Some juicy details about the Galaxy’s failed Beckham Experiement will soon be revealed in Grant Wahl’s upcoming book (pictured above). It’s hard not to respect Landon Donovan and Alexi Lalas a little more after hearing about the sordid affair which saw Becks come and go like Sunday morning. Sports Illustrated has released lengthy excerpts, which you can read in full after the jump
Football’s a funny old game, isn’t it? Entering the final day of group play in the Confederations Cup, none of the four teams in Group B had guaranteed their birth in the semifinals of the tournament. The United States needed to beat Egypt by a score of exactly 3-0 while Italy lose by the same scoreline to Brazil, for a chance to advance.
It may not carry much meaning, but you can’t accuse this year’s Confed Cup of lacking some heart-pounding drama (and bizarre enjoyment of ice cream bars- see video). That exact scenario played out and now the US will face Spain on Wednesday while Brazil will play the hosts the following day. But who were the real winners and losers following Sunday’s 90 minutes of madness?
Luis Fabiano: The Sevilla striker scored a brace against the WC holders, and there are already inquiries into his availability being whispered around Europe. If he finishes top scorer, you can bet there will be concrete rumors about his future the rest of the summer.
Dunga’s Brazil: Assuming the balance of order restores, they will face a tantalizing Spain in the finals come the weekend. That, more than anything, will provide a real test for the Samba Boys and give Dunga an excellent idea of what will and won’t work when Brazil meets a heavy favorite in the WC next year, which you can bet they will. Brazil knows what it’ll get in Argentina, was never tested by Italy over 180 minutes, but have yet to face a side being heralded as one of the greatest of all time. For Dunga, who has received his share of criticism, his selections and philosophy have been affirmed by the resounding 9 points in Group B and will only improve after a date with the Spanish.
Zidan: Without Mohamed Zidan, Egypt looked lost and underwhelmed. Their attacking spark was gone, and the US duly repelled the predictable Egyptian buildup. For years Zidan’s Youtube portfolio has generated considerable buzz but his performances in the Bundesliga haven’t sold many on his abilities. A strong showing against Brazil and Italy (until his injury withdrawal) brought life and belief into an unsure Egyptian side. The collapse against the US without Zidan only raised his stock as a creative player.
Donadoni: Somewhere Roberto Donadoni has to be smirking a little bit. Now his command that saw Italy ousted from the Euros on penalty kicks to eventual champions Spain doesn’t look so bad. Lippi, the World Cup hero, has become the Confederations Cup buffoon. Who knows, the Italian press might even think more fondly upon his attempts to inject youth into the Azzurri at Euro 2008.
United States: Bob Bradley will live to see another day as his side advanced, but this will only paint a coat of false confidence over the cracks of the American team. Bradley still hasn’t put forth a good showing tactically or selection-wise, and one good result against a weakened Egypt and a perfect outcome in the other game shouldn’t change the fact that the US was highly embarrassed in its first two matches. A sound exiting from the Confederations Cup could’ve spelled his dismissal and a new, better manager for the US. But the US advanced and it seems Bradley and his indecisiveness will remain at the helm of our sinking ship.
Dossena: Twice at fault in his own goal, a booking in the second half, and several give-aways ruined all (2?) of his decent crosses in Italy’s attack. He’s been poor in his first season at Liverpool and believed to be angling for a move to Juventus. He’s in serious scrutiny and now is his opportunity to perform well and play for his future. The first chance Lippi gives him, and he removes all doubt as to why Benitez prefers him to warm the bench at Anfield. It’s hard to point fingers at one person in a woeful Italian display, but Andrea Dossena has earned it.
Marcello Lippi: He won the World Cup, received OMRI honors, and lived happily ever after. Except he didn’t ride off in the sunset, he returned to manage Italy and has tarnished his legacy thanks to the meaningless Confederations Cup. He’s stuck with the old guard that he trusted in 2006, only to find their legs no longer carry them passed international sides. They squeaked from behind to pip the US, were defeated in a shutout by Egypt, and openly massacred by Brazil. Hard to believe two years ago these same players were lifting the WC trophy. But with so many 30 year olds in the side, it should come as no surprise. Youngsters like Rossi, Montolivo, De Rossi, and Pepe have been Italy’s only glimmer of hope in this tournament, yet Lippi’s reluctance to put his faith in them have been his undoing. Germany 2006 will become an even more distant memory if Marcello Lippi doesn’t shake up his Azzurri, and quickly.
So now that Cristiano Ronaldo has stolen Kakà’s thunder with his own proposed £80m move to Real Madrid, everyone wants to talk about it. I’ll openly embrace a summer without seeing Ronaldo’s face in the headlines every morning, so I might as well address this story so I can enjoy the few weeks before the season begins. Unhappily, I admit I have to agree with most of the pundits who claimed there was an aura of inevitability about the Portuguese international’s transfer from Manchester United. But every time a transfer record is broken, however long it held, it’s always major news. The one simple question that everyone and their mothers has been asking me is arguably the most difficult. Do you think Ronaldo’s move is a good one?
