Sunday, July 09, 2006
As good as Fabio Cannavaro and the rest of the Italian defense has been, I think Zidane, of course, and Franck Ribery -- known as Scarface -- will unlock the Azzurri today as Les Bleus lift the Cup with a 2-1 victory. The French are a better attacking side than Italy, who rely on the counter. Makelele and Thuram will snuff out Toni, Totti and substitute Del Piero. Italy will score when one of Barthez's gambles leaves the goal exposed, but goals from Henry and Zidane will cement France as one of the games great sides: 1998 and 2006 World Cup champions, as well as Euro 2000 winners. Don't be surprised if David Trezeguet comes on late for France and troubles Buffon with a few shots. France as worthy winners and the main storyline of a Cup that had threatend to go off the rails with diving, poor refereeing, etc. Bring on South Africa in 2010!
Friday, July 07, 2006
Having completed his £500,000 transfer from Manchester United last month, Jonathan Spector is preparing to meet up with his new team-mates upon their return to pre-season training later this week. We spoke exclusively with the USA international defender about his move to Upton Park and hopes for a successful future in the claret and blue...
Q: First of all, Jonathan, you must be excited about the challenge that now lies ahead for you at Upton Park?
A: Of course, I can't wait to begin playing for the Club. It's a great feeling to have everything completed now. It can be a lengthy process, what with the medical and everything, but I was impressed with the way West Ham handled the whole situation and I'm now very excited about the prospect of playing for the team. It's a great young Club with a real opportunity to go places and there is a lot to look forward to next season - the UEFA Cup and the chance to improve on the success of last year in the Premiership and FA Cup.
Q: Did you watch the FA Cup final back in May?
A: I did watch it, and I really thought that West Ham were going to win. For the most part, they were in control and in the closing stages of the 90 minutes it didn't seem as though Liverpool had it in them to come back. It was so unlucky the way it all ended. It was a great performance, though, and watching it was just one of many factors that persuaded me to sign for West Ham. When I played for Charlton at Upton Park last season, I thought the atmosphere among the fans in the ground was fantastic and of course there is a squad full of top class players here too. I'm looking forward to meeting all the lads when we start pre-season and I'm sure I'll be made to feel welcome. I don't think there will be any problems settling in. I spent a year in London last season with Charlton, and I love the city. I'm from Chicago, so I know what it is like to live in a big city, and I know I'll be happy here.
Q: How impressed were you by what Alan Pardew had to say about the Club?
A: I met Alan face to face to discuss the transfer and that also played a big part in my decision to join. He was very up front with me and honest about everything, and I respected him for that. I think he has done a great job at West Ham in the time that he has been here and, when you look back at last season, he deserves a lot credit for everything the team achieved. I've been fortunate to have worked under two fantastic managers in Sir Alex Ferguson and Alan Curbishley, and I'm sure Alan will help me to progress and improve as a player here at West Ham.
Q: You've been over in England since the age of 17 - was it a big wrench to leave home and head to the other side of the world at that age?
A: Not really, because I had already been living away from home for two years as part of the US soccer federation's residency programme. All the players lived, trained and went to school in Florida, so I was already used to being away and, when the opportunity to move to England and join Manchester United came along, it wasn't a difficult decision to have to make.
Q: How did the move to England actually come about?
A: I was spotted playing in a youth tournament for the US under-17 side in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. A Manchester United scout was there, apparently watching a player that I was marking, and they asked me to come over for a trial. It was a fantastic honour for me and almost like a dream, to be honest. I learned so much in the time I spent at Old Trafford and I will never forget my time there. I felt it was time to move on, though, in order to take my career on to the next level, and West Ham just seemed like the perfect fit for me.
Q: Injury forced you to miss out on a possible trip to the World Cup finals with the USA this summer, that must have been a huge blow?
