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EURO GUIDE | TEAM BREAKDOWNS 2012 :: Issue 39 | Contents 004 Premier League Talk of the Toon Shockers Around the EPL Rooney Redemption 010 Serie A Around Serie A Surprises Pirlo Profile

In This Issue >> 2

[soccer360 magazine]

022 MLS Around MLS Kris Boyd Spotlight 026 Euro 2012 Guide 28 Germany Profile 30 England Profile 32 Italy Profile 34 Spain Profile

014 La Liga Around La Liga Surprises Silva Spotlight

036 Group A 36 Poland 37 Greece 38 Russia 39 Czech Republic

018 Bundesliga Around the Bundesliga Surprises Schweinsteiger Profile

040 Group B 40 Denmark 41 Netherlands 42 Portugal 44 Germany

046 Group C 46 Spain 48 Italy 50 Republic of Ireland 51 Croatia 052 Group C 52 England 53 Ukraine 54 Sweden 55 France 056 Euro Flashback 058 Off the Pitch 062 2014 Road to Rio 064 Extra Time


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PREMIER LEAGUE SURPRISES After being serial underachievers for so long and after losing three top players over the summer, a gloomy campaign was predicted for Newcastle. But they have been the season’s Premier League surprise sides. Dave Taylor checks out the history behind their excellent run.

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ust hours after Newcastle lost 3-1 to West Bromwich in December 2010, well-liked boss Chris Hughton was sacked with former Charlton manager Alan Pardew taking over. Then just two months later, the club’s hated owner, Mike Ashley, wrote another chapter in his long-running comedy of incompetence and sold local striking hero Andy Carroll. For the angry fans it was the last straw as they tore up season tickets, boycotted games and threatened Ashley, who was advised by police to avoid the stadium. Fast forward 15 months to April 2012 and Pardew has introduced a new team ethos, personnel and an understanding of what is expected from a professional wearing a Toon shirt. With the team performing beyond all expectations, they gained revenge on West Brom, winning 3-1, drew level with Chelsea in fifth place on 50 points, four more than all last season, and surprisingly put themselves within touching distance of a Champions League place. And despite Pardew publicly thinking to the contrary, midfielder Cheick Tiote believes a place in Europe’s premier club competition is possible. “It will be a big thing for us to play in the Europe League and that is the first target but why shouldn’t we also be thinking about the Champions League?” he asked. “Who knows? We’ve got ourselves into a good position, expect to win every game and there is confidence throughout the team.” Certainly if the Ivorian hardman plays anything like he did in the 2-0 win over Liverpool recently, the task is not beyond them. Their fantastic campaign owes a lot to a manager who knows what he wants and is always confident in his ability to achieve it. “I had a good record, good experience, I worked well with young players – and I want to win something,” explained Pardew. “To finish ninth is not success for this club. We play in front of 52,000 fans, which will always attract players and we have to use it to our advantage. Newcastle have made mistakes before but it won’t happen again. We are more in control of games this year and have looked the dominant force at times. Man Utd was the pinnacle of that.” The January 3-0 win over the champions was an affirmation of everything Pardew is attempting to accomplish. The Magpies flew straight at United, controlled the midfield and stopped them playing their normal game by pressing high up the field and winning the physical and aerial battles around both goalmouths. With Argentinian international wingback Jonas Gutierrez and winger Ben Arfa a French international at all levels, his on-field architects, the 50-year-old Coach seems to have expertly engineered his resources and imbued a winning mentality. “Teams are going to be intimidated when they come here,” he continued. “This is a big club with big players like Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul so we do not have to fear anybody. The most important thing is to have a team that looks like it’s going forward and we have that. The next phase is getting a system of playing right through the club to give us an underbelly to the first-team. It’s what we are trying to do now.” There are definite signs of this phase working already with both the reserve side and the academy team topping their leagues. “That’s also a lot of the unseen work and a lot of investment,” he added. That investment has included the monies received from selling Carroll for £35m, Jose Enrique for £6m and Kevin Nolan for £4m last summer, which was reinvested and with an outlay of just over £26m left a rare positive cash flow in their transfer dealings. Despite the loss of three of their best players, plus Joey Barton, their excellent scouting system, headed by the omniscient Graham Carr, brought in top class replacements. The principal buys - Italian international left back Davide Santon (£5m), skilful midfielders Arfa (£4m) and Yohan Cabaye (£4.5m) along with the free-scoring Senegalese striker Demba Ba (Bosman) - all arrived over the summer. In January that acute opportunist Papiss Cissé (£9m) arrived, scoring seven in seven by the end of March. So is Pardew happy with the rebuilding, does he feel it’s complete? “The rebuilding is never finished, we have to try and move forward,” he replied. “We are trying to compete with teams that have twice our budget and wage bill. We’ve got to try and bridge that gap by looking a little left field in terms of the transfer market. “Me and my staff have managed to unearth a few gems but you’ve got to back it up and this summer we’ve got to make sure we get it right again, otherwise we will never bridge the gap. It is important we bring in the players that fit in quickly and take us forward. We are making sure we don’t miss a Cabaye or a Demba Ba.” Whether they do or not, it is certainly a long way from the days when former manager Kevin Keegan asked about two new arrivals and was told to ‘check them out on You Tube.’ Pardew certainly has a more harmonious relationship with the board than that and his compelling belief is reflected throughout the club, with both the reserves and the academy teams topping their leagues. “My players have been fantastic in their application and their attitude has been first-class and is typical of them,” he reflected. “When you have had success, teams will try to nullify you and work on ways to beat you and you have got to keep asking different questions.” The Toon have certainly demanded a different debate from many of their pre-season critics and even surprised some of their fans but whether they can hold on to a top six spot come May is another question. Yet if they continue to show the style they displayed at West Brom and more recently against Liverpool, with Cisse describing Arfa as Newcastle’s Lionel Messi, it just might not be too hard.

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NEWCASTLE'S LEGENDARY NO 9's Although not up with England’s top clubs in honours won, Newcastle have always led the way when it comes to goalscoring heroes in the No 9 shirt. That’s true even today with Papiss Demba Cissé fast becoming a cult legend. The club’s newest recruit did what generations of Geordies have dreamt about and scored a stunning strike in front of the Gallowgate End on his debut. Until the end of March he had averaged a goal a game and the Senegalese international looks to have a great future in English football. But it’s quite a list he’s trying to join: Hughie Gallacher

Jackie Milburn

Len White

Wyn Davies

Malcolm MacDonald

Micky Quinn

Andy Cole

Les Ferdinand

Alan Shearer

The Scot joined Newcastle as a 22-year-old from Scottish side Airdrieonians. In 1926-27 he was made captain and the Toon won their first title for almost two decades. He scored a total of 143 goals in 174 appearances before leaving for Chelsea in 1930. ‘Wor Jackie’ is the club’s second highest scorer with 200 goals over his 12-year career. The uncle of the Charlton brothers was the first of the local born No 9s and was such a beloved player that they renamed the old west stand at the stadium after him. The Yorkshire born striker is third on the list of all-time goalscorers, scoring 153 goals between 1952 and 1962 and took over the celebrated shirt from Milburn, who left in 1957. The Welshman was integral to the winning of Newcastle’s Fairs Cup win in 1969 and scored 53 goals between 1966 and 1971 before leaving for Manchester City. ‘Supermac’ was a massive crowd favourite and joined from Luton in 1971. His bustling style saw him average a goal every two games with 95 scored in 187 appearances. Won his first England cap with the Toon and moved to Arsenal in 1976 for £333,333.33, The moustachioed striker was a similar player to Supermac and used his often criticised weight to good effect, scoring 59 goals in 115 games Bought from Bristol City for £1.75m in February 1993 and scored a fabulous 68 goals in 81 games, breaking the club record with 41 goals in all competitions in his second season. Moved to Manchester United in February 1995 for a then British record fee of £7m. Replaced Cole in 1995 and went on to score a staggering 29 goals in his first season. Was the inspiration in two title challenges and eventually left for Tottenham in 1997 after scoring 50 goals in only 84 games The irrepressible club hero was a boyhood Newcastle fan and cost Newcastle a world record transfer fee of £15m in1996. The club’s alltime leading goalscorer with 206 goals, he retired in 2006, only to become manager for a short period in 2009. Would have probably scored a lot more during his tenyear tenure if not for several niggling injuries. A true Geordie legend.


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PREMIER LEAGUE SHOCKERS In a season full of surprises other than Newcastle’s rise, Dave Taylor looks at some of the Premiership’s biggest and best

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Former Arsenal legend and leading scorer Thierry Henry returned to the Emirates on loan in January for two months from New York Red Bulls. The 34-year-old former speed merchant surprised his critics with three goals against Blackburn, Leeds and the crucial winner against Sunderland before returning to the MLS.

the appointment of the legendary Kenny 4 After Dalglish as Liverpool manager, a £100m plus spend on Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez, Stuart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Jose Enrique, was thought they would have been challenging for a top four spot. Surprisingly they are surviving just above midtable. disastrous exit from Europe by the 5 The Premiership’s two leading teams Manchester United and City was truly monumental. First they failed to progress out of the Champions League group stages but a bigger surprise came when both were knocked out the subsequent Europa Cup games by allegedly weaker underdogs, Athletic Bilbao and Sporting Lisbon. a sensational act of selfishness, Manchester 6 InCity’s substitute Argentinian Carlos Tevez, refused to leave the bench when told to warm up by manager Roberto Mancini. It was during October’s Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich and Mancini vowed Tevez would never again play for City. However, in March he appeared as a sub against Chelsea. Equally surprisingly, many City’s fans welcomed him back. three straight defeats in December, 7 Following Blackburn seemed destined for the drop, especially with the next two games away to Liverpool and Manchester United. Yet against all the odds Steve Kean’s side held the former to a 1-1 draw while in beating United 3-2 they even surprised themselves. They have since climbed out of the relegation zone and could escape what once seemed certain doom.

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The retired Paul Scholes’ return to Manchester United even surprised his ex-teammates. The first they knew about it was when the ‘Ginger Ninja’ was seen on the sub’s bench for the FA Cup clash with Manchester City in January. Reports suggest that Scholesy missed football and certainly United missed his organisation and tenacity in midfield. His return coincided with them going back to the top of the table.

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During the home game against Bolton in March, QPR’s Clint Hill headed an obvious goal only for linesman Bob Pollock to disallow it. Everyone in the stadium, even the Bolton players, knew it went at least a foot over the line. Surprisingly the referee backed his myopic linesman and the goal was dismissed. Calls for goal line technology were louder than ever. 6

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Grant Holt became the first player 8 Norwich’s to score in every professional Division after starting his career with non-League sides Workington and Barrow. At the start of the season he was not even a first team regular but surprised everyone by scoring his first goal against Chelsea, his second against Liverpool and becoming Norwich’s top scorer as well as being linked with England. losing to Milan and Sunderland in February 9 After Arsenal were trailing 2-0 to Tottenham. Then out of the blue, goals from Bacary Sagna, Robin Van Persie, Tomas Rosicky and a Theo Walcott brace meant at 5-2 Arsenal were the surprise comeback kings of the week. pundits had Queens Park Rangers best 10 Most bets of the promoted teams to survive in the Premiership. However, it’s been Norwich and Swansea who have surprised everyone, with their performances exceeding all expectations. of the biggest and most surprising score11 Two lines this season have involved Manchester United at Old Trafford. In August Arsenal knew it would tough but no one expected them to lose 8-2. The second was all the more surprising as it was also unexpected as cross-town rivals Manchester City beat them 6-1 in October. One of the biggest surprises was Newcastle

12 owner Mike Ashley giving away one of the club’s best players Joey Barton for nothing. Ashley’s ego was so big that when Barton criticised the club on Twitter, it was seen as unforgivable and he was offloaded to QPR on a free transfer, just to get him out the club.


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Tevez to swop for Ronaldo?

Hoddle wants England return

Following Fabio Capello’s shock resignation as England boss, former manager Glenn Hoddle threw his hat into the ring to lead his country again at this summer’s European Championships. The ex-Spurs star lost the England job in 1999 after controversial comments about disabled people and has not coached a team since leaving Wolves in 2006. Capello quit as England boss in February after the FA’s unilateral decision to take the captaincy off Chelsea’s John Terry pending a court case over alleged racist remarks. Current Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is clear favourite to replace him. But Hoddle, 54, feels he could do a good job as caretaker. “Stuart Pearce, Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson, myself - anyone who went to the tournament with the status of a caretaker would have the pressure off him. The players would be liberated, too, not least those who have been on the fringes and are accustomed to thinking that the manager doesn’t fancy them. Look at how a caretaker has worked for the England rugby team in the Six Nations they’ve done fantastically.” Terry Venables, another ex-England boss, disagrees. He thinks Redknapp should be appointed as England manager straight away to give the team the best chance of success at Euro 2012, and feels the delay in naming him could harm England. England’s players will have a week off at the end of the Premier League season before gathering for their first warmup game against Norway on May 26 and Venables says that six days is nowhere long enough for the new man to prepare. In total the new manager is expected to have just 11 days with his squad before departing for the tournament. By comparison, Venables had two-and-a-half years to plan for Euro 96 when he led England to the semis.

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Manchester City could break the bank to land Cristiano Ronaldo this summer. The cash-rich Premier League side are said to be putting together an eye-watering financial package that will offer Real Madrid a world record-equalling £80m for the player, and Ronaldo himself wages of between £400k and £500k-a-week. There could even be some sort of swop deal planned with bad boy Carlos Tevez moving the other way. City owner Sheik Mansour is known to be a big admirer of the Portuguese star and has shown interest in bringing him back to the Premier League before. It was reported last May that City were prepared to break the bank to land Ronaldo - later denied by the club. Ronaldo himself later claimed that he could have doubled his money by moving to the Etihad. Nothing came to fruition then and Ronaldo went on to enjoy

[soccer360 magazine]

another stunning seasons with Real Madrid, scoring 45 goals from 43 appearances in all competitions. But now it’s claimed, City are prepared to move again. Tevez was left stranded after the mid-winter transfer market slammed shut, leaving him isolated at City – and deprived of an incredible £9.3 million in earnings due to his ongoing feud with the club. The Argentinian was hoping to secure a move before the closure of January›s transfer window. The 27-year-old eventually returned to the fold for the Premier title run-in but seems certain to depart in the summer. AC Milan, Inter Milan and Paris St Germain all showed an interest in December but no transfer materialised. A Madrid move could be different. That he’s returned at all in the blue shirt is still a shock to some people after his five-month ‘walk-out’.

Former Liverpool hero Mark Lawrenson, now a BBC pundit, says what Tevez has done rankles with most professionals. “Yet I think most are pragmatic enough to accept Manchester City must use and abuse him now, to get something out of the situation. They can forgive, but they don’t have to forget. So City can use him when they need to turn games and keep them in the title race... and then dump him in the summer. In the process, Tevez may add some value to his price tag too, so the club gets some return on their investment. “Roberto Mancini doesn’t need that aggro, because he already gets it from Mario Balotelli. He’s got 2530 first-team professionals there, and he can’t spend 80 per cent of his time looking after only two of them, when the rest turn up and do their job properly every day.”

Balotelli barges in….

Mario Balotelli has made the headlines for many odd events in England since signing for Manchester City. But he grabbed them again in his home country when he bizarrely burst in on an Inter Milan press conference. The striker, who used to play for the Italian giants, made his unexpected appearance as new manager Andrea Stramaccioni was being unveiled following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. The 21-year-old parked a red Ferrari outside the Press briefing, burst in and for reasons still unknown simply shook hands with those behind the top table, wished the new manager luck, and left without so much as an explanation. Balotelli and the rest of his City teammates had been given a couple of days off by manager Roberto Mancini, who himself jetted to Europe where he was seen in Bosnia.

…and Mancini punch threat

Chelsea fans reject Rafa Rafa Benitez lost the chance of becoming the new Chelsea boss - due to furious fans. Thousands of Blues supporters voiced their opposition to the ex-Liverpool chief during an FA Cup replay following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas. Club bigwigs told owner Roman Abramovich that the Spaniard was not an option. Instead, he turned to Boas assistant Roberto di Matteo who immediately saw his rejuvenated side into the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the Champions Cup. But the Italian is unlikely to continue after the end of the current season. Abramovich wants to appoint a big-name manager to oversee a summer overhaul of his ageing squad and has already drawn up a list of transfer targets including Eden Hazard, Hulk, Tim Krull and Cheik Tiote. France boss Laurent Blanc and former England manager

Fabio Capello have been linked with the hot seat. But former Blues legend Gianfranco Zola could also join the Stamford Bridge revolution. The Londoners have reportedly made a fresh approach for the 45-year-old former striker to join the club’s backroom staff. Zola remains highly regarded at Chelsea and played with the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard during his seven years at the club. The Italian has resisted the chance to take a coaching role in the past, most notably when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked last year. The former West Ham manager still has his sights set on a return to toplevel management and a possible return to Italy where he was recently sounded out by Lazio when it looked like manager Edy Reja was leaving the Serie A club.

Roberto Mancini was only half joking when he said he would want to punch Mario Balotelli in the head every day if they were teammates. Balotelli’s antics on and off the pitch are threatening to become a damaging distraction for Manchester City’s fading title bid. A falling-out with Aleksandar Kolarov over a free-kick in the 3-3 draw with Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium overshadowed the Italian’s two goals and was quickly followed by reports that his exasperated employers will consider selling him this summer. Asked if he can understand why Balotelli’s teammates might be growing frustrated with him, the City boss replied: “I can understand it. I told him, ‘If you played with me, 10 years ago, I give to you every day one punch in your head!’ ‘I think in every big game he has played very well. I think his problem is his concentration but he can be one of the top players in Europe. I don’t want him to lose his talent.”


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ROONEY Scott Fleming asks if Wayne Rooney can kick his finals phobia and fire England to Euro 2012 glory, or will his return from suspension come too late? R 36 E CC

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iodrag Dzudovic - an unremarkable Montenegrin footballer employed by Russian club Spartak Nalchik. It is fair to say that were you to conduct a survey right now, 99% of England’s population would have absolutely no idea who he is. But if Wayne Rooney’s absence from matches against France and Sweden causes England to suffer Wayne a humiliating group stage elimination at Euro 2012, Mr Dzudovic’s Rooney has name will be on the lips of everyone from Dover to Berwick. been in irrepressible Not that he’ll subjected to the kind of hate campaign Cristiano form for Manchester Ronaldo was at the centre of when he encouraged referee Horacio United this season, Elizondo to send off Rooney and performed his oft broadcast overtaking both villainous wink at World Cup 2006. On this occasion, the blame is Mark Hughes and all Rooney’s. With 72 minutes of England’s final qualifier played in Colin Spence in the club’s all-time top Podgorica last October, and England leading their Montenegrin hosts scorers’ table 2-1, Rooney failed to control a pass. Dzudovic nipped in front of the Manchester United striker and shielded the ball. For no discernible reason, and not for the first time in his career, Rooney lashed out, kicking Dzudovic off his feet. In the short term, the consequences were a red card and a 91st minute equaliser conceded by England’s 10 men that night, set up by Dzudovic ironically enough. Long term a three match competitive ban - reduced to two on appeal - was the price to be paid, despite an impassioned defence of Rooney by Dzudovic of all people. “I will speak for Rooney if he appeals against his ban,” the 32-yearold defender told The Daily Mirror. “I don’t think the punishment was fair, he just was not thinking in that moment. He realised immediately what he had done and apologised.” Others weren’t so kind, but if proof of Rooney’s ability and standing in the England national team set up were needed it was provided by the lack of serious debate about whether or not he should go to the championships, despite potentially only being available to participate in one game; the group stage finale against hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19. Regardless of the new England manager’s identity, as long as Rooney is fit he will be on the plane to Krakow. Of that there has never been any real doubt. Former England captains Terry Butcher and Alan Shearer both spoke out in defence of ‘Wazza’ when UEFA’s decision was announced. “Its desperate news for England,” opined Butcher. “England do not reach anywhere near the same level without Rooney, so this is the worst news you could imagine going into the tournament, but I would still take him to Euro 2012. If it was pretty much anyone else you’d say leave them at home, but he is such a vital player that you just hope England get through and he is then available to try and make up for the damage he has done.” “He is our best player and even if the three game ban stood, I would still have taken him,” stated Shearer. “He’ll feel like he has let everyone down, which he has done, but he has to accept the punishment. He’s Wayne Rooney not had an easy ride when it comes to major tournaments and this has collected 73 one is no different.” caps and scored To have accrued 73 caps and 28 goals at international level aged 28 goals since his international debut just 26 is quite an achievement but, as alluded to by Shearer, a in 2003 but has yet combination of injury problems, indiscipline and plain old bad luck has to put his stamp on stopped Rooney from truly shining at international tournaments. His a major tournament, best was his first, Euro 2004. Aged just 18 and still an Everton player and is suspended for his £25.6m move to Manchester United would come in August of that England’s first two games at Euro 2012 year - Rooney scored doubles against both Switzerland and Croatia,

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inspiring Sven Goran Eriksson’s England to recover from an opening defeat to France and qualify for the knock out stage. However the teenager suffered an injury after just 27 minutes of the quarter-final, and could only watch the subsequent penalty shoot-out defeat to hosts Portugal. He arrived at World Cup 2006 not fully recovered from a foot injury and was only fit enough to start two games. Once more he was forced to watch from the sidelines as England again met their doom in a penalty shoot-out against new nemesis Portugal and their penalty saving specialist ‘keeper Ricardo, having earlier been sent off for a stamp on Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho. That dismissal and all the Ronaldo related winking shenanigans that followed were a consequence of Rooney’s frustration at his inability to produce his best form, and that in turn was a consequence of his poor physical condition. Following England’s failure failed to qualify for Euro 2008 there was yet more anguish for the man the tabloids love to call ‘Roo’ at World Cup 2010, and this time there were no injuries, no red cards, no excuses. He simply don’t perform in South Africa, not in any of the three group games nor in the 4-1 destruction dished out by Germany in the last 16. An outburst into a passing camera after the goalless draw with Algeria didn’t do him any favours either, the No 10 commenting sarcastically: “Nice to hear your home fans boo you, that’s loyal supporters.” Therefore there is a sense that Rooney owes it to the English public, and to himself, to finally shake his finals phobia and deliver this summer. His club form certainly bodes well. The Croxteth kid has scored in every tournament he’s taken part in this term, and is well on course to beat his personal best Premier League tally of 26 goals. He scored back-to-back hat-tricks against Arsenal and Bolton in the opening weeks of the season, and then surpassed Mark Hughes in United’s all time top scorer rankings with a brace in the Red Devils’ 3-2 FA Cup victory over fierce rivals Manchester City in January. He was the only United player to distinguish himself in the Europa League defeat to Athletic Bilbao, scoring three goals over the two legs, and in March he usurped another club legend in those top scorer standings, moving into sixth place, close behind the likes of George Best and Bobby Charlton. Significantly, there has been no repeat of the off field controversies that hindered him last season, the revelation of extra marital affairs or the attempt to quit United which caused such a media hubbub but was eventually resolved with the signing of a new contract. In fact the only topic discussed in depth other than his fine form and hair transplant - “I was going bald at 25, why not?” - is that temperament of his. There are many that subscribe to the view that toning down his temper would make him an inferior player, his club boss Alex Ferguson included. “You are afraid to take away what his strengths are,” Ferguson confessed. “The power and aggression are important to him.” Those elements have always been part of Rooney’s game, ever since he smashed his way into the nation’s consciousness aged 16 with a stunning free-kick scored past David Seaman. He had just 10 minutes to impress that day, having been summoned from the bench by David Moyes to make his Everton debut. Making an impact in 90 minutes against Ukraine shouldn’t be a problem then. The task of those that deputise for him against Sweden and France is to make sure it still matters.

[www.soccer360.net]

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ITALY

SERIE A SERIE A

ITA

Ranieri replaced by ‘Italian AVB’

Cagliari merrygo-round

Inter moved on to their third Coach of the campaign in March when Claudio Ranieri was sacked so that youth team tactician Andrea Stramaccioni, already nicknamed ‘The Italian Andre VillasBoas,’ could be promoted to his first Serie A job. After ending seasons prematurely at Juventus and Roma, Tinkerman paid the price for a disastrous series of results, culminating in Champions League elimination and a 2-0 defeat to Juventus. “I think Ranieri will stay with us until June,” assured President Massimo Moratti just hours before wielding the axe. It was a mad 24 hours for Stramaccioni, who on the Sunday celebrated winning the NextGen Series - the Under-19 Champions League - with the Nerazzurri Primavera team by beating Ajax on penalties, then on Monday evening was formally appointed new Coach of Inter’s senior squad. At only 36,

It seems no issue is complete without Cagliari firing one of their Coaches. Massimo Ficcadenti was sacked on November 8, but after four wins, six draws and seven defeats the axe was also wielded on Davide Ballardini. Just 18 points from 17 games proved a sackable record and Ficcadenti was recalled to the bench after a 6-3 defeat to Napoli at the beginning of March. “I feel more reassured with Ficcadenti in charge now. I expect him to train the team, which is unfortunately not something that everyone does,” sniped President Massimo Cellino. “I made a grave error in sacking Ficcadenti. I was influenced by silly claims that he was too defensive, but instead Ficcadenti actually made the right decisions. Ballardini represents the past and I don’t want to talk about that.” Cellino will have to discuss it, as a legal battle is raging over Cagliari’s attempts to dismiss him for ‘just cause.’ If the club proves Ballardini was in some way negligent or broke his contract terms, they won’t have to continue paying his wages until the deal expires in 2013, but few believe the Sardinians will be successful. This is an ugly end to the rapport, as Ballardini already coached Cagliari in 2005 and 2007. “I cannot explain, as it was all too ridiculous,” said former boss Nedo Sonetti, who underwent a similar experience. “Cellino has fun getting on people’s nerves. He’s beyond a joke. One time Cellino sent a letter accusing me of having eaten a 4kg fish. I swear this is true. 10

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he is younger than captain Javier Zanetti, but could well be more than a mere caretaker manager. “It’s all well and good seeking out talented young tacticians around the world, but if I have found him in-house then it’d save me a lot of trouble,” smiled Moratti. The bizarre nature of Stramaccioni’s week escalated when Mario Balotelli gatecrashed his presentation press conference during a visit to old teammates. “This has been totally unexpected and a dream that President Moratti gave me. There’s not such a big distance between the Primavera locker room and the senior one, but in real terms they are a world away. It’s a totally different environment. Up until yesterday they were the champions I peeked at through the bushes, now they are my champions. When the President told me what he had decided, my head flew immediately and only to

what I would do on the field with these lads,” explained the former Roma youth academy Coach who only joined Inter this season. “Perhaps my youth makes me dim, but I don’t feel that pressure. I would be worried if the team wasn’t up to the task, but they are great talents. I have faith in the players, in the club and in myself, so let’s get to work.” Stramaccioni certainly had a spectacular debut, squeezing past Genoa in a 5-4 thriller. He had to give up his playing career due to a serious knee injury and began working as a Coach with youth sectors at Latina in 2000, then Romulea, Crotone and Roma before taking over Inter’s Primavera squad in the summer of 2011. As Moratti had previously tried to sign Villas-Boas instead of Gian Piero Gasperini at the start of the season, perhaps he has found a homegrown AVB after all.

Viola revolution

Fiorentina took drastic action after a humiliating 5-0 home defeat to arch rivals Juventus left them fighting against relegation. Director of Sport Pantaleo Corvino was blamed by many for this season’s failings and his contract will not be renewed when it expires in June, ending a transfer guru rapport that has lasted since 2005. “After this news, all sane-minded people should get out the champagne,” declared Riccardo Montolivo’s agent Carlo Pallavicino. “We have shaken off a problem that had been afflicting Fiorentina for years. As of tonight, it is a free nation. We must not let this club fall away.”

Batistuta agony

Former Fiorentina, Roma and Inter hero Gabriel Batistuta admits injuries during his career are still badly affecting him. “There was a time when I was very ill. I could hardly walk,” confessed the 43-year-old Argentine. “Now I feel better. However, I cannot play football because I cannot run anymore, but now I can walk pretty well. I had difficulty accepting that I had to sit still when injured. If I could go back in time, maybe I’d be more careful about myself, but ultimately maybe not. I loved to score, to hear the crowd.”

Roma tour the U.S.

A friendly against Liverpool at Boston’s Fenway Park is the highlight of Roma’s summer tour of America. The club will play as yet unnamed opposition in Chicago on July 22 and New York on July 28, while the Giallorossi face the Reds on July 25. “As an ownership group, we have made growing the Roma brand in the U.S. one of our top priorities and this is a big step in the right direction,” said James Pallotta, Chief Executive of AS Roma Holdings. Roma have also signed a six-year contract with the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, located within the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, to host its future winter break training sessions.

UEFA prize Juventus

The Juventus Stadium in Turin will host the 2014 Europa League Final, announced UEFA. The Champions League will be decided that year in Benfica’s Estádio da Luz in Lisbon.

Making an Impact

You can now see former Serie A stars regularly in Canada, as ex-Lazio, Chievo, Valencia and Manchester City striker Bernardo Corradi and ex-Parma defender Matteo Ferrari have signed for Montreal Impact. “I’m happy to join the club and the Impact family,” said Corradi. “Now, I will do my best to help the team reach the level that this club and this city deserve.” Impact play in the MLS.


