Rounding Up A Busy Day of International Football

February 7, 2013 — by Suman


As we posted to our tumblr yesterday morning, there were at least 10 international matches of interest yesterday, ranging from the Africa Cup of Nations semifinals in the morning, to a bunch of international friendlies in mid-afternoon, and capped off by the 1st three Hex matches.

Here’s a roundup of various match notes and observations from the CultFootball crew:

The two Africa Cup of Nations semifinals: I put on the first semifinal, Mali vs Nigeria, midway thru the 1st half, and quickly saw Nigeria go up 3-0 within the span of 20 minutes. Goals from (1) Elderson, assisted by Chelsea’s Victor Moses (no, Elderson is not a naturalized Nigerian originally from Brazil–his full name is Uwa Elderson Echiéjilé, born in Benin City, playing the last few years in Portugal for Sporting Braga (no, he’s not a naturalized Nigerian originally from Benin–Benin City is in Nigeria); (2) Ideye Aide Brown, a 24yo striker who plays for Dynamo Kyiv, assisted by Emmanuel Emenike; and (3) Emenike, another 24yo striker who also plays in far Eastern Europe, for Spartak Moscow.  Nigeria made it 4-0 via a goal from yet another young striker playing in Russia, Ahmed Musa (20yo, CSKA Moscow). Mali pulled one back in the second half, but their inspirational run ended emphatically.

The second semifinal was a huge upset. The conventional wisdom is that the final would be a clash between two West African powers, Nigeria and Ghana. But instead West African minnow Burkina Faso pulled off the shocker, beating the star-studded Black Stars of Ghana. Ghana scored an early 13′ goal off a PK, but couldn’t add to their lead.  Burkina Faso’s striker Aristide Bancé equalized in the 2nd half (born apparently in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, but moved with his family to Burkina Faso as a child; now playing for Bundesliga minnows FC Augsburg). Burkina Faso then held off Ghana’s attack through extra time, and won the match in penalties.  This match report cites a couple missed chanced by Asamoah Gyan in particular, although Jonathan Wilson’s match report highlights another unfortunate aspect of the match: “Refereeing errors threaten to overshadow Burkina Faso’s dramatic win over Ghana

The Burkina Faso-Nigerian final will take place on Sunday in Johannesburg, at 8pm local time (1pmET), and will be available for viewing via

Among the many International Friendlies, some among us watched Spain-Uruguay, England-Brazil, and France-Germany.

Here are Coach Larry’s observations on Spain’s 3-1 victory over Uruguay:

The match took place in Doha, Qatar at (Wiz?) Khalifa international stadium. pretty sure hex match will have same commentators as BeIN uses the remote setup. Color guy is German but I don’t know who. Then the play by play called him Bodo, and he praised a Victor Valdes distribution, so it’s Bodo Illgner.

No Xavi, no Xabi Alonso. Cesc as false nine, so no Fernando Torres nor David Villa nor Fernando Llorente. Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta wide right with plenty of room as Uruguay started out shading to other side against Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, and Pedro.

Uruguay was all counter attack at the beginning.  Cesc scored in the 16′ on a long range shot right through Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera‘s hands. A little swerve to it, but Muslera [now with Galatasaray, previously with Lazio] should have held it.

A wrong offside decision in the 29’ denied Spain a 2-0 lead, and denied Carlos Puyol a goal to cap off his 100th Spain cap. Spain played a short corner, which was then played back to 8-10 yards off the near corner. Ball was swung in across three face of goal, maybe a flick but volleyed by a wide open Puyol, who was called offsides.

Spain then lost some concentration, Uruguay appealed for a penalty which was denied, but Spain’s organization broke down and Uruguay found a through ball to the top of the box, spin over turn and slid home by Cristian Rodríguez. [Rodriguez came up with Peñarol, played at PSG and Porto before moving last summer to Atletico Madrid].

They honored Puyol for his hundredth cap with a montage and halftime ceremony. Looking forward to his future as a Bond villain.  Plus Sergio Ramos and Torres look very twin-ish with the haircuts.

The second half started wide open. Both teams were stretched and attacked more quickly. Spain attacked down their left, Uruguay snuffed it out but lost it right away in the transition to Pique (who had come on for Puyol). Pique slid in a ball for Pedro, who converted with a slide rule to the far post (51′).

Jordi Alba is bit of a punk. could have had three yellows in one sequence.

