17 Aug Swansea City A
24 Aug Chelsea H
31 Aug Liverpool A
14 Sep Crystal Palace H
21 Sep Manchester City A
That's away to Capital One Cup winners Swansea on opening day followed by Chelsea with Jose Mourinho back in charge at home, then away to rivals Liverpool, home against newly promoted Crystal Palace and revamping runners-up Manchester City away to round it out. What did Moyes ever do to the fixture computer to deserve such an unfriendly start in his new job? Did he once try to use it to play solitaire while downloading virus-laden pornography and feature-length films in gif format?
Playing Man United's two biggest rivals and Chelsea within the first five matches could either embolden his doubters or shut them up right from the start. So it could be an awful or a great way kick off the season (or somewhere in the middle if the results are adequately mixed). Maybe we'll even see Alex Ferguson back on the touchline when Man United host West Brom on September 28, chomping Moyes like an exceptionally large piece of ginger gum.
A 1-0 win against Honduras gives the United States three World Cup qualifier wins in June and makes a trip to Brazil next year almost certain. It was a largely frustrating match for the USA as they had a clear majority of possession (62 percent) and far more chances on goal (13 shots, 5 on target v six and one for Honduras), but the calls weren't going their way and the shots weren't finding the net. Until Jozy Altidore scored in the 73rd minute, giving him a goal in each of the last four games to match the team record.
As intoxicatingly entertaining as the USA's 2-0 win against Panama was, this performance was encouraging in different and just as important ways. Having already climbed to the top of the table, there were many points when complacency could have set in and had a destructive effect in the match against Honduras, who beat United States 2-1 in February. But they didn't let the frustration of failed scoring chances and missed handball calls break down their confidence and drive. They kept trying, kept working and kept their focus and eventually Graham Zusi to Fabian Johnson to Jozy Altidore resulted in a wonderfully executed winner to go with a second consecutive clean sheet.
The USA now sit five points ahead of Costa Rica (who have a game in hand) and Mexico (who don't) with four matches left to play, resuming in September. Even after they do seal their qualification, there will still be work to be done. Continuing to improve the chemistry and reduce the mistakes of the backline, maybe reintroducing Landon Donovan back into the team and just generally preparing for much better competition. For now, they can sip a caipirinha and feel confident that they've put themselves in an ideal situation.
Spain's reign of trophy plundering terror continued by beating Italy in the European U-21 Championship final to defend their title. The latest addition to Spain's silverware stockpile comes almost two weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of the Spain senior team's 4-0 win against Italy in the Euro 2012 final. The Italian U-21s fared a bit better, only losing 4-2, but a hat trick from Thiago and Spain scoring their last two goals from the penalty spot proved too much to overcome.
So where will it end? Spain are also in the midst of the Confederations Cup — one of the few trophies they haven't won yet. If they can take that, you have to imagine they would grow bored of repeats and branch out to other competitions. The World Series? Super Bowl? The Ashes? Ice Hockey World Championship? The vikings of tiki-taka will not relent until they possess a jug full of tears from every nation on the planet.
Goalkeepers are used to having shots fired at them during games, but not usually from firearms.
Amateur keeper Duško Krtalica was playing in a tournament in the Sarajevo suburb of Boljakov Potok recently when he complained of a headache. The shot stopper assumed it was the result of striking his noggin on a post while making a save, so ignored the pain and carried on playing.
According to Sarajevo newspaper Dnevni Avaz, the 51-year-old completed the match, but soon complained of a stiff arm and had difficulty speaking. He was driven to a local hospital, where doctors were shocked to see that a 9mm bullet was clearly lodged in his skull.
Krtalica was immediately transferred to the department of neurosurgery and the bullet was removed. A hospital spokesman said the operation was a success and he is now in a stable condition.
This bizarre story raises so many questions. How could someone not notice a bullet entering their skull? How could that person feel well enough to play 90 minutes of football with such an injury? And who would shoot a 51-year-old man in an amateur tournament?
Only the latter question has an answer, after local police combed the area to discover that there were three weddings in Boljakov Potok that day. During at least one of those weddings, someone thought it would be a good idea to celebrate by firing off their handgun, and one of the stray bullets managed to find its way from the ether into the unfortunate keeper's cranium.
According to Dnevni Avaz, a 42-year-old local named Seyne Ligata was subsequently arrested and his pistol was seized. A further 12 shells were found near the football field, suggesting it was very lucky that no one else was injured.
For the record, Krtalica only conceded one goal while playing with a bullet in his head. Thankfully, Jose Mourinho is no longer working with Iker Casillas in Madrid, or this story may have given him some ideas...
The video above from Brazilian filmmaker Carla Dauden provides an overview of why Brazilians are against their country hosting the World Cup. Namely, the huge cost (30 billion reais/$14 billion) of the tournament inflated by a corrupt government. Like in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, new stadiums are being built and entire neighborhoods are being wiped out to accommodate the event while more pressing needs like education, medical services and infrastructure continue to go underserved.
Brazil has a reputation around the world for being football mad, but even they know that there are many things more important than a game. And lining FIFA's already bulging pockets isn't one of them.
Robert Lewandowski will hire a lookalike to take his place with Borussia Dortmund so he can play for Bayern Munich under a new identity. The Polish striker has been linked to some of the biggest clubs in Europe in recent weeks, but Dortmund have made it clear that they do not want to sell him. So in order to get his desired move to treble-winning Bayern Munich, Lewandowski is on the hunt for a passable lookalike who can play under his name at Dortmund.
"Once Robert finds the lookalike, he's ready to put his genius plan into action," said a source who most definitely is not Lewandowski himself. "He will grow a killer mustache and play for Bayern under the name 'Ted Raptor.' It's going to be so perfect. Wait. Now I'm starting to think that telling the press about this plan could ruin it. Actually, yeah — forget I said any of this. Seriously. Stop remembering it right now. Stop remembering!""
The elaborate ruse will be a further blow to Dortmund, who finished a distant second to Bayern in the Bundesliga last season, lost midfielder Mario Gotze to them and were defeated in the Champions League final by them. Dortmund have reportedly considered hypnotizing Lewandowski to convince him that he is happy where he is and that money is bad, but they fear that resorting to mind control could lead to a public backlash. Or, even worse, make Lewandowski more susceptible to more expensive hypnosis from richer clubs.
Hoverla Uzhhorod's Volodymyr Lysenko was sent off for headbutting teammate Mirko Raicevic in a Ukrainian match last week. Raicevic ran over to Lysenko and apparently said something that Lysenko didn't appreciate. The pair bumped chests and then Lysenko delivered the headbutt, sending Raicevic to his knees as he clutched his face.
And since all of this happened right in front of the referee, Lysenko was quickly shown a red card and escorted off the pitch. The good news? Lysenko is only on loan at Hoverla from Metalist. Surely "headbutting his teammates" is some kind of violation of the agreement that could get him sent back early if necessary. Maybe.
This has been the Dirty Tackle of the Day: a chronicling of unfortunate events.
Tahiti lost 6-1 to Nigeria in their first Confederations Cup group-stage match. It was a result everyone expected and one that would've been absolutely devastating to most any team on the losing end of a scoreline that lopsided, but for Tahiti it was cause for joy. Ranked 138th in the world, Tahiti is the smallest nation to ever take part in a FIFA senior tournament. They have just one professional player on the team in 33-year-old Marama Vahirua, who plays for Nancy in Ligue 1.
The overjoyed Tahitians celebrated together, first as a massive pile of humanity, then forming a circle and pretending to row. That happiness was tempered a bit when Tehua scored an own goal in the 69th minute and Nigeria went on to score twice more after that to get the 6-1 win. But in a way, that score was more of a badge of honor for Tahiti than had they lost 1-0. They didn't park the bus and form a human wall around their goal. They played without fear or regret. They attacked and challenged Nigeria, who weren't playing at full speed or with much organization.
It will only get tougher for Tahiti as they face Spain and Uruguay next, so they did well to achieve their dream already. Now everything from here on out will be even more of a bonus and Tehau can await a €50 million offer from Real Madrid.
