Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

England: Drogba set to leave Euro champs Chelsea

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on May 22, 2012
Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is set to leave European champions Chelsea after eight years

Didier Drogba will be leaving European champions Chelsea FC, it has been announced by the club today. The Ivorian, who signed for the West London club from Olympique Marseille in 2004-05, has scored 157 goals in 341 games for the Blues and won an assortment of medals including three English Premier League, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two FA Community Shields and the UEFA Champions League. The latter he won in Saturday’s final in which Drogba scored the equalizer in the last minute of normal time before going on to score the winning penalty in the shoot-out. It is understood that Drogba now seeks a fresh challenge elsewhere with China looking the most likely destination, having been linked strongly with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.

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FIFA: International Round-Up

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 5, 2010
Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba's World Cup could be over before it's even begun after breaking his arm in the Ivory Coast's game against Japan

Before any FIFA World Cup there are many international friendlies which adourn the footballing calendar in order to prepare each squad for the oncoming four weeks of competition. However this is also the time when crucial players can pick up injuries which either threaten to or actually prevent players from competing at football’s biggest tournament. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the last few weeks and informs of the latest pre-World Cup developments.

Much of the build-up has been taken up by injuries to some of the game’s big stars before a ball has even been kicked in South Africa. Germany’s Michael Ballack was injured in the English FA Cup final and his non-participation was confirmed only a couple of days after that game, Germany choosing Philipp Lahm to replace him as captain. England captain Rio Ferdinand injured his knee in training just a day after arriving in South Africa and has had his tournament plans destroyed with the news that the injury would keep him sidelined for six to eight weeks. Steven Gerrard now fulfils the role of wearing the armband in Rio’s absence. On Friday Didier Drogba broke his arm in the Ivory Coast’s 2-0 victory over Japan but his team’s medical staff seem hopeful that he can play a part in the tournament if he undergoes emergency surgery so it’ll be interesting to see if he can defy the pain barrier and star for the Elephants during the tournament. Add to that the sad plights of Ghana’s Michael Essien, Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel and Slovakia’s Martin Škrtel and it is clear that the tournament will be a poorer place without these players’ talents on show on the biggest stage of all.

As for the on-field action there has been friendly action aplenty and there have been varying amounts of pre-tournament success for the teams involved. European teams such as England, Spain and Germany have won all of their games ahead of the big kick-off. England beat Mexico 3-1 at Wembley Stadium but the Three Lions were very fortunate to come through against a spirited Japan side who led for a long time before they were unlucky to put through their own net twice in a 2-1 defeat. The Spanish struggled to assert their authority over lesser opponents Saudi Arabia and South Korea, both of whom lost by one goal to the European champions. Saudi Arabia put up a good fight before going down 3-2 whilst the Koreans put up more resistance but ultimately went down to a lone Jesus Navas goal in a 1-0 defeat. Germany have beaten Malta, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina putting three goals past each of their opponents in each case. In the most recent game against the Bosnians, played in Eintracht Frankfurt’s Waldstadion, Edin Džeko gave the away side the lead having got the better of Philipp Lahm but the Nationalmannschaft came back with Lahm atoning for his earlier mistake to equalize. Two penalties from Bastian Schweinsteiger gave the Germans a 3-1 win in front of their fans. Watch Match Highlights HERE:

Some teams have had a bit of a scare before the tournament by being on the receiving end of an unexpected defeat. Arguably the biggest surprise was China’s historic 1-0 victory over 1998 World Cup winners France with a free-kick from Deng Zhouxiang in the 68th minute to further aid the air of pessimism surrounding the French camp at the moment.  Another pre-tournament shock was suffered by Serbia who went down to a 1-0 defeat by fellow World Cup participants and rank outsiders New Zealand, Shane Smeltz’s goal proving the difference between the two teams. Goals from Carlos Vela and Alberto Medina secured a 2-1 win for Javier Aguirre’s Mexico in their encounter against current world champions Italy allowing the Mexicans to put previous friendly defeats to England and the Netherlands behind them. Italy saved face on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland, Fabio Quagliarella cancelling out Gökhan Inler’s strike for the Swiss. See Switzerland v Italy highlights HERE:

The Brazilians have been delighting their fans in southern Africa by playing a friendly match in Harare defeating home side Zimbabwe 3-0 with Michel Bastos, Robinho and Elano on the score sheet. Their South American rivals Argentina have only played two friendly matches in May and won them both against Haiti (4-0) and Canada (5-0) whilst Uruguay’s sole friendly game saw them easily beat Israel by four goals to one. Ghana beat Latvia in the English town of Milton Keynes on Saturday with Quincy Owusu-Obeyie scoring the winning goal in the 89th minute to give the Africans victory. The hosts South Africa have played a multitude of games in preparation for the tournament and remained unbeaten in games against Bulgaria (1-1), Colombia (2-1), Guatemala (5-1) and Denmark (1-0). Algeria, England’s opponent’s in their opening group game, won their friendly match on Saturday against the United Arab Emirates by a goal to nil with Karim Ziani scoring from the penalty spot. Watch Algeria’s goal HERE:

The Socceroos of Australia won two of three games against New Zealand (2-1) and Denmark (1-0) but lost to the United States (1-3) who, in turn, had lost two games against Netherlands (1-2) and Czech Republic (2-4) before beating Turkey (2-1) and the Australians in their last games before flying to South Africa. Cameroon were involved in a humdinger of a match against Serbia on Saturday and were unlucky to lose by the odd goal in seven as the home side won 4-3 in Belgrade. Honduras could only draw their games against Belarus (2-2) and Azerbaijan (0-0) before going down convincingly to a 3-0 defeat against non-qualifiers Romania. Tournament outsiders North Korea’s two games in May saw them lose to Paraguay (1-0) but gain a credible 2-2 draw against Greece. See United States v Australia goals HERE:

England’s Premier League – a glorified SPL?

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on December 6, 2009
Manchester United 2008-09

Manchester United win yet another title in 2008-09, their eleventh in seventeen years

“The most exciting league in the world” is a phrase that’s become synonymous with Sky TV’s presentation of the Barclay’s Premier League, such is the TV station’s devotion to hyping up even the most dullest of matches.  Although there are great players and teams in the league, just how true is it to say that the English Premier League is “the most exciting league in the world”?

One couldn’t doubt the quality of the players on show in the Premier League, on the contrary it’s true to say that with players such as Fernando Torres, Wayne Rooney and Dider Drogba to name but three that the English Premier League contains some of the finest players in the modern game. However this discussion focuses on the concept that the league is branded as much about ‘entertainment’ as much as it is ‘sport’. When one thinks of last day cliffhangers they are very few and far between in the Premier League. As for the multitude of teams capable of winning the title in any given season then you can usually count them with a couple of fingers on one hand. If this criteria were applied to football then the English Premier League (EPL) would be no better than being a glorified Scottish Premier League (SPL).

When people in England talk about the SPL they will patronisingly refer to it as a ‘pub league’ and lament the fact that only two teams, Rangers and Celtic (the Old Firm), have any chance of winning the title. But it’s usually the case that only two teams have any chance of winning the EPL too, Manchester United and A.N. Other. The main challenger to United may change from time to time but it’s hardly any more exciting to see the Red Devils win title after title than it is to see two supposed ‘pub teams’ in Rangers and Celtic win title after title north of the border.

The only thing that maintains a sense of quality in England is the notion of the ‘Big Four’ (i.e. Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool) and their regular appearances in the UEFA Champions League, European football’s showpiece tournament, helping to preserve English football’s position in the UEFA Co-Efficient table (a place in the top three of this table guarantees a nation four places in the Champions League). It seems increasingly the case, however, that some teams are happy just to finish in a top four spot – ‘fourth is the new first’ if you want – and secure the riches that the Champions League provides. In the case of the Old Firm at least they have been punching above their weight in European competition. Regular Champions League appearances coupled with two UEFA Cup finals, Celtic in 2004 and Rangers in 2008, has seen the SPL maintain a respectable standing despite its lack of wealth and international exposure. There have been examples in recent years of  English teams qualifying for the Europa League (ex-UEFA Cup) then trying as hard to get knocked out of a competition that they’ve tried even harder to qualify for. When some English club managers talk about finishing in the top four rather than winning a trophy then it seems to strengthen the view that most clubs in the EPL have very limited ambitions.

Another thing which adds to the lack of real excitement in the overall picture of the English Premier League is the absence of any final day cliffhangers at the top of the table. There may be some exciting finishes at the bottom of the table but the lack of any meaningful matches in respect of the championship means that the EPL is not always so worthy of its hype. You would think this would worry the people at Sky TV seeing as they talk about “the most exciting league in the world” as if its an unquestionable truth. Despite the dominance of the Old Firm in Scotland at least there have been exciting climaxes on the final day in three of the last five seasons including the last two in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Since the English Premier League’s formation in 1992-93 there have been only two final day pieces of drama to witness: the 1994-95 season when Blackburn Rovers beat Manchester United to the title despite losing their final game against Liverpool and the 1998-99 season where Manchester United saw off a spirited Tottenham Hotspur performance at Old Trafford to beat nearest challengers Arsenal to the title by one point. All of the other Premier League titles have been decided on or before the penultimate matchday.

One may argue that it’s too early to write off the English Premier League as a contest but then there are teams such as Liverpool and Arsenal whose title challenges have been written off as early as December after some bad results therefore leaving Manchester United and Chelsea as the only realistic challengers. The irony is that the EPL doesn’t look as entertaining from a competition point of view as its northern neighbour at the moment where the Old Firm have a challenge from Hibernian and Dundee United. For those of you who enjoy a regular two-horse race then “the most exciting league in the world” may just be your best bet for the season.