Saturday 26 June 2010

England May Not Need to Wear The Reds Shirts?

On July 30th 1966 the man who created what is now in football parlance considered the “Libero” position was twenty one years of age when he played alongside Karl-Heinz Schellinger; Willi Schulz, Wolfgang Weber, Helmut Haller, Uwe Seeler and Wolfgang Overath – and did not look out of place. In fact, he was probably directing the team on that day too in the same way he has continued to oversee German football for the past forty four years since losing that final.

Which to be fair, has been a very successful four decades for German teams.

Indeed since the fateful day that those red jerseys of England won the match - four two after extra time - Germany have reached the World Cup Final six times; 1974, 1982, 1986, 1990  and 2002, winning it twice in 1974 and 1990. They have twice reached the semi finals – in 1970 losing to Italy in Mexico and in 2006 losing to the eventual winners Italy; with three trips to the quarterfinals  – Argentina 1978, France 1998 losing to Croatia and then USA 1994 losing to Bulgaria in the “Old” Giants Stadium.   

As this week Beckenbauer speaks his mind about the England team and sends the English Red Tops into over drive, he sets the tone for what is an important match for both teams in the round of last 16. Being in the limelight is not an unfamiliar position for the main born in Bavaria sixty five years ago.

With an unparalleled record Beckenbauer has had a lengthy career in the game ball since e that Wembley setback to Bobby Moore, Bobby and Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Geoff Hurst. Indeed, four years later Germany beat England in the quarterfinals in Estadio de Guanajato in Leon with Franz Beckenbauer getting to the semi finals where he played most of the game with a broken collar bone and a dislocated shoulder after a fall during West Germany’s semi-final against Italy.

Italy won in that classic match after extra time by 4-3.

In 1974 he captained the German team to victory in his homeland and then led them to a losing final in the EURO 1976 hosted in the former Yugoslavia against Czechoslovakia. Having retired from international football he did not travel to Argentina in 1978 but returned in 1984 as the National Coach of the German Team and his career as coach is equally as impressive.

In the Azteca stadium in Mexico in 1986 West Germany lost to Diego Maradona's Argentina when goals from Jose Brown, Jorge Valdano and Javier Burruchaga sorted the final out in favour of the South American maestros. Then in 1990, having beaten England on penalties in Turin, his team then went on to meet Argentina once again in the final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. In what was an unremarkable final they emerged winners by one goal to nil.

As a result only two men have won the FIFA World Cup both as a player and coach - Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer. But in the 2010 World Cup Diego Armando Maradona has the chance to join that elite club if his team beat Mexico in Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday and go on to win the final.

Zagallo, an inside forward/left winger, twice picked up the Jules Rimet trophy as a player - in 1958 and 1962. He went on to guide his country to FIFA World Cup glory in 1970 and was also the assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreira during Brazil's triumphant 1994 campaign in the
United States.

Although he made his international debut against Ukraine in May 2000 at the same age as Franz Beckenbauer it was in EURO 2000 that Liverpool stalwart Steven Gerrard became a fully paid up member of the England squad after an appearance as a substitute in the sixty first minute at the Stade du Pays de Charleroi in Belgium against Germany, with his side leading by one goal courtesy of Alan Shearer in the 54th minute.

Wearing the infamous red shirts and white shorts that day England recorded a win in the group stages against a German side that included Lotthar Matthaus and Dietmar Hamann. On that occasion Germany would remain bottom of the group - securing only one point with draws against Romania, losing to England and Portugal.

For England the result was not enough either and Portugal moved on to the quarterfinals as they topped the group. However at the time the victory by Kevin Keegan's team over Germany went some way to avenging a string of  defeats to the Old Enemy in particular the loss by penalties in the semi-finals of Euro ‘96.
For Steven Gerrard the next meeting with Germany would be in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers with the first game at Wembley in October 2000, which England lost by one goal after Dietmar Hamann scored in the thirteenth minute without reply.

Such was the sense of the drama amidst the imminent demolition of the Old Wembley the England manager, Kevin Keegan, resigned his position by the time he had reached the dressing rooms that day leaving the squad in disarray in defeat and seeking a replacement in mid campaign.

Ahead of the return match about a year later there had been two England managers with Sven Goran Ericsson the incumbent on the night of the 2002 World Cup qualifier at the Olympicstadion in Muenich on September 1st 2001 - the same day that the Republic of Ireland recorded a historic result at Lansdowne Road to snatch the final group place from Holland. That night Steven Gerrard was in Muenich to line out once again against a German XI with David Beckham as his Captain.

The result that night threw aside many of the myths between England and Germany for a new generation of players  - all too young to remember Leon in 1970 but perhaps Turin in 1990 -  cutting apart the home side by 5 goals to one – with Stevie Gerrard also getting on the score sheet that evening. Of those players that night nine years ago in Muenich four are likely to be playing when England meet Germany in the 2010 World Cup in the round of last 16   - they include Emile Heskey, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole  and David Beckham -  who is now part of Fabio Capello's backroom team.

Although that night the England team wore the traditional white tops and blue shorts with the home side Germany playing in their green alternate strip on Sunday in Mangaung/Bloemfontein England will wear the infamous 1966 red strip yet again. Regardless one does not expect this generation of players to be worried about that superstition as the wins and losses in either colour kit seem to balance out on closer analysis.

In EURO 1996 the England strip the day they lost to Germany on penalties were blue/grey short and shorts. Under Stuart Pearce's suggestion the  colour is probably now banned from the squad for ever more given he missed his second penalty in that tournament.
At the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein this Sunday that young lad that played in Charleroi for twenty minutes, Steven Gerrard, now leads out England against Germany in  team that has two players that were on the losing side that night in Muenich in 2001 – Miroslav Klose  and the Assistant Manager Oliver Bierhoff.

These two Germans are the generation of players who know they can lose to England - unlike Franz Beckenbauer - because it has happened before and it happened to them.

The odds on Sunday are that it will happen again with England then having to face  another old enemy – Argentina.

Friday 25 June 2010

England Win World Cup

Hugh McIlvanney, Sunday July 31 1966
The greatest moment in the history of English football came at 5.15 this afternoon when Geoff Hurst shot the magnificent goal that made certain of the World Cup. It was Hurst's third goal, England's fourth, and, coming as it did in the final seconds of extra time, it shattered the last remnants of German resistance.
Germany had equalized with the last kick in the regular 90 minutes, and they had gone within inches of repeating the blow in extra time when Seeler lunged in on a headed pass by Held. But Moore took the ball coolly out of defence and lifted it upfield to Hurst 10 yards inside the German half. The referee was already looking at his watch and three England supporters had prematurely invaded the pitch as Hurst took the ball on his chest.
At first he seemed inclined to dawdle out time. Then abruptly he sprinted through on the inside-left position with a German defender pressing him. As Tilkowski prepared to move out, Hurst swung his left foot and drove the ball breathtakingly into the top of the net.
The scene that followed was unforgettable. Stiles and Cohen collapsed in a tearful embrace on the ground, young Ball turned wild cartwheels, and Bobby Charlton dropped to his knees, felled by emotion.
Almost immediately it was over and the honour that had escaped England for so long had been won. Soon the players, who had forgotten the crippling weariness of a few minutes before, were hugging and laughing and crying with Alf Ramsey and the reserves, who must go through their lives with bitter-sweet memories of how it looked from the touchline.

No failures

"Ramsey, Ramsey," the crowd roared and in his moment of vindication it was attribute that no one could grudge him. Eventually, Moore led his men up to the Royal Box to receive the gold Jules Rimet trophy from the Queen, and the slow, ecstatic lap of honour began "Ee-aye-addio, we've won the Cup," sang the crowd, as Moore threw it in his arc above his head and caught it again.
England had, indeed, won the Cup, producing more determined aggression and flair than they had shown at any earlier stage of the competition. In such a triumph there could be no failures, but if one had to name outstanding heroes they would be Hurst, Ball, Moore and the brothers Charlton.
Hurst, who just a month ago appeared to have only the remotest chance of figuring in the World Cup, had emerged as the destructive star of a feverishly exciting game, becoming the first man to score a hat-trick in the final. Ball, who looked like a boy, had done the work of two men. Moore, showing again that he is stimulated by the demands of the great occasion, played with an imaginative self-confidence that made it unnecessary for anyone to ask who was the England captain.
Beside him Jack Charlton was a giant of a player. And through the whole performance there ran the inspiration of Bobby Charlton. In the first half, when the foundations of England's victory were being laid, it was his relentless but unhurried foraging, his ability to impose his experience and his class on the team's play that counted most.