With just one professional player on the team, Tahiti were already the darlings of the Confederations Cup before it even began. The smallest nation to ever compete in a FIFA senior tournament only endeared themselves further by their goodwill gesture before playing their first group-stage match against Nigeria.
When the Tahitian players lined up the for the national anthems wearing traditional shell necklaces, it had many people wondering why. But as the two teams shook hands before kick-off, the Tahitians took off their necklaces and gave them to the Nigeria players. Even Nigeria's manager, Stephen Keshi, was given one and decided to wear it.
Tahiti qualified for the tournament by beating New Caledonia in the 2012 Oceanic Football Confederation Nations Cup final. It was the first time there was a winner other than Australia (now in the more competitive Asian Football Confederation) or New Zealand, who were upset by New Caledonia in the semifinals.
Unfortunately, Tahiti's nice gesture didn't help their luck. The crowd in the half-full Estadio Mineirao was very much on their side, but just five minutes into the match, Nigeria scored with a shot that took two deflections after after the ball went off the referee. They added a second goal in the 10th minute and a third in the 25th. Though Tahiti did get a few decent chances in the first 45 minutes against Nigeria going half-speed, watching all of this unfold was like watching a puppy repeatedly get kicked by someone who doesn't want to be kicking a puppy.
UPDATE: The puppy kicks back! Tahiti scored in the 55th minute, prompting absolute jubilation.
UPDATE II: Nigeria ended up winning 6-1, but Tahiti never gave up and even had a few more chances to score. This might've been the happiest a team has ever been to lose 6-1.
CSKA Moscow went on a boat ride (because that's apparently what you do when you win the Russian Premier League and Russian Cup double) and to entertain themselves on the water, they tried kicking balls at other boats. After one attempt fell short and splashed in the water, defender Sergei Ignashevich launched one that successfully bounced off the window of another boat, eliciting a cheer from his teammates.
South Africa needed a win against Ethopia on Sunday night to ensure they progressed to the third round of CAF 2014 World Cup qualification. With the score at 1-1 in Addis Ababa, Bafana Bafana forward Bernard Parker rose to the occasion and connected with a free kick to score a powerful long-range header. It showed superb technique, but an unfortunate lack of directional awareness, as the header ended up in his own net.
Parker's own goal gave Ethiopia three points and an unassailable lead at the top of CAF Group A, effectively ending the 2010 host's chances of making it to Brazil next summer.
However, there is still a slim glimmer of hope for the South Africans, as FIFA are investigating Ethiopia (and two other African teams) for using an ineligible player earlier in the tournament.
If found guilty of fielding a fraud in their 2-1 win over Botswana, the Ethiopians will have three points taken away, which will give Bernard Parker another chance to dash his nation's World Cup dreams with an own goal in the final group game in September.
Balotelli added to Andrea Pirlo's lovely goal from a free kick in the first half by chasing down a lobbed pass in the box and fired the ball pass Mexico's keeper while falling backwards. He was then shown a yellow card — his third in three matches — for removing his shirt and substituted in the 86th minute to avoid the possibility of another.
After the match, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli issued a public warning to Mario about the impromptu gun shows he keeps inviting everyone to. From Football Italia:
“There are no more words for Andrea [Pirlo], just a huge embrace and round of applause. As for Mario, he’s got to stop showing off his muscles, because the yellow cards do count.”
With the 2-1 win, Italy ended Mexico's 13-match unbeaten streak. They face Japan next, while Mexico will have another tough task against Brazil.
Making his 100th appearance for Italy at Brazil's iconic Maracana Stadium, Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring in his side's Confederations Cup opener against Mexico in glorious fashion. Pirlo's 27th minute free kick was so magical that Mexico keeper Jose Corona gave up on attempting to stop it mid-dive. Don't mess with the hypnotic wizardry of Bearded Pirlo.
Mexico went on equalize in the 34th minute with a Chicharito penalty to end their recent goal drought.
From the company that brought you Liverpool's Space Invaders away kit comes a new football boot called "Gambler." Among the nonsensical features like the "ace plate" and "outsider zone" are the "gloryholes." Yes, gloryholes. And if the allusion to holes designed to accomodate a sex act weren't clear enough, Warrior describes these gloryholes as being "for precision fit in sticky situations." This is real. It's right from their website.
At this point it's really hard to tell if Warrior is a real company or just a parody of modern sports equipment manufacturers being used as viral marketing for the next Grand Theft Auto game.
A 1-0 loss at home to San Lorenzo sealed Independiente's relegation to the second division for the first time in the club's history. With 16 Primera Division titles (the most recent coming in 2002) and a record seven Copa Libertadores trophies, the demotion is especially painful for Independiente, even if it was three years in the making.
When the final whistle sounded, fans at the Estadio Libertadores de America were already singing through tears, showing their support to the equally devastated players as they walked off the pitch. Showing that true love doesn't shut up and go home when things go wrong.
It wouldn't be an international football tournament without FIFA president Sepp Blatter getting booed and that's what happened when he was introduced at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha during the Confederations Cup opening ceremony. The moment was made all the more awkward when both he and Brazil president Dilma Rousseff couldn't figure out if their microphones were on and repeatedly blew into them.
You might remember that Blatter was also booed during the medal ceremony for last summer's Olympic women's football tournament at Wembley. "Stars are always booed so I'm a star, you have to take it this way," Blatter later said about the incident. "I thought that the public in the Olympic Games, they would be a little bit better educated."
I guess he feels Brazilians aren't very well educated now, either. The rest of the world, meanwhile, can see just how smart they are.
Neymar laughs at your pressure! With all eyes on him in the Confederations Cup opening match between host nation Brazil and Japan, it took Neymar all of three minutes to score a fantastic goal with a blast from outside the box.
With that goal, 21-year-old Neymar not only excited the home fans, but also Barcelona, who recently paid €57 million for his services. Just another day in the life of the most hyped young footballer on the planet.
Here's David Luiz really enjoying the celebration...
It apparently takes more than a hamstring injury and accusations of tax fraud to keep Lionel Messi from scoring goals as he completed a hat trick before the 50th minute of Argentina's 4-0 win friendly win against Guatemala. With that trio of goals (the one shown above being the standout), Messi has now surpassed Diego Maradona's 34 goals on Argentina's all-time top scorer's list and matched Hernan Crespo for second with 35 goals. Fiorentina legend Gabriel Batistuta tops the list with 56 goals, which Messi will probably reach in his next match.
On Saturday, the 2013 Confederations Cup will kick off at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasilia, as Brazil take on Japan in the opener of the meaningless much-anticipated eight-team tournament (see our instructional guide to caring about it here).
It's a precursor to the World Cup Finals that will be hosted in the South American country one year from now, and while excitement around the world grows for the upcoming football festivities, the majority of locals seem far less enthused.
There is growing unrest concerning ticket prices that few Brazilians can afford, and a fear that the costly infrastructure of the event will leave Brazil deeply in debt while FIFA pockets huge profits. "The World Cup contributes nothing to society. It's just for the elite," said a disgruntled fan recently interviewed in a revealing article by The Guardian.
The feeling of disaffection spilled out onto the streets on Friday, as around 200 protestors blocked roads and burned tires outside the stadium that will host the Confederations Cup opener this weekend.
The protest was organized by local groups complaining of excessive costs of the Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup.
Protester Edson da Silva said the demonstrators opposed ''all the money that was spent by the government'' for the World Cup. He said the protests will continue.
Firefighters and police were called to the scene, but the confrontation did not get out of hand and the road was cleared by the afternoon.
This clearly isn't the last protest of this nature we will see between now and next summer, but FIFA are said to have expressed "full confidence" that the Brazilian police will be able to cope with the potentially violent disorder in the streets that their money-hungry motives have created.
Civil unrest will not be helped by the fact that Brazil's politicians are also uniting against FIFA's prerogative to treat the tournament as a cash cow. Complaints by Brazil's sports minister Aldo Rebelo led to FIFA's decision to give 50,000 free tickets to poorer communities — but that's approximately 1.5% of the 3.3m tickets on sale and a small fraction of the 450,000 highly priced hospitality tickets on offer.
