Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Growth Of Soccer In The United States

By Annette Lyndon - Guest Writer on The Flat Back Four

The 2010 South African FIFA World Cup is fast approaching. Fans from all over the globe will be flocking to South Africa to watch their countries compete. Excitement is building as the opening match approaches (June 11th). Football, or soccer (US), is the world’s sport, and mounting anticipation can only be expected. However a high level of enthusiasm is coming from an unlikely nation this year, the USA.

While sports are an integral part of American culture, soccer never really gained popularity as a primary spectator sport. For many years soccer was accepted as a popular team sport for youths and never caught on in the mainstream arena. But recently soccer has taken flight and is becoming more than recognized as part of the American sports lineup.

Who Should West Ham Pick Up From Hull, Burnley or Portsmouth?

Hull, Burnley and Portsmouth faces the prospect of having to sell their best players now that relegation is upon them. Pompey and Hull, in particular, are facing financial problems and therefore will need to sell players to survive.

There are some pretty interesting players worth picking up, notably from Portsmouth. Newspaper reports are linking Kevin Prince Boateng with West Ham after his outstanding performances in the FA Cup especially. I have put together a Best XI from clubs in the bottom three.

West Ham Topped The Basement Four Mini League

West Ham's troubled season started out very promisingly back in August last year. An emphatic 2-0 win against Wolves remained the Hammers' only away win. That away form eluded us all season but it will be back against Fulham this Sunday now that relegation has been avoided.

One key advantage West Ham had in the relegation fight was the superb results against our fellow relegation strugglers. West Ham only lost once and won three home games against Hull, Portsmouth and Burnley scoring lots of goals in the process.

The Basement Four Mini League has West Ham at the top of the table.

Sore Losers Barcelona As Mourinho Shows His Tactical Genius

Jose Mourinho did it again. He has got Inter Milan into the Champions League final with the chance to win it against his old master, Louis Van Gaal. There are lots of similarities in the mannerisms and style of Van Gaal and Jose but I shall leave that to another post.

More importantly, Jose has once again proven that tactical organisation and a winning game plan can triumph over the most talented team. Mourinho is now in uncharted territory, becoming the first  manager to guide a star-studded Inter team into the Champions League final.

Hollow Victory For Barcelona

This is what I picked up from the Malay Mail. It aptly captures what had happened during the match which turned ugly as Inter celebrated progress into the Champions League final in Madrid. Guardiola explains how the dismissal of Inter's Thiago Motta disrupted his team's focus and team play.


Humbled Guardiola says Barcelona must focus on Primera Liga 

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 10:48:00

BARCELONA: Disappointed Barcelona manager Josep "Pep" Guardiola congratulated Inter Milan but noted the dismissal of midfielder Thiago Motta in the 28th minute worked against his team as the Catalans were knocked out of Champions League at the semifinal stage at Nou Camp this morning.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

English Premier League Suffering From Lack Of Flair And Young Talents?

James Milner and Wayne Rooney have won the PFA Young Player and Player of the Year Awards. The PFA unfortunately did not do a great job in nominations for Young Player of the Year. How else would you explain why Rooney and Fabregas are nominated AGAIN for Young Player? In fact, I think that Joe Hart have had a fantastic season making 126 saves and keeping ten clean sheets thus far. He has been instrumental in Birmingham's first Premiership season and should be credited for Birmingham's League-best defensive home record.

Either way, I would normally associate young players with lots of flair, pace and technical trickery. However, this year has been devoid of any such player. Victor Moses came into the Premiership as possibly that type of player but unfortunately he still need time to mature and blossom.

When you think young talents, this year especially two players come to mind and they are from the Spanish La Liga. Sergio Canales and Iker Munian.

The D-Wreck Soccer Radio Show!

A fantastic blogger / interviewer, D-Wreck does some fantastic parodies on football personalities.
He comes up with some of the greatest football spoofs and I receive these interviews every week.

