Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Premature move for Swiss prodigy Ben Khalifa?


SOCCER-EUROPE/SWITZERLANDThe Swiss Super League is certainly not the strongest in the world but it’s a fairly safe bet to say that it beats the German fourth division. So why has 18-year-old Nassim Ben Khalifa, one of Switzerland’s most exciting prospects, swapped the former for the latter?

Last year, Ben Khalifa hit the headlines when he led the attack in the Swiss team which surprised everyone by winning the world under-17 championship in Nigeria.

He was runner-up in the vote for the best player of the tournament and also scored four goals. Back home, he was a regular first-team player in his debut professional season for Grasshoppers, scoring eight goals as he helped them finish third in the table.

In the midst of all this, German Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg stepped him and snapped him up for the 2010-2011 season. Yet they appear to have little intention of fielding him any time soon. Ben Khalifa told Swiss media this week that he is fifth or sixth in the strikers’ pecking order and would have to fight for his place with Edin Dzeko and Grafite, the two players who have topped the Bundesliga scoring charts in the last two seasons.

Tougher action needed on soccer ‘simulation’


SOCCER-WORLDChile’s Group H game against Switzerland was wrecked as a spectacle by the dismissal of Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami for what the referee saw as a serious foul on Chile’s Arturo Vidal — to the disbelief of Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and his players.

It was an incident that changed the game from a nicely balanced encounter into one where Switzerland were forced to defend with 10 men for the best part of an hour eventually losing 1-0.

Swiss breathe much-needed life into World Cup



Who would have thought it would fall to Switzerland to rescue the World Cup from drowning in a sea of tedium?

Until the nation that voted against giving itself an extra day’s public holiday stunned European champions Spain 1-0 in Durban on Wednesday, the first week of the World Cup had been desperately disappointing.

Hiddink factor should give Spain pause for thought


Hiddink celebrates

Spain are trying to keep the lid on the euphoria after their breaking their quarter-final curse with a penalty shoot-out victory over world champions Italy.

Because of the vagaries of the draw for Euro 2008, “la furia roja” now face Russia in the semi-finals, the team they beat 4-1 in their opening match of the tournament.

Great train journeys of Euro 2008


A Sweden fan’s disappointmentAs a reporter at Euro 2008 you’re only as good as the team or teams you are covering and after Sweden and Romania’s elimination from the finals, I was the first of the Reuters team to pack my bags and go home.

It was disappointment tinged with relief as the call came after Sweden’s defeat by Russia. Exhaustion was beginning to catch up with me, so my own bed in Brussels was a very attractive offer.

Hey UEFA, leave them finals alone!


Klose scores

As someone once famously said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

They were not talking about the finals of the European Championship at the time, but the phrase certianly applies. UEFA, under pressure it must be said from some of their 53 member associations, are weighing up the pros and cons of expanding the Euros to either a 20 or 24-team tournament.

Ronaldo’s heart set on Madrid. Time for United to cash in?


Ronaldo reactsCristiano Ronaldo told Real Madrid what they wanted to hear when he reacted to Portugal’s Euro 2008 exit with a clear indication of what he has in mind for his future.

Ronaldo was careful never to mention the words Real or Madrid when he spoke to reporters in Spanish at the end of the match in Basel but his words still did not leave much to the imagination.

Germans incensed by another harsh penalty


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.

Germany’s political football


Merkel talks to Loew

Germany’s general election may still be a year away, but the challengers are already battling it out for the big political prize on unlikely territory — at Euro 2008.

Both conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democratic rival, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, are going to great lengths to associate themselves with the German team.

From underdogs to champions, fun is a banned word with Greece


Greece training

From a tiny second division Portuguese stadium to the luxurious surroundings and facilities of an Alpine sports centre, Greece are feeling like true defending champions at the Euro 2008.

The atmosphere, however, is not nearly as happy as it was in Portugal.

Four years ago when Greece settled in Vila do Conde, a sleepy seaside town in the estuary of the Ave river north of Porto, noone, including myself would have ever dreamt that a few weeks later coach Otto Rehhagel’s men would be crowned champions of Europe.