Former World Cup winner and Brazilian parliament member Romario has also expressed his concern:
"Fifa comes here and sets up a state within our state and it will leave with $2bn-$3bn in profits. And then what? What about the white elephants, the stadiums, costing nearly $2bn?"
Excellent question, Romario. When FIFA president Sepp Blatter — whose salary still remains a secret — has stopped counting the $1.4bn cash reserves his organization currently holds in Switzerland, he'll get back to you.
We are officially less than a year away from the start of the World Cup, which means it's time for the "is the host nation ready?" handwringing to really get into gear (spoiler alert: it will be). It also means it's time for the Confederations Cup — the mini rehearsal for the main event that has been making football fans go mild since 1997 (from 1992-1995 it was known as the King Fahd Cup).
So why should you care about the Confederations Cup? Well, let's face it — you're already sick of transfer rumors and you've got nothing better to do during the last two weeks of June. But beyond that there are many non-depressing reasons why this tournament is rather enjoyable. And, thankfully, DT is here to reveal them to you in a way that will probably make you cry tears of joy and physical pleasure you have never known before (without paying for it).
First, how the Confederations Cup works: The eight participating teams are divided into two groups. Group A: Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Italy. Group B: Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria. After each team plays everyone in their group once, the top two sides in each group advance to the knockout stage, which is comprised of a semifinal, final and third-place match. In other words, it's pretty much the World Cup format, but on a smaller scale and with one important new feature: Goal-line technology.
Now, the teams...
How they got here: Host nation guilt exemption.
Why this is important to them: Brazil have won this tournament three of the last six times it's been held, including the last two. The problem? They haven't done so well since the last one in 2009. There was criticism for their quarterfinal exit in the 2010 World Cup, fury after their quarterfinal exit in the 2011 Copa America and outrage after their loss to Mexico in the gold medal game at last summer's Olympics. At this point, the fans are impatient and agitated and Brazil have to play in front of them. Pele has already asked supporters not to boo, even if the team doesn't do well. If they don't do well, there will be anger. If they do lift the trophy, it could ease some of the pressure going into the World Cup and help ease the team's mental state.
Player to watch: Neymar — He's only 21 years old, but he will have actual, serious pressure to dominate, even if it is just the Confederations Cup. This tournament will be almost exclusively about him. Especially after leaving Santos for Barcelona in a €57 million deal last month. If he underachieves, he could get shipped to Barcelona in a 20 oz. Pepsi bottle.
How they got here: Reached the Euro 2012 final (since Spain won both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, the Confederations Cup's UEFA slot fell to Italy).
Why this is important to them: In the bowels of a fortified bunker high up in the Alps, Bearded Andrea Pirlo was forced to say a painful goodbye. His closest friend and confidant, a goat known only as Davide, informed him that he would not accompany the team to Brazil by defecating in a particularly vulgar and aggressive fashion. Someone must protect the harsh terrain of their home, but someone else must forge a path to new successes in foreign lands using only his unparalleled footballing talent and his ability to harvest facial hair. Bearded Pirlo knew he would have to be that someone else. And he knew he would rather die from Caipirinha poisoning than let Davide down. This is for Davide.
Why this is important to them: As the first team (other than Brazil) to seal a place in the 2014 World Cup, Japan are in a unique position. Yes, they know that they'll be back, but it's also their first tournament in South America since pulling out of the 2011 Copa America (they were special invitees, along with Mexico) in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that year. When Japan hosted the 2001 Confederations Cup, they lost to France in the final. France aren't here, so Brazil will have to do.
Player to watch: Keisuke Honda — After winning the Russian Premier League and Russian Cup double with CSKA Moscow last season, Honda has reportedly had interest from the likes of Liverpool and Milan. He could be playing for a big move and as history has shown, performing well in a summer tournament can help make a big move even bigger.
How they got here: 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners.
Why this is important to them: Life has been difficult for the 1999 Confederations Cup winners recently. They have one win and five draws in the final round of World Cup qualifying. Four of those draws have been scoreless, including all three of their home matches. They were booed off the pitch by their own fans after their most recent 0-0 disappointment party and their manager, Jose de al Torre, had to tell the press that he doesn't intend to quit. In short, Mexico need a strong performance in Brazil to get fans back on their side and their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track. At the very least, they need to stop having scoreless draws in every freaking match they play.
Player to watch: Chicharito — The Baby Killer needs to start living up to his poorly translated nickname.
How they got here: 2010 World Cup winners. And Euro 2012 winners.
Why this is important to them (as explained by Xavi): In 2009, the first of several grave injustices was committed against football and beauty and the concept of love when the United States beat us 2-0 in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. This ended our 15-match winning streak and record 35-match unbeaten streak. In the time since then, we have won the World Cup and the European Championship for a second time. The Confederations Cup remains a void for us, but once it is filled, we can unite the three trophies to open portal to a magical new world where Lionel Messi plays for Spain, we never lose possession of the ball and Jose Mourinho does not exist. It is our destiny. And if we lose again, I'm going to blame the pitch and sue everyone. So don't ruin this for me or I will ruin you.
Player to watch: Fernando Torres — Though his form for both club and country in recent years has been inconsistent (to put it nicely), Fernando Torres has put together a haul of winner's medals and awards that Arsene Wenger finds sexually arousing. With Spain, he's won the UEFA U-16 Championship in 2001, UEFA U-19 Championship in 2002, Euro 2008 and 2012 (plus the Golden Boot in '12) and the 2010 World Cup. With Chelsea, he's also won the 2012 FA Cup, 2012 Champions League and 2013 Europa League. The man is a trophy magnet and clearly he needs to add the Confederations Cup title to his collection.
How they got here: 2011 Copa America winners.
Why this is important to them: Because who wouldn't still be bitter about losing the third-place match to the Czech Republic in the 1997 Confederations Cup?!
How they got here: 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winners.
Why this is important to them: It's a chance to impress against some of the best in the world. Since reaching the round of 16 at both the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, Nigeria have been unable to meet expectations against intercontinental competition. Though this isn't on the level of the World Cup, it's still a chance to change that trend.
Why this is important to them: Come on...it's Tahiti. Tahiti! This is the first time they've ever qualified for the Confederations Cup. They're going to play the world champions. In Brazil. For a team with just one professional footballer (Marama Vahirua), this is the chance of a lifetime.
Player to watch: All of them. They'll be the happiest people you see this year.
At any given point, Brendan Rodgers is only an impromptu acoustic guitar ballad away from completely turning into David Brent. Nowhere is this more obvious than the latest episode of Liverpool FC's whacky online series 'Kop Kids', in which the manager is interviewed by a nine-year-old fan.
To be fair, Brent-an is a very good sport in the interview, in which he admits the that Luis Suarez is his "naughtiest" player. This will surprise absolutely no one, but seeing as the Uruguayan is very unhappy with his victimization in the English-speaking media, it may not have been the most diplomatic thing for his own manager to say on camera.
He is most stumped by the question: "If I gave you £5, what would you buy and why?" After mulling it over, he jokingly quips that he would save the money. But of course, all the adults watching know that when Rodgers is given some cash, his favorite thing to do is waste it on Joe Allen.
The recent Romanian fourth division match between Chişoda and Sânnicolaul Mare was just like any other Romanian fourth division match, right up until the point where special forces police invaded the pitch and forced everybody to lay on the ground while they looked for a suspected criminal.
According to Yahoo! Romania, the masked police were looking for a gang leader named Sorin Udrea, who has played for Chişoda this season. He is wanted for a number of crimes, including match fixing, and was recently in a bar brawl involving several large knives — one of which appeared to be protruding from a man captured on hospital security tapes.
A Portguese report of the incident on Maisfutebol explains that Udrea wasn't actually on the field when everybody was forced to hit the deck, but he was later found in the stands. He was arrested with four other gentleman, who do not look entirely happy in footage of their capture...
Bearded fireball Rino Gattuso has been lined up to become Palermo's next manager following the club's relegation from Serie A once he ends his contract with Swiss club FC Sion. As he prepares to try and ride the mechanical bull that is the Palermo manager's seat, Gattuso has made it clear that he isn't afraid of owner Maurizio Zamparini's history of going through managers like tissues in flu season.
