Tuesday, December 30, 2008
With 2008 about to close, Road to 2010 turns its eyes to goal.com and African correspondent Samm Audu who lists the Top 10 African footballers of 2008 ... what do you think?
Click above for the entire list ... here's the abridged version, along with some commentary ...
10. Jon Obi Mikel - With Michael Essien injured, he's stepped up his game at Chelsea. Considering his performance at this season's African Cup of Nations, where he took a step backwards, he's done well for himself.
9. Mohamed Zidan - Broke out at this year's Cup of Nations and excelling at club team Borussia Dortmund.
8. Frederic Kanoute - So so year in my opinion.
7. Sulley Muntari - Back in Italy with Inter Milan and doing a magnificent job.
6. Didier Drogba - He's on this list purely on reputation. Had a decent beginning of the year, but collapsed in the Champions league final, where he was red carded. After that, has battled injury much of the year.
5. Michael Essien - Injured much of the current season, but was the inspirational leader of Chelsea on their way to their first Champions League final.
4. Amr Zaki - Scored twice in the African Nations Cup semi-finals, leading Egypt to their 2nd straight title. Has capitalized on his time at England's Wigan, where he lead the Premier League in scoring for a short bit.
3. Emmanuel Adebayor - Filled Thierry Henry's boots quite nicely, scoring 30 times in all competitions.
2. Samuel Eto'o - On Barcelona's scrap heap this summer, but has been wonderful in the Catalan club's resurgence this season under new coach Pep Guardiola.
1. Mohamed Aboutrika - Egypt and Africa's best player. Scored the goal that won Egypt their second straight African championship and guided club side Al Ahly to an African Champions League title. The best the continent has to offer ...
That's it for 2008. Enjoy the New Year and come back next year on the Road to 2010, where we'll step up our efforts to get to South Africa and the World Cup final!
Cross your fingers. I'll need all the luck I can get ...
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Friday, December 19, 2008
You have to feel for Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue.
The Ivorian right back has been mercilessly booed the past few weeks by Arsenal supporters for poor play. His confidence has obviously been shot, as evidenced by his demeanor after being substituted against Wigan a few weeks back.
Now, Eboue wants everyone to know he'll be back stronger than ever ...
"At the moment I am not at my best performances, but I try to give more and do my best when the boss puts me on the pitch. If I continue to work hard in training, then I am confident I can get to my best," the Ivory Coast international said.
He told Arsenal TV Online ahead of Sunday's home game against Liverpool: "I do not know why the fans did not back me, but that is football and you cannot do anything about it.
"They pay money to watch Arsenal to win. Then when we do not play well, not give our best performances on the pitch, they are very angry.
"I do not blame them, and I hope they will all come out to support us on Sunday, when we will try to do our best and try to win the game for them.
"I try to forget that now. I was disappointed, but I am happy now.
"After the game, my friends gave me a ring and helped me a lot. The next day in training, I saw the boss and he gave me confidence.
"Now I am feeling very well. I am going to try to give my best every time in training and to get confidence, then if I play in the next game, I will give my best."
Arsenal's traveling fans backed Eboue in the subsequent Champions League clash in Porto, which lifted the Ivory Coast international.
He added: "Before the Porto match, I said to myself I was going to do that for the fans because they know me, they know I can give more for the team."When we went there, I was very happy because the fans were singing my name - that made me really happy and gave me more power on the pitch."
MY POV: Poor Eboue! You have to feel for the lad, who'd been injured for a bit before the booing episode. I'm confident Emmanuel will lift his spirits in the coming weeks and be back stronger than ever.
But what's up with Arsenal's fans? Talk about giving the word 'supporter' a new definition ... not too much support for their player in that video eh?
Oh, that was disappointing ...
Egypt's Al Ahly finished sixth at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan on Thursday after suffering a 1-0 defeat against Adelaide United of Australia.
Brazilian Cristiano scored a 25-yard screamer in the 7th minute to ensure that the African champions finish last at this year's tournament.
After stripping an Ahly defender of the ball, Cristiano rifled a right-footed blast from the top of the area past goalkeeper Amir Abdelhamid.
Mohamed Barakat had the best scoring chance for the Egyptians in the 83rd minute when he fired from 25 yards out only to have Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic make a brilliant diving save.
The six-time African champions were ragged and couldn't keep possession, but they woke up after influential Adelaide star Diego was forced off after 24 minutes with a knee injury.
His departure sparked the Egyptians into life and they had a series of chances to draw level, with Angola's Flavio getting another fine opportunity as the Egyptians pressed hard for the equalizer.Ahly kicked off the second period with a new determination and dominated the opening 20 minutes but, as in the first half, their finishing was suspect and they failed to convert numerous chances.
Adelaide grimly hung on with goalkeeper and captain Galekovic rescuing them with a fine reflex save from Barakat as the clock ticked down.
The Egyptians came to Japan full of lofty ambitions, hoping to do at least as well as they had done at this tournament in 2006, when they finished third. Two years on, and the dream has turned into a nightmare.
"In Egypt, people think that Al Ahly are the best team in the world. We need to show some humility," said Ahly coach Manuel Jose after his team's second defeat. "Expectations are far too high, we need to be more realistic."
"Throughout the match, we didn't have enough scoring opportunities," said Jose.
"We were nervous and couldn't keep up with Adelaide."
"My players gave their all," added coach Jose. "They (Adelaide) played pretty well too, so the result was a little unfair. We could probably have played a little better, but the pressure was too great and my players just couldn't handle it."
Ahly star Gomaa felt his team owed the club's supporters an improved display should they qualify for the event once more: "It's a real disappointment for our fans, so I hope for their sake that we'll be back and that we'll do better next time."
Adelaide lost 1-0 to Japan's Gamba Osaka in the quarter-finals while Al Alhy lost 4-2 to Mexico's Pachuca.
European champion Manchester United defeated Gamba Osaka 5-3 in a semi-final later on Thursday.The Red Devils advanced to face Ecuador's Liga de Quito in Sunday's final.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Disappointment reigns for Egypt's Al Ahly this morning as the African Champions crashed out of the FIFA Club World Cup, losing 4-2 to Mexico's Pachuca.
Ahly took the lead through a Fausto Pinto own goal in the 28th minute.
Flavio then made it 2-0 with a goal on the counter-attack just before half-time, but Pachuca came storming back after the interval.
Luis Montes reduced their deficit on 47 minutes and Christian Gimenez curled home a free-kick after 73 minutes to send the game to extra time.
The Mexican team moved 3-2 ahead thanks to Damian Alvarez's smart finish in the 98th minute and Gimenez drilled home his second to secure victory.
Pachuca go on to face South American champions Liga de Quito of Ecuador in the semi finals.
The next match in the tournament sees Adelaide United facing Gamba Osaka on Sunday, with the winners playing Manchester United.
Afterwards, Ahly coach Manuel Jose said inexperience and the weight of expectation back home in Egypt was behind his team's defeat.
"We couldn't play our normal game. My players were under heavy pressure in our country and I think they felt heavy responsibility. My players are still not mature enough," Jose said after Saturday's defeat.
"They have not grown up enough as players. They lack experience in international competitions. I'm responsible," he added.
"We couldn't play our best in the first half and still we ended 2-0 at half time. But I can't accept the fact that a team like us loses a goal in only two minutes (into the second half)," said Jose.
"After that goal, Pachuca gathered momentum and started to fight back thinking they would be able to win. It caused us to lose another goal," lamented Jose.
