Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Euro 2008: AJ to miss vital England matches

Everton hit man Andrew Johnson will undergo surgery on his ankle after pulling out of the England squad for the crucial Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia. England are currently trading at 8 to 1 odds to win Euro 2008 with internet sportsbook SBG Global. It is a blow for England because the talented 26-year-old came off the bench to drag his force his side back into their match with Newcastle at St James' Park with a 53rd-minute equaliser. Afterwards, Everton boss David Moyes confirmed to reporters after the game that Andrew Johnson will have an operation. Johnson had surgery on his other ankle last season and is expected to be out for up to four weeks.

Said Moyes: "It is a big blow for Everton (and obviously) England. We have known for a while he has had a problem with his ankle and he has also been carrying a groin injury, which kept him out recently. With the international break, unfortunately for England, it is probably the best time to get his ankle sorted now. We just know he has got a problem and Andy wants it sorted, so we have to get that done."

The news came on a bad day on Tyneside for Everton, who went behind to Nicky Butt's 42nd-minute goal after seeing the Magpies miss a series of earlier opportunities. Johnson came on as a half-time replacement for Scottish star James McFadden. Johnson scored within eight minutes of coming on as sub.

But that was the only good news for the Toffees as Emre cracked home a 25-yarder four minutes from time. Michael Owen then deflected in the third goal off his shoulder in injury time. Showing fighting spirit Everton reduced the deficit when Shay Given palmed Mikel Arteta's deflected cross into his own net but by that stage the game was well won by Newcastle.

Sam Allardyce, the Newcastle boss said: "Michael came on and won us the game, and you can see the importance of him. It would have been a disaster for us had a fluke goal for Everton in the 92nd minute got them something."

Written by Zico Kelly


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Spanish Press: Barcelona Chasing Juventus' Giovinco

Juventus-contracted youngster Sebastian Giovinco is allegedly attracting the attention of Barcelona scouts, according to Spanish media reports.

The diminutive attacking midfielder is currently on loan at Empoli, who face FC Zurich tonight in Switzerland in a bid to protect their 2-1 UEFA Cup First Round first leg lead.

Capped at each level of the Italian youth system, Giovinco, who can play in midfield or up front, recently made the step up to the U-21s (pictured), with whom he debuted against Albania in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

While Barcelona already have plenty of young striking talent, the Catalan giants are rumoured to be interested in Giovinco's versatility, and as such are expected to scout him this evening.

However, whether these latest Spanish press reports are true or not remains to be seen.

In any case, Empoli coach Gigi Cagni is eager to see his side protect their lead.

He remarked, "Everybody wants to progress in the UEFA Cup and we are going out there to do so, but we're also keeping an eye on upcoming league games.

"I’ve been able to watch several Zurich games and they are a talented side with lots of power in the air.

"We won’t be thinking about the victory in the first leg. We will just play our football."

That 2-1 home win comprised Empoli's first ever European result, the Tuscan minnows having qualified by virtue of a 7th place finish in Serie A last season.

Klose out of Germany's upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers

Munich - Miroslav Klose has been ruled out of Germany's upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Ireland on October 13 and the Czech Republic four days later after picking up a knee injury in Bayern Munich's weekend victory over Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said Tuesday that the 29-year-old striker will be out of action for "at least three weeks" and will also "definitely miss" Thursday's UEFA Cup tie against Portuguese side Belenenses.

Club captain Oliver Kahn will also miss the match against Belenenses with an elbow injury that is expected to keep him out for four to five weeks.

The 38-year-old goalkeeper flew out to the United States Tuesday and will undergo an operation Wednesday to cure the problem. Michael Rensing, 23, will continue as Kahn's replacement.

Monday, October 1, 2007

England Set For Good Seeding Status For Euro 2008

As is the norm for world football governing bodies, things are never simple, and the chaps at Fifa and Uefa have once again come up with a perplexing system for working out seedings for the Euro 2008 championships.

England will have no right to feel aggrieved as the plan works out well for them, avoiding the likes of France, Italy and Germany if they qualify for the tournament.

Every attempt has been made to make the explanation of the way that the rankings are worked out legible, so hang on in there…

The Euro 2008 seedings will be based on Uefa’s coefficients which are worked out from results in qualification tournaments for the last World Cup and for the most recent Euro championships.

Uefa have already announced that the top seeds will be Austria and Switzerland, who host the tournament, along with current European champions Greece and the team with the highest coefficient, currently Spain.

As things stand England will be ranked in the second pot of seeds as they have the second best coefficient rating. Joining them will be Italy, France and Germany. Portugal will nick a place in that pot if any of the aforementioned teams fail to qualify.

If Scotland qualify they will be in the third group of seeds, and if by any chance Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland qualify, they’ll be in the fourth pot.

Got that? No, not sure I have either.


Friday, September 28, 2007

UEFA Executive Committee convenes in İstanbul

The UEFA Executive Committee, led by UEFA President Michel Platini, convenes at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski in İstanbul today from 2 to 6 p.m. and again on Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon

The gathering will be followed by a press conference in the Mabeyn room at the hotel.

Club licensing is a main item on the agenda for the meeting. UEFA introduced its club licensing scheme at the start of the 2004-05 season as a means of improving clubs' infrastructures and financial stability. The executive committee will hear a report on the club licensing system, covering four successful years of operation.

A decision will be made on the official charity partner for the UEFA EURO 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland next summer. UEFA's social responsibility program has engaged in work with a variety of organizations in recent years which address issues such as racism, child soldiers, land mines, football for individuals with learning disabilities and grassroots soccer programs for children in areas affected by conflict.

The host associations for UEFA congresses in 2009 and 2010 are also up for discussion. The next ordinary UEFA Congress -- Europe's “football parliament” bringing together UEFA's 53 member associations -- will take place in Croatia in January 2008.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

UEFA Cup - Lahm out of Belenenses clash

Bayern Munich will be without full-back Philipp Lahm for their UEFA Cup first round second leg clash with Belenenses.
More Stories
UEFA Cup results and fixtures

More Stories
UEFA Cup results and fixtures

The Germany defender strained his knee while on international duty at the beginning of the month and has not played since.

He already missed the first leg against the Portuguese outfit - which the Bavarians won 1-0 thanks to a Luca Toni strike - and has now been told to rest for a further fortnight without putting any strain on the knee.

