Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Lazio, Serie A champions in 2000 but largely also-rans ever since, came up with a not very new idea before the season to try to boost their fortunes this term.
An eagle, the symbol of the Rome club, flies around the Stadio Olimpico before home games for good luck.
So far it’s working, with Lazio top after six games. In fact, apart from England, Europe’s main leagues have a distinctly refreshing look in early October with Valencia ahead in Spain, Mainz producing miracles to win seven out of seven in Germany and Stade Rennes first in France.
Some Italian animal rights activists are unhappy with the use of the eagle but Lazio say the bird is treated well and could point to the fact they borrwed the idea from Benfica, who have had an eagle flying around before important matches for years.
Yet here we are again at the start of another European season. In fact the likes of Juventus and Liverpool have already begun competitive action in Europa League qualifiers and this weekend France’s Ligue 1 begins and England’s Community Shield pits double winners Chelsea against runners-up Manchester United.
Rules and competition formats which apply to other sports can rarely be implemented in soccer but UEFA may want to have a look at the benefits of a European club basketball formula if it is to further improve the Europa League.
The winners of Eurocup, the continent’s second-tier club basketball competition, win a berth in the Euroleague — the equivalent of
football’s Champions League — and the move has had only a
positive effect in attendances and the overall quality of teams.
Europe’s 53 national teams have been split into nine groups with the winners of each qualifying directly for South Africa. The best eight runners-up will play off among themselves over two legs next month for the remaining four slots. The runner-up with the worst record will miss out on a playoff berth entirely.
Usually, deciding the worst runners-up would be a simple case of comparing the respective team records. But there is one small snag — namely Group Nine, which has only five teams while all the others have six sides.
The US national team beat European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup and give Brazil a scare in the final. In the NFL heartland of Baltimore, 71,000 turn out to watch Chelsea v AC Milan.
In Pasadena, Chelsea v Inter Milan pulls in 81,000.
David Beckham gets booed and jeered on his return for L.A Galaxy and the American sporting public laps it up – top sports talk shows, which usually ignore soccer other than to mock the game occasionally, lead their bulletins on the issue.
Having seen the changes at the top of the Bundesliga in the past few months you cannot help but feel sorry for newcomers Hoffenheim, who have played some of the most exciting football this season.
They won promotion last year and halfway through the season they topped the standings in a sensational run. They shared the top spot at the halfway mark with Bayern Munich but were ahead on goal difference and style of play.