Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fifa Gets a Red Card, and a Blue Summons

For quite some time questions have swarmed around the global football governing body and how they come to some of their decisions regarding the conferment of the World Cup and the sponsorship of other world events. Now it is coming into light that there was much more to the winning bids other than creative presentations. The US justice department said 14 individuals were under investigation worldwide for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m over a 24-year period, and arrest have been made. Now the can of worms has been opened the big question is how deep does the rabbit hole go in regards to what they were up to, and how high up the food chain does it reach, perhaps all the way to Sepp Blatter? The allegations thus far have included a pretty serious array of offenses from bribery to money laundering, and who knows what will be uncovered in the upcoming days. Honestly, the way this is going Blatter would do himself a huge favor by stepping down amidst the scandal, go on a long vacation, and come out of the bunker after the s-storm has past. He might be able to salvage his reputation if possible. However in a situation like this Americans love to use the term “institutional control” and although he hasn’t been indicted of anything at this moment the census should be along the lines of “he is either in on the bribes or he was ignorant of the fact that it was right under his nose and so systemic that he would have to be blind to miss it” in either case the world of soccer fans needs to assess if this is someone you want running your favorite sport. The Fifa executives indicted include Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin The seven arrested at a five-star hotel in Zurich on Wednesday were: • Jeffrey Webb - head of Concacaf, and Fifa vice-president • Costa Rica's national football chief Eduardo Li • Uruguay's Eugenio Figueredo, president of South American football governing body Conmebol • Venezuelan Football Federation president Rafael Esquivel • Brazil's Jose Maria Marin, a member of Fifa's club committee • Fifa development officer Julio Rocha, from Nicaragua • Costas Takkas, of the UK, an attache to the Concacaf president Also indicted are former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Aaron Davidson, Alejandro Burzaco, Jose Margulies, and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis. Update*** World football’s governing body’s president made his first public appearance since Tuesday as he addressed attendees at the FIFA Congress opening ceremony in Switzerland on Thursday. Blatter spoke after seven senior FIFA figures were arrested yesterday morning on corruption charges at their Zurich hotels. While the 79-year-old conceded the organization has lost the trust of the football public after those dramatic events, he showed no signs of bowing to widespread calls for him to resign and the vote almost assured to re-elect him as president should go off without a hitch on Friday. I gotta’ tell ya, if the US Justice department thought going after Wall St. CEOs was tough, they’ve got nothin’ on this guy. Sepp Blatter more resembles Keyser Söze than a old man pushing 80, as he seems to be protected from on high by the Prince of Darkness and has more friends willing to take a bullet for him than Vito Corleone. Even Vladimir Putin has come out in his defense, of course there are some serious alterior motives afoot with him as Russia seems to be the previous benifactor of committee’s generosity, given for a price, so it make sense to make a case that the prosicutors had an axe to grind. Obviously the phrase “lack of institutional control” isn’t deemed a firable offense in most nations around the world when it comes to electing someone to oversee the most powerful and popular sports organization on the planet. Michel Platini says he tried and failed to persuade Sepp Blatter to quit before Friday's FIFA presidential election, but you don’t get to be the head of the most that powerful organization I just mentioned without being able to stare down an advisory going into a fight and he doesn’t seem to be intimidated.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fight of the Century, Perhaps Two Years Late?