“I am completing the paperwork with Sion to terminate the contract early,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“Am I afraid of President Maurizio Zamparini’s reputation for hiring and firing? No, the only thing I fear is death!
“We will do what is best for Palermo, if this marriage goes through. We talked and expressed our mutual respect. I can certainly say my playing days are over, as I can no longer take the medication I need to continue."
That medication? Elephant tranquilizers. It's the only way he can harness his fury. As for his fear of death, we can only assume that it stems from the uncertainty of what you do in the afterlife when you can no longer fight to the death.
With Neymar gone, Santos earned their first win of the Brasileiro campaign, beating Atletico-MG 1-0. Perhaps feeling a little jealous that Atletico-MG still have their star player, Santos seemed to target Ronaldinho in the first half, with a challenge from behind that was followed by defender Gustavo Henrique kicking the ball at Ronaldinho's head.
Luckily for Ronaldinho, Henrique apparently isn't very accurate. He was, however, shown a yellow card for what he did.
This has been the Dirty Tackle of the Day: a chronicling of unfortunate events.
The Nigeria squad missed their flight to the Confederations Cup after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Namibia in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday. According to Reuters, the players went on strike when they didn't receive the bonus money they were due after the Namibia game. Their first Confederations Cup match is scheduled for Monday against minnows Tahiti in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
"They are declining to leave," Namibia Football Association general secretary Barry Rukoro told Reuters. "They were supposed to go at 11 a.m. this morning but they say they are owed money by their association and want it sorted before they will leave the hotel.
"Their officials all departed on an earlier flight this morning but the players and the technical staff are still here. So far there is no indication they are leaving."
Sources said the Nigerian players were angry over unpaid bonus money promised to them after they beat Kenya in a World Cup qualifier last week.
Nigeria needed an 83rd minute goal to prevent an upset against Namibia, who went ahead in the 77th minute. It's worth noting that this was a Namibia side that lost their coach 48 hours earlier and had his Football Manager playing assistant take over for him.
Anyway, things are starting to look up for Tahiti.
Italian national public broadcasting company, Rai, apologized for an odd graphics error at halftime of Italy's "embarrassing" 2-2 draw against Haiti in a friendly on Tuesday. After Juventus midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini gave Italy a 1-0 lead in the first minute of play, Rai showed the score at the bottom of the screen. Except they showed it as "Pepepepepe 1-0 Quaquauquaqua."
They did, however, correctly attribute the goal to Giaccherini. So at least they had that going for them.
Barcelona are closing in on a deal that will send midfielder Cesc Fabregas to Coupe de France winners Bordeaux. The move is a result of new testing from Dr. Xavi, Barcelona's leading scientist in the field of why Jose Mourinho is terrible, that proves that Fabregas never had Barcelona DNA as previously thought when he joined Barca from Arsenal in 2011.
"Upon hearing the fans jeer Cesc Fabregas this season, I decided to order a new round of testing on his DNA," said Dr. Xavi on the condition of anonymity. "And the findings were incredible. He actually has 100 percent Bordeaux DNA. So in accordance with UEFA's nonexistent club DNA bylaws, Cesc will be sold to the French club immediately. I have no idea how this mix-up occurred, but it had to be Jose Mourinho's fault somehow because he is terrible and both I and Barcelona are perfect. Be sure you write that."
Arsenal retained the right to first refusal after selling Fabregas to Barcelona, but manager Arsene Wenger said the club will refuse the chance to take him back because, "This is what you get, Cesc. This is what you get for leaving me." He then laughed maniacally until it caused him to go into a coughing fit.
When asked for comment, a Bordeaux spokesman said, "We have no idea what any of this is about, but yeah, we'll take Cesc Fabregas. Why not?"
Spanish tax authorities have accused Lionel Messi and his father of tax fraud over a four-year period totaling €4 million. The fraud allegedly began when Messi, who is now one of the highest paid athletes in the world, was still underage and had his father in charge of his finances. But Messi took to his Facebook page, with its 46 million "likes," to deny any wrongdoing from either him or his father.
A complex network of companies based in Britain, Switzerland, Belize and Uruguay were allegedly used to keep his income out of the sight of tax authorities.
"The initiative to commit fraud came from his father," tax authorities said, according to Spain's EFE news agency.
Tax prosecutors have lodged a writ at a court in Gava, the Mediterranean beachside town outside Barcelona where Messi lives.
The court has yet to decide whether it will open a case against the man who has been Fifa's world player of the year for a record-breaking four seasons in a row.
According to the EFE, Messi could face between two and six years in jail and a fine six times the amount defrauded if the charges are brought against him.
But, Messi is denying any wrongdoing and he's using social media to spread the word. From his Facebook page:
We communicate “We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about those news, because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advices of our Tax Consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation.”
His tax consultants? Cristiano Ronaldo & Associates.
Feeling buoyant after Australia's resplendent 4-0 win over Jordan on Tuesday — which leaves the Socceroos three points away from automatic qualification to next year's World Cup Finals — manager Holger Osieck decided to treat journalists at a post-match press conference to the words of fourth-century archbishop St Ambrose: "Mulieres taceres in ecclesia."
Apropos of nothing, and with a large grin on his face, he translated the Latin phrase as "women should shut up in public."
The manager, who was Franz Beckenbauer's assistant when Germany won the World Cup in 1990, was still smirking when he claimed the quote would make him "the darling of all Australian wives," but the grin disappeared when he was forced to issue an apology. The Daily Mail reports:
'To everyone who may feel offended by that, I offer a sincere apology,' Osieck said today.
'It was off the record, it was more a funny remark.
'It was nothing against any women or whatever. Definitely just a complete misunderstanding.'
It's not clear why Osieck thought a comment made while taking his seat at a press conference would be "off the record," nor why he thought it was a "funny remark," but it turns out that the 64-year-old should have studied his Latin textbooks a little harder. "Mulieres taceres in ecclesia" actually means "women should stay silent in church," and was a fourth-century reference to the fairer sex singing Psalms with the choir.
For Franck Ribery, the best way to wind down after Bayern Munich's epic treble-winning season is to re-enact his favorite scenes from Miami Viceon his speedboat. Teammate Manuel Neuer, however, will spend the summer as a filmstar, as his voice acting talents have been utilized in Die Monster Uni, the German dubbing of Disney Pixar's Monsters University.
In the prequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc. — released on June 21st — the goalkeeper plays "Frightening" Frank McCay, a character portrayed by The Office star John Krasinski in the English language version. Judging by the super-scary monster impression he does in the trailer above, Neuer must have been a shoo-in for this role.
The German shot stopper isn't the first international football star to lend his voice to feature-length animation: last year Andres Iniesta was an albino pirate in the Spanish dubbing of Aardman's The Pirates!.
The United States beat Panama 2-0 in front of more than 40,000 loud and delightful fans in Seattle. They are now on top of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification table with a game in hand on Mexico. Just to be clear, they are not Spain and they have not cemented their World Cup qualification just yet. But after this latest performance, USA fans should feel something they're not used to feeling: Contentment with the state of the team.
Over the last two weeks, the United States has played four matches and the improvement from game to game has been consistent and as clear as a Jermaine Jones yellow card. First, they played a friendly against Belgium and were simply outplayed by a very talented team, losing 4-2. Four days later, they played a friendly against a second-choice Germany squad and got off to a great start before defensive errors forced the team to scramble to hold on for a 4-3 win.
Five days after that, the USA again got off to a very comfortable start in their World Cup qualifier at Jamaica. But a defensive gaffe result in a late goal for Jamaica, before defender Brad Evans scored a goal in the second minute of injury time to reclaim the lead. The United States won 2-1 for their first ever World Cup qualifier win in Jamaica.
And now four days after that, the team beat Panama with a clean sheet and a goal in each half to go on top of the table with 10 points from five matches. The subconscious comparison to Mexico's purgatory of scoreless draws (three in three home matches and four overall) makes the USA's position look even better. But there are no comparisons necessary to decide that the United States is taking steps toward being something other than infuriating.