And that means the 23-year-old will miss the return leg in Portugal, as well as other crucial games for both club and country, including Germany's Euro 2008 qualifiers against the Republic of Ireland and the Czech Republic


Monday, September 24, 2007

UEFA Cup: Bayern Munich Favored to Win UEFA Cup

Bayern Munich is favored to win the 2007-2008 UEFA Cup. A total of 80 teams compete in first round action with Bayern the heavy favorites to win the Cup at odds of about 4 to 1 at SBG Global. All other teams have odds of 10-1 or more. Bayern Munich is used to facing the best clubs in Europe in the Champions League but this year they will be playing in the UEFA Cup instead.

Bayern opens up with Beleneses on Thursday in UEFA Cup action. Bayern reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League last year but is not part of the League this season. "I think it's a real shame we're not competing this season," Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness said. "But we made our own beds last season and we've received the appropriate punishment. So there's no point wringing our hands, it's a sporting setback and we have to live with it. I do believe it'll be a one-season intermission, and we'll be back in the competition next term."

Bet on the Bayern Munuch side at SBG Global.

Bayern had played in the Champions League for 10 straight seasons from 1997. They played in the UEFA Cup in 1996 and won the title. Luca Toni is the key striker for Bayern after coming over from Fiorentina. Toni won the World Cup with Italy last year. He is currently recovering from a hamstring injury. "Obviously, it's a shame we're not in the Champions League, but we've always known that," said Toni, "We'll focus on the UEFA Cup this season and on the Champions League next term."

Bayern will also be missing Miroslav Klose in the first game as he is suspended because of a red card he received last year. They are also missing striker Lucas Podolski who is recovering from knee surgery. "A clean sheet would be good, but it won't be easy," Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. "Beleneses are no Sunday league side; they have plenty of talented Brazilians." Beleneses is still very limited with their talent overall though. They are 10th in the Portuguese standings, and last played in the UEFA Cup in the 1988-89 season. "Everyone thinks we'll win easily, and that's dangerous," Toni said. "You have to remain calm when expectations are running so high."

Soccer betting available at SBG Global.

Another strong team in this year’s UEFA Cup is Ajax. They are a four-time European champion in the UEFA Cup. They lost to Slavia Prague in Champions League qualifying. It is the second straight year that Ajax was eliminated in Champions League qualifying. "More players have to take the initiative," striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar said, "Too few people demand the ball and there's too little movement. We have a lot of work to do."

Ajax won the UEFA Cup in 1992. They open up with Dinamo Zagreb. There are 40 first-round, first-leg matches scheduled for this week, with the return games on Oct. 2nd and 4th. The 40 aggregate winners progress to the group stage. In the group stage each team will play four games and the first three clubs from each group advance to the knockout stage, where they will be joined by eight clubs who finished third in their Champions League groups. The format is single elimination with the final held on May 14th.

Sevila is the two time defending Champ of the UEFA Cup but they are in the Champions League this year. Three previous Champs are part of the UEFA Cup this season. Two-time winner Tottenham plays Anorthosis, Anderlecht hosts Rapid Vienna and Galatasaray is at Sion. Other teams of note are Atletico Madrid, Blackburn, Bolton, Bayer Leverkusen, Everton, FC Nuremberg, Palermo, Panathinaikos, Zaragoza and Villarreal.

Tottenham Hotspur FC were the first UEFA Cup champions in 1971/72. Italian clubs have been the most successful with nine victories, and English teams have gone on to win the tournament six times. Juventus and FC Internazionale Milano and Liverpool FC have the most titles with three.

Written by Robert Johnson

UEFA ban Scolari for last four Euro qualifiers

By Mark Ledsom

ZURICH, Sept 20 (Reuters) - UEFA have banned Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari for four matches following his attack on Serbia player Ivica Dragutinovic, European soccer's governing body said in a statement on Thursday.

The punishment, announced by UEFA's disciplinary body, means Scolari will be unable to coach Portugal during their last four Euro 2008 qualifying matches although he has decided to appeal.

"Before and during the match, he will not be allowed to go in the team dressing-room, the tunnel, or the technical zone, or on the pitch," UEFA said on its Web site (www.uefa.com).

"In addition, he will not be allowed to communicate with his team."

Scolari, who also received a 12,000 euros ($16,780) fine for what UEFA termed his "assault" on left back Dragutinovic, was seen lashing out at the player following Portugal's 1-1 draw at home to Serbia in their Group A qualifier on Sept 12.

Dragutinovic, who was shown a red card at the end of the match, was also given a two-match ban for improper conduct and will miss Serbia's qualifying matches in Armenia and Azerbaijan on Oct. 13 and 17 respectively.

Scolari said: "Although I have recognised with all honesty my mistake I think the sanction is excessive. The player who started this whole situation was suspended for two games and that is why I will appeal this decision as soon as the Portuguese Federation receives the written reasons."

Portugal finished runners-up on home soil when they hosted the last European Championship in 2004 but are struggling to book a place at next year's finals.

Scolari's team are third in Group A, four points adrift of leaders Poland and two points behind Finland with only the top two qualifying for the finals.

Portugal and fourth-placed Serbia, who are five points off the pace, have a game in hand over the top two.

Subject to any appeal, Scolari will sit out the matches away to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in October and at home against Armenia and Finland in November.

Friday, September 21, 2007

2008 UEFA Cup First Round

*Promoted from the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup.
** Relegated from the 2008 UEFA Champions League 3QR.

First Leg - 18 Sep 2007
PFC Litex Lovech [BUL] 0-1 *Hamburger SV [GER]

First Leg - 19 Sep 2007
*RC Lens [FRA] 1-1 **FC København [DEN]

