Euro U21 Championships Underway – England v Spain Today!

June 12, 2011 — by Suman

Now here’s some football to watch over the next couple weeks: the UEFA U21 Championships started yesterday in Denmark.  Eight teams are competing: Spain, England, Iceland, Switzerland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Belarus, and the hosts Denmark; and two of the favorites meet in their first group stage match later today: Spain plays England at 2:30pm ET (in the US, you can watch the game on ESPN Deportes or

The Spain squad features two players that were reserves on last summer’s World Cup champion senior national team (midfielders Javi Martínez of Athletic Bilbao and Juan Mata of Valencia), as well as three players that saw bits of playing time with Barcelona this past season (JeffrénBojan Krkić, and Thiago Alcântara).

Interestingly all three of those Barça players have roots outside of Spain. Alcântara is tipped by many as the next great Barcelona midfielder; he was actually born in Italy to Brazilian parents, and quite fine footballing parentage at that–his father is Mazinho, who earned 40 caps playing for the Selecao, including in the 1994 World Cup winning squad.  Thiago was born in 1991 while his father was playing club ball in Italy (for Lecce and Fiorentina), and grew up Spain (where his father played for Valencia and Celta Vigo).  See this Sid Lowe column from last November about Thiago.

Similarly, great things were also expected of Bojan (whose Serbian father was also a professional footballer). He became the youngest ever player to play for Barcelona in a La Liga match and a Champions League match, soon after his 17th birthday. But lately he’s suffered from injuries and didn’t feature much in this past campaign, especially after Ibrahim Affelay arrived in January and became the first attacking option off the bench.

Jeffren is another talented attacker who spent most of this season on the bench, although he did write himself into the Barcelona history books by scoring the 5th goal in the November El Clasico. Jeffren was born in Venezuela, but immigrated to Tenerife with his family at a young age. Like Thiago and Bojan, he was signed by Barcelona before the age of 15 and grew up in La Masia.

England, on the other hand, made more news for the players that have been called up for the senior national team and aren’t playing in this tournament (Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere and Liverpool’s Andy Carroll).  From Mr. Zonal Marking Michael Cox’s preview of how England might line up:

Manchester United fans will look forward to seeing their probable future central defensive duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones play together at the back – they’re likely to be joined by recent Hamburg signing Michael Mancienne and Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand in a strong-looking back four, with Frank Fielding in goal. Another option is to use Spurs’ Danny Rose in the left-back position he’s occasionally played at club level, although he prefers to play on the left wing.

The midfield will be anchored by Fabrice Muamba, with new Liverpool signing Jordan Henderson and Everton’s Jack Rodwell as part of the midfield three. Rodwell could sit alongside Muamba and allow Henderson to create higher up the pitch, but in the recent 2-0 friendly win over Norway’s U21 side, it was Rodwell who provided the most frequent support to the front two of Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge.

That makes England’s likely starting XI: Fielding, Mancienne, Smalling, Jones, Bertrand, Muamba, Rodwell, Henderson, Rose, Welbeck and Sturridge. Right-back Kyle Walker and midfielders Tom Cleverley and Mark Albrighton are other options.

Sturridge and Welbeck make for a potent strike force.  Muamba is player to watch–not least for US fans since he pairs with CultFootball favorite Stu Holden in Bolton’s midfield.  His story is also a remarkable one–from his birth in Kinshasa in 1988 to playing the Premier League and representing England internationally.

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What to Watch This Weekend

June 3, 2011 — by Suman

We took a few weeks off from our guide to the upcoming weekend’s televised matches.  It’s perhaps an odd time to resurrect it, just after the climax of the European club season–but actually perhaps it’s more necessary now that we’re asking ourselves–what exactly are we supposed to watch, now that they’re done playing in Europe?

Well, for starters, they’re not done playing in Europe–there’s a full slate of Euro 2012 qualifiers this weekend.  Though to be honest none of the matchups qualify as must-see.  We’re more interested in a pair of international friendlies that will end up being a tasty doubleheader on Saturday: Brazil hosting the Netherlands in a rematch of last summer’s shock World Cup quarterfinal upset, and USA hosting the World Cup winners, Spain.

(TV listings below pulled from the Washington Post’s SoccerInsider post of comprehensive TV listings for the weekend.)

Saturday, June 4 (all times ET)

England-Switzerland 11:30 a.m. FSC: We thought we should pick at least one Euro qualifier–and although we did have the intention of listing today’s Germany-Austria and Belgium-Turkey matches (both of which turned out to be interesting), we didn’t get around to writing this up in time.  So we’re left with Saturday’s slim pickings, and so we’ll go with the cliche: England hosting Switerland.  Just check any of the English papers for too much coverage from an Anglocentric perspective.  We don’t know too much about the Swiss squad–the two most recognizable names for us are defender Johann Djourou, who really came into his own with Arsenal this past season; and 26-year old Swiss captain Gökhan Inler, who starred in the midfield for the exciting Udinese squad that finished 4th in Serie A.

