Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Is seeding the World Cup play-offs playing fair?

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For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and for every FIFA marketing slogan there is a subsequent decision that can make fans wonder if world football’s governing body is being serious.

Fair Play Please” is the current favourite but how, exactly, does that square with the decision to make the European zone World Cup playoffs a seeded affair?

Nowhere in the acres of pre-qualifying regulations was there a suggestion that the playoffs would be seeded but now the good people of Zurich have realised that some of the biggest names in the game could be involved in the November home and away matches, the new rule has been presented as a fait accompli.

So the eight teams in the playoffs will be seeded according to their FIFA ranking — conveniently avoiding the prospect of France playing, say, Portugal and one of the continent’s big guns being forced to miss out.

The all-star XI in World Cup trouble

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Some of football’s biggest names, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are in danger of missing out on next year’s World Cup, as countries such as Argentina, Portugal and France struggle in qualification.

Most, if not quite all of them, may make it in the end, of course, but for a bit of pre-weekend qualifier fun, here’s my stab at a world XI wtill fretting over their places at South Africa 2010.

Pepe’s Zidane moment could cost Real dear

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Real Madrid’s Portuguese defender Pepe faces a lengthy ban that could extend to the end of the season after he had an astonishing Zinedine Zidane moment against Getafe on Tuesday.

I had the evening off and watched the match in a Madrid bar and the looks of disbelief on the faces of the punters around me reminded me of the reaction to the Frenchman’s headbutt in the World Cup final in Berlin in 2006.

Does Ronaldo’s strike rank among the greatest?

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s thunderous strike in Manchester United’s 1-0 win at Porto has been hailed as a wonder goal, but just how good was it?

Few could find such power on a shot from 40 metres, few would even try to shoot from there. The context of the game, where United needed to win to reach the Champions League semi-finals, also adds weight to the argument that it was one of European football’s great goals.

Mourinho up to his old tricks at Inter Milan

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Mourinho, known as ‘Mou’ by the Italian press

When Jose Mourinho first arrived at Inter Milan, I was expecting fireworks.

His sharp wit and tongue while at Chelsea won him fans and enemies in equal measure but no one could say the ’Special One’ was dull. 

However, in his first couple of months at the Italian champions, the Portuguese seemed somewhat withdrawn. Was this a new, more measured Mourinho? Would he just do the day job and then hide away in his new surroundings?

Vlog on the pitch – Reactions to Scolari’s arrival

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Luiz Felipe Scolari held his first news conference as Chelsea manager on Tuesday.

Regular vlogonthepitch pundit Pedro Redig attended the event and spoke to journalists from Brazil (Fernando Duarte, O Globo) and Portugal (Alexandre Albuquerque, RTP) where Scolari made a name for himself as an international manager.

Scolari the showman could outdo Mourinho

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Luiz Felipe ScolariHowever Chelsea’s fortunes unfold on the field during the coming season, the presence of new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari at Stamford Bridge should guarantee no shortage of entertainment off it.

Scolari gave an impressive performance on Tuesday in his first news conference since taking the helm of the London club, speaking in excellent English and providing Chelsea’s fans with exactly the news they wanted to hear about Frank Lampard staying.

Germans incensed by another harsh penalty

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Loew in training

UEFA’s decision to banish mild-mannered coach Joachim Loew from the touchline for Thursday’s quarter-final against Portugal is being put down to anti-German feeling by a lot of people here, a suspicion fanned by the angry response from German FA bosses.

It’s not the first time Germany have been hit with what neutral observers (I’d like to consider myself one of those) might view as a rather harsh penalty just before a critical match.

Ronaldo and total football may not be the winning formula

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Shirtless RonaldoTotal football is everywhere these days, in newspaper headlines and pub conversations. A few exciting performances from attack-minded teams at Euro 2008 and we’re back in the 1970s. Endless guitar solos, long greasy hair and flying Dutchmen.

On one side, you have the likes of Portugal, the Dutch or Spain, a bunch of daring young artists delighting football romantics with their wizardry. On the other side are the usual suspects, Italy and France, ageing cynics boring everybody with their cast-iron back fours and tireless holding midfielders.

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.

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