Well, let’s look at all the parties involved to gain some perspective on whether Ronaldo’s transfer to Madrid can be labeled ‘good.’
A brace from Giuseppe Rossi and an inspired second half display from the Azzurri earned them three points in their Confederations Cup opener against the United States. Landon Donovan put the Americans ahead in the 39′ with a penalty, but the 10 men in white crumbled under Italian pressure after the break. Rossi 58′ sparked life into his side with a deep wonder strike and Daniele De Rossi notched the winner in similar fashion 71.’ Rossi notched the third goal, his second, by volleying home a Pirlo chip in injury time.
…The first half was largely a boring affair. Both teams lacked any creativity and only sought to attack on counter movements. It felt as thrilling as watching a chess match in the mirror. What a difference from the free flowing passing of Spain yesterday. Both sides look incapable of creating their own space, content to rely on the gaps that materialize from disrupting the other team’s ‘attack.’ The sending-off of Ricardo Clark 32′ and Donovan’s penalty shortly after helped poise the second half for more action…
…What percentage of Donovan’s goals do you think are penalties? Fifty?…
…If Italy wish to be genuine contenders in next year’s World Cup, Lippi must recognize that youth is the way forward. The ‘experienced’ side he started with today might achieve some effectiveness at neutralizing highly dangerous attacking teams, but it’s simply no good against countries that are clearly inferior to the quality of the Italians, or teams that also rely on counterattacking football. The United States side today could be described as both. Gattuso, Camoranesi, and even Pirlo shouldn’t be starting in these situations. Look at the way aged Serie A clubs have fared lately. I’ve long been a proponent of the Roma midfield trio of De Rossi, Aquilani, and Perrotta; and certainly Montolivo and Rossi ought to be included in such considerations. It was the latter duo’s introduction that galvanized Italy today and created spacing that allowed Pirlo to operate . But De Rossi can do everything Pirlo does and more. It’s up to Lippi to trust his youngsters and maximizefor 90 minutes the talents of his 11 players on the pitch…
…Get up, Luca Toni…
…How cruel is fate, having New Jersey born Rossi stick the dagger into the United States? If you want a sign US Football is still miles, excuse me, kilometers behind the Europe and the rest of the world, look no further. Listen to him, the guy speaks Italian with an American accent and yet the US still let him get away. Where was the national hierarchy when he was in high school in Jersey?…
…Sacha Kljestan should be the first name on the team-sheet for Bob Bradley. If only Kljestan had been born in his family…
It’d be easy to take the 3-1 scoreline and spin it positively for either side, but the truth is that both teams left much to be desired. Italy failed to create anything meaningful until the youthful substitutions, and even then they needed an American mistake on the ball to grant Rossi a scoring opportunity. Lippi doesn’t seem to have discovered his best 11 players, preferring to trust experience over dynamism. How costly could that prove to be in important matches to come?
By the same token, Bradly doesn’t exactly instill confidence with his selections and tactics. His dilemma is more due to a shortage of established players than the abundance of quality at Lippi’s disposal, but he does himself no favors with his resources. His son Michael is no creator in the center of the pitch, although he can contribute with his tackling and work ethic. Kljestan, not Bradley, must be given the reins of the team as the attacking central midfielder. And it’s wrong to assume that Altidore is a battering ram striker because of his physique; he’s not, and it’s a waste of his skills to boot long clearances towards him, hoping he’ll make something out of nothing. The counterattacking is fine, and perhaps the United States’ best chance of competing with better teams, but employing the trickery of Kljestan and Donovan would help Altidore become a more legitimate scoring threat.
Three goals from Fernando Torres against New Zealand in Spain’s Confederations Cup opener illustrate why he’s the world’s most complete striker. David Villa often takes the plaudits for Spain’s triumphs, and rightfully so for some of his lethal displays (probably the 3rd best striker in the world, easily in the top 5), but today was all about El Niño.
The first goal in the 6′ was purely his own creation. His own, his precious. Picking up a pass from 25 yards out with his back to goal, turning towards the edge of the box to find a defender in his face, Torres unleashes a right-footed bullet that Bubb Rubb would describe as ‘having that whoop whoop.’ It was a combination of power and technique, curling around a defender yet too strong for the keeper, into the top corner. An un-Spain-like goal, Torres saw a shot that never really was there, and delivered an unbelievable finish. That, folks, is what you call a World Class goal.
His second in the 14′ exhibited his game intelligence and ability to play off his teammates. With Villa latching onto Riera’s angled through ball, Torres timed his trailing run to perfection to meet the subsequent pass. El Guaje did well to find the Liverpool man surrounded by five defenders, but Torres had the positional awareness to deliver a deft touch and slot the ball coolly into the far post. It required an instantaneous decision and Torres made the perfect one by opening his body to give himself a shot. How many other strikers would try to blast it home or settle, under pressure? The ability to score from predatory finishes is an additional hallmark of a top striker, and Torres earns another exclamation point.