Cavani could have converted one but decent save from Valdes.

Multiple subs for Spain through the 2nd half: Malaga’s young star Isco on for Iniesta; David Villa on for Juan Mata; Cazorla exited for debutante Mario Suarez [another Atlético midfielder–in fact, born in a Madrid suburb and a product of their youth system]; Arsenal’s new arrival Nacho Monreal on for Jordi Alba.

Field mics pick up Spain passing:

Thump-Thump thump thump- Thump- Thump

Elder statesman Diego Forlan on for Cavani with 20′ to play.

[Larry’s notes ended there. Spain added an insurance goal in 74′, with Pedro getting his 2nd. Via’s mbm:

SPAIN LEAD 3-1!!! PEDRO WITH HIS SECOND OF THE EVENING!! La Roja launch a blistering counter attack through the Barca trio of Cesc, Villa and Pedro, with the latter of the three prodding the ball home from close range after neat build-up play from the other two.]

Video of that Spain 3 – 1 Uruguay match:

Three interesting intra-European matches took place concurrently, at the traditional (western) European  kickoff time of 2:45pm: England-Brazil at Wembley, France-Germany at the Stade de France, and Netherlands-Italy at the Amsterdam Arena.
Check back here for notes on those, as well as the Hex matches: the USMNT’s demoralizing loss in Honduras, Costa Rica battling back to salvage a draw in Panama City, and Mexico listless performance/Jamaica’s suprising performace at the Estadio Azteca.


Champions LeaguePreview

Champions League Spotlight: Juve-Chelsea & Valencia-Bayern

November 20, 2012 — by Suman


Today’s UEFA Champions League (Matchday 5) fixtures screengrabbed, via

UEFA 2012-2013 Champions League Matchday 5.1


Spartak-Barcelona and BATE-Lille are already underway, in Moscow and Minsk respectively. The other six matches kickoff at the usual 2:45pmET.

The MOTDs are Valencia-Bayern at the Mestalla (tied atop Group F with 9 points apiece), and Juventus-Chelsea in Turin.  Chelsea pulled even with Shakhtar Donetsk at the top of the group, with 7 points each (click here for all the group standings), thanks only to that last-touch headed goal by Victor Moses at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.  On the other side, calcio’s Chuck Norris will be looking to school Chelsea with another master class today from his position deep in the Juve midfield.

Indeed, a good portion of the CultFootball brain trust will be meeting in midtown Manhattan this afternoon for Juve-Chelsea, with an eye on Valencia-Bayern if the viewing venue so allows.

Benfica-Celtic in Lisbon is also a pivotal match–Celtic can secure a place in the final 16 with a draw, following their dramatic 2-1 upset of Barcelona two weeks ago in Glasgow:


God we love Champions League.

EuropePreviewScheduleThe Americas

CF Preview: Dutch De Klassieker & Argentine Superclásico

October 27, 2012 — by Suman


Usually our attention is focused on the “big” European leagues–English, Spanish, German, Italian–but this weekend features two big rivalry matches elsewhere, both on Sunday: the Dutch De Klassieker, with Ajax travelling to Rotterdam to take on Feyenoord at De Kuip; and down in Buenos Aires, the first Argentine Superclásico in 17 months this weekend, with River Plate hosting Boca Juniors at the Estadio Monumental.  Both matches will be available for viewing in the US: Feyenoord-Ajax on ESPN Deportes & (7:30amET), River Plate-Boca Juniors on GolTV (1:30pmET).

We didn’t realize the Superclasico was happening this weekend til we happened to catch Jonathan Wilson’s tweets on Friday, upon his arrival in Buenos Aires.  Via a match preview he wrote for BetFair:

Argentina has been waiting for this fixture for a long time, longer than anybody in any previous era would ever have believed possible. Sunday sees the first superclasico for 17 months as River Plate face Boca Juniors at El Monumental.

It’s fifth against 11th and, unless Boca win and somehow haul themselves back into the title race – at the most they trail Newell’s Old Boys by five points – it means nothing in terms of silverware. Yet it means everything in terms of prestige. The superclasico dominates Argentinian football to an extraordinary extent, no matter where the teams are in the league – which is perhaps understandable given 70 per cent of the country support one team or the other. It’s the game everybody has been focused on since River responded to relegation with promotion at the first attempt – which is just as well, because neither side has been playing particularly well.

