Europe’s top dogs as winter sets-in…

The UEFA Champions League is on the back burner at the moment, but already it’s pretty predictable how this season’s competition will develop over the coming months. But what about next season? As many of Europe’s top leagues have a winter break, how are the top clubs positioned to qualify for the 2015-16 competition? Spain: Goal-happy Real Madrid (55 in 15), Barcelona and Atletico Madrid … Continue reading Europe’s top dogs as winter sets-in…

France: PSG’s title to lose in 2014-15

The French football season gets underway this weekend and as in the past two years, Paris St. Germain will be favourites to win Ligue 1 to make it a hat-trick of titles. But then they should. One of the refreshing things about French football is that playing budgets are quite public. This creates some form of transparency, but simultaneously, it must be a huge demotivator … Continue reading France: PSG’s title to lose in 2014-15

World Cup 2014: Tremors to hit Brazil?

The nerves are starting to show in Brazil. Scolari looks like he’s getting hot under the collar, Neymar’s fitness becomes national news and there’s the omnipresent threat of violence if things go horribly wrong for Pentacampeões against Colombia. Having predicted that Chile would beat Brazil in the last 16 – actually, they very nearly did – we are going to have another bash at making … Continue reading World Cup 2014: Tremors to hit Brazil?

World Cup Day Nine: A nation mourns and places faith in Italy

“And remember, expectation is low,” said one of the BBC pundits – I think Gary Lineker, before England ran out against Italy. Five days later, the chickens came home to roost, probable elimination at the group stage. So why the long face? It’s not the end of an era, because there was never an era to begin with and this has been a long time … Continue reading World Cup Day Nine: A nation mourns and places faith in Italy

World Cup Day Four: The first hangover…

England and their fans, as well as checking on bleary eyes due to the 1am finish, are now waking up to the reality that under-expectation was indeed warranted all along. As Roy Hodgson’s side adopted the age-old British trait of “honourable losers”, it was also obvious that the young team he is forging is a long way off being competitive. Italy didn’t have to break … Continue reading World Cup Day Four: The first hangover…

Costa Bravo

Back in the late 1980s, Channel 4, ever the innovator, screened a drama that addressed one of the big taboos in football: women. Before the PC police start hauling up the placards, it was the 1980s and at the time, women in professional football were almost unheard of, save for behind-the-scenes stalwarts like club secretaries and administrators. On the field, in the dressing room and … Continue reading Costa Bravo

Great Reputations: St.Etienne in the 1970s – painting the town Vert…

Before PSG and Monaco got rich and threatened to join the uber-clubs of Europe, French football had only spasmodically made an impact on the big stages. True, Stade de Reims reached a couple of European Cup finals in the nascent years of the European Cup, and Marseille won the competition in the 1990s. But the team that captured the hearts of European football watchers was … Continue reading Great Reputations: St.Etienne in the 1970s – painting the town Vert…

Despite some mad-cap ideas, we football folk owe the French

Michel Platini has been adopting the William Burroughs approach to the way he is playing around with European football. Burroughs, an eccentric writer if ever there was one, used to cut-up pieces of paper with words scrawled on and use them to concoct sentences (so-called aleatory literary technique). I think Platini has been doing likewise with his random ideas for future tournament structures. Platini was … Continue reading Despite some mad-cap ideas, we football folk owe the French

No sign of a city rival for PSG

Capital cities don’t always provide the bulk of a nation’s top football clubs, but generally, the most influential come from the most affluent parts of the country and by definition, that is invariably the capital. So it’s no surprise that in some places, clubs in and around the metropolis figure among the most successful. There are glaring exceptions right across Europe, however. In Spain, the … Continue reading No sign of a city rival for PSG

He is Zlatan….he is brilliant….but he’s been snubbed

If anyone made a biopic about Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, the part of the great sardine fancier would surely have to be played by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The two players, arguably the most exciting players of their generation, have much in common in terms of their playing style and on-field presence. Cantona was a player that you could not keep your eyes off, his charisma, … Continue reading He is Zlatan….he is brilliant….but he’s been snubbed

Ligue 1: The battle of the nouveau-riche

Last weekend, the two most affluent clubs outside the English Premier met-up in a game that may have been somewhat overlooked by many in Britain. It was late on Sunday evening, arguably the “graveyard slot” for televised football. However, Paris St.Germain v Monaco was a game that may go a long way to deciding this season’s French championship. Champions v Pretenders. New money meets old … Continue reading Ligue 1: The battle of the nouveau-riche

A new “French menace”?

This summer, the big spenders have come from France, namely Paris St.Germain and Monaco. Two of the most coveted players around, Falcao of Atletico Madrid and Cavani of Napoli, both ended up in Ligue 1, with their £50m price tags deterring the Premier League clubs. The outcome highlighted something of a shift in spending power in European football, although Monaco won’t be able to flex … Continue reading A new “French menace”?

The sad tale of a World Cup final venue

There have been only 18 football stadiums that have staged the World Cup final. These represent hallowed ground for the enthusiast. History has been made at the se venues, from the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo to Soccer City in Johannesburg. Some of these sites are no longer with us, such as the Stadio Nazionale PNF in Rome, which became a monument to Italian fascism and dismantled … Continue reading The sad tale of a World Cup final venue