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SERIE A SURPRISES Each style of soccer has its own particular draw, whether it’s the Spanish flair, the English tempo or the French stars in the making. However, if you like to be consistently surprised, confused and downright open-mouthed in shock, then Serie A is the League for you! Who else has Coaches repeatedly sacked and recalled within the same season? How can any other nation see clubs release formal statements to complain about referees? And where else would you find Maurizio Zamparini? Let us take you through some of the moments that made this season in Serie A the World of Crazy. Inter – in general Inter’s season has provided more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel tied to an escaping hamster. Leonardo started summer planning only to resign in favour of a director general job at Paris SaintGermain. After asking at least half a dozen tacticians for their availability, Hello Again including Marcelo Being fired is always a surprise, but when the phone rings and it is the Bielsa, Fabio Capello, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Andre same club asking you back just a few weeks later, it’s more shock mixed with Villas-Boas, the club opted for sacked Genoa Coach confusion. Yet this is a common occurrence in Serie A, especially this season. Gian Piero Gasperini. More surprises on the transfer Alberto Malesani was given the Genoa boot on December 22 after a 6-1 market with Samuel Eto’o sold to Russians Anzhi, thrashing at the hands of Napoli. It turns out this was a surprise to Malesani Mauro Zarate plucked in the final minutes of the too, as fiery President Enrico Preziosi had just got off the phone with his session on loan from Lazio and Diego Forlan grabbed Coach after making a reassuring speech when he decided to fire him instead. from Atletico Madrid. It turned out to be a complete Pasquale Marino lasted just three and a half months before Preziosi had a quick surprise to Nerazzurri directors that Forlan was look at the statistics, realised the defensive record had not improved one iota, cup-tied for the Champions League group phase, and recalled Malesani. This was the 17th change of management in Serie A this as someone hadn’t read the UEFA rules properly. To season – a new record even for the trigger-happy world of Italian football. make it an even nastier shock, they only discovered Malesani is by no means the only ‘boomerang boss’ of the campaign, as this after registering Forlan in the European list, so this appears to be a new fashion. The financial crisis is behind some of it, as were a man short for the competition. Whoops! Presidents realise if they are going to change management again, they may Gasperini lasted only five games without a single as well use one of the people already under contract. Cagliari are becoming victory, including a 3-1 defeat to Novara. Even experts at this, having got in there with the first dismissal of Roberto Donadoni under Massimo Moratti, that was unexpected. His in mid-August. Massimo Ficcadenti was appointed, then axed on November Palermo revolving door policy replacement was a massive surprise, as beloved “My wife found out that Sir Alex Ferguson 8 to make way for Davide Ballardini. Despite the fact Ballardini had worked in Jose Mourinho had spent much of his Inter career has been at Manchester United for 25 years. Sardinia several times before in his career, he too was fired on March 11 and referring to Claudio Ranieri as “a loser.” Perhaps the Ficcadenti recalled. In a desperate bid to save even more money, Cagliari claim She asked me why that never happens in biggest surprise of the entire saga was hearing The Ballardini was dismissed “with just cause,” meaning they won’t have to continue Special One wish Ranieri well and urge the players to Italy. I told her it’s impossible here, as there paying his wages. Nobody realistically expects this ploy to work. simply isn’t the patience,” said Palermo unite behind their former Juventus and Roma rival. Another comeback kid this term was Attilio Tesser at Novara. He might’ve President Maurizio Zamparini. He ought to Never thought we’d see that day. been afforded a little more respect, having taken the club to two consecutive know, as Zamparini has been through 23 Tinkerman continued his Serie A form of failing to promotions and their first Serie A campaign in 55 years. He made way for managerial changes in 10 years. reach the end of a season as, after Turin and Rome, Emiliano Mondonico on January 30, himself making a comeback to work after The Sicilians outdid themselves this he now has time to check out the Milan architecture. a year off for cancer treatment. ‘Il Mondo’ insisted he wanted to be treated like season, as they are already on their third Meanwhile, Ranieri managed to give Novara their Coach and second director of sport. Stefano any other Coach and got his wish with a dismissal just over a month later. Tesser first ever ‘double’ over Inter, as they also conquered is back on the bench as of March 6, given the opportunity to captain the ship as the Nerazzurri at San Siro. More astounding results Pioli was brought in for June, sacked in it sinks back into Serie B. August just days before the season kicked included losses to Lecce and Bologna, an epic 4-4 off. His only official games in charge were with Palermo and the utter humiliation of a 4-0 two legs of a Europa League preliminary defeat to Ranieri’s old Roma. round against FC Thun. Now Pioli is flying high Moratti wasn’t done with his surprises yet, as with Bologna and Zamparini rather colourfully Ranieri was shown the door after losing 2-0 at described his regret at axing him. “I’m eating Juventus, replaced by Andrea Stramaccioni. Don’t my left testicle. I already ate my right one.” ask why you haven’t heard the name – he was the Quite. Nerazzurri’s Primavera youth team tactician and Devis Mangia was promoted from the at 36 is younger than captain Javier Zanetti. Will he youth team with no Serie A experience be the Italian Villas-Boas in that he goes on to great whatsoever and Zamparini dubbed this success like at Porto or is a complete disaster a la manager “my Arsene Wenger.” So it’s no Chelsea? He certainly had a spectacular debut, as surprise Mangia was fired a week before few can have bet on the 5-4 scoreline against Genoa, Christmas. Bortolo Mutti is at the helm now, especially as they were 3-0 up after 38 minutes. but nobody realistically expects him to still It has been a crazy campaign at Inter and we look be there next season. Instead, Palermo have forward to more surprises to come. added another fiery figure to the already dysfunctional club by hiring team manager Napoli Getaway Christian Panucci. The former Milan, Chelsea, Napoli are fast becoming one of the strangest clubs in Serie A and can certainly thank President Aurelio De Laurentiis for their most Real Madrid and Roma defender has been headline-grabbing moments of madness. His greatest contribution came on the night the fixture lists were drawn up when he was known to start an argument in an empty infuriated by the fact his team would face high-profile matches very close to their Champions League commitments. Infuriated, the room and has no real concept of tact, so the patron stormed out of the ceremony hurling abuse at his colleagues. Chased by curious journalists, the Hollywood mogul decided to time bomb of this working relationship is make a classic movie exit by grabbing a passing boy on a moped and hitching a lift. As he sped away into the night, everyone agreed it already ticking. would be difficult for any League to top that.

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Italy huffed and puffed during their opening two matches of the 2010 World Cup but failed to blow down the Paraguay and New Zealand houses. The fate of Marcello Lippi’s second stint in charge of Italy hinged on the result of their final Group F encounter against Slovakia. Only France eight years earlier had been eliminated in the first round as reigning champion. The Azzurri had disappointed in their first two matches and were in need of a spark at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Trailing 1-0 at the interval, ten minutes into the second half Lippi played his trump card, calling up the player Italian fans were crying out for. Andrea Pirlo was making his first appearance in South Africa after a calf injury had previously ruled him out. A light appeared to switch on and Italy suddenly had belief they would win the match and ensure qualification. Pirlo ran the show like so often before, but it was not to prove enough as the defence went missing and Slovakia triumphed 3-2 in a dramatic affair. If there was any doubting his importance in a blue shirt - after numerous calls throughout Lippi’s return to split from the heroes of 2006 - perhaps the cameo went some way to dispel the notion. With the summer disappointment then just a sour memory Pirlo returned to Milanello under new boss Massimiliano Allegri. The ex-Cagliari tactician kept the same shape as predecessor Leonardo but the philosophy altered. From the silky skills of Kaka or Ronaldinho, Milan fielded a more industrious player behind the strikers in Kevin-Prince Boateng. And having dealt with injury concerns throughout the campaign, Pirlo saw the certainty of a first-team spot diminish. His position was further made complicated by Allegri’s January signing of Mark van Bommel to occupy the role in front of the defence – a destroyer rather than creator. Rumbles of a transfer emerged with his contract coming to its end in June. On why he left Milan to join Juventus, Pirlo cites a lack of enthusiasm and desire for a new challenge after ten years of familiarity. Perhaps Allegri’s system helped the decision. Upon announcing his departure he - possibly with a tinge of anger - declared: “Do I hope Milan will regret losing me? Yes.” When Prandelli mentioned the notion of an Italy side which resembled Barcelona – a claim he would later refute – to Pirlo the team seemed – tellingly – more like Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan. “We are a good side who try to play the ball at all times. Our quality, especially in midfield, allows us to entertain the fans with a fast-paced and attacking style,” asserted Pirlo. “In my view, though, our characteristics are closer to Ancelotti’s Milan than the Spaniards.” Pirlo stuck to his guns, convinced football would not pass him by like it did Pep Guardiola nearly a decade earlier. Pirlo once said “The only advice that I could give a young player would be to always have faith in your own ability. Only like this can you convince a Coach to put their faith in you.” Prandelli showed faith. New Juve Coach Antonio Conte too had faith, as did the former Brescia playmaker in himself. It has allowed for the ‘rebirth’ of Andrea Pirlo, a player who will be essential for Italy at Euro 2012 this June. He began life at Juventus alongside Claudio Marchisio in a two-man midfield, but Conte’s now customary starting XI also includes Chilean terrier Arturo Vidal. Meanwhile, Prandelli has settled on a 4-3-1-2 formation which places Pirlo in his habitual role in front of the back four, creating from deep. Even his backup 4-3-3 –

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SP OTLIG nio o t n A a s g ve din P A oun ta belie vital LO r r E u R . t s I 2 R e a 1 y t C P s 0 D n a AN uncertai ility, Lucaaping up i at Euro 2 AL T O l b e l th de s sh aila PIV With ano’s av a Pirlo i are Pran e s Cass ed Andr for Ce e v revi ive forc t a cre

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which has made just fleeting appearances and is still in its infant stage – works into his characteristics. Pirlo has played his part, but Prandelli’s qualifying campaign centred on Antonio Cassano, who repaid the tactician with six goals and a burgeoning partnership with Giuseppe Rossi. When injury and illness struck the duo down within a week of each other last November, the ex-Fiorentina Coach would have been biting his nails. Out went his inventive strike force, one “which offered no reference points”. Neither has yet returned to first-team action and both are in doubt to make the trip to Eastern Europe. For the recent friendly loss against the USA, Sebastian Giovinco seemingly had the role of both Rossi and Cassano to drop deep and link with his teammates, whilst Prandelli utilised a reference point in Alessandro Matri. Nonetheless, one player he can fall back on is his fellow Bresciano. Prandelli still harbours hopes of welcoming back the stricken duo and will wait as late as possible before saying no, but should one - or both - be unavailable, Pirlo’s role will be even more critical. He featured in all but one of Italy’s Group C qualifying encounters, scoring once against Faroe Islands. An ever-present fixture during the 90 minutes, Pirlo is confident with the ball, a willing recipient and is not afraid to take on players, whilst being a genuine setpiece expert and an outlet to begin attacking thrusts from deep – either through the centre with short passes or utilising his long-range passing ability. Protect him with tactically inclined and hard working assistants and Pirlo is left to do what he does best. Few players in his role who have played as many games this Serie A season as his 29 have enjoyed such a high pass success rate as Pirlo’s 86%. “I’ve always been the player who enjoyed having the most touches,” he pronounced. Pirlo has the class, but does he have the supporting cast? At Juve his partners are Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal. For Italy, replace the Chilean with Daniele De Rossi. Both are strategically in-tune and can support the defensive aspect of midfield, as well as creating a trio which strikes a balance for Prandelli between running, pressing and creativity. This is not to say Pirlo is inept defensively, as his season at Juve has shown the player is willing to put in the hardyards to contribute without the ball. However, his style is more languid. Italy’s main strengths - with the players currently available - lie in central midfield and their hardrunning full-backs offering width. Pirlo is adept at utilising the full-backs, just as he and Stephan Lichtsteiner have linked on numerous occasions for the Bianconeri this term. At the other end of the spectrum, Catania general manager Pietro Lo Monaco suggested after the clash between his Sicilian side and the Old Lady last September that Juve are Pirlo-dependant. “Juventus are over-reliant on Andrea Pirlo. It is Pirlo who dictates the game. If you take him out, the others become like ants.” His stellar opening to the season halted slightly at the Stadio Angelo Massimino as Vincenzo Montella ensured Pirlo was kept in close quarters throughout. Able to create two goals versus Parma on the opening day after being afforded space, it was the opposite in Catania. His 56 passes were well below his season average of 82 per match. This

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Name: Born: Ht / Wt: Position: Club:

Andrea Pirlo 19/5/1979 (Brescia) 1.77m / 68kg Midfielder Juventus

Season 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12

Club Brescia Brescia Brescia Brescia Internazionale Reggina Internazionale Brescia Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Juventus

Div A B B A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A

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Gls 2 4 6 2 9 6 4 4 2 3 1 1 2

deliberate pressing was also seen in his latter Milan days, notably in their Champions League exit against Manchester United in 2010. And it is a subject Prandelli must confront. Should Pirlo be pushed and harassed it can limit his effectiveness and that of those around him. Against Euro 2012 group rivals Croatia this could cause a problem due to their energetic style. Republic of Ireland Coach Giovanni Trapattoni is best suited to know about Italy and any weaknesses to exploit, whilst Spain may have a strong Barcelona base but do not possess their high work ethic off the ball with the double-pivot midfield. Under Trapattoni, the Irish defend stoutly with two banks of four willing to sit deep and as the recent USA friendly showed, this too can also pose a problem. The legendary tactician noted after Ireland’s June friendly win over Italy: “I know the qualities Pirlo has and how he runs the game, so we put a great deal of focus on him.” Pirlo is not the sole answer to combat this type of defensive system and here is where Prandelli must strike the correct balance. Should Rossi and/or Cassano be missing, his trequartista is ever so vital. The more technical Riccardo Montolivo or Alberto Aquilani would be better suited to the role compared to Thiago Motta – who was tried in Genoa but failed to inspire in an unfamiliar position. Also critical is the role of the seconda punta - occupied by Giovinco against the Stars and Stripes and one which may be his – or perhaps Antonio Di Natale’s – come June. But those doubting Pirlo be warned. His qualities are there for all to see and if 2011-12 has proved anything it is that the player can respond to any musings over his importance and ability. Prandelli knows this, as he said after the final qualifying win over Northern Ireland. “It would be very difficult to give up a player like Pirlo. Nobody makes time and space to play like him, while his presence reassures his teammates,” he claimed. “My dream is to win the European Championship because it is the only trophy I haven’t won.” The soonto-be 33-year-old still has plenty to offer and with a co-starring cast in support, Pirlo could be a main catalyst should Italy live his dream in Poland and Ukraine.

Pirlo’s ability at a dead-ball situation has both created and finished a high quantity of goals down the years


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Banega injured by own car

Injuries are part and parcel of a footballer’s life but Valencia midfielder Ever Banega faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after breaking his ankle in bizarre manner off the pitch. The Argentine international had pulled into a gas station to fill up his Audi R8 automatic after training, when it started to roll backwards, as he had forgotten to apply the hand-brake before getting out of the car. Banega, attempting to stop the vehicle, then found his left leg trapped between a wheel and the kerb, which resulted in him suffering what turned out to be a serious injury. Club doctors confirmed the extent of the damage, with the tibia and fibula both fractured. Banega was operated on days

later but is not expected back until the start of next season, whilst the incident happened just one day after the player had signed a contract extension until 2015. “This is a tough episode in my career and something I wasn’t expecting. When it happened I was depressed,” said the 23-year-old. Curiously enough, Banega’s accident occurred in the same week

that Gerard Piqué caused serious damage to his car. Apparently the Barcelona defender had stopped in a bus lane in the centre of the Catalan capital when the driver’s side door was hit by a bus and virtually destroyed. Piqué was then forced to abandon his vehicle and take a taxi to the Camp Nou, where his teammates were waiting for him to join them en route to an away fixture.

Copa del Rey venue decided

Van Nistelrooy in quit talks

Ruud van Nistelrooy says he is contemplating retirement this summer as his playing days draw to a close. The Málaga striker, who will turn 36 in July, insists he has not taken any decision as yet but is likely to make up his mind in April, given his contract with the Costa del Sol club expires at the end of June. The Dutchman is adamant Málaga will be his last club and rates the chances of prolonging his playing career at 50/50. He also maintains he has still to discuss the situation with boss Manuel Pellegrini, saying he needs to ‘sit down and think about it before making a final decision’. If Van Nistelrooy does decide to hang up his boots it would bring to an end an illustrious career that has seen him become top goal-scorer in three different European domestic Leagues. Having started his career in 1993 in his native Holland with Den Bosch, he went on to play for Heerenveen and PSV Eindhoven before making a dream move to Manchester United in 2001. After five years at Old Trafford, where he scored 150 goals in 219 appearances in all competitions, Van Nistelrooy joined Real Madrid and went on to notch a further 64 goals in 96 starts at the Santiago Bernabéu. A loan spell and a permanent deal with Hamburg followed, and after spending a year in the Bundesliga he moved to Málaga before the start of this season to kickstart Qatari owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani’s ambitious project. 14

After much argument, the venue for the final of the 2011-12 Copa del Rey between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao has been decided and it will be played at the Vicente Calderón on May 25. The decision was taken after a show of hands at a meeting of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) lasting more than two hours, with 22 votes in favour of Atlético Madrid’s stadium, Barcelona’s preferred option, against 14 for the La Cartuja multi-purpose stadium in Sevilla, the Basques’ choice. It was the third meeting at which an attempt had been made to come up with a compromise - at the first both clubs wanted it at the Santiago Bernabéu despite Real Madrid’s insistence work was scheduled to begin on their ground in May. At the second, Athletic lobbied for it on May 20 at La Cartuja while Barca asked for May 25 at the 55,000-capacity Vicente Calderón - a wish now granted. Five days before the scheduled date a concert by British group Coldplay will be held at the stadium and could affect the playing surface, something Bilbao had previously voiced their fears about. Atletico President, Enrique Cerezo, however, insists his club are particularly proud to have been chosen to host the final of a competition that has undergone something of a renaissance in the past few years. “It is a source of pride for us to host two sides such as Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao for the cup final,” he said. “Economics are secondary in this case.”

Mourinho in new homophobic row Real Madrid’s outspoken boss José Mourinho put his foot in it before his club’s Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow when he was captured on video using an alleged homophobic slur while speaking about the match officials. The Portuguese was heard to use the term ‘maricones’, which translates into English as ‘faggots’, when he was trying to find out what kind of match balls were going to be used for the game - played in subzero temperatures - at the Luzhniki Stadium. Mourinho was caught by TV Cuatro’s cameras saying: “And those faggots...they are not saying what kind of balls we are playing with,” as a decision was about to be made. He has now been accused of homophobia by the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF), who have filed a complaint and urged UEFA to take action against the former Porto, Inter and Chelsea boss. The joint-President of EGLSF, Louise Englefield, argued that the mere public expression of such a statement is worthy of punishment: “Homophobia is unacceptable from anyone in football, even more so when it comes from the mouth of one of the game’s most senior figures,” she said. “We are deeply disappointed that Mr. Mourinho is casually using homophobic terms of abuse in his workplace. “It is especially sad that these comments were made during the International Football v Homophobia campaign week. As long-standing partners of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) we are calling on UEFA to take action and impose appropriate sanctions.”

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La Liga clubs’ tax debts

In answer to a written question from a spokesman for the Izquierda Unida (IU) political party, the Spanish government has revealed that La Liga clubs owe a staggering €752m to the taxman. Only six Primera Division clubs - Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Getafe, Villarreal and Sporting Gijón - have fulfilled their obligations to the tax authorities. According to data, the total debt is divided into three categories - €490m owed by clubs from La Primera, €184m by Segunda A clubs and the remainder made up by lower Division outfits that have €78m outstanding. An IU statement maintained that the total has increased by almost €150m in the past four years, whilst also pointing out that there is also money due for the payment of social security However, new Secretary of State for Sport Miguel Cardenal is confident the debts will be paid off in a short space of time and stressed that he is working with the country’s professional clubs to solve the issue. “I am two months into office and am working with the Spanish Football League (LFP),” he said. “There is a process underway where I hope to have an agreement that the debt owed by football clubs to the tax office will soon be paid off.” The LFP itself has come out in defence of its clubs and explained that the debt is ‘not enforceable’ and there has been an agreement to defer payment providing appropriate safeguards are guaranteed.


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LA LIGA SURPRISES La Liga has been far from expected this season. From Villarreal’s demise to Levante’s rise, Dave Redshaw wraps up the Spanish Primera season’s biggest surprises. Barca take to complaining “I like to assess referees at the end of the season but this year it doesn’t look good. If the Competition Committee does not work well then we will have our say because football is supposed to be based on fair play.” A year ago after Real Madrid’s semifinal defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho took headlines for his vitriol aimed at Barcelona and the ‘favourable’ refeering they receive by UEFA and the Spanish FA. Yet, the above quote is from this season and is Barcelona President Sandro Rosell’s headline-grabbing reaction after Real Madrid defender Pepe appeared to stamp on Lionel Messi’s hand during Barca’s 2-1 Copa del Rey quarter-final first-leg victory at the Bernabéu in January. As a rule, Barcelona have in the past left these things to their eternal rivals in Madrid and while nobody doubts Rosell had a case - even the normally loyal Madrid-based sports papers rounded on Pepe - it was still a surprise coming from a club generally reluctant to involve itself in criticising match officials. However, it is not the first time the Catalans have complained about referees this season and, whatever the reason, something definitely seems to have crawled under their skin. As early as the first month of the campaign La Blaugrana made it known they felt aggrieved at having had penalty appeals for fouls on Messi turned down in 2-2 draws at Real Sociedad and Valencia. The Argentine then had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside in a 1-0 defeat at Getafe in November, while Barca were further incensed when Turienzo Álvarez failed to see a Raúl Rodríguez handball in stoppage time of a 1-1 draw at Espanyol. There was more to come in March - Gerard Piqué was dismissed against Sporting Gijón and subsequently claimed referee Velasco Carballo’s decision had been ‘premeditated’, for which the Spanish international received a one-match ban and a €600 fine. However, recent events have led to cries of hypocrisy in some quarters as all the protests appear to have been made when Pep Guardiola’s team has not taken all three points, an accusation the Barca boss rejects. “Barca does not complain about referees,” he bristled. “But it is a different thing to say that in such and such a situation we could have had a penalty. If that is complaining then we complain. I get annoyed when an official makes a mistake, but I represent this club and I know that tomorrow maybe they will favour us.” Even the normally affable Messi branded the referees ‘arrogant’, before Real Madrid assistant boss Aitor Karanka waded into the debate: “They know they do complain,” he said. “Now it’s them who are talking about referees.” But perhaps the most damning indictment came from Real midfielder José Callejón, who said: “I thought Barcelona didn’t talk about referees. Something must have changed. I don’t know why.”

Villarreal’s Sinking

Kaka kicks back into form Renaissance man of the season must go to Real Madrid midfielder Ricky Kaká. An injuryplagued two years at the Bernabéu had fans believing the former Milan player’s best days were behind him, yet the rejuvenated Brazilian has shown glimpses If there was an award for a team that has punched above its weight in recent of his old magic this years then Villarreal would surely be in line to receive it. Only last season the term. “I owe both Yellow Submarine finished a creditable fourth in La Liga and qualified for the José Mourinho and Champions League play-off rounds, continuing their record for over-achieving. Florentino Pérez a Indeed, since 2004 the Valencian side’s lowest finish in the Primera Division debt. The President has been seventh, with notable highs including a League runners-up spot in asked me what my 2008 and semi-final appearances in both the Champions League - 2006 - and problem was and I the Europa League - 2004 and 2011. told him it was me.” However, this season has seen a sharp decline and if there was an award for A goal in an the biggest surprise of the campaign, then Villarreal’s demise most certainly opening day 6-0 takes it. The club began the term humbled in a strong Champions League group defeat of Real containing Manchester City, Napoli and Bayern Munich, losing all six matches Zaragoza and one and scoring just two goals with 14 conceded. Coupled with a disastrous opening goal and two assists to the League campaign that yielded only one victory from the opening nine in a 3-0 Champions games, nothing has gone right for the team. Tactically, losing the likes of Santi League win over Ajax Cazorla, Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar - the former sold to Malaga for €21m, the in September kickother two through injury - has taken more out of the side than expected, whilst started the 29-yearreplacements such as Jonathan de Guzman and Javier Camunas have struggled old’s rejuvenation to settle. this term. Kaká was Teetering on the brink of the relegation zone ever since, a 3-1 aggregate Copa even recalled to the del Rey defeat to minnows Mirandes last December eventually sealed Juan Brazilian national Carlos Garrido’s fate as Coach. José Francisco Molina, a former goalkeeper and squad after a oneCoach of the club’s B and C teams, replaced Garrido, yet despite a good start - a year absence and point taken against both Valencia and Barcelona and three wins recorded in his since then he has first six games - the team was unable to sustain their form and he too was axed provided some in March, after a run of four defeats from five. show-stealing The experienced Miguel Angel Lotina, who names Deportivo la Coruña, Real displays, particularly Sociedad, Espanyol and Osasuna among former employers, became Villarreal’s against Villarreal and third Coach of the season as owner as President Fernando Roig sought to Espanyol. ensure top-flight safety at El Madrigal. For a club not normally associated with A substitute chopping and changing Coaches, such has been the uncharacteristic nature of appearance in a the 2011-12 season, so too has been the reaction in a bid to stave off the threat 3-0 quarter-final of a surprise relegation. first-leg Champions League win at Apoel Nicosia “We have gone for somebody with lots of experience. We are well aware of highlighted his redevelopment under Jose Mourinho what we are playing for and will do everything possible to change the situation. I as he changed the course of the game, got on the am convinced we will get out of this.” With Rossi, Nilmar, Borja Valero and Bruno scoresheet and ever since has had the Madrid all likely to depart in the summer, even if the Yellow Submarine avoid sinking hierarchy reassessing his worth to the club. this season, things look like they could get infinitely worse before they get any better in the long run.

Yellow Submarine

Rise of the underdogs Never before have three newly-promoted La Liga clubs all started the season in administration and it was a safe bet that at least one, and if not all three, would make a swift return to La Segunda in 2011-12. However, the cash-strapped trio of Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada have confounded all the experts by not only steering clear of the drop zone for most of the season, but also actually playing some of the best football in the Division. Most impressive of all have been Madrid-based Rayo, the capital’s fourth team from the suburb of Vallecas, where boss José Ramón Sandoval has worked wonders to beg, borrow and steal an assortment of misfits, including midfielder Michu who was snapped up on a free transfer from Celta Vigo and is into double figures in the goalscoring charts. It has been a similar story at Betis, with the Andalusians winning their opening four games to hoist themselves up the table. Inevitably, Los Béticos suffered a subsequent dip in form and were even winless for 10 games, but successive victories over Valencia and Atlético Madrid put Pepe Mel’s men back on track and they have hovered just below halfway ever since. For Granada it was initially more of an uphill struggle but away wins over Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao dragged El Graná away from the relegation places, although despite being out of danger it was not enough to save boss Fabri who was axed in January after a 3-0 away loss at Espanyol, to be replaced by Abel Resino. The last time all three promoted teams managed to avoid immediate relegation was back in the 2000-01 season when Las Palmas, Osasuna and Villarreal achieved the feat.

[www.soccer360.net]

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David Silva 8/1/1986 (Arguineguin, Canary Islands) 1.70m / 67kg Playmaker Manchester City

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SPAIN’S STRIKER SCRAP David Silva isn’t alone in fighting for an attacking place in Vicente del Bosque’s final squad of 23 for Euro 2012. Soccer 360 runs through the prime candidates battling for what may prove to be only two available seats on the plane to Poland and Ukraine. DAVID VILLA Age: 30 | Caps: 82 | Goals: 51 Spain’s all-time record goal-scorer finds himself in a race to prove his fitness in time for the squad’s announcement. Recovering from a broken leg sustained at the Club World Cup at the end of 2011, Villa is favoured not only for his record in front of goal, but for his ability to strike up a keen understanding with many of his teammates and for the fact that he is just as confident used out wide. FERNANDO TORRES Age: 28 | Caps: 91 | Goals: 27 In one of his worst spells of form as a professional footballer, Torres has been struggling for consistency for two years. Dropped from the Spanish squad for the first time since late 2006, Del Bosque says he is still prepared to wait until the final days for the striker to prove himself. Even as it is his spot in the squad others are eyeing, Torres is understood to hold an advantage for his experience at tournament level. ALVARO NEGREDO Age: 26 | Caps: 7 | Goals: 5 Negredo has been used favourably in the past two years by Del Bosque and is believed to be a prime candidate to come in should Villa not make the squad. The Coach favours him for his ability - like Villa - to link well with the midfield players, to create as well as to score. However, counting against him are his struggles with recurring injuries. ROBERTO SOLDADO Age: 26 | Caps: 3 | Goals: 3 Held the spot in the Spanish League for most of the season as the country’s leading marksmen, Soldado was given a rare, late chance to prove himself to Del Bosque in a friendly against Venezuela. His response of a hat-trick has left him in prime contention. His keen ability to play well on the counter-attack leaves him as a potential direct replacement for Torres.

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[soccer360 magazine]

SILVA LINING CLOUDING DE BOSQUE’S VI SILVA

David Silva is potentially Spain’s greatest hope in attack for the summer’s European Championships, yet as Rob Paton writes, Vicente del Bosque is still in a dilemma about the diminutive playmaker.


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t’s October 11, 2011 and Spain are hosting Scotland in Alicante. The last match for both in their European Championship qualifying Group I, the visitors need a win to finish second and secure a play-off spot, whilst hosts Spain are already qualified for the finals the next summer, having won the previous seven out of seven played. Six minutes are on the clock and David Silva drops deep to exchange a couple of passes with Xavi Hernandez. Spain have had the ball solid for over a minute of play, moving it left, right, to the goalkeeper and back into the middle of the pitch again. Then, Xavi spots a gap on the left to move the ball to David Villa, based on the wing tonight. Left-back Jordi Alba sprints past the Barcelona man, Villa releases him into the box for a cut-back to Silva to side-foot for 1-0. Spain’s tika-taka style of play is exemplified, Silva’s stunning argument to play as a No 9 for La Roja - followed by a second goal and an unselfish assist - started. If Vicente del Bosque faces one particular selection headache ahead of the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine this summer, it is whom he picks to play up front for the defending champions and how he plays them. In securing qualification to the finals with a comprehensive 6-0 win over Liechtenstein just a month before Silva’s performance against the Scots - and indeed for the final half an hour against the Czech Republic a few days before - there was little indication that this was a side with concerns about its strikers. Against Liechtenstein, the team passed the 20-goal mark in only its sixth match of the qualifying group. However, there was no Fernando Torres. For the first time in five years, the former Atletico Madrid striker had not been called up to a Spain national squad when fit. The 28-year-old has been on a barren run of form for club and country, netting just 12 goals in all competitions at club level since midSeptember 2010 and just five from his last 26 appearances for La Roja since the 2009 Confederations Cup. As Marca wrote the day after seeing Villa and Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo both net twice in Logrono against Liechtenstein with Torres absent: “The message is serious, a message to Fernando Torres that if he does not react at Chelsea, that la Seleccion’s doors will begin to close, in a season that ends with the tournament.” Combined with Torres’ struggles is now David Villa’s race against time to make the European Championships. The man whose eight goals for the team since the World Cup saw him reach 51 goals for Spain and become the country’s all-time leading goal-scorer suffered a broken leg at the end of 2011. Between form and fitness, Del Bosque is at risk of going into this summer’s tournament without the country’s first-choice front-pair from the last two successful tournaments. Which returns to Del Bosque to considering alternatives and he has been dedicated to this task over the past few months. The trio of Negredo, Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente are thought to be in prime contention as a like-for-like alternative, but you would forgive Silva pushing for a place in line too. With all options fit and available in midfield, the Manchester City man is unlikely to displace one of Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso or Xavi out of the starting three, or be guaranteed a first substitute spot with competition from a clearly preferred trio of Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas. “Against Scotland we tried a little experiment with a system which had no recognised centre-forward,” acknowledges Del Bosque. “Otherwise we have always played with a main striker - Torres, Negredo or Llorente. However we have a richness of resources and we need to think about how to manage that well.” That experiment against Scotland, that yielded Silva’s fine individual display for the team, was placing the diminutive 26-year-old in a ‘false 9’ position. A tactic used through the game’s history by attacking sides forced into finding a new way to beat constantly adapting opponents, the idea is that the player at the tip of the attack - Silva in this case - would drop deep, into traditional playmaker territory, to initiate attacking moves, as well as then providing late runs into the penalty area to finish them off. Characterised perfectly by Silva against Scotland, the tactic leaves an opposition defence with no designated men to mark, causing chaos. It is a tactic that served the famous La Maquina side of River Plate in the early 1940s, Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real Madrid of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning side, Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team Barcelona group from the early 1990s and most recently Pep Guardiola’s Barca side with Lionel Messi. Silva has spent his career as a traditional No 10 playmaker, basing his play from between the lines of opposition defences and midfields from his breakthrough year at Valencia in 2006-07 right

through to what has been an exponential growth in consistency and effectiveness in the English Premier League with Roberto Mancini’s City. Indeed, where a keen understanding with David Villa at Mestalla expressed his potential to spot the brief windows of opportunity in a game to create a chance out of seemingly nothing, his performances at Eastlands this season have added a reliability to that chance-provision, a tactical flexibility and an improved workrate. Silva can be seen in the blue of City often dropping as far back as his own penalty area both to defend and then start counterattacks for his team and still equally as often be found on the edge of the opponent’s penalty area slicing a defence with a cleverly angled and unsighted pass. Silva’s on-pitch characteristics have for some time developed him into seemingly the perfect ‘false 9’ for Spain at a time when without Torres and Villa, Del Bosque is open to considering the role. “At Real Madrid we played a lot with Guti and Raul, without fixed reference points ahead, and it was a period in which we did very well,” reflects Del Bosque of his previous experience in using the system when in charge at the Bernabeu. “I remember a game we won at Roma. It was refreshing. Without giving reference points to the opponent to defend against, by playing in between the lines, we have Cesc, Silva and Iniesta, all who are cutting players and are very good at that function.” As the form player through the season of the trio, Silva would be forgiven for thinking he is a shoe-in for a spot at Euro 2012 and then maybe a chance in the group stages, if not against Italy on June 10 in Gdansk, then against the Republic of Ireland four days later or Croatia another four days after that, with these two sides more than likely to line up very defensive systems to try to suffocate the Spanish. However, there is one thing playing against Silva. His chance against Scotland may have caught the eye, but so too did his behaviour a few weeks before, when he hit out at Del Bosque with an ill-advised rant in the media over his perceived treatment at the World Cup. “I don’t think that your performances at club level have any effect on whether you play for the national side,” Silva burst out in September 2011. “I have played at a very high level for my club for a long time, but it’s not been enough to earn a starting berth.” Silva felt he had been made a scapegoat for the team’s shock defeat to Switzerland in the opening game - indeed he only managed a handful of minutes for the rest of the tournament - and that since South Africa, his form had been overlooked. However, for a national team who can boast more than most of the direct correlation between the state of harmony in the dressing room and the subsequent level of success on the pitch, Silva’s outburst of preferential treatment - founded or not - may play more in Del Bosque’s mind than however well he finishes the season in England. “It’s true we didn’t have a good relationship during the World Cup, that he played so little is not through a lack of confidence in him but he failed to realise there is great competition and you have to make difficult decisions that are hard to understand,” Del Bosque mused on Spanish television, tellingly after Silva’s display in Alicante, rather than the outburst a few weeks before. “He is an incredible player and he is showing that in the Premier League. I have not spoken to him, he is not easy to see play in England. I’ve tried to speak to some people but not with David. If he doesn’t play it is not a sign of weakness, disciplinary decisions are often poorly made. All of us should have the power to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, it is normal he feels hurt - it’s impossible to please everybody.” On the pitch, Silva is proving both for club and country that he is capable of being that consistent, central creative force. He prepares for a push into Euro 2012 a much more complete player than four years ago for Euro 2008 - a tournament in which he played five of six matches. He has shown that tactically, he offers what Spain may need this summer - an effective plan B. Yet, for what he offers Del Bosque on the pitch that the other alternatives to Torres and Villa may not, it is what he is threatening to bring away from the pitch that may be to his detriment. Perhaps unknowingly, whilst doing everything right on the pitch, Silva only has himself to blame for not closing the door to other Spanish strikers now trying to edge ahead of him for a place at Poland and Ukraine.