First Leg - 20 Sep 2007
FC Midtjylland [DEN] v FC Lokomotiv Moskva [RUS]
FC Groningen [NED] v ACF Fiorentina [ITA]
FK Rabotnicki [MKD] v Bolton Wanderers FC [ENG]
**AEK Athens FC [GRE] v **FC Red Bull Salzburg [AUT]
1. FC Nürnberg [GER] v AFC Rapid Bucuresti [ROM]
Everton FC [ENG] v FC Metalist Kharkiv [UKR]
Tottenham Hotspur FC [ENG] v Anorthosis Famagusta FC [CYP]
Getafe CF [ESP] v FC Twente [NED]
Groclin Grozisk Wielkopolski [POL] v **Crvena Zvezda [SRB]
**FK Sarajevo [B&H] v FC Basel 1893 [SUI]
FK Austria Wien [AUT] v Vålerenga IF [NOR]
Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC [ISR] v AIK Solna [SWE]
Aris Thessaloniki FC [GRE] v Real Zaragoza [ESP]
**FC Dinamo 1948 Bucuresti [ROM] v **IF Elfsborg [SWE]
PFC Lokomotiv Sofia [BUL] v Stade Rennais FC [FRA]
SK Brann [NOR] v Club Brugge KV [BEL]
FC Bayern München [GER] v CF Os Belenenses [POR]
Aberdeen FC [SCO] v FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk [UKR]
SC Heerenveen [NED] v Helsingborgs IF [SWE]
**Toulouse FC [FRA] v PFC CSKA Sofia [BUL]
*UC Sampdoria [ITA] v *Aalborg BK [DEN]
**FC Spartak Moskva [RUS] v BK Häcken {SWE]
*Hammarby [SWE] v SC Braga [POR]
Larissa FC [GRE] v *Blackburn Rovers FC [ENG]
FK Mladá Boleslav [CZE] v US Città di Palermo [ITA]
**NK Dinamo Zagreb [CRO] v **AFC Ajax [NED]
FC Artmedia Petr?alka [SVK] v Panathinaikos FC [GRE]
**AC Sparta Praha [CZE] v Odense BK [DEN]
Empoli FC [ITA] v **FC Zürich [SUI]
FC Sochaux-Montbéliard [FRA] v Panionios NFC [GRE]
**RSC Anderlecht [BEL] v *SK Rapid Wien [AUT]
FC Paços de Ferreira [POR] v AZ Alkmaar [NED]
FC Zenit St. Petersburg [RUS] v R. Standard de Liège [BEL]
Bayer 04 Leverkusen [GER] v *UD Leiria [POR] [LIVE - SetUSA 11:10 am EDT]
Villarreal CF [ESP] v **FC BATE Borisov [BLR
FC Sion [SUI[ v Galatasaray SK [TUR]
*Club Atlético de Madrid [ESP] v Kayseri Erciyesspor [TUR]
FC Girondins de Bordeaux [FRA] v **Tampere United [FIN]


Next UEFA Club Matchdays:
+ UEFA Champions League Group Stage:
Matchday Two - 02/03 Oct 2007

+ UEFA Cup First Round:
2nd leg - 03 Oct 2007


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Turkey date for EXCO

Istanbul, Turkey, is the venue for the next meeting of UEFA's Executive Committee on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 September.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski
UEFA's supreme executive body, chaired by UEFA President Michel Platini, will meet at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski on Wednesday from 14.00 to 18.00 local time, and Thursday from 09.00 to 12.00. The gathering will be followed by a press conference at 12.15 in the Mabeyn room at the hotel.

Licensing topic
Club licensing is a main item on the agenda for the meeting. UEFA introduced its club licensing scheme at the start of the 2004/05 season as a means of improving clubs' infrastructures and financial stability. The Executive Committee will hear a report on the club licensing system after four successful years of operation.

EURO charity partner
A decision will be taken on the official charity partner for the UEFA EURO 2008™ tournament in Austria and Switzerland next summer. UEFA's social responsibility programme has led it to work with a variety of organisations in recent years in areas such as the fight against racism and discrimination, children at war, landmines, football for individuals with learning difficulties, and grassroots football for children in areas affected by hostilities.

Congress hosts
The host associations for UEFA's Congresses in 2009 and 2010 are also up for discussion. The next ordinary UEFA Congress – Europe's football parliament bringing together UEFA's 53 member associations – takes place in Croatia in January 2008.

Media accreditation
Media wishing to attend the press conference on Thursday 27 September at 12.15 with the President of UEFA, are kindly requested to send an email to accreditations@uefa.ch with the words "UEFA Exco Turkey" in the subject header, no later than Tuesday 25 September.

Arrive early
UEFA urges media representatives to arrive at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski early enough on 27 September, as the press conference might be brought forward should the meeting end earlier than planned.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UEFA EURO 2008: McClaren praise for England energy

England manager Steve McClaren has not had the easiest ride in his year in charge but two 3-0 wins in the first competitive games at the new Wembley have transformed his fortunes.

Imaginative selections
The defeat of Israel on Saturday was followed up by a similarly comprehensive victory against Russia last night, and instead of standing fourth in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying Group E, England are now ahead of both their visitors this week and trail only Croatia with three games left.

'Great wins'
McClaren, who was without Gary Neville, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Owen Hargreaves and David Beckham, reaped the rewards for imaginative selections in using Gareth Barry in midfield and the recalled Emile Heskey alongside the rejuvenated Michael Owen. McClaren said: "They were both great wins but it was also about the performances and the way we did it. I think we blew the two teams away. I am delighted with the players' performances and their attitude. The squad has knuckled down and when it was time to deliver, we did. We should not be afraid of anybody."

Owen's delight
Owen scored against Israel and twice more last night to take his England goal tally to 40, nine short of Sir Bobby Charlton’s record. "I never wrote him off, I always knew he was going to be important for us," McClaren said, while the Newcastle United FC striker added: "It has been a great few days. Two massive, important games - and we performed when it mattered." Russia coach Guus Hiddink will hope for better when England visit Moscow next month. "England are now ahead, but the decision is not yet made." he said. "We have got them in Moscow in October and they have got to face Croatia as well, but it's tight. It will be decided at the end, not in September.”

/noticias.info/ by Paul Saffer from London

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chelsea owner looking for first UEFA trophy

The UEFA Champions League is the best trophy money can buy in world club soccer, but it's the one trophy that has eluded Chelsea under free-spending Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Chelsea has won the two EPL titles, an F.A. Cup and the League Cup since Abramovich bought the team in June 2003, but the oil baron didn't buy Chelsea merely to conquer England.

It's estimated that in the four seasons, Abramovich has spent in excess of $650 million on players and posted financial losses in the neighborhood of $450 million. That's not that much money for someone whose estimated worth is $18 billion, but it's enough to put the onus on coach Jose Mourinho to win Europe.

The 32-team group phase for the 2007-08 tournament begins this week, and by most appearances it appears Abramovich may have to wait another year before getting what he wants.

UEFA semifinalists three of the past four seasons, Chelsea opens Tuesday at home against Norway's Rosenborg, the weakest team in a group that includes Spain's Valencia and Germany's Schalke 04.

Chelsea should advance from its group, but unlike last year when it added Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan and Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich, the Blues didn't do enough this offseason to stay the pace with its UEFA challengers.

Abramovich wanted to sign Ronaldindo from Barcelona to bring some desperately needed whimsy to an efficient Chelsea attack, but that was more wishful thinking than anything.

Instead, Chelsea's big signings were Florent Malouda, who replaced the departed Arjen Robben and Brazil center back Alex.

The defender Mourinho wanted most, Brazil left back Daniel Alves, who stayed in Sevilla, despite a $45 million offer to join Celsea.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid added Robben and fellow Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, Manchester United picked up Carlos Tevez, Barcelona got Thierry Henry, Inter Milan added David Suazo, Liverpool lured Fernando Torres and Bayern Munich signed Italy striker Luca Toni and France midfield engine Franck Ribery.

Improvement for Chelsea would come in the form of Shevchenko and Ballack performing at Stamford Bridge the way they did with their previous teams, but that window may have closed already.

Shevchenko looks unlikely to form a partnership with Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba and seems an ill fit in Mourinho's scheme.

Ballack's adjustment to Chelsea hasn't been quite as awkward as Shevchenko's, but he looked more at home in Germany.

He was left off the roster for the six-game UEFA group stage with an ankle injury and there was renewed talk he'd eventually end up at Real Madrid, which Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon quickly scuttled.

Chelsea still has the makings of a UEFA competitor with Drogba, midfielders Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, defender John Terry, and goalkeeper Petr Cech to hold things together. It's not enough, however, to provide Abramovich with a victory party next May in Moscow, site of the final.

If not Chelsea, then who? Possibly Real Madrid under new coach Bernd Schuster. It would be the Spaniards' 10th European title, a number beyond all of Abramovich's billions.

Tartan power
Scotland has emerged as the biggest surprise in Euro 2008 qualifying after a 1-0 road win over France that left it ahead of Italy and the French in Group B. The lone goal came on a long-range blast by James McFadden that prompted the headline "FAD-Tastic" in the Daily Record tabloid.

"We have all made a nation very, very happy," said Scotland coach Alex McLeish, who received a congratulatory call from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"I think this goal is one of the greatest and most important for Scottish football." France coach Raymond Domench saw it differently, noting drolly, "It's hard to do better than that, scoring off your only shot."...

David Beckham's quest to play 100 games for England (he's at 97) could be in jeopardy of happening. During Euro 2008 qualifying, Beckham missed England's 3-0 wins over Israel and Russia with a knee injury.

Given those impressive scorelines and the relatively short recovery time between games, there's a chance he could find himself out of coach Steve McClaren's roster when qualifying resumes next month. Michael Owen's two goals against Russia gives him 40 all-time for England, placing him behind Jimmy Greaves (44), Gary Lineker (48) and Sir Bobby Charlton (49) on the national team scoring chart....

The city of Collinsville just outside St. Louis approved plans to build an 18,500-seat soccer stadium that is expected to house an MLS expansion franchise by 2010.

Broadcast highlights
Today: Juventus-Udinese, 9 a.m., FSC; Manchester City-Aston Villa, 11 a.m., FSC. Tuesday: U.S.-Nigeria, 7:55 a.m., ESPN; Sweden-North Korea, 7:55 a.m., ESPN2; Porto-Liverpool, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2. Wednesday: Barcelona-Lyon, ESPN Deportes; Sporting Lisbon-Manchester United, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2.

By Jeff Rusnak

Hiddink's Russia to face Euro 2008 test at Wembley

MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Wednesday sees the Russian national soccer team take on England in London in a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifier that will be the first-ever encounter between the two sides.

With the first two teams from Group E set to qualify, England and Russia would seem to be locked in a deadly battle for second place.

Croatia, barring some major upsets, appears to have already booked its spot at the 2008 tournament, to be held in Austria and Switzerland. With eight games played in the group and four remaining, Russia currently lead England by a point. A win at Wembley would see that stretch to four, with England due to visit Moscow on October 17.

Russian soccer has experienced something of a boom of late, with massive investment by oil and gas companies such as LUKoil and Gazprom transforming the national championship, making it the fifth richest in Europe in terms of turnover.

In the 11 games between England and the Soviet Union, which split up in 1991, England won five and Russia three. The most recent meeting was a friendly at Wembley in 1991, in which England triumphed 3-1. The Soviet Union's most famous victory over the English came at the European Championships in West Germany in 1988, when a rampant Soviet team ran out 3-1 winners against a pitiful English side.

In a sign of the changes currently sweeping through Russia's national game, reflecting the resurgence of the economy as a whole, the Russian national side hired their first-ever foreign coach in 2006, signing a two-year contract worth 4 million euros ($5.5 million) with Dutchman Guus Hiddink.

One of the game's most respected coaches, Hiddink took South Korea to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, and to Australia to their first World Cup in 2006, where they were unlucky to lose in the second round to the eventual champions, Italy.

Hiddink, whose Dutch team lost 4-1 at Wembley in 1996, is quietly confident about his team's chances on Wednesday night.

"We should try to fight, to press opponents in every area of the pitch. But we're not looking just to defend - we will try to play an attacking game," he was quoted by the UEFA website as saying.

England are plagued by injuries, with stars such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard set to miss the game.

The Russians have their first-choice keeper, CSKA's Igor Akinfeyev, out though injury. Ivan Sayenko of the German side Nuremburg - one of the few Russian players with experience of playing abroad - is also likely to miss the match.

The game comes at a time of increasing political tension between Britain and Russia, with an ongoing extradition row, and pressure on British oil companies from Russian regulators. During a round of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions in July, President Putin said "Britain forgets it is no longer a colonial power and that Russia was never its colony."

Politics aside, the match promises to be a memorable one, with both England and Russia enjoying 3-0 home victories at the weekend, over Israel and Macedonia, respectively.

Speaking about his side's performance, England coach Steve McClaren said: "I'm sure Russia will watch our video and not relish the prospect of coming to Wembley if we play like that. We've set a standard and have to do it again on Wednesday."

Between six and seven thousand Russian fans are expected in London for the game, with many more watching in pubs across the capital. The match kicks off at 8 p.m. local time (11 p.m. Moscow time). A sell-out is expected.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ukraine, Italy head into showdown on Euro 2008 bubble

The first team to qualify for last year's World Cup is struggling to reach next year's European Championship.

Ukraine, which surprisingly reached the quarter-finals in Germany, will play World Cup champion Italy tomorrow in a Euro 2008 qualifier that both teams need to win to stay near the top of Group B.

"Winning is the only thing that can save us," Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko said. "We have got to play this game at 200%.

"We are battlers and this is our quality. To beat them, we are going to have to fight."

The match is one of 22 scheduled for tomorrow across Europe, with qualifying for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland continuing through November.

Italy and Ukraine have played each three times in the last 18 months, including Italy's 3-0 win in the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Italians, who won their fourth World Cup final by beating France on penalties in Berlin, were held to a 0-0 draw by the visiting French team on Saturday. Now, Italy is in danger of missing out on the European Championship as World Cup champion for the second time in 25 years.

Ukraine, which started competing in 1994 after breaking away from the Soviet Union, was held to a 1-1 draw by Georgia on Saturday and is in fourth place in Group B with 13 points. France leads with 19 points, followed by Scotland with 18 and Italy with 17. France hosts Scotland.

