Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

The year’s biggest letdowns, starting with Quaresma

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The year is coming to an end, which means it is time for football’s annual awards, including the mischievous top-of-the-flops variety.

In Italy listeners of Rai radio show Catersport voted Inter Milan’s 18.6-million-euro signing Ricardo Quaresma Serie A’s worst player of 2008.

With Cristiano Ronaldo winning the Ballon d’Or and favourite for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, there’s a nice symmetry about another Portuguese player taking a top booby prize.

It’s a spectacular showing in a way, as Quaresma has only been in Serie A since the close season, but still got almost twice as many votes as his nearest rival for the ‘Golden Bin’ gong, Atalanta’s former Italy striker Christian Vieri.

Who´s afraid of the Premier League? Not Serie A

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With English clubs so competitive in the Champions League in recent years, you might have expected Italy to react with trepidation after Inter Milan, Juventus and AS Roma were pitched against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in the last 16.

The teams in question betrayed no nerves after the draw, although they could hardly be expected to raise the white flag before a kick of the ball.

Where has the art of Italian defending gone?

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During the 1980s and 90s, Italian defences were world-renowned as the toughest of the lot.

The word catenaccio became known in other languages and jokes about boring Italian teams winning 1-0 were all the rage.

You can’t beat Barca v Real or Juve against Milan

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There was a lot of fuss about Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim and Chelsea v Arsenal in the last few weeks but for me this weekend offers the best two games in domestic football.

Saturday’s El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid and Sunday’s clash between Juventus and AC Milan both have real tradition and a zest which Europe’s nouveau riche clubs can only dream of.

Mourinho mind games may backfire in Champions League

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Although Inter coach Jose Mourinho believes a tough draw in the Champions League last 16 will shock his side out of their European malaise, the damage may already have been done.

The Serie A champions have remained true to Italian form by limping through the group stages, losing twice, drawing twice and winning convincingly only once.

Is Ronaldinho more trouble than he’s worth?

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Ronaldinho has returned to form since joining AC Milan from Barcelona, producing some nice assists and seven goals in Serie A.

According to Kaka though, the close-season arrival of his Brazil team mate has also mucked up the tactical balance of the seven-times European champions.

Lippi enters the Respect debate – but is he on the losing side?

One of the benefits of being a World Cup-winning manager is that nobody complains if you turn up at a party and start badmouthing the hosts – they’re too grateful you came in the first place.

Italy boss Marcello Lippi did that this week when he reprimanded his country’s professional footballers for their treatment of referees at a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of their union, the AIC.

Let’s take ‘deliberately’ out of the handball law

I have a suggestion on how to clear up inconsistencies with handballs.

Law 12 states that “a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player…handles the ball deliberately”.                                                                  

In reality, we all know this rule isn’t always applied correctly. When the ball strikes a hand or an arm which is well away from the body and all the stadium can see it, the referee will invariably give a foul whether it was deliberate or not (we can also argue whether the player is being naive by having his arms flailing about).

Adriano ‘the animal’ is still to find his bite

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Adriano is surely one of the most frustrating players in the world.

The Brazilian has all the assets needed to be one of the very best strikers — power, pace and guile — yet he has wasted several opportunities to show he can be consistently good.

Indiscipline is part of his problem. Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho left him out for five games after he ignored his orders in a league match, stayed out at a night club and turned up late for training.

Mourinho v Ranieri is a veritable grudge match

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It’s hard to think of two coaches in the world with such an apparent dislike of one another as Inter’s Jose Mourinho and Juve’s Claudio Ranieri.

Even Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have got on better of late and the only coach to have real gripes with new Argentina boss Diego Maradona is Scotland no. 2 Terry Butcher.

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