This is an interview he made up with Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Rafa Benitez

Robbie Fowler Stays Rooted In Down Under

Various news sources have reported that the Liverpool and Premier League goalscoring legend has moved after one year at North Queensland Fury. The Fury which are undergoing financial troubles released Fowler once the current season had ended. Fowler was originally on a two-year deal with North Queensland.

Fowler ended the season with nine goals and two assists in 26 matches in the A-League. Fury finished seventh in the A-League, just missing out on the play-offs. His debut season in Australia can be deemed a successful one. At the NQF medal night, Fowler won a hattrick of honours, the Golden Boot (as the Fury's top scorer), Players' Player Award and also Player of The Year. He also played more minutes (2776 minutes) than any single player in the A-League.

Fury Chairman Don Matheson said the 34-year-old had more than proven his worth to the new Hyundai A- League club. Matheson said,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thank God For Scott Parker!

As if scripted, when West Ham was looking for a leader to haul them back into Premiership survival, Scott Parker duly obliged. In every sense, Parker was the the only West Ham player you would not wished to suffer the agony of relegation. So immense were his heart and commitment to stave off relegation.

So it was fitting that he should score a 25-yard screamer that guaranteed West Ham Premiership safety and allow Gold and Sullivan to rebuild the entire squad. If it was scored by Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard, it would have been billed as the goal of the season but since it's the unfashionable, no frills midfielder Scott Parker, it hasn't garnered as much publicity as it should.

There are many parties to thank for Scotty Parker's goal,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Luis Boa Morte To Lead West Ham To Relegation Safety?

Luis Boa Morte joined West Ham in January 2007. He was signed by Alan Curbishley to help West Ham ward off relegation that season. I don't know if it is a coincidence but the return from injury of a "ready" Boa Morte at a crucial juncture for West Ham this season has a ring of deja vu about it.

I am sure that all West Ham fans know by now that Luis Boa Morte will be on the bench for this Saturday's home match against Wigan. To spice up tomorrow's big match further, Boa Morte's first goal for West Ham came against Wigan in a 3-0 win on 28 April 2007, almost three years ago!

The pre-injury Luis Boa Morte was a passionate, streaky, aggressive and pacy forward that could ruffle an opposing defender.

Deco Declared War For Premiership Title, West Ham Must Do The Same!

Wisely, as if on cue to rouse up the troops, Deco decided that it is time to go to war. He urged Chelsea players that to start fighting if they want to become champions. It has been a strange season in 2009/2010 with the top teams seemingly conspiring to gift Manchester United their record 19th title and fourth in successive seasons.

This is what Deco said as published in the official Chelsea website.

"First thing we need, we need to know that we are first,' he says. 'The last three games will be difficult and of course there is pressure in our minds because we need to win our games if Man U win theirs.

Robben's Killer Goal Against Lyon In Colour

Arjen Robben once again proved that class remain permanent. The injury-prone winger/striker injected pace and a shoot-on-sight policy to help Bayern claim a slim one-goal lead in the Champions League semifinal at Allianz Arena.

There is a graphics representation of the Robben goal in the Malay Mail. It's hard to find these goal graphics nowadays and thus making this depiction of Robben's goal more valuable!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arsenal's 1994 European Cup Winners' Cup Final: Where Are They Now?

The 1994 European Cup Winners' Cup Final was a football match played on 4 May 1994 between Arsenal of England and Parma of Italy. It was the final match of the European Cup Winners' Cup 1993–94 and the 34th European Cup Winners' Cup Final. The final was held at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, and Arsenal won 1–0 with the goal coming from Alan Smith. In the final Arsenal beat favourites and holders Parma 1–0 with a George Graham-tight defensive performance and Alan Smith's 21st minute goal from a left foot volley eventually proved enough to give Arsenal the cup.

