Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Euro 2012 Preview – Group C

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoIn the third installment of our Euro 2012 build-up, Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews Group C which contains the defending European champions Spain as well as Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.

GROUP C

CROATIA: Best Performance = Runner Up 1960, 1968 (as Yugoslavia); Quarter-Finals 1996, 2008 (as Croatia)

Following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 the Croatian national team has performed by far the best out of the newly created independent states. As part of the former Yugoslavia, Croats played a part in the Yugoslavia teams who finished runner up on two occasions in the 1960s. Since independence Croatia has only failed to qualify for a major tournament on two out of nine occasions showing that the national team is still one for many teams to fear. In Group F of Euro 2012 qualifying the Croats finished two behind Greece in the standings before a convincing 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in the play-offs gained them their place in the finals. Croatia’s main focus in the tournament will be Luka Modrić who has been in fine form for his club Tottenham Hotspur and whose distributive and creative qualities will be needed for attacking players such as Ivica Olić and Nikica Jelavić the opportunities to flourish.

COACH: Slaven Bilić

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 8

ITALY: Best Performance = Winners 1968

Even hard core fans of the Azzurri would begrudgingly admit that this is far from the most vintage Italian team that has ever graced an international tournament. For a nation which has been world champions on four occasions it is surprising that Italy has only one European Championship title to its name and not many would expect a second title to be winging its way into the trophy cabinet this time around. Despite the pessimism the Italians still have plenty of individual quality and it would be a fool who would completely write off their chances of performing well in this tournament. Italy qualified from qualifying Group C with an unbeaten record of eight wins and two draws and with experienced players such as Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo still playing an active role in the side anything is still possible if the team gets its tactics right during the tournament.

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 12

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Best Performance = Group Stage 1988

They may be underdogs but the Irish wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing in only their second European Championship finals, the other being when Jack Charlton took them to West Germany in 1988, the Republic of Ireland will be something of an unknown quantity for their group opponents and, thus, they might be able to spring a surprise. Under the guidance of Italian legend Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland finished second behind Russia in qualifying Group B before sweeping aside Estonia 5-1 on aggregate in the play-offs. The Republic’s record goal scorer Robbie Keane will be spearheading the attack and if the likes of Damian Duff and Aiden McGeady can provide him with quality service from the flanks then there’s no reason why the Irish cannot upset some of the favourites.

COACH: Giovanni Trapattoni

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 18

SPAIN: Best Performance = Winners 2008

Victorious over Germany four years ago in this competition, the Spanish national team created history when winning the FIFA World Cup in 2010 to become only the third nation, along with Germany and France, to hold both the world and European titles simultaneously. Many superlatives have been used over the last few years to describe the current crop of talent at Spain’s disposal and they will be hoping to make further history by becoming the first country to win three consecutive major tournaments. The qualifying campaign was a breeze for Spain who finished with a 100% record in Group I and finished eleven points ahead of nearest challengers Czech Republic. Despite the absence of top scorer David Villa there are plenty of names who could win a game at any time for Spain. Names such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva have been there and done that but there are also the likes of Álvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente who are hungry and keen to show what they can do at the highest level.

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 1

GROUP C FIXTURES

10/06/12 Spain v Italy

10/06/12 Croatia v Rep. of Ireland

14/06/12 Italy v Croatia

14/06/12 Spain v Rep. of Ireland

18/06/12 Croatia v Spain

18/06/12 Italy v Rep. of Ireland

Croatia: Ten man Hajduk content to share points with Dinamo (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 12, 2011

The first Eternal Derby of the season occurred in Croatia this weekend with Hajduk Split succeeding in their quest to be the first team to ruin Dinamo Zagreb’s 100% winning record. The arch-rivals played out a 1-1 draw at Split’s Poljud Stadion with the home side able to pick up a point despite playing the majority of the match with ten men.

When Mario Brkljača saw red in the 20th minute it appeared that Hajduk’s chances of gaining anything from this match would go up in smoke but the home side took the lead in the 44th minute thanks to captain Srđan Andrić and the odds seemed good that the hosts would go in at the break with the lead. However it didn’t take long for the champions to restore parity when Luis Ibáñez scored in first half stoppage time and they continued to frustrate the hosts in the second half. Despite their best efforts Hajduk were unable to prevent Dinamo from maintaining their unbeaten start with just two points dropped from the first seven matches of the season.

Hajduk are already trailing Dinamo by five points and they will need to put a good run of form together before the next Eternal Derby in March 2012.

Super Cup: CFR Cluj secure treble; Dinamo defeat rivals Hajduk (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 19, 2010

The Super Cup matches of Romania and Croatia were decided this weekend. In the former CFR Cluj kept up their domestic dominance by securing the third of a possible treble but only after winning in a penalty shoot-out. In Croatia old rivals from Zagreb and Split were involved in the fight to win the traditional curtain-raiser to the season.

