Friday 23 July 2010

Sporting Fingal Lose Out to Maritimo

Sporting Fingal's first foray into Europe ended with defeat at the first hurdle going out to Portuguese side CS Maritimo at Dalymount Park.
Fingal went into the game, trailing by 3-2, meaning a 1-0 victory over Maritimo would see the Dubliners through.
However, the home side got off to a slow start with Maritimo displaying their attacking threat with only half a minute gone. 
Baba played in striker Cherrad, who rounded Clarke in the Fingal goal, but he could only fire a tame shot that a sliding Lorcan Fitgerald stopped.
Clarke pulled off two full length saves from long range Martimo shots within the first six minutes with Fingal looking sluggish early on.
The visitors' forays forward became less frequent as the half wore on but their ability to maintain possession for long periods meant the hosts could never get a foothold on the game.
Fingal's hopes suffered a major blow on 20 minutes when Shaun Maher took down Danilo in the Fingal area. The Maltese referee pointed to the spot and Alonso made no mistake and slotted home.
On the rare moments when Sporting were able to create an opening they were reduced to shooting from distance. Conan Byrne sent his first effort on goal high and wide with fifty five minutes gone.
Sporting then thought they had equalised on the hour mark but Ronan Finn's effort was waved away as offside.
Five minutes later Shane McFaul was brought off and Eamon Zayed introduced, with Liam Buckley switching the formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.
Having proven himself with spectacular saves in the games opening exchanges, Brendan Clarke was beaten at his near post on 67 minutes. Marquinho shot from outside the box and somehow sneaking his shot past Clarke.
With the game looking to have been settled and the crowd beginning to head for the exits, Zayed tapped home a Conan Byrne cross to make it 5-3 on aggregate. 
A minute later and Pecanha pulled off a brilliant close range save to deny Kirby grabbing an equaliser.
Fingal were now piling men forward which left them exposed at the back. On 84 minutes Maritimo could have punished this but substitute Kanu, having beaten the offside trap and rounded Brendan Clarke somehow managed to send his shot inches wide.
Kanu was more clinical five minutes later as Maritimo again caught Fingal on the break the substitute grabbing his sides third.
Zayed made it 3 -2 with a minute of normal time to go, but it was little more than a consolation for the Dublin outfit.

Sporting Fingal: B Clarke; L Fitzgerald, K Browne, S Maher, G O'Brien; C Byrne, R Finn, A Kirby, S McFaul (Zayed 64'), S Williams; G Crowe
CS Maritimo: Pecanha; Ricardo Esteves, Joao Guilherme, Robson, Alonso; Marquinho (Amarai 72'), Danilo, Sousa, Tcho (Kanu 81'); Baba, Cherrad (Fidelis 90') 

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Tuesday 20 July 2010

Heineken Cup 2010/11

Toulouse will open their Heineken Cup title defence with a home "Clash of the Champions" against former double winners London Wasps in the final Round 1 match on Sunday, 10 October.The opening exchanges of the 16th season of European club rugby's elite tournament will be between another former champion club - 2000 winners Northampton Saints - and Castres Olympique.

The fixtures, dates, kick-off times and host broadcasters were today (Tuesday, 20 July) announced by tournament organisers ERC with additional broadcast details to be announced at a later date.

Toulouse won a record fourth Heineken Cup crown in the all-French final at Stade de France in May with 2006 and 2010 finalists Biarritz Olympique who start their challenge on the road at 1998 winners Bath Rugby.

The opening weekend sees English Premiership champions Leicester Tigers travelling to Italian champions Benetton Treviso while French champions ASM Clermont Auvergne are home to Saracens with the Ospreys travelling to
tournament newcomers Toulon.

Fellow Heineken Cup debutants Racing-Metro 92 and Aironi Rugby both face away Irish tests, at 2009 champions Leinster and Ulster Rugby respectively, with reigning Amlin Challenge Cup champions Cardiff Blues home to Edinburgh.