Arsenal's Road to ECWC Champions
Odense BK Denmark     2 - 3     England Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC England     10 - 0     Belgium Standard Li├Ęge
Torino Calcio Italy     0 - 1     England Arsenal FC
Paris Saint-Germain France     1 - 2     England Arsenal FC
Arsenal England     1–0     Italy Parma
This is what the then-victorious Arsenal players are now up to:
GK     1     England David Seaman
David Seaman is famous for a series of bad haircuts culminating in a dreadful ponytail, which he had chopped off for charity. The late Brian Clough said of him, "That Seaman is a handsome young man but he spends too much time looking in his mirror, rather than at the ball. You can't keep goal with hair like that."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

West Ham Must Take Note Of Wigan's Dangerous Trio

Like everyone else, I watched the Wigan-Arsenal match and thought that this was the perfect game for the Gunners to capitalise and moved back to within three points of Chelsea. In the first half and three minutes of the second half, everything was going according to script for Arsene Wenger's team.

Perhaps it was confidence, perhaps arrogance, perhaps inexperience and indisciplined but what transpired was Arsenal allowed Wigan to take over and dominate the match at two goals down. Wigan duly obliged and smashed Arsenal's title hopes to pieces. The outstanding performers in the Wigan side were Ben Watson, Victor Moses and Charles N'Zogbia. It has to be THE comeback story of the 2009/2010 Barclays Premier League season!

All three will need extra attention this Saturday from the West Ham defence.

Putting The West Ham Anfield Loss Into Perspective

Thinking up excuses to explain West Ham's performances this season has become tiring and plainly annoying. Every time there were signs of a positive turnaround, West Ham's "resurgence" come crashing down again. This Anfield loss was again one of many examples throughout the season that just when there were some belief (among fans) in the players, the confidence come crashing down. Worse yet, the performance of the whole team did not look at all like a team fighting for survival.

There is no longer any doubt in my mind that Zola and Clarke will walk at the end of this season regardless of the outcome of this season. If West Ham were relegated, the owners will want a swift return to the Premiership and Zola-Clarke does not instill confidence at all. Should West Ham stay up, the feeling is that this horrible season should be banished into distant memory, hence Zola-Clarke must be replaced.

Liverpool totally thumped West Ham last night.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frederico 'Kiko' Macheda - Remember Him?

Frederico 'Kiko' Macheda has been largely out of the limelight this season. The hiring of Michael Owen as the designated impact substitute off the bench has kept him away from any first team  Premier League action this season. Injuries also have hampered his progress this season.

I remember a 17-year old man-child, whose introduction to English Premier League football was so dramatic that it brought home an 18th league championship for Manchester United. Yes, Sir Alex Ferguson had Macheda to thank for last season's title triumph. The goals against Villa and then Sunderland really got United out of jail last season.

Football Matches and Heart Attacks!

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said after Chelsea's 4-4 Champions League draw with Liverpool last season that his heart " is now around 100 beats per minute because the game's been finished for 15 minutes. But at the time of the game it was up to 160 or 180 beats per minute!"

What does this mean? Let's try to put this into perspective.
A healthy adult heart (depending on his/her age) beats at around 60-100 beats per minute. As one ages, the heart beat per minute is more. Strong emotions, physical activity and infections can cause a heart to beat faster. In the case above, it's emotions which is making Hiddink's heart palpitate at an elevated level. Now, is this safe, you may want to ask?

Is West Ham Heading To A Nailbiting Finish?

Relegation battles can be such nail-biters that hardly any fan would like to go through. Here are some of the more dramatic Premier League relegation battles in recent history.

West Bromwich Albion, 2005
West Brom claim the top spot in this list as the only club to be bottom of the Premier league at Christmas and survive.

With their fate out of their hands on final day, Bryan Robson’s men beat Portsmouth 2-0 and waited for the good news from Norwich City and Southampton as their relegation rivals duly lost. Charlton drew with Palace, handing West Brom a miraculous escape.

Their final points tally of 34 is the lowest with which a team has survived relegation since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams in 1995.