Skipper Shady Mohamed said: "We could have won if the game was 45 minutes. We must think over why we couldn't keep the lead."
MY POV: Tough break for the Egyptians, who came in thinking they could do some damage in this year's tournament. Better luck next time.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tomorrow sees the return of the world's biggest club football match: Real Madrid-Barcelona.
There's nothing quite like it in the world of professional football.
Pageantry. A true despise and hatred for each other. A frenetic atmosphere. An idealogical clash between 'good and evil.'
It has a little bit of everything ... and then some.
I can not wait for this match!
Real Madrid are undergoing massive change these days, letting coach Bernd Schuster go in favor of former Sevilla and Tottenham skipper Juande Ramos.
Meanwhile, Barcelona are coasting. After destroying Valencia (my beloved club) 4-0 last weekend, Barca look unstoppable. Samuel Eto'o is the league's leading scorer, new coach Pep Guardiola has instilled a fresh philosophy to the club and they have some guy named Lionel Messi who just happens to be very good ...
This match has it all ... as Sky Sports journalist Guillem Balague says in his preview of the match:
What else is there left to say? This is Barca-Real after all. As (Barca president Joan) Laporta said in our interview this week, there is no other sporting spectacle like it in the world. More clichés? Why not. This is more than a game. This is the ultimate grudge match. This is history. A clash of the Titans. For everyone in Spain it represents a variety of conflicting symbols: two nations; two great sporting institutions; two worldviews; two philosophies or even just two football teams. Wherever you come from, it means something different, but wherever you are, it matters.Very, very true ... it is the Game of Games. The Big Show. The irresistible force vs. the immovable object ... shall I go on?
Here, a smorgasbord of highlights from previous Classico's ...
First off, remember the day Ronaldhino was cheered at Madrid's Bernabeau?
Remember Luis Figo's first time at the Nou Camp wearing the white shirt of Real Madrid? I'm sure he'll never forget ...
What's it like in the Nou Camp before the match?
How have the last 10 Classico's gone? Check out this review, in Spanish ...
For a preview of the match, make sure to click here. And here.
What does Spain's prime minister think of the match? 5-1? No me digas!
What do the fans think ahead of the big one?
Al Ahly are in Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup and while they hold allusions of winning the tournament this time around, their anxiety is beginning to show.
Yesterday, Ahly coach Manuel Jose accused their first-round opponents, Mexico's Pachuca, of sending spies to their training camp.
"Three spies from Pachuca came to inspect our practice today," he said.
"It's not fair. We didn't watch their practice. It's not fair."
Jose stressed the importance of his team achieving a good result in their opening game.
"[Saturday's] game is the same as the final for Al Ahly and Pachuca," he said.
"The losers will go to a playoff for fifth and sixth places. It's a very important game."Jose also stressed how difficult it is for teams outside of Europe and South America to advance in the tournament.
Days ago, he claimed his side were only aiming for third place in the competition.
"For the European and South American clubs, they just go to a third-place play-off even if they lose. They can reach the final by winning only one game. Anyway, we just go into the match thinking it's the final," he said.
Talking about their Mexican opponents, the Portuguese-based coach said, "Pachuca change their tactics quite often and they also want to have a better result than they did last year, but I think we are more comfortable, because we know each other very well and we have the same 3-5-2 formation."
Pachuca have not yet responded to Jose's spying accusations, focusing instead on gaining "revenge" after losing to Etoile last year.
"We believe in revenge," Pachuca's Argentine striker Bruno Marioni said.
"We are thinking about playing in a final against Manchester United. For now, we will fight this match in front of us as if it was a final." Honestly, we feel we lost for no reasons last year," Pachuca coach Enrique Meza added.
"We aim to take the first match this year, as a matter of course, and go still higher - up to the top spot."
The winners face South American champions Liga de Quito (LDU) of Ecuador in the semi-finals on Wednesday, with the victors in that match progressing to likely meet Manchester United in the final.
MY POV: Breathe in, breath out Mr. Jose! No need to get too crazy about this match!
It's evident that Jose and Ahly are taking this tournament very seriously. While that's understandable, the team needs to focus on the game and not on conspiracy theories.
Ahly is more than capable of making it to the final - provided they lay off the caffeine and RELAX!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Put those thoughts of the 2010 World Cup in the USA, England or Germany out of your mind ...
"Plan B is dead," Danny Jordaan, head of the World Cup local organizing committee told reporters in Johannesburg in a year-end review of preparations for the tournament.
Jordaan was referring to speculation earlier this year that FIFA, soccer's world governing body could yank the World Cup from South Africa if the country was deemed ill-prepared to become the first African host of the tournament.
FIFA president Joseph Blatter's admission in June that FIFA had a 'Plan B' when it came to the host nation made for sensational headlines.
By now, the skeptics, mostly Europeans, have been proved wrong, according to Jordaan.
All 10 World Cup stadiums - five new, five upgraded - will be ready on time, he said.
Having said this, the cost will be higher than forecast due in part to a weaker rand.
"All of the stadiums will be complete and there is no doubt about that," Jordaan told a news conference.
"Some of the (construction) materials will be procured outside the country. As the rand weakens, there will be some cost overruns," he said, noting that the price of oil added another layer of unpredictability to the process.
Rising prices for imported cement, steel and other key building materials and higher labor costs have wreaked havoc on the stadium construction budget, leading to a 3.2 billion rand ($314 million) shortfall.
Local organizers are concerned about keeping the budget from spinning out of control and finding the funds to meet the shortfall, which the South African government has already pledged 1.4 billion rand towards.
South Africa expects 480,000 visitors for the World Cup, which starts on June 11, 2010, and hopes the month-long finals will spur tourism and investment in Africa's richest economy.
MY POV: Good for South Africa. About time they showered good news on the non-believers around the world.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Egypt's Al Ahly are now in Asia, ready to face the world's best clubs in the FIFA Club World Cup, the FIFA-sanctioned club world championship played every year in Japan.
Although England's Manchester United are favored, the reigning African champions have a ton of confidence.
*They recently won their record sixth African championship, beating Cameroon's Coton Sport 4-2 on aggregate.
*They're reigning Egyptian champions, winning the title the past 4 years and 33 times overall. *They're 35-time champions of the Egyptian Cup.
*And in 2000, they were named the African Club of the Century by the Confederation of African Football.
They're doing quite all right, I'd say.
This week, Ahly hopes to show the world what they're made of. Ahly have qualified for the Club World Cup three times and this time, they hope to advance and win the championship.
At a press conference in Egypt before their departure, the team brimmed with confidence.
Ahly club chairman Hassan Hamdi said, "These are the glory years of Al Ahly, whose name is now carved within the world's best teams. The staff have done a brilliant job. We are now eager for more. The club officials and fans are confident the team can show more progress this time."
Portuguese coach Manuel Jose says the team is highly ambitious.
"This year there is huge responsibility because everyone expects us to go further than the third place we achieved in 2006, which was also an improvement from the previous year in 2005, when we lost our two games and came last. We dream of winning the cup, and we are working on making the dream a reality."
"The players shouldn't be under pressure. They should just concentrate on the ball and on achieving their goal. It is not going to be easy and we will have to fight. We will display our best because we want to show the world that Al Ahly is a world-class team, a team capable of competing against the world's elite clubs and for the title as well."
(Having said that, take a look at this quote from England's The Daily Telegraph attributed to Jose: "For an African club to finish third in this competition resembles winning the title," Portugal-born Ahly coach Manuel Jose said.