Fight of the Century, Perhaps Two Years Late? It’s almost surreal that we are finally on the verge of the “Fight of the Century” as it seems like we’ve been here so many times before. However unless either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather don’t make the weight, it’s going to happen after five-years of anticipation. The early results are already in as far as PPV sales, and tickets at the arena have well surpassed any in the history of boxing, even with the inflation index added, Ali-Frazier I doesn’t come close. Each fighter is going to get the payday of their lives and they are well aware of that fact. Now there is nothing to do but fight, and to the winner goes the titular title of “Best Pound-Per-Pound Fighter In The World”, and the best of this era. Ya know, I don’t even know exactly which belts or official titles are on the line for this fight and I don’t think it really matters, to me or anyone else for that matter. Now the only question left is can the fight live up to the hype? Two maybe three years ago no doubt this was greatest matchup in the history of the sport, because both fighters were at the peak of their careers, and razor sharp. Since then they both have fought a lot, and Manny has had a little of the shine worn off him as not only has he lost a fight but was knocked out, counted out, unconscious on the canvas. Even though he has come back since then and won two bouts, one has to wonder what kind of toll that took on him and if he gets hit like that again, and rest assured, he will in this fight, how his chin handles it. Floyd min you, has also fought, but hasn’t really been tested, and one might question what happens to him when faced with a world-class opponent that may possibly be, for the first time in Floyd’s career, as quick or quicker to the punch than he is. I guess part of why this event has taken on the goliath proportions that it has is because all of afore questions will finally be answered as someone will emerge as the winner (we hope, we will not be discussing any draw-rematch scenarios today). So what does each have to do have is hand raised at the end of 36 minutes? For Pac-Man, he needs to execute the fast in-and-out style that we have seen when he is at his best. He doesn’t have to worry about loading up for the big shot because he hits surprisingly hard and that might be enough to slow Money down just a step, and that could make all the difference because if Manny is equal in speed you will not out-point him and a decision is his best and perhaps only way to victory. Mayweather on the other hand, also needs to do what he has always done which is execute the best defense ever seen at any level in boxing, and then counter if Pac-Man misses or is out of position. One important factor that seems to be going unnoticed is Floyd’s reach advantage (5 inches) which is huge in a fight like this, where the jab could control the tempo. If Money can tap dance and land that jab to keep Manny at bay, then in the later rounds he may be reaching to try and get to Floyd and as we have seen in the past that’s when he gets tagged and perhaps put down. A decision is still Mayweather’s best path to victory but he is only one of the two that has a shot at a TKO in my opinion. That said, we’re going the way of the champion, between his political career and tasting the canvas for the first time where he doesn’t get up we think Pacquiao has lost a step and although it may not be that big of a difference when fighting a mere mortal, against arguably the best ever it could mean all the difference. We like Floyd in a unanimous decision.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

EPL Table Week 2 - The Undefeateds

Ok, I must apologize off the bat for breaking rank but to me undefeated means you have won every match you’ve competed in. Yes, that means no ties. That said in week two of the EPL we’ve already been reduced to just four, so let’s take a look at who will be the last club left standing. Tottenham Hotspur – Wow, how many of you said Spurs would be at the top of the table in week 2? Liars. This comes as a huge surprise despite their 6th place finish last season and a productive off-season. Truth is they’re playing some of the best football in England with an impressive win at West Ham and an easy disposal of QPR at home on top of two wins over AEL in the Europa League. As good a they look right now they will be further tested this week as they host Liverpool and travel to Emirates to take on Arsenal at the end of September. Chelsea – This is no surprise as the Blues were expected to be at the top of the table to start the campaign and perhaps in May as well. However check back with me in a month and we’ll see if we’re still as confident as an early 2 vs. 3 matchup with Swansea will be a litmus test for both sides then they come right back one week later and take on city. They will either establish some distance at the top or find them themselves on the fringe of the Champions League cutoff to start off the season. Man City – The defending champs already look in mid-season form in both their victories but of the four undefeated sides they by far have the toughest stretch over the next month. A stretch that includes Sotke, Man City, and Chelsea but with two of the three at home 2 out of 3 results is probable and 9 points isn’t out of the question so the Sky Blues may already be setting their mark early in the season. Swansea – Similar to Spurs not many outside of Liberty Stadium thought they’d be this high on the poll, but the challenge will be how long they can maintain their vantage point. We already spoke about their matchup with Chelsea but before they get to the Blues they’re have to face a hungry West Brom side but if they can pull off a split they’ll be in pretty good shape for mid-September. Barclays Premier League Table August 28

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy New Year!!! EPL Kicks off the 2014 Campaign

The EPL season kicked off the new campaign this weekend the same way it ended with Manchester City and Liverpool on top of the division. Of course they have much more company than they did last May as Arsenal also won and certainly plans to crash the party throughout the season, Swansea, Villa’, Hull, and Spurs also welcomed the new year with a pint and victory. Manchester United also started how they ended the 2013’ campaign, in very disappointing fashion with a loss at Old Trafford vs Swansea as new skipper Louis van Gaal got a rude awakening and will wake up on Monday and find the Red Devils tied at the bottom of the table. Burnley will make its EPL return on Monday and it may be quite surly as the Blue Lions come to town. Barclays Premier League Pos Team P Pts 1 Manchester City 1 3 2 Arsenal 1 3 3 Liverpool 1 3 4 Swansea City 1 3 5 Aston Villa 1 3 6 Hull City 1 3 7 Tottenham Hotspur 1 3 8 Everton 1 1 9 Leicester City 1 1 10 Sunderland 1 1 11 West Bromwich Albion 1 1 12 Burnley 0 0 13 Chelsea 0 0 14 Crystal Palace 1 0 15 Manchester United 1 0 16 Southampton 1 0 17 Queens Park Rangers 1 0 18 Stoke City 1 0 19 West Ham United 1 0 20 Newcastle United 1 0 See the complete EPL week in review, tables, stats, and more on the main site here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reflections from the World Stage