And a preview of De Klassieker via

Feyenoord will face an Ajax side brimming with confidence after their Champions League humbling of Manchester City when the sides meet in the first Eredivisie Classic of the season on Sunday.

The sides sit fourth and fifth in the table, with the Amsterdam side ahead on goal difference. But Ronald de Boer’s team will go into the game on the crest of the wave following their 3-1 win over the big-spending Premier League champions. De Boer admitted his team’s performance had been outstanding and he will be hoping for more of the same at De Kuip on Sunday. The former Dutch international said: “I know what we are capable of. I think we saw a good Ajax that wanted to show something good. “We played quite well and City didn’t have an answer to our play.”

His opposite number Ronald Koeman will at least be boosted by the return to training of Reuben Schaken and Sekou Cisse after their respective injury lay-offs.

Champions League

Shakhtar’s Brazilian Carnival Shocks Chelsea

October 24, 2012 — by Suman1


It was quite an exciting first half to Champions League Matchday 3 yesterday. We watched at Woodwork again, which was nicely mellow, with 3 different matches on their 3 screens–from left to right: Shakhtar-Chelsea, Juve-Nordaelland, and Barcelona-Celtic, with the house sound system tuned to the Barça match for the first half, and the Juve match for the 2nd.  (One Manchester United fan showed up too late to claim a TV, and so was reduced to streaming the match against Braga on his laptop.)

For a while it looked like we were headed towards upsets at the Camp Nou, at Old Trafford, and at Nordsjælland. But while the “big” club escaped in each of those matches (although Juve only with a point, thanks to a fantastic late goal by Vucinic), our attention was primarily on the Shakhtar-Chelsea match, and out in far eastern Ukraine the upset held. As the Mirror cheekily put it, it was “A Shaktar the system: Champions Chelsea outclassed and outplayed in Donetsk.

And although yesterday was good, today just might be better.  Of the eight remaining Matchday 3 fixtures, the ones to watch, IOHO, are Arsenal-Schalke, Málaga-Milan, and of course the two matches in the Group of Death—Ajax-Man City and Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid this time around:

Today’s fixtures, screengrabbed from UEFA’s cool interactive tournament calendar

CommentaryEnglandLong Reads

Salman Rushdie & Spurs

October 1, 2012 — by Suman


Via his twitter feed, here is Salman Rushdie on Saturday’s remarkable result at Old Trafford:

For more from Rushdie on the game, and on his history as a Spurs supporter, read this New Yorker essay from 1999: “The People’s Game.”

Part II (“First Love”) of the piece begins:

I came to London in January 1961, as a boy of thirteen and a half, on my way to boarding school, and accompanied by my father.  It was a cold month, with blue skies by day and green fogs by night. We stayed at the Cumberland, at Marble Arch, and after we settled in, my father asked if I would like to see a professional soccer game. (In Bombay, where I had grown up, there was no soccer to speak of; the local sports were cricket and field hockey.)

The first game my father took me to see was what I would later learn was a “friendly” (because the result doesn’t count toward anything) between a North London team called the Arsenal and the champions of Spain, Real Madrid. I did not know that the visitors were rated as perhaps the greatest team ever. Or that they had just won the European Cup five years running. Or that among their players were two of the game’s all-time immortals, both foreigners: a Hungarian named Ferenc Puskas, “the little general,” and an Argentine, Alfredo di Stefano.

This is the way I remember the game: in the first half, Real Madrid tore the Arsenal apart.

Take the time to read the whole essay (although doing so online does require a New Yorker subscription).

(I’ve thought at times of doing a “CultFootball LongReads” series of posts–links to longer essays on the game. Rushdie’s New Yorker essay, along with some of The Blizzard pieces, are what got me thinking about doing such a thing. So consider this the first in a series–more will appear here if/when we get around to posting any more.)

Champions LeaguePreviewSchedule

Champions League: Tournament Calendar, Fixtures, Preview Links

September 18, 2012 — by Suman


With the 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League kicking off in a matter of hours, it feels like the European club season really gets started in earnest today.  Scroll down for all eight of today’s fixtures (with eight more matches tomorrow).

For an overview of the tournament (and to help you plan your next two months of relevant Tuesdays & Wednesday), see UEFA’s fancy interactive tournament calendar.  Here is a screengrab of the top half (Groups A-D, the ones in action today), but click thru for the full thing, plus the interactivity (e.g., rolling over a club highlights their fixtures, such as with Real Madrid shown below):


A few links, all from the Guardian, to get you ready for this week’s fixtures:

Yes, Real Madrid hosting Manchester City is without a doubt the match of the day–two of the handful of squads whose legitimate goal is to win the whole tournament. Both won their leagues last season, but stumbled in Europe–and have stumbled already in their leagues.