Pride in defeat

Every one of the others responded superbly and if some were sometimes short of inspiration, none ever lacked courage or total commitment. Of course the Germans were on the field too, and they let England know about it often enough. They may regret now that they set Beckenbauer to mark Charlton, for the young half-back had little opportunity to exploit his attacking genius until it was too late. Held and Haller, with tremendous early assistance from Seeler, did plenty of damage, but ultimately it was Tilkowski and his defenders who were left to save Germany.
They tried mightily, but in the end England's spirit broke them. Germany had already won the World Cup, England had not, so they had a right to accept defeat with pride. They did, and the crowd cheered their lap of honour almost as much as England's.
Wembley was charged with an atmosphere I had never known before. Long before the teams appeared the crowd was chanting and singing. When the band of the Royal Marines, who had played a tune for each of the 16 competing nations, came to play the national anthem it was sung as it may never be sung again. Deutschland Uber Alles boomed out in its wake and the battle was on.
The Germans began rather nervously, standing off from the tackle and letting England's forwards move smoothly up to the edge of the penalty area. Charlton and Peters were able to work the ball along the left at their leisure and there was anxiety in the German defence before the cross was cleared.
Charlton wandered purposefully all over the field, bringing composure and smoothness wherever he went, again comparisons with di Stefano seemed relevant.
One of Hunt's few imaginative passes set Stiles clear on the right and his high cross beat Tilkowski before Hottges headed it away. The ball was returned smartly by Bobby Charlton and Tilkowski had so much difficulty punching it away from Hurst that he knocked himself out.
The goalkeeper was prostrate, the whistle had gone and the German defenders had stopped challenging by the time Moores put the ball in the net. The crowd cheered in the hope that next time it would be the real thing.
Jack Charlton, carrying the ball forward on his forehead with a skill that would have done credit to his brother, moved swiftly out of defence and his finely judged diagonal pass let Peters in for a quick powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area. Tilkowski, diving desperately to his left, punched the ball round the post. Hurst met Ball's corner on the volley but sent it much too high.
At that point Weber chose to give one of the agonized performances that have been the German hallmarks in the competition, but Mr Dienst quickly let him know he was fooling nobody.
Peters emphasized the eagerness of the England attack by surging in from the right to shoot the ball only 2ft wide from 25 yards.
Then, stunningly, in the tenth minute England found themselves a goal behind. And it was a goal that anyone who had watched their magnificent defensive play earlier in the tournament could scarcely believe. Held glided a high cross from the left wing and Wilson, jumping for the ball in comfortable isolation incredibly headed it precisely down to the feet of Haller, standing a dozen yards out and directly in front of Banks. Haller had time to steady and pivot to turn his right-foot shot on the ground past Banks' right side.

The equalizer

It took England only six minutes to reassure the crowd. Overath had been warned for a severe foul on Ball and now he committed another one on Moore, tripping the England captain as he turned away with the ball. Moore himself took the free kick and from 40 yards out near the left touchline he flighted the ball beautifully towards the far post. Hurst, timing his run superbly to slip through the defence, much as he had done against Argentina, struck a perfect header low inside Tilkowski's right-hand post.
Moore held one arm aloft in the familiar gladiator salute while Hurst was smothered with congratulations. It was another reminder of the huge contribution West Ham have made to this World Cup.
Bobby Charlton reasserted himself with a sharp run across the face of the goal from the right and a left foot shot. It troubled Tilkowski but he gathered it at his second attempt. The Germans retaliated through Haller, who was just beaten by Banks in a race for a through pass but the most sustained aggression was still coming from England. Moore, playing with wonderful control and assurance, was driving up among the forwards, joining intelligently with moves initiated by Bobby Charlton.
Unfortunately, however, Charlton could not be in two places at once. Time and again the attacks he conceived from deep positions cried out to be climaxed with his killing power. After Ball had been rebuked for showing dissent he took part in one of England's more effective attacks. Cohen crossed the ball long from the right and Hurst rose magnificently to deflect in another header which Tilkowski could only scramble away from his right hand post, Ball turned the ball back into the goalmouth and the German's desperation was unmistakable as Overath came hurtling in to scythe the ball away for a corner.