• There were fewer red cards at the 2014 World Cup than any other edition since 1986 (8). • The 2014 World Cup saw a joint-high number of goals scored (171). • Germany reached the World Cup final for the eighth time; more often than any other side in the history of the competition. • Germany scored 18 goals – the last team to score as many in a World Cup tournament were Brazil (also 18) in 2002. • Argentina trailed for just seven minutes in the entire tournament (excluding injury time). • Belgium reached the quarter-final stage, despite only holding a lead for 52 minutes in their five matches combined. belgium Belgium led for just 52 minutes of the tournament, but still made the last eight. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP • Brazil committed 31 fouls in their quarter-final win over Colombia; the most fouls that they had made in a single World Cup game since records began in 1966. • James Rodríguez became the first player to score in his first five career World Cup appearances since Peru’s Teófilo Cubillas (across the 1970 and 1978 tournaments). Gerd Müller in 1970 was the last player to do it in a single tournament. • Miroslav Klose became the top scoring player in World Cup history with his strike against Brazil in the semi-finals (16 goals). • This was the first time that three sides from the Concafaf region made it out of the group stages and into the last 16 (since the format began in 1986). • Costa Rica knocked out Italy, England, Greece and beat Uruguay, four sides placed in the top 12 positions of the Fifa Rankings (Uruguay – 7th, Italy – 9th, England – 10th, Greece – 12th). • Only six European nations made it to the last 16; a joint-World Cup low since the round of 16 was introduced in 1986. • All eight group stage winners progressed to the quarter-finals stage for the first time in World Cup history. • One point was England’s lowest-ever return in a World Cup group stage. rooney England's lowest-ever group stage points return. Photograph: Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images • This was the first time that England have been eliminated from a World Cup at the group stage since 1958. • Three of the last four teams to win the World Cup have gone out in the following group stage (France 2002, Italy 2010, Spain 2014). • There were more goals scored by substitutes in this World Cup than in any previous edition (32). • Silvestre Varela’s goal for Portugal v USA was the latest during normal time of a World Cup finals match since 1994 (94min 33sec). • Tim Howard made 15 saves in the USA’s quarter-final defeat to Belgium – no goalkeeper has ever made as many saves in a single World Cup game (1966-2014). • Three of Holland’s five outright victories in this World Cup tournament were from losing positions in normal time. • Italy have exited at the group stage in their last two World Cups. The last time they managed this was in the 1960s (1962 and 1966). • Germany are the first European team to win the World Cup in Latin America. • Teams from Uefa have won the last three World Cups, the first time a single confederation has won three in a row. • Germany’s 7-1 win was the biggest margin of victory ever seen in a World Cup semi-final. Brazil's captain David Luiz reacts during the match against Germany. David Luiz contemplates the biggest World Cup semi-final defeat ever. Photograph: Fernando Bizerra Jr./EPA • With their destruction of Brazil, Germany became the top scoring nation in World Cup history (223), overtaking Brazil in the process. Germany ended the tournament with 224 goals, three ahead of Brazil. • Luke Shaw was the youngest player to play at this World Cup finals, when he played for England v Costa Rica (18 years 348 days). • 13.3% of shots have been scored at these finals; a higher proportion than in any other World Cup tournament since records began in 1966. • There were only three direct free-kicks scored at these finals, the fewest since 1986 (3). In 2010 there were five scored, while in 2006 and 2002, nine were scored. • The only World Cup to see more own goals than this tournament (5) was the 1998 finals (6). • Switzerland’s Diego Benaglio was the only goalkeeper to register a shot at the 2014 tournament, thanks to a late effort v Argentina. • The Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi created two goalscoring chances; only three of his team-mates managed more in the tournament. Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi. Rais M'Bolhi: creative Algerian genius. Photograph: Caetano Barreira/Fotoarena/Corbis • Brazil have topped every group they have played in at a World Cup from 1982 onwards. • Spain conceded 5+ goals in an international (5-1 v Holland) for the first time since losing 6-2 to Scotland in June 1963. • That four-goal margin is the biggest losing margin by a defending champion at a World Cup. • Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany was the biggest losing margin by a host nation at a World Cup. • Tim Cahill has scored in three World Cups for Australia; no other Australian has done so in more than one tournament • Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan (6) overtook Cameroon’s Roger Milla (5) as all-time top scoring African player at a World Cup. • Algeria became the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup game when they beat South Korea 4-2. • England’s Wayne Rooney recorded his first World Cup assist in his team’s opening game v Italy and his first goal in their game v Uruguay. • Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score at two different World Cups. • Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored the first entirely left-footed hat-trick at a World Cup (1966-2014). Xherdan Shaqiri Xherdan Shaqiri scores one of his left-footed treble against Honduras. Photograph: Andres Stapff/Reuters • His treble was also the 50th hat-trick in the history of the World Cup. • In losing 4-0 to Germany, Portugal conceded four goals in a World Cup for the first time in their history. • Clint Dempsey’s goal (29 seconds) v Ghana for the USA was the fifth fastest in World Cup history. • The England goalkeeper Joe Hart made only one save in two World Cup games. • In his 126 minutes of World Cup action, Diego Costa failed to muster a single shot on target (only five shots in total). • In winning Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, Spain conceded a total of six goals, one fewer than they did in their three matches at World Cup 2014. • Alex Song picked up Cameroon’s eighth red card in their World Cup history. His cousin Rigobert Song is one of only two players (along with Zinedine Zidane) to be sent off twice at World Cups, meaning the Song family is responsible for three of Cameroon’s eight reds. • Olivier Giroud’s opening goal v Switzerland was France’s 100th goal at World Cup finals. • Neymar scored the 100th goal of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil’s 100th game in World Cup finals history. • Against Japan Colombia’s substitute goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon became the oldest ever player to feature in a World Cup match, at 43 years and three days. Faryd Mondragon. Faryd Mondragon: record breaker. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images • Honduras have now played nine games without a win at the World Cup (D3 L6). They have played more matches at the World Cup without winning than any other side (New Zealand, El Salvador and Bolivia – all six). • Ghana went out in the group stage for the first time ever (in their third World Cup). Now only three teams have never exited in a World Cup opening group stage: Germany, Holland and the Republic of Ireland. • Fabio Capello has won one of his seven World Cup games as a manager. • Mexico have been knocked out of the World Cup finals at the second-round stage in all six editions since 1994; no team has been knocked out at this stage as often as this. • Nigeria have lost all three of their World Cup second-round ties (0-2 v France in 2014, 1-2 v Italy in 1994 and 1-4 v Denmark in 1998). • Ángel di María’s goal v Switzerland was the latest ever scored by Argentina at the World Cup (118 minutes). • Switzerland have failed to score in their last three World Cup knockout matches, last scoring in one in 1954. • Belgium conceded only three goals in five games at the 2014 World Cup. • Holland progressed to the semi-finals for the third time in their last four World Cups. • Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas saved 21 of the 23 shots on target that he faced at this World Cup (91%). • Thomas Müller has scored 10 goals and provided six assists in just 13 World Cup matches. Thomas Mueller celebrates scoring the third for Germany. Thomas Müller scores. Again. Photograph: Francois Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty • Against Brazil in the semi-final, Germany were 5-0 up faster than any other team in World Cup history (29 minutes). • The 7-1 defeat to Germany equalled Brazil’s all-time biggest margin of defeat (lost 6-0 to Uruguay in 1920). • Germany scored two more goals v Brazil than England have in their past two World Cup campaigns combined. • Argentina have progressed from all four of their World Cup semi-finals. • Argentina v Holland was the first World Cup semi-final to finish 0-0 (including extra-time). Lionel Messi did not touch the ball in the opposition box in the entire 120 minutes. • Nine of the 14 goals Brazil conceded in this World Cup came in the first 30 minutes of their games. • Brazil conceded 10 goals from 14 shots on target conceded in the semi-final and third place play-off game combined. • Mario Götze is the first substitute to score a winning goal in the World Cup final. • Mario Götze is the youngest scorer of a goal in a World Cup final since Wolfgang Weber in 1966 (22 years, 33 days). • Sami Khedira is the 10th player to win the European Cup/Champions League and World Cup in the same season.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