The USA's passing was quick and accurate against Panama. They finished with clinical precision and their defense showed far fewer lapses and mistakes.
Centerbacks Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are developing better chemistry the more they play. Jozy Altidore has now scored in three straight games and is playing like the man who scored 31 goals for this season's Dutch Cup winner, rather than the guy who was subbed off at halftime against Belgium two weeks ago. And in the absence of midfielder Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron stepped in to allow Michael Bradley to push forward and add to the attack. In other words, they're showing some real team stuff.
Just look at these goals. First, Jozy Altidore's in the 36th minute:
And Eddie Johnson's in the 53rd minute:
See? I wasn't hallucinating. Again, they're not world beaters, and they're only halfway through this final round of qualification so perspective is required. The "We are going to Brazil!" chants were decidedly premature. But an evolution under manager Jurgen Klinsmann is starting to take shape. And this is all without Landon Donovan, who will be rejoining the squad later this summer.
Signs of progress are fun, even if they are contained entirely within two weeks.
Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano earned one of the more bizarre red cards you'll see when he kicked the driver of the injury cart that was transporting him off the pitch during his side's World Cup qualifier in Ecuador. The incident happened in the 87th minute with the score at 1-1 after two goals were scored early in the first half. Mascherano was laying on a stretcher in the back of the cart as it headed towards the tunnel. It's unclear what upset the Barcelona player, but he lashed out and kicked the driver twice before getting out of the cart. Apparently the effects of his injury disappeared once the anger took hold.
The referee then showed him a straight red card, which shocked the notoriously short-tempered Mascherano. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
UPDATE: Mascherano has explained himself and apologized. From ESPN:
Reflecting on the incident, Mascherano said: "I feel ashamed. You must always be against violence. The truth is I made a mistake. It is not nice that you get sent off in such a way, and generate such a controversy."
Asked why he reacted as he did, Mascherano said: "The cart was going too quickly, I was moving around and thought I might fall. We told the medic to go slower, he ignored me and I reacted. But, I repeat, it was not justified."
So, in other words, Mascherano decided to kick the driver in lieu of an emergency of brake. Flawless logic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored both goals in Sweden's 2-0 World Cup qualifier win against the Faroe Islands, but he felt their incessant complaining to the referee throughout the match required further punishment. At one point during the match, Zlatan spoke to the referee with Faroe Islands defender Atli Gregersen. Goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen decided to approach the trio to add his thoughts, but Zlatan shut him up before he could say anything by casually tossing the ball off his face without looking.
Ibrahimovic was lucky not to get booked for the incident, benefiting from the fact that the ref was distracted by his notebook. Of course, if the referee did try to show him a yellow card, he probably would've just thrown the ball off his face next. Such is the wrath of Zlatan.
Haiti shocked Italy by coming up with equalizer in the second minute of injury time to earn a 2-2 draw in Rio. It was Italy's final warm-up match before they take part in the Confederations Cup and though they started with a very experimental line-up, manager Cesare Prandelli still called the result "an embarrassment."
For Haiti, it's a feel-good moment for a country that hasn't had many in recent years. Playing all six of their matches away from home this year, three years on from the earthquake that ravaged Haiti's capital, they had yet to get a result. Losing 2-1 to world champions Spain in Miami on Sunday provided Haiti with a confidence boost and their determination didn't waver, even after Italy scored within 20 seconds of kick-off and went up 2-0 in the 73rd minute. Haiti pulled one back with a penalty in the 85th minute and then a long ball from their own half to Jean Phillipe Peguero, who sped past Italy backline, led to the equalizer.
Haiti rejoiced, and Prandelli could only lament the result. From Football Italia:
“It is certainly a bad result and an embarrassing one, as a draw with Haiti is an embarrassment,” the Coach told Rai Sport.
“We arrived yesterday and made many changes. We should’ve been different in terms of spirit today."
Both this friendly and the one against Spain raised money that will go towards building a new stadium in Port-au-Prince and the general redevelopment of Haiti, so this means far more than just a morale boost. Speaking of which, here's Haiti's Jeff Louis showing up two Italian defenders with a bit of local flair earlier in the match...
Though Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid have parted ways before his contract was up, they still have a common enemies in Barcelona players Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Both players offered strongly negative reviews of Mourinho's time in Spain over the last few days. Mourinho responded and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has come to the defense of his former manager. Because, well, it's the offseason and no has anything better to do.
Xavi was up first. You know, just in case all the other disapproving opinions of Mourinho he's given over the years weren't clear. From Marca:
"I don't want people to think that I always attack Mourinho because it's not my intention, but I obviously don't like the football his sides play," Xavi said in an interview with Barcelona sports newspaper 'Sport'. [...]
Xavi went on to say that Mourinho's Madrid "bears no resemblance [to Real Madrid's past style] and has left no legacy for the future".
Iniesta then followed that up with a harsh critique of his own. From Reuters:
"You just have to look at the facts," Iniesta said in an interview published in Sunday's edition of El Pais newspaper when asked if Mourinho had harmed Spanish football.
"Yes he damaged Spanish football, in general more harm than good," added the 29-year-old.
In the press conference to announce Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea, the Portuguese was asked about Iniesta's comments. He responded: "I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona dominance. ... I hurt them, I hurt them."
And now, Perez has chimed in to back up Mourinho's claim. From The National:
Perez, speaking during an interview with Marca TV, concurred with the 50-year-old's assertion.
"I understand why Xavi and Iniesta are angry with Mourinho, they haven't beaten us in any of the last five games," he said. "It's not a good strategy to criticise your opponent when you don't win."
Referring to Mourinho's comments, Perez then added: "Mourinho ended Barca's period of always beating Madrid, he was right when he said that."
Football Manager has inspired many a gamer emboldened by their virtual success to apply for real-life coaching positions, but for Namibia's new manager Ricardo Mannetti, it actually paid off. On Monday, Roger Palmgren quit as Namibia manager a month after taking the job claiming death threats against his family. So with a World Cup qualifier against Nigeria just 48 hours away, 38-year-old Mannetti was promoted from his role as an assistant seven years after playing Football Manager with his brother in law inspired him to get into coaching.
Mannetti had 55 caps for Namibia and played club football in South Africa until he retired in 2006. It was with his post-retirement free time that his love of Football Manager took hold. From Reuters:
"I wasn't into video games before that, I never had any interest in playing them, but Football Manager captured my imagination," Mannetti told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
"I was always winning and everyone said it proved I would make a good coach."
Shortly after retiring from playing, Mannetti accepted an offer to coach his boyhood club in Windhoek after they were almost relegated.
"I thought 'let me give a shot' and that's how I got into the job," he said.
His skills in the game apparently translated to real life since he won the Namibian Cup and finished second in the league his first season. He coached the Namibian U-20 team for two years before becoming Palmgren's assistant and unexpectedly taking over for him. Now he will really put his Football Manager experience to the test by facing group-leader and Africa Cup of Nations winner Nigeria on his second day in the job.
As overwhelming as that might seem, Reuters adds that Mannetti still has one thing on his mind. "One downside, he added, was that it meant there was no more time for computer games."
Judging by his recent actions, Jose Jimenez of Argentinean lower league side Belle Vista is probably not a PETA member.
During a match in the Tucumán Province against San Juan, a playful stray dog entered the field of play. Jimenez decided the best course of action was to pick it up by its neck and attempt to hurl it over a metal fence, in the same angry fashion as one might throw a bag of burning trash bag into Piers Morgan's back yard.
The dog hit the fence and bounced back onto the field — apparently unharmed — but the shocking behavior was met with a torrent of abuse from the San Juan fans and a deserved red card.
The disgraced Jimenez may as well go and buy a meerkat fur coat and shoes made from otter paws, because his stock with animal rights activists couldn't be any lower right now...
The Confederations Cup begins Saturday in Brazil and Pele wants the the home fans to play nice. Since Brazil automatically qualify for the 2014 World Cup as the host nation, competitive matches have been limited for them, allowing the bitter tastes from their quarterfinal loss to Paraguay in the 2011 Copa America and the gold-medal game loss to Mexico in last summer's Olympics to fester. Now Pele is asking his countrymen not to jeer their team, even if they fail to defend their Confederations Cup title.
“A request to all Brazilians, to those who love Brazilian football, to respect this preparation period before the Confederations Cup,” Pele was quoted as saying by O Povo. “Don’t jeer the team, and don’t bring violence to the stadiums. Let’s host a clean cup - even if the team doesn’t perform well, we should not jeer - and support the players, because they need this."
Brazil are coming off an encouraging 3-0 friendly win against France (and a not so encouraging 2-2 draw against England). Though the tournament is little more than a warm-up for the World Cup, pressure will stil be high on Brazil. Neymar will likely get the brunt of that pressure, especially after his €57-million transfer from Santos to Barcelona.
In April, he got a taste of those jeers Pele is hoping to quiet. From the AP:
He was loudly jeered by home fans after playing poorly in a 2-2 draw in a friendly with Chile.
''Nobody likes to be booed, but I don't really care,'' Neymar said. ''I know what I can do.''
In other words, haters gonna hate. Unless they listen to Pele. Which they probably won't.
Unveiling a new marquee signing's shirt in the club shop has become almost as important as the actual person it represents. Until now, that trend has been limited to actual footballers, but Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea has extended that prime merchandising opportunity to managers, as well.
To coincide with Mourinho's first press conference back with the club — in which he decided his nickname should change from the "Special One" tag he adopted nine years ago to the "Happy One" – Chelsea rolled out a line of Mourinho apparel. Including "Special 1" printing on next season's home (pictured above) and away shirts in men's, women's and children's sizes. But wait! There's more...
The Godfather style Mourinho silhouette shirt. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez should be getting a horse's head in his bed any day now.
"The Special One — Jose is back" shirt. You know, just in case you forget, you can look down at your shirt and remember the good news.
How long before clubs start making up nicknames with numerical tie-ins for managers just so they can print shirts to fill the shop racks?
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal in Portugal's friendly at Croatia on Monday and after he did so, he celebrated by looking out to the stand behind the goal with a big smile and did a "I can't hear you" gesture. Who was this celebration aimed at? Well, there are a few possibilities.
-The Croatian fans: Ronaldo has a bit of history with Croatian supporters. After a Champions League match between Dinamo Zagreb and Real Madrid in 2011, Ronaldo was asked why the home fans jeered him throughout the match. His response: "It is because I am handsome, rich and a great player, because I am envied. I have no other explanation." If the Croatian supporters were giving him a hard time again, this could've been his way of saying he isn't bothered.
-Jose Mourinho: Before Portugal's World Cup qualifier against Russia on Friday, Ronaldo was asked about Mourinho's recent comments about how he "thinks he knows everything." Ronaldo responded by saying, "You think I'm worried about that? I'm concerned with the national team, that's what matters most to me not the opinion of others." Maybe Mourinho was the one he's not listening to?
-Everyone: Perhaps most likely, he could've just been issuing a general warning to the world of "I'm sorry, but I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am."
Picking up where he left off in his subdued interview with Chelsea TV last week after the announcement that he would return to the club, Jose Mourinho finally granted his fan club — the press — an audience on Monday. In the press conference, the words of the day were ones like "calm" and "stability" and Mourinho's demeanor reinforced those themes. Still, Jose Mourinho is Jose Mourinho and could give an interesting press conference with a vicious hangover. Here are the best bits from his latest show (via The Independent)...
We all remember your first press conference. Are you still a special one?
"I’m the happy one. [...] In this moment, if I have to describe myself, I describe myself as a very happy person. You know, it’s the first time I arrive in a club where I already love the club because, before, I was arriving and I had to do the emotional relation. I only came to love the club in time. This is a new feeling, arriving at a club where I love it already."
...mostly because Iker Casillas isn't here.
You fell out with Roman Abramovich. How did the relationship get patched up?
"That’s not true, as a start. That’s not true. I read and I kept listening I was fired, I was sacked, we had a complete break of relationships. That was not true. Many people didn’t believe in that, but it was mutual agreement. At the time we thought it was best for both of us, me and the club. It was a sad moment. [...] Only because there was never a break of a relation, it’s possible I’m here today. It wouldn’t be possible being here if we’d had real problems, no relations. I’m back because we feel we are in a moment of my professional life – and in the case of the owner also a moment of his career as an owner – where we are probably in the best moment of our careers, and ready to work together again and with much better conditions this time to succeed and have what this club wants: which is stability."
This a different account of the break-up from what the BBC published on Sunday. But Mourinho shouting "You can't fire me because I quit!" and then sticking his fingers in his ears and humming as he strolled out of the room seems very likely.
"I’m very calm, very relaxed, but at the same time there’s something I want very clear: I didn’t choose for my career a comfortable position because I’m returning to a house where I was happy and successful and where the fans love me. No. I’m coming with exactly the opposite perspective. I have more responsibility because of that. The expectations are higher because people know what I can deliver. I want to give you that message."
In other words, he chose a comfortable position because he was tired of being surrounded by people who didn't like him in Madrid, but he doesn't want you to think that comfort equals a lack of ambition.
Have you been affected by what happened in Spain?
"If I have to choose a nickname for this period, I’d choose ‘the happy one’ because I’m very happy."
This might be Mourinho's new daily affirmation. When he wakes up in the morning, he keeps repeating "I'm the Happy One...I'm very happy..." until he starts to believe it.
Do you want more stability?
"Yes, and now I'm prepared for that. Before I wasn't. I had always this kind of mentality. Today's June 10, Portuguese Day, a day of Portugal. I am Portuguese. I always love adventure, like Portuguese ones in the past. I was always a bit of a navigator, but I did always what I wanted to do. [...] Now it's up to me to show I deserve to be here for a long time. I have a contract for four years. I hope to go the last day of that contract. If the club then wants me to stay, I'll be more than happy."
So does that mean Roman Abramovich is really Portuguese too?
"I can't say which press I prefer, but you're not the worst."
Translation: "I like you and I hate Spain."
"I was, in the last three years, playing in a two-horse race. Now I move to a league where you lose more times, lose more points, but the competition is open. It's not just the two."
Translation: "Again, Spain is dumb."
John Terry is captain, but he was sidelined by Benitez. What did you think of that?
"One of my good qualities – I have some bad ones – is that I don't speak about a club when I leave it, and when I arrive at one I don't like to comment on what happened before me. For me, not one word about Benitez's decisions, either on John or another player."
He reserves all his comments on Benitez's decisions for the late-night prank phone calls he makes to Benitez's house four days a week.
Andres Iniesta said you've damaged Spanish football? Do you have any regrets?
"I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona dominance. They were dominant, and dominant, and dominant, and it looked like a dominance without an end. Real Madrid won a cup final against Barcelona, Real Madrid won the Super Cup against Barcelona, Real Madrid won in Barcelona, and Real Madrid won the championship, which is the historic championship of 100 points and 121 goals. I hurt them, I hurt them."
"MWAHAHAHAHAHA," he concluded on the inside.
"I can control my emotions better now, whether that is in victory or in defeat."
"For example, I didn't call Andres Iniesta a tiny vampire with a receding hairline and I haven't jabbed anyone in the eyeball in at least a week."
What are your weaknesses?
"If I speak of them, I have to say I'm trying to improve them. You don't speak about weaknesses with your enemy, and my enemy will read the papers and watch television. We hide our weaknesses. Every player, manager has weaknesses. You have to try to hide them. So I'm not giving that chance for the enemy... with respect because, in sports, an enemy is not really an enemy. I know my weaknesses, not much... not many... but I try to improve and hide them."
Rather than immediately rub the victory into the faces of their fierce Rome rivals, Lazio fans showed the utmost pretend decorum and pseudo-respect by waiting until Saturday to stage a joke funeral procession, complete with play-acting priests and mock mourners...
Around 4,000 Biancazzurri fans gathered near Rome's Ponte Milvio to pay their imitation respects to a team they have beaten in four of the last five Derby della Capitale meetings.
Italian fans appear to be quite partial to allegorical grieving ceremonies: last summer Milan supporters left funeral arrangements outside the club's offices when they sold off Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But as we all know, Silvio Berlusconi made (yet another) deal with the devil and the Rossoneri defied their pre-season awfulness to become inexplicably good last season. Lazio fans will hope their funeral fun will not have a similarly revitalizing effect on Roma.
With the score 0-0 shortly before halftime in an Argentine Primera Division match on Saturday, Belgrano keeper Juan Carlos Olave stopped San Martin striker Claudio Riano at the top of the box by spearing him in the midsection with his boot. Olave was shown a yellow for his frowned upon technique, but San Martin eventually got their revenge by scoring twice in the final 16 minutes of the match to win 2-0.
This has been the Dirty Tackle of the Day: a chronicling of unfortunate events.
Belgium beat Serbia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier on Friday with Kevin De Bruyne scoring the match's first goal. In CNN's recap of the day's matches, they shared the startling revelation that De Bruyne "could be the next Belgian to move to the Premier League -- he's being linked with Chelsea." De Bruyne, who signed with Chelsea at the end of the January 2012 transfer window, spent last season on loan at Werder Bremen.
Be sure to check back to CNN for more breaking news like:
-Cristiano Ronaldo could join Real Madrid.
-Manchester City are a top pick to win the 2012 Premier League title.
-Qatar is a shock contender to host the 2022 World Cup!
Norway eliminated England from the European U-21 Championship with a 3-1 win — a victory so comfortable that at least one Norway fan was spotted doing some knitting at the end of the game. England are in last place in Group A with a pair of losses in their first two matches and one left to play (against Israel).
Perhaps the England players will take a cue from this Norwegian fan and actually get something productive done during that final match.
On the back of beating Germany's B team in a friendly last weekend, The United States took a 2-1 win in a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica to avenge a painful loss there in the previous round of qualifying. After the USA surrendered the lead built by a 30th-minute Jozy Altidore goal in the 89th minute, defender Brad Evans scored a surprising winner in the second minute of injury time to snatch back three points for his side. It was ultimately an encouraging, yet flawed performance. So let's get to the facts of the night:
-USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann used the same starting XI that he did in the match against Germany, marking the first time he has ever repeated a starting XI in his two years with the team.
-This was Brad Evans' first international goal of his career (10 caps in four years). He celebrated that momentous occasion by completely cover his head in his shirt like a blind luchador. From now on he shall be known as The Headless Goalman.
-Despite his anonymity protecting celebration, Evans will have a nation's worth of free drink and child-bearing offers waiting for him when he returns home.
-This was the first time the USA has ever won a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica. Yes, ever.
-It shouldn't require a 92nd minute goal to take back the lead and get a win against winless Jamaica.
-Jozy Altidore has now scored in each of his last two matches after going two years without scoring from the run of play. Here's his latest:
-Graham Zusi, who has benefitted from Landon Donovan's absence from the team, set up both of those goals for Altidore. It's no coincidence that the man who scored 31 times for AZ Alkmaar this season starts scoring again for the national team when he finally gets some service.
-At the moment, Zusi and Altidore go together like pizza and more pizza.
-In the USA's 2-1 loss at Jamaica last year, both of Jamaica's goals were scored from set pieces. This time, Jermaine Beckford's goal was again scored from a free kick. There's a trend here. It needs to be fixed.
-The fault lines in the USA defense were once again evident well before Jamaica scored their goal. Against an opponent with a better attack, this will be far more disastrous.
-That said, the USA didn't even need the opposing goalkeeper to let in a ridiculous own goal to win this time. Progress!
-Michael Bradley, who set up Evans' goal, is really, really good. You knew that already, but it still needs to be said.
-Though the USA is in good position with seven points from four matches and two games at home later this month, treachery could still be afoot. Only last-place Jamaica are outside of striking distance from the three automatic qualification spots.
-Elsewhere, Mexico now have four draws (three of them scoreless) in five matches. That's as odd as it is surprising.
It's been a relatively calm and fruitful period for Mario Balotelli since he joined Milan from Man City in January. But in the second half of Italy's World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, Balotelli's old proclivity for getting sent off popped up at an inopportune time. The 22-year-old was booked twice in a span of four minutes for a couple of needless fouls, resulting in a sending off in the 72nd minute. Balotelli then let out his frustration by punching one wall of the tunnel and kicking the other (1:00 into the video above).
You could argue that the second yellow was a bit soft, but after the match, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli said that Balotelli needs to manage his temper better. From Football Italia:
“Balotelli has to learn how to accept situations and he needs to grow in that sense. We will drum that message into him. I was going to substitute him, but I didn’t have time,” confessed Prandelli.
The match between group leaders Italy and the third-place Czechs ended in a 0-0 draw. Italy remain undefeated through seven matches in this final stage of qualifying.
UPDATE: After sleeping on it, Mario Balotelli decided to apologize for getting sent off. From his Twitter account:
.. Buon giorno.. Ieri la mia reazione non è stata giusta ,chiedo scusa.. SCUSA.. Alla mia squadra .. Devo imparare... Ancora..
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted that his primary interest in wantaway Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is an unquenchable thirst for revenge. Last summer, Arsenal begrudgingly sold the Premier League's top scorer, Robin van Persie, to the eventual Premier League champions. Now, Wenger craves a chance to turn the tables.
"There are obviously strikers who are cheaper, younger and better than Rooney," Wenger told reporters. "But the opportunity to beat Manchester United with their poster boy makes my body tingle more than listening to Sade's greatest hits at a nudist camp. Normally the thought of spending £200,000 a week on the wages of one player makes me want to crawl into the fetal position and have Steve Bould spray me with a fire hose, but this would be so worth it."
Wenger's admission comes after Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis declared that the club will dramatically increase the funds available to bolster the squad this summer and that they can now afford Rooney's massive cost and more. Manchester United, meanwhile, have denied that Rooney is for sale even though he was excluded from their final match of the season after requesting a transfer for the second time in three years.
"I don't have to waste my time with players like Gervinho and Chamakh anymore," Wenger concluded while standing atop a table. "Now I can buy expensive ones like Rooney and Fernando Torres. I might even pay to have Lionel Messi hypnotized and use him as a goalkeeper. Arsene Wenger has money now and I'm going to spend it like a meth-addicted Qatari sheikh. Eat my cash and repent! Repent!"
Michael Essien is hosting a charity match in Ghana and to raise awareness, he enlisted some of his Real Madrid teammates to record a video message. The tricky part? He asked them to do it in English.
The last time a Real Madrid player attempted to record a message in the foreign tongue, it was Sergio Ramos and he was mocked by a lower division club. This time, Ramos did not take part, but the likes of Marcelo, Kaka, Luka Modric and Ricardo Carvalho struggled with it in his place.
Cristiano Ronaldo proficiently enough, but things quickly go down hill when Marcelo says his name is Michael Essien. Sami Khedira took the task very seriously, while Carvalho expressed his support for "the game of dope." Karim Benzema didn't even try and Mesut Ozil eventually said the line like he was trying to pick you up at a bar.
Anyway, credit to all for trying and hopefully we can turn Carvalho's game of dope into a reality in the near future.
Jordan manager Adnan Hamad was detained and held for about four hours by immigration officials at Melbourne Airport when his team arrived ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Australia on Tuesday. Both Jordan and Australia are on seven points in Group B of the AFC's fourth round of qualifying. Australia are ahead of Jordan on goal difference and currently sit third behind Japan and Oman, respectively, who have both played one more game than the rest of the five-team group.
According to Reuters, Australia's Foreign Minister called Jordan's ambassador to express regret over the incident, but not apologize. There was apparently a breakdown in communication between the Jordanian Football Association (JFA) and Football Federation Australia (FFA) at the airport in the lead up to Hamad, a former player and manager for Iraq's national team, being held to "confirm his immigration status."
The JFA complained that no-one had been made available to help them with their entry into Australia, as agreed with Football Federation Australia (FFA).
The FFA said they had sent two personnel to meet the Jordan delegation, but had no control over customs.
Australia central defender Sasa Ognenovski gave a wry smile when asked on Friday about the incident.
