Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Stoppage Time 2012 Coach of the Year is Vicente del Bosque

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on December 31, 2012

Vicente del Bosque (left) coached Spain to international football history in 2012

Due to the Spanish national team’s historic success at the 2012 UEFA European Championship, Stoppage Time’s Coach of the Year award goes to Vicente del Bosque. Having won the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, del Bosque led his team to European success this year and has helped, more than anybody, to bury the ghost of past Spanish teams who went into major tournaments as favourites but were unable to justify the hype.

This current generation of Spanish talent had already been helped along by Luis Aragonés when winning the 2008 UEFA European Championship but their place in footballing history has been cemented by del Bosque whose teams have yet to concede a goal in the knockout stages of a major international competition. Vicente del Bosque helped Spain win three consecutive international tournaments and also made personal history by becoming the first coach to have won the UEFA Champions League, which he achieved twice with Real Madrid CF in 2000 and 2002, as well as the two major international titles of UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup. A quite remarkable set of achievements which also tie in with Spain’s position as the number one team in the FIFA World Rankings table, del Bosque certainly deserves all the praise he gets and with Spain in pole position in Group I for 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying there is every possibility that further history could be created in the next eighteen months.

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Stoppage Time 2012 Team of the Year goes to Spain

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on December 31, 2012

Spain won their third European title in 2012

Stoppage Time’s Team of the Year award could only really go to one team, namely the Spanish national team following their exploits in Poland and Ukraine in this year’s UEFA European Championships. Having won back-to-back international tournaments, the 2008 European Championship and 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain were hoping to become the first team ever to win three major tournaments in a row and certainly didn’t disappoint.

Following a 1-1 draw against the Italians in their opening group game, Spain defeated the Republic of Ireland and Croatia to set up a quarter-final against France. A brace from Xabi Alonso helped secure a 2-0 win over the French but Spain, following a tough goalless draw against Portugal in the semi-finals, needed the lottery of a penalty shoot-out to progress to the final. Meeting up against old foes and group opponents Italy again in the final, many expected the game to be a hard slog but Spain had other ideas and went on to win their third European crown in style with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata securing a 4-0 win and a place in footballing history.

Oceania: Tahiti win maiden OFC Nations Cup title

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on June 10, 2012

OFC Nations Cup logoTahiti are the champions of the OFC Nations Cup for the very first time following an exciting final against New Caledonia. Tahiti, whose previous tournament best had been three second placings in 1973, 1980 and 1996, finally scribed their name on the trophy following Sunday’s 1-0 triumph and claimed a place in next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

New Caledonia, beaten finalists in the previous tournament in 2008, had caused a huge upset on Friday when disposing of the defending champions New Zealand 2-0 in the semi-finals whilst Tahiti reached the final on the back of a tense 1-0 win over hosts Solomon Islands. The final on Sunday was preceded by the third/fourth play-off match between the two losing semi-finalists with New Zealand clawing back some pride in an exciting 4-3 win over the Solomon Islands. The final, however, didn’t see as many goals but no shortage of tension as Tahiti, thanks to the exotically named Steevy Chong Hue, scored the only goal of the game in the 11th minute of the game. Try as they might, New Caledonia were unable to equalize and Tahiti were able to see out the game and claim a maiden title.

The tiny Pacific island, part of French Polynesia, will be hugely rewarded for their success in the OFC Nations Cup by taking part in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup which could see them pitted against the likes of world champions Spain and tournament hosts Brazil. Tahiti, as well as the other three nations who made the OFC Nations Cup semi-finals, also have the third round of FIFA World Cup qualification to look forward to which begins in September this year.

Oceania: New Zealand looking for back-to-back Nations Cup titles

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on May 31, 2012

OFC Nations Cup logoThe 2012 OFC Nations Cup will be the most important football tournament to be held in the Oceania region for many years. As well as playing for continental glory, the competition also doubles as the second round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The top four teams will go on further in the World Cup qualifying process whilst a place in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will also await the team who triumphs in the Nations Cup final on Sunday, June 10th.

It is all to play for in the tournament which begins on June 1st in the Solomon Islands. The host nation have never won the OFC Nations Cup, their best performance coming in 2004 where they finished second to an Australia team taking part in the competition for the final time before they switched over to the Asian Football Confederation. The Solomon Islanders have been drawn in the same group as defending champions New Zealand so the odds on topping their group appear slim but a place in the top two of Group B would see them through to the semi-finals of their home tournament.