David Silva’s form has dramatically improved in his two years in England

[www.soccer360.net]

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Shinji Kagawa set for England?

Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa has turned down a new contract that would have seen him double his annual salary at the club from $2m to $4m. The Japanese international is reportedly attempting to signal a transfer this summer to a high profile English Premier League side instead. As his contract is due to expire in 2013, he will be allowed to negotiate a free transfer with any club after December 31 of this year if no new deal with Dortmund is signed. This puts Die Borussen in a tough position, made all the more difficult due to Kagawa’s unsubtle flirtations with potential new clubs. The player has previously gone on record by declaring Manchester United his favourite team and spoke of

his “dream” of playing for them. Meanwhile, allegations circle that his agent has met with Chelsea about a potential transfer. The player has been a fan favourite ever since the 2010 Revierderby when he predicted – and then netted – two goals against fierce regional rivals Schalke. Since then he’s played a pivotal role in Borussia’s back-to-back Bundesliga titles – a role all that more important after teammate Nuri Şahin’s departure for Madrid last year. Kagawa’s possible move, while unlikely to spark a mass exodus, could weaken other squad members’ resolve to stay put, especially those such as Mario Götze who’ve also expressed interest in playing elsewhere. In Kagawa’s case though, it’s difficult

to feel sympathy for Dortmund. Their signing of him from Japanese side Cerezo Osaka in 2010 for $460k was considered an absolute steal at the time but was only made possible due to a release clause in the player’s contract. If Dortmund do decide to sell him to an English suitor, he could fetch a fee from anywhere between $20m and $28m, making it a tidy piece of business by the German club. “We know that he fancies a move to England or Spain. The question is at what point in time,” Borussia sporting director Michael Zorc told Bild. “There should be a decision soon. We would love to extend his contract, but the ball is in his court.”

Stale Solbakken sacked by FC Köln

Breno Borges Charged With Arson

In an ongoing Bundesliga saga, Bayern Munich defender Breno Borges was officially charged with arson on April 10. The 22-year-old defender had been free on bail since October 2011 whilst investigations proceeded. The prosecutor’s office revealed they were satisfied that they had sufficient evidence of Borges’ intoxication and could prove his intent to start the blaze using a lighter. If found guilty, Borges faces anywhere between one and 15 years prison time with a possible damages payout of over $1 million. Munich, who assisted Borges with money to earn bail, have not made any comment as of yet, but are said to be privately furious with the player for multiple unrelated discretions. The defender was allegedly off sick from training due to a knee inflammation when he was spotted getting a new tattoo. Despite the bad press piling up, coach Jupp Heynckes appears to be standing by his player. “Obviously this is very unfortunate that he has done that, this should normally not be the case but at the moment it is not the time to hammer him,” Heynckes told TZ, adding, “he had signs of inflammation, but it is not like he was bedridden but the timing is very unfortunate; we do not need to talk about it. I’ve already talked to him about the other situation earlier this week, and we will now speak to him again about why he has carried out an unfortunate action. One should not bash him, he needs more help and support. We have a lot of patience and sympathy. But he cannot stretch it!” As of press time, a date for Borges’ arson trial has not been set. 18

Klopp next in line for Chelsea?

Speaking of Borussia Dortmund personnel set for Britannia, rumours have begun to resurface over team coach Jurgen Klopp’s future at the club. The chatter is nothing new, with Klopp having previously been linked to Chelsea shortly before Andre Villas-Boas took over. Now that VillasBoas has departed and the London side have yet to appoint a permanent successor, the speculation is back on. To the German manager’s credit, and unlike Kagawa, he has made no advances towards the available position and publically reaffirms his commitment to Dortmund. After his side’s victory over Greuther Furth in the DFB Pokal, he declared to Sky “I can turn them down straight away. I will not be moving there but I do think it is cool that I am being named in the same breath as Mourinho and Guardiola. That is enough for me - that is already a personal triumph, but I am not available, sorry.” In any case, with current interim Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo enjoying a purple patch of victories; the job may not be available either. Then there’s Klopp’s continental record. With Abramovich infamous for desperately seeking success in the Champions League, it does seem slightly puzzling that he would be chasing a manager who’s had zero success in that particular theatre. Indeed, Klopp’s Dortmund has crashed out of the competition for the past two years at the group stage. Regardless of the posturing, Klopp is contracted to Borussia through 2016, but Chelsea may not be the only possible suitor who comes calling during that time. It’s also been widely speculated that the Dortmund supremo will be the natural successor to Germany head coach Joachim Löw, should he ever choose to stand down – or be forced out. Where a rather chaotic and sometimes just downright confusion working atmosphere at Chelsea may be easy to resist, it would be difficult for Klopp to turn down his country, especially when such a strong crop of youth talent, some of whom he has personally coached, is on the verge of breaking through onto the global stage.

[soccer360 magazine]

On April 12, FC Köln handed head coach Stale Solbakken his walking papers after less than a year in charge. A statement made by the club read “‘Stale Solbakken is on leave. This decision was made at a general meeting of the board and against the backdrop of the current situation.” The current situation they refer to is the fact that Köln, with just two wins in 13, sit in the relegation playoff spot and just one point off automatic relegation. It’s a bitter blow for Solbakken who turned down the Norway national team job to take charge at Die Geißböcke. In an interview with Norwegian station TV2 he revealed, “yes, it’s over. I’ve been sacked, but I can’t say anything more than that […] I can’t say anything other than that I’ve been sacked and I’m furious.” Despite Köln’s poor run of form, Solbakken appeared initially to have the board’s vote of confidence, but after a 4-0 defeat to Mainz that saw the club slide into the relegation zone, his position became decidedly untenable. “Avoiding the relegation of Köln in this final sprint is the top priority, chairman Werner Wolf explained. “ With this in mind, we must make a decision without any ifs or buts. After the game against Mainz the regrettable but inevitable decision to place Stale Solbakken on leave was made […] our team needs new impetus in their relegation battle.” That new lead will come from Frank Schaefer, who will take the reins until the end of the season. Ironically, it was Solbakken who originally took over from Schaefer after the German coach resigned in May of 2011. With just three fixtures left to play, including a visit from Bayern Munich, time- and points- may be running out.


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BUNDESLIGA SURPRISES The 2011/12 Bundesliga season may have gone according to plan – at least in terms of where the big two finished – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its shocks. Patsy Freeman explains more.

ZOOMED IN FAN SIGNS Supporters of Hamburger SV's hold up banners reading:"First League Forever-We Are For YouYou Are For us"

The Falling Giant For fans of the modern game, particularly those who may not have a vested interest in the Bundesliga, the name Hamburger SV likely draws only a passing significance. 2012 is a long time removed from the club’s 1983 league and European Cup double winning side, led by the likes of Horst Hrubesch and Felix Magath. No, Hamburg may not conjure the same grandiose legacy as Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, but their infamy in the annals of German sports lies in an alternative feat of endurance – they are the only club to have featured in the Bundesliga every year since its inception in 1963. But that’s just for starters. The team have in fact played topflight football every year since the end of World War I. Quite the achievement, and certainly an interesting tale, but this isn’t simply a history lesson. To put it simply, 2012 could in fact signal the end of an era. You see, at time of press, Hamburg sit 14th place in the table, just two spots away from the relegation zone. With only three games left to play, and five points being the difference between them and the trapdoor, there are some very worried faces at Die Rothosen. To make matters worse, their form has been abysmal. Two wins in their last ten matches spells the throes of a boxer reaching for the ropes, not one of Germany’s most historic icons of sport. Perhaps that’s the problem – that for all of the club’s bluster about its past, they’ve never properly prepared for the future and have seemingly settled for mediocrity. Since 1987, the side have never even finished so much as runners-up in the Bundesliga, nor have they won a major trophy. There have been happier times though. In 2006/07, they competed in the Champions League, shoulder-to-shoulder with giants of triumph like Arsenal and Porto. The pair, likely unimpressed by Hamburg’s history, promptly tossed them to the side as the club finished bottom of its group, not even good enough for a parachute drop to the Europa League. No matter, Hamburg still led respectable domestic campaigns and could always be counted on to finish in the top half of the table. And besides, Frank Arnesen was now on board for the 2011/12 season as sporting director, and he was bringing the jewels of Chelsea’s youth academy with himJacopo Sala, Michael Mancienne, Gökhan Töre and Slobodan Rajković! Not quite the household names the fans were hoping for. When Hamburg slumped at the season’s start to last place with only one point from six games, Arnesen cut then-coach Michael Oenning from the program and replaced him with Thorsten Fink. Fink had just successfully guided Swiss outfit FC Basle to the Champions League and had built the foundations for a team that would go all the way to the knockout stages, eliminating Manchester United in the process. Fink managed to steady the ship into mid-table waters, but an admitted lack of quality in the squad and some bad luck turned the results against him. In the January transfer window, when surrounding clubs were bolstering their rosters with talent to prepare for European qualification quests or relegation dogfights, Hamburg sat put. Before he arrived at the club, Arnesen was told he could count on a significant transfer war chest to pluck some new players from clubs across the continent. Weeks into the job, he realized this was a lie. Not only were there no funds, there was a debt. He was immediately charged with slashing the wage bill by a third, offloading recognizable stars like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ze Roberto with an unceremonious touch. In a bid to reinforce the confidence of his current stable of players, new head coach Fink told the press in March “We don’t have to change anything.” They didn’t, and now a squad of misfits and youth talent must fend off the likes of newly promoted Hertha Berlin, FC Augsburg and similarly troubled big club FC Köln if they’re to maintain their top-flight status for one more year. The results may not have changed much since March, but the narrative certainly has. Before a crucial tie with Hanover, Fink told reporters “On Saturday everyone in the stadium, including Hanover, must see a team that is battling against relegation. We will not stop working.” The outlook may not be entirely different, but there seems to be a note of caution in his words, if not outright desperation. He’s not alone. Arnesen has described every remaining game as a “cup final,” pleading that the players “get better with experience.” The duo’s motivation appeared to do the trick, at least against Hanover, as Hamburg trudged out a 1-0 win over their visitors. But there’s nothing “final” about this situation. The club will still need points from vital upcoming games if they’re to secure their immediate future. Their final match is a trip to fellow relegation candidates Augsburg, for Hamburg’s sake, they better hope they don’t need all three points. The Phoenix from the Flames What a difference a season makes. This time last year, Borussia Monchengladbach were facing the gaping chasm of relegation with wide eyes only to escape its jaws thanks to a playoff victory against VfL Bochum. As of April 2012, they sit six points clear of their nearest rival with a fourth place Champions League slot all but sown up. In fact, if it wasn’t for a dreadful run of form over the past few weeks – just two wins in the last nine – they could have been challenging for title honours. So what’s been the secret to this turn around? A large portion of credit has to go to midfield dynamo Marco Reus. It was Reus’ goal that saved Die Fohlen from the drop those many months ago and his talents have gone from strength to strength since. So much so that he attracted the attention of Borussia Dortmund who swopped in and snatched him up for a cool $22m. Reus won’t be departing Monchengladbach until the season concludes, but according to German newspaper ‘Express’, the club have already agreed terms with his replacement, FC Basle starlet Granit Xhaka. You may remember Xhaka from his Champions League exploits this year as he was a key member of the squad that took the Swiss champions to the knockout stages of the competition. He won’t be the only former Basle player that will be plying his trade in the Bundesliga next year as teammate Xherdan Shaqiri signed a deal with Bayern Munich during the winter transfer window. For Borussia Monchengladbach fans, this taste of success comes as a welcome reward after the club’s relegation in 2007 and subsequent threat of the plunge last year. Let’s just hope their Champions League ambitions next season doesn’t come at the price of their domestic wellbeing.

The Crying Game During a 6-0 victory over Bundesliga stragglers Hertha Berlin, Bayern Munich stars Franck Ribery and Toni Kroos decided to settle once and for all who was going to take the next free kick – with an impromptu game of rock, paper scissors. The move was met with light-hearted applause from the crowd and a few chuckles from commentators, but not everyone is pleased. Former Munich midfielder Stefan Effenberg told broadcaster Sky90 “They were playing against a team that is fighting against relegation and for them to be joking around – this should not happen.” Maybe Ribery and Kroos were taking cues from one of Effenberg’s other former clubs – Borussia Monchengladbach? In a 3-0 win over FC Köln Marco Reus and Mike Hanke did the exact same thing. Or possibly their interest in hand gestures comes from Effenberg himself, who managed to get dropped from the Germany World Cup 1994 squad after flipping the middle finger to fans whilst being substituted during a group game with South Korea? Whatever the reasoning, the Munich pair would perhaps be better suited spending less time making jokes and more time wondering how they managed to surrender the top spot in the Bundesliga to reigning champions Borussia Dortmund, who they now sit eight points behind. The same Dortmund who Bayern president Uli Hoeness tells anyone who will listen “is not a genuine rival.” Right, that’s why they just beat you to the title in back-to-back seasons. It seems Ribery and Kroos aren’t the only people at Allianz Arena who are playing games.

[www.soccer360.net]

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Soccer 360 Factfile Bastian Schweinsteiger 1/8/1984 (Kolbermoor) 1.83m / 79kg Midfielder Bayern Munich

Season 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12

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1:45, April 11, 2012. The Westfalenstadion, home to Borussia Dortmund, is literally shaking in celebration right now. Its 80,000 capacity crowd shower their heroes in praise as players from Bayern Munich skulk off the pitch with their head down – demolished, demoralized and defeated. This is the time and date that Munich effectively conceded the Bundesliga title to their rivals. The game was played as a hotly contested affair, a charged atmosphere of scything tackles and pressure football, where every refereeing decision was decried and challenged. There was no rolling over to die, that wouldn’t be the Bayern way. As the match played out, team icon Franz Beckenbauer, Der Kaiser, ripped his former team as he commentated for broadcaster Sky, telling viewers “There’s not enough movement, there’s no structure, the defence doesn’t function.” Team general manager Christian Nerlinger concurred, stating, “Dortmund [have] the better chances over the 90 minutes, their win [is] in order.” But as the defeated team slowly departed the stage of their own public play of tragedy, they were one man short, their vice-captain. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the first player aboard the Bayern bus, unshowered and unchanged. He’d only played 30 minutes during the game, brought on to replace the ineffective Thomas Müller, but was largely frustrated by Dortmund’s superior manmarking. This wasn’t the Schweinsteiger of South Africa 2010, the man who superbly marshalled his team to 4-1 and 4-0 wins over England Argentina respectively. This was a Schweinsteiger struggling to return from an ankle injury that has seen him record just 19 appearances this season and only two since February 9, both as a substitute. In his stead, teammates Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry have grabbed the headlines, desperately trying to keep pace with Dortmund’s runaway title bid. While Robben and Ribéry are certainly the most internationally recognizable names on the Bayern team sheet, it’s indisputable that the heart of the squad is Schweinsteiger. In the last few months, that heart has been missing and Bayern have certainly felt its absence as their own title challenge floundered from favourites to also-rans. “He was absolutely fantastic until he got injured. There’s not much of a difference between Bastian, Xavi and Iniesta. He’s a very important player at Bayern” team chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge declared. His comparison with the Barcelona and Spain duo is quite apt. Lionel Messi may be the greatest player in the world, but it’s ‘Xaviesta’ who run the Catalan team. Coach Jupp Heynckes is in agreement, “For me, Bastian Schweinsteiger

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plays in a league with Andres Iniesta [and] Xavi.” And it’s not just for Bayern. In international terms, Schweinsteiger is likewise a pivotal part of the Germany national team and one of the hot favourites for this summer’s Euro 2012. National teammate Mario Götze hails him as “the best in his position in the country,” high praise for a midfield that also includes both himself and Real Madrid’s Mesut Özil. But this is the reason why many in Germany are worried. If Schweinsteiger is not 100% fit in time for the Euros, the national team will have a hard time overhauling the defending Spanish champions – the same team that eliminated them from South Africa 2010. Rummenigge has found his star player’s recovery from injury a growing concern. He understands that his club’s stock rises and falls depending on Schweinsteiger’s availability, but he also chaffs at the idea of sending off an unfit player to the Euros.” Schweinsteiger [will] take time, it will be tight for the European Championship” he told Sky, adding “I do not believe that it is sufficient if he is only there.” He is referring to the belief in the press that even if Schweinsteiger is not fully fit, national coach Joachim Löw will include him in the final squad regardless. It could be for use as a substitute or simply just for the player’s presence but Bayern fans should be as cautious as Rummenigge. Ankle injuries are notoriously difficult to shake and can flare up if not properly rested. What if an unfit Schweinsteiger was to reinjure himself while playing at the Euros? Would we be talking weeks or months for additional recovery? That may be a risk Bayern are unwilling to take without a fight. 19:00, June 9, 2012. When Germany takes the field against Portugal in their first game of Euro 2012, they will need every slice of talent they can muster. Already titled ‘the group of death,’ Group A will certainly be no pushover. After Portugal, Germany will have to face rivals Denmark and the highly touted Netherlands. If Germany reaches the knockout stage, they will be battle-tested and ready to face anyone, perhaps even Spain, however the question remains just how far the team can go without the talismanic Schweinsteiger. One thing is certain- he will be desperate to make the squad, and even more so to play. While sitting on the bench during Bayern’s defeat to Dortmund, he headed every ball, played every pass and leapt to his feet when a refereeing call did not go Munich’s way. He also looked absolutely tortured while doing it, so we can only imagine what it`d be like for him to be at home on his couch come June. For his sake, and Germany’s, let`s hope he’s not.


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Kansas On Top We’ll start things off with Sporting Kansas City, who went from midtable regulars to league leaders in the course of a single off-season. Winning their first six games, and conceding only a single goal, Sporting KC are on fire! They’re making a case for themselves as a potential favorite for a playoff place and maybe even an MLS Cup. Rolfe Comes Home Look who’s coming back home! The Chicago Fire, this years dark horse, just keep getting stronger and stronger, with Chris Rolfe returning from his stint at Aalborg BK over in Denmark. Rolfe played in well over a hundred games for Chicago, before making his European move. He returns to MLS hungry for both minutes on the field and for a slice of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza! Bacary Soumaré Too? Chris Rolfe isn’t the only former Fire player looking to catch a flight back home; Bacary Soumaré, an MLS All-Star defender, is also rumored to be making a return from Germany’s Karlsruher SC. Unlike Rolfe, Soumaré will need to go through the allocation order, which means he might just fall into the lap of a struggling Toronto FC, who sit third and need help defensively.

All-Star Adventure Speaking of MlS All-Stars, Philadelphia is playing host to this year’s showdown, where the current crop of Major League Soccer’s finest take on a returning Chelsea FC. Head Coach Peter Nowak will be gathering players from around the league to take on the Blues, Fernando Torres and all! My suggestion? Skip the defenders – Torres won’t score regardless of who’s marking him! Adu: Difference Maker? The Philadelphia Union will be looking forward to this game, particularly if Freddy Adu has his way. The United States’ “prodigal-son” expressed his desire to become an impact player for the Union, after a brilliant pass gave Philly the only goal of the game against the Columbus Crew. If Adu keeps this kind of form up, he may just be on Nowak’s shortlist for an MLS All-Star game appearance on home turf. Moving Out of Robertson Stadium Ah, home turf, a soccer specific stadium to call your own! It’s been the subject of the Houston Dynamo’s daydreams for years now, but it’s about to become a reality. BBVA Compass Stadium, which seats 22,000, will be the Dynamo’s new home, right in the heart of downtown Houston. Move-in day is coming up quickly, but for the Dynamo, and captain Brian Ching, that day can’t come soon enough! Rumor Has It It looks like one of Major League Soccer’s oldest rumors won’t bear any fruit – longtime transfer target Alessandro Del Piero started his retirement tour with Juventus, quashing the buzz around a possible MLS appearance. Oh well, we still have Ruud van Nistelrooy and Raul Gonzales to look forward to! Montreal’s Italian Job It’s a shame, really, since the Montreal Impact could really have used Del Piero, a crown jewel in their roster already boasting Italian talent like Matteo Ferrari and Bernardo Corradi. The Impact, as their name suggests, need an impact player to help them out in that final third. Missing Brek Shea Meanwhile in Texas, FC Dallas have been quietly going about their game, picking up points here and there, and being unusually dull this season. Superstar Brek Shea has notched just a single goal, but that won’t stop Dallas from picking up some wins. It’s not like Shea hasn’t tried, either – he’s notched 13 shots on net. Got to work on the accuracy there, big guy. Bring Out the Hoops If Shea isn’t scoring for Dallas, the United States National team will be a bit worried too. After crashing out of the Olympics qualifiers at the hand of a brotherly band of Canucks, the USA may have found another way of getting Shea on the scoring sheet; they’ve introduced new shirts, with red and white hoops, eerily similar to FC Dallas’ strip. Subliminally tricking Shea into feeling more comfortable, perhaps? Genius! 22

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The Reds take on The Reds Toronto FC will need all the luck they can get if they want to topple their midseason opponents, Liverpool Football Club. The club announced the two would play in a friendly match on July 21 at the Rogers Centre.

Oh, Beckham! Let’s just pause here for a second, and admire another genius piece of play. Did you see David Beckham crack that beautiful volley home? Wow! Run to your computer and watch it! That was something special from ”Golden Balls”, who’s still in the running for a spot on Team Great Britain for the Olympics, too! What’s Up California? Besides Becks’ brilliance, something’s up with the water in California. After crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League at the hands of last-place Toronto FC, the lA Galaxy lost key games against the New England Revolution, Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, leaving them eighth in the west, and out of a playoff spot – is this the same team that just lifted the MLS Cup last season!? Shocking stuff.


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San Jose Shakeup Even more crazy is the sudden emergence of the San Jose earthquakes. The Quakes sit third in the league behind Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake. How? Well, Chris Wondolowski has been on fire this year, scoring seven times so far (!) Just for comparison, second place on the scoresheet is Shea Salinas, who scored one goal. It’s all Wondolowski, baby! (Don’t) Break a Leg! It’s going to need to be Wondolowski for the considerable future too; During San Jose’s match against the New York Red Bulls, rafael Marquez grabbed Shea Salinas from behind, drove him to the ground and fractured his clavicle. Salinas, requiring surgery, will be out for the season, and Marquez will face disciplinary hearings soon – terrible sportsmanship from Marquez, who may be out of Mexico’s national team as well. Ouch! Forget Linsanity! Rafa Marquez aside, the New York red Bulls have enjoyed a strong start of their own. Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper have scored 14 goals between them, and New York sit now second in the Eastern Conference. Jeremy Lin may have put up some decent numbers for the New York Knicks, but Henry and Cooper and playing out of their skin. Thierry Coopsanity? I see some new t-shirts on the way! MLS, Take Note However, the craziness in New York doesn’t even compare to what’s happened in Columbus, Ohio. I’m talking about $1 Budweiser and Buck Evans Bratwursts! During the Columbus Crew’s matchup against the Houston Dynamo, fans were served beer and food for a buck apiece, easily the most incredible price possible for stadium fare. Talk about real insanity! Signing South Americans Quick question: does anyone else other than Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser think herding goats could be so fun? Fraser keeps adding fresh young talent from South America to his roster, continuing the Chivas USA tradition of being the exact opposite of the LA Galaxy at any cost! “The Goats” recently signed forward Jose Erick Correa from Colombia to play alongside John Valencia and Juan Pablo Angel – Olé! Monkey See, Monkey Do It looks like head coach Oscar Pareja over at Colorado rapids was paying attention to Chivas. Moments after Correa was picked up from Colombia, the Rapids added a Columbian of their own in Harrison Henao. The 25-year-old has Copa Libertadores experience under his belt and could be vital for Colorado moving forward.

Toronto FC Cursed BMO Field, on the other hand, has been a disaster for Aron Winter and toronto FC. After making the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, and losing out to Club Santos Laguna from Mexico, Toronto FC lost five straight in league play, scoring only two goals, with Winter chalking it up to “bad luck.” Troubling times for TFC.

A Good Headache Over in D.C. United, head coach Ben Olsen is stocking up on pens and paper; he’s got some busy nights up ahead. With Dwayne De Rosario, Maicon Santos, Chris Pontius, Andy Najar and SuperDraft standout Nick DeLeon all available (and in-form!), Olsen’s having trouble making all his pieces fit on one page! Ben Olsen won’t be complaining, however! Benny the Model New england revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber is making headlines in Boston, but it’s not for his on-the-field play. Feilhaber was featured on local news as a “stylesetter,” known for his good looks and keen sense of fashion. Reporters exposed his closet while gushing about his wardrobe. It’s a bit of a departure from Benny’s ugly, hardtackling style of play on field…how strange! Rio Tinto Hero We’ve seen a lot of standout players at real Salt lake over the years, and it seems like every season, there’s a new hero at Rio Tinto Stadium. 2012 is no different, as rightback Tony Beltran has been a standout in the early part of the season. He’s made the rightback spot his own, and with Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers beside him, RSL are thriving. ‘Caps Keep Clicking Up north, the Vancouver Whitecaps have been on a bit of a hot-streak. The Caps started off strong, conceding zero goals in their first four games, notching two wins and two draws. With Sebastian LeToux, Camilo and Eric Hassli, Vancouver have started clicking, making BC Place a fortress. Spencer Needs Answers Finally, we’ll wrap things up with our favorite MLS rivalry, shall we? The Portland timbers and the Seattle Sounders are both on very different wavelengths. John Spencer’s Portland side is suffering from their own case of “Toronto FC-itis,” losing their last four games and dropping in the standings. Spencer, too, claimed it was bad luck on their part.

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IT WAS TIME FOR AMERICA At the age of just 28 he’s already the best scorer in history of Scottish Premier League and ready to conquer America. Scoring three goals in his first five games with Portland Timbers, the former Rangers star proved to be one of the best newcomers of this MLS season. Having a reputation as a deadly finisher, he remains the main hope for a successful season in Portland and possibly their first ever play-off appearance. Interview | Martin Harasimowicz

How do you remember the decision process and why did you end up in Portland? Portland is a great club and great place. The league is definitely getting better and I wanted to be part of it. I’m only a little bit disappointed with the results in the last few weeks, but there are a lot of positives also, so far. I just need to look forward to winning some games. What was the main motivation to come to America? Was it financial or more for the adventure? Once I spoke to the coach, my mind was made up, it was simple. I had offers in the UK and other countries, but I wanted to come here and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. You’ve built your reputation as a scorer over the years and you are doing exactly that in Major League Soccer. Nothing has changed in this department… You need to give yourself a chance to be in position to score goals, but the most important thing is the team winning games. It doesn’t matter if you’re scoring goals and losing – you’re still disappointed. At the end of the day getting three points is all it matters. What’s the potential of Timbers team? How far you can go? We just need to believe in ourselves. We have good players and of course talent can win you some games. As long as we stay together we can come out as a dangerous unit. Obviously we’ve lost few games in a row, but can’t get down on ourselves. We need to continue to improve and stay positive. You’ve scored an opening goal against L.A Galaxy at Home Depot Center in a game you’ve eventually lost 1-3. Is scoring against this particular team any sweeter? It doesn’t bother me too much as I try to score every game I play, whatever the opposition might be. Obviously Galaxy are of the biggest clubs in America but it’s no different for me. Every time you go out, you try to score goals… You’ve played some big games in your career, the Glasgow rivalries in particular. How special is to play against Galaxy in the MLS? You always focus on the team who you are playing next. You don’t put any special attention whether it’s Galaxy or someone else. I look forward to play them next time, that 24

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recent loss certainly motivates me as a footballer. It hurts, because we had our chances and didn’t take them. We keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Talk about the transition process after playing in Scotland for most of your career. How different is the football in MLS? When you look at football as whole nowadays – it’s more or less the same. The travel is probably the biggest problem. There is a lot of travel involved and it could be an issue, however you need to get used to it very quick, it’s as simple as that. Right now we need to focus on getting results for Portland. In a three game span in early April you conceded five goals in last ten minutes of each game. What is the cause of that? Maybe its because we didn’t take our chances and got little frustrated? It’s obviously an issue we need to address, it can’t continue. All the guys are together in the locker room and it needs to stay that way. Looking back on playing for Rangers the last couple of years, do you feel bad for them regarding the financial mess they’ve put themselves in recently? Of course I have my teammates there and talk to them all the time – I’m still close friends with them. It’s very disappointing, but I’m sure they’re committed to save the club. Unfortunately it has happened to a lot of big businesses…

You’ve played against Robbie Keane in Scotland and now here in the MLS… I’ve played against him as a member of Rangers when he went on loan from Tottenham to Celtic. Robbie is a very good player, he’s always moving and causing problems for defenders. He wouldn’t have scored so many goals over the years in the Premier League if he weren’t a special player. What’s your approach with the Timbers? You try to stay near the box, close to the defensive line? Everybody knows me, that’s my ability – be in the box, get shots and score goals. That’s what I base my game on and I’ve been successful with that approach. The game is changing, however, so you need to add more to that strategy. Hopefully I will continue to improve and go forward from here. Let’s talk about your future with the Scottish National Team. What does the situation look like at the moment? We finished the last campaign pretty strongly and hopefully I can get myself involved again soon. It’s been a long time since I’ve played for Scotland, but I definitely want to be part of the team. It’s a great honor and the best feeling of all – running onto the field for your country. I want to get myself back in but right now the focus is in Portland. Sometimes national team coaches don’t want to call players from America because of schedules, long travel, different time zones etc.… It happened before. Aren’t you afraid that playing for Portland could jeopardize your future with the Scotland team? I don’t think it’s a problem. No matter where you are, if you are scoring goals and playing well you should be involved, simple as that. Anybody who’s watched the American league knows it’s getting better and better. There are some very good players around here and I’m sure over the next few years it will continue to improve. If they handle things well, they can have long and successful career, wherever they play.