"We will do our best to represent Africa and Egypt well, but our supporters must be aware there is a big gap between football in South America and Europe and football in Africa. Winning the Club World Cup is an impossible task for now. We need more time to achieve that goal."
Hmm ... )
Ahly captain Shady Mohamed admitted the players are determined to make an impression. "This team have achieved many unprecedented achievements, like winning the African Champions League six times and qualifying for Japan three times," he explained.
"So we need to prove to the world that we deserve to be among the elite, and that we are the best representatives for African football. We want to reach the final and hope we can return home with the title. We need to focus more on our first game. Winning our opener will give us more confidence to progress in the competition until we win it."
The hopes of the Cairo giants rest at the mercurial feet of Mohamed Aboutrika, who thrilled audiences at the 2006 edition of the Cup. However, the 30-year-old insisted his side's chances hinge of the players' collective performances. "Football is a team sport, no one can play alone," he said.
"I'm not the star of the team - the team is the star, that's what Mr. Jose tells us. I don't care about individual achievements because only team achievements remain in the memory of the fans, and I'm part of the team."Ahly's path to the final looks kind of easy.
Should Ahly see off the challenge of Mexico’s Pachuca in the first round, they will play the beatable Ecuadorian side Liga Deportiva Universitaria (LDU) de Quito in the semifinals, just one step away from a likely meeting with Manchester United, Europe's reigning champions.
The tournament runs from December 11th to December 21st. The Cup's contested between the champion clubs from all six continental confederations, although, since 2007, the champions of Oceania must play a qualifying play-off against the champion club of the host country.
Ahly's been in the tournament three times.
The first trip in 2005 proved a major disappointment as they lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals to Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad, before succumbing 2-1 in the fifth-place play-off to Sydney FC. The following year they did much better, finishing the competition in third place.
They beat New Zealanders Auckland City 2-0 in the quarterfinals, before losing out 2-1 to the eventual winners, Brazilian club Internacional. They ensured the competition would be deemed a success, however, when they clinched third thanks to an excellent 2-1 win over Club América of Mexico.Besides Ahly, this year's Cup features Manchester United; Mexican club Pachuca, who have won the last two editions of the CONCACAF Champions League and Ecuadorian side Liga Deportiva Universitaria (LDU) de Quito, champions of South America.
Japan's Gamba Osaka, winners of the 2008 AFC Champions League will represent the J-League, while the losing finalists, Australia's Adelaide United, will also be there to represent Asia.
The line-up is completed by the OFC Champions League winners Waitakere United of New Zealand. Matches are played at three venues in Tokyo, Toyota City and Yokohama.
For a break-down of the match-ups, please click here.
What does ESPN's Soccernet.com think of Ahly's chances?
Al Ahly (Egypt; Africa/CAF)Good luck Ahly! We here at Road to 2010 are pulling for you!!!
Who are they? Africa's most successful club, the Egyptian side dominated last year winning the league and African Champions League double. Portuguese coach Manuel Jose has now led the club to four of their six Champions League successes and the club boast a number of players who have starred for Egypt in their back-to-back African Nations Cup wins. They are also nicknamed 'The Red Devils' and came third at the tournament two years ago.
Captain? Shady Mohamed. The sudden departure of goalkeeper and former skipper Essam El Hadary to FC Sion shocked the club, but Mohamed has the experience and toughness to succeed in the position. A quick central defender with outstanding fitness, he will have to be at his best to get Al Ahly into the finals.
Player to watch? Mohamed Aboutrika. The outstanding performer of the 2008 African Nations Cup, Aboutrika runs the midfield with his creativity and skill on the ball. Providing a potent goalscoring threat from behind the strikers, if "The Smiling Assassin" is on top form then his club could go far.
Monday, December 8, 2008
As if Real Madrid's luck isn't bad enough these days, word out of the Berbabeu today doesn't help things.
Mali midfielder Mahamadou Diarra will be sidelined for six to nine months after undergoing knee surgery, the club announced today.
Not good news ahead of this weekend's clash with arch-rivals FC Barcelona, who just whopped my favorite club's behind 4-0.
Diarra sustained the injury to his right knee while playing for Mali against Chad in October.
He was initially out of action for two weeks before returning for Real.
A month later, however, he aggravated the injury in a league game and an X-ray last week confirmed he would need arthroscopic surgery.
Diarra will be missed by the Spanish champions and also by Mali, as he will be absent for the opening matches of their final round of qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and African Cup of Nations, which begin in March.
MY POV: Having Diarra on the squad probably wouldn't help Madrid all that much against the FC Barca juggernaut, who look unstoppable at this point in the season. Still, major blow for the Spanish capital's team and for Mali, who will miss the midfielder greatly ...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
As we close in on the time to select an African Player of the Year, how about Egypt's Mohamed Aboutrika?
Aboutrika sports an excellent resume: he's won 2 African Cup of Nations with Egypt, won 3 African Champions Leagues with Egyptian club team Al Ahly and conquered 4 league titles with the Egyptian powerhouse.
On top of that, he's heralded as 'the Egyptian Zinedine Zidane for his technical skill and excellent vision of the field.' Nice comparisons, eh?
As Aboutrika's Wikipedia entry says, 'Aboutrika's contribution came not only in finding the net but also in creating from his playmaking role behind the strikers. His offensive skills were best demonstrated in his timing, as he often chose the right moment to come forward for shots on goal. He has recently been dubbed "The Smiling Assassin" by foreign media because of his two main trademarks: goalscoring and smiling. He is renowned in Egypt for his modest personality and kind heart. His trade mark celebration after a goal is to prostrate on the ground in submission and praise of Allah.'
So why is the man not on the short list for FIFA World Player of the Year?
Good question and one I can't answer ... it seems Aboutrika fills all the requirements, winning titles and excelling in his role.
The Guardian's Paul Doyle questions this and France Football's awarding of the Ballon d'Or, their annual award for best player of the year (won by Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo this season) in an article this week ... It's a great read and makes the case for Mohamed Aboutrika ...
Something to keep in mind when voting for your BBC African Player of the Year? Hmm ...
But for the strongest claim of all we should look to an inspirational player who is the creative fulcrum of both his club and his country, with whom he this season achieved everything he possibly could. He won his domestic championship and the African champions league with his club while taking the continental crown with his country, even scoring the winner in the final, his fourth goal of a tremendous tournament. Scandalously, the France Football editorial team who selected the 30 players for whom their worldwide panel of journalists are allowed to vote overlooked the Al Ahly and Egypt playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika.
Fifa won't compensate for this offensive anomaly. Their shortlist doesn't include Aboutrika either. Nor anyone else from Egypt's recent vintage. Hardly surprising given that Fifa doesn't even rank Egypt, winners of the last two African Cups of Nations, as the best team in Africa. Not enough Europe-based players, perhaps.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
First off, the dive in the Columbian league game, perpetrated by Atletico Juniors' Emerson Acuna.
Are you kiddin' me?? The guy's miles from the defender! And the referee called a penalty?!?
Next up, a compendium of the worst dives of the 2006 World Cup, as narrated by the folks of ESPN's Sportscenter.
Pay particular attention to Cristiano Ronaldo's flop job, Asamoah Gyan's dramatics and Cristian Zacccardo's awful acting job against Australia ...
Finally, some of the worst dives in football history ... who can forget Gilardino's efforts for AC Milan in the first excerpt of the clip, Rivaldo's Oscar-winning performance in the 2002 World Cup and Brazilian 'keeper Duda's spectacular skills against a Celtic supporter ... great stuff ...