Favourites New Zealand are still basking in the aftermath of their 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign in which they went undefeated against group opponents Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia and were unfortunate  to be eliminated on goal difference. That tournament represented real progress for the All Whites who will hope to carry off the OFC Nations Cup for the second consecutive time following their 2008 victory in which they topped a four team league table which included New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu. The champions will face off against the Fijians in their group again this time around with Fiji hoping to cause a real upset this around and get to their first tournament final. Papua New Guinea are the real underdogs in the tournament, their position in the FIFA World Ranking is 193rd (the lowest out of the eight teams), but they do contain a significant number of players from 2010 O-League champions Hekari United and will hope to transfer some top level club experience onto the international stage.

Group A seems more open and not just because of the absence of New Zealand. New Caledonia finished second in the most recent tournament in 2008 finishing seven points behind the Kiwis in the tournament table. Amongst their opponents are Tahiti whose squad includes a sizeable contingent of players from 2012 O-League finalists Tefana FC. Also in the mix are Samoa who qualified for this tournament on the back of a successful first phase in FIFA World Cup qualifying. They saw off neighbours American Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga in order to take their place in the OFC Nations Cup. The final team in the competition is Vanuatu who are still hoping for a maiden final appearance having only ever finished as high as fourth place on four occasions, the most recent being in the four-team tournament of four years ago.

The group stage will be played out from June 1-6 where the top two teams in each group will qualify for the semi-finals of the OFC Nations Cup as well as the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying which will begin in September this year. The semi-finals will be played on June 8th and the tournament will come to its natural conclusion on June 10th at the Lawson Tama stadium in the Solomon capital of Honiara.

China: Lippi takes over Ghangzhou Evergrande

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on May 17, 2012

Marcello LippiChinese club Ghangzhou Evergrande have made a statement of intent for the year ahead by appointing former FIFA World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi to take charge of the team.

Lippi takes over a club who are in fine health having won their maiden Chinese Super League last season and leading ten games into the current campaign with 22 out of 30 points (seven wins, one draw, two defeats), one more than nearest challengers Ghangzhou R&F. Evergrande are also in the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League where they face off against FC Tokyo. For Lippi, and Evergrande owner Xu Jiayin, the aim is for the club to consistently compete at home and abroad with the intention of becoming a major force in Asian football.

Lippi has spoken of his intention “to bring the Italian football concepts to China” and he will have a difficult act to follow given that his predecessor, South Korean coach Lee Jang-Soo, was the man who brought the long-awaited title to Evergrande. However the club has decided that big moves need to be taken if they are to maintain their place at the top of Chinese football and stay one step ahead of Shanghai Shenhua who are also battling to become China’s first super club.

Marcello Lippi’s first match in charge comes this Sunday against bottom of the table Qingdao Jonoon and the pressure will be on the Italian to keep up the club’s early season momentum. However, having won all of the game’s biggest prizes at club and international level, expectation is something that the 64 year old should be able to cope with.

Oceania: American Samoa just one step away from second stage (+video)

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on November 25, 2011

Having been the laughing stock of world football for many years, the tiny Pacific nation of American Samoa is just one step away from progressing beyond the first stage of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying following a good start to their campaign.

Rock bottom of the FIFA World Rankings over the last few years and having failed to win a single competitive match for 17 years, American Samoa began their first stage campaign on Tuesday by defeating Tonga by two goals to one with Ramin Ott and Shalom Luani getting on the score sheet. Yesterday saw American Samoa keep up the good work with a respectable draw against the Cook Islands, Luani scoring his second goal of the campaign after 24 minutes only for Cook Islands to draw level on the hour mark when Tala Luvu put through his own net. Nonetheless the start has given American Samoa a reasonable chance of getting the second stage of Oceania qualifying but they must beat Samoa, who has hosted all of the qualifying games over the last few days, in order to go further and meet up against the likes of New Zealand in the 2012 OFC Nations Cup which will also double as FIFA World Cup qualifying.

FIFA: World Cup qualifying draws made in Brazil

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 31, 2011

FIFA World Cup 2014 logoJust a little over a year after Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the draws for the qualifying rounds of the next FIFA World Cup have been made. Host nation Brazil invited stars past and present such as Ronaldo, Cafu and Neymar to conduct the draw along with FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke in Rio de Janeiro. There was no draw for South American qualifying as the nine countries who will compete in qualifying will face each other in a round-robin home-and-away fixture list. There were draws for each of the remaining five continents and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog lists each of the draw results below for your information.

AFRICA (Teams separated by a slash mark and in bold are to be decided)

GROUP A: South Africa, Botswana, Central African Republic, Somalia/Ethiopia
GROUP B: Tunisia, Cape Verde Islands, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea/Madagascar
GROUP C: Ivory Coast, Morocco, Gambia, Chad/Tanzania 
GROUP  D: Ghana, Zambia, Sudan, Lesotho/Burundi 
GROUP E: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Niger, Sao Tome e Principe/Congo 
GROUP F: Nigeria, Malawi, Seychelles/Kenya, Djibouti/Namibia
GROUP G: Egypt, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Comoros/Mozambique
GROUP H: Algeria, Mali, Benin, Eritrea/Rwanda
GROUP I: Cameroon, Libya, Guinea-Bissau/Togo, Swaziland/Congo DR 
GROUP J: Senegal, Uganda, Angola, Mauritius or Liberia 

Japan Asia Cup 2011

Asian champions Japan face Uzbekistan, Syria and North Korea

ASIA

GROUP A: China, Jordan, Iraq, Singapore
GROUP B: Korea Republic, Kuwait, UAE, Lebanon
GROUP C: Japan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Korea DPR
GROUP D: Australia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand
GROUP E: Iran, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia

EUROPE

GROUP A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales
GROUP B: Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta.
GROUP C: Germany, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan.
GROUP D: Netherlands, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra.
GROUP E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland.
GROUP F: Portugal, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg
GROUP G: Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein
GROUP H: England, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino
GROUP I: Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland

NORTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA (Round 2)

GROUP A: El Salvador, Surinam, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic
GROUP B: Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Bermuda
GROUP C: Panama, Dominica, Nicaragua, Bahamas
GROUP D: Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, St Lucia
GROUP E: Grenada, Guatemala, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize
GROUP F: Haiti, Antigua & Barbuda, Curaçao, US Virgin Islands

Mexico Gold Cup 2011

Mexico will be the favourites to qualify from North and Central America

NORTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA (Round 3)

Group A: USA, Jamaica, Group E winner, Group F winner
Group B: Mexico, Costa Rica, Group A winner, Group B winner
Group C: Honduras, Cuba, Group D winner, Group C winner

OCEANIA (Teams separated by a slash in bold to be decided)

GROUP A: Vanuatu, New Caledonia, American Samoa/Cook Islands/Samoa/Tonga/Tahiti 
GROUP B: Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea

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FIFA: World Cup qualifying begins to gain momentum

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 18, 2011

FIFA World Cup 2014 logoWith Belize’s 3-1 second leg victory over Montserrat on Sunday, helping the former to an 8-3 aggregate win over the latter, the first round of FIFA World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region has been completed.

Daniel Jimenez, Deon McCauley and Luis Mendez scored the goals which sealed Belize’s passage into the second qualifying round in which they will join other first round winners Dominican Republic, St Lucia, Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands and nineteen other nations into the draw for the next round which takes place on July 30th in Rio de Janeiro.

This week also sees the beginning of the second round of Asian qualifying with thirty teams fighting for the 15 places available in the next round, the draw for which will also take place on July 30th along with the main FIFA World Cup qualifying draws for Oceania, Africa and Europe. South America, with just nine teams playing in a round-robin home-and-away format, will not require a draw to be made for qualifying.

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FIFA: World Cup qualifying well and truly alive in Asia

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 4, 2011

2014 FIFA World Cup logoThe first round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying has been completed in Asia this weekend. Eight nations from Nepal to Malaysia, from Myanmar to the Philippines, have secured their places in the next round of qualifying which will take place in late July.

The biggest story of Asian (AFC) World Cup qualifying came at the Faisal Al-Husseini International stadium in the Palestinian city of Al-Ram where Palestine faced off against Afghanistan. The Palestinian national team has only been officially recognised by FIFA for fourteen years and they haven’t had a lot to shout about on the pitch in that time. The politics involved in both regions are well documented but the encouraging thing was to see a healthy 9,000 crowd turn out to see the home side progress into the next stage following their 3-1 aggregate victory over Afghanistan.

The first leg, which had been played in neutral Tajikistan, went the way of Palestine whose 2-0 win came courtesy of goals from Murad Alyan and Ismail Al-Amour. It didn’t take long in the return fixture for Palestine to increase their aggregate lead to 3-0 following Houssam Wadi’s 11th minute strike. The visitors restored some pride after the half-time break thanks to Bilal Arezou’ s consolation goal midway through the second half but the game had already been won by then. Palestine have set themselves up for a tough two-legged clash against Thailand in the second round.

