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.



Freddie Adu can go to hell

August 13, 2011 — by Sean1

Sell me some soup, you poor bastard.

I’m really excited about the EPL starting. I’m out of town, and I won’t be able to see any of the games live, but I’ve set my DVR and I’m sure no one will text or tweet or email about results. When I get back home on Sunday night I’ll just sit on my couch and watch kickoff as if it was only just happening at that moment.

And since I don’t even want to even think about the EPL I’ll turn my brain energy upon the return of Freddie Adu to the United States and MLS. The little Ghanaian is back from a harsh go in Europe. I blame the system.

Here we had a promising young player, who maybe isn’t really as young as we say he is (that one’s for you, Conspiracy wonks). We send him overseas to be developed. He moves to Benfica during his late teens, a stranger to the culture with his head full of grand ideas bled in from agents and sportswear marketers. His confidence dissolves while he’s alone in a foreign land. He struggles and is moved and moved, and so far we haven’t seen the player for whom we’d hoped.

It’s unlikely he had adequate support when he most needed it, but that’s par for the course when bringing in foreign players to a strange system thousands of miles from their homes. Many clubs buy their athletes for big money then drop them into play as if they were a new part, unpacked from the shop. Kids fall through the cracks, unable to keep up with the demands of advanced football while simultaneously finding a home, learning a language, figuring out how to get laid. It’s tough out there.

So he’s back. Philadelphia, a city whose teams I support to the one—the one being the Union. There was no Union when I lived in the Delaware Valley. In theory, I support the Red Bulls. In theory, because I don’t really pay them much mind. But they’re my local team, and while I’m happy to see if Feddie can blossom in the city of brotherly love, he can also go to hell.


Part 3 of What To Watch Over the Interlull (Sunday March 27)

March 27, 2011 — by Suman

We’re past the halfway point of the Interlull.  We saw some interesting matches Friday and Saturday.  There’s less to watch today–then no games tomorrow, but a whole slate of interesting ones on Tuesday.  Here are the two we choose for today,

Sunday, March 27:

The one getting all the attention is Scotland hosting A Seleçã London (?):

Scotland-Brazil at Emirates in London (ESPN2, 9amET): See our Sao Paulo-based correspondent’s rundown of the newish Seleção here.  We don’t much about the Scottish side.  If you really want a preview of them, listen to the segment on this week’s Guardian Football Weekly Extra pod, wherein they get Scotsman Ewan Murray on the phone in order to discuss the match.

But we’re equally intrigued by this match in Brazzaville–we’re just not sure if we’ll get to watch it:

It's not often you get to see this national team play--and you probably won't today


Congo-Ghana in Brazzaville (no US TV): An interesting Cup of African Nation qualifier. Ghana may be looking past the Congo to Tuesday’s match against England at Wembley.

Note that this match is being hosted by the Republic of Congo in the capital city of Brazzaville.  As Wikipedia points out the Republic of Congo is “Not to be confused with the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.”  Which is exactly what we did at first, thinking we’d refer you this post we did on TP Mazembe back in December, when they surprised the footballing world by advancing to the finals of the Club World Cup.  But TP Mazembe is of course in the DR Congo.  So all we can do on Congo is excerpt’s match preview:

Congo are a team under construction hence a lot of young players with few experience faces. Captain Christopher Samba of Blackburn Rovers would have a lot on his shoulders as they meet the ever popular Black Stars. They are just a point adrift the west Africans and a little effort from his troops coupled with the home support could do the trick for them.

Coach Camille Ngakosso would also rely heavily on striker Ibara Franchel, the 2007 CAF Young Player of the Year award winner and Switzerland-based Matt Moussilou to frustrate the current Africa best team at the Alphonse Massamba Debat Stadium.

For info on Ghana see our copious coverge of the Black Stars: here (for the Ghana starting XI vs Uruguay in the World Cup last July); here (for video of the Asamoah Gyan Dance); and here (for background about young up-&-coming striker Andre Ayew–son of the greatest Ghanaian player of all time, Abedi (Ayew) Pele).  We may see Gyan and Ayew partner up front in an exciting Ghanaian strikeforce (if not in Brazzaville, then maybe in London on Tuesday).

Ghana is clearly the highest profile side on the continent, after their inspiring showing in South Africa last summer.  They boast a squad filled with players playing club ball at the highest levels: Michael Essien, Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari John Painstil, John Mensah, Richard Kingson (all Premier League); youngsters Kevin-Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (all Serie A, the latter two at Udinese); ; Isaac Vorsah and Anthony Annan in the Bundesliga (Hoffenheim and Schalke 04, respectively); and Derek Boateng in La Liga (Getafe). See here for a list of the full squad.

Since there doesn’t appear to be any US television coverage (not sure about Europe?), one way to follow the match is via @GaryAlSmith’s Twitter stream–he is all about African football, and it appears he’s actually in Ghana.  Here is his Twitter bio:

garyalsmith: AFRICA = African Football Remains In Corrupt Administration….but…All Football Remains In Correspondence Always.



UEFA Champions League: Marseille Visits Manchester

March 15, 2011 — by Suman

Olympique Marseille visits Old Trafford today, attempting to advance to the final eight of the Champions League for the first time since 1993--when they went all the way and won the title--the one and only time a French club has won the Champions League. Marseille held Manchester United to a scoreless draw at home in the Stade Velodrome in the first leg--and hence Man U needs an outright victory in today's match to advance. Look for Marseille to sit back and play a disciplined defensive game--and attempt to score at least one goal via a counterattack.