Certain to score

Not all the uneasy moments were around Tilkowski, however. First Ball and then Cohen toyed riskily with Held near the byline. Jack Charlton, maintaining the remarkable standard of his World Cup performances, had to intervene with a prodigious sweeping tackle on the ground to get them out of trouble. It cost him a corner and the corner almost cost England a goal. The ball went to Overath and from 20 yards he drove it in fiercely at chest height. Banks beat it out and when Emmerich hammered it back from an acute angle the goalkeeper caught it surely.
When a Wilson header into goal was headed down by Hurst Hunt appeared certain to score. But when the Liverpool man forced in his left foot volley Tilkowski was in the way. Soon afterwards a subtle pass from Charlton bewildered the German defence but Peters could not suite reach the ball for the shot.
The hectic fluctuating pattern of the first half was stressed again before interval when Overath hit a bludgeoning shot from 20 yards and Banks turned the ball brilliantly over the crossbar.
Bobby Charlton, moving through on Moore's pass early in the second half, fell after being tackled by Schulz, but the claims for a penalty were understandably half-hearted. Cohen was making regular runs on the right wing but his centres were easily cut out.
Mr Dienst was at his most officious but he was entitled to reprimand Stiles after the wing-half had bounced the ball in disgust at a harsh decision. Hunt was crowded out in the last stride as he met a cross from the left, but after 75 minutes he had a hand in England's second goal.
He pushed a pass to Ball and when the winger shot Tilkowski pushed the ball onto the outside of his net. Following the corner Hurst's shot from the left was deflected across goal by Schulz, and Peters, strangely neglected by the German defenders, came in swiftly to take the ball on the half volley and drive it into the net from four or five yards.
A free kick given against Styles was guided accurately above the English defenders by Emmerich, and Weber should have done more than head weakly past. In the last seconds of the 90 minutes the English supporters were silenced by an equalizing goal.
Charlton was doubtfully penalized after jumping to a header and the free kick from Emmerich drove the ball through the English wall. As it cannoned across the face of goal it appeared to his Schnellinger on the arm but the referee saw nothing illegal and Weber at the far post was able to score powerfully.

Wonderful shot

From the kick-off in extra time England swept back into their penalty area. Ball had a wonderful shot from 20 yards edged over the crossbar by Tilkowski. Charlton hit a low drive that Tilkowski pushed against his left-hand upright.
The Gemans looked weary but their swift breaks out of defence were still dangerous. Emmerich moved in on Banks but when he passed Held was slow to control the ball and Stiles cleared. Then Held compensated for this by dribbling clear of the entire English defence and turning the ball back invitingly across goal. But there was nobody following up.
When England took the lead again in the tenth minute of extra time they did it controversially. Ball made an opening for himself on the right and when the ball went in to Hurst the inside forward resolutely worked for a clear view of the goal. His rising right foot shot on the turn from 10 yards was pushed against the underside of the crossbar by Tilkowski and when it bounced the England players appealed as one man for a goal. The referee spoke to the Russian linesman on the side away from the main stand and turned to award a goal. The delayed-action cheers shook the stadium.
Then we were up and yelling and stamping and slapping one another as Hurst shot that last staggering goal. The sky had been overcast all afternoon, but now the clouds split and the sun glared down on the stadium. Maybe those fellows were right when they said God was an Englishman.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Have the Big Names Forgotten to Show up?

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite arrived in South Africa after an unimpressive season at Real Madrid where even before his injury there were questions asked by fans and pundits alike following his costly transfer from Milan. A good world cup, the experts contemplated, would see Kaka´ set the event alive in South Africa and earn his place amongst the legendary names of Brazilian football  – Pele, Rivelino, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zico, Socrates, Paulo Cesar to mention but a few.

