October 9, 2006
With England deciding to crap the bed against Macedonia, the media focus has turned to Wayne Rooney’s inability to score for his national team. The Manchester United striker has not scored in two years, which is all the more disappointing to him considering Peter Crouch’s record year in an England shirt.
Scotland secured a famous 1-0 win over France at Hampden Park on Gary Caldwell’s header. Despite that, there are problems within the squad. Lokomotiv Moscow striker Garry O’Connor is not only homesick, but he has jeopardized his international career by not joining up with the squad in Ukraine.
Wales were emphatically destroyed by Slovakia, but at least Craig Bellamy’s assault trial was pushed back in their only good bit of news.
An inept defensive display by the Republic of Ireland saw them leave Cyprus on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline. Steve Staunton will be lucky to be in the job much longer after making Cyprus’ attacking displays look like Barcelona.
Italy finally got their qualifying campaign going with a 2-0 win over Ukraine, and the pressure is increasing on Marco van Basten after the Netherlands’ 1-1 draw in Bulgaria.
A recap of club action around the world after the jump.
October 6, 2006
Kazakhstan v. Poland – The Kazaks are off to a rather good start in their first European Championship campaign with two draws from two matches. They face a Poland side which should be able to beat them, but they have not looked particularly good in their opening fixtures.
Kazakhstan 1-1 Poland
Armenia v. Finland – Finland find themselves top of the group on goal difference, but they proved to be a force to be reckoned with in their 1-1 draw with Portugal. You might as well give them the three points here.
Armenia 0-3 Finland
Serbia v. Belgium – Serbia hasn’t looked particularly good in their opening matches, but they find themselves second in the group. Warning signs are there for Belgium especially in attack. They have four points as a result of the single goal they scored against Armenia and their stalemate at home to Kazakhstan.
Serbia 1-0 Belgium
Portugal v. Azerbaijan – Portugal were fortunate to take a point from their group opener against Finland, but this should be an easy three points.
Portugal 5-0 Azerbaijan
Faroe Islands v. Lithuania – Normally somewhat competitive, the Faroe Islands have taken several steps backward and they will be lucky to keep Lithuania below four goals.
Faroe Islands 0-6 Lithuania
Scotland v. France – It’s good times for the Tartan Army as Scotland sits on top of a group containing Italy and France. The reality they face tomorrow is that France will be much, much more difficult than the Faroes or Lithuania.
Scotland 1-2 France
Italy v. Ukraine – With a single point from their opening two matches, Italy are finally going to take things seriously. At least they hope they can find some form against a Ukrainian side featuring a badly out of form Andriy Shevchenko.
Italy 1-1 Ukraine
Moldova v. Bosnia-Herzegovina – Three points to Bosnia.
Moldova 0-2 Bosnia
Hungary v. Turkey – Hungary followed up a 4-1 loss to Norway with a 3-1 win over Bosnia, so it’s difficult to predict which team will decide to show up against Turkey. A 2-0 win over Malta was good enough to move Turkey up to second in the group, but this is superior opposition. It is still a winnable match for them however.
Hungary 2-2 Turkey
Greece v. Norway – The holders play their second qualifier against an in-form Norwegian side. Needing some firepower in attack, Greece recalled Georgios Samaras to the squad. Norway are hoping to extend their winning run and move closer to qualifying.
Greece 1-1 Norway
Wales v. Slovakia – Ryan Giggs is out for Wales and they will be captained by Craig Bellamy. Wales head in as favorites, but there really is no reason why they should be. Slovakia to take the points emphatically.
Wales 0-3 Slovakia
Czech Republic v. San Marino – 13-0 may not be the worst defeat San Marino take in this group.
Czech Republic 8-0 San Marino
Cyprus v. Ireland – Slovakia pumped Cyprus for six goals in their last qualifier, but they face a winnable match against Ireland. Shay Given is out with that bowel injury and manager Steve Staunton really has no idea what he is doing.
Cyprus 2-1 Ireland
Russia v. Israel – Guus Hiddink’s side couldn’t break through against Croatia in their opener, and pressure will be on him to get a win at home. Israel are off to a fantastic start to qualifying and they have an opportunity to get some separation from the other contenders for second spot should they somehow take the points.
Russia 1-1 Israel
England v. Macedonia – The England squad thinks Steve McClaren has no idea what he is doing. That idea has taken away from the previous buildup of England not winning things and Wayne Rooney putting eight into Macedonia’s goal. England will probably manage to only take a point leading to calls for McClaren to be sacked.
England 1-1 Macedonia
Croatia v. Andorra – The current high score against Andorra in the group is five. Croatia will take their shot and perhaps reach double digits.
Croatia 7-0 Andorra
Denmark v. Northern Ireland – Denmark should be worried going into their second qualifing match against Northern Ireland. Last month, Lawrie Sanchez was being questioned about his future with the national team, and he responded with a shock 3-2 win over Spain. The rumors have already started up again. Could it happen again?
Denmark 2-1 N. Ireland
Latvia v. Iceland – Latvia played well in defeat to Sweden last time out and they could be expected to win against easier opposition. Iceland opened with a 3-0 demolition of Northern Ireland, then fell on their faces against Denmark. Eidur Gudjohnsen will probably score and take the national team goalscoring record for himself.
Latvia 2-1 Iceland
Sweden v. Spain – The top two sides in the group battle for supremacy with Spain looking to prove that the defeat at the hands of David Healy was just a fluke. Sweden’s manager Lars Lagerback is under pressure for his handling of moody striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but I see the rest of the squad responding well without the Inter striker. Raul was surprisingly dropped by Spain coach Luis Aragones, which could turn out to be a regrettable decision.
Sweden 1-1 Spain
Romania v. Belarus – The hosts have to be favored for this one as they have looked good in their opening two fixtures, a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria and 2-0 win over Albania. Belarus, on the other hand, are off to a shaky start with a terrible 2-2 draw with Albania being followed up by a destruction at the hands of the Dutch. Romania will probably score a pair, but they could come from anywhere on the pitch.
Romania 2-1 Belarus
Bulgaria v. Netherlands – Marco van Basten has been underfire for his handling of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mark van Bommel, which led to both of their international retirements. With over half the country wanting him sacked if he fails to take maximum points this week, he opens with a difficult trip to Bulgaria. They may be without Dimitar Berbatov, but they have many more attacking options.
Bulgaria 1-2 Netherlands
Slovenia v. Luxembourg – Many, many goals will be scored at the Petrol Arena.
Slovenia 5-0 Luxembourg
October 4, 2006
Then everyone would win with the nation’s star player scoring five times.
Yes it is an international week, and that means not much is going on in terms of anything really. The week preceding the weekend fixture is filled with players giving team talking points about certain players regaining international form, or how great a job their manager is doing. Nevermind the fact they will turn their backs on him once he is sacked for never being able to beat a certain Brazilian manager, everything is about unity.
So today, the England squad are focusing on the play of Wayne Rooney and to a lesser extent Frank Lampard’s inability to score deflected goals for his country. Peter Crouch stated that Rooney was looking to “prove a few people wrong.” I’m sure there might be three people out there that think Rooney isn’t good enough for England, but those people aren’t really worth the time.
After putting the fans behind the goals in Germany under a barrage of mishit shots, Lampard wants to prove his critics wrong. The Chelsea midfielder appears to be regaining some form, but it is not as though his place in the starting eleven is under threat. Scott Parker might be touted as an option, but there is no real chance he is dropped by Steve McClaren.
And finally, the guy who does not sing the national anthem, Gary Neville, said that it is a joke that England hasn’t won anything in over 40 years. Maybe, the joke is on him for buying into the media hype.
October 2, 2006
The official bung inquiry announced its preliminary findings which amounted to Lord Stevens saying he needed more time. [Eurosport]
Those androgynous Euro 2008 mascots face a legal challenge to their very existence. [Reuters]
Ivica Osim continues to not call up European-based players to his Japan squad. [Goal.com]
Boro keeper Mark Schwarzer’s preparation for international action includes criticizing former managers and backup keepers. [The Australian]
Italy are now relegated to calling up players from Serie B’s bottom club. [FOXSports.com]
This is the face of a man who is quickly losing control of his job. Despite being top of their qualifying group, Marco van Basten faces the biggest crisis in his reign as manager of the Netherlands.
Late last week, van Basten recalled Mark van Bommel to his squad. In the process, he was admitting he was wrong to say that the Bayern Munich midfielder had no international future while he was in charge.
Things got even worse when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had to pull out of the squad with an injury. He responded by calling up the other player he said had no international future. In Ruud van Nistelrooy, he was calling up someone who had spent the better part of the week criticizing him for just about anything.
Desperate to humilate the manager of the national team, both van Bommel and van Nistelrooy rejected their call-ups saying they would never play under van Basten again. With gaping holes in midfield and attack, van Basten will likely have to turn to Dirk Kuyt, who has yet to play well at the international level, and Denny Landzaat, who is struggling with Wigan this season, to fill them.
September 29, 2006
Spurs have signed a 15-year-old goalkeeper from Sweden, who should do well in the Championship. [Sky Sports]
Mark van Bommel has been called up for Euro 2008 qualifiers as a reward for not criticizing Marco van Basten, unlike a certain Real Madrid striker. [FOXSports.com]
Gerald Asamoah will be out of the news and out of the Schalke team for a while after breaking his leg in two places. [Reuters]
Raymond Domenech will be carrying on his slave trading practices for another four years, or until France emphatically crash out of Euro 2008 in the group stage. [CNN International]
Kieran Richardson among those comically named in the England squad. [TheFA.com]
September 27, 2006
Kaka is no fan of Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics against Lille last night. [Eurosport]
Bjorn Helge Riise has been called into the Norway squad along with his much more recognizable brother. [CNN International]
Anthony Le Tallec wants nothing to do with Liverpool anymore. [Sky Sports]
Leeds United are taking a look at an Iraqi-born goalkeeper playing at non-league Woking. [ITV]
Sydney FC are replacing their old chairman with the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. [The Australian]
September 26, 2006
Newcastle assistant Kevin Bond is the first to feel the fallout from the BBC Panorama program last week. [BBC]
Daniel Carvalho may be leaving CSKA Moscow for Bordeaux in January. [Sky Sports]
Ruud van Nistelrooy opts to avoid the diplomatic route to ending his international career. [SI.com]
Raul doesn’t believe his international career is coming to an end. [International Herald Tribune]
Sven-Goran Eriksson is close to deciding which team should have the honor of having him as manager. [The Australian]
September 21, 2006
Dimitar Berbatov is going to get even further acquainted with the physio staff at Spurs. [uefa.com]
Gordon Strachan believes that the Old Firm derby has lost its luster. Maybe the five or six meetings a season has something to do with that. [Sporting Life]
A good start to life in the Premiership means that Reading feels it needs to expand the Madejski Stadium. [Soccerway]
Claudio Pizarro is using the lure of the Premiership, or Serie A, or La Liga to secure a new contract with Bayern Munich. [Eurosport]
And defeat in a bar fight has ended New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph’s season. [The Boston Globe]
September 20, 2006
In the weeks after being kicked out of the Sweden squad before a Euro 2008 qualifier against Liechtenstein, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has repeatedly come out against playing for his country in the immediate future. Could he really be so upset about the punishment for violating a curfew that the feelings would linger this long? Could he be putting off his international career to try to find the form he had many moons ago?
More likely playing for Sweden is really just boring for him. Playing against Latvia, Liechtenstein and Northern Ireland is beneath him. Just like Henrik Larsson, he will probably say he wants to play for Sweden again right before the European Championships.
On the other hand, the Swedish FA probably overreacted a bit. If they were playing Spain the next day, they probably have every right to force the curfew because preparation is vital. However, it was Liechtenstein and they saw a chance to lay down some punishment with no chance of it costing them on the pitch. Quite frankly, they should have known that Zlatan would react in the way he has.
Well it gives them a chance to find someone who can take their place, or it could cost Lars Lagerback his job.