It is far from contentious to suggest that Unirea Urziceni must be sick of the sight of CFR Cluj in recent years. Unirea have been beaten by the Transylvanian outfit in the 2007-08 Romanian Cup final as well as the last two Romanian Super Cup matches including yesterday’s game played at the Stadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu in Cluj-Napoca, a town which lies approximately 450 kilometres away from the Romanian capital of Bucharest. Dominique Kivuvu opened the scoring for CFR Cluj as early as the 12th minute before he was unfortunate to put through his own net, thus restoring parity for Unirea in the 53rd minute. With no further scoring after ninety minutes the game went into extra-time and it wasn’t long before Laurenţiu Marinescu put Unirea in front. Ciprian Ioan Deac equalized for the home side on the stroke of half-time in extra-time and the game would then peter out into a 2-2 draw sending the game into a penalty shoot-out. Unbelieveably Unirea missed all four of their spot kicks in the shoot-out so it only needed two successful attempts from Felice Piccolo and Emil Dică to secure CFR Cluj the trophy for the second time in their history. Watch the goals HERE:

Watch the Penalty shoot-out HERE:

In Croatia there was one goal that decided the Super Cup match between old rivals Dinamo Zagreb, who won the Croatian League title for the eleventh time last season, and Hajduk Split, last season’s Cup winners. After 76 minutes it was former Liverpool player Igor Bišćan who sealed the game for the champions after he headed home a cross from Brazilian striker Dodô to give Dinamo their fourth Super Cup title. Watch the goal HERE:

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.

Europe: Honours won at the start of the business end of season (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 6, 2010
Coppa Italia

Internazionale secured the first part of a possible treble when beating AS Roma in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday

May is the month when most of Europe’s domestic championships and cup competitions are handed out. With this week signifying the business end of the season “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” looks at some of the titles that have been won in Europe in the last few days.

Internazionale FC are hoping to win a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League under charismatic coach Jose Mourinho this season and the Nerazzurri achieved the first part of potential history by beating AS Roma 1-0 in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday. Argentine striker Diego Milito scored the only goal after 39 minutes to give his club a psychological edge over the Roman side who are Inter’s only challengers with two games to go in the Italian championship. Check out the goal and the coach’s understated celebration to it here:

In other showpiece cup finals throughout Europe Trabzonspor secured their first domestic honour since 2004 when winning the Turkish Cup against favourites Fenerbahçe on Wednesday. “Fener”, who currently lead the way in the Turkish Süper Lig, took the lead ten minutes into the second half with a goal from Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex but Trabzonspor came back in fine style scoring three times in the last twenty five minutes. Umut restored parity after 66 minutes and Engin gave them the lead with ten minutes to go. Gustavo Colman secured the victory four minutes into stoppage time to send the Trabzonspor fans into ecstasy. In Croatia Hajduk Split strolled to victory over two legs in the Croatian Cup final against HNK Šibenik winning 4-1 on aggregate. Hajduk had narrowly won 2-1 in the first leg but made things easier for themselves in the return fixture with goals from Ante Vukušić and Senijad Ibričić to give Hajduk their fifth cup success in post-independence Croatia. Next door in Serbia Crvena Zvezda secured the first part of a possible double when defeating Vojvodina Novi Sad 3-0 in Partizan Stadium, Belgrade. Goals from Aleksandar Jevtić, Kadu and Miloš Trifunović gave the Red Star an easy win and they will hope to overturn arch-rivals Partizan in the league with three games remaining.

In Bulgaria PFC Beroe Stara Zagora secured their maiden triumph in the domestic cup thanks to a stoppage time winner from Doncho Atanasov in their 1-0 victory over Chernomorets Pomorie. On Thursday night the Dutch Cup final was won overwhelmingly by Ajax Amsterdam who have gone a little way towards making up for their narrow defeat in the Eredivisie title race to FC Twente by heavily beating their arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam. Normally the Dutch Cup final is a one leg affair played at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium but was switched to a two-legged contest with no away fans allowed in either game due to the volatile nature of this fixture. In any case Martin Jol saw his Ajax team win comfortably with a 6-1 aggregate win with the first leg a fortnight ago finishing 2-0 and the return game in Rotterdam ending up 4-1. Watch the goals from the second leg here:

Three league championship titles were also decided on Wednesday with success being honoured in France, Denmark and Ukraine. Olympique Marseille, who had gone 17 years without success before this season, added the league championship trophy to their Coupe de la Ligue triumph from earlier in the season. A 3-1 home win against Stade Rennais gave l’OM an eight point cushion at the top of the table with two games to play. Gabriel Heinze got the ball rolling after just four minutes with a free-kick driven low into the bottom corner but the visitors were hoping to spoil the party and duly equalized eight minutes before the break thanks to a Jimmy Briand header. Captain Mamadou Niang restored the lead for Marseille with fifteen minutes remaining. Just sixty seconds later the title was secure when Lucho González’s long-range strike gave Olympique Marseille a 3-1 win and an insurmountable lead in Ligue 1. In Denmark FC København won their eighth SAS Superliga since their formation in 1992 with an easy 4-0 win away at bottom club HB Køge to increase their lead over second place Odense Boldklub to twelve points with three matches remaining. Finally Shakhtar Donetsk won their fifth Ukrainian Premier League title when defeating nearest challengers Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 at home thanks to Ilsinho’s 15th minute strike. The victory has given the Miners a six point lead with one match to play. See the winning goal here: