, Vastic converted the PK and Poland manager Leo Beenhakker exploded.

"Maybe he wants to show he is a big boy and has the guts to do it, I don't know. I've never had a problem in 43 years of being in football but this is something I cannot understand. It's impossible to accept but I am working on it. I'm very satisfied with the boys, I have no complaints about the boys. We don't have it in our own hands any more and the conclusion is we are out of the tournament."

Harsh and emotional. But he's right. Poland needs the Germans to lose BIG to Austria on Monday and of course it needs to beat Croatia. Croatia is in the quarters, and Poland may be able to fill its end of the bill. But Austria beating Germany in a game the Germans must win? Doubtful, even if you factor in the home advantage.

It's unfortunate that referees are taking a more public profile in this tournament, which gets better with every game.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What If Germany Loses? Cinderella Austria Lives?

As Germany trails Croatia 1-0 at the half, let's play what-if.

It certainly looks like the pre-tournament favorite Germans have no answer for Croatia through 45 minutes, let's say the former Yugos win the 3 points and essentially plop themselves in the quarterfinals a la Portugal. And let's say under-achieving Poland coughs up 3 more points and host Austria gets a win on home soil.

Well, we'll have an interesting scenario next Monday when Austria and Germany meet for all the marbles in the all-Axis Powers group, also known as Group B. The Germans will have find a way to win at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna.

Granted, the Germans would be heavy favorites, but stranger things have happened when the hosts are involved. Austria will have an entire nation behind it, and that's a powerful entity. Could we have a Cinderella after all? Could the Austrians, so criticized for its place in this tournament as co-host with Switzerland, manage to make it to the knockout stage, taking the tournament favorites to the sidelines in the process?

What if Austria wins and finishes second in the group? It plays Portugal in the quarters, and you know outgoing manager Luis Filipe Scolari is rooting hard for Croatia and Austria because he knows, in this what-if scenario, if Germany finishes second, his team has a mammoth match in the knockout round.

Interesting and unexpected scenario we've got. That's why they play the games, and that's why, we as fans, can play the what-if game.

Chelsea Hires Scolari; Best Portuguese Available

Back in the day, the Boston Celtics used to get accused of drafting the best available Mormon every year in the college entry draft. The list of evidence supporting that theory is long: Danny Ainge, Fred Roberts, Greg Kite, Michael Smith.

Chelsea Football Club is taking page out of the Celtics book with its managers, grabbing the best available Portuguese-speaking manager. Luis Fillipe Scolari, a Brazilian and current Portugal manager, confirmed he will take over at Stamford Bridge starting July 1. Can't knock the Blues, it certainly worked with Jose Mourinho.

Scolari certainly has the credentials; a World Cup title in 2002 and quite possibly the Euro 2008 title as well. Unlike Mourinho, however, he will have to go from managing a national team to the club level--and do so at the highest club level in the world. Expectations will be enormous, coming off the Champions League final and being one game shy of winning the Premiership.

There are a lot of parallels between Mourinho, the new Inter coach, and Scolari. Both are strong personalities, very purposeful, and unlikely to tolerate much interference from above. Chelsea was apparently already able to squeeze Big Phil a little bit. Chelsea wanted Scolari to announced the deal prior to the start of Euro, reports A Bola, but Scolari balked and eventually capitulated that he'd do so if Portugal reached the quarterfinals, which it did yesterday.

In the end, Scolari is a great successor to Mourinho, unlike Avram Grant. His resume lifts Chelsea into the world's elite again, and the English papers are surmising Scolari's hiring is an admission of guilt from Chelsea owner Roman Ambramovich.

Interestingly, his first foe may be Mourinho. Will the former manager poach the Chelsea players he led to six trophies during his stay in London? How awesome will the tug-of-war be over Lampard, Drogba, Carvalho and others? Luckily for Scolari, his new owner has deep pockets. and luckily for his new owner, Scolari has already tacitly been on the job; remember all the jabs at Cristiano Ronaldo, and the subtle hints that the Manchester United superstar should indeed explore his options at Real Madrid. Very slick Big Phil.

The blogs are rampant with Scolari news:
101 Great Goals has a great recap of the view from the English papers.
SidelineSoccer wonders whether Scolari has the chops to manage a world-class club.
The Telegraph blog compares Mourinho and Scolari and figures Big Phil can handle the heat.
Blue Champions, a Chelsea fan blog, covers what's good and not so good about Scolari.
Soccerlens wonders if Scolari can take Chelsea farther than Avram Grant.
The Shed End is relieved the manager search is over.
CaughtOffside wants to hear from Chelsea fans on the Scolari hiring--six words only.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Euro 2008 running commentary

Running commentary, observations and analysis on today's Portugal-Czech Republic Euro 2008 match.
  • Portugal in white; Platini in attendance, Nuno Gomes belting out the anthem with plenty of crowd support. Lots of Portuguese ex-pats in Switzerland.
  • How hard will these teams push for a goal/win. Portugal says it wants to play with class, and play for the victory.
  • GOAL Portugal! What a cluster-fuck the Czech Republic is on that one. Ronaldo spins them around with a gorgeous give and go, the ball deflects off a fullback and Cech leg-whips the ball onto Deco who bumbles his way to the goal. Portugal sets the early tone.
  • GOAL Czech Republic! Wow, this one is on! Another defensive disaster, this time from the Portuguese who allow Sionko the space to get a boot on the corner kick. Again, Ricardo is a fright, hesitating whether to attack the cross or sit back and watch it sail past him. He is the lone question mark on this team.
  • Ronaldo a bit selfish at 25, still getting off a quality shot at Cech. Cech continues to give up rebounds on anything at his hands.
  • Cech makes a huge save on Ronaldo at 42
  • Portugal much better in this half attacking from the back. Boswinga and Pepe are difficult to contend with and Ronaldo has had legitimate opportunities up front. Cech has been the difference so far.

Bless Andy Gray. What is Julie Foudy's purpose, beyond her pronunciation of Milan Baros (Barosh). ESPN has done well pairing Healy and Gray. Foudy is a mystery. Is she there to gain the 14-year-old female audience? Didn't they stop caring once Mia Hamm retired? Foudy isn't very good, 'nuff said.

Second half:
  • Reality intervened in regular updates in the second half. My apologies.
  • Goals from Ronaldo and Quaresma seal it, Portugal is the first team into the final eight with six points and a +4 goal differential. The team set out to win and get through playing with class. Mission accomplished on all fronts. This win certainly raised the eyebrows in the German and Spanish camps. Oh to get that Portugal-Spain final.

Stayed Tuned

Running commentary on the Portugal-Czech Republic match coming up soon...

Euro 2008: No Defense for Greece Title Defense

Chuckles abound today reading quotes from Greece players and coach Otto Rehhagel, the man who led the Greeks to the '04 Euro championship, regarding his team's performance during a 2-0 disaster loss to Sweden. The Greeks, five defenders across per Rehhagel, were flat, boring and losers and figure to gain an early exit from Euro 2008 with games against Spain and Russia remaining on their fixture list.
"We do want to score goals as well but the truth is we don't score many. So we must secure the back first and then see whether we can score a goal on the break," Rehhagel told Reuters.
Abominal thinking from a stubborn man.

Greece was an inspired 2004 champion, playing largely the same style it played yesterday. It's anti-football strategy paid off in a Euro title four years ago. One need only look at the final against Portugal to see how much the Greeks stacked their half of the field and dared the Portuguese to attack--which they did relentlessly to no avail. Goals came from set pieces and attacks counter to the run of play.

Well, apparently, the rest of Europe has caught up to Rehhagel's style. Sweden dominated yesterday, winning on second-half goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Petter Hansson, and Greece stood back and took it. Post-game, to a man, the Greeks are now calling for a change in style and attitude. Desperate times indeed. No time like a major tournament to do an about-face strategically.
"We were playing scared. When you're always playing the ball backwards, you can't win a match. We have to press forward. Attack is the best defence. We need to play forward. We've got to raise our game a notch in the days ahead," striker Yannis Amanatidis told Reuters.
All of this is disappointing to Greek fans, who understood their team had a chance to get out of the group and reach the quarterfinals. With Spain a sure lock to make it, and Russia below form, it was imperative the Greeks at a minimum, draw with Sweden yesterday. Not quite. Now Greece will have to beat down Russia and pray for a miracle against Spain.

We're a long way for 2004 Portugal. Ironically, the conquered Portuguese, who play in less than an hour against the Czech Republic, look fit to win the tournament.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spirit of Euro 2008 Sapped by Italy-Holland Referee

Day 3 of Euro 2008 will long be remembered as the day when common sense took the day off.

Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt played by the letter of the law and allowed Ruud Van Nistelrooy's offside goal to stand yesterday, sending Holland to an historic 3-0 win over Italy. Notice the use of "letter of the law." He would have been better served observing the spirit of FIFA regulation 11:11, and then ignoring it altogether.

The first Dutch goal yesterday left the Azzurri seeing Oranje. Italy never recovered, conceding two more tallies, including a textbook counterattack tally by Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder, however, had the easiest leg of that relay race, converting a precious Dirk Kuyt header pass and completing a play that started nearly 100 meters earlier when defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst cleared a sure Italy goal off the line and ultimately delivered the pass to Kuyt at the other end of the pitch. Fittingly, van Bronckhorst closed it out 10 minutes from the finish with a header for the 3-0 final.

Overshadowing the storyline of Italy being handed its worst loss in a major tournament since the 1970 World Cup final, the offside call by Frojdfeldt is the first controversial moment of the tournament. The call too allow the goal dictated that Italy change tack away from its defense-first tendencies. It also opened a groundswell for new interpretation and evaluation of rule 11:11.

The reg, a mere five years old, was put into place to prevent players from intentionally stepping out of bounds to create an offside situation. Therefore, players off the field are active, and technically, Van Nistelrooy was onside. But let's look at the play. Defender Christian Panucci and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon collided, sending the ball bounding in play and Panucci a few feet beyond the touchline in a heap. It wasn't intentional. It wasn't malicious. Panucci wasn't begging for a foul or a stretcher. It happened in the run of play and Frojdfeldt should have the sack to observe the situation and rule Van Nistelrooy offside.

As Martin Samuel wrote in the Times of London today:
And it was from that prone position, not even watching the action, that [Panucci] was somehow judged to have played Ruud van Nistelrooy onside and allowed him to score one of the most controversial goals in tournament history. Not because it was indisputably illegal, for it was quickly established that, despite Italy’s ire, Holland’s first goal was within the new rules as so interpreted by Fröjdfeldt, but because it was so daft, so wrong, so clearly a mistake, that it should have been scrapped on commonsense grounds. Yet when was clarity of thought last on nodding acquaintance with the offside laws? Not for some time. Maybe this will spark a re-evaluation.
The goal and the outcome are a shocking statement on the state of refereeing in the game when a contender in a major tournament is in arrears because of a shoddy decision. Why would Frojdfeldt choose to resurrect this rule at this moment? Had UEFA briefed its referees pre-tournament to be mindful of such situations and strictly enforce the letter of the law?

Granted, a 3-0 final indicates bigger issues with the Azzurri, such as the loss of Fabio Cannavaro to injury, which did plenty to cripple at the very least, the stability of the Italy back line. But the fact that Peter Frojdfeldt's name has been typed here more often than the players people buy tickets to see, proves something was rotten in Berne yesterday. Good referees are like Hollywood actors, you know the ones: the strong silent types. If you know a ref's name, you know too much about him.

Here's hoping this is the last time we have to write about an officiating decision in this tournament. Granted, I'd rather write about this than France's performance against Romania yesterday.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

If it's Monday, it must Day 3 of Euro 2008 and it must be blog roundup day. Today's is G.O.D. day at Euro with France and Romania squaring off, as are Italy and Holland. Should be a blast. Anyone else find it ironic that France coach Ray Domenech sounded scared of Romainia in yesterday's presser? Well, I digress. Here's our weekly jaunt around the footballing blogosphere, with a decidedly Euro 2008 flavor, with a little U.S.-Argentina tossed in for good measure.

FightingTalker is a little underwhelmed by the first two days of Euro, especially by yesterday's performances in the Axis Powers group, also known as Group B. Go Germany. Go Croatia. Go to sleep little baby, don't say a word...

Speaking of Croatia, if you're a supporter, you cannot be encouraged by coach Slaven Bilic's reaction to yesterday's less-than-inspiring 1-0 win over Austria. BalkanInsight reports Bilic as saying his players gave in to the moment and were happy to get away with the win. What a motivator.

Soccerlens has a tidy bunch of video recaps of yesterday's action.

Ibrahimo has a preview of today's Italy-Netherlands match, tossing a little caution at Italy supporters, with gentle reminders that this isn't the same team that won the World Cup in Germany two years ago; new coach, new tactics, some new players. More caution: Van der Sar's form in the Dutch goal.

Goallust takes a stab at today's Italy-Holland match, putting some stress on the Italian defense against the potent Dutch attack. He wonders whether Italy's counter-attack style will exploit a weaker Dutch defense. Goallust's prediction is... (click through)

FBCnews is a Barcelona blog, and you gotta give them credit for staying true to the theme of their blog: No Barca players on the pitch yesterday, but they did note Croatia's Luka Modric is a Johan Cruyff lookalike.

Not to be left out, RomaniaBlog looks at the other G.O.D. match today and points out the glaring weakness that is the French attack -- surprise surprise.

Soccernetlive talks about the gap between Portugal and Turkey and how Portugal should have put it away much sooner than it did. Good analysis on the entertaining, positive style Portugal put on display and hopes it continues. reports that Portugal legend Rui Costa believes Portugal can win the whole thing. Shocker.

Must-stop 101 Great Goals has all the video you want.

As for the U.S.-Argentina festival at Giants Stadium, no goals, but plenty of Tim Howard goodness, and a capacity crowd approaching 80,000.

American Soccer News has a great recap, including many platitudes for Tim Howard.

Whooligan has plenty of notes, thoughts and analysis of the friendly.

Cat Dirt bemoans the lack of a quality U.S. striker.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Portugal, Czech Republic Start Strong at Euro 2008

Euro 2008 is off and Portugal, Starting Eleven's pre-tournament pick to win, Portugal, looked every bit a champion, beating Turkey 2-0 on goals by Pepe and Meireles. Despite a few anxious moments from keeper Ricardo, the selecao das quinas had no problem with its Group A opener
and heads into June 11 match with the Czech Republic, a 1-0 winner over hosts Switzerland, in control of the group.

Portugal won this match in the back, solid matches from veterans Carvalho and Ferreira and impressive outings from goal-scorer Pepe and Chelsea-bound Boswinga giving Turkey little hope.

The 2-0 final could have been much worse for the Turks as the Portuguese hit woodwork three times and were solid and mistake-free in midfield, despite some struggles from Deco.

Fantastic opener.

Sunday's Group B matches:


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Starting Eleven Guide to Euro 2008

First off, Euro is no World Cup--it's better. Austria and Switzerland aside, there are no dregs in this tournament, unlike the World Cup. Spare me Canada, El Salvador, Trinidad, Togo and your Korea of the month. Euro invites only 16 nations, and save for South American kings Brazil and Argentina, the best of the best are in Euro.

The group stage demands intensity because it trims the field to the final eight, the quarterfinals. No watered down second round. No cute Cinderellas losing 5-0 in the first knockout round. In Euro, you're left with the eight best teams, and it says here that flukes don't win tournaments. Greece played well from Game No. 1 in 2004, and was strategically smarter than Portugal in the final. Denmark had Peter Schmeical, Brian Laudrup and Henrik Larsen and beat the world champs in the final Deserving, no?