West Ham, 2007
After West Ham sacked Alan Pardew in December, Alan Curbishley led a revival as the club won seven of their last nine games, including 1-0 victories away to Arsenal and Manchester United

West Ham Out Of The Woods? Carlos Tevez Coming Back?

The star of the first "Great Escape", Carlos Tevez have declared that he wants to play for West Ham once again as he claimed there were unfinished business. That's just fantastic, his brand of all-action football is something that we have missed this season especially. He is playing well also, seeing that he has now scored six goals in his last three starts.

He has already showed his dissatisfaction with the management and coaching style of Roberto Mancini. Further to this, he has, like Craig Bellamy, questioned the rationale of the owners for sacking Mark Hughes. Funny, we have seen this before while Carlitos was at Manchester United. Hope this means he is angling for a move back to West Ham because he would be greatly welcomed by all Hammers fans. As long as he does not score against us in the final game of this season.

Also in the news are reports that Zola is confident of landing one of the most sought after striker in Jermaine Beckford.

Four Reasons Why England Need Bobby Zamora

The performance of Bobby Zamora under Roy Hodgson particularly have been stellar. The marked improvement in his game have led to numerous calls for an England call up. If the thoughts were that Zamora does not have the big match mentality then those reservations would have been smashed to bits after stunning goals against Juventus and Wolfsburg in the Europa League.

Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole are great as the target and/or link up man upfront but they are not prolific goalscorers. At major world tournaments, goals typically determine how far a nation progresses, hence Bobby Zamora, who is in the form of his life, can provide that secondary goalscoring threat while performing the duties that Heskey and/or Cole does for England.

Thoughts About "Genius" Bobby Z, Bellamy's Tourist Attack, Graham Alexander

The past week's football action through the lens of the excellent Bob Holmes.

(1) Alex Ferguson - Racehorse owner.
The MU boss' nag What a Friend romped home a winner at Aintree on Friday. At least he won something in Liverpool.

(2) Steven Gerrard - Restauranteur.
The Liverpool skipper has bought a share in his favourite local restaurant and promises to give it a New York theme.

(3) Hermann Hreidarsson - Elvis impersonator.
Portsmouth's Icelandic defender gave a brilliant Elvis impersonation last time Pompey reached the FA Cup final. Now he’s injured and will miss this year’s match but has plenty of time to polish his act.

Dimitar Berbatov for Wayne Rooney.

Liverpool and Manchester United
NO Torres and NO Rooney = NO GOALS

(1) "Typical Germans!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

West Ham v Sunderland Injury Report and Head to Head Stats

West Ham must look to win this match at home against Sunderland. Harry Harris of ESPN Soccernet opined that that performance against Everton suggest that West Ham have the fight to survive relegation. We shall see this Saturday if Harry is right about this one.

First up, the injury situation,
West Ham
Valon Behrami -- Calf Muscle Strain -- no return date
Kieron Dyer -- Hamstring Injury -- no return date

Messi Joins The Ranks Of The 4-Goal Men

After his phenomenal four-goal salvo against Arsenal last night in the 2010 Champions League quarterfinal, Lionel Messi cemented his place in the Champions League history books.

He is the sixth player and the first Barcelona player to score four goals in a single Champions League match.

The other five who have done it are:

  1. Marco Van Basten (Milan against IFK Gothenburg November 1992)
  2. Simone Inzaghi (Lazio against Marseille March 2000)
  3. Dado Prso (Monaco against Deportivo La Coruna November 2003)
  4. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd against Sparta Prague November 2004)
  5. Andriy Shevchenko (Milan against Fenerbahce November 2005)
  6. Lionel Messi (Barcelona against Arsenal 6th April 2010)

and to think that Messi is only 22 years old....phenomenal!

Messi Champions League Masterclass!

