Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
In the heady days of Istanbul and Athens when Liverpool fans considered anything less than a trip to the Champions League final a disappointing campaign, the Kop would regularly belt out: “We have the best midfield in the world.”
It was the formidable midfield combination of Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and later Javier Mascherano that spurred the Anfield faithful into song.
The midfield quartet of Lucas Leiva, Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic and Maxi Rodriguez could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as the best in the world and as the Reds toiled in the Midlands sunshine it soon became clear it wasn’t even the best one on the pitch.
Wayne Rooney has been taking, and largely ignoring, abuse from Everton supporters for six years but Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson decided on Saturday that a garnish of tabloid tittle-tattle on top the traditional “Judas” fare was too much.
“He gets terrible abuse here and I’m not going to subject him to that,” Ferguson said when explaining his decision to leave the England striker out of the remarkable 3-3 draw.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter is well known for coming up with some odd ideas and this latest seems as strange as any.
Blatter has admitted that there was too much negative football at the World Cup and believes that one way of improving things would be to scrap extra-time after drawn knockout matches.
Argentina have not suddenly become world champions after beating Spain 4-1 nor have the Spanish lost the sheen of their World Cup victory.
For Argentine fans, though, the performance more than the result gives them hope for a fresh start, possibly with Sergio Batista at the helm right through to Brazil 2014.
A tricky start to the season in which manager Martin O’Neill left before a ball was kicked, midfielder James Milner joined Manchester City and the club limped out of the Europa League, Aston Villa were in need of steady hands. Gerard Houllier should be just the man.
The 63-year-old Frenchman, who won five trophies with Liverpool and three French league titles, has swapped his job as technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF) for the Villa hot seat and brings a wealth of experience with him.
Most sports fans love an underdog but I suspect many people watching Liechtenstein’s approach against Scotland on Tuesday will have been relieved for the Scots when Stephen McManus popped up to head his side’s winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
In soccer, for a minor team to hold or even beat one of the big boys, there is usually some spoiling involved and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, there is a difference between robust tackling and honest battling and some of the things on show at Hampden Park on Tuesday – and all too often before.
Trying to read anything into Spain’s 4-1 defeat in Argentina is tough considering it was a friendly. Did the world champions take it too lightly? Was Del Bosque right to field Pepe Reina in goal with fringe players Nacho Monreal, Alvaro Arbeloa and Carlos Marchena in the back four for a match that was never going to be that ‘friendly’?
Or was it that Argentina really got it together under new coach Sergio Batista?
Spain started poorly conceding two goals in the first 13 minutes and the third came after an embarrassing slip from Reina in the 34th, but they responded well in the second half and hit the woodwork three times overall.
So Fabio Capello’s masterstroke in revitalising Wayne Rooney and turning England from World Cup no-hopers to instant Euro 2012 favourites was….to tell the Manchester United striker to hang back a bit.
That sage advice, if most of the English press is to be believed, transformed England’s formation from a prehistoric 4-4-2 to the liquid 4-5-1 that all the modern young bucks were using in South Africa.
As the dust settles after the end of the transfer window, Italian soccer fans are gradually coming to terms with a possible shift in power at the top.
No one is outwardly saying it, but whispers and hints abound. AC Milan may finally have a squad capable off wrestling the title off Inter Milan after five long years.