A: Of course, that was a major disappointment, but I didn't let myself get too down about it. I was never guaranteed to win a place in the squad and sometimes you have to just accept that things aren't meant to be. I prefer to look forwards rather than backwards, though. I'm still only 20, so hopefully I will have the opportunity to play in World Cups with the national team in the future. At the moment, though, my only priority is getting myself fit and making a good start with West Ham. I'll have some work to do when I begin pre-season training, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Alan Pardew insists that new signing Tyrone Mears has the character and ability to be an immediate hit in the right-back spot at Upton Park. The 23-year-old signed from Preston North End on Wednesday evening in a deal worth a potential £2million, and the Hammers boss admits he is looking forward to unleashing the ambitious defender on the Premiership at the start of the new campaign. "Tyrone is a player we have tracked for some time," says Pards, "and we believe that he is now ready to make the step up to Premiership football. "I like to think that we have a good record in bringing in players from the Championship - as the likes of Reo-Coker, Gabbidon, Harewood and Mullins have proved - and Tyrone can be just as successful as those guys. "The ball is in his court now, he has got to produce and I believe he will. I'm not looking for another right-back - Tyrone will get the chance to make the position his own, but he knows that he will face stiff competition from Jonathan Spector and Christian Dailly. "However, if his hunger, ambition and enthusiasm is an indication of how he will adapt to and cope with Premiership football, then we definitely have a big player on our hands. "We have inserted a clause in his deal that covers an international call-up with England, because that is the level of potential we believe he has. I am very excited about bringing Tyrone to the Club, and I am sure his quality and style of play will be a big hit with our supporters."
With all the scandal surrounding the Azzurri and Serie A right now, a great way to catch up with the covoluted history of Italian footy would be to read this book, which is written by British historian John Foot. It's a breezy read, and its 500 pages (!) are filled with everything you need to know about calcio's pull on the peninsula. It's interesting to see how Rome's derbys compare to those of Turin and Milan. We also get a solid summary of the British influence on the Italian game, from nomenclature to organization. An essential read for any serious student of the Beautiful Game.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Anyone who watches the English Premiership on a weekly basis would say, without question, that Arsenal striker Thierry Henry has been the best player in the league the last few seasons. He makes football look easy -- which it isn't -- and routinely turns in sublime performances. With his Gallic shrugs, electrifying pace and Nuryev-like grace, Henry alone is worth the price of admission. But he always looked a different (and lesser) player for France. His runs often seemed labored, and the tactical constraints of the international game seemed to take away some of his va va voom.
But against Brazil on Saturday, the Henry we see on display in England was out there on the pitch. Yes, he scored the goal, but he took the game by the scruff of its neck with his exuberant runs and energetic grace. If France win the World Cup (and it will be Les Bleus vs. Germany in the final), Henry might just earn his place in the pantheon of the game's true greats.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Even if he spends his later years toiling for the likes of Stoke City or (back-down-from-The-Premiership) Reading, who won't lift his glass to the accomplishments of Bobby Z? Those 2 goals v. Ipswich, and the winner against Preston in a match that redefined the term 'pressure.' Add in that goal at Birmingham and you've got yourself the makings of a Boleyn blaster. Long live Bobby Z!!!!
Last time out at Indianapolis, just 6 drivers could take part due to deficiencies in Michelin's tires. This time round there won't be such a distraction, but with Ferrari firmly ensconsed in the pole positions, don't expect to see Jenson Button (pictured from Saturday) or any other outsider trolling for glory.
Okay, first off I'm willing to take credit for my earlier post regarding France giving Brazil a match to be reckoned with ... as I wait for those accolades, we must ask after Ronaldinho and Brazil -- aside from 'fatty' Ronaldo's 3 goals-- just where (the heck) were they? This was a team, if you were to believe the Nike marketing men, that would turn aside all who came in its path. Instead, we saw mediocrity and malaise. Yes, Brazil are legendary, but in this World Cup they were too precious for their own good.
Actually, this post is for my beautiful wife Victoria, whom I believe is the only regular reader of my blog. (No surprise there!) Andy Murray knocked off American hotshot and 2-time finalist Andy Roddick to reach the final 16 of Wimbledon today. He is from Scotland, but maybe all the Engerland fans can rally round the Crown and will on this Brit to an unlikely Wimby victory. Strawberries and cream next Sunday, anyone?
It's a great saying, and it applies to Engerland's exit from this World Cup. When you have two 8-year-olds screaming at the telly (like my sons were) for the team to attack!! instead of playing conservative, timid, we-have-no-creative-ideas pass after pass from defender to defender like the Three Lions did in the first half, you know you will have problems. And did they ever.
It all goes back to Sven and his coach-not-to-lose philosophy. As cynical as some of the Portuguese players were with their diving (Maniche in particular), what England fan wouldn't have killed for some of Big Phil's oomph to be transferred to our lads as he prowled the Portuguese touchline? The saddest part is that with McClaren, it could be 4 more years of the same. I would hate to lose him, but it's time for a bold move: Pardew for England!!!!