Monday, December 1, 2008
It's that time of year again, dear readers.
Time to vote for the 2008 BBC African Player of the Year!
This year's candidates are ...
Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt, Al Ahly)
Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo, Arsenal)
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast, Chelsea)
Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon, Barcelona)
Amr Zaki (Egypt, Wigan)
The BBC canvassed football experts across Africa to compile the shortlist.
Last year's winner was Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal and Togo, who used the award to launch his so-called 'Tour of Hope' back to his home country.
Previous BBC African Footballers of the Year include Michael Essien, Jay-Jay Okocha and El-Hadji Diouf.
The award is decided by the fans, so get yourself to the link and get voting!
You can vote for your choice until January 9 and the winner will be announced a week later.
MY POV: For my money, Aboutrika is the player of the year. 4 goals in the 2008 Cup of Nations coupled with an African Champions League trophy with club team Al Ahly wraps up the award for him ... let's see what the fans think!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
FIFA wants everyone to know that they're happy with South Africa's preparations ahead of the 2010 World Cup, no matter what anyone may think ...
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said that there are still issues to be resolved ahead of the first-ever African World Cup, but that the mood was still positive.
"I think we should forget this question now," Valcke said, asked about the possibility of another country stepping in. "It's been a lot of work since May 2004 and I think there is still a lot of work until June 14 2009 [when South Africa hosts the Confederations Cup] and the 2010 World Cup.
"I think it's a lot of issues and we have to make sure we are working on them all the time. The main issues are security, transportation, accommodation, overlay; it's all what you need to host a World Cup. It's normal, because there is not a single country ready 18 months prior to the World Cup. When we had the Confederations Cup in Germany, it's where we discovered that lots of things were not working. There is no question that it was the right decision to bring the World Cup to South Africa."
The CEO of the World Cup Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Danny Jordaan thinks that although South Africa has experienced problems, they're getting there.
"Firstly, we are focusing on the Confederations Cup," he said. "These are existing stadiums, however there is still a gap between the existing stadiums and the event requirements. So we are focusing on that to make sure that by the end of December, all of the four stadiums for the Confederations Cup are fully compliant with all requirements for the event; and then [making] sure all of the stadiums are complete by October next year and also then to focus on the final draw on December 4 next year."
Valcke hinted that the 2018 tournament could be given to a "rich" country, possibly from Europe. The 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil, which probably means it isn't a 'rich' country.
"I have a feeling that Germany tomorrow morning could host the World Cup. Because they have a very strong professional league, stadiums are ready, so there are a few European countries [who] will not have to spend as much money as South Africa is doing or as Brazil will have to do because there is not a single, what we call, World Cup stadium in Brazil.
"And they will have to provide us with these stadiums and work on them. Again, I have the feeling that there will be competition, I would say between five to eight countries, bidding for 2018.
"These will come from four confederations as Africa and South America will not have access to 2018. It will be potentially the so-called 'rich' countries, where there is already the infrastructure we need to host a World Cup."
MY POV: The more I listen to these FIFA cronies talk, the more I wish they'd be quiet.How condescending of them to talk about giving the 2018 World Cup to a 'rich' country?
How about just letting events play out and letting the citizens of South Africa enjoy the process of the 2010 World Cup?
More and more, it feels like FIFA has absolutely no confidence in South Africa. It seems like they're wringing their hands clean of the 2010 Cup, rueing their decision to give the 2014 Cup to a poor country like Brazil and focusing on the 'cash money' bonanza of the 2018 Cup.
USA 2018 anyone? The more you hear FIFA bellow, the more it sounds like they'd hold every World Cup in the USA and England if they had the chance ...
It's all about the money, isn't it? How stupid of me to believe it was about more than just the cash ...
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Al Ahly have an opponent in next February's African Super Cup.
They're Tunisian side CS Sfaxien, who became the first club to win the Confederation Cup twice after forcing a 2-2 draw at Etoile du Sahel in the second leg of an all-Tunisia final on Saturday.
The first leg two weeks ago ended goalless and Etoile were expected to use home advantage and add to eight continental trophies won in 13 years.
But Sfaxien got off to a dream start with Ghana-born striker Agyemang Opoku scoring after just two minutes at the Olympic Stadium to claim his fourth goal this year in the African equivalent of the European UEFA Cup.
It took Etoile until 12 minutes into the second half to level through another West African striker, Nigerian Emeka Opara, but had to score again under the away-goal rule.
However, Sfaxien regained the lead on 74 minutes via their midfielder and leading scorer Abdelkrim Nafti only for Aymen Abdennour to trigger a thrilling climax with an equaliser soon after.A third goal eluded Etoile, though, and Sfaxien collected the 330,000-dollar first prize plus a showdown with mighty Al-Ahly of Egypt in Cairo next February for the African Super Cup.
Congrats and good luck against Ahly ... you'll need it!!
Friday, November 21, 2008
A few weeks ago, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the world's economic meltdown would not affect the 2010 World Cup at all.
Now, South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup expressed concern Friday about the effect the global financial crisis will have on the tournament, which is already running well over budget.
Back to reality, guys ...
The South African government has had to allocate an extra $136 million for stadium construction because of rising prices, pushing total costs to more than 30 billion rand. That is 10 times the amount originally budgeted.
The South African rand has fallen about 30 percent against the dollar in recent weeks and as the U.S. and Europe slide into recession, there are concerns fans will not have money to travel or buy tickets.
Danny Jordaan, head of the local World Cup organizing committee, said organizers were taking a "wait and see approach" but that there were indications that the world financial outlook will be more positive by 2010.
"Even if you accept people have fewer dollars in their pockets, those dollars will buy more rands. So people may still travel because the destination becomes cheaper," he said.South Africa has been hoping that the World Cup will act as a catalyst for economic growth and a boom in tourism with an anticipated 350,000 visitors expected to flood into the country for the monthlong event.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA's secretary general, said that while football fans may be facing tighter times, tickets for the most-watched tournament in the world will still be sought after.
Valcke also gave reassurances that FIFA's finances were in good shape and would not be affected by the turmoil in world markets.
"We are not afraid even as we recognize there is a very strong crisis," he said. "Sport is one safe business that gives something when all else is going wrong.
South Africa's ending 2008 on a very positive note.
Bafana Bafana won their 4th game in a row under coach Joel Santana as they edged out Africa's top-rated side Cameroon 3-2 to win the annual Mandela Challenge match, which honors the country's former president.
A late winner from Bernard Parker secured the victory.
Earlier Teko Modise had scored twice to put the home side 2-0 up before the Indomitable Lions struck back to level the score through Daniel Ngom Kome and Somen Tchoyi.
The win allowed Santana to indulge an optimistic tone as he looked towards 2010.
"I believe the road to 2010 is on track," he told the South African Football Association (SAFA) website.
"We played as a team and we are starting to show comfort on the ball. Yes we still have to work on certain areas but football is a continuous challenge."
The build up to the match was marred by a row over the absence of Cameroon's star striker Samuel Eto'o.
Cameroon coach Otto Pfister blamed SAFA for failing to arrange his travel properly.
SAFA hit back, claiming everything had been arranged and the player had simply failed to make his flight.
Geremi and Rigobert Song were also missing from the Indomitable Lions line up.
MY POV: Big win against a top opponent, although the cynic in me says, 'But hold on, Cameroon were missing their biggest weapon in Eto'o.'
Nevertheless, the victory gives Bafana Bafana a reason to smile heading into 2009.
The football world settled down this week for international friendlies on the Road to 2010.