Set it a blaze he did this week when he earned a red card in the match against Ivory Coast at Soccer City in Johannesburg – albeit rather unfairly the video replay would suggest. But like the handful of big names coming into this event few have lived up to their reputations so far.

Least of all Wayne Rooney who despite being the focal point of the England team throughout qualification and in all the commercial sponsorship deals surrounding the team, he has more than failed so far carrying the appearance of  someone not engaged with what the world cup is really about. As England face their final group game – which is a must win – there is every likelihood, if the news reports are to be believed, that Rooney could be dropped by Manager Fabio Capello for the all or nothing encounter.

As Rooney thaws out from his anger at the booing fans after the Algeria game his former team-mate, Cristiano Ronaldo, or C7 as the advertising billboards identify him, struggled in the first twenty minutes of the match between Portugal and North Korea. Again in danger of doing what he has inevitably done in many big encounters for his club, albeit Manchester United or Real Madrid, and go missing for about 90 minutes.

At Green Point Stadium in Cape Town he finally came alive after Raul Meireles scored the first goal for Portugal.  But up until that point no one could be sure he would leave a memorable mark on this tournament notwithstanding all the pre world cup hype. In the end North Korea went down by 7 goals to nil and Ronaldo was everywhere earning himself the FIFA Man of the Match Award as well as getting on the score sheet in the 87th minute.

 After some frustration in the first match against Ivory Coast, in which he got a yellow card, the goal and performance on Monday was welcome. Hopefully he can deliver on the expectations that he failed on in Germany four years ago.

The fist match for Lionel Messi showed his ability even though he did not score in the game against Nigeria in Ellis Park. In the second game of the group it was Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain who took all the plaudits following his hat-trick against Korea when they lost four goals to one.

Given Barcelona’s competitive season there had been concerns about Messi's fatigue and with Argentina having won both those games to establish a three-point lead at the top of Group B heading into the final round of fixtures Maradona might have considered leaving him out of the match against Greece. However, at a pre match press conference Maradona insisted that the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year would feature in match in Polokwane

Maybe the match against Greece will be the one in which Lionel Messi shows his magic.

If he does so he might want to send a message to Spain's Fernando Torres who since he cropped his flaying blondes locks prior to the tournament seems to have also lost his goal touch – at least if the match against Honduras in Johannesburg on Monday night was anything to go by. Un-typically he fluffed his lines on a number of occasions in front of goal at Ellis Park and it is clear he is far from the confident goal machine so familiar at Anfield.  Perhaps not even at full fitness with his co-star David Villa stealing the limelight so far.

With a game that is all about poise, balance and speed Torres has been a fresh addition to the Premier League with his deft skills and this world cup was the stage in which he was to exhibit those abilities amongst the world's best. At least, that was how it was written ahead of the tournament and so far he has failed to play to script. But it is early days yet with Spain still not guaranteed a place in the round of last sixteen until they address their match against Chile with a win – or a draw at best.

Of the African Nations tipped to make an impact at this tournament there were also a handful of strikers deemed to do their bit as well. But one of them, Didier Drogba, is playing with an broken elbow and so has been limited in his impact. With the destiny of Ivory Coast no longer in their own hands, as Sven Goran Ericsson's side now need Brazil to beat Portugal and to win against North Korea to be in with chance, the reality is that Drogba has made as much impact as he likely to do in the 2010 tournament.

On the other hand Samuel Eto’o is already got his bags packed as he will not outdo the world cup feats, at least at world cup level, of his countryman Roger Milla, with whom he continues to have an ongoing feud. With no points from two games Eto’o can take some consolation from his goal against Denmark in the tenth minute with a chance to add more in the last game against Holland in Cape Town on Thursday.

In that game Arjen Robben will be looking to make the kind of impact a host of his countrymen -  Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Denis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluijvert - have made at bygone world cup finals. But having arrived late due to injury he may struggle in the end as his underrated countryman, Wesley Sneijder, has already got on the score sheet with his goal against Japan.

Robben has yet to play a part in the 2010 World Cup.

