Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Elbows out, dictaphones at the ready — let battle commence

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A post-training mixed zoneFor most football fans, it would be a dream come true — go along and meet your favourite player and ask him anything you want.

That is the deluded view that led me to be excited when I was sent to my first “mixed zone”,  where players are available for quick interviews as they walk past reporters when leaving the stadium after a match.

Bruised and battered from a lot of tactical shoving and suffering from a severe overdose of testosterone (not ideal when you’re a woman), I’m thinking more war zone than mixed zone.

Elbows fly as dozens of hungry newshounds battle for position in the hope of getting a juicy quote — or most likely yet another tired cliché — from the player of the moment. You have to pick your position: avoid standing next to a cameraman (that’s a big bit of equipment to be hit with, trust me I know) and avoid anyone who may have dubious personal hygiene (you are going to get very close to them).

It may be time for Koller to step down

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Koller in action against the Swiss

There’s just a few hours to go before the Czech Republic take on Portugal and the Koller question is foremost in my mind.

There is no disputing Jan Koller’s impressive goalscoring record - 54 goals in 88 internationals – so you can understand why coach Karel Brueckner picks him time and again.

All-time Euro XI: anyone here who could make it?

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Van Basten headsNow we’ve seen all 16 teams in action at Euro 2008, here’s a question for you. Could anyone here play their way into the All-time Greats XI?

I first saw a match in the European Nations Cup, as it then was, in 1968 when England beat Spain 1-0 in a qualifier at Wembley to reach the four-team finals in Italy.

Should ref have called Van Nistelrooy goal offside?

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Players react to Van Nistelrooy’s goal

Some you win and some you lose but it looks like almost every journalist and most TV commentators, as well as the Italian players, were totally wrong in claiming Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s opening goal against Italy in Netherlands’ 3-0 win in Berne on Monday was offside.

UEFA have confirmed that referee Peter Frojdfeldt and his assistant Stefan Wittberg were absolutely correct in awarding the goal. UEFA general secretary David Taylor said the ref interpreted Law 11 relating to offside correctly and the reason why is this:

Italy lack cohesion and fans

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Dutch parade

World champions Italy had no cohesion, no passion and no luck in their 3-0 defeat by the Dutch, but they also had something else important missing — fans.

The Stade de Suisse in Berne was three-quarters orange with only a small section of the 30,000 crowd speckled with blue shirts. Italian fans have never travelled well but with Milan just hours away by train, it was bizarre that the Dutch outnumbered them so hugely for the Euro 2008 Group C opener.

Spain are heavily fancied for Euro 2008, but problems remain

I’m a bit worried about Spain. I’m not talking about the credit crunch, rising unemployment and the end of the housing boom here, I’m talking about their chances at Euro 2008.

When the draw took place last year, the Spanish press were celebrating that la selección had avoided the European big guns, but as the tournament has drawn near it has dawned on many that making the last 16 may not be such an easy task.

Will Ronaldo A or B dominate the Euros?

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The start of Ronaldo C?

So now we’ve seen him, the media-acclaimed superstar-elect of Euro 2008, Mr Cristiano Ronaldo.

He didn’t tear up any trees but played pretty well in Portugal’s opening 2-0 win over Turkey. He was denied a goal by a fingertip save that touched a first-half free kick on to a post, made several positive runs and had a hand in the second goal. He did not dominate the game but was a constant lively threat. There is almost certainly more to come, in bigger games, but are you a fan or a doubter?

Euro 2008: For the anoraks, it all points to Germany

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Ballack speaks at a news conference

Sat with my anorak on in Vienna in the Reuters Euro 2008 office I spent much of the week in the build-up to Euro 2008 buried in weird and wonderful statistics … and a lot of them point to Germany winning.

For example, the last time the Germans played on the second day of a European Championship final tournament was at Euro 96 in England. They beat the Czech Republic 2-0 at Old Trafford, Manchester and went on to lift the trophy for the third time.

Non-native Turks pen letters of pride for Euro 2008

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Turkish delight?The Turkish Football Federation has handed out a glossy brochure to reporters entitled “Letters to Euro 2008″.

The book, available in Turkish and English, is a collection of letters written by players and coaching staff in their own handwriting and detailing their thoughts about the tournament and the national team.

Euro 2008: Conjugal visits for Croatia

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has banned visits to his Euro 2008 camp by friends and acquaintances but he is happy to let his players enjoy an afternoon with their wives and girlfriends … as long as they announce their visits in advance and don’t disrupt the morning and evening training sessions.

Bilic started the Euro 2008 campaign by sending home three players for a binge-drinking escapade ahead of their first qualifier against Russia in Moscow but he is unlikely to have such problems here.

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