The Final: I’ll do my crying in the rain

A SHAMBOLIC presentation it may have been, but not even Moscow rain could dampen the feeling that the 2018 World Cup was a resounding success. It’s too early to assess the competition in terms of “best ever” claims, but after a series of very mediocre events and finals that failed to please – it is  a struggle to name a decent final after 1986 – … Continue reading The Final: I’ll do my crying in the rain

Week Three: Going home, coming home

AND then there were four. Two good teams, two sides that got a bit lucky, managed their tournament well and worked their way through. If it turns out to be Belgium v England, then the Premier League’s grandees will be making merry, for it will be two teams of Premier players fighting it out for the game’s greatest prize. There’s been a lot of nonsense … Continue reading Week Three: Going home, coming home

Winter break review: HR – Dinamo all the way

IT looks like a return to the familiar pattern in Croatia for the past decade or more – Dinamo Zagreb on top and running away with the title. Dinamo are 12 points clear at the top after 20 games and are one of the few teams across Europe that remain unbeaten – 15 wins and five draws with a goal count of 45-13. Since 2005-06, … Continue reading Winter break review: HR – Dinamo all the way

Europe’s giants of all sizes, Part 1

AS we head towards the inevitable European super league, the rest of the continent’s clubs must be wondering what lies in store for those that find themselves excluded from the great gravy train that will emerge from a future shake-up of football. It would be easy for onlookers to only see a landscape that is dominated by Barca, Bayern, Real and PSG, but across Europe, … Continue reading Europe’s giants of all sizes, Part 1

Zagreb in turmoil on eve of season

The Croatian league gets underway this weekend and the reigning champions, Dinamo Zagreb will be kicking-off under something of a dark cloud. The club’s chairman, Zdravko Mamic and his brother Zoran, the coach, were both arrested this week after investigations into possible embezzlement and tax fraud. They were snatched as they crossed the border from Slovenia, where Dinamo had  been preparing for the new    campaign. … Continue reading Zagreb in turmoil on eve of season

What’s going on in Mittel Europa?

We’re familiar with what’s going on in the big five football leagues: the English Premier; La Liga; the Bundesliga; Serie A and Ligue 1. But what about some of the lower profile competitions, leagues that contains some big names from a more democratic age? There’s no doubt that some familiar names are running the show in many Central European leagues, but there are very few … Continue reading What’s going on in Mittel Europa?

World Cup Day One: We need a strong Brazilian start

Notwithstanding the background noise around FIFA corruption and revolution in the air, the opening game of the World Cup needs to be good in order to captivate the global audience for the next month or so. More than ever before, the competition needs a successful host nation to drive the overblown 32-team format to the knockout stages. Recent World Cups have disappointed, the last three, … Continue reading World Cup Day One: We need a strong Brazilian start

Zagreb and Split, a tale of two cities

In the final part of the Balkan Trilogy, we look at two clubs who were once tricky European campaigners, Dinamo Zagreb and Hadjuk Split. About 15 years ago, I was in the centre of Zagreb, being shown around the fish market. My guide was very proud of this fairly modest market. Next to one stall, there was a man selling football souvenirs. I asked him … Continue reading Zagreb and Split, a tale of two cities

Balkan League? – sounds like a crazy idea

UEFA, apparently, has given its blessing on the creation of a “Balkan Super League”, comprising clubs from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia and Montenegro, as well as Hungary and Bulgaria. It’s 20 years since the region was hurled into turmoil by a war that was far bloodier than the western part of Europe really understood. There’s still tension, as anyone who has visited Croatia, Bosnia or … Continue reading Balkan League? – sounds like a crazy idea

Carry on Spain? – Euro 2012 Group C

Spain will either make history or be the nearly men of world football at this year’s European Championship. Spain can make history if they win the competition to make it three straight victories in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Nobody has achieved that feat, although West Germany went closest when they missed out on penalties in the 1976 European Championship after winning in 1972 and then … Continue reading Carry on Spain? – Euro 2012 Group C