For the most part in past tournaments the players or teams that have made the most noise at have been no surprise. As far back as Brazil in Sweden in 1958 or again in 1970 in Mexico where the tournament went to script. And so did the big name players. On a numerous occasions the home nation has been the catalyst for some sort of surprise as in Argentina in 1978, France in 1998 and less so, Germany in 1974.

In 2006 Germany rode the momentum reaching the semi-final when few had predicted they had sufficient talent to cause an upset in their home event at any level. But in Korea and Japan in 2002 the South Korean's reached the semi- finals and surprised many experts only to see the footballing world order restored with Germany and Brazil in the final.

The top scorer then was Ronaldo, with eight goals, which was predictable following the talent we had all glimpsed in France in 1998 and he still remains the second highest scorer since Gerd Mueller notched up ten in Mexico in 1970. Every World Cup since that time the top scorer has not exceeded seven goals with the final count normally five. With the expected stars already not meeting their pre-tournament billing, and some perhaps heading home early than planned, it could be left to Gonzalo Higuain to take the Adidas Golden Boot – emulating Mario Kempes in ‘78

But surely there is a surprise player out there who will make an impact that will baffle the pundits. Is it Mesut Oezil of Germany Or Simon Kjaer of Denmark? Eljero Elia of the Netherlands? Or will it be Maicon of Brazil?

Rossa McDermott ©

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Johnston Leads Ireland Against Australia

Photo: INPHO

On Thursday in Dublin “TJ” will captain Ireland against his native Australia at Castle Avenue with the typical determination he faces all the big matches and an eagerness to win - given his competitive streak. Let no one be in any doubt this encounter will be no different either. Or if it is, it will be because he really wants to win this one even more than normal.

Born in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, thirty six years ago David Trent Johnston is a right-handed batsman and right-arm fast-medium bowler who has played for Ireland since 2004 – mostly as captain given the New South Wales man is a natural leader.

Before joining Ireland Johnston made his first-class debut for New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania in March 1999 and then played his only List A match for them in October that year, against Queensland. He also played four Pura Cup matches in 2000.

Trent Johnston first played club cricket in Ireland in 1995 and returned for four more seasons, as he continued playing Sydney Grade Cricket for North Sydney Cricket Club.

He made his debut for Ireland on 5 May 2004 against Surrey in a C & G Trophy match that Ireland won, only their second win against a first-class county. He also played in the next match of the competition against Northamptonshire.

He made his first-class debut for Ireland against the Netherlands in the Intercontinental Cup which was followed by the 2004 European Championship and a first-class match against Scotland.

The main action in 2005 was the 2005 ICC Trophy, hosted in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Johnston was in the Irish squad and they reached the final, losing to Scotland, but still qualifying for the 2007 World Cup. 

Johnston was made Irish captain in time for the semi-final of the 2005 Intercontinental Cup against the UAE in Windhoek, Namibia in a match a that was drawn with Ireland qualifying for the final on bonus points. In the final Ireland beat Kenya by six wickets.

The 2007 World Cup provided Johnston with some of the high points in his cricket career, leading his team to a thrilling tie against Zimbabwe and hitting the winning runs against Pakistan to record one of the biggest upsets in cricket history.

He also captained Ireland to a win over Bangladesh in the Super Eight stage of the tournament as Ireland finished eighth in the tournament.

He won his 100th cap in the Aug 2009 One Day International loss to England, when he was named Man of the Match.

On Thursday June 17th Trent Johnston will captain Ireland against Australia led by Ricky Ponting.

Trent Johnston said:
"I wouldn't say just because they haven't played cricket for four or five weeks that they're not going to be up for it because they know that there is a massive banana skin here," said the Australia-born Johnston, who played five first-class matches for New South Wales in 1999-2000.

"When we get out there and execute our plans the way we want to we can be a pretty dangerous team. The last thing they'll want to do is play England after being beaten by Ireland.''

“We're not going to kid ourselves, the 11 guys will have to play the games of their lives to be close to Australia,''

"People didn't give us much chance of beating England last August and we should have beaten them, we lost by three runs. That was quite disappointing.”

"We're going to get out there and give it a go, that's all we can do. If it's not good enough on the day, we know we’ve been beaten by the best team in the world.''