If anyone wanted to know how the game of football should be played, the Champions League quarterfinal between Barcelona and Arsenal would be it. The two best footballing teams at the moment did battle and Barcelona came up trumps over two legs. It was always a tall order for Arsenal given that their main inspiration, Cesc Fabregas was sidelined.

I don't know how Arsenal players must feel knowing that they have just played a truly magical team in Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Perhaps they would be wondering if they could ever play at that high standard. This Barcelona team was put together from their youth squads, with Ibrahimovich as the only significant addition this season. Barcelona (and also Arsenal) are shining examples of how investing in youth talent are the best way of achieving sustainable success. These clubs are a credit to the football industry as they are the ones who are enriching and producing the players to ensure the football industry does not suffer talent drains.

We have seen how Abramovich's money can buy success but it is almost always unsustainable. Memories of Blackburn and Portsmouth come to mind. A much more viable model is the Barcelona model where youth and talent are nurtured and nursed into first team action, giving rise to long term success and champagne football. With such incisive, imaginative football and solid all-round work rate, who's to say that Barcelona will not be the first team to successfully defend their Champions League crown.

The star of Barcelona is Lionel Messi.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How Does West Ham Compare To Fulham This Season?

West Ham as a football club have officially lodged a complaint to the Premier League over Fulham fielding a weakened team against Hull City on March 27, 2010. Fulham lost that game at the Kingston Stadium 2-0 to Iain Dowie's Hull which put them level on points with the Hammers.

The question I want to ask is how does the West Ham squad compare with the Fulham squad as a whole? This is my assessment of West Ham against Fulham's squad this season.

Rob Green (WHU) is an England international and quite possibly England's no. 1 in the World Cup.

Mark Schwarzer (FUL) is Australia's no. 1 and will also be in the World Cup this summer.
Not much difference between the two in terms of goalkeeping strengths.

James Tomkins, Matt Upson, Danny Gabbidon, Jon Spector, Julien Faubert, Ilunga, Daprela (WHU) - All internationals. However, Spector and Faubert are suspect defensively and the fullback area is the weakest part of West Ham's squad. The right fullback position sorely need reinforcements. Gabbidon looks past his best, and strangely, Upson does as well.

Chris Smalling, Hangeland, Konchesky, Aaron Hughes, Shorey, Baird, Pantsil (FUL) - Smalling is the best young defender in England without a doubt. Fulham's defenders have the edge as they have the defensive toughness and the experience of top-flight Premiership football.

West Ham's Point Against Everton Was Full Of Relief!

After some heavy knocks to the West Ham confidence, gaining one point in the draw against Everton must really felt like a big weight lifted off Zola's shoulders. The jubilant leap after Ilan's superb diving header says it all actually. The fact that West Ham were much better organized and had urgency in their play meant that this draw was well-deserved. There was a time after Da Costa had scored the equalizer, I felt that three points could be possible. Never mind that Everton had not lost for six successive games at Goodison, I felt at that moment West Ham had the momentum. Until the sucker punch by Yakubu that is and yet the West Ham players refuse to let that late goal affect them and promptly was rewarded 60 seconds later.

It felt great to have come from behind and forced the draw. It was extremely wonderful to finally see West Ham play consistently throughout the match. Throughout this testing season, West Ham have played very well in the first half only to falter and fade badly in the second half. Against Everton, the intensity and concentration stayed high all through the match. If the Hammers can keep this up in their next five matches, we should have more than an even chance to stay up.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

There Are No Epic Battles When It Comes To Manchester United and Chelsea

John Terry's headed goal settled the issue at Stamford Bridge in November last year. The rematch at Old Trafford carries heavier undertones this Saturday simply because Chelsea need to make up that one point deficit on the defending champions. The loss of Wayne Rooney will be intensely felt by Manchester United seeing that he has been the leading light of their title defence this season.

Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea have lost the Premier League title lead in the last month after being in front for much of the season. Out of the Champions League, it is unthinkable that Ancelotti should be under pressure to deliver the Premiership title but he Roman Abrahimovich demands it.

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