While much of the world focused on Diego Maradona's coaching debut with Argentina, African squads went about their business.
Here, a recap from the BBC of the six friendlies that took place on Wednesday. South Africa played Cameroon, as well ...
Colombia 1 Nigeria 0 A Nigerian side hit badly by withdrawals went down to a goal from striker Radamel Falcao Garcia nine minutes from time in Palmira. Sani Kaita was sent off for protesting as the Super Eagles thought the goal came from an offside position.
Egypt 5 Benin 1 African champions Egypt overwhelmed Benin in a dominant display. Two of Egypts goals came from striker Emad Motaeb and two from star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika. Benin's consolation came just five minutes from the end as the hosts eased off.
Ghana 0 Tunisia 0 A lacklustre Black Stars performance from a less than full-strength side. The Carthage Eagles had the better of the early exchanges but their finishing was also wayward. On the plus side for Ghana captain Stephen Appiah played as did Dede Ayew.
Israel 2 Ivory Coast 2 Israel were denied victory over the Elephjants by an 85th minute equaliser from Boubacar Sanogo in this draw. Didier Drogba made his return to the international side after injury.
Morocco 3 Zambia 0 The Atlas Lions pounced to take an early lead in just the third minute of the game, through Houssine Kharja. A penalty awarded some 20 minutes later allowed the home team to double their lead in Casablanca before Nabil Baha completed the win just after the hour mark.Venezuela 0 Angola 0 Venezuela and Angola played to a sloppy scoreless draw in a friendly of bungled passes and shots on goal under pounding rain on Wednesday. Angola's Marco Airosa was sent off in injury time at La Carolina Stadium in the city of Barinas after receiving a second yellow card.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The first is a video from Cameroon showing the atmosphere around the stadium before the 2nd leg, played yesterday.
The second is of the penalty that clinched the championship for Ahly. Enjoy!
Al Ahly coach Manuel Jose is beyond happy that his side won their record sixth African Champions League this weekend with a 2-2 draw against Cameroon side Coton Sport.
Their 2-0 win from the first leg in Cairo clinched the tie for them in the end, earning Ahly a 4-2 victory on aggregate and a third African title in four years.
"It's fantastic," Jose told BBC Sport.
"Now Ahly is the only club ever to win six Champions Leagues, and now we hope we're going to win the African Super Cup."
Ahly play the winners of the Confederation Cup in the African Super Cup in February.
In the meantime they face an even bigger challenge as they attempt to improve on their last showing at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
The Egyptians travel to the tournament in December for the third time and will seek to better their bronze medal finish in 2006.
Still basking in Sunday's win, Jose also paid tribute to Coton Sport, after the Garoua team put up a strong fight over the two legs.
"Coton Sport made a very good match [of it]. In Cairo we had a fantastic match, and could have scored four or five goals, but didn't. So we came here, scored a lucky goal through Ahmed Hassan, then conceded a stupid goal. When they scored the second goal [my team] was scared about [conceding] a third goal, but I have very experienced players.
"So congratulations to Coton Sport but I think we deserved to win."
Coton Sport Alan Oumbleon paid tribute to his own team's efforts and said the experience of reaching their first final will make his players hungry for more success.
"It was wonderful to reach this final for my team, for my players, for the club and for the fans," he said.
"So now we know how wonderful it is, we want to reach this level every year."
He also conceded, however, that he will find it difficult to hold onto some of his best players after they attracted attention during their impressive march to the final.
"They deserve to go outside [Cameroon] because they have succeeded in playing very good football during this competition," he said.
Oumbleon also said his biggest challenge in the short term will be to try to motivate his players to return to playing in the Cameroonian national league.
From next weekend they will turn out in front of considerably smaller crowds than the estimated 20,000 at the Omnisport Stadium in Garoua on Sunday and the 70,000 at the Cairo International Stadium.
"It will be very difficult because they are used now to playing against great clubs in big stadiums with a lot of people and now we will play in a bad stadium, with a bad field.
"But our players will want to reach this level again."MY POV: Hopefully the experience of playing in the Final will motivate fans to come out to watch Coton.
Besides that, can Ahly improve on their performance from a few year's back at the Club World Cup? They'll represent Africa just fine ...
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Congratulations to Al Ahly, who won the 2008 African Champions League this morning, defeating Cameroon's Coton Sport 4-2 on aggregate, drawing 2-2 in today's match.
The victory gives Egypt's Ahly their record 6th title, the most of any club in African continental football.
Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Cairo a fortnight ago – where goals from Wael Gomaa and Flavio separated the teams – Manuel Jose’s side were always favorites to win their third Champions League crown in four years. But Ahly weathered a persistent 2nd-half storm from Coton to hold on to the game.
The Egyptians dealt Coton’s slim hopes of a comeback a grievous blow in the 38th minute when, on the counter, Ahmed Hassan flicked home a goal with the outside of his right foot following a short-corner routine between Gilberto and Mohamed Aboutrika.
The Egyptian’s goal stunned Coton and hushed the previously boisterous and optimistic home crowd.
However, Coton drew level on the stroke of half time when Karim Abdoul fired in a low shot from just inside the penalty area after great work from striker Kamilou Daouda.
Just past the hour mark Baba Ousmaila capitalised on the utter dominance of Coton and made it 2-1, heading into an empty net after a great set piece from the hosts.
But Ousmaila and Daouda were guilty of spurning several great chances for Coton, who could have won the game by a landslide and pulled off an almost miraculous comeback had they been more composed in front of goal.Al Ahly skipper Shady Mohamed sealed the title for his side in the final minute of injury time, scoring from the penalty spot to make it 2-2 after Andre Ndame had pushed over Mohamed Barakat.
The Egyptians will go on to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year.Congratulations, Al Ahly! Enjoy your championship!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The second leg is tomorrow ... should be a good one!! Enjoy!
Friday, November 14, 2008
South Africa national team coach Joel Santana says his side is almost to the point where they'll do reasonably well in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Santana's been the focal point of criticism the past few months as Bafana Bafana have struggled, failing to qualify for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.
But the team's been playing better of late and the Brazilian coach is encouraged by what he's seen.
“At this stage we are staying calm. We have the definition of what we want for 2010; we are actually halfway to what we want,” said Santana.
The Brazilian coach aired his sentiments after the announcement of the team to play against Cameroon in the Mandela Challenge next week in Rustenburg, South Africa.
“I now know the players that are playing for me and I know how to make them approach the game. This is why we have tried to preserve the team from the past three games and have gone for the in-form players.
“Other players have been left out of the team because they are injured, like Bryce Moon, while others have to stay on with their teams,” says Santana.
“This job is just like life; is all about learning. We heard and we have seen things during this period since I arrived here and what I say is that I feel very secure.
“This job always has its ups and downs, but you have to live by the results that you get. Though we understand that people have this anxiety of wanting to have a great national team that wins all the games, you have to be patient. But we just need to be united going into the New Year.
“You should know that this is not just a coach’s job, but involves all of us from the media which I now know how it operates and sees things at times, the fans and the players.
“I don’t have regrets about what has happened in the past since I arrived here and took over from Carlos Parreira. I am satisfied and happy to be here. The Confederations Cup is a big challenge for us, but the World Cup is the main goal that we are prioritising and working towards.
“We hope to close the year with one more win ahead of the Confederations Cup next year. Each game is important for us and this match in particular is crucial in that we are honoring a great man and it will be a nice birthday gift for me if we win as I want to celebrate my birthday on December 25 with a smile,” he says.