Thursday 10 June 2010

Jose Mourinho Just Loves LA!

Over recent summers Jose Mourinho has completed the pre-season training for his players at University of California Los Angeles [UCLA] first taking Chelsea there for two consecutive summers - 2006 and 2007 - and given the results of the “Special One” in the Premier League club with two league titles and an FA Cup, it would be hard to argue that Southern California was not a good choice.

In 2007 the club trained at UCLA from July 26 - August 2nd with a group that included a number of internationals Michael Ballack (Germany), Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine), Michael Essien (Ghana), and Joe Cole (England) who had all played in the World Cup that summer in Germany.

The super start players team trained on the Intramural Field and used the locker room space, weight room and training room facilities at the Acosta Center playing some ad-hoc matches as well as one against the MLS All-Stars.

In the summer of 2009 FC Inter Milan decided for the first time in its history to have pre-season training abroad - far from the traditional location in the Alps where Italian soccer teams generally completed pre-season - with Jose Mourinho choosing UCLA once again. The trip also allowed for some commercial opportunities with a timely ceremony to present the new Nike kit at the Ricardo Montalb├ín Theatre in downtown Los Angeles also included.

On returning to Italy Mourinho then set a season underway that would yield a trophy haul of a Scudetto [Serie A title]; the Coppa Italia and finally the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on May 22nd against Bayern Muenich – achieving a historic treble in his second season at the Italian club.

Not dissimilar to the Italian clubs Real Madrid in 2008, under Bernd Schuster, completed pre-season in Irdning in Austria as was customary and that season went on to win the League title. Last summer year the club appointed a new manager, Manuel Pellegrini, and then undertook a new pre-season training regime in Ireland at the new facilities at Carton House.
As the Madrid club now reflect on what can only be described as a disastrous season by their expectations - given they lost to Alcobendas in the Copa del Rey, were knocked out of the Champions League by Olympic Lyonnais in the quarterfinal and then failed to stop archrivals Barcelona winning a back to back La Liga title - and the manager also gone, the Club President Florentino Perez is now more determined to get the club back on track and has brought the “Special One “ to Madrid for that purpose.

With the arrival of the Portuguese coach the club now just await the details of his needs - pre-season and the list of new players - at a meeting on Friday where the club will sign off on most of the “Special One's” plans as he sets off to emulate his achievements at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan with the Madrid club.

In all likelihood the expectation is that Mourinho will elect the calmer environment and the backdrop of a disinterested US public in Los Angeles by using the extensive facilities at UCLA again, with proximity of the Beverly Hills Hotel in Hollywood as the balance for the super star players as they gradually adjust to his new regime. With an invitation to play in China after pre-season is complete the team would be perfectly located on the west coast of the USA to take up that option quite easily.

One event that has been confirmed is a match in Muenich where Real Madrid will play Bayern on August 13th in honour of the legendary Franz Beckenbauer who has stepped down as President of the club. His 1974 World Cup final team-mate, Uli Hoeness, succeeded Beckenbauer as President of the Bavarian club with the “Kaiser” remaining as Honorary President of Germany's most successful club.

The fixture though allows Bayern's manager Louis van Gaal's a rematch against Jose Mourinho, whose Inter Milan side won the Champions League 2-0 against Bayern last month.

By then Mourinho should have completed his players preparations in the hills of Hollywood which Florentino Perez hopes will bring the blockbuster success he craves for the Real Madrid Club. 

History suggests that UCLA is the right place to start!

Flash of rage brings pressures gripping England into focus | World Cup - Times Online

Flash of rage brings pressures gripping England into focus | World Cup - Times Online

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Marco Pezzaiuoli Joins 1899 Hoffenheim

Marco Pezzaiuoli has become new assistant manager of 1899 Hoffenheim. The 41-year-old has signed a contract until 2014 and will work together with Peter Zeidler to assist manager Ralf Rangnick.
"We are happy that we've managed to get one of the best coaches around in the form of Marco Pezzaiuoli. With him on board we want to further develop our philosophy of bringing through young players", said manager Ralf Rangnick. 
Marco Pezzaiuoli was most recently the manager of the German U17 national team, with whom he won the European Championship on home soil in 2009.