World Cup Semi-Finals

The World Cup has reached it’s final four and in the end it’s the usual suspects that are left standing, Germany, Brazil, Holland, and Argentina. For all of the upsets heartbreaks, injuries, and controversial calls when all the rubble has been cleared no country is left that hasn’t won it multiple times (Bra 5, Ger 3, Arg 2) or been to multiple finals (Ned 3). However there’s no denying that despite the traditional names these aren’t your daddy’s behemoths. There has been much more scoring than we have ever seen, more comebacks, extra time goals, and most importantly lack of defense. It seems that despite the individual talents of Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, etc. the isn’t one great TEAM in this tournament. Everyone has been scored on, and been pressed to the limit by winning matches they should have lost. This is the typical type of tournament that yields a very unexpected final and perhaps winner, but prior to that, we have the semis so let’s take a look at those matchups. Brazil vs. Germany – The clash of the titans of the most storied names in world football, 38 appearances between them, 206 total matches, and 8 titles (BRA 5 Ger 3). Brazil is a wounded Lion trying to fend off a worthy predator that wants to rule the jungle in the form of Germans. At full strength one would think Germany would need a break, get an early goal, then use their tactical skill to keep Brazil from equalizing. However now Brazil will be without their captain and also their leading scorer Neymar, the poster boy for the ’14 cup which changes the dynamic considerably. Germany can win this playing their normal game, frustrating the perhaps more skilled Brazilian side but now not the better cohesive unit. Favoring Brazil is that enormous fervor of home field which will be an eruption waiting to happen. Also coach Luiz felipe scolari has never lost a world cup match while coaching Brazil, including already having a World Cup championship top his credit in 2002. Lastly, the motivation of playing for a fallen teammate that they’ve dedicated the match to. It makes for great theater but when you get to this level one let alone two players can make the difference, it will be interesting to see if the external factors can compensate for the lost talent on the pitch. We don’t think it can and like the Germans to pull the upset and advance.