The Brazilian says he is aware of the players that the West Africans will bring for next week’s match.
“We know the players just like you do, and they are quality players who play in European leagues. But we need this kind of test and we have watched their recent games.”
Santana says his wish is to make it four wins in a row when he faces Cameroon
“This is an important tournament in the history of this country, honoring one of the biggest legends of our time,” says Santana.
“The best way to honor Nelson Mandela would be to win this game. We will be playing at home and we will be expecting a lift from our supporters. Our ambition is to make it four wins in a row.”
MY POV: Santana's challenges have only just begun. The team's playing better, though. Let's wish him luck in the Mandela Challenge and take it from there ...
The eyes of the football world turn to Cameroon this weekend and Sunday's second leg of the African Champions League final between Egypt's Al Ahly and Cameroon's Coton Sport.
Ahly, five-time African champions, won the first leg in 2-0 in Egypt.
Now, Coton Sport will look to contain the Egyptian juggernaut at home.
Coton captain Ahmadou Ngomna wishes his side hadn't come into the first leg scared of their opposition.
The Cameroon side’s defense let in two early goals (3rd and 15th minute), but managed to hold off the Red Devils for the remainder of the match and still have a shot of claiming their first continental title.
"I think we gave Ahly too much respect, and it affected our start," Ngomna told Camfoot.com.
"After the first 30 minutes we started regaining our confidence and Ahly suffered enormously when we did."
Ngomna will not play in the second leg in Garoua on November 16 after picking up a yellow card and an automatic one-game suspension.
"I'm really gutted that I won't be available for the home game as it was a very harsh yellow card to receive.
"However, I'm sure we can still overcome the two-goal deficit in Garoua where the team will be playing at home and without too much pressure."
Meanwhile, Coton Sport coach Alain Ouombleon expects his side to perform a whole lot better in the home leg.
"The result is not acceptable, but we will avenge our loss in the return leg," he said."Ahly are dangerous at set-pieces, but we didn't show caution and conceded two goals as a result."
Meanwhile, Ahly know they're stepping into a cauldron come Sunday.
Coton have not been beaten in African competition at home since 2002 and have not conceded a goal at their own stadium during this campaign.
"We all know that a tough mission is awaiting us," assistant manager Hossam Al-Badri told Ahly's official site.
"We will have a difficult 72-hour journey, the atmosphere will be tense and our stay will hardly be comfortable. Nonetheless, we are determined to win the title.
"There is a state of optimism among the players and the technical staff, we know our fans are eager for the trophy, and so we want to make them happy.
"Coton are a very ambitious side playing at home, but our players have experience and they are capable of facing the difficult circumstances.
"They just have to be focused on their mission without paying attention to the surrounding atmosphere."Ahly will claim a record sixth African championship should they hold out for the aggregate win, while Coton Sport want their first.
Coton's story has certainly garnered it's fair share of attention.
Today's BBC has a wonderful interview with Pierre Kaptene, former club president.
Kaptene saw the club rise from a social club to African finalists, so his view of the situation is enlightening.
"It's a dream [getting to the final] but we don't want people to think that if we lose we are not happy - for us being in the final is a fiesta," Kaptene said.
"If we can win it will be the cherry on the cake. I didn't think we could get this far so quickly because when you see the best teams in African football they have been around for 40 or 50 years or more.
"We are very young, so it's like a fairy story that we are in the final. But we won't stop here - better things are to come."
Take a look at the story here. It's a sweet read.
Also, journalist Richard Ferris of football365 from South Africa wonders why people have written off Coton's chances in the 2nd leg.
A good read and well worth the time ...
Although Coton have as much continental pedigree as Mohamed Aboutraika's big toe, the champions of Cameroon have proved that they can compete with Africa's best. That is not to mention that Manuel Jose's team are far from infallible.
A quick perusal of Coton's scalps through the current Champions League campaign is telling. Alain Ouombleon Guedou's side ended two-time African champions JS Kabylie's hopes of progressing into the group phase of the competition before beating Nigerian giants Enyimba and last year's semi-finalists Al Hilal.
The Garoua-based outfit then brought to an end Dyanamos' fantastic run in the tournament - and lest we forget the Zimbabweans beat defending champions Etoile Sahel. ...
African football journalists also appear to have very short memories. Surprisingly few hacks remember Ahly's absymal performance in last season's Champions League final which saw the Cairo giants surrender meekly to Etoile.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This article from today's ESPN.com Outside the Lines series really touched me.
It's about the Right to Dream football academy, which helps 'talented underprivileged African children play sport, obtain a first class education and develop key lifeskills to help them to achieve a better quality of life.'
The story takes place in Ghana and follows the scouts as they try to fill positions at the academy.
It's a gripping tale of poverty, helplessness and ultimately hope that will thoroughly move you.
Many families in Ghana see football as their only escape from the gripping poverty that overwhelms their daily lives. The kids in this story fight for their hope. Ultimately, only a few get to see their dreams fulfilled.
Please take the time to read this story.
For those of you in the States, the story appears on their Outside the Lines program today at 3pm.
Here is the beginning of the article. For the rest, please click here.
On the most important day of his life, Shadrak Kwabena wakes up hungry. He is 9 years old, his pencil legs covered in knee-high, hand-me-down yellow socks. This is the moment his mother imagined when she took him to the coach three years ago with a request: Please give my son a future.
He makes his way toward the mosque for morning prayer, the dirt streets pocked with rock and rubble. Around town, other boys slip into the predawn darkness. The ones who own soccer cleats wear them; parents save for months to afford the $12 shoes. Many come barefoot. Word has spread: A scout is in Tamale, with strange words and customs, who possesses the mystical power to change a person's destiny forever.
The coach, Sharhabib Mumuni, is at the mosque waiting on Shadrak and the rest of the Great Eagles. Mumuni has procured the best breakfast he can. Last year, the boys started game days with hearty porridge. Today, it's bread and tea.
Once they've prayed and eaten, the boys walk toward the field, which is ringed in barbed wire and, thanks to last night's monsoon, covered in large patches of standing water. Andy Farrant, a 23-year-old from England, surveys the damage. He hardly looks mystic. More like a first-year law student, with a lean build, a friendly, boyish face and a mother who worries about him in Africa, so far away from home. This is his show -- he's head scout, a volunteer, for the Right to Dream Academy. He will decide which boys come to the capital city of Accra and which stay behind. Playing God makes him uncomfortable. He's not blind. He sees the desperation. This is one of the poorest places in the world. He sees that the 20 coaches the academy invited have shown up with more than the allotted 10 players each -- one coach, who was not invited, has brought his team anyway. "Those boys who come from the North," Farrant says, "you're their chance in life."
Talk about instilling confidence in your team ...
Ivory Coast coach Vahid Halihodzic told reporters today that his Ivory Coast team is at best 'average'. The Bosnian trainer took charge of the Elephants in May and has won three and drawn three in his six games in charge.
Many people feel that after their showing at the 2006 World Cup and their semi-final run at the 2008 African Cup of Nations, the Ivory Coast is poised for big things.
Hold on a minute, says Halihodzic.
"This team is still fragile," he said at a news conference in Abidjan.
"Since I took up this job as manager and trainer, everywhere I go, I hear the same analysis, the same words: 'Ah, Vahid, you've got a super team'.
"And each time I say the same thing: 'I don't have a super team - perhaps there are some special players, but the team itself is still rather average.'
"You in the media, and above all the supporters, need to know that there are better teams than us - even in Africa."
