Day: August 7, 2012

The 2012 Olympic Games: Womens Football – The Semi-Finals

After one-and-a-half sensational semi-finals, I feel like a killjoy. Despite the wonderful football played – at least as much by the losers as the winners – my thoughts were of refereeing decisions at Old Trafford; of penalties given (to the United States) and not given (to Canada); of yellow cards not shown (to Abby Wambach). And of history being made; the four minutes stoppage time signalled, during which the States scored their winner of the seven-goal thriller and which the referee ended after three minutes and 25 seconds, with Canada ready to launch one last attack. Yes, that’s right, too LITTLE stoppage-time allowed at Old Trafford. One shudders to think what Alex Ferguson would have made of that. Despite the above (to which I will return once I’ve given the actual football its due), it was easier to make a case for the United States deserving their place in Thursday’s Women’s Olympic football final than for their opponents Japan. USA were as close to their best as they have been all tournament, pushed there by an out-of-this–world display from the Canadians but creating enough chances throughout a magnificent second-half to make it impossible to imagine Canada holding onto a lead for any significant time. Japan were fortunate that opponents France put in no display at all for 50 minutes, by which time they were two-nil down and seemingly facing...

Read More

The 2012 Olympic Games: France & Japan Light Up Wembley

There has been quite a lot written over the last few days on the subject of the Olympic Games and its various interactions with association football. A lot of this – in particular the hand- wringing chip wrapper fodder about how the behaviour of competitors over last couple of weeks has somehow ‘shamed’ our national game – but there is perhaps a grain of a point to be made about the different feeling that Olympic football has had about it in comparison with the standard, bread and butter that we usually imbibe to the point of intoxication. Is the Olympic crowd a ‘different’ one and, if so, is this ‘preferable’ to elsewhere? In the case of the British teams, there is an obvious case to answer in the affirmative, but Britain, as we are all clearly aware by now, is a special case, with its curious geopolitical state and history meaning that a British team would have an element of the piecemeal about it whilst courting a degree of uncertainty through to its very end. What, though, of the rest of the two tournaments? There can be little question that Olympic football is different, but what has the reaction been to it all and how might this coloured, tempered or perhaps even enhanced peoples experiences of it? It was this in back of the mind that we travelled to...

Read More

The 200% Pre-Season Previews: Everton

Plus ca change. It has, in recent seasons, got to the point at which we could set our watches by the undulations of Evertons season. Pre-Season grumpiness at a relative lack of activity in the transfer market, followed by a slow start to the season during which the a feeling of discontent hangs heavy in the air over Goodison Park and a strong second half to the season which sees the club finish in, all things considered, a relatively healthy position. This time last year, we spoke of this club with an air of weary resignation, a feeling that here was a club that was not reaching its potential through a lack of investment in its playing staff. That feeling remains the same this summer, but with the club not having suffered anything quite as traumatic – yet – as last summers loss of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal, there is, perhaps, a greater feeling of serenity surrounding the clubs support than there was twelve months ago. Another part of this has been the exceptional form of Nikica Jalevic, whose form last season turned out to be the more pleasant surprises of their season. Jalevic has turned heads but will almost certainly start the new season at Goodison Park, and the arrival of a player at the club who is capable of scratching the itch that supporters have for a...

Read More

The 2012 Olympic Games: The Mens Quarter-Finals

Of course they did. How could they do anything else? If the Olympic football tournament wasn’t a “proper” international football tournament already, it became one after what someone will surely call Team GB’s “ignominious quarter-final exit on penalties” on Saturday night. Nevertheless, those questioning the legitimacy of Olympic football might point to Team GB’s failings on a night when everybody else in Britain seemed to win an Olympic medal of some description. I ran for a bus on my way home from work and half-expected a bronze medal from the driver. BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce spent much of his air time in Cardiff, where Team GB were playing South Korea, summoning up the spirit of successful athletes elsewhere – mostly photogenic female ones. But this failed to reach Craig Bellamy, Tom Cleverley and, alas, Daniel Sturridge. More important than any debate about Sturridge’s penalty shoot-out run-up, though, was the quality of the men’s quarter-finals. The men’s tournament had thus far provided uneven entertainment value. Large tracts of the third round were a godsend to mogadon addicts. The quarter-finals were not. Brazil’s narrow squeak against a popular Honduras team was eventful, to say the least, and provided hope for anyone fearful of a Brazilian procession to the Gold Medal. Japan’s encounter with Egypt was developing into a classic until Saadeldin Saad’s 41st-minute dismissal took the competitive sting out of proceedings....

Read More