European Club Rugby : HEINEKEN CUP 2010 / 2011 FIXTURES

European Club Rugby : HEINEKEN CUP 2010 / 2011 FIXTURES

Monday 19 July 2010

LIons Appoint Charlie McEwen

The British and Irish Lions Board are pleased to announce that Charlie McEwen has joined the Company as Director of Sales and Marketing for British Lions Ltd. 

Starting his career at Richmond RFC, Charlie joined Octagon in 1999 to manage Lloyds TSB’s sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup and the 5/6 Nations. Whilst at Octagon, Charlie was responsible for the commercial management of the 2001 and 2005 Lions tours and worked with European Rugby Cup to develop and implement the Heineken Cup commercial programme. In 2005 Charlie became Managing Director and Founding Partner of Accelerate Sports and Music Ltd., which was subsequently acquired by the Essentially Group where Charlie was appointed as the Group’s Global Head of Rugby. In this role, he achieved outstanding commercial success for clients including the 2009 Lions, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 and Celtic Rugby. 

“We are looking forward to having Charlie join our office, using his experience and expertise to focus on the development of the Lions 2013 commercial programme and to support other areas of business. We wish him well” said John Feehan, Chief Executive. 

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Thursday 8 July 2010

Who Will Johan Cruyff Cheer For?

Whatever about replacing one of the Netherlands best footballers as National Manager or the thought of following some of their greatest managers – Rinus Michels, Guus Hiddink, Leo Benhaaker, Leo van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard – replacing the accepted national philosophy of Total Football and the place of Johan Cruyff as a National Treasure - is surely a too huge a step. 

But for Bert van Marwijk, who only played once for Holland, none of it really seems a problem as under his guidance Holland remain unbeaten for twenty five matches in a run that has taken them to a World Cup Final for the first time in thirty two years – the last being 1978 in Buenos Aires with Rob Rensenbrink and company. The previous occasion was 1974 in Muenich when Johan Cruyff and Coach Rinus Michels reached the final playing text book Total Football in West Germany. 

On reaching the final in Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday July 11th Van Marwijk has equalled those feats and placing himself in the Dutch Managers Hall of Fame – even though the style of football seems to have few admirers - all longing for the stylish of the 1970’s generation. 

According to Van Marwijk though Dutch style and Brazilian flair no longer have a place at major tournaments such as the World Cup: 

"I know the Brazilian team played beautiful did the Dutch but there is no more space for 'total' or 'samba' football these days," Van Marwijk told a news conference. 

"The sport has changed and everything goes faster. Players are fitter and teams better organised so you can't display that sort of football any longer at a World Cup." 

Van Marwijk is also happy to point out that Holland actually lost those two World Cup Finals. 

In his playing career Van Marwijk had a chronic knee injury and was a winger in Dutch football when they had the likes of Piet Kiezer, Rob Rensenbrink and Johnny Rep around – so it was not easy. He earned his only cap against Yugoslavia in 1975 and was replaced after half time by Manager, George Knobel. 

A very different international career to his predecessor at the Dutch Football Federation [KNVB], Marco Van Basten, who played 58 times for the Oranje, scoring 24 goals, winning European Footballer of the Year three times (1988, '89 and '92) and also the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992. 

But the contrast does not end there as the Van Basten era was a turbulent period with the manager in very public spats with leading stars of the time, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorff, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Denis Bergkamp - refusing to include them in his squads for the first two years of his reign. Although eventually recalling some of them for EURO 2008. 

Van Basten suffered a loss to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup in the Last 16 followed by a quarter final exit to Russia - managed by Guus Hiddink - in EURO 2008 when a stunning performance by Andrei Arshavin delivered two goals for a final score line of 3-1. Incidentally the last time Holland lost match. 

In 2004 Van Marwijk became manager of Borussia Dortmund leaving his job at Feyenoord to Ruud Gullit only to return there in 2007 when the job changes did not work out for either manager. On his return to Feyenoord he brought Giovanni van Bronckhorst back to the club establishing an ethos of team work that saw the club win the 2008 KNVB Cup. When the Dutch Federation came calling after Van Basten accepted a role at Ajax in 2008, Van Marwijk was ready to take up the job at the KNVB. 