Many still regard Ivory Coast as a side with the potential to make a real impact at the next World Cup in 2010.
To reach the finals, the Elephants must finish top of a qualifying group with Guinea, Burkina Faso and Malawi, which begins next March.
"Everyone is waiting with a lot of anticipation for this qualification," said Halihodzic.
"It'd be such a shame if this generation which has so much talent doesn't get to South Africa."Perhaps our greatest challenger could be ourselves. It's something exceptional for this generation, which has so much talent. For some players it'll be their last competition."
MY POV: This could be a cunning ploy, setting everyone's expectations low so the Elephants can surprise people on the Road to 2010.
Then again, telling your team they aren't better than the also-rans of the continent doesn't exactly inspire greatness, does it?
I don't know. This is a tricky balancing wire Halihodzic is trying to navigate ...
What do you think??
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Looks like Barack Obama's election to the United States Presidency will do wonders for US soccer as well.
According to an article in the Guardian Unlimited, Obama's election could derail England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, according to a "high-placed" FIFA official. The unnamed source told Yahoo Sports that Obama's popularity will be "a huge factor" in deciding whether the USA is selected to host either the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.
"How can it not make a difference," said the source. "Now when you think of America, you don't think George W Bush or war, you think of this man, Obama, who has made history and given hope to millions. The men who vote on World Cup hosts are not immune to those same feelings. If the US bid stacks up in terms of infrastructure and organization, then Obama could be a huge factor."
US Soccer President Sunil Gulati has said that the organization intends to bid "in an aggressive fashion" as soon as FIFA clarify whether nations will be forced to choose which World Cup to bid for or if they will be allowed to bid for both 2018 and 2022.
"We know we would stage a terrific World Cup and having people view us as a nation in a better way is a positive," Gulati commented. "Anything that enhances the perceived views of the United States can only be a positive for us. It was very clear from the reaction around the world just how popular this result has been. This election has given a lot of people a reason to cheer."
Even if he wins a second term, Obama will no longer be in office by 2018. The winning bid will be determined, however, by a vote in 2011 - before the end of Obama's first term.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter is expected to visit Obama at the White House next year. Earlier this year Obama revealed that he had been a West Ham fan since he visited England in 2003. He can often be seen pitch-side at his daughter's soccer games in Chicago.
His election is also believed to be likely to have a galvanizing effect on Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics, meaning that, as in the 1990s, the USA could host the two biggest sports tournaments on the planet in the space of two years.MY POV: THANK YOU OBAMA!!! I knew electing this guy was the right way to go!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Interesting article in today's New York Times about Danny Jordaan, South Africa's World Cup chief organizer.
Jordaan flew into New York for meetings this week and happened to land here right as the United States was electing their first African-American President, Barack Obama.
Considering South Africa's delicate history with race and apartheid, it was an interesting time for Jordaan to be in New York.
According to the article, Obama's election reminded him of the time South African Nelson Mandela was let out of prison in 1990.
It was a strange evening to be landing in New York. Jordaan, the chairman of the South African committee that will stage the World Cup of soccer in 2010, watched the celebration on CNN and compared the mood in America to the mood in South Africa on Feb. 11, 1990, the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years. “The majority celebrated,” recalled Jordaan, who had worked against apartheid without going to prison or into exile. “But many people did not celebrate,” he recalled. “You have to be magnanimous.”Obama has long expressed his respect for Mandela, saying he had been inspired by a visit to Mandela’s former prison cell on Robben Island. In turn, Mandela sent a message to Obama on Wednesday, saying, in part, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.”While much of the world sees Obama's victory as a new symbol of hope, a successful 2010 World Cup in South Africa would be equally satisfying to many.
Jordaan is assuring people that everything will be ready in approximately 600 days' time.
South Africa will be fine. Obama will do great things. And in 2010, the world will have something else to celebrate: the wonderful experience of an African World Cup ...
Joseph S. Blatter, the president of FIFA, once mentioned a Plan B for the World Cup, then amended his remarks to say they referred only to natural disaster. But Jordaan knows there is skepticism about the stadiums, the hotels, the transportation, the security.
Just about every major sports tournament around the world is dogged by tardiness, incompetence, graft, repression, you name it. The tear gas from civil unrest had barely been cleared before the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, and they were a success. The trolley lines and expressways had barely been opened in Athens in time for the 2004 Summer Games.
“And we finished half an hour before the first game,” Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, said about the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.But a tournament for 32 national teams, including the woeful national team of South Africa, automatically invited as host, is a huge task from a nation still only 14 years past gigantic change. A caretaker government is in charge at the moment, awaiting a new election in 2009, but Jordaan suavely noted that Germany had a change of parties as well as chancellors shortly before the highly successful 2006 World Cup.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Things aren't going so well for Arsenal these days.
While they've struggled in their last three matches, Arsenal are still in 4th place in the Premier League.
But now word that striker and Togolese star Emmanuel Adebayor will miss three weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Stoke.
The 24-year-old sustained the injury after a tackle from Ryan Shawcross.
The Stoke defender's challenge drew a furious response from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who accused the home side of overly aggressive tactics.
And Adebayor will now miss league games against Manchester United, Aston Villa, Manchester City and possibly Chelsea, who they play November 30.
Stoke City chairman Peter Coates strongly rejected Wenger's claims that his team played in a dirty manner.
"I'm sure that none of our players would deliberately go out to injure anyone," Coates said.
Fellow forward Theo Walcott was also injured in Saturday's defeat.
Adebayor has nine goals this season, five in the league, and is Arsenal's top scorer.
Get well soon, Emmanuel. The soccer world is poorer without you!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Tomorrow's first leg of the African Champions League final is a classic case of David v. Goliath.
On one side, we have the expertise and experience of Egypt's Al Ahly, who are chasing a record-breaking sixth Champions League title and playing in their fourth successive final.
On the other, we have Cameroon's Coton Sport, who didn't even exist when Ahly were just beginning to win titles.
Coton reached the league phase for the first time this year and have gone on, against all expectation, to advance to their first final.
The club was only founded in 1986, and ascended into the top flight of Cameroonian football in 1993. By that time Al Ahly had already won one continental championship and three straight African Cup Winners' Cups.
Rarely has there been such a gulf in experience between two teams contesting the final of the continent's showpiece club competition, but it is not an unrealistic mismatch. Indeed Al Ahly's hopes of establishing new landmarks for the African game will be under severe threat from a Cameroonian side who have grown in confidence and ability as the competition has unfolded over the year.Al Ahly stumbled at this block last year against a team they were heavily favored against.
Considered certainties to overtake fellow five-time winners Zamalek of Egypt after forcing a 0-0 first-leg draw at Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia last year, Ahly came horribly unstuck at home to lose the second leg 3-1.
Angry home supporters then vented their fury by hurling missiles and abuse at the Ahly players when they collected their runners-up medals.
But a year later Ahly are back in the showpiece of African club football against opponents no one outside the dusty north Cameroon cotton town of Garoua gave a chance of going so far.
Al Ahly host Sunday's first leg in Cairo seeking a decisive advantage to take to Garoua, in the arid north of Cameroon, where the second leg is to be staged on November 16. But coach Manuel Jose says it is ironic that his team fare better away from home, freed from the burden of expectation imposed by their passionate fans in the Egyptian capital.
The Portuguese, who has been at the Al Ahly helm for their last three Champions League triumphs, said on the eve of the game: "Away from home, when we are not under pressure, we perform well. But at home there is a lot of pressure from the supporters."