Here are all today’s fixtures via

18 September 2012
Dinamo Zagreb Dinamo Zagreb Porto Porto
Referee: Daniele Orsato (ITA) – Stadium: Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb (CRO)
PSG PSG Dynamo Kyiv Dynamo Kyiv
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED) – Stadium: Parc des Princes, Paris (FRA)
Montpellier Montpellier Arsenal Arsenal
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP) – Stadium: La Mosson, Montpellier (FRA)
Olympiacos Olympiacos Schalke Schalke
Referee: David Fernández Borbalán (ESP) – Stadium: Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus (GRE)
Málaga Málaga Zenit Zenit
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (ENG) – Stadium: La Rosaleda, Malaga (ESP)
Milan Milan Anderlecht Anderlecht
Referee: William Collum (SCO) – Stadium: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan (ITA)
Dortmund Dortmund Ajax Ajax
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (ITA) – Stadium: BVB Stadion Dortmund, Dortmund (GER)
Real Madrid Real Madrid Man. City Man. City
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid (ESP)



Weekend Wrapup: Falcao Supercup Hat-trick

September 4, 2012 — by Suman


The weekend began Friday afternoon (for those of us on this side of the Atlantic–it was Friday night in France, where the match was played) with the UEFA Supercup between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

By the time we tuned in to check the score, it was halftime, and the score already 3-0–via a hat-trick for exactly who you would think would be lighting it up.  His 2nd hattrick in five days, given that he scored three against Athletic Bilbao in Madrid on Monday! The Colombian kid is making a case for being one of the best few strikers in the game right now. Here are the goals, each of them spectacular. Commentary pulled from the Guardian MBM:

6 min: GOAL! Chelsea 0-1 Atlético Madrid. Chelsea are rocking alright. Chelsea’s back line is ripped apart by a simple pass down the middle. Falcao romps after it, picking up possession down the inside-left channel. He takes one step into the area, steadies himself, draws Cech, and dinks an exquisite chip towards the right-hand post. The ball hits the woodwork, and spins into the net, beyond the despairing tootsies of Luiz, who is sliding in at speed. What an amazing finish. Upfield, former charge Fernando Torres looks on in stunned disbelief.

19 min: GOAL! Chelsea 0-2 Atlético Madrid. This is such a superlative finish by Falcao. There’s a burst up the Atlético inside-right channel. Luiz can’t stop the ball flying to Falcao’s feet, just outside the area, though he probably should have cut it out. Falcao pauses for the ball to roll out from under his studs, nudges it to the left, taking Cole out of the picture, opens his body, and guides a beautiful effort into the top-left corner. Cech had no chance whatsoever, that was sailing serenely into the net from the nanosecond it left Falcao’s boot. This, ladies and gentlemen, is football.


44 min: GOAL!!! AND A SECOND HAT-TRICK THIS WEEK FOR FALCAO! Chelsea 0-3 Atlético Madrid A corner for Chelsea, won down the left by Mata. So what happens? You know what happens. Atlético clear, then stream upfield, down the right. Arda Turan is allowed to run at the area, and run, and run, and run, and run. He eventually rolls the ball out left to Falcao, who takes one touch and smashes the ball past Cech. In no way can it be argued that this hasn’t been coming.

Unfortunately neither the gif not the Guardian mbm gives credit to the superlative pass (from Gabi?) that put Falcao through for the first goal.  At least the Turkish Arda Turan gets credit for his nice square assist on the 3rd. Worth a mention besides those two is their fellow midfielder Adrián. Watch it in the video highlights:

Chelsea 0-1 Atl. Madrid by simaotvgolo12

The gifs above were pulled from afootballreport’s “Transfer Deadline Day, according to Falcao*” report, which also provides some entertaining text:

As clubs around Europe neurotically began a 24 hour spurt of panic-buying, Falcao led Atlético Madrid to a 4-1 rout against Chelsea and could only shake his head and laugh at the millions of pounds and euros being thrown around. He also laughed at David Luiz, because David Luiz is hilarious and spent the night doing Macaulay Culkin impressions instead of defending. Then he laughed at Branislav Ivanovic, because despite Branislav’s admirable career he would likely never spend a night with a Colombian woman. Finally, his eyes met Roman Abramovich’s afterEl Tigre completed his hat-trick in the European Super Cup, piercing any remnants of the oil oligarch’s soul. Roman grew unsettled in his luxury box in Monaco.