The current Dutch team is built on team work – despite the rival personalities and ego’s - maintaining a unity that delivers consistent results that previous Dutch teams failed to do. The former winger is clearly appreciative of the skills offered by Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt - allowing them a freedom to attack at every opportunity - ably supported by the rugged defensive role of his son-in-law, Mark van Bommel and De Jong allowing the creative flair of Wesley Sneijder, a key component of the Dutch midfield, to attack or shot at speed. 

The priority of Van Marwijk is functionality, playing to defend first as opposed to allowing flair players dictate the pace of the game then losing discipline under pressure. 

The team that the Netherlands meet on Sunday is for the most part Barcelona FC with a midfield built around Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez with a defence centred around Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. 

Like the Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola these players have all grown up familiar with the Dutch footballing philosophy fostered by Johan Cruyff who over the past thirty years has had a huge influence on the Catalan Club. Indeed Guardiola became a first team regular under Cruyff in the 1991-92 season and part of the side that won La Liga, the European Cup that year. 

The Dutch influence all started when Marinus ("Rinus") Jacobus Hendricus Michels arrived at the club in 1971 after establishing a successful Ajax side that won the national championship four times and the KNVB Cup three times, as well as reaching the European Cup final in Madrid where they were defeated by Milan. 

In the summer of 1973 Michels brought Cruyff to Barcelona and the two Dutchmen made an immediate impact winning la Liga that season. The following season they were joined by a third Dutchman midfielder Johan Neeskens and the club went on to win a Copa del Rey and in 1979 UEFA Cup Winners Cup. After leaving the club in 1978 Johan Cruyff returned to Barcelona as manager a decade later. 

During his eight years he mixed Catalan players with international stars adding Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov to the playing roster winning La Liga four times between 1991 and 1994. In Europe Barcelona beat Sampdoria to win the 1989 European Cup Winners' Cup and then again in the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley. The team also won the Copa del Rey in 1990, the European Super Cup in 1992 and three Supercopa de España. 

Known as a player's coach with deep convictions Cruyff was considered a visionary and his presence at Barcelona changed many things and the beginning of what is known as the "Dutch influence" at Barcelona. 

Johan Cruyff still lives in Catalunya although as a result of the latest Barca Presidential elections will lose some influence at the club for the first time in three decades. Undoubtedly this weekend his loyalties are split as the Spain's Barcelona players are closer to his footballing vision than the team playing under Bert Van Marwijk. So for the moment he is uncharacteristically silent 

Should Holland win on Sunday then the 74 generation - Jongbloed, Suurbier, Van Hanegem, Jansen, Rijsbergen, Haan, Krol, Neeskens, Cruyff, Rensenbrink, Rep - may lose their place forever. Somewhat a sad thought for the neutral bystander. 

But not so if Spain win playing the Barcelona way - keeping the Johan Cruyff legacy alive.

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Friday 2 July 2010

Maradona the Greatest? Don't ask Pele !

Some of the greatest footballers in the history seem to be playing out a match of their own making through the media in the 2010 World Cup with Edson Arantes do Nascimento and Diego Armando Maradona continuing their ongoing differences which appear rooted, for the most part, in the traditional neighbourly rivalry between Brazil and Argentina. Somewhat worsened perhaps by the memory of Argentina 1978 when Brazil missed getting to the final when the host nation, surprisingly, beat a strong Peru side – that included Teofilo Cubillas, Ramon Quiroga and Juan Carlos Oblitas – by more than the required four goals needed to improve their unfavourable  goal average.

In the end Argentina won by 6 goals to nil and went on to win the ‘78 Final placing them on the world footballing stage for the first time having lived in the shadow of Brazil for many decades. Since then the two players that wore the number ten have pursued a rivalry, despite being a generation apart, which still continues today.

There is also a personal element to the row as Maradona likes to highlight that Pele was never tested himself in European club football. Pele, on the other hand, seizes every opportunity to proclaim the best player in the world as the “new Pele:”

The Brazilian legend was at it again recently declaring that Alfredo Di Stefano was in fact the world’s best and that he had once turned down the chance to play with him at Real Madrid years ago.