Al Ahly know it is vital to win the first leg and take an advantage to Garoua, where they have never played before and will find conditions to be tough.
"Ahly have the best footballers in Africa so we should go for a win whenever and wherever we play," continued their coach. The Egyptians are still sweating over the availability of captain Ahmed Hassan and Angolan winger Gilberto, who sat out their last league game to avoid aggravating a groin problem.
Here's where another disparity exists between the two sides.
Ahly supplied five Egyptians and two Angolans for the 2008 African Cup of Nations while no Coton Sport footballer made it to Ghana.
Ahly superstars like silky midfielders Mohamed Aboutraika and Mohamed Barakat and Angola-born goal predator Flavio Amado are instantly recognizable far from their Cairo base.
But no one outside Cameroon and his native Niger knew of Daouda Kamilou until his seven-goal haul in the Champions League this year lifted a veil of international obscurity.
Coton Sport Franco-Ivorian coach Alain Guedou is upbeat about his team’s chances.
“We have the keys to success. We will fight as much as we can to win the title, but I believe we are not far from achieving our objective,” he said.
But there is no shortage of confidence in the Coton Sport side. Baba Ousmaila , who was Man of the Match as the team warmed up for the final by beating Aigle Dschang 4-2 in the Cameroon Cup Final at the weekend, says the players are ready to make history.
“The victory over Aigle was important, but it is now in the past for us,” Baba told the club’s official website.
“All the players can think of now is the Champions League final.“We know Al Ahly are a very big club and a very good team, but now Coton Sport’s time has begun. This is the moment we will gain our first Champions League trophy, we all firmly believe that.”
After a rather slow start in the group phase of this year’s competition, they stepped up their challenge with their home ground, the 35,000-capacity Stade Omnisports Roumde-Adja, proving to be a fortress. It was there that Enyimba and Power Dynamos met their Waterloo.
Coton Sport have already made history as the first club from that country to reach this stage of the competition since 1980 when the famous Canon Yaoundé won the last of their three titles.
They made easy work of Power Dynamos in the semi-finals by winning 5-0 on aggregate. After snatching a lone goal victory in Harare, they showed they were truly at home by spanking the Glamour Boys of Zimbabwe 4-0 in the second leg.
Coton Sport have dominated the Cameroonian scene since 1997.
They owe their rise to the top of the African football pile within such a short time to solid funding and organization.
Founded in 1986, they reached the final of the now redesigned CAF Cup in 2001 and have posted eight appearances in the Champions League with their best outing coming in 2004 when they got to the third round of the elimination series.
They have won the Cameroonian league nine times and were consecutive winners the past five years. They have also lifted the FA Cup four times in the last five years, winning their latest just this past weekend.
Besides parading several Cameroonian players, they also have on their books players from Niger including first-choice goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda and 20-year-old striker Kamilou Daouda. Kamilou is the team’s leading scorer in the Champions League and both he and his compatriot are already top transfer targets with the goalkeeper reportedly on his way to Turkey.
Besides that, they have a very special supporter in Cairo for their game, none other than Indomitable Lions legend Roger Milla.
Milla won worldwide acclaim back at the 1990 World Cup in Italy when he led Cameroon to the quarterfinals, scoring four goals along the way, before returning in 1994 as a 42-year-old for a less successful tournament in the USA.His appearances in the United States World Cup made him the oldest man to feature at a World Cup finals.
So what happens now? Let's find out and see! Should be a good one no matter what.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
We (ok, me ... ) here at Road to 2010 have been watching football for a mere 11 years as an avid fan.
Call me a neophyte but it's been long enough to have seen some incredible European finals (my team Valencia in 2000, the '05 classic in Istanbul between Liverpool and AC Milan), some wicked goals (Zidane in 2002, David Bentley's smacker today), some awesome World Cup games (Italy-South Korea in '02) and the ultimate - Spain winning Euro 2008.
Before that, I didn't follow football. Sure, it was here and there, popping up on TV now and again. But here in the USA, we watch American football and baseball, basketball and pro wrestling.
'Soccer' is for the rest of the world ... and let them have it, for all we care.
That changed for a month in 1994 when the USA hosted the biggest tournament in world sports - the World Cup.
Honestly, not that many people in the States cared. Sure, the Italian-Americans in New York and the ... Irish-Americans in New York (I'm in New York, by the way) cared.
But the rest were focused on the impending baseball strike and the upcoming NFL season.
For this and many other reasons, USA '94 is considered one of the worst World Cups in history.
But wait ... today's Guardian Unlimited has an interesting article from writer Rob Smyth saying the '94 Cup wasn't quite as bad as we imagined ...
Maybe he's right. I wouldn't remember. I watched Brazil win a putrid final against Italy in the heat of the Rose Bowl in California and thought, 'What's all the hub bub about?'
Now look at me ... obsessed, in love and totally consumed by 'soccer'. Funny how time makes us think differently about things ...
Here's a small excerpt from the article. Clink the little blue line for more.
Then there were the little details, the one-liners that embellish the plot. In what may turn out to be the longest paragraph ever, we'll attempt to list them. The late kick-off times in England, nirvana for the freaks, geeks and insomniacs; Barry Davies doing his only World Cup final; Martin Dahlin and Andersson proving that direct football could be both thrilling and classy (Sweden were the tournament's top scorers with 15); the haircuts, from Yordan Letchkov legitimising baldness to Alain Sutter's uber-Fabio mane, Tony Meola's Shep-from-Fargo greaseback, the Happy Days side-parting of Mexico's Zague, Alexi Lalas's - well what exactly was that? - and, of course, future Reading keeper's Borislav Mikhailov's syrup; Romania, the World Cup's best loose cannons since ever (and to think it could have been Wales); the Americans' cool but hangover-baiting home kit and their hideous away kit; Rashidi Yekini's throatlump-inducing celebration after scoring Nigeria's first World Cup goal; a dead rubber given significant life by the record-breaking of Roger Milla, the oldest World Cup goalscorer, and Oleg Salenko, the first man to score five goals in one World Cup game; the story of Italy, who went closer to the precipice than James Bond in almost every game but kept surviving; Clive Tyldesley's absurdly extravagant pronunciation of 'Dooooooomidrescu'; Romario slithering magisterially through a non-existent space between two defenders only to eventually have his shot cleared off the line in the semi-final against Sweden; the bravest decision in managerial history, by Arrigo Sacchi, when he took Roberto Baggio off after Gianluca Pagliuca was sent off against Norway; the magnificent certainty of Dunga's spot-kick, the eighth and penultimate in the final, which put Brazil in the lead for the first time and was the first example of the 'captain's penalty'; the glorious meltdown of John Aldridge and Jack Charlton; the brutality and Hitchcockian suddenness of Leonardo's elbow on the USA's Tab Ramos, an incident that has become more unfathomable as we have got to know him subsequently; Greece being so inept that they allowed Argentina to have a four-on-one attack in the second minute of their first-ever World Cup game; Viola's 14 minutes of fame; a group of death so tight that Mexico, Italy, Ireland and Norway finished on the same points and with the same goal difference; the forgotten contribution of Daniele Massaro, the only non-Baggio to score for Italy in the tournament and the other man besides Baresi and Baggio to miss in the final shoot-out; and a performance of such comic ineptitude from the referee Jamal Al Sharif in the Mexico v Bulgaria match that even Trevor Brooking eased himself away from the splinters of the fence to call it: "(An) absolute scandal ... I cannot find words to find the stupidness of that decision".
It wasn't all bad, was it.