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EXPE UNEX Three out of the four top teams at the last World Cup will go into battle once again this summer. However, as Giancarlo Rinaldi reports, there is no guarantee that everything will run to form for them in a competition which has a history of unpredictability

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f you like your sporting stories with a sting in the tail, then the European championships are the competition for you. While the World Cup generally remains the preserve of the game’s big-hitters, its continental little brother likes to spring a few surprises. You simply can’t rule out a shock winner emerging from this summer’s action in Poland and the Ukraine. The reasons for the Euros’ comparative unpredictability are many. The shorter format means it takes a smaller number of upsets to come away with the trophy. It is also sometimes viewed as a “building block” by the major nations who field more experimental line-ups than they might at a World Cup. That can leave the door open for other sides to sneak away with the silverware. As well as the unexpected victories - those of Denmark and Greece come most notably to mind - it has also sometimes served as a springboard for great sides. West Germany laid the foundations for their 1974 World Cup triumph with success in Belgium two years earlier and Spain’s victory at South Africa 2010 had its roots in Austria and Switzerland. Nothing hones the competitive edge better than taking on, and defeating, some of the world’s best teams. The tournament can also act as a consolation prize - as it did for two great teams back in the 1980s. Michel Platini’s France never lifted a World Cup trophy but they enjoyed Euro glory on home soil in 1984. Four years later, the brilliant Dutchmen Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard enjoyed their finest hour for their national side in West Germany. The honour was the least they deserved. It is that varied and rich tapestry of triumphs which makes such an intriguing plot for this summer’s proceedings. The bookmakers have reigning world champions Spain installed as favourites, third place finishers Germany as the next most likely winners and runners-up in South Africa, Holland, as third in the betting. Yet its history and tradition suggests that an outsider could easily stun that cosy trio. No doubt the Spanish have the highest quality credentials. Their record in major competitions of late is an impeccable one and their squad remains of outstanding quality. Injury has put a question mark over the participation of qualification top scorer David Villa of Barcelona. However, they can still count on the creativity of Manchester City’s David Silva and the goal threat of the ever-more-impressive Athletic Bilbao front man Fernando Llorente. Stalwarts like Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta give a powerful feel to the side. Even fall-back options like Chelsea’s Juan Mata or Barca’s Thiago Alcantara are pretty impressive. They should coast through their group - but open it with a Titanic clash with Italy. Despite being under-achievers at the Euro event - they have won it only once, on home soil, in 1968 - the Azzurri remain formidable opponents. Their record in competitive clashes with La Furia Roja is, quite simply, outstanding. The last time they lost over 90 minutes to Spain at a major competition was at the 1920 Olympics. Yet boss Cesare Prandelli goes into battle with as many questions in his head as answers. Robbed of Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano by injury although he hopes to have both of them back - he has had to tinker with his preferred tactics. It looked like Mario Balotelli would move to the heart of his plans but constant concerns about the Manchester City forward’s behaviour saw him marginalised for a recent friendly. Mind you, Italy rarely do smooth build-ups for a tournament. At their best, however, they are a match for anyone and a dark horse for outright victory. A solid defence in front of the incomparable Gigi Buffon will surely concede fewer goals than at the South African World Cup. His Juve teammate Andrea Pirlo will continue to pull the strings in midfield, most likely assisted by Roma’s Daniele De Rossi, fellow Bianconero Claudio Marchisio and soon-to-be-exViola Riccardo Montolivo. Up front might be just about anybody’s guess if Rossi and Cassano don’t return to full fitness in time. If the Italian situation is problematic, then England’s is positively chaotic. Having parted company with Fabio Capello in the Battle of the Captain’s Armband, they have the feeling of a Royal Navy frigate cut adrift at sea. Suspension rules

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out hitman Wayne Rooney from the opening two games only adding to the feeling of disorganisation. And yet, sometimes, these are the circumstances which can bring a team together. Initially, the draw looked kind to the Three Lions but there are difficulties lurking beneath the surface. France have been revived by Laurent Blanc, Sweden carry the threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ukraine, as host nation, will carry the power of home support. England should still be good enough to get through - but it might not make for comfortable viewing. Stuart Pearce, or whoever is in charge, has some selection headaches looming. Does the old guard - the likes of Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand - have one last blast left to deliver? Or should he turn to younger guns who might help to build for the future? It is a poser which means that a semi-final spot looks the most they can hope for. Unless, just perhaps, they find some extra resolve in the midst of such adversity. There are no such panic signals coming out of Germany. They were exciting but ultimately fell short at the World Cup. Now they feel they have the players ready to add to their trophy-studded history. It would be hard to dispute such a conclusion even when landed in such a stern group with the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal. Joachim Low’s side has a nice mix of youth and great experience and plays an attractive brand of football. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira make the midfield tick while few sides boast a better array of attacking options. Miro Klose, Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and Andre Schurrle all contributed goals towards qualification. Add that to a well-drilled defence and you get a team which is clearly on the up and hungry for success. An opening group clash with their great Dutch rivals makes a mouthwatering prospect and any winner from that tie would surely see their stock as potential victors rise. The Oranje were strong contenders at the last World Cup and remain a powerful outfit. In Klaas-Jan Huntelaar they have the top scorer among all sides in qualification and a none-too-shabby partner up front in Robin van Persie. With Wesley Sneijder to provide the assists, they are clearly a side capable of making major progress. But these favourites would all be well advised to watch their backs. A slow start or a couple of slip-ups could allow other less-fancied sides to pounce. The supporting cast at the competition is, to pinch a phrase from the music world, all killer and no filler. Resurgent France were impressive in qualification, conceding just four goals, while Greece, Russia and Denmark also topped groups which looked to present them with plenty of difficulties. It is often hard to translate that kind of form into major competitions but nobody should be too surprised if at least a couple of them make it through to the knockout stages. Even sides who had a harder time qualifying like Sweden, Croatia and Portugal can surely not be ruled out from making an impact when the action gets under way. And only somebody with no memory of previous major competitions would rule out at least one of the host nations making an impact. On paper at least, Poland and Ukraine are among the weakest sides at Euro 2012 but that is a script which is rarely followed. Neither Switzerland nor Austria made much of an impact at the last edition but prior to that home advantage had always been a major factor. Indeed, staging the tournament had always been pretty much a guarantee of a top four finish and that is something the dual hosts will hope to draw inspiration from. It should make for a summer of football which will be exciting, unpredictable and very delicately poised. Even the European outfits with a lesser reputation are more than capable of giving their more famed opponents a run for their money. It translates into a competition which is rarely anything less than entirely gripping - and also an event in which even favourite backers are unlikely to get an entirely relaxing run for their money.

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QUALIFICATION ROUTE:

Germany once again sealed qualification at a canter, winning all ten games in Group A and putting both Belgium and Turkey to the sword. Having sealed qualification early, they played their last three matches with experimental teams containing debutantes, giving fringe players a chance. Making the big dance was never in doubt and Germany delivered with a swagger and confidence one has come to expect from this squad, scoring 34 goals and conceding only seven. Ominously, they never trailed and only conceded an equalizer four times, with a 3-1 battering of Turkey in Istanbul, the highlight of a campaign that was smooth, efficient and comprehensive.

GROUP RIVALS Holland:

One of the two favourites, along with Spain, for the title outright, the Dutch present an early test of Germany’s credentials. Like their rivals across the Rhine, Holland is blessed with outrageously gifted players and well stocked at all positions of the pitch. They play a high line and are very strong with a physical side of their football, particularly in defence, overshadowing an epic offense. In strikers Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Robin Van Persie, Holland have arguably the finest strike pair on the continent. With a midfield of Rafael Van Der Vaart, Arjen Robben, Nigel De Jong and Wesley Sneijder behind them, the Netherlands will definitely come to play. At the back the Dutch rely on the athleticism and physical prowess of their defensive unit who are a threat at set pieces as well. Germany’s match against Holland on June 13 in Kharkiv will determine the outcome of the tournament for both. Germany crushed Holland 3-0 in a friendly in November 2011.

Denmark:

Hardly a threat without being pushovers, the Danes will bring their typical industry and organization to the tournament, although polished with some much needed creativity in Ajax’s attacking midfield jewel Christian Eriksen. Dennis Rommedahl is still tricky up front but at 33, his fastest years are behind him while Nicklas Bendtner, a more traditional centre forward is prolific in patches and is better with the ball in the air rather than at his feet. The Danish midfield is hard working without being eyecatching and Germany should have little trouble in bypassing them. However if the Danes dig in and Germany has to resort to working the ball in off the wings or over the top, Klose and Muller’s skills could come to the fore, once again. The Danes and Germans square off on June 17 in Lviv.

Portugal:

Ridiculously talented with an array of mesmerizing players and arguably one of the best on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s inclusion in Group B very much makes it the group of death. Alongside captain Ronaldo, who is capable of winning most game on his own, Portugal offer threats from all over their front six in Nani, Hugo Almeida, Ricardo Quaresma, Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. On the flip side, Portugal’s defending is a bit suspect. Germany’s defense will be stretched by a fast passing and tricky Portuguese side who are absolutely terrifying when in the mood and on song. Howedes and Hummels will have their work cut out in keeping Ronaldo off the score sheet. They play Portugal June 9 in their opening game of the tournament in Lviv.

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Another smooth build up sees the Mannschaft firing on all cylinders as they look to challenge outright according to Soccer360’s Arjun Datta

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hile Germany’s progression to the final of Euro 2008 was seen as a surprise, it was simply continuing a trend of attacking brilliance that saw its birth during World Cup 2006. While both ’06 and ’08 versions contained some of the deadwood of former captain Michael Ballack’s generation, the complete retool was completed under Klinsmann’s successor Joachim Low and unleashed to spectacular effect in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup. Some skeptics would point out that Germany’s uber-talented team may have overachieved both there and previously in Austria-Switzerland in 2008. But the fact is that Germany’s progression to both tournaments’ latter stages, and the impression they have made at youth levels, suggest that the national team is ready to take the final step – and win it all. Romantics will point out that Spain are the team to beat, having dominated and won both Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010. And thereafter the threat of Holland, offensively stocked and technically gifted, looms large. But whereas the former two nations were far and away the best two teams from Europe, and often the World at previous tournaments, Germany is now ready to join them in a troika of heavyweights slugging it out for the right to be called Champions of Europe for four years. Germany’s team is young – a point labored several times over – hungry for success, balanced in all areas of the pitch and technically well drilled in both individual and team tactics and strategy. The coaching structure has remained intact for several years, reaping the rewards that stability brings, and like Spain, is built around a core of players who have been playing the same style of football together for years. And in some areas of the pitch, like at left full back and in goal, Germany’s talent is the best in the world. This German team is peaking at the right moment and the time is ripe for it to seize its chance and capture the glory. Looking at it another way, if Germany’s relatively mediocre and transitional teams made it to the final at Euro 2008 and the semifinals at both 2006 and 2010, surely this team, now at its best, can surely go further and possibly even do one better? Writing off Germany at major tournaments could be perilous for other teams, with only Euro 2004 and Euro 2000 being disappointing outings for the national team in the last 30 odd years. They possess a mental setup that perfectly balances pressure and ability, and relies on a winning attitude that makes them believe that they will go far. Now they are arguably better equipped to win it all – more so even than their World Cup winning side in 1990. Of course several banana skins remain, and in a tournament played over a four-week period, a surge in form at the right time could upset the balance. Head to head matches against Spain and Holland could present the toughest of challenges. However, taking into account the draw, the team and the trend of results that Germany has achieved in recent games of importance, one can only conclude that the current side is readymade for success. Anointing a talented group of similarly talented players a “golden generation” is a tricky and potentially ominous task as England’s and Brazil’s cohorts have shown. However, the fact remains that Germany’s current crop is one of their finest harvests with many players missing the final cut of 23. German teams have long been more comfortable with the description of effective rather than good. Typically, expectations have been tempered, with no rallying cries having been made yet by any of the coaching staff, team members or media. But at home, German fans are quietly optimistic as they book their trains and tickets after having snapped up the full allocation of 12,000 tickets for their matches in the group stages. And while Low has been notoriously low key, preferring to talk about his team’s preparation and players’ fitness, he must retain the strongest belief that the time is now for his side to succeed.

Germany has dropped points in only two games – both draws in their previous two qualification campaigns – while a third, enroute to Euro 2008, saw just one loss as they finished second to Russia in their group. More impressively they have spanked four goals past both Argentina and England in 2010 while getting past Uruguay and Portugal in third place matches with a degree of comfort. Add in the narrow defeats to Spain in the final in 2008 and the semi-finals in 2010, along with a heartbreaking extra time defeat to Italy in 2006, and it is quite clear that they only ever lose to the eventual champions. Germany have always played well and achieved strong finishes, but this team is even better. From front to back the team is stacked with several players from the Bundesliga’s latest dynamic generation, formed around the nuclei of Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich with a smattering of talent from elsewhere like Real Madrid and Borussia Moenchengladbach. A quick rundown reveals the depth of talent in place. While Bayern’s Manuel Neuer is first choice in goal, his backup pair of Rene Adler and Tim Wiese make one wonder how many other teams can boast such riches between the posts. Captain Phillip Lahm is one of the game’s premier wing backs and is joined at the back by Dortmund duo Marcel Schmelzer and Matt Hummels, who have picked up successive Bundesliga crowns. Schalke captain Benedikt Howedes is a commanding presence at centre back, and versatile Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng is capable of playing anywhere along the back four. Further afield Wolfsburg’s Christian Trasch, Munich’s Holger Badstuber and Hamburg’s Dennis Aogo round out the options which may mean exiles for experienced Arsenal defender Per Metesacker, and wily veteran Arne Friedrich. It’s not just the strength, speed and technical brilliance of this defensive corps but their versatility and interchangeability. Germany’s strength really comes to bear in midfield, as only Spain has a better set of starters and no one has a deeper pool of talent. Bayern’s attacking midfield pair of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller have already wreaked havoc at several international tournaments with a cut-and-thrust style played at breakneck speed. Add to them Real’s pair of attacking midfielders, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, and Dortmund’s own dynamic duo of Sven Bender and Mario Gotze, and you have a real handful of central midfielders who can pass, run, tackle and dribble with the ball at pace. Additional options are available through Bayern’s latest up and comer in the middle of the park, Toni Kroos, Schalke’s part English sensation Lewis Holtby, Gladbach’s Marco Reus and Bayer Leverkusen trio Lars Bender (Sven’s twin), Simon Rolfes and Andre Schurrle. If injuries do take a toll, Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, Bremen’s Marko Marin and yet another Leverkusen midfielder Gonzalo Castro, can all step in. A look at the squad list makes would make many an opposing coach wince. Dortmund’s captain Sebastian Kehl does not even get a look-in. Up front, the cupboard is anything but bare with old warhorse Miroslav Klose still banging them in for Lazio in Serie A, Leverkusen’s forward Stefan Keissling in the form of his life, Cologne forward Lukas Podolski (who can also play on the left wing) coming off another prolific season and Bayern’s Mario Gomez scoring for fun. Stuttgart’s Brazilian born striker Cacau and Wolfsburg’s Patrick Helmes are more than competent in front of goal and with Muller able to play in the hole, Germany’s attack is every bit as potent as its midfield. While Low can line his troops up anywhere from a traditional 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-3-3, they play at a high tempo with speed and power, something that most teams will struggle to contain. Germany’s moment in the sun has arrived; their time is now – a fact evident to all who follow the game. If they play to their potential, keep their minds on the task and take the chances that their style of football creates, they may very well go home with the trophy. Not that this makes them favourites of course, just the leading contenders to take Spain’s crown.

[www.soccer360.net]

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he hype will be just the same. Drive through any English town or city in June and you’ll see the flag of Saint George fluttering from windows and adorning pub façades. Turn on the TV and you’ll see streams of commercials trying to establish some tenuous connection between the product advertised and the England national team. Three Lions on a shirt, World in Motion, Vindaloo, all the anthems of tournaments past will be dusted off and given some radio airplay. But Euro 2012 will not be like any other international tournament in living memory, not from England’s perspective. How could it be? Their manager resigned in February. The favourite to replace him was acquitted of tax evasion on the very same day, after a lengthy and high profile court case. The successor isn’t due to be appointed until the domestic season ends, a matter of weeks before the big kick off in Poland and Ukraine. Their star striker is suspended for two of the three group stage fixtures. Their defensive leader and erstwhile captain will stand trial in July accused of racially abusing his teammates brother. To say that England’s preparations for the championships haven’t been ideal is like saying that Emile Heskey isn’t the most clinical of finishers, or that Peter Crouch is above average height - a colossal understatement. It won’t be the first time England have went into a international tournament under a cloud of controversy - Bobby Moore was famously arrested for the alleged theft of a bracelet from a Bogota jewellery store shortly before the 1970 World Cup - but never before has the scandal been on such a grand scale. And yet, bizarre as it sounds, that dose of scandal may be exactly what this England team needs……the one thing giving them a chance of lifting the Henry Delaunay trophy at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on July 1. So often England have went into tournaments on a wave of naïve enthusiasm, the entire nation enveloped in a kind of collective amnesia, managing to banish the memory of all the painful eliminations of the past and convince themselves that this year, this year really is going to be their year. This Three Lions frenzy, as infuriating as it was to bitter Scotsmen such as the author of this article, was

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not without some justification. England had, and still do have, a very talented pool of players available to them, the problem being that said players were all too willing to believe the media’s hype, to underestimate their opponents, and to lose their mental resolve in pressurised situations such as, lets say, a penalty shoot out. The fact that we still don’t know who the England manager will be, what formation and tactics they will use or what players will feature less than two months before Euro 2012 commences, whereas the eminent powers Spain and Germany have used the same manager, players, tactics and formation since before the last European Championships in 2008, means that no one sane is tipping the English as favourites, and that can only be a good thing. The risk of hubris and complacency is minimal this time around, and the element of surprise is a weapon none of the other frontrunners have in their arsenal. Who’s to say England can’t feed off the controversy, thrive on it as Italy did at World Cups 1982 and 2006. On both occasions the Azzurri arrived at the tournament in disgrace, their domestic game in meltdown due to match fixing revelations, yet left as World Champions. So much hinges on the manager, on his identity and on the timing and manner of his appointment. It says a lot about Fabio Capello’s tenure that few mourned when his resignation was announced, despite it coming so soon before the finals in June. Some openly rejoiced. “Lights the beacons across the land, let the church bells ring out with joy and record in the annals of history that Fabio Capello’s final decision as England manager proved to be his best,” cried The Telegraph’s Henry Winter. “England were stagnating. On his watch. On £6m a year.” Yes Capello’s England had coasted through qualifying undefeated, seven points ahead of their nearest challengers Montenegro and having conceded just five goals, but qualification for World Cup 2010 was achieved in similarly emphatic style and we know how that ended. With tears and confusion, a humbling 4-1 defeat to the old enemy Germany in Bloemfontein, and their perceptive young conqueror Thomas Muller suggesting there were “too many alpha males” in the England squad, “too many chiefs and not enough indians.” Ironically it was for one of these chiefs, John Terry - whose leadership of a players ‘revolt’ in South Africa


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England swept through their qualification section with a minimum of fuss, though that was to be expected given that their opponents were the hardly daunting quartet of Switzerland, Wales, Bulgaria and Montenegro. Of the four the Swiss were the only ones expected to show any real resistance but it was the Montenegrins – competing in only their second qualifying campaign as an independent nation - who impressed most, drawing 0-0 with England at Wembley and 2-2 at their Podgorica stronghold. England’s only other dropped points came in a 2-2 draw with Switzerland, Fabio Capello’s boys topping the group with a record of five wins, three draws, 17 goals scored and only five conceded.

ENGLAND Their preparations for the tournament have been plagued by scandal and uncertainty but individual talent and the element of surprise could make England a force to be reckoned with at Euro 2012 says Soccer 360’s Scott Fleming

S UNDERDOGS? was pinpointed as one of the main reasons for England’s captain, the court case,” lamented defender turned failure - that Capello sacrificed himself. When the FA pundit Gary Neville. “Its going to come pretty quickly, stripped Terry of the captaincy following the Crown who is taking the team, what tactics will we play?” Prosecution Service’s confirmation that the Chelsea man would stand trial for the alleged racial abuse The over-emphasis on Redknapp’s candidature has of Anton Ferdinand, brother of his long-time central meant that the few alternatives mentioned have come defensive partner Rio, Capello voiced his disapproval live straight out of left field. Glenn Hoddle resigned the on Italian TV. post in 1999 after controversial comments about the “I thought it was right that Terry should keep the disabled and hasn’t done any professional Coaching captains armband,” the former Milan boss told state work since leaving Wolves in 2006, but was championed broadcaster RAI. “I have spoken to the chairman and by his former charge Alan Shearer. “Why shouldn’t he be said that in my opinion one cannot be punished until it a realistic contender?” asked Shearer, who was made is official and the court - a non-sport court, a civil court captain during Hoddle’s reign. “He was successful when - has decided if Terry has done what he is accused of.” he was England manager. On the pitch everyone liked A meeting with the FA board at Wembley was hastily him.” convened and a little over four years after Stuart Pearce, the England under-21 his coronation, Capello’s time as England supremo who has been acting as caretaker manager came to an end. and presided over the 3-2 friendly defeat to A few hours earlier on the other side of Holland in March, has began attending more the Thames, Harry Redknapp was fighting Premier League matches and meeting with back the tears. He had just been acquitted managers to discuss the form and fitness of tax evasion charges after a two week of certain players. That behaviour shows he long trial at Southwark crown court that believes his chances of landing the job on a had turned the nations sports reporters full time basis have improved - according to into legal eagles. Tottenham manager some. Considered one of the world’s Redknapp had already been the favourite Nonetheless the most likely scenario best managers Fabio Capello to succeed Capello and the trial didn’t taint remains that Redknapp will be in place by became increasingly unpopular him, if anything, his dramatic exoneration the time the warm up game against Norway with the English press after strengthened his claim. in late May rolls around. And the squad he World Cup 2010. When he An FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008 is will inherit is unquestionably a strong one. protested John Terry’s removal the only honour of note he has won as a as captain, the FA called his bluff Wayne Rooney will miss the games against manager compared to Capello’s haul of nine France and Sweden as punishment for League titles in Italy and Spain, a Champions his sending off in Montenegro in the final League and a European Super Cup, yet there game of the qualifiers but can claim to be remains an overwhelmingly consensus that the world’s third best player, after Cristiano ‘Arry is the number one candidate, nay, the Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. only candidate. But does he really want the Most of the members of the fabled job, and will Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy let ‘Golden Generation’, the likes of David him go? Beckham, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes, These were the questions being asked have retired or fallen by the wayside but back in February and at the time of writing, ready to replace them are an array of lesserHarry Redknapp has turned they remain unanswered. “Everyone wants known, hungrier and humbler youths. Players perennial underachievers Harry to take the job but it seems to have like Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jack Wilshere, Tottenham into a major force gone on too long for me,” said former Tom Cleverly, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade and despite a high profile court England boss Terry Venables. “There are Chamberlain and Daniel Sturridge. Even Herr case earlier this year, remains player situations, manager situations, the Muller should find that the chiefs/indians favourite to succeed Capello as England manager ratio is to his liking...

GROUP RIVALS France

England’s opponents in the opening fixture at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on June 11; France are also in search of lost credibility, after a farcical players strike at World Cup 2010, three group stage eliminations in the five tournaments they have participated in since their Euro 2000 victory, and a scandal regarding alleged quotas on the number of ethnic players in the nations academies. Getting the best out of France’s squad has proved just as hard a task for Laurent Blanc as it did for his notoriously eccentric predecessor Raymond Domenech but attackers Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema make his side a match for anyone on their day. Les Bleus showed their strength with a 2-1 win over England at Wembley last November.

Ukraine

Ukraine are typical hosts, outsiders with a fairly limited squad but with the right encouragement from their fans, capable of doing great things. Managed by legendary former Dynamo Kiev striker Oleg Blokhin, the ‘Zhovto Blakytni’ can no longer rely on all time top scorer Andriy Shevchenko but his stepping aside has allowed a number of gifted youngsters to blossom, such as current Kiev stars Andriy Yarmolenko and Artem Milevskiy.

Sweden

We all know what to expect from Sweden right? Organized, obdurate, unspectacular, we saw them reach the knock out stages at major tournaments several times under Lars Lagerback but they lacked the quality to go any further. However the current side, led by Erik Hamrin - who replaced long time incumbent Lagerback in 2009 - is different. Young, adventurous and sophisticated, the Swedes qualified without the need for a play-off due to their status as the highest ranked runners up, having finished second to Holland in Group E. Hamrin can call upon the considerable talents of twinkle toed colossus Zlatan Ibrahimovic but the emergence of PSV’s Ola Toivonen and Manchester City owned teen John Guidetti means its not all about Ibra.

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Italy breezed through qualification, but Cesare Prandelli has a big job on his hands if the Azzurri are to once more be a force to be reckoned with. Antonio Labbate writes

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taly were out. And in some disgrace. So appalled by their performances at World Cup 2010, artist Giorgio Forattini summed up the mood of the nation with a controversial vignette which truly damned the Azzurri’s efforts. The image was of 11 blue coffins laid out in a 4-3-3 formation on a pitch, accompanied by a lowered tricolore flag. “I saw 11 corpses against Slovakia,” Forattini explained. “I wanted to describe the sporting death of our national side. Perhaps the players have not understood just how indignant the Italian public are at this elimination. They should hide away, instead they will now head to the beach and enjoy all of the money which they earn.” While Forattini used pictures, the nationals condemned with words. “You don’t even deserve our fury and disgust,” La Gazzetta dello Sport blasted. While the Corriere dello Sport dubbed the Azzurri’s failure to get out of the group phase as worse than the country’s 1966 World Cup debacle against North Korea. “It was the most humiliating, mortifying page in the history books,” they argued. It was against this backdrop and in this climate that Cesare Prandelli was unveiled as the new national boss. Replacing Marcello Lippi, a man who just four years earlier had led the Azzurri to Germany 2006 glory, the now former Fiorentina boss was tasked with not only getting the country to Euro 2012, but making them a competitive force in the Finals themselves. “Meritocracy will be the key to my Nazionale,” he stated at his opening media conference. “I am convinced that there are quality players in Italy and it’s my intention to propose a qualitative brand of football. But all of the players who are called up must understand that they don’t represent themselves, but a nation.” Prandelli, to a point, has managed to keep his word. After frolicking with various systems, he’s decided on a 4-3-1-2 Plan A and a 4-3-3 Plan B. Not only have results been good – never before had the Azzurri qualified for a major competition so well – but the tactician has also managed to install a pleasurable brand of pass and move football. In June’s 3-0 win over Estonia, Italy completed an incredible 829 passes. In little over a year, Prandelli had managed to convert a side who were being classed as a ‘Second Division national team’ into an outfit which was winning comparisons with Spain’s ‘tiki-taka’ philosophy. A friendly win over the reigning world and European champions last August only fuelled optimism that Italy had returned to the top table. Such enthusiasm, however, should perhaps be reigned in. They may have had the best defensive record in qualifying for Euro 2012 with just two conceded, but their section was not the most competitive. Serbia were expected to be their biggest threat, but the Balkan nation were wildly inconsistent. Italy’s 3-0 triumph over them was also awarded to the Azzurri by UEFA after Serb hooligans saw the Marassi clash abandoned after six minutes. Prandelli has also had selection problems to deal with – some of his own making. He openly declared at the start of his reign that he would like his strike force to consist of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, two enigmatic attackers whose big personalities went against them during Lippi’s second spell in charge of the side. That partnership never really blossomed due to injury and ill discipline. Cassano’s bust-up with Sampdoria saw him sidelined until a January 2011 move to Milan, while Balotelli was one of numerous players – others included Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo – to be dropped from games as punishment for breaking Prandelli’s code of ethics as a result of avoidable dismissals. “I always need 11 men on the pitch out there,” argues the Coach. The reality on the eve of the tournament is that Prandelli now needs the Manchester 32

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City enigma more than ever after he lost his first choice strike-force. During qualification, Prandelli opted for an attacking tandem of Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi. Although physically small, their nimble feet and ability to not give the opposition reference points looked like it could prove to be a winning formula. That was until disaster struck last autumn. While on a flight home from Rome, Cassano fell ill and tests revealed a heart defect which required surgery. Meanwhile, in Spain, Rossi’s knee went crack and surgery was inevitable. Although both are on the mend, time is running out to prove their fitness. “They were important players during the qualification games,” Cesare stated. “I’m counting on recovering both by May.” Even if both start playing again before the Coach has to name his squad, it will be a brave decision to select even one of them for the Finals. Players are always susceptible to new fitness issues after long periods of absence, while form will also be an issue with a lack of playing time in their legs. It’s undoubtedly in attack where Prandelli’s biggest problems lie. The rest of the team, even the squad, will pretty much pick itself on the evidence of the last 18 months with the former Juventus midfielder at the helm. Although Balotelli scored his first international goal against Poland last November, Italy have suffered two consecutive 1-0 losses against Uruguay and USA since. “To play two games in six months makes no sense, those friendlies were useless,” Prandelli recently bemoaned. “A day and a half thrown away given that the players were still full of adrenaline after the League games. Before the game against America the only thing which was being discussed was Milan-Juventus and the words of Gigi Buffon after the non-goal of Sulley Muntari.” In the absence of regular games, the 54-year-old had wanted to hold a series of three-day training sessions with different areas of the team – goalkeepers, defenders, midfielder and attackers – but that idea was blocked by clubs as a result of the congested club calendar. “I accept the decision of the Lega, but I want to highlight something – the national team is not mine, it belongs to all Italians,” Prandelli warned. “Everyone wants to win and it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to start the European Champions prepared in the best possible way…” Italy won’t start Euro 2012 as one of the favourites, but that doesn’t decrease the pressure on the Azzurri. That was made clear by Italian Football Federation Vice-President Demetrio Albertini just hours after the country had secured safe passage to Poland and Ukraine. “The players have believed in the philosophy of the Coach and today we can celebrate qualification, but we know we have to target the maximum. Italy’s objective at Euro 2012 is not to put on a show, but to win the competition.” It’s a big ask, one made even harder by the fact that Italy will begin the competition with a group game against Spain – the best side on the planet. Croatia and the Republic of Ireland, led by Giovanni Trapattoni, won’t make it easy for La Nazionale either. Prandelli, who was bossed by Trap at Juve during his playing days, is however remaining hopeful. “I think it’s better to kick off against the reigning champions, at least that way you won’t have any problems with your concentration,” he noted. “I don’t think there are any easy groups in the competition. You just have to win games and we might as well do that straight away. We believe we can do well in this tournament.” In the meantime, Forattini has sharpened his pencil…


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was a first Giuseppe Rossi is hoping to emulate Francesco Totti’s team player for achievement of fighting back from injury to win an Italy until he international competition with Italy. The Villarreal and Azzurri damaged knee striker is currently recovering from knee ligament damage ligaments in with Euro 2012 on the horizon. Totti, meanwhile, came back late 2011 from a fractured fibula in three months to lift the 2006 World Cup. “I dream that the European Championship can end for me in the same way that Totti’s World Cup did,” noted the forward. “Italy boss Cesare Prandelli knows what I can give to the team and what I can do on the pitch. I would like to give my contribution in this competition.” American-born Rossi, 25, has scored six goals in 27 games for his country. He just missed out on World Cup 2010 selection when he didn’t survive the final cut.

FOREIGN OUTLOOK

One of the most controversial aspects of Cesare Prandelli’s reign so far has been his openness towards Oriundi – players who are eligible to play for the country despite not being born on the peninsula. “In my view, the issue of the Oriundi has never been a problem,” he stated. “It is the future of football. Just look at our youth academies, where 60 per cent of the young players are foreign. Adopting the Oriundi provides Coaches with another option.” So far, Prandelli has used Amauri and Thiago Motta of Brazil, as well as the Argentine duo of Cristian Ledesma and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo. Motta and Osvaldo are contenders to make the final Euro 2012 squad. Antonio Cassano has less than two months to find some form if he wants a place at Euro 2012

Antonio Cassano’s agent has thanked Milan and Italy boss Cesare Prandelli for the support they’ve given his client. The forward has now been handed the green light to resume his competitive career following heart surgery last November. “Antonio is as happy as a child,” representative Beppe Bozzo noted. “He’s been through some delicate times, with thousands of thoughts, questions and reflections. A lot of people stayed close to him, as all of the Milan family did. Things may have been different at another club. He has a great desire to get back at the disposal of Milan, a club who cured him and allowed him a new life – on and off the field. “Prandelli, like Milan, was fantastic because he gave Cassano a target – Euro 2012,” continued Bozzo. “It’s clear that there is a bit more optimism now about a call-up, but the Coach will make the final decision after evaluating Antonio’s condition.”