So with less than 48 hours to the first match, Starting Eleven provides its guide to Euro 2008:
Ronaldo: More dives than goals? We'll see. Portugal are a favorite for some, a darkhorse for others, a contender to all. And Cristiano Ronaldo is its most important player. But how often can Portugal tap this well? If there's a knock against the 2004 finalists and 2006 World Cup semifinalists, it's the team's lack of a finisher. Ronaldo had 42 for Manchester United, but this is a different system. Will he find space? Will teams sacrifice an extra marker for him? If so, who fills the void?

Cannavaro: Italy's best defender and wily veteran taken down by one of his own. Does this tighten the G.O.D. group? Sure does. Italy are world champions until someone beats the Azzurri, but this is Roberto Donadoni's first major tournament and without his most stable player in the back, will Italy execute the way it can?

Studs These are beyond players to watch; these are the players you'll be talking about after Euro 2008: Fabregas, Karagounis, Marius Niculae, Quaresma and Kuranyi, Ballack

Duds These are players destined to disappoint: Ibrahimovich, David Villa, Jens Lehman, van Nistelrooy, Deco.

Stud Match Greece v. Spain, June 18. Do the Greeks sneak in and send Spain home?

Dud Match: France v. Italy, June 17. They bored us to death in the World Cup final. Can we expect anything less?

ESPN: If the worldwide leader is indeed going to buy the rights to the Premiership and turn ESPN Classic into ESPN3 or the Football Channel, then this dry run is ultra important. Kudos to them for signing Andy Gray. But good God, Tommy Onion Bags? Again?

Aragones Spain's longtime grumpy old bastard is leaving win or lose. Part of me wants this racist to lose, part of me wants this racist to really flame out in the final and exit with his legacy intact.

Scolari Big Phil's swan song with Portugal for sure? Jose Mourinho in 2010 for Portugal?

Ugly Ducklings Poland--these guys are good, a 3-0 loss to Boring Bob Bradley's U.S. team notwithstanding.

They Can't Win Well, they can, but do we really want to see Germany holding the trophy at the end?


Starting Eleven's picks. We've given your our quarterfinalists in past posts, but here they are again:

Czech Republic


Portugal 2, Poland 0
Czech Republic 1, Germany 0
Italy 2, France 0
Spain 2, Greece 1


Portugal 2, Czech Republic 1
Spain 2, Italy 1


Portugal 3, Spain 2
Discuss at will. Enjoy the tournament.

Group D preview
Group C preview
Group B preview
Group A preview
Euro draw analysis

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BANNED: F.C. Porto Out of Champions League

Portuguese champions F.C. Porto have been banned from the 2008-2009 Champions League for the sins of their forefathers; well, forebrothers? The club was whacked today for a guilty finding on match-fixing charges dating back to 2003/04, the club's Champions League-winning season under Jose Mourinho. Five referees were also found guilty here; these guys were either paid off in cash or with prostitutes--honest to God. The club was docked six points in the domestic league, and president Pinto da Costa was suspended two years.

Porto will appeal the decision, which is a harsh one five years after the fact.

The bigger question, however, is who gets slotted in Porto's stead? Sporting, which finished second, goes to the group stage while Vitoria Guimaraes goes to the third qualifying round for finishing third. Is Benfica entitled to a qualifying round spot, and Guimaraes moving into Porto's group-stage spot? Or will UEFA go outside of Portugal to another deserving third- or fourth-place finisher? Time will tell on that.

The sad thing is that Portugal is a second-tier football country in Europe, and no stranger to corruption. Benfica Upfront refers to an interview conducted with Porto player Costinha in Sabado. The upshot is the absolute stink coming out of the top clubs in that country, and the depths of corruption, payoffs and an organized-crime feel to their methods of doing business.

Another thing that bears watching: Now that Porto is out of the Champions League, is there anything keeping its young stars such as Quaresma, Lisandro Lopez and others in Porto? Why wouldn't they bolt for greener pastures that include regular appearances in Tuesday and Wednesday CL matches?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Euro 2008 preview: Group D

Finally, we've arrived at Group D for Euro 2008, another difficult group to call right along with the G.O.D., Group C.

