Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
It’s gone quiet on the football news front though the sun’s still out in Europe as we await another weekend of unrelenting on-pitch drama in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Anyone out there lucky enough to be attending the Serbia v Northern Ireland match? 240 fans got the nod.
World Cup winners Spain are also playing against Czech Republic. Fascinating country Spain, full of interesting dynamics. Read here for a thorough explanation.
Sticking with politics, and Libya’s qualification for the 2012 London Olympics could be in danger after the conflict in north Africa.
Happy middle of the week to you all, and if like me you are in London where the sun is out and there is very little football to write about, you are forgiven for thinking the season is over and the grasscourt tennis season is about to kick in.
Don’t look so worried, David (right). While the weather will probably change before I’ve finished writing this blog, the good news is it’s only March and there is plenty more football left. It’s just this week it’s the international break.
Having previously confessed to the heresy of being largely bored by the style of Spain’s “beautifully crafted” triumphs in the European championship and World Cup I went along to the Emirates on Wednesday fully primed to observe another dose of “football for the purist” guaranteed to keep me safely in my seat.
However, even with six of the World Cup-winning side in their side, Barcelona are not Spain and, to my delight, I saw a display of passing with purpose rather than the all-too-familiar passing to go nowhere and there were plenty of “on your feet” moments as they ripped holes in Arsenal’s defence.
Fifth division Chambery’s stunning win over top-flight Sochaux to reach the French Cup quarter-finals has got a lot of people talking and I think it’s fair to say domestic cup competitions around Europe are enjoying a bit of a resurgence.
As this week proved with other games, Cup shocks are nothing new in France – something I knew before moving to Paris on Monday — but the fact newspapers and fans are stilll excited about Chambery’s run speaks volumes.
We’ll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA’s executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.
Vicente del Bosque has been given a welcome more befitting a rock star than a soccer coach in his native Salamanca this week, where his World Cup-winning Spain team play Lithuania in a Euro 2012 qualifier.
Thousands of cheering and screaming Salmantinos, as locals are known, packed the modest Helmantico stadium on Thursday to hail the mild-mannered 59-year-old and watch their heroes such as captain Iker Casillas train for Friday’s Group I match.
Trying to read anything into Spain’s 4-1 defeat in Argentina is tough considering it was a friendly. Did the world champions take it too lightly? Was Del Bosque right to field Pepe Reina in goal with fringe players Nacho Monreal, Alvaro Arbeloa and Carlos Marchena in the back four for a match that was never going to be that ‘friendly’?
Or was it that Argentina really got it together under new coach Sergio Batista?
Spain started poorly conceding two goals in the first 13 minutes and the third came after an embarrassing slip from Reina in the 34th, but they responded well in the second half and hit the woodwork three times overall.
So Fabio Capello’s masterstroke in revitalising Wayne Rooney and turning England from World Cup no-hopers to instant Euro 2012 favourites was….to tell the Manchester United striker to hang back a bit.
That sage advice, if most of the English press is to be believed, transformed England’s formation from a prehistoric 4-4-2 to the liquid 4-5-1 that all the modern young bucks were using in South Africa.
Raul’s decision to join Schalke 04 in Germany rather than one of the English sides interested in taking him will have plenty of Real Madrid fans scratching their heads, I suspect. “What is he doing going to the Bundesliga when he could have gone to la Premier?” I can hear them ask. ”What a step down after playing for Real in the Best League In The World (TM)!” “And where is this Schalke place anyway?”
So pretty good news for the Bundesliga then, eh? It’s rare for a player of Raul’s considerable reputation, and even more distinguished salary, to choose Germany over England and he hasn’t even gone to Bayern, the one big beast of the Bundesliga.
Spanish sports fans have never had it so good.
The Iberian nation is celebrating its latest triumphs after a month of success that local media have called a golden age.
On Sunday, Alberto Contador sealed his third Tour de France title, Fernando Alonso won the German Formula One Grand Prix, and Jorge Lorenzo roared to MotoGP victory in the U.S.