Don’t let anyone persuade you to think otherwise, casually scoring hat-tricks against the European Champions and smashing the hopes and dreams of oligarchs is the only way to live on transfer deadline day.


If/when we get a chance, we’ll be back with a wrapup of the rest of our weekend viewing–Arsenal breaking their duck at Anfield, RVP powering Utd, and Zeemanlandia at the San Siro.



What To Watch This Weekend (Sept 1-3)

September 1, 2012 — by Suman


Sunday’s Liverpool-Arsenal match at Anfield is the marquee matchup of the weekend, but there are a bunch of games worth checking in on if you’re looking for something to watch.  Especially if any of the transfer activity shows up on the pitch.

Here are our picks–a few games each from the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A (plus one from the Eredivisie):

Saturday, Sept 1

10:00am Tottenham Hotspur vs Norwich City Fox Soccer ChannelFox Deportes
12:30pm Manchester City vs Queens Park Rangers Fox Soccer ChannelFox Deportes
2:45pm Bologna vs Milan beIN Sport 1 USARAI Interna..

Will Dempsey play for Spurs? Maicon for City? Granero for QPR? de Jong for Milan? Probably not.

The City-QPR fixture is of course the one that decided the Prem League title in such dramatic fashion last May. We’ve included it here partly only so we could repeat James Richardson’s plea that this fixture should really be retired, so that it’s not sullied by some dreary nil-nil draw (or more likely a 5-0 drubbing).

Sunday, Sept 2

8:30am PSV vs AZ ESPN DeportesESPN3
8:30am Liverpool vs Arsenal Fox Soccer ChannelFox Deportes
12:00pm Udinese vs Juventus beIN Sport 1 USAbeIN Sport en Espa..
1:50pm Real Madrid vs Granada beIN Sport 1 USAbeIN Sport en Espa..
2:45pm Internazionale vs Roma RAI InternazionaleESPN UK
3:30pm Barcelona vs Valencia beIN Sport 1 USAbeIN Sport en Espa..

Liverpool-Arsenal at Anfield is the big match–the first match of the season that feels like a big one. Not just b/c it’s between two (ostensibly) “big” clubs, but a fortiori because both teams need to get their first win of the season to avoid falling futher off the pace in the table.  Read (if you have the stamina) Kirby’s comprehensive Arse-centric post (this extensive excerpt represents but a sliver of the post):

Arsenal has a crunch match against Liverpool up at Anfield on Sunday (8:30 EST, Fox Soccer Channel). Both teams have yet to win a game this season, although it’s not quite crisis intervention time, as it’s only the third game in. Still, Arsenal has yet to score a goal, which is worrying since we just sold the player who scored 40% of our goals last season. Coupled with that, we sold the one who provided the most assists. Also, Liverpool nearly beat the champions last weekend in their 2-2 home draw with Manchester City. I don’t know that we could have done the same. In fact, I’m pretty sure we couldn’t. However, I don’t know that Liverpool could do so again, either.

Liverpool get Daniel Agger back from suspension, while reports have Laurent Koscielny in contention to return to the central defence, with Wojciech Szczesny facing a fitness test on Saturday. Liverpool have bolstered their ranks with the likes of the impressive Joe Allen (Brendan Rodgers’ playmaker at Swansea) and almost-Gunner Nuri Sahin, on loan from Madrid. More on Sahin to follow. They’ve also shipped out Charlie Adam to Stoke and loaned Jay Spearing to Bolton, Andy Carroll to West Ham. As a team stacked with dead wood ourselves, we could learn a thing or two there.

But the day offers up a handful of additional compelling matches. If you’re a follower of the Dutch game, PSV-AZ is a good matchup. The two Serie A matches are feature four teams that will be aiming to finish near the top of the table. Real Madrid should deal with Granada–but including it gives us an excuse to link to our post about Granada from last spring. Finally, the late La Liga game could be a good one. Valencia battled Barcelona to a draw last season, and did the same with Real Madrid just a couple weeks ago.

Monday, Sept 3

3:30pm Real Betis vs Atlético Madrid Sport TV1