Brazil-Netherlands 3 p.m. Univision, Luckily our man in Sao Paulo has stepped in to our recent posting void with a nicely detailed preview of the Seleção going into this friendly with the Netherlands.  No doubt the Brazilians will be looking for revenge after they were dumped out of the World Cup by the Dutch last July.  On the other hand, the brilliant Oranje haven’t let up since their run to the final last summer–their currently undefeated in their Euro qualifying group.  It seems like the Dutch will be without a number of their established players–Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel, Rafael van der Vaart, Maarten Stekelenburg are all out of the squad, due to injury or just fatigue after the long club campaign.  But Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt, Nigel de Jong, and Arjen Robben are all in the squad, and we’ll also be looking for exciting up and coming Dutchmen like Ibrahim Affelay (Barcelona), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Eljero Elia (Hamburg), and Luuk de Jong (Twente).

United States-Spain 4:30 p.m. ESPN, Univision,

USA hosts world champions Spain in Foxborough, MA–apparently US Soccer is close to selling out the 68,000-seat Gillette Stadium!. For a full preview, we’ll point you over to the Shin Guardian. As they remind us, the last time these two met, in the 2009 Gold Cup, the US shocked with a 2-0 victory; in fact, they include a link to a column from May 2010 by tactical guru Jonathan Wilson praising Bob Bradley’s tactics against Spain in that match.

We’re wondering who Spain will play?  Xavi, Puyol, Cesc aren’t in the squad, but the rest of the big names are.  Though we can’t imagine Spain will field their top XI, at least not for all that long, or that they’ll be putting forth full effort–especially the Barcelona players that were playing Man U just a week ago in London.

Actually, it will be interesting to see some Spanish players not from Barcelona or Madrid play–we’re pretty sure Joan Capdevila the only such player who featured regularly in the WC last summer. Here is the squad that has travelled to Boston–there is certainly a bit of footballing talent in Spain:


The Olympic Stadium Decision–and Leyton Orient

February 11, 2011 — by John Lally

Today, the Olympic Park Legacy Committee selected West Ham United as the preferred bidder to become the new tenant of the Olympic Stadium, beating out competition from Tottenham Hotspur.  This decision will have a severe negative effect on an historic London club, formed in the early 1880s – not Spurs, but Leyton Orient.

The London skyline and 2012 Olympic Stadium (via

The Olympic Stadium is just a mile away from Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient’s stadium, and a tenant like West Ham will have a severe impact on their ability to attract new local fans.  Having been in existence since 1881, Orient have enjoyed just one season in the top flight in their history, back in 1962-3.  Despite this, they have a hardcore group of fans, attracting just over 4000 fans as an average attendance, and invest in the local community and in a youth program which gives opportunities to local kids.  West Ham, though they currently get around 30,000+ fans, will have 60,000 seats to try and fill for each home game (they don’t currently sell out Upton Park for some of the less high profile games).  To do this, they will be offering low price tickets to school children and families to encourage people to come along.  As a bigger club, with a more high profile name and more historical success, it is likely that new young local fans that otherwise might have been going to see Leyton Orient, will instead choose to go and see West Ham – more fame and a bigger stadium being obvious selling points.

The owners of West Ham are not doing this because they are fans of the club who want to see them succeed; Gold and Sullivan are in this purely for profit and know that having the Olympic Stadium plan will make the club have a higher resale value.  The legacy of the 2012 Olympics could now be that one of the oldest community clubs in London could be put out of business, while in the process, two speculators manage to flip a club for profit using the stadium as leverage.

I am so happy that Tottenham were not the preferred bidder for two reasons.  Firstly, we are not from East London, our roots, history and place is in the N17 region of North London.  To franchise ourselves in the way that MK Dons did when they moved away from Wimbledon, would be tearing apart our history and telling the fans that the desire for more (money, success, profile) was more important than the neighbourhood and community that has supported them for over 125 years.  It hasn’t escaped me that it’s not through choice Spurs are not moving.  I sincerely hope this was gamesmanship on the part of Daniel Levy to try and encourage the local council to improve transport links to White Hart Lane; I’m just not convinced at this point it was.  Secondly, I’m relieved that we will not be doing to Leyton Orient what was done to Tottenham back in 1913, when Woolwich Arsenal uprooted from South London to the Islington area of North London – previously a Tottenham stronghold.  This set in place a fierce rivalry between the two clubs, as we believe they had encroached on our territory – something fans remind them of to this day with their suggestion they should go back to the other side of the river (Okay, we sing “F$@& off back to South London”).  If we had made this move, my support would have gone to any local team that the supporters created, in the style of AFC Wimbledon.  I do not know any Spurs fan that was in favour of this move, all of us would accept less success in exchange for not moving. Bigger is not always better, and greed definitely is not good.

