Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

from Africa News blog:

Togo need a miracle

It is hard to fathom what the motivation for Jean Thissen’s decision would be. He takes on the job as national team coach of Togo just over two weeks before the resumption of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers and with the very real prospect of having to do without his best player.

Thissen is the third new coach to take over at the helm of a side who are still in the World Cup race and set out at the end of this month on the final leg of the fight for one of the five berths for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

The 63-year-old, who is a former Belgian international and has coached in Gabon, Morocco and Tunisia, parachutes in to take charge of Togo’s team after Frenchman Henri Stambouli walked out last year.

But talk of taking on the virtually impossible. ‘Les Eperviers’ (the sparrowhawks) have the most daunting start to their Group A campaign, starting on March 28 against Cameroon on neutral territory in Accra where Togo are forced to play their home matches because of a ban on their own stadium in Lome.

Vlog on the Pitch talks title racing with Wenger

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Join vlogmeister Owen Wyatt as he takes the plunge and asks John Arne Riise whether he’s still a better player than Andrea Dossena, the man who replaced him at Anfield.

And talking of the Premier League, Arsene Wenger thinks Liverpool’s title hopes are still alive, and that none of the top teams are playing to their full potential. Dare to disagree with Wenger? Let us know in the comments, or record your own video rant and send us a link. If we like it, we’ll embed it here.

So are we set for another all-English Champions League final?

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There’s still a long way to go to the final in Rome but from what we saw over the first legs of the opening knock-out round of the Champions League a lot of people will be expecting another all-English affair at the Olympic Stadium.

If you take Mark’s dad as an authority, and I’m sure he knows as much as anyone, serie A sides are unlikely still to be challenging but is there anyone else capable of preventing another Premier League tour match?

And then there was one… the Special One

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Sir Alex Ferguson wrote off Chelsea’s title hopes in the middle of last week and what the Scot was charitably calling a two-horse race was down to one on Sunday, as Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City.

Strange things happen in football — look to the Spanish League, where Real Madrid suddenly look like giving Barcelona a run for their money – but surely nothing will stop Manchester United now.

from Left field:

Sports picture of the day

Split seconds count in sports photography. Reuters Sports Pictures editor Greg Bos thinks London-based photographer Eddie Keogh captured the moment perfectly when former Arsenal captain William Gallas went head over heels to the ground during an FA Cup match.

CAPTION: Arsenal's William Gallas (top) challenges Cardiff City's Jay Bothroyd during their FA Cup fourth round replay soccer match at the Emirates Stadium in London February 16, 2009. REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh (BRITAIN)

Liverpool hopes rest entirely on Torres

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We all have those items that we simply cannot afford to lose, your wallet, phone, house keys, mp3 player etc, but for Rafa Benitez he will have to find space in his thoughts, if not on the bedside table, for his priceless Spanish striker Fernando Torres.

Bentitez’s willingness to allow Robbie Keane to return to Tottenham after only a few dismal months rather than stick with the Irishman, a proven goalscorer in the Premier league, leaves Liverpool desperately short of striking options, should Torres lose form or fitness in the title run in.

Arshavin: the last man through the window may be slow to adapt

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Arsenal’s signing of Russia’s most talented player Andrei Arshavin on the final day of the transfer window (just about) brought an end to months of speculation, but will he or any of the other January transfers make an impact in what is left of the Premier League season?

If Arsene Wenger’s previous transfers are anything to go by Arshavin, like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Mathieu Flamini before him, will need a settling-in period to adapt to Arsenal’s distinctive patient style. Unfortunately for the Gunners, who are five points off the Champions League places, time is running out.

Ashley Cole’s word of advice on autobiographies

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Chelsea are back up to second in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s glamour clash at Liverpool, but life as a professional footballer is not always so rosy – especially if you write a book.

England and Chelsea defender Ashley Cole recently warned players not to release an autobiography if they are already enduring a bit of a rough treatment from the press and/or supporters.

The sad case of Patrick Vieira

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Portsmouth are interested in bringing Inter Milan’s Patrick Vieira back to England.

The only problem is that the former Arsenal man is injured…again. 

I’ve been the Reuters sports correspondent in Milan for nearly two years and I have interviewed Vieira more times than I have seen him play live.

Here’s a simple way to stop fixture fuming

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Somebody must have bought Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger a calculator each for Christmas because both managers have done their sums and criticised the Premier League’s fixture programme.

After the United boss wondered aloud if the league was handicapping his club through their fixture list, his Arsenal counterpart crunched the numbers over the weekend

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