During that same interview he declared;

“Maradona could not kick with his right foot and did not score goals with his head,”  he explained, “The only time he scored an important goal was with his head, and it turned out he had used his hand.”

No shock then that the Argentina Manager should then suggest that Pele should be placed in a museum so as to be silenced perhaps. 

However the man who scored over a thousand goals and tops every list of best players in the world replied during the 2010 World Cup, in a bid to avoid being forgotten about, that:

"He (Maradona) is not a good coach, because he had a bizarre lifestyle which cannot go down well with his team," three-time World Cup winner Pele told German magazine 11Freunde.

The 69-year-old Pele then switched to Maradona’s next opponents saying there was much to like about the young and vibrant German side that beat England 4-1 in the Last 16 match on Sunday. As Maradona focussed his remarks toward his semi final opponents as well Germany questioning the “nerves” of midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, Pele offered his contrarians viewpoint.

"This young German team is a pleasure to watch," Pele said, “ It is clear to see that something has changed in German football, it was already beginning to happen at Euro 2008 (where they lost 1-0 to Spain in the final) and the youngsters Mesut Oezil and Thomas Mueller, they are like their predecessors Wolfgang Overath and Pierre Littbarski.

"They can dribble, deliver pinpoint passes, and produce something surprising at any moment," added Pele, who nevertheless feels that they are too young to win at this World Cup.

One just waits now for the timely reminder from Franz Anton Beckenbauer about the 1990 World Cup Final in Rome to go the way of the Argentina camp as a forewarning of perhaps a few more goals from Thomas Mueller in Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

Other legends have not escaped the wrath of Maradona either

"I always had a distant relationship with Platini," he said. "It was 'Hi' and 'Bye', never more than that. But we know how the French are and Platini is French. He believes he's better than everyone else."

One might ask what Michel Platini did to deserve such an observation? It seems he pointed out a personal views about Argentina and “El Diego”;

"He [Maradona] has very little experience, and Argentina's qualifying campaign was not good."

Maradona, of course, dismisses any criticism of his side always eager to talk up the man he believes is  natural replacement, Lionel Messi.

In the build up to the Holland and Brazil semi final Hendrik Johannes Cruijff flung some critical remarks Brazil’s way pointing out that the style of play adopted by Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri, the Manager of Brazil, saying that he would “not pay” to see them.

To which Dunga replied;

“It's up to him. Cruyff can pay to watch this game if he wants. There are many games on offer and democracy allows you to make your own choice.”

"But I am sure Cruyff is not going to pay for the ticket, so therefore he can watch it if he wants to."

In the collapse of Portugal against Spain in the Last 16 match and the failure of their captain Ronaldo to deliver yet again for his country, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira the legend of the nation, was disappointed - but more with the sport in general. When asked how the game had changed since the 1960s he responded

"Well, today, soccer is nothing else than a commercial enterprise."

But the man known in his playing days as O Pantera Negra (The Black Panther) thought that despite their exit, Carlos Queiroz’s men can be proud of their campaign and he is optimistic about the future of the national team.

Meanwhile back in England following the fallout of England's defeat in 2010, one of Esuebio’s opponents in 1966 World Cup semi final, Bobby Charlton, has been remarkably quiet as many experts and former players threw out views to anyone who would listen about the wrongs of the English game following the failure yet again to repeat the feat of forty four years ago.  What must he think as some of his contemporaries flood the airwaves given he is man of much reserve and decorum. 

Undoubtedly he would contend the he played alongside one of the greatest players ever, George Best, who is now unable to share his views with the world  given his premature death in 2005.

But with the 2010 World Cup final fast approaching and many of his former team mates now relaxing on beaches somewhere following France's ignominious departure from this World Cup, it is probably no surprise that Zinedine Zidane has remained quite throughout the tournament.

Sadly for him, he remains the last player to be sent off in a World Cup Final, a statistic that maybe changed on July 11th next, but for the moment tarnishes for some his achievements and ability in the game.

But then again Zizou always dif his talking on the pitch – like all the greatest players.

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