I went to one Leyton Orient game, they were the closest team to where I used to live in east London, and I saw them take on Chester, my Dad’s local team when he was growing up.  I sat in the away fans on a cold Tuesday December night back in 2005 and experienced the quintessential football experience, a scrappy 1-0 win for the away team in a low quality game, but completely enjoyable because of the banter between the two sets of fans and a fantastic coffee and meat pie at half time.  My favourite moment from the whole night was a chant inspired by a new residential building that had been recently finished and allowed residents a clear view of the stadium, and vice versa – “We can see you washing up”.  Since then, Chester have gone out of business due to years of financial mismanagement and are being forced to start again from the lowest rung of non-league football, I just hope that Leyton Orient do not follow suit  because of another team’s greed.


Arsenal v Leeds 1972 – Centenary FA Cup Final

January 8, 2011 — by Suman

The two historied English clubs played earlier today, in a 3rd Round FA Cup matchup at the Emirates.  While today’s was an interesting match, their most famous FA Cup clash was on May 6, 1972 at Wembley–in the centenary FA Cup Final.  Leeds won 1-0 to win their 1st and only FA Cup.

Unlike today, when it would have been a major upset for Leeds to hang on for a victory against Arsenal, in 1972 they were perhaps the two strongest sides in English football.  Arsenal had pulled off the double the previous season, winning both the league and the FA Cup, with Leeds finishing 2nd in the 1970-71 First Division table–just a single point behind the Gunners.

It’s a game that’s well-documented online, by and for Leeds supporters; e.g., a Yorkshire Evening Post photo gallery which includes the front pages from the programmes of the match (left) and the May 8, 1972 special edition of the Evening Post (which includes pics of Leeds captain Billy Bremner receiving the Cup from Queen Elizabeth II and lifting the Cup above the squad):


“Mike Tyson cheers on Peterborough vs West Ham”

July 15, 2010 — by Suman1

"We're not in Brownsville any more..are we?"

We here at CultFootball HQ are still quite new to the footy blogosphere.  We were poking around Twitter a couple weeks ago, looking for soccer-related feeds to follow, and came across Off The Post (on Twitter here, and also on Facebook here), and we’ve since become a big fan.  Like us, they have a healthy sense of their own importance (their subhead: “The best football blog on the planet!”).

What we like is their idiosyncratic take on the sport, such as their “Top 5 [or 10] Conclusions” series.

Or news reports like this:

West Ham’s pre-season friendly at Peterborough was given some extra, erm, bite by the presence of Mike Tyson. The cash-strapped boxer was in Peterborough for a £100-a-head Evening With The Baddest Man On The Planet.

He went onto the pitch at half-time wearing a Peterborough shirt and told the crowd through a loudspeaker: “I’ve never heard of Peterborough before but as soon as I heard it was West Ham I thought, we’ve got to really give it to them.”

He obviously didn’t see much of West Ham last season!

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WC Round of 16: Weekend in Review

June 28, 2010 — by Suman

Ghana over USA

It was a great weekend of WC football, as the Round of 16 got underway with 2 matches on Saturday and 2 matches on Sunday.  We’re halfway to the quarterfinals being set, with 2 more matches today.

On Saturday, Uruguay defeated South Korea 2-1 to move into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1970, and the USA crashed out against Ghana in extra time, also by a score of 2-1. The CultFootball team liveblogged both games, here and here.

Sunday offered two highly anticipated matchups.  England and Germany added another memorable installment to their long and heated rivalry, with Germany destroying the English 4-1, in a game that will be remembered for the stunning German counterattack, and for a clear “Wembley goal” for England that the referees completely missed.

In the afternoon game, Argentina pulled away from Mexico 3-1, although this game too was marred by an officiating error, with goalscorer Carlos Tevez clearly offside on Argentina’s first goal.   The extended CultFootball team commented extensively on both games in entertaining open threads here and here.

That sets up a huge quarterfinal matchup between Argentina and Germany, to be played Saturday (10am ET).  The other quarterfinal matchup that’s set is Uruguay vs. Ghana, Friday 2:30pm ET.

We’ve got two more Round of 16 games today: the Netherlands kickoff against Slovakia in just over 30 minutes, followed by Brazil against Chile later in the day (potentially setting up yet another tremendous quarterfinal match!).

We’ll cover both of today’s games via liveblogs/open threads..join us for the action!