Gigi Buffon will captain Italy at Euro 2012 Mario Balotelli is a controversial character, but a player with the ability to make a difference for Italy Prandelli has breathed new life and ethics into the Italian national side since his appointment in 2010

ITALY’S RECORD AGAINST THEIR GROUP C OPPONENTS

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RECOVERING CASSANO

P 29 6 11

W 10 1 7

D 11 2 2

l 8 3 2

F 38 7 18

A 29 7 9

THE SQUAD CONTENDERS

Goalkeepers (3): Buffon (Juventus), De Sanctis (Napoli), Viviano (Palermo), Sirigu (Paris SG), Marchetti (Lazio) Defenders (8): Chiellini (Juventus), Balzaretti (Palermo), Abate (Milan), Ranocchia (Inter), Barzagli (Juventus), Gamberini (Fiorentina), Maggio (Napoli), Criscito (Zenit), Astori (Cagliari), Cassani (Fiorentina), Ogbonna (Torino), Bonucci (Juventus) Midfielders (7): De Rossi (Roma), Aquilani (Milan), Pepe (Juventus), Pirlo (Juventus), Nocerino (Milan), Marchisio (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris SG), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Cigarini (Atalanta) Forwards (5): Balotelli (Man City), Giovinco (Parma), Cassano (Milan), Pazzini (Inter), Rossi (Villarreal), Matri (Juventus), Osvaldo (Roma), Di Natale (Udinese), Gilardino (Genoa)

[www.soccer360.net]

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EUR ER 360 CC

in spa H

T

SPAIN ASPIRING FOR GREATNESS SP

OTLIG

SPAIN

Spain are the team everyone is looking to beat but no-one expects to be able to. Rob Paton writes on their chances of securing a second successive European crown in 2012. “Spain is living an eternal dream, which is a nightmare for the rest,” wrote Luis Nieto of AS, after watching the national team brush aside the Czech Republic with a consummate ease in mid-October. “They endured that terrible toothache between the music of violins sounded by the world’s leading producer of midfielders.” El Mundo’s Miguel A. Herguedas described La Roja’s performance as ‘leading the Czechs on a merry dance’ - Spain enjoyed 70 per cent possession in a dominant display, even though they were the away side. At one stage it was as high as 77 per cent, a figure that had only ever been surpassed once by the Spanish since the statistic was recorded. “Spain may one day become depressed with wrinkles when they run out of wanting more World and European Championships,” expressed Herguedas. “Forecasts are simple with Spain, a team so dizzying to rival, the beauty of their football becomes something obscene at times, a sort of contempt for the opponent.” Such writing was followed a few days later with Spain’s 3-1 win over Scotland that confirmed a perfect qualification record for Euro 2012. David Silva’s opening goal also provided a snapshot of the team’s playing style that has seen La Roja grow to such a revered and unbeatable state of equal measure. In a move that lasted 94 seconds, every Spanish player touched the ball at least once as 42 passes covered almost the entire circuit of the pitch, before Manchester City man Silva’s near post side-footed effort pierced the net in Alicante. “This game confirmed the suspicion that Spain feels comfortable without a No 9,” returned Nieto, in acknowledgement of the fact Spain changed formation inside a few days and still dominated their opponent. “Del Bosque spared Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente and returned to the first chapter of this extraordinary adventure - one midfielder and five small geniuses ahead, the art gang.” Since lifting the World Cup in South Africa in summer 2010, to say it has been a difficult two years for the Spanish national team leading up to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine is an overstatement. The hardest detail to the team’s continued competitive edge has been, as Nieto and Herguedas’ poetic turns above demonstrate, putting each performance of real and statistical domination into new words. Vicente del Bosque’s team go into Euro 2012 not only as world champions and defending European champions, but having won all eight of their Group I fixtures in qualification. Combined with the side’s unbeaten Euro 2008 campaign, the Spanish national team arrive in Poland and Ukraine unbeaten in competitive European Championship qualifying and finals for five-and-a-half years. Spain have also not lost at home in a qualifying match for nine years and since losing to Switzerland in their opening tournament game at South Africa 2010, La Roja have put together a run of 14 consecutive wins in competitive competitions, equalling records set by the Netherlands and France. Under Del Bosque, Spain have scored more goals - 129 - and won more games - 44 from 52 - than under any previous Coach. On an individual level, David Villa’s seven goals in qualifying saw him overtake Raul Gonzalez as the country’s highest goal-scorer, as goalkeeper Iker Casillas became the country’s most-capped player too. Casillas needs just one clean sheet to move ahead of Edwin Van der Sar’s 72 for the most recorded at international level, whilst another two wins will see him match and then overtake Lilian Thuram’s record of 94 wins with France at international level. Breaking such records is matched with the team’s style of play. They may boast a strong and almost impenetrable defence and half of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s squads, but their real strengths lie in their work-rate. It is a dedication to not only win the ball back from opponents as soon as possible on the pitch, but also to be constantly raising the technical level of the side through training and repetition of drills, so as when they do win the ball back, opponents don’t see it again for a while. As AS’ Juan Cruz described: “This football comes from a conviction that is represented by the commitment of the Coach, to the kind of football that is

34

[soccer360 magazine]

becoming a spectacle in this country. But we must realise that, like good bread, it cannot be improvised. As Cesc Fabregas told us, the hard part is making the game look easy.” Spain go into the summer tournament as favourites, having occupied top spot in the FIFA World Rankings for 22 of the previous 23 months Whilst Germany and the Netherlands both also qualified strongly, there is little on paper to argue against Del Bosque’s side winners of the last two tournaments they have played in - making it three in a row. Added to the growing statistical superiority of Spain and specifically this generation of its players, Del Bosque is also boosted by the emergence since the World Cup of a number of promising stars pushing his favoured selected squad. The Athletic Bilbao contingent including Iker Muniain, Andoni Iraola and Markel Susaeta have all made convincing arguments at club level for inclusion, as has the Valencia pair of Roberto Soldado and Jordi Alba and youngsters from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively, Thiago Alcantara and Adrian Lopez. The 61-year-old Coach is understood to favour those who are comfortable in more than one position, such as Sergio Busquets and Javi Martinez, who can both play central midfield or central defence. Flexibility is likely to be seen in the team’s formation, from the ‘strikerless’ 4-3-3 formation Spain have played with during latter qualifying to Del Bosque’s reference-point-driven 4-2-3-1 designed to feed a single striker. Whilst the number of options open to the former Real Madrid boss has increased at the same time as creating a slight selection dilemma in the forward positions, Del Bosque describes picking his final 23 as only a ‘minor issue’. Indeed, with such options available to the Coach, his insistence in recent months has been that ‘not just tactics but human relations’ will shape La Seleccion he takes to Poland and Ukraine. “I don’t believe it is absolutely essential in order to bring success, but we will be closer if things work on a personal level. After winning the world and European championships of the last few years, there is greater responsibility and desire to win the European Championships this summer and that it is done well.” However, Del Bosque is preaching caution in trying to manage those expectations. From facing Italy in their opening group game in Gdansk on June 10 to a potential quarterfinal with France or England and a semi-final against Germany or the Netherlands, the route to the final is less than assured. Indeed, La Roja may be unbeaten from six previous competition meetings against group opponents the Republic of Ireland, but at competitive level they have never met Croatia nor have they ever beaten the Italians over 90 minutes, representing a less-than straightforward opening three games this summer. “There is great equality in football today and we cannot believe we’re the best, because that would lay the foundation stone for failure,” reflects Del Bosque. “We will defend the title, but we know that there are dormant rivals such as France, England and Italy and they are certainly dangerous.” Determination mixed with caution may be the humble message from the former Real Madrid man, but even with slight doubts over who will lead his attacking line and how games against tricky group opponents will pan out, expectation falls upon the Spanish to again win the tournament and for the eternal dream to continue the nightmare for everyone else.


EURO CUP 2012

DRAW CONTENTMENT

Vicente del Bosque is content with the draw handed to his defending champions. La Seleccion will see all three of their games played in the northern Polish city of Gdansk, before the knockout phase guarantees a trip into Ukraine, starting with a potential quarterfinal against one from France, England and Sweden. “It is going to be difficult because there are 16 very strong teams and every one of them will be hard to beat. But I have got the two things I wanted, having avoided Germany and being able to play all our group games in Poland. “We will face a country of high standing in Italy and two that have come through the play-offs, so we’ll prepare for them as well as possible.”

AUSTRIAN OMENS

Spain will be preparing for the tournament at the same Austrian ski resort that they used prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Back in May 2010 when working towards the tournament they would eventually win, Spain attracted local crowds to each training session. During preparations this time around at the resort 2295 metres above sea level, Spain will play two friendlies - against Serbia in Saint Gallen, Switzerland on May 26 and South Korea in Innsbruck, Austria four days later - before Del Bosque must select his final 23-man squad. After that, the team return to Spain for a final friendly in Sevilla against China on June 3, a week before kick-off with Italy in Group C.

COPA CLASH

Perhaps the only headache to Spain’s preparations comes in the form of the Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. Likely to involve a good chunk of Del Bosque’s initial squad, scheduling conflicts have resulted in the Cup final being played on May 25, four days after Spain’s pre-tournament training camp officially begins.

SPAIN’S EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING & FINALS RECORD AGAINST THEIR GROUP C OPPONENTS

Italy Croatia Rep Ireland Xavi, Alonso, Casillas, Fabregas, and the list goes on. Vicente del Bosque has a seemingly everexpanding array of talent to work with at international level

P 3 6

W 0 4

D 2 2

l 1 0

F 0 14

A 1 4

SPAIN’S RECORD AGAINST THEIR GROUP C OPPONENTS

Italy Croatia Rep Ireland

P 29 4 24

W 8 2 13

D 11 1 7

l 10 1 4

F 29 6 48

A 38 4 18

[www.soccer360.net]

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EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR A

PoLAND

greece russiA czech rePuBLic

WorLD rANk: 64

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Wojciech Szczęsny

Arsenal

Lukasz Fabianski

Arsenal

Polish

Przemyslaw Tyton

PSV Eindhoven

PoPuLATioN

Jakub Blaszczykowski

B. Dortmund

Jakub Wawrzyniak

Legia Warsaw

curreNcy

Adrian Mierzejewski

Trabzonspor

Złoty (PLN)

Dariusz Dudka

Auxerre

TeAm fAcTs

Rafal Murawski

Lech Poznan

Marcin Wasilewski

Anderlecht

Robert Lewandowski

B. Dortmund

Arkadiusz Glowacki

Trabzonspor

Damien Perquis

Sochaux

Grzegorz Wojtkowiak

Lech Poznan

Lukasz Piszczek

B. Dortmund

Eugen Polanski

Mainz 05

Ludovic Obraniak

Bordeaux

Pawel Brozek

Celtic

Slawomir Peszko

1. FC Köln

Tomasz Jodlowiec

P. Warsaw

Adam Matuschyk

F. Düsseldorf

Maciej Rybus

Terek Grozny

Kamil Grosicki

Sivasspor

Marcin Komorowski

Terek Grozny

Cezary Wilk

Wisła Kraków

Grzegorz Krychowiak

Nantes

Hubert Wolakiewicz

Lech Poznan

Janusz Gol

Legia Warsaw

Kamil Glik

Torino

Lukasz Mierzejewski

Podbeskidzie

Mateusz Klich

VfL Wolfsburg

Michal Kucharczyk

Legia Warsaw

Patryk Malecki

Wisła Kraków

Szymon Pawlowski

Zagłębie Lubin

Warsaw

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

38,501,000

euro recorD 2008: Winners 1960: Last 16

NickNAme(s)

Biało-czerwoni ("The white and reds") Białe Orły ("The White Eagles")

key fAcTs

Overall: P93 W38 D25 L30 Final tournament: P3 W0 D1 L2 Qualifying: P90 W38 D24 L28

mosT cAPs

102: Michał Żewłakow

mosT euro APPs

28: Jacek Bąk 20: Mariusz Lewandowski 19: Maciej Żurawski 19: Jacek Krzynówek 18: Michał Żewłakow 16: Grzegorz Lato

mosT goALs

48: Włodzimierz Lubański

mosT euro goALs

9: Euzebiusz Smolarek 8: Andrzej Juskowiak 6: Włodzimierz Lubański

The cAsT: Central to Poland’s chances at Euro 2012 is a trio of players from 2011 Bundesliga champions

Borussia Dortmund. Jakub Blaszczykowski, the Poland captain, is a dynamic right-sided attacker who performed admirably this season (and ended up leading the team in assists) after being forced into regular duty by the injury to Mario Gotze. Robert Lewandowski, a striker, was one of the top marksmen in Germany this season and at just 23 has already been capped 40 times for Poland, with a return of 13 goals. Finally, Lukasz Piszczek is the starting right-back for both Dortmund and Poland and offers a mature blend of attacking nous and defensive awareness

sPoTLighT: When Poland drew

oNe To WATch

Portugal 0-0 in February Smuda’s squad had an average age of 25.9. This team is young, although balanced. There is age and experience along the backline in the likes of Marcin Wasilewski; there is youthful spontaneity in the midfield in the likes of Maciej Rybus. Up front there are the tireless legs of Lewandowski. No player on this side is older than 31; no player is younger than 21. And each of them bring something different to the table, whether the willingness to get stuck in or the ability to dribble past a defender with a quick burst of speed. Poland might well be the most balanced side at Euro 2012.

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

WoN

DrAWN

LosT

Robert Lewandowski

WiNNiNg xi

for

Host Nation (automatic qualification)

AgAiNsT

+/-

PoiNTs

PLAceD

cAPTAiN

Jakub Blaszczykowski

Wojciech Szczęsny

Arsenal

Lukasz Piszczek

B. Dortmund

Marcin Wasilewski

Anderlecht

Damien Perquis

Sochaux

Jakub Wawrzyniak

Legia Warsaw

Jakub Blaszczykowski

B. Dortmund

Eugen Polanski

Mainz 05

Dariusz Dudka

Auxerre

Maciej Rybus

Terek Grozny

Ludovic Obraniak

Bordeaux

Robert Lewandowski

B. Dortmund

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Franciszek Smuda. Often

Words | Jerrad Peters

rumoured to be in the running for Poland’s top job, the 63-year-old had to bide his time until the departure of Leo Beenhakker in 2009 before finally being installed as manager of the national team. In 2011 his young, talented side lost just three of 13 matches and, especially pleasing to the former defender, kept six clean sheets over the calendar year. Smuda’s résumé includes league titles with both Widzew Lodz and Wisla Krakow.

formATioN: 4-4-1-1 36

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?

Poland were Olympic Gold Medalists at the 1972 Games in Munich. Included in the team was a young Grzegorz Lato, who would go on to lead Poland to back-toback third-place finishes in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups. In 1974 his seven goals earned him the World Cup Golden Shoe.


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czech repuBlic russia poland

World rank: 8

name

cluB Palermo

Michalis Sifakis

Aris FC

capTial Athens

official lanGuaGe

Dimitrios Konstantopoulos AEK Athens

Greek

Outfield Dimitrios Salpigidis

PAOK

Giorgos Karagounis

Panathinaikos

populaTion 10,787,690

Sokratis Papastathopoulos W. Bremen Kostas Katsouranis

Panathinaikos

Georgios Samaras

Celtic

Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Schalke 04

Vasilis Torosidis

Olympiacos

Avraam Papadolpoulos

Olympiakos

Giannis Zaradoukas

PAS Giannina

Sotiris Ninis

Panathinaikos

Alexandros Tziolis

Monaco

Loukas Vyntra

Panathinaikos

Nikos Liberopoulos

AEK Athens

Nikos Spyropoulos

Panathinaikos

Theofanis Gekas

Samsunspor

Angelos Charisteas

Panetolikos

Evangelos Moras

Cesena

Pantelis Kafes

AEK Athens

Giannis Maniatis

Olympiacos

Giorgos Fotakis

PAOK

Kostas Mitroglou

Atromitos F.C.

currency Euro (EUR)

Team facTs euro record

2008: Group stage 2004: Winners 1980: Group stage 1960: Last 16

nickname(s)

The casT: José Holebas is a fascinating story, and could be one of the Greek players to watch at the

Euro 2012 finals. Born in Germany to a Uruguayan mother and Greek father, the 27-year-old only got his Greek passport in November and has since represented the national team on two occasions. Currently at Olympiacos, he can play either as a left-back or a winger and is exactly the sort of counter-attacking player vital to Santos’ strategy. Still, a solid defense won’t mean much unless Greece can bang in some goals, and for that they’ll turn to an old hand – Theofanis Gekas. The 31-year-old Samsunspor striker has 21 goals in 56 appearances for Greece.

spoTliGhT: Greece qualified for

younG Gun

Euro 2012 by winning qualification Group F. They went unbeaten over the 10-game schedule and booked their place in Poland/Ukraine with an impressive 2-0 win over Croatia in October. It was their fifth clean sheet of qualification, and it won’t surprise anyone that they key to success for a Greek side in a major tournament is, once again, commitment to defense. Olympiacos duo Avraam Papadopoulos and Vasilis Torosidis are Santos’ firstchoice tandem in the middle of the backline, and veteran Panathinaikos midfielder Kostak Katsouranis shields the entire unit. This side will be difficult to break down.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Lazaros Christodoulopoulos Panathinaikos Panagiotis Kone

Bologna

Stefanos Athanasiadis

PAOK

Stelios Malezas

PAOK

Athanasios Petsos

Kaiserslautern

José Holebas

Olympiacos

WinninG xi (GK) Tzorvas

Palermo

(D) Papaststhopoulos

W. Bremen

(D) Papadopoulos

Schalke 04

(D) Torosidis

Olympiacos

(D) Holebas

Olympiacos

(M) Katsouranis

Panathinaikos

(M) Karagounis

Panathinaikos

(M) Tziolis

Monaco

(RW) Salpigidis

PAOK

(LW) Samaras

Celtic

(F) Gekas

Samsunspor

?

Greece

counTry facTs

Goalkeeping Alexandros Tzorvas

UEFA

Group A EUR

played

10

Won

7

d raWn

3

losT

0

for

14

aGainsT

5

hoW They Qualified +/-

9

poinTs

24

placed

Ethniki (National) Galanolefki (Blue-white)

key facTs

Overall: P112 W55 D22 L161 Final tournament: P12 W4 D2 L6 Qualifying: P100 W51 D20 L29

mosT caps

120: Theodoros Zagorakis

mosT euro apps

36: Theodoros Zagorakis 35: Giorgos Karagounis 29: Kostas Katsouranis 26: Angelos Charisteas 25: Antonis Nikopolidis 25: Stelios Giannakopoulos

mosT Goals

29: Nikos Anastopoulos

mosT euro Goals

11: Angelos Charisteas 9: Nikos Anastopoulos 7: Nikos Machlas 6: Fanis Gekas 6: Dimitrios Saravakos 6: Panagiotis Tsalouchidis

1st

capTain

Giorgos Karagounis

did you knoW

Greece have played their Euro 2012 Group A rivals (Czech Republic, Poland and Russia) a combined 30 times and have won just four of those matches. They’ve never beaten the Czechs and have just a single win to show from 10 matches all-time against the Russians.

The Boss: Fernando Santos. Greece is

that rare side whose football history over the last decade can be pinned to a single man. That manager, of course, was Otto Rehhagel, and between 2001 and 2010 the German guided Greece to a European Championship title and a World Cup finals. Talk about a tough act to follow. Santos, however, has settled in the job nicely and took Greece into a major tournament on his first attempt. He also won a Greek cup with AEK in 2002 and won the Portuguese Liga with Porto in 1999. Words | Jerrad Peters

formaTion: 4-3-2-1 [www.soccer360.net]

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grouPEUR A

russiA

greece PoLAND czech rePuBLic

WorLD rANk: 13

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Viacheslav Malafeev

Zenit

Igor Akinfeev

CSKA Moscow

Russian

Anton Shunin

D. Moscow

PoPuLATioN

Andrei Arshavin

Zenit

Vasili Berezutski

CSKA Moscow

curreNcy

Igor Denisov

Zenit

Ruble (RUB)

Konstantin Zyryanov

Zenit

TeAm fAcTs

Sergei Ignashevich

CSKA Moscow

Yuri Zhirkov

Makhachkala

Aleksandr Anyukov

Zenit

Igor Semshov

D. Moscow

Roman Shirokov

Zenit

Alan Dzagoev

CSKA Moscow

Alexander Kerzhakov

Zenit

Aleksei Berezutski

CSKA Moscow

Roman Pavlyuchenko

L. Moscow

Roman Shishkin

L. Moscow

Denis Glushakov

L. Moscow

Dmitri Torbinsky

L. Moscow

Alexander Samedov

D. Moscow

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov

S. Moscow

Pavel Pogrebnyak

S. Moscow

Renat Yanbaev

L. Moscow

Vladimir Dyadyun

FC Rubin Kazan

Moscow

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

143,030, 106

euro recorD

2008: Semi-finals 2004: Group stage 1996: Group stage

NickNAme(s)

Sbornaya ("Team" or "Selection")

key fAcTs

Overall: P63 W37 D12 L14 Final tournament: P11 W4 D1 L6 Qualifying: P52 W33 D11 L8

mosT cAPs

109: Viktor Onopko

mosT euro APPs

34: Sergei Ignashevich 34: Viktor Onopko 25: Aleksandr Anyukov 25: Andrey Arshavin 23: Vasili Berezutski

mosT goALs

26: Vladimir Beschastnykh

mosT euro goALs

9: Aleksandr Kerzhakov 9: Roman Pavlyuchenko 8: Valeri Karpin 8: Vladimir Beschastnykh

The cAsT: Arsenal fans may be surprised to learn that Russia are a side very much built around Andrei

Arshavin – the national team captain, currently on loan at Zenit St. Petersburg. He enjoyed a breakout performance at the Euro 2008 finals and under Advocaat, whom he played for in the latter part of the last decade at Zenit, is used in his preferred position in central role behind a lone centre-forward. That centreforward is likely to be Roman Pavlyuchenko, another Premier League flop, but a player who has scored 20 times for Russia in 45 appearances.

sPoTLighT: You wouldn’t

oNe To WATch

necessarily think of the Russians as one of Europe’s most competent defensive teams, but they allowed only four goals in 10 matches in the freewheeling qualification Group B, and any success they have at Euro 2012 will start from the back. Yuri Zhirkov, who had a disastrous spell at Chelsea following his incredible performance at Euro 2008, is back at his preferred leftback position at Anzhi Makhachkala and plays in the role for the national team as well. There isn’t a lot of width in the Russian midfield, which is why the 28-year-old will often appear to be functioning as a left-back. In the creative positions, Advocaat is sweating over the fitness of CSKA playmaker Alan Dzagoev who broke his toe this winter and may not be recovered in time for the tournament.

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

10

WoN

7

DrAWN

2

Roman Pavlyuchenko

WiNNiNg xi

LosT

1

for

17

AgAiNsT

4

+/-

13

PoiNTs

23

PLAceD

1st

cAPTAiN

Andrey Arshavin

(GK) Akinfeev

CSKA Moscow

(D) Anyukov

Zenit

(D) Berezutskiy

CSKA Moscow

(D) Ignashevich

CSKA Moscow

(D) Zhirkov

Makhachkala

(M) Denisov

Zenit

(M) Zyryanov

Zenit

(M) Shirokov

Zenit

(AM) Dzagoev

CSKA Moscow

(AM) Arshavin

Zenit

(F) Pavlyuchenko

L. Moscow

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Dick Advocaat. He needs no

Words | Jerrad Peters

introduction. The 64-year-old Dutchman has been involved in football for 46 years – most notably as a manager, and most prestigiously as the manager of Holland, Rangers, South Korea and Zenit St. Petersburg. His trophy cabinet includes an Eredivisie title – won with PSV Eindhoven in 1997 – two Scottish Premier League titles with Rangers in 1999 and 2000, the Russian Premier League with Zenit in 2007 and the UEFA Cup with the Russian giants in 2008. He succeeded Guus Hiddink as Russia boss in 2010 after a failed World Cup qualifying campaign and promptly took them into the Euro 2012 finals.

formATioN: 4-3-2-1 38

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?

The Soviet Union were the first ever European champions, winning the inaugural 1960 title after beating Yugoslavia 2-1 after extra time at Parc des Princes in Paris


EURO CUP 2012

PoLAND russiA greece

WorLD rANk: 47

NAme

czech rePuBLic

cLuB Chelsea

Jan Lastuvka

Dnipropetrovsk

Jaroslav Drobny

Hamburger SV

couNTry fAcTs cAPTiAL Prague

officiAL LANguAge Czech

Outfield Michal Kadlec

B. Leverkusen

Tomas Sivok

Besiktas

Jaroslav Plasil

Bordeaux

Roman Hubnik

Hertha BSC

Tomas Rosicky

Arsenal

Milan Baros

Galatasaray

Petr Jiracek

VfL Wolfsburg

Theodor Gebre Selassie

Slovan Liberec

Tomas Hubschman

S. Donetsk

Daniel Pudil

Cesena

Vaclav Pilar

Viktoria Plzen

Daniel Kolar

Viktoria Plzen

Tomas Pekhart

FC Nuremberg

Zdenek Pospech

Mainz 05

David Lafata

B. Jablonec

Jan Moravek

FC Augsburg

Jan Rajnoch

Sivasspor

Milan Petrzela

Viktoria Plzen

Adam Hlousek

FC Nuremberg

Jan Polak

VfL Wolfsburg

Kamil Vacek

Chievo

Libor Kozak

Lazio

Marek Matejovsky

Sparta Prague

Ondrej Kusnir

Sparta Prague

Tomas Necid

CSKA Moscow

Václav Kadlec

Sparta Prague

Jan Rezek

A. Famagusta

PoPuLATioN 10,562,214

curreNcy

Czech koruna (CZK)

TeAm fAcTs euro recorD (Czech Rep) 2008: Group stage 2004: Semi-finals 2000: Group stage 1996: Final euro recorD

The cAsT: Captain Tomas Rosicky has had an excellent season at Arsenal and will be looking to carry

his club form into the European Championships. The 31-year-old plays in a slightly more advanced role for Bilek than he does under Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, and active wingers in Jaroslav Plasil and Vaclav Pilar provide good outlets for his quality ball distribution. Michal Kadlec will be vital to the Czech’s prospects as well this spring. The Bayer Leverkusen left-back led his country in scoring during qualifying and should be considered one of the best players at his position at Euro 2012.

sPoTLighT: The Czech Republic are a side

DePeNDiNg oN

that can lull an opponent into a false sense of security, and then wham! – they’ve scored a late goal and have all of a sudden, come away with a result. Their first win in Euro 2012 qualifying fits this template perfectly. After nearly 70 uneventful minutes in Prague, the visiting Scotland team were in good shape to come away with an important draw. A 69th corner kick changed everything, however, as defender Roman Hubnik rose to head Tomas Rosicky’s in-swinger into the back of the net. Again, in their playoff against Montenegro, the Czechs waited until the 63rd minute to open the scoring at home; and while the Montenegrins would have certainly taken a 1-0 loss heading back to Podgorica, a Tomas Sivok goal in the second minute of second half stoppage time changed the complexion of the second leg entirely.

Petr Cech

WiNNiNg xi (GK) Cech

Chelsea

(D) Selassie

Slovan Liberec

(D) Sivok

Besiktas

(D) Hubnik

Hertha BSC

(D) Kadlec

Sparta Prague

(RW) Pilar

Viktoria Plzen

(M) Jiracek

VfL Wolfsburg

(M) Rosicky

Arsenal

(LW) Plasil

Bordeaux

(F) Rezek

A. Famagusta

(F) Pekhart

FC Nuremberg

?

UEFA

grouP A EUR

Goalkeeping Petr Cech

360

PLAyeD

8

WoN

4

DrAWN

1

LosT

3

for

12

AgAiNsT

8

(Czechoslovakia) 1992: Preliminary round 1988: Preliminary round 1984: Preliminary round 1980: 3rd place Play-off 1976: Winner 1972: Preliminary round 1968: Preliminary round 1964: Preliminary round 1960: 3rd place Play-off

NickNAme(s)

Lokomotiva (Locomotive) Cesti Lvi (Czech Lions) Narodni Tym (National Team)

mosT cAPs

118: Karel Poborsky

mosT goALs 55: Jan Koller

hoW They QuALifieD +/-

4

PoiNTs

13

PLAceD

2nd

cAPTAiN

Tomas Rosicky

DiD you kNoW

Czechoslovakia won the 1976 European Championships in Yugoslavia, beating West Germany on penalties, and finished third four years later in Italy. That same year they won Olympic Gold in Moscow, beating East Germany in the final.

The Boss: Michal Bilek. The exit of long-

time manager Karel Bruckner in 2008 signalled a year of upheaval at the Czech national team that saw the comings and goings of three head coaches in 19 months. Bilek, 46, took the hot seat with the Czechs already pretty much eliminated from 2010 World Cup qualification, but once comfortable in the job he managed to guide his country to a fifth consecutive European Championship finals. A former Sparta Prague midfielder, Bilek led his former club side to the 2007 title as manager. Words | Jerrad Peters

formATioN: 4-4-2 [www.soccer360.net]

39


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR B

DeNmArk

germANy NeTherLANDs PorTugAL

WorLD rANk: 10

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Thomas Sorensen

Stoke City

Anders Lindegaard

Man United

Danish

Stephan Andersen

Évian

PoPuLATioN

Christian Eriksen

Ajax

Dennis Rommedahl

Brøndby

curreNcy

Lars Jacobsen

Copenhagen

Danish Krone (DKK)

Michael Krohn-Dehli

Brøndby

TeAm fAcTs

Nicklas Bendtner

Sunderland

William Kvist

VfB Stuttgart

Niki Zimling

Club Brugge

Simon Kjaer

Roma

Andreas Bjelland

Nordsjælland

Daniel Agger

Liverpool

Michael Silberbauer

Young Boys

Simon Poulsen

AZ

Bo Svensson

Mainz 05

Christian Poulsen

Evian

Mathias Zanka Jorgensen

Copenhagen

Nicolai Boilesen

Ajax

Daniel Wass

Evian

Jakob Poulsen

Midtjylland

Kasper Lorentzen

FCN

Lasse Schone

Ajax

Mads Junker

Roda JC

Martin Jorgensen

AGF

Morten Skoubo

OB

Nicklas Pedersen

Groningen

Soren Larsen

AGF

Thomas Enevoldsen

FC Groningen

Copenhagen

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

5,671,050

euro recorD

2004: Quarter-finals 2000: Group stage 1996: Group stage 1992: Winners 1988: Group stage 1984: Semi-finals 1964: Fourth Place 1960: Last 16

NickNAme(s)

De Rod-Hvide (The Red and Whites), Danish Dynamite, Olsen-Banden (Olsen Gang), Olsens Elleve (Olsen's Eleven)

key fAcTs

Overall: P129 W56 D29 L44 Final tournament: P25 W7 D6 L12 Qualifying: P104 W49 D23 L32

mosT cAPs

129: Peter Schmeichel

mosT euro APPs

13: Peter Schmeichel 32: Thomas Helveg 32: Morten Olsen 31: Martin Jorgensen

The cAsT: Christian Eriksen plays right in the middle of Olsen’s 4-3-3 setup. Pretty much everything

Denmark create going forward originates in his imagination and he, more than anyone else in this side, will be central to Denmark’s chances in a very difficult Group B. Just 20-years-old, Eriksen was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup and has already been capped 21 times at senior level. Nicklas Bendtner, 24, will likely play his 50th international game at these European Championships. On loan at Sunderland from Arsenal, the big centre-forward seemed to rediscover his scoring touch at the Stadium of Light – something his international teammates will surely be hoping he can carry into Euro 2012.

sPoTLighT: Denmark are a

oNe To WATch

physical side that take their chances. In their final Euro 2012 qualifying match against Portugal they managed only three shots on target and had significantly less possession than their guests yet somehow ran out 2-1 winners. The central defensive partnership of Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer has the ability to shut down almost any attacking unit – as evidenced by the six goals Denmark allowed over eight qualification matches – and in Lars Jacobsen and Simon Poulsen they have active fullbacks who can provide width going forward on the counter-attack.

Nicklas Bendtner

WiNNiNg xi

mosT goALs

52: Poul "Tist" Nielsen 52: Jon Dahl Tomasson

mosT euro goALs

22: Jon Dahl Tomasson 11: Olde Madsen 10: Preben Elkjaer

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

8

WoN

6

DrAWN

1

LosT

1

for

15

AgAiNsT

6

+/-

9

PoiNTs

19

PLAceD

1st

cAPTAiN

Daniel Agger

(GK) Sorensen

Stoke City

(D) Jacobsen

Copenhagen

(D) Kjaer

Roma

(D) Agger

Liverpool

(D) Poulsen

Midtjylland

(M) Kvist

VfB Stuttgart

(M) Eriksen

Ajax

(M) Zimling

Club Brugge

(F) Rommendahl

Brøndby

(F) Bendtner

Sunderland

(F) Krohn-Dehli

Brøndby

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Morten Olsen. The 62-year-

Words | Jerrad Peters

old has been in charge of the national team since 2000 and has taken Denmark to two World Cups and a pair of European championships. His longevity has endeared him to the nation’s supporters, who affectionately refer to the team as the “Olsen Gang”, but in reality Denmark have always preferred long-tenured managers to the hire-and-fire strategies of other national associations. Olsen, incredibly, is just the fourth Denmark boss since the 1970s. As a club manager he won backto-back titles with Brondby in 1991 and 1992 and claimed the Eredivisie with Ajax in 1998.

formATioN: 4-3-3 40

[soccer360 magazine]

?