Spain has to be considered a title favorite; many believe the only thing that's held Spain back from winning a major cup has been veteran coach Aragones. Spain just hasn't been able to get rid of this guy, despite constant disappointments. Spain failed to reach the World Cup final eight in 2006, despite being a supremely talented team. Aragones says he's going after the Euro--win or lose. Can he kick the door down in his swan song?

Spain comes into the tournament on a 15-game unbeaten streak, but despite the good run, Aragones made a huge negative splash by leaving classy veteran Raul off his final roster. Just another black mark. So clearly, should Spain win, detractors will say the team did so in spite of Aragones.

Spain isn't short on stars: Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa, Casillas. The team has one of the best keepers in the world, and probably the best conglomerate midfield in the game. Villa and Torres provide noteworthy punch up front, so the only segment to question is the back line. Carlos Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa, and Navarro aren't likely to make someone stand up and take notice. But should Spain prevail, it's likely going to be on the strength of their consistency and play.

Greece has one goal in Euro 2008: Prove that its 2004 title was no fluke. No one expects the Greeks to repeat their amazing run that culminated in a win against hosts Portugal in the '04 final, but they could threaten for a quarterfinal berth. Defense wins, and coach Otto Rehhagael loves defense. Seitaridis, Dellas, Kyrgiakos and Goumas each have at least 37 national team appearances, and each is tall and strong. Giannakopoulos, Karagounis and Katsouranis hold down the midfield, and validate this team is built from the back up. By the way, Greece won its qualifying group handily, losing only once.

Sweden is banking on the return of striker Henrik Larsson to get it to the final eight, but is that enough in this group? Veterans Niclas Alexandersson and Olof Mellberg are back, balancing the youth of fullback Fredrik Stoor, midfielder Sebastian Larsson and striker Marcus Rosenborg. And don't forget Ibrahimovich up front; will he stay or go from Inter, and how does that impact his performance in this tournament?

And then there's Russia, remember them? They helped nudge England to the sideline during qualifying, finishing second to Croatia. Russia has a wise coach in Guus Hiddink, and hope to better their 2004 finish of dead last in the group stage. This team is heavy on players from UEFA Cup winners Zenit St. Petersberg: Arshavin, Pogrebnyak, Shirokov, Malafeev, Zyrianov and Anyukov. But it may be light compared to the other three in this group.


Spain 5
Greece 5
Sweden 5
Russia 0

*Spain, Greece qualify on goal difference.


Group C: Group of Death
Group B: Poland, Croatia in Battle for Second
Group A: Cristiano Coronation

My quarterfinal qualifiers:

Czech Republic

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

Starting Eleven's weekly jaunt around the football blogosphere is a Special One. Well, since Jose Mourinho says he's no longer special, the title is vacant, and I lay claim to it for my little spot on the Internet.
For our Portuguese-reading blog cruisers, the Jose Mourinho Blog has the renouncement of the "Special One" label and confirmation from Luis Figo of Mourinho taking over at Inter--which was announced yesterday.

Bleacher Report fills you in on some of the targets Mourinho may have in his sights.

Squarefootball also trumpets the Drogba-Lampard-Carvalho shopping list.

And let's not forget the mysterious text Mourinho supposedly sent to Michael Essien. Inter Milan Fan Club has the message.

Finally, Reuters' blog adds Deco to the mix, and wonders if some old-timers such as Figo and Ibramhimovich would stick around just to play under Mourinho.
That screaming you heard yesterday? You know, the noise coming from the general direction of Italy? Well, either it was Fabio Cannavaro in agony over the torn ligaments in his ankle, or the anguish of Italian fans who won't have their star fullback.
Read all about it at:

World Cup Blog
EPL Talk
NJ Sport Talk
101 Great Goals

For a very, um, scenic look at Italy's training for Euro, check out Top of the 18.

My Soccer Blog looks into the Brian McBride-Toronto saga.

And finally, sad news, MISL folds. Read about it at MLS Rumors, who speculates that this is a futsal opportunity. Indeed.