Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
The festive season is upon us but, just like turkeys, Premier League managers will be getting a bit twitchy after two of their brotherhood fell to the axe in the past week.
The fact that both victims were ruthlessly dispatched with their sides doing reasonably well will only add to the sense of trepidation.
First Chris Hughton was sacked by Newcastle United despite winning promotion last term and steering the Magpies into the top half of the table.
Then on Monday Sam Allardyce was booted out by Blackburn Rovers despite winning four of his previous seven league matches — a decision Alex Ferguson described as “absolutely ridiculous.”
AC Milan are flying high at the top of Serie A but Ronaldinho is stuck to the bench with Massimiliano Allegri-branded glue.
The struggling Brazilian has started once in the last nine games and that was in the lacklustre 2-0 home defeat by Ajax Amsterdam, Milan’s only loss during the spell.
Jose Mourinho’s gamble of swapping Champions League holders Inter Milan for recent underachievers Real Madrid looks to have paid off following a group stage where his new side excelled.
In contrast, Inter stumbled through to the last 16 in wholly unconvincing fashion, suggesting the coach with the Midas touch was right to bet the Italians would not be able to repeat the highs of last season’s glorious treble.
After Newcastle United chalked up their biggest home win over local rivals Sunderland for more than half a century in October, crushing their biggest rivals 5-1, the first question manager Chris Hughton was asked was whether he thought the victory had made his job safe.
Such is the quicksand that the north-east club has been built on in recent years that even a result that once would have warmed their fans through the coldest of north-east winters proved only a short-term reprieve for an honest, straightforward, likeable and successful manager.
Since July’s World Cup final, which attracted an official attendance of 84 490, the crowds at Johannesburg’s Soccer City have been getting bigger and bigger.
On Saturday the attendance record was beaten again when South Africa hosted its League Cup final at the venue.
So it will be Qatar and not the United States who host the 2022 World Cup finals – a decision from FIFA’s executive committee that left many fans in the U.S. angry, dismayed and a little confused.
The machinations of FIFA decision making are far from transparent as U.S Soccer chief Sunil Gulati implicitly acknowledged when he said that the vote wasn’t just about the merits of the bid: “It’s politics, it’s friendships and relationships, it’s alliances, it’s tactics.”
We’ll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA’s executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.
The chill winds of corruption allegations swirling once again around FIFA’s Zurich HQ have got world soccer’s bosses busy battening down the hatches in the forlorn hope that, if ignored, they will all just blow away.
But if they were to peep out of the windows of their ivory tower overlooking the Swiss financial centre they might see that, in the eyes of much of the world, it is their credibility that is blown and that the process of selecting the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals has been seriously tainted.
1. Lionel Messi is a more effective “big game player” than Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese may be the world’s most expensive player but Argentina forward Messi has got the better of the man whom he succeeded as World Player of the Year on their last four meetings.
So Wayne Rooney says he would only have left Manchester United to go abroad. Could the fact that foreign suitors seemed shy to express any interest have anything to do with his sudden U-turn to stay at the Premier League club?
Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho was right in his prediction that Rooney would stay after all. He told United to ”give me call” if the striker’s departure was on the cards but never went further than that.