In the 17′ Torres headed home Capdevila’s cross with a ferocious effort that essentially ended all doubt about the destination of the three points. His speed and athleticism often create scoring opportunities, and today was no different. But instead of a trademark pacey through run, we saw Torres burst into the box and spring himself beyond his marker to bury the ball into the near corner, as the keeper remained glued to the ground. It was the type of headed finish that coaches everywhere try to teach their players: a combination of timing and competitiveness and textbook technique. If only Henry had ever learned to head the ball, who knows how many more goals he could have to his name…
Torres has been described as never scoring the same goal twice, an unbelievably accurate statement that speaks to both his ingenuity and talents. He has all the tools in his bag to score every type of goal, and he does so regularly. That’s why he’s the best. How does one defend against a player that can beat you a multitude of ways? That never takes the same road twice? Torres creates and finishes; delivers the ferocious and the sublime; produces both the wonderous and simplistic little things that win matches. Make no mistake about it, he may not score the same way twice, but Fernando Torres doesn’t show any sign of running out of goals from his repertoire.
If World Cup Qualifiers were decided by the number of Viking horns in the stands, Norway would already be through to South Africa 2010. But with goals still being the necessary metric, the Norwegians’ dreams of next summer’s finals are all but shattered following this evening’s straightforward 2-0 loss to Holland. A first half header by Andre Ooijer and a close range strike from Arjen Robben in the 51′ secured the points for the Oranje. This was essentially a must-win for Norway, but they were thoroughly outplayed by a strong Dutch side already assured of their place in South Africa.
…Torrential rains at the outset of the match severely waterlogged the pitch, and the game was marked by numerous slips, splashes, and slides. It was shades of Switzerland versus Turkey in last year’s Euros…
…Dirk Kuyt featured as a central striker, even sporting the number 9 shirt. Fellow Liverpool supporters, stop scratching your chins. He put in a decent performance, most notably with a header off the woodwork and a wrongly disallowed assist to Van Persie for offside. Perhaps Kuyt just feels more comfortable as a striker whenever he’s back at the De Kuip Stadium? I was a little disappointed not to see him line up more directly against Riise at left back…
…John Carew gets taller every time I watch him. Needed at least another two feet today though, if Norway wouldn’t grant him a supporting attacker…
But can Wesley Sneijder dance?
…I think I just heard the GolTV announcer describe John Arne Riise as potentially the best left back in the world. Will someone please hold my hair back?…
…Coaches De Boer and Cocu on the bench look like they’re ready to play, at least compared to injured Wesley Sneijder playing with his Blackbery in the stands. I think he’s wearing the same jacket as Michael Jackson in ‘Thriller.’…
…Rafa Van der Vaart has all the talent in the world (as evidenced by his free kick assist to open the scoring, and a late long range effort forcing a fingertip save), but too often goes anonymous for large portions of matches. In a twist of irony, this is one criticism you cannot hurl at Sneijder, who should still be first choice over VDV when healthy…
A decent result for the Dutch, especially considering they had little to play for and weren’t operating at their highest level for the majority of the match. The result was never in doubt, but you can’t help wondering if this Holland side will indeed raise their play when the time comes next year. They’ve cruised through qualifying and have yet to undergo a trial by fire, which often sparks teams onto impressive runs. Some of their movements today were quite good, but even more were out of sync and interfering with one another’s space. If they can sort this out, and determine the teamsheet that will best function together, then they should certainly be a favorite in World Cup 2010.
It’s official. Both AC Milan and Real Madrid have confirmed the transfer of Ricardo Kakà, believed to be around £56 million, which would make him the most expensive signing in football history. Real paid Juventus £45.6 for Zidane in 2001, which previously held the record until it was broken today. Or was it? Since the fees are presumably paid in the Euro, and given the exchange rate fluctuations in the past 8 years, some challenge whether this actually breaks the Zizou record. I’m content to leave such a debate to the economists, but what I do know is that such an exorbitant fee doesn’t fail to present significant implications.
So what does the conclusion of the Kakà saga teach us?
Welcome, everyone, to the launch of FootballersConvention.com- the newest home to some obscure sport called football.
What is Footballers Convention? Footballers Convention is a blog dedicated to bringing you the very best of ‘The Beautiful Game.’ It offers analysis, news, musings, highlights, and everything in between from the top European leagues and world football.
The brainchild of Seve Sanchez, a pronounced Liverpool supporter and student of the game, Footballers Convention seeks to provide a unique voice to the sport: one accessible to the American fan that neither dumbs down nor taints the purity of football. This Los Angeles-based blog brings you the game as it ought to be.
What’s in a name? When Sanchez was in high school, he and his teammates would often fraternize away from the pitch; inevitably, hijinks and great football discussions occurred. These storied gatherings become known as Footballers Conventions, and it is the hope of this site to foster a similar, but no less passionate discussion of all things football.
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