Denmark were the surprise winners of Euro ’92 in Sweden, but having initially failed to qualify for the tournament they were only given a berth after Yugoslavia were forced out of the competition due to United Nations Security Council Resolution 757, which prohibited participation in international sporting events due to the Yugoslav Wars.


360

EURO CUP 2012

WorLD rANk: 2

NAme

DeNmArk PorTugAL germANy

NeTherLANDs

cLuB

couNTry fAcTs

Goalkeeping Michel Vorm

Swansea City

Maarten Stekelenburg

Roma

Sander Boschker

Twente

cAPTiAL

Amsterdam

officiAL LANguAge Dutch

Outfield Dirk Kuyt

Liverpool

Erik Pieters

PSV Eindhoven

Gregory Van Der Wiel

Ajax

Joris Mathijsen

Málaga

Robin Van Persie

Arsenal

Rafael Van der Vaart

Tottenham

John Heitinga

Everton

Kevin Strootman

PSV

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Schalke 04

Mark Van Bommel

AC Milan

Wesley Sneijder

Inter Milan

Ibrahim Afellay

Barcelona

Jeffrey Bruma

Hamburger SV

Nigel De Jong

Man City

Edson Braafheid

Hoffenheim

Eljero Elia

Juventus

Georgino Wijnaldum

PSV

Hedwiges Maduro

Valencia

Khalid Boulahrouz

VfB Stuttgart

Luuk de Jong

FC Twente

Ron Vlaar

Feyenoord

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Málaga

Stijn Schaars

Sporting CP

Urby Emanuelson

AC Milan

Arjun Robben

Bayern Munich

PoPuLATioN 16,847,007

curreNcy Euro (EUR)

TeAm fAcTs euro recorD

The cAsT: Van Marwijk prefers to use one out-and-out striker, which means one of Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar may be reduced to a deputy’s role – talk about an impact substitution. Both players have had career years in 2011-12, and with more than 70 goals between them, they represent the best one-two striking punch at Euro 2012. Van Marwijk could play both if he opted to use a 4-4-2 formation – a decision that will likely rest on the fitness and form of Wesley Sneijder coming into the tournament.

Roma

(D) Van Der Wiel

Ajax

(D) Heitinga

Everton

(D) Mathijsen

Málaga

(D) Pieters

PSV Eindhoven

(M) Van Bommel

AC Milan

(M) de Jong

Man City

(M) Kuyt

Liverpool

(M) Robben

Bayern Munich

(CAM) van der Vaart

Tottenham

(FW) van Persie

Arsenal

?

2008: Quarter-finals 2004: Semi-finals 2000: Semi-finals 1996: Quarter-finals 1992: Semi-finals 1988: Winners 1980: Group stage 1976: Third place 1964: Last 16

NickNAme(s)

Oranje (Orange) The Flying Dutchmen

key fAcTs

sPoTLighT: The Netherlands led

PLAymAker

Euro 2012 qualifying with an incredible 37 goals – nearly four goals per game. Schalke forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar paced the side with 12 goals while Dirk Kuyt and Robin Van Persie each contributed a half dozen. Wesley Sneijder found the back of the net on three occasions. Van Marwijk has an embarrassment of riches in the attacking positions, which is probably a good thing given that his side wobbles at the back. The big challenge for the manager will be trying to hit on some semblance of balance at Euro 2012, and two or three of his big stars will be in the uncomfortable situation of having to start from the bench.

Wesley Sneijder

WiNNiNg xi (GK) Stekelenburg

UEFA

grouP B EUR

Overall: P131 W84 D22 L25 Final tournament: P32 W17 D8 L7 Qualifying: P99 W67 D14 L18

mosT cAPs

130: Edwin van der Sar

mosT euro APPs

37: Edwin van der Sar 31: Frank de Boer 30: Ruud Gullit 29: Clarence Seedorf 29: Rafael van der Vaart

mosT goALs

40: Patrick Kluivert

mosT euro goALs PLAyeD

10

WoN

9

DrAWN

0

LosT

1

for

37

AgAiNsT

8

hoW They QuALifieD +/-

29

PoiNTs

27

PLAceD

1st

16: Marco van Basten 15: Ruud van Nistelrooy 14: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 13: Patrick Kluivert 12: Johan Cruyff

cAPTAiN

Mark van Bommel

DiD you kNoW

If you count the Olympic Games, The Netherlands have appeared in the semi-finals of a major competition on 12 occasions, but have only the 1988 European Championship to show for such consistent contention.

The Boss: Bert van Marwijk. The

Words | Jerrad Peters

59-year-old became the third Netherlands manager to contest a World Cup final when he steered his team to the championship match against Spain in South Africa in 2010. In doing so he followed in the traditions of two legendary coaches – Rinus Michels (1974) and Ernst Happel (1978) – both in the achievement and in the failure to take home the big prize. Michels, of course, did secure a major piece of silverware when his Dutch side beat the Soviet Union in the 1988 European Championship final – an accomplishment van Marwijk will no doubt be looking to emulate in Poland and Ukraine.

formATioN: 4-2-3-1 [www.soccer360.net]

41


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR B

PorTugAL

germANy DeNmArk NeTherLANDs

WorLD rANk: 8

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Rui Patricio

Sporting CP

Eduardo Caravalho

Benfica

Portuguese

Beto

CFR Cluj

PoPuLATioN

Bruno Alves

Zenit

Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid

curreNcy

Helder Postiga

Zaragoza

Euro (EUR)

Joao Moutinho

Porto

TeAm fAcTs

Nani

Man United

Raul Meireles

Chelsea

Fabio Coentrao

Real Madrid

Pepe

Real Madrid

Carlos Martins

Granada

Miguel Veloso

Genoa

Eliseu Pereira dos Santos

Málaga

Ronaldo Da Fonseca

FC Porto

Henrique Sereno

1. FC Köln

Hugo Almeida

Besiktas

Miguel Danny

Zenit

Nuno Gomes

Braga

Ricardo Costa

Valencia

Ricardo Quaresma

Besiktas

Ruben Amorim

Braga

Sílvio Manuel Pereira

Atletico Madrid

Silvestre Varela

Porto

Lisbon

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

10,576,252

euro recorD

2008: Quarter-finals 2004: Runners-up 2000: Semi-finals 1996: Quarter-finals 1984: Semi-finals 1964: Preliminary round 1960: Quarter-finals

NickNAme(s)

A Seleccao, A Seleccao das Quinas, Os Navegadores (The Navigators)

The cAsT: When discussing Portugal’s chances at Euro 2012, the conversation inevitably begins with

Cristiano Ronaldo. The captain, 27, has had another mind-blowing season at Real Madrid, scoring more than 50 goals for the second year running while becoming the fastest player in club history to score 100 goals in La Liga. Even his often-maligned international form has been impressive of late. He scored after just eight minutes to propel Portugal past Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-off round and finished the 2011 calendar year with seven goals in nine games for his country.

key fAcTs

Overall: P122 W66 D28 L28 Final tournament: P24 W12 D4 L8 Qualifying: P98 W54 D24 L20

mosT cAPs

127: Luís Figo

mosT euro APPs

34: Luís Figo 33: Vítor Baía 32: Rui Costa 30: Cristiano Ronaldo 29: Fernando Couto 28: Nuno Gomes 25: João Pinto

sPoTLighT: Portugal played a

DANger mAN

high-risk, high-reward brand of football throughout qualifying that eventually got them into the tournament proper, following a playoff win over BosniaHerzegovina. The second leg of that series, a 6-2 win, was really Portugal at its best. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani swarmed the opposition goalmouth from either flank while Joao Moutinho distributed the ball expertly in front of defensive midfielder Miguel Veloso and a bend-but-not-break defensive line. At their best Portugal can match any team in the world goal for goal; at their worst they give up softies that must make Bento cringe.

Nani

WiNNiNg xi

mosT goALs 47: Pauleta

mosT euro goALs 18: Cristiano Ronaldo 14: João Pinto 12: Rui Costa 9: Nuno Gomes

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

8

WoN

5

DrAWN

1

LosT

2

for

21

AgAiNsT

12

+/-

9

PoiNTs

16

PLAceD

2nd

cAPTAiN

Cristiano Ronaldo

(GK) Patricio

Sporting CP

(D) Pereira

Atletico Madrid

(D) Alves

Zenit

(D) Pepe

Real Madrid

(D) Coentrao

Real Madrid

(M) Meireles

Chelsea

(M) Moutinho

Porto

(M) Veloso

Genoa

(M) Nani

Man United

(FW) C. Ronaldo

Real Madrid

(FW) Postiga

Zaragoza

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Paulo Bento. The former

Words | Jerrad Peters

Sporting Lisbon manager didn’t exactly come into his job under ideal circumstances. His predecessor with the national team, Carlos Queiroz, had come under major pressure after a disappointing 2010 World Cup and was eventually sacked after it was revealed he had tampered with anti-doping tests ahead of the tournament in South Africa. The disruptive atmosphere in the Portuguese camp didn’t immediately abate with Bento’s appointment either. But after a difficult first year that also included the mutiny of long-time defender Ricardo Carvalho, the 42-year-old managed to guide his team into their fifth consecutive European Championship finals.

formATioN: 4-3-2-1 42

[soccer360 magazine]

?

If Cristiano Ronaldo plays in either of Portugal’s pre-tournament friendlies (against Macedonia and Turkey) he will surpass Pauleta and move into sole position of fourth place in all-time gamesplayed for Portugal, behind only Luis Figo, Fernando Couto and Rui Costa.


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR B

germANy

NeTherLANDs DeNmArk PorTugAL

WorLD rANk: 3

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Manuel Neuer

Bayern Munich

Rene Adler

B. Leverkusen

German

Ron-Robert Zieler

Hannover 96

PoPuLATioN

Philip Lahm

Bayern Munich

Thomas Muller

Bayern Munich

curreNcy

Lukas Podolski

1. FC Köln

Euro (EUR)

Mesut Ozil

Real Madrid

TeAm fAcTs

Holger Badstuber

Bayern Munich

Mario Gomez

Bayern Munich

Mats Julian Hummels

B. Dortmund

Sami Khedira

Real Madrid

Toni Kroos

Bayern Munich

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bayern Munich

Benedikt Howedes

Schalke 04

Per Mertesacker

Arsenal

Dennis Aogo

Hamburger SV

Miroslav Klose

Lazio

Andre Schurrle

B. Leverkusen

Arne Friedrich

Chicago Fire

Jerome Boateng

Bayern Munich

Marcel Schmelzer

B. Dortmund

Mario Gotze

B. Dortmund

Christian Trasch

VfL Wolfsburg

ęlkay Gündogan

B. Dortmund

Lewis Holtby

Schalke 04

Marco Reus

B. M'bach

Simon Rolfes

B. Leverkusen

Sven Bender

B. Dortmund

Berlin

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

81,799,600

euro recorD

(as Germany) 2008: Runners-up 2004: Group stage 2000: Group stage 1996: Winners 1992: Runners-up (as West Germany) 1988: Semi-finals 1984: Group stage 1980: Winners 1976: Runners-up 1972: Winners

NickNAme(s)

Die Mannschaft (The Team) Die DFB-Elf (The DFB Eleven)

key fAcTs

Overall: P126 W81 D29 L16 Final tournament: P38 W19 D10 L9 Qualifying: P88 W62 D19 L7

mosT cAPs

150: Lothar Matthäus

mosT euro APPs

31: Miroslav Klose 31: Lothar Matthäus 28: Philipp Lahm 26: Jürgen Klinsmann

mosT goALs

68: Gerd Müller

mosT euro goALs 18: Miroslav Klose 16: Gerd Müller 15: Jürgen Klinsmann

The cAsT: Mesut Ozil is the conductor of Joachim Low’s philharmonic. The Real Madrid playmaker, just

23, was one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup as a 21-year-old and has already been capped 31 times for his country. His job is to make use of outlets such as Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez, although his own instincts and eye for goal make him a weapon in his own right. Gomez, meanwhile, is wrapping up an incredible, 40+ goal season at Bayern Munich and will likely usurp Miroslav Klose as Germany’s starting centre forward. He would have taken over the role years ago, but his international performances have never quite matched his club form.

sPoTLighT: They have youth; they

iN form

have experience; they have depth; they have high-end talent. From top to bottom, Germany’s is the strongest squad at the European Championship, and it’s a tribute to Low and his management team that they pretty much know their starting XI ahead of the group stage. Most other managers would still be tinkering with the lineup. Germany play in an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation that is anchored by Bastian Schweinsteiger and orchestrated by Mesut Ozil. The only question mark in this team is at the centre of defense, but then again Sami Khedira provides such a competent shield that any weaknesses in the backline may not even be given the chance to surface, anyway.

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

10

WoN

10

DrAWN

0

Miroslav Klose

WiNNiNg xi

LosT

0

for

34

AgAiNsT

7

+/-

27

PoiNTs

30

PLAceD

1st

cAPTAiN Philip Lahm

(GK) Neuer

Bayern Munich

(D) Lahm

Bayern Munich

(D) Hummels

B. Dortmund

(D) Badstuber

Bayern Munich

(D) Boateng

Bayern Munich

(M) Schweinsteiger

Bayern Munich

(M) Khedira

Real Madrid

(M) Muller

Bayern Munich

(M) Ozil

Real Madrid

(FW) Gomez

Bayern Munich

(FW) Podolski

1. FC Köln

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Joachim Low. The 52-year-

Words | Jerrad Peters

old began his stint with the German national team as Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant in 2004 and took over in the top job after the 2006 World Cup. As manager, Low’s Germany have been one of the most entertaining sides to watch in international football, and with an appearance in the Euro 2008 final and 2010 World Cup semifinals they’ve experienced some success as well. At club level Low guided Stuttgart to the DFB-Pokal in 1997 and won the Austrian championship with Tirol Innsbruck in 2002.

formATioN: 4-2-3-1 44

[soccer360 magazine]

?

Joachim Low named 14 players 25-years-old or younger to his 20man squad that faced France in a February friendly. In a competition where the games come thick and fast, such as the European Championship, young legs can carry a team a long way.


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR C

sPAiN

croATiA rePuBLic of ireLAND iTALy

WorLD rANk: 1

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Iker Casillas

Real Madrid

Victor Valdes

Barcelona

Spanish

Pepe Reina

Liverpool

PoPuLATioN

Xavi

Barcelona

David Villa

Barcelona

curreNcy

Gerard Pique

Barcelona

Euro (EUR)

Sergio Busquets

Barcelona

TeAm fAcTs

Sergio Ramos

Real Madrid

Xabi Alonso

Real Madrid

Alvaro Arbeloa

Real Madrid

Raul Albiol

Real Madrid

Andres Iniesta

Barcelona

David Silva

Man. City

Juan Mata

Chelsea

Santi Carzorla

Malaga

Andoni Iraola

Athletic Bilbao

Carles Puyol

Barcelona

Fernando Llorente

Athletic Bilbao

Fernando Torres

Chelsea

Javi Martinez

Athletic Bilbao

Jesus Navas

Sevilla

Joan Capdevilla

Benfica

Jordi Alba

Valencia

Pedro

Barcelona

Alvaro Negredo

Sevilla

Alvaro Dominguez Soto

A. Madrid

Carlos Marchena

Villarreal

Cesc Fabregas

Barcelona

Thiago

Barcelona

Madrid

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

46,030,109

euro recorD

2008: Winners 2004: Group stage 2000: Quarter-finals 1996: Quarter-finals 1992: Qualifying 1988: Group stage 1984: Runners-up 1980: Group stage 1976: Quarter-finals 1972: Qualifying 1968: Quarter-finals 1964: Winners 1960: Quarter-finals

NickNAme(s)

La Roja (The Red [One]) La Furia Roja (The Red Fury)

key fAcTs

Overall: P135 W85 D25 L25 Final tournament: P30 W13 D9 L8 Qualifying: P105 W72 D16 L17

mosT cAPs

128: Iker Casillas

mosT euro APPs

35: Iker Casillas 31: Andoni Zubizarreta 27: Raúl González 26: Xavi Hernández 26: Carlos Marchena

mosT goALs 51: David Villa

mosT euro goALs 19: Raúl González

The cAsT: Reigning world champions and defending European title-holders Spain arrive in Poland

and Ukraine with a squad unrivalled both in technical ability and depth of options available to Vicente del Bosque. Whilst, defensively speaking, stalwarts Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique offer a central spine of experience and force, midfield is arguably where La Roja are strongest right now. From the doubleaxis reference point of Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso through to diminutive playmakers Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, La Seleccion have a first and second choice midfield capable of continually stealing possession and holding on to it to regularly testing opposition defences with neat interplay.

sPoTLighT: Sergio Ramos heads

BiggesT Loss

into the tournament off the back of a notable improvement this season at Real Madrid. Switching from full-back to centre-back for Los Merengues, the 26-year-old has disproved critics’ doubts over his temperament and concentration, with the latter aspect sitting in sharp contrast this term with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique. Ramos is likely to start Euro 2012 at right-back and Pique at centre-back, but he offers Spain and Coach Vicente del Bosque a new, assured alternative in the middle of defence that beyond Pique and Carles Puyol, they have lacked in recent years and indeed they may find themselves turning to.

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

8

WoN

8

DrAWN

0

David Villa

WiNNiNg xi

LosT

0

for

26

AgAiNsT

6

+/-

20

PoiNTs

24

PLAceD

1st

cAPTAiN Iker Casillas

(GK) Casillas

Real Madrid

(D) Ramos

Real Madrid

(D) Puyol

Barcelona

(D) Pique

Barcelona

(D) Arbeloa

Real Madrid

(M) Busquets

Barcelona

(M) Silva

Man. City

(M) Alonso

Real Madrid

(M) Iniesta

Barcelona

(FW) Llorente

Athletic Bilbao

(FW) Mata

Chelsea

DiD you kNoW The Boss: That Real Madrid and

Words | Rob Paton

Barcelona’s almost cataclysmic clashes in La Liga and the Champions League in recent seasons have not detracted from players from both teams working in unison for the national team is credited specifically to the skill of former Blancos player and Coach Vicente del Bosque. Modest in approach, the respected 61-year-old is described as a man who may take a while to make a decision, but when he takes it, it is always well thought through and generally always proven correct.

formATioN: 4-4-1-1 46

[soccer360 magazine]

Spain are chasing a world record from their first game of Group C. A win over Italy in Gdansk on June 10 would be La Roja’s 15th consecutive win in competitive matches, beating a current 14-match streak they share with the Netherlands and France.

?


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR C

iTALy

sPAiN rePuBLic of ireLAND croATiA

WorLD rANk: 6

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Gianluigi Buffon

Juventus

Emiliano Viviano

Inter Milan

Italian

Morgan De Sanctis

Napoli

PoPuLATioN

Antonio Cassano

Milan

Giorgio Chiellini

Juventus

curreNcy

Riccardo Montolivo

Fiorentina

Euro (EUR)

Andrea Pirlo

Juventus

TeAm fAcTs

Cristian Maggio

Napoli

Daniele De Rossi

Roma

Federico Balzaretti

Palermo

Alberto Aquilani

Milan

Andrea Ranocchia

Inter Milan

Thiago Motta

PSG

Andrea Barzagli

Juventus

Claudio Marchisio

Juventus

Leonardo Bonucci

Juventus

Mattia Cassani

Fiorentina

Domenico Criscito

Zenit

Giampaolo Pazzini

Inter Milan

Sebastian Giovinco

Parma

Alberto Gilardino

Genoa

Alessandro Gamberini

Fiorentina

Antonio Nocerino

Milan

Daniele Gastaldello

Sampdoria

Davide Astori

Cagliari

Luca Cigarini

Atalanta

Mario Balotelli

Man. City

Pablo Daniel Osvaldo

Roma

Rome

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

60,681,514

euro recorD

2008: Quarter-finals 2004: Group stage 2000: Runners-up 1996: Group stage 1988: Semi-finals 1980: Fourth place 1972: Quarter-finals 1968: Winners 1964: Last 16

NickNAme(s)

Azzurri (The Blues)

key fAcTs

Overall: P125 W67 D40 L18 Final tournament: P27 W11 D12 L4 Qualifying: P98 W56 D28 L14

mosT cAPs

136: Fabio Cannavaro

mosT euro APPs

39: Gianluigi Buffon 35: Fabio Cannavaro 33: Paolo Maldini 32: Alessandro Del Piero 28: Christian Panucci 28: Andrea Pirlo

mosT goALs 35: Luigi Riva

The cAsT: There is no Gianni Rivera, no Roberto Baggio, no Francesco Totti. A fantasista-light Italy will

not arrive at Euro 2012 as one of the favourites, but if their decent players can gel then there is no reason why a semi-final berth should not be achieved. Gigi Buffon offers guarantees in goal and Andrea Pirlo will make the side tick in midfield, but the Azzurri will need Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli to mirror their Juventus form of this season in defence and they’ll require a goal hero in attack. Given the uncertainty over the fitness of Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi, Bad Boy Balotelli may have to come good.

sPoTLighT: Gigi Buffon’s 2010

DefeNsive rock

World Cup lasted just 45 minutes. Replaced at the break during Italy’s game against Paraguay, the custodian subsequently underwent back surgery which saw him sidelined for six months. Some thought he was finished, especially given his shaky form in Turin on his return. However, Buffon has been nothing short of sensational at club level for Juventus over the past nine months. He may be 34, but there is no doubt that Gigi is back to his best. Italy’s captain has now surpassed Dino Zoff’s tally of 112 caps for his country. The Azzurri’s progression may well depend on Buffon’s displays in Poland and Ukraine.

Giorgio Chiellini

WiNNiNg xi

mosT euro goALs

14: Filippo Inzaghi 10: Luigi Riva 9: Alessandro Del Piero 8: Antonio Cassano 7: Gianfranco Zola

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

10

WoN

8

DrAWN

2

LosT

0

for

20

AgAiNsT

2

+/-

18

PoiNTs

26

PLAceD

1st

cAPTAiN Gigi Buffon

(GK) Buffon

Juventus

(D) Maggio

Napoli

(D) Chiellini

Juventus

(D) Ranocchia

Inter Milan

(D) Balzaretti

Palermo

(M) Marchisio

Juventus

(M) Pirlo

Juventus

(M) Montolivo

Fiorentina

(M) De Rossi

Roma

(FW) Balotelli

Man City

(FW) Rossi

Villarreal

DiD you kNoW The Boss: A former midfielder who won

Words | Antonio Labbate

honours galore with Giovanni Trapattoni’s Juventus in the 1980s, Cesare Prandelli also played for Cremonese and Atalanta in a career which ended in 1990. The Bergamo club offered him a shot at coaching and after spells at Lecce, Verona and Venezia, he really left his mark at Parma. After quitting Roma just weeks into his adventure to care for his sick wife, Prandelli revived the fortunes of Fiorentina during a five-year spell until Italy called in 2010. He’s the personification of a gentleman.

formATioN: 4-3-1-2 48

[soccer360 magazine]

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When Italy won the 1968 European Championship – their only triumph to date – they only just beat the Soviet Union in the semi-final. The game, held at Naples’ Stadio San Paolo, ended 0-0. With no penalties on the agenda, the Azzurri progressed to the Final thanks to a toss of a coin!


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR C

rePuBLic of ireLAND

iTALy sPAiN croATiA

WorLD rANk: 25

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Shay Given

Aston Villa

Keiren Westwood

Sunderland

Irish, English

David Forde

Millwall

PoPuLATioN

Glenn Whelan

Stoke City

Aiden McGeady

S. Moscow

curreNcy

Damien Duff

Fulham

Euro (EUR)

Keith Andrews

W. Brom Albion

TeAm fAcTs

Robbie Keane

LA Galaxy

Kevin Doyle

W. Wanderers

Richard Dunne

Aston Villa

John O'Shea

Sunderland

Sean St. Ledger

Leicester City

Stephen Ward

W. Wanderers

Darren O'Dea

Leeds United

Stephen Kelly

Fulham

Kevin Kilbane

Hull City

Simon Cox

W. Brom Albion

Stephen Hunt

W. Wanderers

Darron Gibson

Everton

Jonathan Walters

Stoke City

Kevin Foley

W. Wanderers

Andrew Keogh

Millwall

Ciaran Clark

Aston Villa

Damien Delaney

Ipswich Town

James McCarthy

Wigan Athletic

Kevin Fahey

Birmingham

Liam Lawrence

Cardiff City

Paul McShane

Crystal Palace

Seamus Coleman

Everton

Shane Long

W. Brom Albion

Dublin

officiAL LANguAges

Outfield

4,588,252

euro recorD

1998: Group stage 1964: Quarter-finals

NickNAme(s)

The Boys in Green

key fAcTs

Overall: P112 W45 D33 L34 Final tournament: P3 W1 D1 L1 Qualifying: P109 W44 D32 L33

The cAsT: No matter where he’s playing – whether Tottenham Hotspur, Los Angeles Galaxy or Aston

Villa – Robbie Keane will be Ireland’s number-one striker until he stops scoring goals for his country, which doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. The 31-year-old forward, currently with Los Angeles of Major League Soccer scored an important brace in the first leg of Ireland’s qualification playoff in Estonia and has bagged 53 goals in 115 appearances for his country. In fact, 2011 was Keane’s most productive year for the Republic. He tallied eight times in 10 appearances.

mosT cAPs

121: Shay Given

mosT euro APPs 35: Robbie Keane 32: Kevin Kilbane 31: Shay Given 29: Damien Duff 27: Liam Brady 26: John O'Shea 26: Niall Quinn 26: Frank Stapleton

mosT goALs

53: Robbie Keane

mosT euro goALs 18: Robbie Keane 10: Frank Stapleton 9: Don Givens 8: John Aldridge 8: Niall Quinn

sPoTLighT: The Republic of Ireland

sAiNT of irish soccer

lost just once in Euro 2012 qualifying, and that was at home to Group B winners Russia. Surprisingly, and certainly unconventionally, they went through the entire campaign unbeaten away from Dublin, and even recorded an impressive 0-0 draw in Russia that was vital to their qualification. This isn’t a particularly high-scoring group, but they have talented wingers in Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff who can hurt you on the break, and in Glenn Whelan they have one of the Premier League’s more underrated midfielders shielding the defense. Trapattoni also has them believing they can win any match they play in, which only makes such a difficult team to play against an even tougher out.

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

10

WoN

6

DrAWN

3

Giovanni Trapattoni

WiNNiNg xi

LosT

1

for

15

AgAiNsT

7

+/-

8

PoiNTs

21

PLAceD

2nd

cAPTAiN

Robbie Keane

(GK) Given

Aston Villa

(D) Kelly

Fulham

(D) O'Shea

Sunderland

(D) St. Ledger

Leicester City

(D) Ward

W. Wanderers

(M) Duff

Fulham

(M) Whelan

Stoke City

(M) Andrews

W. Brom Albion

(M) McGeady

S. Moscow

(FW) Keane

LA Galaxy

(FW) Doyle

W. Wanderers

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Giovanni Trapattoni – one of

Words | Jerrad Peters

the legendary managers in the pantheon of great, Italian managers, Trapattoni began his coaching career 40 years ago with the AC Milan youth team. Since then he has managed the senior Milan squad, Juventus, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Benfica and the Italian national team, among others. He joined the Republic of Ireland in 2008 after a two-year stint at Red Bull Salzburg that included a league championship and guided the Irish into just their second European Championship finals, the only other coming in 1988.

formATioN: 4-4-2 50

[soccer360 magazine]

?

Giovanni Trapattoni has won league championships in Austria, Germany, Italy and Portugal, making him just the second manager to accomplish the feat after the legendary Ernst Happel, who won titles in Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands.


EURO CUP 2012

rePuBLic of ireLAND sPAiN iTALy

WorLD rANk: 12

NAme

cLuB FC Rostov

Vedran Runje

Free agent

Danijel Subasic

Monaco S. Donetsk

Luka Modric

Tottenham

Mario Mandzukic

VfL Wolfsburg

Vedran Corluka

B. Leverkusen

Josip Simunic

Dinamo Zagreb

Dejan Lovren

Lyon

Ivan Strinic

Dnipropetrovsk

Niko Kranjcar

Tottenham

Eduardo

S. Donetsk

Nikica Jelavic

Everton

Danijel Pranjic

Bayern Munich

Domagoj Vida

Dinamo Zagreb

Gordon Schildenfeld

E. Frankfurt

Ivan Perisic

B. Dortmund

Ivica Olic

Bayern Munich

Tomislav Dujmovic

Zaragoza

Ivan Klasnic

Bolton

Milan Badelj

Dinamo Zagreb

Mladen Petric

Hamburger SV

Nikola Kalinic

Dnipropetrovsk

Sime Vrsaljko

Dinamo Zagreb

Ivo Ilicevic

Hamburger SV

Jurica Buljat

Maccabi Haifa

Mato Jajalo

1. FC Köln

Ivan Rakitic

Sevilla

Zagreb

officiAL LANguAge Croatian

PoPuLATioN 4,290,612

curreNcy Kuna (HRK)

TeAm fAcTs euro recorD

2008: Quarter-finals 2004: Group stage 1996: Quarter-finals

NickNAme(s)

Vatreni (The Blazers)

The cAsT: Everything Croatia create going forward will come through Luca Modric. The 26-year-old – who four years ago enjoyed a coming-out party at Euro 2008 – is the midfield engine of his national team, much like Bastian Schweinsteiger is for Germany and Christian Eriksen for Denmark. He will drop deep to pick up the ball; he will drive forward when in possession; he will make each of his teammates an attacking weapon because of his excellent distribution. No one player is as vital to his side’s chances at Euro 2012 as Modric is to Croatia’s. sPoTLighT: Considered an outside

oNe To WATch

favourite at the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland, Croatia went out at the quarterfinal stage in heartbreaking fashion – conceding a late, extra-time equaliser to Turkey before losing on penalties. It took them three-and-a-half-years to get their revenge, but when they got it, they made sure no one would forget. Their 3-0 win in Istanbul in a Euro 2012 qualification playoff set them on their way to Poland and Ukraine, where despite being grouped in the tournament’s most difficult bracket they’ll be expecting to progress to the quarterfinals at the very least. Few European countries play football as fluently and attractively as the Croatians, and while there are some questions in the defence, Bilic’s side should have enough goals in it for an extended run this spring.

Luka Modric

WiNNiNg xi (GK) Pletikosa

FC Rostov

(D) Vida

Dinamo Zagreb

(D) Simunic

Dinamo Zagreb

(D) Schildenfeld

E. Frankfurt

(D) Corluka

B. Leverkusen

(M) Rakitic

Sevilla

(M) Dujmovic

Zaragoza

(M) Srna

S. Donetsk

(M) Modric

Tottenham

(FW) Mandzukic

VfL Wolfsburg

(FW) Olic

Bayern Munich

?

croATiA cAPTiAL

Outfield Darijo Srna

UEFA

grouP C EUR

couNTry fAcTs

Goalkeeping Stipe Pletikosa

360

PLAyeD

10

WoN

7

DrAWN

1

LosT

2

for

18

AgAiNsT

hoW They QuALifieD

7

+/-

11

PoiNTs

22

key fAcTs

Overall: P63 W39 D14 L10 Final tournament: P11 W5 D3 L3 Qualifying: P52 W34 D11 L7

mosT cAPs

100: Dario Šimić

mosT euro APPs 31: Josip Šimunić 31: Darijo Srna 30: Dario Šimić 29: Stipe Pletikosa 27: Vedran Ćorluka 27: Robert Kovač 26: Ivica Olić

mosT goALs

45: Davor Šuker

mosT euro goALs 20: Davor Šuker 13: Eduardo 8: Mladen Petrić 6: Zvonimir Boban 6: Niko Kranjčar 6: Darijo Srna

PLAceD

2nd

cAPTAiN Darijo Srna

DiD you kNoW

Croatia were admitted into FIFA in 1993 and assigned an international rank of 125. Five years later, after a semi-final appearance at the World Cup in France, they were recognised by football’s governing body as the third-best side in the world – an incredible jump of 122 places.