The most dominant performance in the first round came from Vietnam whose 13-1 aggregate demolition of Macau included a seven goal haul from Le Cong Vinh who, as a result of his goal scoring spree, became the highest scorer in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying at the moment. Another match-up featuring plenty of goals was the tie involving Cambodia and Laos with the latter coming out on top by an 8-6 aggregate score line. Two more countries, the Philippines and Nepal, also secured their places in the next round by scoring a multitude of goals, the former putting Sri Lanka in their place with a 5-1 aggregate win whilst the latter did even better against Timor-Leste with a 7-1 victory.

There were more tighter contests played out in the remaining two first round ties. Myanmar eventually got the better of Mongolia with the former’s 2-0 home victory on Sunday turning around a 1-0 reverse in the opening leg. Tighter still was the game involving 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup (South East Asian) champions Malaysia and underdogs Chinese Taipei who worried their opponents throughout the two-legged contest. However Malaysia managed to scrape through on away goals with their 2-1 home win in the first leg followed by a 3-2 defeat in Taipei yesterday. With the game tied at 4-4, Malaysia’s two away goals saw them home and secure them a tie against Singapore in the next round.

AFC ZONE 2ND ROUND WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

China v Laos

Iran v Maldives

Iraq v Yemen

Jordan v Nepal

Kuwait v Philippines

Lebanon v Bangladesh

Oman v Myanmar

Qatar v Vietnam

Saudi Arabia v Hong Kong

Singapore v Malaysia

Syria v Tajikistan

Thailand v Palestine

Turkmenistan v Indonesia

United Arab Emirates v India

Uzbekistan v Kyrgyzstan

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World Cup: 25 Years Ago – El Diego made me a football fan (+video)

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 22, 2011

It has been well documented in the English press that today is the 25th anniversary of Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup. That game brought out the best and worst sides of a player who, in my opinion, was the greatest footballer ever to play the game and it is arguably what “El Diego” did in the whole of that tournament which turned me from indifferent to passionate about the game of football.

Putting it simply, it took a little while for the football bug to bite when I was a kid. My first footballing memory was of seeing Manchester United beat Everton in the 1985 FA Cup final but the game was forgotten as soon as it was over and I didn’t bother with football again until Liverpool FC won the cup twelve months later. Football had begun to creep into my consciousness after Liverpool had won the cup that year, especially as they beat local rivals Everton in the first ever all-Merseyside FA Cup final, but I personally think that, had there not been a World Cup in the summer of that year, that I could’ve forgotten about football again. But when I saw Diego Maradona, in the famous Number 10 shirt of Argentina, pretty much dominate his team and the tournament then that was when I really began to take notice of this Beautiful Game.

THE “HAND OF GOD” GOAL:

The game which gained Maradona worldwide fame was the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final played in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. El Diego had already been part of the 1978 and 1982 World Cup squads but didn’t get to play a single minute of the former whilst his country suffered a second round exit in the latter. The 1986 tournament had already seen Argentina finish on top of their group – ahead of Italy, Bulgaria and South Korea – and get past eternal rivals Uruguay in the second round, setting up a hugely anticipated clash with England. The stakes would already have been high enough in any case but with relations between the two countries at arguably an all-time low following the Falklands War of 1982 there was an edge to the game which was certainly stronger on the Argentine side.

The game finished 0-0 at the break but it didn’t take long for one of the most controversial moments in the history of the sport to emerge. Six minutes into the second half Maradona, realizing he was not going to win a header against oncoming England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, decided to punch the ball into the net, an incident which none of the match officials spotted. The English players were incensed by the decision to award the goal and the sense of injustice had barely had time to sink in before the English were on the receiving end of one of the all-time great World Cup goals. Maradona, picking the ball up inside his own half, went past four players and rounded keeper Shilton before turning the ball home. If ever a goal was going to make me sit up and take notice then this was it. In the relatively short time that I’d been watching football this game seemed to have it all. The English very nearly came back but could only halve the deficit in the end and Maradona had taken his team to the semi-finals.

“THE GOAL OF THE CENTURY”:

As much as the England game proved to be one of the highlights of the tournament, the truth was that Maradona did more than just score those two goals. He went on to help his side defeat Belgium 2-0 in the last four stage, scoring both goals, before setting up Jorge Burruchaga for the match-winning goal in the 3-2 victory against West Germany in the final. The memories of the man and the legend that was Maradona certainly helped play their part in making me the football fan that I am today. I think that if the Hand of God didn’t exist then it would’ve been necessary to invent it.