"Maybe customs were trying to hold them back or something," he told reporters in Melbourne.
"Maybe (Australia coach) Holger (Osieck) had something to do with it."
If Holger Osieck did have a hand in this, he should be thankful Australia already visited Jordan (where Jordan won 2-1) because there would probably be many, many cavity searches in his future if they hadn't.
Japan have already qualified, leaving just one more automatic bid left in the group, while the third-place finisher will have to play a two-legged playoff against the third-place finisher in Group A. The winner of that will then play the fifth-place finisher in CONCACAF for a hard earned place in the World Cup.
Immigration officials in all participating countries are likely at the ready.
Ukraine U-21 captain Olesandr Noyok was booked twice in a matter of seconds during a match against Austria, resulting in a sending off for a dumb combination of moves. Noyok was first booked for a very poor two-footed tackle from behind on an Austrian player. He didn't offer much protest as the referee showed him a yellow card, but as he walked away from the official someone kicked the ball his way, so he instinctively backheeled it.
Unfortunately, for Noyok, that move sent the ball into the face of an unsuspecting second opponent, who fell to his knees. The referee saw the whole thing and showed Noyok another yellow and sent him off as the player appeared to try and argue that it was just an accident.
Noyok probably shouldn't have touched the ball at all, but in his defense, he probably couldn't have executed that face shot again if he tried.
This has been the Dirty Tackle of the Day: a chronicling of unfortunate events.
Finishing a distant second to Man United in the Premier League last season has prompted Man City to get back to their big spending ways and their latest acquisition is 28-year-old Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho. According to Shakhtar Donetsk's official website, City ponied up €40 million for the man with just five caps for Brazil (four in 2011, one in 2012).
Though Fernandinho has helped Shakhtar to six Ukrainian Premier League titles and a UEFA Cup win in his eight seasons with the club, the price seems a bit inflated for a player of his age and credentials coming from a league like Ukraine's. Then again, City did pay a then British record €42.5 million for Robinho in 2008 and €30 million for Samir Nasri in 2011. So on that bizarro world scale, it makes a bit more sense.
A special farewell match for former German captain Michael Ballack, who retired last year, was held in Leipzig, Germany and featured an interesting mix of stars. The "Ballack and Friends" team included the likes of Miroslav Klose, Dietmar Hamann and Torsten Frings, while the "World Team" included The Continental himself (Dimitar Berbatov), Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko, Philipp Lahm and Jose Mourinho as manager.
Despite all those big names and the fact that it was Ballack's curtain call, Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker ended up being the star of the night with his impromptu skill show all over Didier Drogba. The 6'6" defender took the ball off Drogba in the box with a delightful spin move that probably made Didier question his very existence.
Here are some photos from the game...
Michael Ballack wears a shirt that says goodbye to himself (in Italian, for some reason).
The whole gang.
"Don't worry. I was just joking about inviting Iker Casillas."
Jogi Low wonders how he can strip Ballack of the captaincy in his own farewell match.
Can you guess which of Ballack's three sons is not enjoying this?
Bolton have reversed their decision to enter a two-year shirt sponsorship agreement with QuickQuid less than two weeks after announcing the deal with the payday loan company. Public outcry and a petition started by fans of the club prompted Bolton's quick rethink.
The club have taken on board feedback from our fan base and following discussions between Chairman Phil Gartside and several local and national politicians, including Leader of Bolton Council Cliff Morris, will no longer be entering into a sponsorship agreement with QuickQuid. [...]
Whilst we anticipated some negative responses from the initial agreement, we underestimated the adverse reaction to the sector of business in which the sponsor operated. We undertook significant research into QuickQuid and were satisfied that they were a regulated and responsible lender.
The petition, which currently has 4,476 supporters, features the following rallying call:
Bolton Wanderers is a family club. It has been at the centre of community life in Bolton for more than 125 years.
That is why so many fans are upset that the club has done a deal with the payday lending company Quick Quid. Payday loan companies charge sky-high rates of interest and are looking to exploit people who have fallen on hard times. In this tough economic climate, that includes many Bolton fans.
Last year, a 36-year-old father from Bolton killed himself by setting himself on fire after being hassled by payday loan companies.
We are asking for the board, and the Chairman, Phil Gartside, to reconsider the club's decision to endorse payday lending by allowing Quick Quid to sponsor the kit.
According to the Independent, Sheffield Wednesday declined a "lucrative" sponsorship deal with a payday lender last month, citing reservations about the company's business model and the belief that "this partnership would not have been welcomed by the majority of our supporters.”
Instead of QuickQuid, Bolton will now have FibrLec, a local sustainable energy company connected to the University of Bolton, as the shirt sponsor for the next two years. Bolton's previous shirt sponsor was an online bookmaker.
In a time when fans often feel helpless to the money hungry whims of club owners, this decision comes not long after another petition convinced Everton to scrap and apologize for widely hated redesign of the club's badge. If supporters shout loud enough, they can still be heard. Unless they're shouting at the Glazers, a Sheikh, a Russian oligarch or Arsenal's board of directors.
The wind is the worst. It powered the ships that made pirates and vikings do terrible things. It makes old houses sound like they're haunted. And it causes goalkeepers to inadvertently score own goals when they're attempting routine clearances.
In Italy, a strong gust conspired against Delta Porto Tolle's keeper in their Serie D match with Ischia, gifting a 2-0 lead the away side after 31 minutes. The match finished 2-1 to the visitors, meaning the wind was technically responsible for the win. If it is possible to sign bulk movements of air to a football squad, Ischia should definitely look into it for next season.
As he was on his way out of Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho mentioned the one quibble he had with the supremely talented Cristiano Ronaldo during their time together. From Reuters:
"I had only one problem with him, very simple, very basic, which was when a coach criticises a player from a tactical viewpoint trying to improve what in my view could have been improved," [Mourinho] added.
"And at that moment he didn't take it very well because maybe he thinks he knows everything and the coach cannot help him to develop more."
So just to remind Cristiano that we are all flawed creatures, here are several things he doesn't know...
Mexico finally notched a win in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, beating Jamaica 1-0 after three straight draws. It wasn't a particularly inspiring performance from either side, but one area in particular that Jamaica will want to work on before hosting the USA on Friday is throw-ins.
At a few points during the match against Mexico, Jamaica had inexplicable trouble with their throw-ins — the worst of which came just before halftime when 18-year-old defender Alvas Powell had second thoughts mid-throw. The ball slipped out of his hands and his attempt to catch it failed, so the ball dribbled onto the pitch in a sad sort of way.
The referee ruled Powell's miscue an illegal throw-in and gave Mexico a crack at it, which went much better.
A few weeks ago, a Fenerbahce fan was stabbed to death at a bus stop by a pair of Galatasaray fans following an end-of-season derby match. Suffice to say, the feeling between supporters Istanbul's big three clubs — Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas — is one of passionate hatred and loathing.
Thanks to ongoing political protests in the Turkish city, however, fans of the three teams have come together to fight the same cause for the first time.
What started as a peaceful sit-in protest over the proposed redevelopment of Istanbul's historic Taksim Square has now evolved into a full-scale demonstration against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government. Fans have put their differences aside to challenge the authoritarian regime, and a picture of three rival supporters with their arms around each other has been circulating on Twitter:
"Go on spray, go on spray, spray your pepper gas. Take off your helmets, put down your truncheons and let's see who's the tough guy," sang the fans, taunting police with a Besiktas chant which has become popular with the demonstrators.
There are tales of Galatasaray fans coming to the aid of Fenerbahce supporters trapped by the police, or of fans rushing down the hill from Taksim to the aid of rival supporters in the nearby Besiktas district on the shores of the Bosphorus.
"We are normally enemies, but this has really brought us together. It's never happened before," said university student Mert Gurses, 18, wearing a black-and-white Besiktas scarf and chatting with friends near the fish market in Besiktas.
For now, the rival Istanbul fans seem content to stand beside one another in peace and focus their energies on encouraging political change. When the new football season fires up in August, however, the hugging and mutual respect is probably going to come to a very abrupt end.