The Boss: Slavel Bilic. You can make the

Words | Jerrad Peters

argument that no individual has been as closely linked to the Croatian national team from its inception to the present as has Bilic. The 43-year-old succeeded Zlatko Kranjcar as manager shortly after Croatia’s group stage exit at the 2006 World Cup and guided the national team through a memorable Euro 2008 qualification campaign (that included the elimination of England at Wembley) and finals appearance (that included a win over Germany). But even before he took the manager’s seat, Bilic had been associated with the Croatian setup since the early 1990s, when as a player he began an international career that would eventually include 44 caps and a bronze medal from the 1998 World Cup.

formATioN: 4-2-3-1 [www.soccer360.net]

51


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR A D

PoLAND greece eNgLAND ukrAiNe russiA sWeDeN czechfrANce rePuBLic

WorLD rANk: 7 64

couNTry fAcTs

NAme

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Joe Hart

Man City

David Stockdale

Fulham

English

Robert Green

West Ham Utd

PoPuLATioN

Ashley Cole

Chelsea

John Terry

Chelsea

curreNcy

Ashley Young

Man United

Pound sterling (GBP)

Scott Parker

Tottenham

TeAm fAcTs

Wayne Rooney

Man United

Darren Bent

Aston Villa

Frank Lampard

Chelsea

Gareth Barry

Man City

Gary Cahill

Chelsea

Theo Walcott

Arsenal

Chris Smalling

Man United

Glen Johnson

Liverpool

Jack Wilshere

Arsenal

James Milner

Man City

Stewart Downing

Liverpool

Michael Dawson

Tottenham

Phil Jones

Man United

Rio Ferdinand

Man United

Adam Johnson

Man City

Andrew Carroll

Liverpool

Bobby Zamora

QPR

Danny Welbeck

Man United

Jermain Defoe

Tottenham

Joleon Lescott

Man City

Leighton Baines

Everton

Phil Jagielka

Everton

London

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

51,446,000

euro recorD

2004: Quarter-finals 2000: Group stage 1996: Semi-finals 1992: Group stage 1988: Group stage 1980: Group stage 1972: Quarter-finals 1968: Third place

NickNAme(s) Three Lions

key fAcTs

Overall: P113 W63 D31 L19 Final tournament: P23 W7 D7 L9 Qualifying: P90 W56 D24 L10

mosT cAPs

125: Peter Shilton

mosT euro APPs 26: Steven Gerrard 26: Michael Owen 25: Ashley Cole 24: Gary Neville

mosT goALs

49: Bobby Charlton

mosT euro goALs 13: Michael Owen 13: Alan Shearer 11: Wayne Rooney 8: Geoff Hurst 8: Kevin Keegan

The cAsT: Notwithstanding the loss of their top scorer Wayne Rooney for the first two games, England

still have a few aces up their sleeve. And although many of their players lack a certain technical ability, one quality they do possess is a never-say-die attitude. Also for the first time in an age England have a definite No 1 in Manchester City’s Joe Hart, who has had an outstanding campaign with Manchester City and will provide a rock-solid last line of defence. Factor in experienced tournament players like left back Ashley Cole, central defender John Terry, midfielder Stevie Gerrard and Rooney and England have the vital backbone that any team who wants to progress needs to have.

sPoTLighT: There have been

susPeNDeD

several classy youngsters making the England team recently, all possessing a passion and competitive spirit, rarely seen in previous squads. As a nominal central defender one of them, Phil Jones, has been a revelation in midfield and at right-back and can adapt in such a manner that none of his predecessors can be relied on to do. His ability to switch from defence to attack by running down the right flank has worried opposition defences all season and such is his perception, tactical know how and consummate confidence, he could have stepped off the Barcelona production line yesterday.

hoW They QuALifieD PLAyeD

8

WoN

5

DrAWN

3

Wayne Rooney

WiNNiNg xi

LosT

0

for

17

AgAiNsT

5

+/-

12

PoiNTs

18

PLAceD

1st

cAPTAiN

Scott Parker

(GK) Hart

Man City

(D) Terry

Chelsea

(D) Cahill

Chelsea

(D) Johnson

Liverpool

(D) Cole

Chelsea

(M) Young

Man United

(M) Barry

Man City

(M) Milner

Man City

(M) Lampard

Chelsea

(FW) Rooney

Man United

(FW) Bent

Aston Villa

DiD you kNoW The Boss: There’s little doubt that

Words | Dave Taylor

England have some great players, it just needs a Coach who can bring out the best in them and Harry Redknapp has the manmanagement skills to do this. England have left it a late but the well-liked and highly-respected Tottenham manager will bring a togetherness into the squad with an awareness and enthusiasm for the English game that is unrivalled. Fortunately for England they also have an excellent back up Coach in Stuart Pearce, who took temporary charge after Fabio Capello left and has the wherewithal to get England through a tournament of this stature with all flags flying.

formATioN: 4-4-1-1 52

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Manchester United players have provided England with more goals – 193 - than any other club since 1872. However, with Wayne Rooney absent for the first two games, if Spurs midfielder Scott Parker scores or his club teammate Jermaine Defoe get a shout up front then Tottenham Hotspur on 189, may just overhaul that number.


360

EURO CUP 2012

eNgLAND sWeDeN frANce

WorLD rANk: 58

NAme

cLuB S. Moscow

Olexandr Rybka

S. Donetsk

Olexandr Shovkovskiy

Dynamo Kyiv

cAPTiAL Keiv

officiAL LANguAge Ukrainian

Outfield Anatoliy Tymoschuk

Bayern Munich

Andriy Yarmolenko

Dynamo Kyiv

Artem Milevskiy

Dynamo Kyiv

Bohdan Butko

Mariupol

Oleksandr Kucher

S. Donetsk

Yevhen Konoplyanka

Dnipropetrovsk

Yaroslav Rakitskiy

S. Donetsk

Yevhen Selin

Vorskla Poltava

Marko Devic

Metalist Kharkiv

Vyacheslav Shevchuk

S. Donetsk

Andriy Shevchenko

Dynamo Kyiv

Andriy Voronin

D. Moscow

Denys Garmash

Dynamo Kyiv

Dmytro Chigrinsky

S. Donetsk

Oleksandr Aliev

Dynamo Kyiv

Oleksiy Gai

S. Donetsk

Ruslan Rotan

Dnipropetrovsk

Taras Mykhalyk

Dynamo Kyiv

Artem Fedetskiy

Karpaty Lviv

Ihor Oshchipko

Karpaty

Mykola Ischenko

Mariupol

Oleg Gusev

Dynamo Kyiv

Roman Bezus

Vorskla Poltava

Sergiy Kryvtsov

S. Donetsk

Serhiy Nazarenko

T. Simferopol

Taras Stepanenko

S. Donetsk

Vitaliy Mandziuk

Dnipropetrovsk

PoPuLATioN 45,888,000

curreNcy

Hryvnia (UAH)

TeAm fAcTs euro recorD

2012: First time competing

NickNAme(s)

Zhovto-Blakytni (The Yellow-Blues)

key fAcTs

The cAsT: One of the young players to watch at Euro 2012 will be 22-year-old Andriy Yarmolenko, who

was one of the top-scorers in the Ukrainian Premier League in 2011-12. A left-footed forward, Yarmolenko can play as either a winger or an out-and-out striker and could use this tournament to boost his profile, much like Roman Pavlyuchenko did for Russia at Euro 2008. Like Yarmolenko, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk was one of manager Oleh Blokhin’s few regular selections ahead of the Euro 2012 finals. The 33-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder will sit deep in a holding role for Ukraine.

Dynamo Kyiv

(D) Kucher

S. Donetsk

(D) Rakitskiy

S. Donetsk

(D) Chigrinsky

S. Donetsk

(D) Selin

Vorskla Poltava

(RM) Gusev

Dynamo Kyiv

(M) Rotan

Dnipropetrovsk

(M) Tymoschuk

Bayern Munich

(LM) Konoplyanka

Dnipropetrovsk

(F) Milevskiy

Dynamo Kyiv

(F) Yarmolenko

Dynamo Kyiv

Overall: P42 W16 D13 L13 Final tournament: P0 W0 D0 L0 Qualifying: P42 W16 D13 L13

mosT cAPs

sPoTLighT: No side, not even

oNe To WATch

England, come into Euro 2012 with as many question-marks in as many positions as Ukraine. Manager Oleh Blokhin has called 43 players into the squad in the past year, and somehow that number will have to be reduced by 20 ahead of Euro 2012. An injury to Dmytro Chygrynskiy left a massive void in the centre of defense in recent friendlies, and then there is the matter of national icon Andriy Shevchenko, who has scored just twice for his country since 2009. The forward positions have been filled by revolvingdoor policy under Blokhin, but if there is a bright spot in the attack it’s out wide where Oleg Gusev and Yevhen Konoplyanka have been consistent contributors.

Anatoliy Tymoschuk

WiNNiNg xi (GK) Shovkovskiy

ukrAiNe couNTry fAcTs

Goalkeeping Andrei Dikan

UEFA

grouP D EUR

PLAyeD

WoN

DrAWN

LosT

for

Host Nation (automatic qualification)

AgAiNsT

114: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

mosT euro APPs

26: Andriy Shevchenko 25: Olexandr Shovkovskiy 24: Oleh Luzhny 21: Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko 19: Andriy Husin 19: Oleh Kuznetsov 19: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk 19: Andriy Voronin

mosT goALs

46: Andriy Shevchenko

mosT euro goALs

10: Andriy Shevchenko 5: Tymerlan Huseynov 5: Serhiy Rebrov 4: Oleh Gusev 4: Oleh Protasov

hoW They QuALifieD +/-

PoiNTs

PLAceD

cAPTAiN

Andriy Shevchenko

DiD you kNoW Ukraine’s three most-capped players of all time will be part of Blokhin’s squad at Euro 2012. Ahead of the spring’s tune-up matches against Estonia, Austria and Turkey, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk topped the list with 114 caps and was followed by Andriy Shevchenko on 105. Goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy has made 92 appearances for his country and is the third most-capped player.

The Boss: Oleh Blokhin – winner of the

Ballon d’Or and European Footballer of the Year accolades in 1975 (he scored at least 40 goals in a season on five occasions during an illustrious career with Dynamo Kiev. He returned to the Ukraine setup in April 2011 after initially resigning the managerial post in 2007. His side have won just five of the 10 matches he’s managed since his reappointment but came into spring of 2012 unbeaten in five – a run that included an impressive 3-3 draw with Germany in November. Words | Jerrad Peters

formATioN: 4-4-2 [www.soccer360.net]

53


360

UEFA

EURO CUP 2012

grouPEUR D

sWeDeN

ukrAiNe frANce eNgLAND

WorLD rANk: 14

NAme

couNTry fAcTs

cLuB

Goalkeeping

cAPTiAL

Andreas Isaksson

PSV Eindhoven

Johan Wiland

Copenhagen

Swedish

Par Hansson

Helsingborgs IF

PoPuLATioN

Johan Elmander

Galatasaray

Kim Kallstrom

Lyon

curreNcy

Mikael Lustig

Celtic

Swedish krona (SEK)

Daniel Majstorovic

Celtic

TeAm fAcTs

Sebastian Larsson

Sunderland

Anders Svensson

Elfsborg

Ola Toivonen

PSV Eindhoven

Olof Mellberg

Olympiacos

Oscar Wendt

B. M'bach

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

AC Milan

Andreas Granqvist

B. M'bach

Christian Wilhelmsson

Al-Hilal

Martin Olsson

Blackburn

Rasmus Elm

AZ

Emir Bajrami

Twente

Mikael Antonsson

Bologna

Pontus Wernbloom

CSKA Moscow

Tobias Hysen

IFK Göteborg

Alexander Gerndt

Utrecht

Behrang Safari

Anderlecht

Jonas Olsson

W Brom Albion

Markus Rosenberg

W. Bremen

Pierre Bengtsson

Copenhagen

Samuel Holmen

Istanbul BB

Stockholm

officiAL LANguAge

Outfield

9,415,295

euro recorD

2008: Group stage 2004: Quarter-finals 2000: Group stage 1996: Preliminary round 1992: Semi-finals 1988: Preliminary round 1984: Preliminary round 1980: Preliminary round 1976: Preliminary round 1972: Preliminary round 1968: Preliminary round 1964: Quarter-finals

NickNAme(s)

Blagult (The Blue-Yellow)

mosT cAPs

143: Thomas Ravelli

mosT euro APPs 32: Kim Kallstrom

mosT goALs

49: Sven Rydell 43: Gunna Nordahl 37: Henrik Larsson 32: Gunnar Gren 31: Kennet Andersson 30: Marcus Allback 29: Martin Dahlin 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 27: Agne Simonsson 26: Tomas Brolin

The cAsT: At 30 years of age Zlatan Ibrahimovic put together the best season of his career in 2011-12,

breaking the 30-goal barrier for the first time and also amassing a career high in assists. The three-time Serie A Footballer of the Year also, finally, seemed to mature as a player. Where once he would have drifted out of matches without the ball at his feet, he began dropping deeper to involve himself in the build-up play. He also seemed to take new joy in his passing game. Much of Ibrahimovic’s service at Euro 2012 will come courtesy of Rasmus Elm. The 24-year-old playmaker enjoyed a breakout season at AZ Alkmaar and provides a running, passing option alongside the more defensive Kim Kallstrom. Elm’s excellent offensive instincts led to a career high in goals this season.

sPoTLighT: There are a few

veTerAN

questions at the back, where central defenders Olof Mellberg and Daniel Majstorovic are 34 and 35-years-old, respectively, and Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom will be counted on to provide consistent cover. But Sweden didn’t get to Euro 2012 by keeping clean sheets. Manager Erik Hamren has a variety of offensive weapons in his arsenal, most notably AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sunderland winger Sebastian Larsson. Sweden will move the ball quickly upfield, and job-one for their opponents will be to neutralize playmaking midfielder Rasmus Elm.

Anders Svensson

WiNNiNg xi

mosT euro goALs 12: Marcus Allback 12: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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cAPTAiN

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

(GK) Isaksson

PSV Eindhoven

(D) Lustig

Celtic

(D) Majstorovic

Celtic

(D) Meliberg

Olympiacos

(D) Olsson

Blackburn

(M) Larsson

Sunderland

(M) Kallstrom

Lyon

(M) Elm

AZ

(M) Svensson

Elfsborg

(FW) Ibrahimovic

AC Milan

(FW) Toivonen

PSV Eindhoven

DiD you kNoW The Boss: Erik Hamren. A former

Words | Jerrad Peters

Manager of the Year in both Denmark and Norway, the 54-year-old has been in charge of the national team since their failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Sweden entered the Euro 2012 finals as the top-ranked second-place side in qualifying averaging three goals per game; they concluded their campaign with an impressive 3-2 defeat of The Netherlands. Hamren won the Danish championship with AaB Fodbold in 2008 and claimed back-to-back Norwegian titles with Rosenborg in 2009 and 2010.

formATioN: 4-4-2 54

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?

Four-time World Cup semi-finalists and runners-up in 1958, Sweden won Olympic Gold in 1948 after beating Yugoslavia in the final at Wembley. Gunnar Gren, who played four seasons for AC Milan, scored twice in the match.


EURO CUP 2012

eNgLAND ukrAiNe sWeDeN

WorLD rANk: 15

NAme

cLuB Lyon

Steve Mandana

Marseille

Cedric Carrasso

Bordeaux Valencia

Florent Malouda

Chelsea

Patrice Evra

Man United

Samir Nasri

Man City

Yann M'Vila

Rennes

Eric Abidal

Barcelona

Franck Ribery

Bayern Munich

Karim Benzema

Real Madrid

Bacary Sagna

Arsenal

Yohan Cabaye

Newcastle

Alou Diarra

Marseille

Anthony Reveillere

Lyon

Loic Remy

Marseille

Younes Kaboul

Tottenham

Abou Diaby

Arsenal

Bafetimbi Gomis

Lyon

Jeremy Menez

PSG

Mamadou Sakho

PSG

Marvin Martin

Sochaux

Mathieu Valbuena

Marseille

Philippe Mexes

AC Milan

Yoann Gourcuff

Lyon

Djibril Cisse

QPR

Kevin Gameiro

PSG

Laurent Koscielny

Arsenal

Paris

officiAL LANguAge French

PoPuLATioN 65,350,000

curreNcy Euro (EUR)

TeAm fAcTs euro recorD

The cAsT: He was overshadowed somewhat by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but Franck Ribery’s 2011-12 campaign would, in most other years, have been good enough for UEFA Best Player in Europe recognition. His scoring record returned to the high mark he set in his first season at Bayern Munich in 2007-08, but it was his playmaking ability (he had 20 assists by the beginning of April) that really set him apart. He formed a dynamic partnership with Bayern teammate Mario Gomez, and if his understanding with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema comes anywhere close to that, France may have an offensive juggernaut at Euro 2012. sPoTLighT: The French team that takes

fiNisher

the field against England on June 11 will look nothing like the side that bowed meekly out of the 2010 World Cup following a 2-1 loss to South Africa. The generation that delivered international glory in 1998 and 2000 has been moved on, and in their place is a young, capable group of players either in or just entering the prime of their careers. Not surprisingly, Blanc – a former defender – has built his side from the backline out. France conceded just four goals in 10 qualifying matches, and while there are questions to be addressed in the left-back slot given Eric Abidal’s recovery from a liver transplant Adil Rami and Bacary Sagna have their places assured. Yann M’Vila – Renne’s exceptional defensive midfielder – has earned each of his 18 caps under Blanc and provides a solid shield in front of the back four.

Karim Benzema

WiNNiNg xi (GK) Lloris

Lyon

(D) Sagna

Arsenal

(D) Koscielny

Arsenal

(D) Rami

Valencia

(D) Evra

Man United

(M) M'Vila

Rennes

(M) Cabaye

Newcastle

(RW) Valbuena

Marseille

(CAM) Nasri

Man City

(LW) Ribery

Bayern Munich

(F) Benzema

Real Madrid

?

frANce cAPTiAL

Outfield Adil Rami

UEFA

grouP D EUR

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Goalkeeping Hugo Lloris

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2008: Group stage 2004: Quarter-finals 2000: Winners 1996: Semi-finals 1992: Group stage 1984: Winners 1968: Quarter-finals 1964: Quarter-finals 1960: Fourth place

NickNAme(s)

Les Bleus (The Blues), Les Tricolores (The Tri-colours)

key fAcTs

Overall: P130 W73 D33 L24 Final tournament: P28 W14 D7 L7 Qualifying: P102 W59 D26 L17

mosT cAPs

142: Lilian Thuram

mosT euro APPs

47: Lilian Thuram 36: Didier Deschamps 35: Laurent Blanc 34: Marcel Desailly 33: Zinédine Zidane

mosT goALs

51: Thierry Henry

mosT euro goALs 18: Thierry Henry 12: Jean-Pierre Papin 12: David Trezeguet 11: Zinédine Zidane

cAPTAiN Hugo Lloris

DiD you kNoW

France have won just 20 of 53 matches they’ve played against Group D rivals England, Sweden and Ukraine – a winning percentage of only 38.

The Boss: Laurent Blanc. The 13th

Words | Jerrad Peters

managerial appointment of the French Football Federation, Blanc took over the top job following France’s disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign and the subsequent exit of Raymond Domenech. In the nearly two years since, Blanc has brought through a new generation of French talent and has quickly turned a side that failed to get out of its group in South Africa into a legitimate Euro 2012 contender. France have lost just twice in the 20 matches the 46-year-old has overseen – good for a winning percentage that trails only Jacques Santini, Aime Jacquet and Roger Lemerre on France’s alltime list.

formATioN: 4-2-3-1 [www.soccer360.net]

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EURO CUP 2012

EUR

eUro FlashBack

Although the history of the European championships is peppered with shocks, it still has its own set of pedigree performers. Between them, three nations have won more editions than the rest of the continent added together. All of them will be part of proceedings in the summer to try to add to their haul. Leading the way with three triumphs is Germany - one of them in 1996 after reunification with the other two secured by West Germany in 1972 and 1980. Perhaps surprisingly, however, none of those victories came on home soil. England, Belgium and Italy were the venues for their triumphs - with the Netherlands successful in 1988 when West Germany did stage the competition. Next in line in the all-time winners’ table are France and Spain with a couple of victories apiece. For the Spanish, there was a long wait between titles as their recent success in Austria and Switzerland came 44 years after winning in front of their own fans. Les Bleus, on the other hand, also got the winning habit at home in 1984 but followed it up a little more quickly with a win in Belgium and the Netherlands at Euro 2000.

The other six editions have been split between the same number of sides with a wide spread across the continent. The Soviet Union were inaugural winners in 1960 and were among the dominant forces in the early stages of the competition. Italy got their sole victory on home soil in 1968 while Czechoslovakia - a nation which no longer exists - won in another country which has since disappeared in the shape of Yugoslavia in 1976. That tournament remains most famous for Antonin Panenka’s coolly, clipped penalty. The other three one-time winners are the Netherlands, so scintillating in 1988, the fairytale of Denmark in Sweden four years later as they came in as late replacements for Yugoslavia and the underdog success of Greece to deprive hosts Portugal in 2004. Every single one of those winning nations which still exists will be in Poland and the Ukraine vying for honours this summer. So, too, will be a slice of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union as the Czech Republic and Russia enter the fray. All of which will give a real quality feel to the line-up when the action starts in earnest to decide who writes their name in the record books at the end of the 14th edition.

1960 France | Winners: Ussr Henri Delaunay, head of the French Football Federation, proposed the idea of the European Championships in 1927. But at that stage a World Cup was thought of as more important. When UEFA was formed Delaunay became their general secretary. He initiated two competitions - the European Cup for club teams and the European Nations Cup. Qualifying for the first Nations Cup began in 1958 with the first Finals held in 1960. Sadly, Delaunay died before he saw his dream fulfilled. However, his name lives on with countries still competing for the Henri Delaunay Cup. Only 17 nations took part in the first Nations Cup. Italy were not among them and Spain withdrew in the quarter-finals rather than travel to the Soviet Union. Victor Ponedelnik scored the winner for the Lev Yashin’s USSR in extra time over Yugoslavia in the Paris final to make them the first champions.

Parc des Princes (Paris), JUly 10 1960 Soviet Union 2-1 Metreveli 49 Ponedelnik 114

Yugoslavia (aet) Galic 41

ToP scorers 1960 Finals Francois Heutte Valentin Ivanov Viktor Ponedelnik Milan Galic Dragen Jerkovic

(France) (Soviet Union) (Soviet Union) (Yugoslavia) (Yugoslavia)

2 2 2 2 2

1964 sPain | Winners: sPain All but three of the then 32 UEFA registered nations entered the 1964 competition. The Soviet Union qualified impressively again and faced the hosts. General Franco allowed the game to go ahead and in heavy rain and in front of 79,115 people in Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Spain won 2-1 with Marcelino's goal six minutes from time settling matters.

sanTiago BernaBéU (Madrid), JUne 21 Spain 2-1 Pereda 6 Marcelino 84

Soviet Union Khusainov 8

ToP scorer overall Ole Madsen

(Denmark)

11

ToP scorers 1964 Finals Jesus Pereda Ferenc Bene Dezsö Novák

(Spain) (Hungary) (Hungary)

2 2 2

1968 iTaly | Winners: iTaly In 1966 the Nations Cup was officially renamed the European Championships with 31 teams entering. The Final was closely fought with Italy - who’d only got through on the toss of a coin after a semi-final draw - needing a replay to beat Yugoslavia. 1966 World Cup winners England beat the USSR 2-0 to claim third place.

sTadio oliMPico (roMa), JUne 8 1968 Italy 1-1 Domenghini 80

Yugoslavia (aet) Dzajic 39

Final rePlay, JUne 10 1968 Italy 2-0 Yugoslavia Riva 11 Anastasi 32

ToP scorer overall

7

ToP scorer 1968 Finals

2

Gigi Riva

Dragan Dzajic 56

[soccer360 magazine]

(Italy)

(Yugoslavia)


1988

1972 belgium | Winners: W. germany The USSR maintained their record of making a semi-final in every championship so far, reaching their third Final in four tournaments. They defeated Yugoslavia but couldn't beat West Germany, losing 3-0. The Germans beat the hosts Belgium with two goals by the prolific Gerd Müller and two more against the Russians brought his total, including qualifying, to 11 in the tournament. Italy failed to make it to Belgium, losing 2-1 to Belgium in the quarter-finals. And, on rain-sodden night at Wembley, English hopes were drowned as they went out 3-1 to the eventual winners.

stade heysel (brussels), june 18 1972 West Germany 3-0 Soviet Union G Müller 27, 58 Galic 41 Wimmer 52

Holland deservedly won their first inte an injustice had the USSR spoilt the p most of the season through injury, th saved his best for the Final. Leading b area to clinch victory.

olympiastadion (m Holland 2-0 Gullit 33 Van Basten 54

top scorers o top scorer overall

11

top scorer 1972 Finals

4

Gerd Müller Gerd Müller

(West Germany) (West Germany)

Alessandro Altobelli (Ital Marco Van Basten (Hol Nico Claesen (Bel

top scorer 19 Marco Van Basten

1

1976 yugoslavia | Winners: czechoslovakia The 1976 Championships were the last to only have four qualifiers - the hosts being joined by Czechoslovakia, Holland and West Germany. In the first-ever penalty shoot-out the Czechs lifted the trophy by pipping Germany after extra time failed to separate the sides. Antonín Panenka amazingly chipped the ball past Sepp Maier to give Czechoslovakia their first and only win.

(Hol

Just eleven days before the Champion holiday. However, Yugoslavia were in th and surprisingly reached the final. Eve goal and Kim Vilfort capped a fairytale

crvena zvezda (belgrade), june 20 Czechoslovakia 2-2 West Germany (aet) Svehlík 8 D Müller 28 Dobiás 25 Hölzenbein 89

ullevi (gothenb Denmark 2-0 Jensen 18 Vilfort 78

top scorers o top scorer overall

8

top scorer 1976 Finals

4

Don Givens

Dieter Müller

(Ireland)

(West Germany)

Dennis Bergkamp Tomas Brolin Henrik Larsen Karl-Heinz Riedle

(Hol (Sw (Den (Ger

top scorer 19 Jean Pierre Papin

(Fra

1980 italy | Winners: W germany Hosts Italy were given automatic entry but lost in a play-off for third place to the 1976 winners although the foundations for the Azzurri’s 1982 World Cup winning squad were laid. In the Final West Germany beat Belgium 2-1, both goals coming from Horst Hrubesch.

1996

The 1996 finals were hosted in Englan but a Gareth Southgate penalty miss Oliver Bierhoff was their hero, scoring

stadio olimpico (roma), june 22 West Germany 2-1 Hrubesch 10, 88

Belgium Vandereycken 72 pen

Wembley stadium (l top scorer overall Kevin Keegan

(England)

7

Germany 2-1 Bierhoff 73, 95

top scorers 1980 Finals Klaus Allofs Jan Nehoda Horst Hrubesch

(West Germany) (Czechoslovakia) (West Germany)

3 2 2

top scorer 19 Alan Shearer

(Eng

2000 belgiu 1984 France | Winners: France Hosts France won their first Euro title in some style, beating Spain 2-0 in the Final, scoring goals for fun and delighting with their free-flowing style. Michel Platini of Juventus was their inspiration, scoring nine times from his forward midfield position and creating numerous others along with the rest of that magical midfield - Giresse, Tigana and Fernandez. In the Final Luis Arconada fumbled Platini’s weak free-kick. Then the French wrapped things up on the break through Bruno Bellone.

World champions France were the w Trezequet scored it - days before joinin Bleus were the most consistent team their slender one goal lead – including ever to an international football tourn have made worthy champions.

Feijenoord (rott parc des princes (paris), june 27 France 2-0 Spain Platini 57 Bellone 90

France 2-1 Wiltord 93 Trezeguet 103

top scorers 2 top scorer 1984 Finals Platini

(France)

9

Kluivert Nuno Gomes Canceicao Zahovic Henry

(Hol (Por (Por (Slo (Fra


EURO CUP 2012

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EUR

W germany | Winners: holland

2004 portugal | Winners: greece

ernational honour, playing the most enterprising and entertaining football. It would have been party. The Dutch possessed the man of the tournament in Marco Van Basten. Having missed he Milan ace set the competition alight. His hat-trick against England was awesome. But he by Ruud Gullit’s first half strike, Van Basten struck a glorious volley from edge of the penalty

Greece went into Euro 2004 never having won a game at a major tournament. They incredibly ended it as champions of Europe, beating Portugal in a Final where they again illustrated that teamwork and tactical discipline can lead to glory. A headed goal by Angelos Charisteas from the Greeks’ first corner proved the winner, as the highly fancied hosts were beaten by Otto Rehhagel’s troops for the second time in the space of three weeks. Defeat hit the host nation hard, especially as they were highly fancied to win despite the fact that Greece – led b y a wily 65-year-old - had already eliminated Spain, holders France and the favourites Czech Republic on their way to the Lisbon showdown.

munich), june 25 Soviet Union

estadio luz (lisbon), july 4 Portugal 0-1

Greece Charisteas 57

top scorers 2004 Finals

overall

ly) lland) lgium)

988 Finals

lland)

Baros Rooney Van Nistelrooy Zidane Larsson

7 7 7

(Czech Rep) (England) (Holland) (France) (Sweden)

5 4 4 3 3

5

Flashback to 2008 | germany 0-1 spain EURO 2008

1992 sWeden | Winners: denmark

nships were about to start, Denmark – runners-up in their qualifying group - were on a team he middle of a civil war and UEFA decided they could not compete. The Danes took their place en more amazingly they easily beat Germany 2 - 0. Arsenal-bound John Jensen scored a rare e fortnight with a second twelve minutes from time.

Spain finally shrugged off their underachievers tag by lifting their first silverware in 44 years with a deserved victory over Germany. John D Taylor remembers the Euro 2008 Final in Vienna ernst happel stadion (vienna), june 29 Germany 0-1

burg), june 26 Germany

overall

lland) weden) nmark) rmany)

3 3 3 3

992 Finals

11

ance)

6 england | Winners: germany

nd - 30 years on from the World Cup victory. There were high hopes for Terry Venables’ side, in the semi-final saw Germany go on to the Final where they beat the Czech Republic 2 - 1. g the tournament’s first Golden Goal with the scores level 1-1 after 90 minutes.

london), june 30 Czech Republic Berger 59

996 Finals

gland)

5

um & holland | Winners: France

winners of a drama-filled championship, beating Italy on a Golden Goal. Substitute David ng Juventus - after Sylvain Wiltord had stunned the Italians with a 90th-minute equaliser. Les m in the tournament. However, Italy must still look back on the chances they had of increasing two glaring misses by Alex Del Piero - before the French conjured up the most dramatic end nament. Yet in truth any of the four semi-finalists who included Holland and Portugal would

terdam), july 3 Italy Delvecchio 55

2000 Finals

lland) rtugal) rtugal) ovenia) ance)

5 4 3 3 3

Spain Torres 33

Viva España I

n 2004, the football fraternity mourned the death of the beautiful game as a well-organised – most would say defensive – Greece side won the European Championship. Four years on, the world’s most popular sport celebrated once again as Spain proved that attacking play and style over substance can be successful in the modern game. “All those who love football want to see it played that way,” insisted the Red Fury’s delighted Coach Luis Aragones. “People want players who can pass well and get into the penalty area and score goals. They’ll look up to Spain as a model of how to play football. We’ve won this tournament brilliantly – it’s a happy day for the players, the background staff, myself and all Spaniards.” Before a ball had been kicked in Vienna, most neutrals tipped Germany to take the trophy after they had bluffed their way into an incredible 13 th major Final, but it proved to be a game too far for Joachim Löw’s men. Spain simply had more ability, class and, most importantly, the confidence that they could put an end to 44 years of hurt. Never was this more apparent than when the winning goal hit the back of the net. Fernando Torres, who had faced fierce criticism from the Spanish Press, was sent through by an inch-perfect pass from man-of-the-match Xavi and determinedly shrugged off Philipp Lahm before showing tremendous technique to dink the ball over Jens Lehmann. Fans were left disappointed as Germany failed to muster any real response to the 33rd minute strike, taking control of the game for only a 10-minute period just after half-time. Michael Ballack probably had their best opportunity when his half-volley went into the side-netting, but the stats at the end of 90 minutes revealed that to be one of just three German attempts at goal. Spain, on the other hand, tested Lehmann on seven occasions with a further five off target. “They played better, we couldn’t match their level and we did not play at our best,” moaned Löw. “We had no answer after they found their rhythm. However, I have to compliment the team for what they have achieved, it has been fantastic. The players are obviously disappointed, but they have every reason to hold their heads up high.” While many were disappointed not to see Roberto Donadoni’s Azzurri side follow up the World Cup victory with a place in Vienna, there was at least an Italian presence in the biggest fixture on the European football calendar. Roberto Rosetti got the nod from UEFA to direct the match, but it wasn’t a vintage display from the 40-year-old. However, no one could take anything away from Spain’s victory. Their far-from-solid defence performed above expectations, while the immaculate Marcos Senna mopped up in front of them and regularly got attacks up and running. Then there was the offensive midfield quartet, all of whom were equally comfortable with or without the ball, as was the tireless Torres. It was perhaps the first time in their history that all of the ingredients came together at the same time for Spain – as a result, football was the true winner on June 29, 2008.

group greats

In 2008 Spain became the first team since France in 1984 to win the tournament after picking up maximum points in the group stage. On that occasion, Les Bleus beat the Red Fury in the Final.

old boys

It proved to be a Final for veterans, as the record for oldest Coach and player were set. Germany’s Jens Lehmann surpassed Dutchman Arnold Muhren’s feat at the age of 38 years and 232 days, while Spain tactician Luis Aragones’ 69 years and 327 days saw him overtake Greece’s Otto Rehhagel

ballack bloW

It was not a good year for Germany skipper Michael Ballack, having already lost in the Final of the Carling Cup and Champions League with Chelsea – as well as losing the Premier League crown on the last day of the season. It mirrors his 2002, when he missed out on three major honours with Bayer Leverkusen before suspension ruled him out of the World Cup Final.

clean sheets

Spain followed Greece’s lead from four years ealier by keeping out the opposition in all three knock-out matches. Germany, on the other hand, conceded five times during the same period.

goal king

David Villa took the Golden Boot with just four goals. The Spanish striker’s tally was the lowest by a top scorer since 1992, when Dennis Bergkamp, Thomas Brolin, Henrik Larsson and KarlHeinz Riedle netted just three apiece. However, it was enough to ensure he was the first man to take the scorers’ prize and win the tournament since Holland’s Marco Van Basten in 1988.