Italians travel to Austria, Act Like Assess

November 18, 2010 — by Sean2

Normally we’d focus on the flailing Italian national side, a team struggling to rebuild after too many years relying on aging players and outdated systems. Instead, the Italians we’d like to focus on now are the small group of hate-filed idiots who felt it necessary to cross the border into Austria with the express purpose of making monkey chants at Mario Balotelli. His own countrymen travelled out of the country, unfurled a banner that read “No to a multi-ethnic national team”, then hooted like apes at one of their nation’s most promising attacking players. (By the way, though born in Italy he’s of Ghanaian descent).

Understandably, Balotelli is fed up. Sure he’s a prick, but this sort of treatment is simply unacceptable. In his own words:

“Honestly, I don’t know what to say. If I have to hear those chants every time, you can’t go forward like that. I leave others to do the judgment. I am happy to be in the national team. It wouldn’t be right to stop a game because a few fans that turn up to the stadium behave like that. We need to change these people but it’s not me that has to do it. Where I live, the people don’t reason like these people. A multi-ethnic Italy already exists and we can do better.”

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had some words on the matter, too:

“I feel disappointment and anger. We always hear these chants and something has to be done about it. We feel helpless. He [Balotelli] has the support of everyone.”

“This national team is open to anyone who is an Italian citizen.”


Asamoah Gyan Dances at Stamford Bridge–and So Does Bolo Zenden

November 15, 2010 — by Suman2

Asamoah Gyan's School of Dance

Up until a couple weeks ago, it seemed as if Chelsea were going to run away with the Premier League title (even the Special One chimed in all the way from Madrid to that effect!), as they rolled through the first 10 games of the season: 8 wins (a few of them blowouts), a draw, and a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Man City.  Then came a surprising 2-0 loss to Liverpool.  Perhaps that could be explained away: the game was away at Anfield Park, Liverpool is actually a “big club” (according to tradition if not the current table), and Fernando Torres suddenly rediscovered his scoring touch.  But after yesterday’s shocking result–a 3-0 loss at home to Sunderland!–Chelsea no longer looks invincible, and we have at least a 3-horse race for the title.

Sunderland had performed doggedly but modestly through their first 9 games–2 wins, 1 loss…and 6 ties.  Then came an embarrassing 5-1 loss against their rivals Newcastle.  That’s the kind of loss that can derail a season–but they bounced back with a win against Stoke City and a draw against Spurs last week.  Still, no one expected them to go into Stamford Bridge and dominate the mighty Blues.

An odd Sunderland stat: all of their mere 10 goals in the 12 games prior to yesterday had been scored by only 2 players: Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan.  But that changed yesterday, as Nedum Onuoha waltzed through the Chelsea defense to score first for Sunderland, and Danny Welbeck finished nicely for their third. (Onuoha, incidentally, is a 24-year-old defender, born in Nigeria and raised in Manchester, on loan to Sunderland from Man City. Welbeck is a 20-year-old winger/striker, born in England to Ghanaian parents, on loan from Man Utd. Both have appeared for England’s U21 team–we may see them in the future for the senior squad.)

But in between those two goals, Gyan got his fourth goal in the past three games–he’d scored all of Sunderland’s goals in their games against Stoke and Spurs.  (In fact, these have been the first three starts of Gyan’s nascent Premier League career, as Bent had been starting ahead of him until he went down with an injury.  It’ll be interesting to see if Sunderland manager Steve Bruce finds a way to get them both on the field from the beginning, once Bent recovers.)

And so Gyan did his dance at Stamford Bridge–a dance we may be seeing in England with some regularity in the future, if Gyan can keep up this sort of finishing.  See all three goals here:

DispatchesUnited States


July 21, 2010 — by Larry

[We are still going back in time to experience Coach Larry’s trip]

The drive into Durban went easily enough, and we arrived at the hotel around lunch.  We walked down to the beachfront and enjoyed the warm weather.  A mile of sandy beaches with swimmers and surfers, sand sculptors, and a wide promenade separate

Me, Frings in the middle, and the other German from our Jo'burg rikki

the FIFA fanfest area in the south and gorgeous Moses Mabhida stadium on the north end.  The casino and its food court are also in the north, hosting the secondary fanfest sponsored by Hyundai.  Hey look its Frings, and we all enjoy bidding,  “Arrivederci , Italia!” though regretting we will not be enjoying a Netherlands v Italy second round match on the 28th.

We decide to utilize the main fanfest for the Brazil v Portugal crunch on the 25th.  After we enjoy our toes in the sand and a lovely walk around the beachfront, FIFA opens the gates two hours before the match.  We sample some local foods, though somehow miss the bunny chow as we opt for more sausages.  


WC2010: “The tournament of 4-2-3-1”

July 17, 2010 — by Suman1

"Spain have adopted the Barcelona formula, which seems to be the way club football is going"

From a Guardian Football column by one Jonathan Wilson, published just before the WC2010 final between Spain and Holland, and brought to our attention at that time by one otheradamnovy; the column is titled “The Question: What have been the tactical lessons of World Cup 2010?” and open as follows:

This has been the tournament of 4-2-3-1. The move has been apparent in club football for some time; in fact, it may be that 4-2-3-1 is beginning to be supplanted by variants of 4-3-3 at club level, but international football these days lags behind the club game, and this tournament has confirmed the trend that began to emerge at Euro 2008. Even Michael Owen seems to have noticed, which is surely the tipping point.

Click thru for more–much more: commentary on the tactics of Spain, Germany, Holland, Argentina, Ghana, and Brazil, with some notes about all that fit into the context of club football tactics over the past decade , e.g.: