Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Eastern Europe: Season Review (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 27, 2010

It has been another eventful season in eastern European football with some established powers such as Crvena Zvezda and Dinamo Zagreb adding to their list of historical successes along with some of the game’s new powers such as MŠK Žilina and CFR Cluj continuing to upset the old guard in their respective countries. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the end of season in many of eastern Europe’s most prestigious league and cup competitions:

ROMANIA (CFR Cluj 34 games/69 points; Unirea Urziceni 34/66; FC Vaslui 34/62)

CFR Cluj won their second ever Romanian Liga I title by scraping over the line from 2008-09 champions Unirea Urziceni with a final day 4-2 victory over already relegated Ceahlaul Piatra Niamt. For the Transylvanian club it was their second title in three years – their maiden title came in the 2007-08 season – and they followed it up on Wednesday evening with their first ever Romanian league and cup double but only after surviving the lottery of a penalty shoot-out over cup final opponents FC Vaslui after the game remained goalless after extra-time. CFR Cluj enter the group stage of next season’s UEFA Champions League whilst Unirea must undergo a play-off to qualify for the group stage. FC Vaslui enter the UEFA Europa League along with Steaua Bucharest, FC Timişoara and Dinamo Bucharest.

POLAND (Lech Poznań 30/65; Wisła Kraków 30/62; Ruch Chorzów 30/53)

Lech Poznań won their first league title since 1993 having pipped defending champions Wisła Kraków to the post by three points. Lech defeated Zagłębie Lubin by two goals to nil on the final day to make sure of their sixth Ekstraklasa title but their nearest challengers could only draw 1-1 at home to Odra Wodzisław Śląski so the trophy would’ve gone to Poznań in any case. In the Polish Cup final Ruch Chorzów’s chances of winning a trophy to add to their third place league finish were dashed by outsiders Jagiellonia Białystok – a club featured in Stoppage Time’s Away Days section earlier this season – who won 1-0 thanks to an Adrius Skrela goal in the 49th minute gifting Jagiellonia their first major honour in Polish football.

See Lech clinch the title HERE:

CROATIA (Dinamo Zagreb 30/62; Hajduk Split 30/58; Cibalia 30/57)

The league table looks a lot closer than the championship race actually was with Dinamo Zagrab winning their fifth consecutive Prva HNL title with four games to spare. On Matchday 26 of the campaign Dinamo drew with local neighbours NK Zagreb 1-1 and the point took Dinamo twelve points clear of Hadjuk Split and a goal difference over thirty goals better off. Hajduk did gain some consolation in the Croatian Cup after a convincing 4-1 aggregate win over NHK Šibenik in the two-legged final. Dinamo must take part in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League next season whilst Hajduk, Cibalia and NHK Šibenik enter the UEFA Europa League.

SERBIA (Partizan 30/78; Crvena Zvezda 30/71; OFK Beograd 30/50)

Serbia’s very own Old Firm continue to fight it out between them in the SuperLiga with the black and white of Partizan continuing to maintain domestic dominance after securing their third consecutive title with a game to spare. The important match came in Matchday 28 when Partizan beat their old rivals Crvena Zvezda 1-0 thanks to a Radosav Petrović strike late in the game to give the home side a four point cushion with two games left. That victory gave Partizan the psychological edge and they secured the championship with a 3-0 win over third place OFK Beograd on Matchday 29. Crvena Zvezda did, however, manage to claim the Serbian Cup with a convincing 3-0 win over Vojvodina Novi Sad thanks to goals from Aleksandar Jevtić, Kadu and Miloš Trifunović. See highlights of the Serbian Cup final HERE:

CZECH REPUBLIC (Sparta Prague 30/62; Jablonec 30/61; Banik Ostrava 30/60)

The Czech Gambrinus Liga came to an exciting climax this season with just a point separating the top three teams going into the final matchday of the season. Sparta were the favourites going into the final game as their goal difference was five better than Banik Ostrava’s so Sparta had to match their result in order to claim the title. Jablonec were waiting in the wings in the event that both of the others slipped up but, in the end, Sparta did a professional job in beating fourth place FK Teplice 1-0. In the event Banik could only draw away to 1.FK Příbram whilst Jablonec stole second spot with a 2-0 home win over Dynamo České Budějovice. Sparta enter the UEFA Champions League at the second qualifying round next season. FK Jablonec had the chance of some silverware in the Czech Cup but were made to pay by a determined FC Viktoria Plzeň side who were the better side on the day to claim the cup thanks to a 2-1 win and claim the final UEFA Europa League place.

BULGARIA (Litex Lovech 30/70; CSKA Sofia 30/58; Levski Sofia 30/57)

The big two of Bulgarian football could only watch as Litex Lovech strolled to their third A PFG title with a twelve point cushion from nearest challengers CSKA at the end of the season. Matchday 28 saw Litex clinch the league championship thanks to a 3-0 win against Lokomotive Plovdiv and a place in the second qualfying round of the UEFA Champions League awaits the Lovech based side. CSKA and Levski have struggled by their usual high standards with neither gaining any consolation in the domestic cup which was won for the first time by PFC Beroe Stara Zagora in a 1-0 win over surprise finalists Chernomorets Pomorie from the second tier of Bulgarian football.

HUNGARY (Debreceni VSC 30/62; Videoton FC 30/61; Győri ETO 30/57)

Debreceni VSC continue to be the dominant force in Hungarian football although this title wasn’t as comfortable as any of their previous four championship wins. DVSC were separated from nearest challengers Videoton FC by a solitary point going into the final set of league matches. But, in an unbelieveable climax to the season, Debreceni sensationally lost 1-0 away to mid-table Kecskeméti TE to leave their title defence hanging in the balance. Fortunately for DVSC third place Győri ETO did their bit to help the champions by beating Videoton FC 1-0 to provide the championship with a grandstand finish. Perhaps buoyed by the excitement Debreceni VSC claimed a double triumph by defeating Zalaegerszegi TE 3-2 in an exciting cup final. Watch Debreceni’s final day defeat and subsequent title celebrations here:

SLOVAKIA (MŠK Žilina 33/73; Slovan Bratislava 33/70; Dukla Banská Bystrica 33/56)

MŠK Žilina secured their fifth Corgoň Liga title on the penultimate matchday of the season when defeating DAC Dunajská Streda 4-0 at home whilst Slovan Bratislava, five points behind going into the same round of matches, were also winning at home, in their case 2-0 against third placed Dukla Banská Bystrica. The gap going into the final set of matches was too big for Slovan to bridge and gave the eastern Slovakian side the championship. Slovan, arguably the biggest and most famous club in Slovakia, did gain some consolation with an impressive 6-0 thumping of hapless opponents Spartak Trnava in the Slovakian Cup final.

SLOVENIA (Koper 36/73; Maribor 36/62; Gorica 36/55)

FC Koper were this season’s dominant force in Slovenian football claiming their maiden championship in fine style. FC Koper secured the league championship trophy with four matches left to play when gaining an unassailable lead after their Matchday 32 win over Rudar Velenje. This result, coupled with a draw for NK Maribor at home to NK Domžale, provided a fifteen point cushion with four games left and the side from south west Slovenia, close to the Italian border, will experience their first taste of UEFA Champions League football next season. NK Maribor did gain some success in the domestic cup final though after beating NK Domžale in a closely fought encounter by three goals to two. David Bunderla scored the winning goal in the last minute of extra-time to give NK Maribor their sixth success in the Pokal Hervis.

FIFA World Cup draw – The Verdict

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 5, 2009
Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron hosted the World Cup draw in South Africa

The draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Presented by Charlize Theron (pictured) and including a host of figures from the football world including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and perhaps  the most recognisable sporting icon in the world David Beckham, the draw did throw up some intriguing individual ties and some interesting groups. “Stoppage Time” assesses the groups and the matches that should shape the fortunes at the beginning of the tournament:

GROUP A: SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO, URUGUAY, FRANCE

The host nation should find it very tough in a group which looks like it will be very close. The French will be favourites to go through but their clash against Mexico could decide who wins the group. However the South Africans may harbour hopes of surprising Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. Uruguay, with their deadly strike force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, will certainly fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. Their final group game against Mexico could be amongst the most intense of the championship.

GROUP B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, SOUTH KOREA, GREECE

Almost an exact copy of Group D in the 1994 FIFA World Cup (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece played in a group that contained Bulgaria instead of South Korea). Despite qualifying the tough way Argentina should top this group quite comfortably, the opening match against Nigeria will probably be their toughest assignment. However the Greeks may wish to spring a surprise in much the same way that they did in EURO 2004 when they became European Champions. South Korea can only expect to finish bottom.

GROUP C: ENGLAND, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ALGERIA, SLOVENIA

Almost after the draw had finished the English media were in overdrive, hyping up their country’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. It’s true that they should expect to top this group with relative ease. The only match of real interest is England’s opening clash with the USA, a game that throws back terrible memories for the “Home of Football”. If the Americans can repeat their 1-0 victory in the 1950 World Cup (so unbelieveable a result in those days that the English media initially reported a 10-0 victory for England!) then it would leave the group wide open. The match will have a personal edge involving the LA Galaxy footballers David Beckham and US Captain Landon Donovan, a war of words between the two earlier in the season may add a bit of extra spice to this match. Algeria and Slovenia will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

GROUP D: GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, SERBIA, GHANA

Not as easy for Germany as it may appear on paper. The Australians were very unlucky to lose to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup (a dubious penalty tucked away by Francesco Totti five minutes into stoppage time) and they will hope to put up a challenge for the top spot in this group. Serbia are competing in their first finals as an independent nation and have a leader in Manchester United player Nemanda Vidic. Ghana could be a team that plays open, attacking football but their defence will concede plenty of goals. Germany are quietly optimistic that they can go far in this tournament. The matches between themselves, Australia and Serbia should determine the outcome of the group.

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, CAMEROON, JAPAN

This group looks to be a fairly comfortable one for the Dutch. As I reported in my blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Three” the Dutch had a very easy group in qualifying and they will look to take that form into this group. Cameroon will be a strong contender for second place and with players like Samuel Eto’o and Geremi can give the Danes a tough challenge when they meet in their second group match. Japan have improved as a nation in the last decade but won’t be expected to trouble the other three too much.

GROUP F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, NEW ZEALAND, SLOVAKIA

The current world champions Italy won’t have too much trouble getting through this group. The opening group game between themselves and Paraguay should be among one of the better ones in the group stages. Slovakia are a tough team on their day and won’t go down without a fight. However they may be just a little too inexperienced at this level and will find it tough to get to the Round of 16. New Zealand will be ecstatic to be in South Africa but their squad is very limited, therefore expect defensive tactics from a nation that will want to avoid embarrassment in this tournament.

GROUP G: BRAZIL, NORTH KOREA, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL

There’s a 1966 World Cup feel to this group; it was Portugal who, literally, kicked Pele and his great Brazilian team off the park (Goodison Park to be precise) and it was Portugal who had to come back from 3-0 down to defeat the surprise package of the tournament North Korea 5-3. This time, though, matches in this group involving North Korea should be more clear-cut as they’re the outsiders of this tournament. The Ivory Coast, involved in a tough group including Argentina and Holland in the 2006 World Cup, will be expecting as tough a time in 2010 but some will feel that they can beat Portugal, whose qualification for the World Cup was only confirmed via a play-off. If the Ivorians can get three points against Portugal in the opening group match then they should reach the second round.

GROUP H: SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, HONDURAS, CHILE

The current European champions Spain are currently the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup and they will be encouraged further having seen the draw. They should easily overcome the challenges of their group rivals leaving the rest to fight it out for second place. Honduras qualified thanks to events elsewhere (see blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One) but aren’t expected to get through this group, therefore the match between Switzerland and Chile (both teams’ second group match) should prove to be amongst the more important.