Win and lose

Germany have reached the Final of the European Championship on six occasions. However, each victory – in 1972, 1980 and 1996 – was followed by a defeat in 1976, 1992 and lastly 2008.


TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE 8 Jun

9 Jun

10 Jun

11 Jun

12 Jun

13 Jun

14 Jun

15 Jun

16 Jun

17 Jun

18 Jun

19 Jun

GROUP A

GROUP B

poland greece russia czech republic

NETHERLANDS GERMANY DENMARK PORTUGAL

20 Ju

Russia are the favourites to win this weak group, possibly with nine points. Poland are second favourites to qualify which shows the paucity of the opposition and mainly because they are the host nation. The two qualifiers will move on to face the two qualifiers from the Group of Death so it would be a surprise if any team from Group A reaches the semi-final.

The Group of Death contains three of the favourites to win the entire tournament. The other team in the group is Denmark, who finished above Portugal in qualifying, so all four teams are to be reckoned with. Holland may have got further than Germany at the World Cup but both teams, as well as Portugal, were all eliminated by Spain at that tournament. Germany it seems are only beatable by Spain who have knocked them out of the last two major tournaments but are rightful favourites to win this group.

It’s difficult finishing abo They won Eu World Cup a games in qu They won th Cup despite and look a cl and Republic results from If the Azzurr competitors opening mat through wha

Forecast: Russian & Poland to qualify but go no further.

Forecast: Germany & Holland to qualify.

Forecast: Spain & Italy


un

21 Jun

22 Jun

23 Jun

24 Jun

25 Jun

26 Jun

27 Jun

28 Jun

29 Jun

30 Jun

1 Jul

Stadiums

Warsaw

Wroclaw

Kharkiv

Lviv

Gdansk

Poznan

Kyiv

Donetsk ALL TIMES ARE EST.

GROUP C

GROUP D

SPAIN ITALY IRELAND CROATIA

NETHERLANDS GERMANY DENMARK PORTUGAL

to to see any other side ove Spain in this group. uro 2008, the most recent and also won all eight ualifying for Euro 2012. heir group at the World e losing their first match lass above Italy, Croatia c Of Ireland based on m the last four to six years. ri, reknowned tourmanet s, can hold Spain in their tch, they could also go at should be a tight group.

Forecast: France & England to qualify.

• • • • • • • • • •

Euro 2012 will be the 14th European Championship for national football teams sanctioned by UEFA. This will be the last tournament to feature 16 teams, as 24 Nations will qualify from 2016 onward. Qualification was contested between 51 Nations between August 2010 and November 2011. 8 Cities will host the matches, 4 from the Poland and 4 from the Ukraine. The largest venue is Kiev’s Olympic Stadium with a capacity of 65,720 and the smallest venue being Lviv’s ‘Arena Lviv’ holding 34,195. 12 of the 16 finalists competed in the previous European Championships. 12 referees have been selected by UEFA for the matches along with 4 fourth officials. 31 matches will be played from start to finish in order to crown a champion. 31 cameras will be utilized at each match to cover the action. 40,000 votes were received in order to determine the mascots for the tournament; Slavek and Slavko.

• • • • • • • • • •

1.4 million tickets will be made available by FIFA for the 31 matches. Over 12 million applications for tickets were received, a record for a Euro Cup. This is the 1st time a EURO Cup will be hosted in Eastern Europe. The estimated value of the trophy made of pure silver is 20,000 Euros. More than 150 million fans will watch the live broadcasts of each match. The biggest fan-zone will be constructed in Warsaw with a capacity of 100,000. Almost 6 thousand volunteers will help during the tournament. The tournament will feature the Adidas Tango 12, the 11th official Adidas Euro Cup ball. 13 European Championships have come before this one, featuring 9 champions. Poland/Ukraine were awarded the tournament beating out 2 other serious bids from Italy and a joint bid from Croatia/Hungary.

y to qualify.

Ukraine have home advantage but four years ago both Switzerland and Austria struggled while Belgium also eliminated at the group stage in 2000. Sweden are a decent team but didn’t qualify for the most recent World Cup and went out at the group stage at Euro 2008. so can’t be relied upon to upset the odds.Group winners could be decided in hte opening match when England may rue the absence of suspended Wayne Rooney.

Words | John Liriotakis


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uefa euro 2012 official mach ball Butyl Bladder Woven carcass Tango Panel Shape Classic Design Language Thermal Bonded Technology Grip Texture

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS Year / Hosts WINNERS SCORE 1960 - France USSR 2-1 aet 1964 - Spain Spain 2-1 1968 - Italy Italy 1-1 aet 1968 - Replay Italy 2-0 1972 - Belgium West Germany 3-0 1976 - Yugoslavia Czechoslovakia 2-2 (Czech win 5-3 on pens) 1980 - Italy Germany 2-1 1984 - France France 2-0 1988 - West Germany Holland 2-0 1992 - Sweden Denmark 2-0 1996 - England Germany 2-1 aet * 2000 - Holland/Belgium France 2-1 aet * 2004 - Portugal Greece 1-0 2008 - Austria/ Switz Spain 1-0 * Won by Golden Goal EURO FINAlS tOP SCORERS Year Goals 1960 2

1964

2

1968 1972 1976 1980

2 4 4 3 2

1984 1988 1992

9 5 3

1996

5 3

2000

5 4 3

2004

5 4 3

2008

4 3

UEFA

EUR RUNNERS-UP Yugoslavia USSR Yugoslavia Yugoslavia USSR West Germany

Winning Coach Gavril Katchalin Jose Villalonga Ferruccio Valcareggi Ferruccio Valcareggi Helmut Schon Vaclav Jerez

Belgium Spain USSR Germany Czech Republic Italy Portugal Germany

Jupp Derwall Michel Hidalgo Rinus Michels Richard Moeller-Neilsen Berti Vogts Roger Lemerre Otto Rehhagel(Ger) Luis Aragones

Name Francois Heutte Valentin Ivanov Viktor Ponedelnik Milan Galic Dragen Jerkovic Jesus Pereda Bene Novák Dragan Dzajic Gerd Müller Dietmar Müller Klaus Allofs Jan Nehoda Horst Hrubesch Michel Platini Marco Van Basten Dennis Bergkamp Thomas Brolin Henrik Larsen Klaus Heinz Riedle Alan Shearer Hristo Stoichkov Brian Laudrup Jurgen Klinsmann Davor Suker Patrick Kluivert Savo Milosevic Nuno Gomes Sergio Conceicao Zlatko Zahovic Thierry Henry Milan Baros Wayne Rooney Ruud Van Nistelrooy Zinedine Zidane Henrik Larsson Jon Dahl Tomasson Frank Lampard

Country (France) (USSR) (USSR) (Yugoslavia) (Yugoslavia) (Spain) (Hungary) (Hungary) (Yugoslavia) (West Germany) (West Germany) (West Germany) (Czechoslovakia) (Germany) (France) (Holland) (Holland) (Sweden) (Denmark) (Germany) (England) (Bulgaria) (Denmark) (Germany) (Croatia) (Holland) (Yugoslavia) (Portugal) (Portugal) (Slovenia) (France) (Czech Rep) (England) (Holland) (France) (Sweden) (Denmark) (England)

Angelos Charisteas David Villa Lukas Podolski Roman Pavlyuchenko Hakan Yakin Semih Şentürk

(Greece) (Spain) (Germany) (Russia) (Switzerland) (Turkey)

FAStESt EURO SCORERS time Year Player 67 secs 2004 Dmitry Kirichenko 3 mins 1988 Sergei Aleinikov 1992 David Platt 1996 Hristo Stoichkov 1996 Alan Shearer 1996 Paul Scholes

Match Russia v Greece USSR v England England v Sweden Bulgaria v Sweden England v Germany England v Portugal

Venue Algarve Frankfurt Stockholm Newcastle Wembley Eindhoven

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57


Now That’s a Beer! Ever heard of a beer with 15% alcohol content? In Poland, the famous Lech Mocne not only contains 14.8%, but is served in most restaurants and bars. Defying the safe levels of alcohol consumption, beer in Poland is some of the strongest in Europe.

Ukrainialicious!

In Ukraine, the top beer, Obolon, is a much more conservative 5.2% but what it lacks in kickyou-in-the-gut levels of alcohol it makes up for in taste. As the people at Obolon put it, their beer is Ukrainialicious!

Beer’s Not Your Thing?

Both Poland and Ukraine offer a wide variety of Vodka, some of which go back to the 16th century! Poland’s Żubrówka brand is rich with history, and Ukraine’s “Horilka” is a whiskey with a variety of flavors and combinations.

Milk Bars

If you’re in Poland, you don’t have to look very far to be amazed. The country boasts beautiful architecture, with gothic churches painted into the urban backdrop. If you’re hungry, Polish ‘Milk Bars’ are known for delicious local food at very affordable prices.

City Life, Country Life

As for Ukraine, the vast fields of wheat are always aweinspiring, but the nightlife is a focal point for the locals. Giant military compounds converted into multi-story malls highlight the developing Kiev, and Donetsk is a family-friendly, country alternative.

Packing Pierogis

Poland is famous around the world for the Pierogi, a soft, fried dumpling filled with potato, cheese curds and meat. Considered the national dish of Poland, a serving of pierogis is the perfect snack both on the streets and in the stands.

A Slice of History For the travelling history buff, Poland plays home to concentration camps like Auschwitz, which is open for tourists as a historic site. The tour takes you around this WWII camp, and is a real eye-opener.

Bread and Cabbage

Ukraine is often called the “Breadbasket of Europe,” and for good reason – bread in Ukraine is a must-have in most meals. Chicken Kiev, which is a chicken breast stuffed with butter, dill and garlic, is a good old fashioned home cooked meal, as well a meat-and-rice-filled cabbage roll.

For the Adventurous Foodie…

…Try the traditional Ukrainian dish, Tashnotiki. Translated, it roughly means “vomit cakes” but basically it’s Ukraine’s version of a Jamaican patty; mystery meat and onions in dough, deep-fried and served hot. Not for the faint of heart or weak-stomached, but so good. 58

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Chernobyl by Bus

As for historical locations in the Ukraine, military buses take tours through the remains of Chernobyl, a dead-zone after a fatal 1986 nuclear disaster destroyed the city. Chernobyl really is an experience for your ears; it’s dead quiet, a real ghost town.


off the pitch Featuring Euro hosts Ukraine and Poland

Euro Beauties

Come On Down!

If you want a bit of fun, here’s something you have to go over 1000 feet into the ground to see; Poland’s historic Wieliczka Salt Mine, one of the world’s oldest mines, is a great tourist destination, with tons of incredible sculptures carved in rock salt.

Izabella Miko

Born in Lódz, Poland. Miko played the role of Carrie in HBO’s Deadwood and was a dancer in The Killers video for Mr. Brightside. However, she is most known for her role as Cammie in the movie Coyote Ugly.

Go For A Swim

Ukraine is right on the Black Sea, and the beaches are a popular vacation spot. Going for a swim, can be both relaxing and beautiful to look at, especially at night when the sea gives off glowing colors caused by the plankton.

Poland Quickies:

Izabella Scorupco

Born in Bialystok, Poland. Scorupco is the first Polish-born actress to become a Bond girl. She has also starred in Vertical Limit, Reign of Fire, and Exorcist: The Beginning. Additionally, she had a brief but successful music career, with one of her albums reaching “Gold” in Sweden.

Mila Kunis

Actress, Black Swan, The talented Milena "Mila" Markovna Kunis was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, USSR (now independent Ukraine). Her mother, Elvira, is a physics teacher, her father, Mark Kunis, is a mechanical engineer, and she has an older brother named Michael.

Poland is the the 9th largest country in Europe.

In Poland the name day is considered more important than the birthday.

Amongst all the members of the European Union, the residents of Poland marry the youngest.

Poland boasts 17 Nobel prize winners, including four Peace Prizes and five in Literature.

90% of Poles have completed at least secondary education.

Polish born astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to propose that the earth was not the center of the universe.

In Wroclaw there is an annual city-wide medieval festival, including jousts, horse archery medieval dances and other activities.

Przystanek Woodstock is the biggest open-air festival in Europe-an annual free rock music festival in Poland, inspired by and named for the Woodstock Festival.

There is a Pope channel on TV. Anytime one needs to see the pope, one can tune him in

Ukraine Quickies:

Ewa Sonnet

Born in Rybnik, Poland. Sonnet is a pop singer and leading model of the famous Polish Busty models.

They drive on the right side of the road,

They wear their wedding ring on the ring finger of their right hand instead of their left hand.

On the train the toilet dumps on the tracks. Kind of weird to flush the toilet and see the ground below.

Christians are forbidden from playing cards, it’s considered gambling.

[www.soccer360.net]

59


Edyta Sliwinska

Born in Poland. Sliwinska is best known for being the only professional dancer to appear on all four seasons of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.

Poland's Ekstraklasa League

Poland’s two biggest teams, Wisła Kraków and Legia Warsaw offer footy fans top quality football in either major city, and have fared well in Champions League play as well. During the Euro Cup, their stadiums will be buzzing with a new, international theme.

Ukrainian Premier League

Shakhtar Donetsk is the big name in Ukrainian circles, and the boys in orange consistently make headlines in the early stages of the Champions League. Dynamo Kiev is their closest rivals and the Ukrainian Premier League is often contested between these two.

Dagmara Dominczyk

Born in Kielce, Poland. Dominczyk has been in episodes of “24” and in movies such as Rock Star and The Alamo. However, she is best known for her role as Mercedes in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Poland's Mix Tape

The musical compositions of Frédéric Chopin remain to this day a large part of Polish culture, and performances on the piano, requiring exceptional technique, can still be attended. If classical music is not your thing, Poland is also a driving force behind the heavy metal scene.

Mila Jovovich

This Ukrainian-born actress, supermodel, fashion designer, singer and public figure, who was on the cover of more than a hundred magazines, and starred in such films as The Fifth Element , Ultraviolet, and the 'Resident Evil' franchise

The Music of Ukraine

Spending time in Kiev gives you access to more modern music, but much of the nation’s musical styling is classical, folk songs played on traditional Ukrainian instruments. If you want a slice of culture and history, visiting a countryside music bar is both relaxing and fun.

Magdalena Wrobel Olga Kurylenko

Born in Sopot, Poland. Victoria’s Secret supermodel and Wonderbra spokesmodel.

Actress, Quantum of Solace Olga Kurylenko, a Ukrainian-born actress and model, went from sharing a cramped flat with her aunt, uncle, grandparents and cousin to starring as a Bond girl opposite Daniel Craig. She was born Olga Konstantinovna Kurylenko on November 14, 1979, in Berdyansk, Ukraine.

Edyta Gorniak

Born in Ziebice, Poland. Górniak is one of the most popular Polish pop singers. 60

[soccer360 magazine]


2014 WORLD CUP DREAMING

360

FIFA WORLD CUP

WORLD CUP

WC

QUALIFYING With the Euro 2012 in full swing we start shifting our attention to Brazil 2014. Arjun Datta takes a look at what we should expect in qualifying.

CAF (AFRICA)

Zambia gets ready to kick off its World Cup 2014 Qualifying campaign in a slightly odd position. Although they are continental champions – besting Ghana and Ivory Coast to win the 2012 African Nations’ Cup – they are not the top ranked team in the continent, not even one of the top few. And given that the groups were seeded and drawn based on rankings from July 2011, Zambia’s stock falls even further as they were placed based on a FIFA ranking of 74. Arguably, they aren’t even favourites to progress from their own group, as they kick off against Ghana (still smarting from their defeat at AFCON 2012), Sudan and Lesetho in Group D. The ten group winners progress to the final qualifying round where they square off in five ties to determine the African qualifiers. Matchday 1 is on June 1 2012, and the hard road to Brazil begins at Sudan for Herve Renard. Wonder if he’ll call up Otto Rehhagel and ask about his experience with Greece after Euro 2004. Five teams will reach World Cup 2014.

GROUP A

GROUP B

GROUP C

GROUP D

GROUP E

SOUTH AFRICA BOTSWANA CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC EHIOPIA

TUNISIA CAPE VERDE ISLANDS SIERRA LEONE EQUATORIAL GUINEA

COTE D'IVOIRE MOROCCO GAMBIA TANZANIA

GHANA ZAMBIA SUDAN LESOTHO

BURKINA FASO GABON NIGER CONGO

GROUP F

GROUP G

GROUP H

GROUP I

GROUP J

NIGERIA MALAWI KENYA NAMIBIA

EGYPT GUINEA ZIMBABWE MOZAMBIQUE

ALGERIA MALI BENIN RWANDA

CAMEROON LIBYA TOGO CONGO DR

SENEGAL UGANDA ANGOLA LIBERIA

CONCACAF (CENTRAL AND NORTH AMERICA)

USA looks to continue its perennially strong qualifying form as they seek to make their way to the Finals, something they have achieved for every World Cup since Italia ’90. However, the recent disaster of the Olympic qualifiers will loom large as the U-23 team stumbled in unexpected fashion. Under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has a rich legacy at the World Cup as both player and coach with Germany, expectations are high once again. USA will look to finish first in qualifying, besting Mexico, Canada, Honduras and Costa Rica along the way. Recent results are very encouraging with five straight friendly wins, including a first ever defeat of giants Italy in Genoa. Lining up for the Americans will be North America’s most consistent striker and one of America’s few top class talents, Clint Dempsey – having put together yet another prolific season in England. Dempsey, along with fellow striker Landon Donovan, Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and captain Carlos Bocanegra, will be the spine around which Team USA’s campaign will be built. Being the 2nd ranked nation in the region, USA got a bye to the third round where they will square off against Jamaica, Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda in Group A. Three teams will make it to the World Cup with a fourth team entering a playoff against the winner of Oceania. North, across the border, expectations are quietly building for Canada and for opposite reasons to USA. After a very impressive Olympic qualifying campaign where they emerged unbeaten from a difficult group, before falling to eventual winners Mexico in the semi-finals, valuable experience has been gained for several members who will be filtering through to the senior team. Canada has not made the World Cup since Mexico in 1986 but has come close several times, only to fall away in the final few games. Legacy may once again prove to be a strong rallying cry as Canada were arguably the first ever winners of an international soccer tournament, bringing home gold at the 1904 Summer Olympics (Ed - Trivia Alert). Once again the team is a mix of experience and youth with a smattering of top-level performers. Canadian fans will be following their team with rapt attention as the country now has three teams in the MLS, after Montreal joined Vancouver and Toronto, this season. The usual suspects of Dwayne De Rosario, Kevin McKenna, Julian De Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson will once again expected on to stand up and be counted. Ranked 8 th in the region, Canada teed off in the second round finishing top of Group D with an impressive four wins, two draws and 18 goals scored and only one conceded. They were drawn in Group C of the third round alongside Cuba, Honduras and Panama. The top two teams from each of the three groups enter a final six team round robin stage. Canada kicks off at Cuba on June 8, should they be preparing for New Zealand?

GROUP A

GROUP B

GROUP C

USA JAMAICA GUATEMALA ANTIGUA & BARBUDA

MEXICO COSTA RICA EL SALVADOR GUYANA

HONDURAS CUBA PANAMA CANADA

COMNEBOL (SOUTH AMERICA)

One group, nine teams plus hosts Brazil. Ironically, despite the mesmeric talents of Lionel Messi, Argentina will not be one of the favourites to win the qualifying group. In any case, they only crept through to World Cup 2010 in South Africa as the fourth best team. The honour of favourites goes to Uruguay, deserved winners of 2011 Copa America and the most balanced and consistent team on the continent. They already lead the pack with seven points from three games. Led by Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, they will hope to be joined by Chile, the aforementioned Argentina and a consistently hard to beat Paraguay. Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador have a chance to make the top four but are very much on the outside looking in. The top four gain tickets to Brazil as direct entrants, while the fifth placed team has a two-legged playoff against the fifth placed team from Asia. The first time Brazil played host to a World Cup, in 1950, Pele was nine years old. He then won World Cups at the age of 17, 21 and 29. This time he’ll be 80 years old, but still a leader of the game. URUGUAY, ARGENTINA, VENEZUELA, ECUADOR, CHILE, COLOMBIA, PARAGUAY, PERU, BOLIVIA 62

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FIFA WORLD CUP

360

WORLD CUP

WC

UEFA (EUROPE)

European qualification kicks off in September as teams hit the warpath a couple of months after Euro 2012, in Poland and Ukraine. Once again all eyes will be on Spain, Holland and Germany as each seeks to wrap up qualification midway through 2013, with consistent, strong performances enroute to a perfect qualifying campaign. As always with such a large group of talented teams, almost every group has something to watch out for, with several enticing rivalries and matchups to come. Group A sees Balkan rivals and former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Macedonia and Croatia square off; while a battle of Britain is also in the offing with Wales and Scotland both featuring. Group B sees Italy renew rivalries with Euro 2004 group combatants Denmark, World Cup 2006 group stage opponents Czech Republic and World Cup ‘94 semifinal foes Bulgaria. Group C has a Teutonic/Nordic feel to it with Germany renewing its recent qualifying rivalry with Sweden and Austria also present in the group. However, one will be relishing the long trip to Kazakhstan (Ed – Yes, they are UEFA members). Netherlands are the marquee name in Group D with the runnersup spot Turkey’s to lose. Group E will feature an interesting matchup between two alpine teams based around a young core of up and coming talent as Switzerland takes on Slovenia. Baltic pride is at stake in Group G at Latvia, famously at Euro 2004, drawn against Lithuania. Group H has Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine playing each other as both teams set to host England as well. Finally, Group I has the tastiest matchup with both Spain and France drawn together. UEFA qualification starts on September 7, 2012. The nine group winners will be joined by four of the runners-up to make the 13 teams from Europe at Brazil 2014.

GROUP A

GROUP B

GROUP C

GROUP D

GROUP E

CROATIA SERBIA BELGIUM SCOTLAND FYR MACEDONIA WALES

ITALY DENMARK CZECH REPUBLIC BULGARIA ARMENIA MALTA

GERMANY SWEDEN REPUBLIC OF IRELAND AUSTRIA FAROE ISLANDS KAZAKHSTAN

NETHERLANDS TURKEY HUNGARY ROMANIA ESTONIA ANDORRA

NORWAY SLOVENIA SWITZERLAND ALBANIA CYPRUS ICELAND

GROUP F

GROUP G

GROUP H

GROUP I

PORTUGAL RUSSIA ISRAEL NORTHERN IRELAND AZERBAIJAN LUXEMBOURG

GREECE SLOVAKIA BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA LITHUANIA LATVIA LIECHTENSTEIN

ENGLAND MONTENEGRO UKRAINE POLAND MOLDOVA SAN MARINO

SPAIN FRANCE BELARUS GEORGIA FINLAND

WE’LL BE SEEING A LOT OF THIS LOGO – HERE’S THE RUNDOWN

Each FIFA World Cup is encapsulated by its own specific identity, a unique image that is projected around the world. FIFA and the Brazil LOC invited 25 Brazilian-based agencies to submit designs for the Official Emblem of the 2014 tournament. Over 125 submissions were received by the time of the competition’s closing date, which were then reviewed by FIFA and the LOC and eventually reduced to a shortlist of designs. The task of picking the winner was awarded to a high-profile seven-strong judging panel, largely selected from the host country. This included one of the most influential figures in modern Brazilian architecture, Oscar Niemeyer, designer Hans Donner, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, author Paulo Coelho, singer/actress Ivete Sangalo as well as two leading figures in the football world Ricardo Teixeira (President of the Brazilian Football Federation and President of the Brazilian Local Organizing Committee) and Jérôme Valcke (FIFA Secretary General), The judges were asked to rate the designs, giving marks for a number of areas. As well as its overall impression they were asked to assess how it conveyed the spirit of Brazil and the country’s connection with the FIFA World Cup as well as evaluate its creative and artistic merit and uniqueness. When the judging process was completed all the scores were added together and the winning design – created by Brazilian design agency ironically named Africa – was revealed. The inspiration for this design comes from the iconic photograph of three victorious hands together raising the world’s most famous trophy. As well as depicting the uplifting humanitarian notion of hands interlinking, the portrayal of the hands is symbolic of the yellow and green hands of Brazil warmly welcoming the world to Brazilian shores.

The Match Schedule for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil was announced in Zürich on 20 October 2011. The 64 matches will be played in 12 cities across the country of Brazil with Sao Paulo hosting the opening match on 12 June 2014 and Rio de Janeiro the venue for the Final of the 20th edition of the most prestigious football tournament in the World.

START PLANNING YOUR TRIP! These are the cities that will host the world cup FORTALEZA

MANAUS

NATAL

CUIABA

BRASILIA

SAO PAULO

RECIFE SALVADOR BELO HORIZONTE

Oscar Niemeyer

Hans Donner

Gisele Bundchen

RIO DE JANEIRO CURTIBIA

PORTO ALEGRE

Paulo Coelho

Ivete Sangalo

[www.soccer360.net]

63


6T0 3 RA EX TIM

E

TOPPING THE TABLES Words | Arjun Datta

M

any people expected normal service to resume in the Bundesliga this season, as 2011’s impressive championship winners, Borussia Dortmund were expected to fall back in place and Bayern Munich were widely expected to win the domestic shield. And after the runaway start that the Bavarians had in the fall of 2011, it looked that way. However, after a slightly indifferent start, Dortmund have quietly gathered pace and moved back up the table to the summit. Going back to their basics of pace, counterattacking poise and constant running, they shrugged off a disappointing Champions’ League campaign to storm to the top of the Bundesliga. At the time of writing, they are just two points and one win away from retaining their domestic crown. More tellingly, they are on course for a domestic double and have just beaten Bayern, their closest challengers, for the fourth time in a row. Manager Jurgen Klopp has brushed off claims linking him to Chelsea and talented tyro Marco Reus, at Borussia Moenchengladbach, spurned the attentions of Bayern and instead decided to accept a switch to Westphalia; where he will join the most exciting stable of young footballing talent outside of Catalonia. So, Dortmund have the consistency to ensure a winning legacy, a young team, an exciting coach who wants to stay and now the ability to attract young talent as well. Are they Germany’s new force? Hardly, that crown still rests with Bayern. But the Schwarzengelben are very much on the march. Watch this space as they seek to cement their place further in Germany, and announce themselves in Europe. After all, other than Bayern, their main rivals, they are the only other German team to have won the Champions’ League, winning in 1997 under Scottish manager Paul Lambert. This team could go on to become a regular in the knockout stages of Europe’s showpiece affair. And playing some of the best football there is, along the way. Speaking of Lambert, his return to the Premiership with Norwich City has been a success with his side very comfortable in 11th place, with only the slimmest, most

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mathematical chance of relegation. His team has played confident, pacy football, which albeit lacking in class has been full of confidence and verve. Norwich’s resurgence this time around is a far cry from their meek surrender in 2004-05, when they were found to be wanting at the very highest level. While never in the running for either the Champions’ or Europa League places, Norwich have shown they belong and have not resorted to the negative, physical tactics that their predecessors like Bolton and Stoke, used to cement their places in the top flight, following promotion. A large part of that success goes down to Lambert, who has taught his charges to play the ball on the ground and break with purpose and positivity. The retention of their spot will bring deserved financial rewards to Carrow Road, allowing Lambert to continue his project unabated. The Canaries’ faithful will look back longingly on Norwich’s three consecutive seasons in the Premiership from 1992-94, including leading the league through January ’93, and an odyssey into the UEFA Cup, reaching the third round in 1994. Just below Norwich, an even more encouraging success story are Swansea, sitting pretty in 12th having played an effervescent pass-based styled of football. Other than defeats at Manchester City and Chelsea, The Swans have never looked out of place and an impressive scalping of Arsenal was no more than they deserved. Still not mathematically safe, they sit in lower midtable and have been many neutrals’ favourites in games this season. Ironic that the manager who instilled this exciting retention-heavy style of play, back when Swansea were in the third tier, risks getting relegated with the very same Wigan, this year. Robert Martinez is a talented and affable manager, whose ambition may have gotten ahead of itself. Manchester United, after their comfortable 4-0 win over Aston Villa, sit in pole position to retain the Premiership crown, their 20 th league title. If they win this season, it will be their 13 th title since the rebranding of the league in 1992. However, at the risk of sounding controversial, their latest win continues to ring hollow. United are to be credited for making the most of a limited squad and for staying the course, after favourites Manchester City fell away. However, the same criticisms that have been leveled at Alex Ferguson’s charges still remain. United don’t crush their nearest rivals or dominate them, they simply grind out wins against the rest of the league. They are not the best team in the land, just the best at beating everyone else. They gain a large helping of points and wins from controversial refereeing decisions as several members of their teams resort to flagrant gamesmanship, notably their most recent addition to the Premiership’s diving pantheon, Ashley Young. And finally, they benefit from several teams, coached by noted Ferguson acolytes, fielding weaker sides or simply giving up in games against United. Arguably, three wins every season are gained from critical decisions and another three from matches against submissive and willing teams – a handicap of 18 points that United gain almost every year. They may be English football’s most successful and wellsupported club but the league remains in their clutches in more ways than one. Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and now City have all learned that while they must scrap and fight through every one of their 38 games, United can coast through a campaign in second gear with several walkovers along the way. It’s a subtle, somewhat labored point, but the fact remains that even with a limited side, United can ease to the domestic league crown, a damning indictment of the competition. Finally, speaking of damning indictments, how sorry have Chelsea’s and Liverpool’s and seasons been? While Liverpool retain a small hope of winning the Champions’ League, only a fool would expect them to proceed past Barcelona and then beat either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. While Chelsea, after heavy investment and strong rhetoric in the summer, was expected to be one of the title challengers at the top of the league table. In actuality their season has spluttered and died as frequent incidents of gamesmanship and a reoffending and offensive manager condemned them to a midtable finish – closer to the drop than the Champions’ League. How fitting then, that the two most underachieving clubs in Europe this season are set to duke it out for the FA Cup – a win however, would still not lift the gloom from both clubs. Manchester City look to be finishing empty-handed, fellow billionaires Chelsea have a decent chance of one trophy but may miss out on the Champions’ League and Liverpool have paid over 50 million pounds to win the Carling Cup, so far. The 2013 Europa League is the biggest winner if current trends remain with both Chelsea and Liverpool set to feature next season. Perhaps money does not buy success after all.


Soccer360 issue39  

Euro 2012 Guide: Collector's edition

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