Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Xabi Alonso’s 30th birthday on Friday has prompted an avalanche of praise for the Real Madrid midfielder and has also served to highlight the former Liverpool man’s importance in coach Jose Mourinho’s plans for Spanish and European domination.
Widely regarded as one of the finest players of his generation, as well as one of the most astute purchases by big-spending Real president Florentino Perez, the quietly-spoken Alonso has gone from strength to strength since joining Real for a fee of 35 million euros ($47 million) at the end of the 2008-09 season.
Spraying passes around the pitch from the centre of midfield with consumate ease and unleashing a crunching tackle when necessary, he is the well-oiled cog at the heart of Mourinho’s Real machine and it would be hard to see them mounting a realistic challenge to great rivals Barcelona without him.
Mourinho has used him more than any other player this season, more even than captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Three Premier League defeats in four games and Champions League last 16 qualification compromised. The last few weeks have been very tough for Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas.
Previous managers Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Avram Grant and Carlo Ancelotti were dismissed seemingly for less by ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.
Those who arrived late to the Republic of Ireland’s party in Dublin could be forgiven for wondering what was going on as 10 years of hurt were banished and Euro 2012 qualification was assured.
Ten years to the day after they last secured qualification for a major tournament (beating Iran in a playoff to make the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea), the Irish rounded off a resounding 5-1 aggregate victory over Estonia to book their place at Euro 2012.
Have Argentina, the world’s biggest exporters of soccer players, lost their feeling for the national colours Diego Maradona wore with such pride and passion? Has the ever increasing exodus of players to Europe dented their edge, made them soft?
Fans’ opinions on websites after Argentina’s pale 1-1 draw with Bolivia, the first time their neighbours have taken a point in nine World Cup qualifiers this side of the border, suggest that’s what they are thinking.
A goal and commanding performance in Friday’s 2-0 friendly win in Poland followed other good displays for Manchester City, notably the 6-1 hammering of Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The deft chip on the run with which Fernando Torres beat Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to seal Spain’s 1-0 victory in the final of Euro 2008 gave the success-starved Iberian nation their first major trophy in 44 years.
A new tell-all autobiography by Zlatan Ibrahimovic is already making headlines in Sweden this year — the question is whether anyone outside of the Scandinavian country will notice.
“I am Zlatan” will hit the shelves on November 15, in good time for the Christmas market, and already journalists are being offered the chance to read and report on excerpts from it.
FIFA has failed to act on allegations that Burkina Faso flouted rules on fielding foreign-born players on their way to qualifying for the African Nations Cup.
In doing so, soccer’s governing body has potentially opened the floodgates for other teams to do the same.
No sooner had Molde stumbled across the finish line to win their first Norwegian league title in their hundred-year history than the speculation had started.
Would Molde coach and former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be the man to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at the English champions when the 69-year-old finally decides to retire?
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was quick to say that his team’s 6-1 mauling of arch-rivals United meant little more than another three points in the bag, but the Italian must surely be hoping it could signal a shift in the balance of power.
Having knocked Liverpool off their perch when they won a record 19th league title last season, United now face the prospect of playing second fiddle to City in England and Manchester, should their heaviest defeat to their neighbours in 56 years prove to be more than just a temporary setback.