Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

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:

Champions League – Group Stage Round-Up: Part One

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 9, 2009
Louis Van Gaal

Can Louis van Gaal win the Champions League again?

This week sees the conclusion of the group stages in the UEFA Champions League. “Stoppage Time” takes a look back at how each group has shaped up, starting with groups A-D today, followed by groups E-H tomorrow:

GROUP A (BORDEAUX, BAYERN MUNICH, JUVENTUS, MACCABI HAIFA)

Bordeaux surprised the pundits with a near faultless performance in group A. “Les Girondins” only dropped two points away at Juventus on Matchday 1 leaving the traditional big boys “Juve” and FC Bayern to fight it out for second place. During the campaign it seemed as if Bayern’s domestic troubles were going to destroy their European ambitions and, with two matchdays to go, Juve seemed to be going through. However the four time European champions from Bavaria still had a chance on Matchday 6, all they had to do was beat Juventus away in Turin. What seemed a tough task proved, ultimately, to be a stroll in the park for Louis van Gaal’s men as they won 4-1 including a penalty goal from Bayern keeper Hans-Jörg Butt. Juventus are now confined to the Europa League whilst Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa couldn’t even score a goal in the whole group stage and, unsurprisingly, remained pointless after six games.

GROUP B (MANCHESTER UNITED, CSKA MOSCOW, VfL WOLFSBURG, BESIKTAS)

As expected Manchester United topped the group in comfortable fashion. CSKA Moscow claimed the second place after a 2-1 success away in Istanbul against Besiktas on Matchday 6. The celebrations were dampened somewhat by the news that two of their players, Alexei Berezutsky and Sergei Ignashevich, were tested positive for banned substances. However UEFA has decided to punish the players rather than the club for what officals of CSKA Moscow called “a clerical error”.  German champions VfL Wolfsburg had a good maiden campaign in Europe’s elite class with Edin Džeko attracting the notice of some of Europe’s biggest clubs with some good performances, most notably against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Besiktas were struggling from the start but a consolation win over Manchester United in Matchday 5 proved to be their only highlight. With players such as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen showing glimpses of their best “ManU” finished with 13 points at the top of the group with CSKA three points behind. Wolfsburg’s European campaign will continue in the Europa League whilst Besiktas have to revert back to the travails of domestic football.

GROUP C (REAL MADRID, AC MILAN, OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE, FC ZÜRICH)

Before a ball was kicked in this group virtually everybody had tipped Real Madrid and AC Milan, two clubs with sixteen European Cups before them, to qualify for the Round of 16 and so it was proved. The only real blip which the Spanish side suffered was their 3-2 home defeat by the Italian giants on Matchday 3. FC Zürich had their moments too, a 1-0 defeat of AC Milan in the San Siro on Matchday 2 had their fans dreaming of further glory. Sadly for the Swiss champions their double header against Marseille proved disappointing and effectively knocked them out of the competition. On Matchday 6 Marseille still had a chance of progressing but they had to defeat Real Madrid, who were already through, at home and hope Milan dropped points in Zürich. The latter scenario happened as Milan could only manage a 1-1 draw but Cristiano Ronaldo was in scintillating form for Real Madrid scoring twice in a 3-1 win at Stade Vélodrome to send Marseille into the Europa League.

GROUP D (CHELSEA FC, FC PORTO, ATLÉTICO DE MADRID, APOEL NICOSIA)

Chelsea and FC Porto were clearly the two best sides in the group easily seeing off a poor Atleti and a weak APOEL team although the Cypriots were far from expected to qualify for the last 16. Chelsea’s two matches against FC Porto determined the top two placings with the London club winning 1-0 home and away. This was the difference between the two teams even allowing for the fact that Chelsea drew 2-2 away at Atleti and at home to APOEL on Matchday 6 when they’d already qualified. Chelsea finsihed on 14 points two ahead of Porto who some people fancy as a good outside bet in the tournament. “Los Rojiblancos” (the red and whites) of Madrid scraped through to the Europa League going through on their head-to-head record against APOEL. With both teams finishing on three points each after six games Atleti’s away goal in the 1-1 draw in Cyprus proved crucial as APOEL were only able to manage a 0-0 draw in Spain.