Shevchenko will lead Ukraine's attack despite failing to play for Chelsea this season, while Italy will be without injured players Luca Toni and Gennaro Gattuso.


The G14 group of Europe's biggest soccer clubs plans to double its membership in a move that could lead to better relations with UEFA and FIFA. Representatives from the group's 18 members -- including Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and AC Milan -- meet for their general assembly on Thursday. They are expected to approve a plan which could expand G14 to as many as 45 clubs from more than 20 countries, G14 chairman Thomas Kurth said. Lyon's Jean-Michel Aulas, who took over from Arsenal's David Dein as G14 president earlier this year, has made expansion a priority. New UEFA president Michel Platini has indicated that dialogue would be easier if the group broadened its representation. But it remains unclear how the expansion would affect persistent conflicts between G14 and FIFA and UEFA. These disputes include such things as releasing players for national team duty.


Monday, September 10, 2007

UEFA EURO 2008 Austria-Switzerland

If the nerves were gnawing away at him inside then Paul Robinson is a better actor than he is a goalkeeper.

Sterner tests lie ahead for the Tottenham man than this Israeli team.

But few keepers have gone into a match under as much scrutiny as Robinson - think Croatian back-passes and German crosses from the flank - and he stood tall and dealt with every threat, not that there were many.

He shouted, cajoled, organised. He pointed at potential dangers.

His concentration will be needed in far greater portions when the Russians come to Wembley on Wednesday.



Spain have been given permission by UEFA to wear Antonio Puerta's name on their shirts during the Euro 2008 qualifier against Iceland, according to the Spanish media.

Sevilla wing-back Puerta, who made his Spain debut in the qualifying match against Sweden last October, died at the age of 22 last week after suffering a cardiac arrest during the league game against Getafe.

UEFA president Michel Platini told Marca: "We have accepted the request and we are going to give our authorisation. He was a national team player and for everyone, above all for them (Spain), it has been truly sad to lose a footballer like that.

"It is a nice gesture, a good tribute."

In addition to having Puerta's name on the back of their shirts against Iceland, the Spain players will also wear black armbands.


Crucial match day of qualifying in the race for Euro 2008

With only the hosts (Austria and Switzerland) of the forthcoming Euro 2008 tournament certain of their participation next summer this match day of crucial European Championship qualifiers will go a long way to determining the make-up of the other 14 sides due to arrive in the Alpine region.

Several big European names are under pressure at this stage to put in a good performance including England, who languish in 4th place in Group E, Spain who are three points behind pace setters in Group F, Sweden and Portugal who are 4 points behind Poland.

In Group A the top four go head-to-head with Portugal travelling to Warsaw to face group leaders Poland. Portugal could only manage a 1-1 draw three weeks ago against Azerbaijan and the pressure is on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men to get a result against the tricky Polish side. Finland, who are arguably over achieving at this stage of qualification sitting in second place, welcome Serbia to Helsinki. Serbia, if they wish to qualify for their second major tournament in a row need to make up the 5 point gap that has developed between them and Poland, and will fancy their chances of beating Finland.

Arguably the game of the match day takes place in Group B where a repeat of the World Cup final takes place in Italy, as France travel over the Alps to their near neighbours. France gained a measure of revenge for loosing their final by beating the World Champions 3-1 last October and the potential winner could almost book their place in the finals. Scotland, who are doing well to keep in touch with two giants of the world game entertain Lithuania, who need a win to keep alive their slim hopes of qualification. The Ukraine will be hoping to take advantage of any Scottish slip up at Hampden Park by beating Georgia by vaulting the Scots to be best positioned to vault France and Italy.

The current holders of the European Championships Greece hold a commanding position in Group C having opened up a five point gap over their nearest rivals Bosnia, Turkey and Norway. Greece don’t play on Saturday giving all three the chance to make up some ground. Turkey are best positioned having played a game less than their other rivals and will be looking to rack up a good score against Malta. Bosnia will be looking to keep their good form going with a trip to under performing Hungary, who are surprisingly languishing in 5th place way off the pace. Norway meanwhile are off to Moldova to play the team who occupy bottom place in the group hopeful of making up some ground.

Germany look to have Group D wrapped up but Ireland and the Czech Republic are still disputing second place. Ireland have the tougher match welcoming Slovakia to Dublin whilst the Czechs are in San Marino, who predictably are mired to the bottom of the group. Germany play Wales who whilst mathematically are still in with a shout of qualification find themselves 7 points adrift of second. A win against Germany will go along way to at least restoring a bit of pride in the team that came so close to qualifying for Euro 2004.

Group E is one of the tightest groups with Russia, Croatia, England and Israel all in with a good shout of qualifying. Russia entertain Macedonia, whilst Croatia entertain Estonia. England face a crunch tie against Israel, arguably the most difficult game to predict the outcome of. The games on Saturday and then on Wednesday will go along way to determining the outcome of Group E.

Northern Ireland are in with a realistic shout of qualification, currently sitting in second place, just two points off group leaders Sweden. Spain are under pressure occupying 3rd place and face a potentially awkward trip to Iceland. Northern Ireland should continue their good form against Latvia, who are bottom of the group, although they have played two games less than most countries in the group. Denmark and Sweden face each other and UEFA will be hoping that this game passes off more peacefully that the last one, when a fan ran onto the pitch to accost the referee late on. That game cost Denmark a 3-0 loss and puts them in a tight corner, meaning that surprise winners of Euro 1992 may not be making an appearance next summer. A win in Stockholm against Nordic neighbours Sweden will at least go some way to restoring their chances.

A three horse race has developed in Group G with Romania, Bulgaria and Holland vying for the two places that will potentially grant entry to the tournament. Romania lead the way with 17 points and have a potentially tricky trip to Belarus, who beat England’s opponents Israel in a friendly 3 weeks ago. Bulgaria sit just behind two points off and face Holland who are a further point behind, but have played a game less. Much like Portugal the pressure is on Holland to make their games in hand count and getting a result against a team better positioned having played more games than them will ease that. Elsewhere the bottom two teams, Slovenia, who aren’t the force they once were, travel to Luxemburg.

So an exciting day of matches in prospect. Check on www.aboutaball.co.uk for all the reaction to the qualifiers.

Posted by Walter Townsend

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Euro Qualifying Group C: Norway And Turkey Chase Greece

As part of Goal.com's continuing coverage of all the big tournaments, we now take a look at Group C in the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers. There's still everything to play for, but the holders could all but wrap it up by Wednesday night...

Some regard Group C as one of the weakest groups in Euro 2008 qualifying. After all, it has no World Cup entrants of 2006.

But one must remember that this group contains none other than the current reigning European champions: Greece. What's more, Turkey - who finished third in the previous World Cup - can never be discounted.

However, it is Bosnia-Herzegovina that has proved to be the surprise package of the group. The Zuto Plavi have never qualified for a major tournament yet are in with a real chance of doing so.

Norway, too, sit level with Bosnia and Turkey; they missed out on the last tournament, and indeed have only ever qualified once, but are still in with a shout.

Hungary, meanwhile, have endured a torrid campaign, while Malta and Moldova scrap it at the bottom...

Norway - Greece 12/9 19:00 (all times local)

They may have bid a fond farewell to Theodoros Zagorakis (pictured), but the Greeks are still in high spirits. They are top of their group with eighteen points and well on the way to returning to the tournament that they won in 2004.

Nonetheless, there is a downside. The whole country has been rocked by the recent fires that have resulted in 66 deaths so far, and even football has been affected: due to the tragic events in the south of the country, the League campaign has been postponed.

Thus, several home-grown players are without match fitness, and some of those that aren't may wish they were; AEK went down 6-1 on aggregate to Sevilla recently in the Champions League qualifiers, leaving the likes of Dellas and Liberopolous shaken.

But for all the recent turmoil on and off the pitch, Hellas must remember one thing: they are still top. Indeed, the spine of this team has seen them win six out of seven games so far, including all of their away matches.

Only a dreadful 4-1 defeat to Turkey soured proceedings, but they have bounced back since then, winning three qualifiers on the trot before losing only narrowly to Spain in a recent friendly.

What's more, the squad is generally looking strong. Manchester City's Georgos Samaras will be expected to lead the line, while Katsouranis goes from strength to strength at Benfica.

There are, however, injury problems, the most notable of which is the absence of Stelios Giannakopoulos, the Bolton Wanderers midfielder. He is currently languishing on the sidelines as he recovers from a hernia operation.

What's more, Nuremberg striker Angelos Charisteas is absent with a knee injury.

Be that as it may, now, they will hope to make it six points from six against Norway, whom they beat 1-0 in the group's second game. It was narrow, but it set them on the road to topping the group.

And there they have stayed. That given, it's almost certain that Greece will qualify. It's likely that, when they do make it to Austria and Switzerland, they will fail to defend their title....

But it was just as unlikely to see them win it last time...

Squad: Goalkeepers: Antonis Nikopolidis (Olympiakos Piraeus), Costas Chalkias (Aris)

Defenders: Giourkas Seitaridis (Atletico Madrid), Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Eintracht Frankfurt), Traianos Dellas (AEK Athens), Nikos Spyropoulos (Panionios), Loukas Vintra, Ioannis Goumas (both Panathinaikos), Michalis Kapsis (APOEL), Vassilis Torosidis, Paraskevas Antzas, Christos Patsatzoglou (all Olympiakos)

Midfielders: Angelos Basinas (Mallorca), Alexandros Tziolis, Georgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Costas Katsouranis (Benfica)

Strikers: Dimitris Salpigidis, Dimitris Papadopoulos (both Panathinaikos), Nikos Liberopoulos (AEK Athens), Fanis Gekas (Bayer Leverkusen), Georgos Samaras (Manchester City), Ioannis Amanatidis (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Hungary - Bosnia 8/9 16:00
Bosnia - Moldova 12/9 20:00

BiH are on cloud nine after that dramatic 3-2 win over Turkey in June; a close-fought 1-0 victory over Malta a few days later propelled the Plavo Zuti into second place.

As they prepare for an eminently winnable double header, coach Fuad Muzrovic has named a mostly strong, confident-looking squad for a trip to Hungary and a visit from Moldova.

There are problems, though. FK Moscow star Branislav Krunic has pulled out with injury, weakening the playmaking aspects of the team.

And Ivica Grlic of high-flying Bundesliga side MSV Duisburg has retired from international football in order to conserve his energy for club affairs.

Nonetheless, confidence is high, and the coach will accept nothing less from six points, considering Hungary's poor standing in the group and Moldova's minnow status.

But, it's just about one year ago to the day that Bosnians were humbled 3-1 at home by the Hungarians. Could history repeat itself, against the odds?

Squad: Goalkeepers: Adnan Gušo (CS Pandurii Lignitul Târgu Jiu), Zdenko Baotić (FK Željezničar), Denis Mujkić (NK Jedinstvo).

Defenders: Džemal Berberović (FC Kuban Krasnodar), Branimir Bajić (TuS Koblenz), Safet Nadarević (NK Zagreb), Dario Damjanović (HNK Hajduk Split), Ivan Radeljić (NK Slaven Belupo), Semjon Milošević (FK Sarajevo).

Midfielders: Mirko Hrgović (HNK Hajduk Split), Zajko Zeba (FC KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny), Zvjezdan Misimović (1. FC Nürnberg), Elvir Rahimić (PFC CSKA Moskva), Darko Maletić (FK Partizan), Marko Božić (FC Fehérvá), Edin Husić (NK Cibalia).

Forwards: Vedad Ibišević (TSG Hoffenheim), Edin Džeko (VfL Wolsfburg), Adnan Čustović (R. Excelsior Mouscron), Mladen Bartolović (HNK Hajduk Split), Zlatan Muslimović (Atalanta BC), Senijad Ibričić (NK Zagreb), Dragan Blatnjak (FC Khimki).

Moldova - Norway 8/9 20:00
Norway - Greece 12/9 19:00

Norwegian football has been in the news lately following the retirement of one of its brightest starts. Ole Gunnar Solskjær, an eleven year veteran of Manchester United, retired last month after a long battle with a knee injury.

That not only hits the Red Devils, but also Norway. The national side benefitted from 23 Solskjær strikes over the course of his 23 caps, and now must do without him as two must-win ties approach.

The first is against Moldova. Norway have already beaten Moldova 2-0 at home, Steffen Iversen and Fredrik Stromstad - both of whom made the squad - on the scoresheet.

Here, though, they must take their injury-hit squad to Chişinău - not an easy place to travel - and battle out a result if the dream of overtaking Greece at the top is going to have any chance of coming true.

Then, of course, comes the test itself. Moldova cannot be underestimated, but Greece bring an indisputably more difficult game to Oslo. Norway, of course, lost the first fixture in Athens, and may find it difficult here due to pressure and injuries.

Christian Haestad has had to pull out due to injury, while Erik Hagen will only be eligible for this game after serving a suspension against Moldova.

It's crunch time for the boys in red. They didn't lose by much in Athens, but haven't the best of home records, having dropped points to Bosnia earlier in the campaign. Can they put nerves behind them and deliver in these ties?

Squad: Goalkeepers: Jan Kjell Larsen (Molde), Thomas Myhre (Charlton Athletic), Haakon Opdal (Brann)

Defenders: Erik Hagen (Zenit St. Petersburg), Brede Hangeland (FC Copenhagen), Marius Johnsen (Start), Frode Kippe (Lillestrom), Anders Rambekk (Lillestrom), John Arne Riise (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Martin Andresen (Brann), Christian Grindheim (Valerenga), Tommy Svindal Larsen (Odd Grenland), Peter Vaagan Moen (Brann), Morten Gamst Pedersen (Blackburn Rovers), Bjorn Helge Riise (Lillestrom), Jan Gunnar Solli (Rosenborg), Fredrik Stromstad (Start), Christian Grindheim (Valerenga)

Strikers: Daniel Braaten (Rosenborg Trondheim), John Carew (Lyon), Steffen Iversen (Rosenborg), Ole Martin Aarst (Tromso)

Malta - Turkey 8/9 19:30
Turkey - Hungary 12/9 19:30

As far as qualification campaigns go, Turkey have experienced the best and worst of it in this one. The unmatched joy of beating local rivals Greece 4-1 on their own patch soon turned to horror as, just months later, they lost 3-2 to Bosnia.

Now, they're fourth on goal difference behind Norway and Bosnia - albeit with a game in hand over both. By Wednesday night, then, they could be back in the qualification zone after feeling the depression of being out of the runnings.

Of course, the Crescent Stars are no strangers to highs and lows. They may have finished third in World Cup 2004, but failed to even qualify for Euro 2004, losing to Latvia in the playoffs, while they also failed to grace WC2006 with their presence.

And this campaign is, as we know, not exactly going to plan.

Nonetheless, Fatih Terim has called together a dependable-looking squad here, mostly comprising domestic players who are fit and ready to compete after starting their domestic season.

Hakan Sukur, the talismanic forward, recently broke a league scoring record for Galatasaray, and will be itching to replicate the feat on the international stage.

And there is another reason to celebrate. Turkey are back on home soil now, having been made to play three "home" games at neutral venue following earlier crowd trouble.

Nonetheless, the Turks were unbeaten in their adopted home of Frankfurt, racking up two wins and a draw.

Back in Istanbul, they could run riot over Hungary. But Turkey know not to take anything for granted. They've dropped too many points already to make that mistake...

Squad: Goalkeepers: Hakan Arıkan (Beşiktaş), Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahçe), Rüştü Reçber (Beşiktaş).

Defenders: Hakan Kadir Balta (Vestel Manisaspor), Servet Çetin (Galatasaray), Sabri Sarıoğlu (Galatasaray), İbrahim Toraman (Beşiktaş ), İbrahim Üzülmez (Beşiktaş), Hayrettin Yerlikaya (Sivasspor), Gökhan Zan (Beşiktaş).

Midfielders: Ayhan Akman (Galatasaray), Hamit Altıntop (Bayern München), Mehmet Aurelio (Fenerbahçe), Deniz Barış (Fenerbahçe), Emre Belözoğlu (Newcastle United), Hüseyin Çimşir (Trabzonspor), Gökdeniz Karadeniz (Trabzonspor), Serdar Özkan (Beşiktaş), Nuri Şahin (Feyenoord), Tuncay Şanlı (Middlesbrough), Mehmet Topuz (Kayserispor), Arda Turan (Galatasaray).

Strikers: Halil Altıntop (Schalke 04), Nihat Kahveci (Villarreal), Hakan Şükür (Galatasaray), Gökhan Ünal (Kayserispor).

Hungary - Bosnia 8/9 16:00
Turkey - Hungary 129/9 19:30

It has been a qualification campaign to forget for Hungary, who have just two wins and six points to show for their seven ties so far.

What's more, they've been awful at the back, shipping fourteen goals - just one fewer than Malta and Moldova - to make an average of two concessions per game.

Twice they've let in four against Norway, and also suffered at the hands of Malta early in the campaign.

Oddly enough, though, they've racked up some excellent performances. They recently beat an admittedly-unfit Italy side on home soil in a friendly, while they showed some attacking flair to beat Moldova.

And that could spur them on to ruffle some feathers here: their own challenge might be dead and buried, but they can upset the big boys and dictate the course of qualification for others.

Of course, they might already have done so. They thrashed Bosnia in Zenica last year before losing only narrowly to Turkey in Budapest; both of these results could count in spades for their respective teams as the campaign draws to a close.

That will be of little consolation to the Magical Magyars, though, who must regard their glory days as so far away.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Marton Fulop (Leicester), Janos Balogh (Debrecen), Szabolcs Balajcza (Ujpest)

Defenders: Zoltan Szelesi(Strasbourg), Csaba Csizmadia (Mattersburg), Tamas Vasko (Bristol City), Roland Juhasz (Anderlecht), Vilmos Vanczak (Sion)

Midfielders: Adam Vass (Brescia), Balazs Toth (Genk), Leandro (Debrecen), Daniel Tozser (AEK Athens), Attila Filkor (Inter Milan), Tamas Hajnal (Karlsruhe), Akos Buzsaky (Plymouth), Balazs Dzsudzsak (Debrecen), Peter Halmosi (Plymouth)

Strikers: Zoltan Gera (West Bromwich Albion), Gabor Bori (MTK Budapest), Tamas Priskin (Watford), Peter Rajczi (Ujpest), Robert Feczesin (Brescia)

Malta - Turkey 8/9 19:30

Malta are sometimes regarded as European whipping boys to be mentioned in the same breath as San Marino or the Faroe Islands.

Now, though, the islanders have turned some heads after what has been something of a successful campaign.

They've still never qualified for a major tournament, but Malta are off bottom spot thanks to a superb win over Hungary early in qualifying.

That result, plus a hard-fought draw in difficult conditions away to Moldvoa has left some thinking that Malta have now turned a corner.

Yet they are still considered underdogs for the visit of Turkey. They will try their best to make it difficult for the visitors - after all, Greece neededa second half penalty to sink the Knights of St. John in Ta'Qali - and could yet surprise once again.

Hopes are hinged on Andre Schembri, plying his trade in Germany with BTSV Eintracht, and Coventry's Michael Mifsud, the rest of the squad being almost entirely locally-based.

Malta's previous clash with Turkey in qualifying ended 2-0 to the "home" side in Frankfurt.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Omar Borg (Birkirkara), Justin Haber (Haidari), Andrew Hogg (Valletta), Mario Muscat (Hibernians)

Defenders: Ian Azzopardi, Roderick Briffa, Brian Said (all Sliema Wanderers), Luke Dimech (Macclesfield Town), Josef Mifsud, Kenneth Scicluna (both Valletta), Peter Pullicino, Steve Wellman (both Marsaxlokk), Aaron Xuereb (Hibernians)

Midfielders: Gilbert Agius (Valletta), Roderick Bajada (Sliema Wanderers), Cleaven Frendo, Jamie Pace, Kevin Sammut (all Marsaxlokk), George Mallia (Birkirkara)

Strikers: Etienne Barbara, Ivan Woods (both Sliema Wanderers), Andrew Cohen, Terence Scerri (both Hibernians), Michael Mifsud (Coventry City), Andre Schembri (Eintracht Braunschweig)

Moldova - Norway 8/9 20:00
Bosnia - Moldova 12/9 20:00

Mathematically speaking, Moldova can still qualify for Euro 2008. It's safe to say, though, that they won't.

The Moldovans have managed just two points so far, garnered from home draws with Bosnia and Malta, and are considered severe underdogs as they prepare to welcome Norway.

Nonetheless, Chisinau is an imposing place to come to, and the pressure is all on the visitors. That could work in the Republic side's favour.

Most players are domestically based, Sheriff of Tiraspol - champions for the last seven seasons running - contributing one player in each position.

There is the odd traveler, though, but one foreign star - Spartak Moscow midfielder Serghei Covalciuc - recently had to withdraw through injury.

Moldova were easily beaten 2-0 by Norway back in Oslo but will hope to hold the visitors to a point here, while repeating the earlier draw to Bosnia away from home would be a mighty achievement for this side.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Serghei Pascenco (FC Sheriff), Nicolai Calancea (CSF Zimbru Chisinau).

Defenders: Semion Bulgaru (FC Sheriff), Alexandru Epureanu (FC Moskva), Ghenadie Olexic (FC Amkar Perm), Victor Golovatenco (FC Tiraspol), Alexei Savinov (CSF Zimbru Chisinau), Serghei Lascencov (FC Karpaty Lviv).

Midfielders: Alexandru Gatcan (FC Rubin Kazan), Radu Rebeja (FC Moskva), Vitalie Bordian (FC Metalist Kharkiv), Igor Tsigirlas (FK Ventspils), Victor Comlenoc (FC SKA Rostov-na-Donu), Serghei Namasco (FC Tiraspol), Nicolae Josan (FC Iskra-Stali), Denis Zmeu (SC Vaslui), Andrei Corneencov (FC Sheriff).

Forwards: Serghei Rogaciov (FK Aktobe), Viorel Frunza (unattached), Igor Bugaiov (FC Chornomorets Odesa), Anatolie Doros (FK Standart Baku), Alexandru Suvorov (FC Sheriff).

Ewan Macdonald

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Domenech facing ban, injury problems against Italy in Euro 2008 qualifier

CLAIREFONTAINE, France (AP) — France will be without key players and its coach Raymond Domenech will be sitting in the stands when Les Bleus play Italy in a crucial European Championship qualifier.

Defenders William Gallas and Willy Sagnol are both injured, and captain Patrick Vieira is struggling to overcome a thigh injury to be ready in time for Saturday's Group B match in Milan's San Siro stadium.

"William is a mainstay in the team," France winger Franck Ribery said Tuesday. "He is someone who does a lot of good at the back. I hope Patrick (Vieira) will be there the day of the match. He's very important for the group."

Domenech said Vieira's situation is "evolving every day" and that he is "optimistic" the Inter Milan midfielder will be ready.

"If Patrick gives me an hour at the level he did against Slovakia, that suits me," Domenech said.

Domenech, meanwhile, will not be in his customary role in the team dugout.

On Tuesday, UEFA's appeals body upheld a one-match ban imposed on Domenech for accusing Italy of fixing an Olympic qualifying match in 1999.

UEFA said he brought the game into disrepute by making the comments in an interview with French daily Le Parisien published Aug. 9. Domenech was quoted as saying there had been a "bought referee" for a match between France's youth squad - which he coached - and Italy during a qualifier for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"The coach is very important," Ribery said at France's training camp in Clairefontaine. "To see him in the dressing room, to know that he is there with us. We will just have to deal with it."

Domenech said his absence could help the team pull closer together.

"I think it could be an interesting experience," Domenech said. "If they are able to show they are able to take charge of themselves on the field."

France tops Group B with 18 points from seven matches - including a 3-1 home win over Italy a year ago. Domenech will be back on the touchline for Wednesday's home match against Scotland, the only team to have beaten Les Bleus in the group so far.

"For me, the most important match is Scotland," Domenech said. "If we don't beat Scotland, it's bad for us."

Two wins would put France in a commanding position by distancing its main rivals.

"To take at least four points would be good," Ribery said. "A draw in Italy and to beat Scotland. They (Italy), have to beat us ... we need to get a point to stay in control of our group."

If Vieira fails to recover in time, Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra could win his fourth cap in central midfield, where he would likely be up against Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso.

"They will want to beat us," Diarra said Tuesday. "It's true that the pressure is on them. Right from the start we will have to show we're present. They will want to score quickly. It will be a real physical combat."

In the absence of Gallas, who has a groin injury, Barcelona defender Eric Abidal could play alongside veteran Lilian Thuram at center half and Julien Escude may take Abidal's customary position at left back.

Escude said it will be essential that France stays vigilant.

"We know the Italian game," Escude said. "They wait for the right moment, find the weakness."

By http://canadianpress.google.com

'Keeper Thomas Soerensen recalled for Denmark's next two Euro 2008 qualifiers

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Goalkeeper Thomas Soerensen returned after injury Monday to make Denmark's squad for 2008 European Championship qualifiers against Sweden and Liechtenstein.

Denmark coach Morten Olsen also named rookies Jonas Borring, Esben Hansen and Hjalte Bo Noerregaard, defenders Jan Kristiansen and Brian Priske and forward Morten Nordstrand.

Thomas Kristensen is out injured, and Soerensen had been in doubt because of a right knee injury.

Denmark plays Sweden in Stockholm on Saturday and hosts Liechtenstein in Aarhus on Sept. 12.

Jesper Christiansen replaced Soerensen on Aug. 22 when Denmark lost 4-0 to Ireland in a friendly in a performance that Olsen described as the worst in his seven years as national team coach.

"When we now pick Thomas it is, of course, because he for many years has been one of Denmark's strongest 'keepers and he is no longer injured," Olsen said in a statement.

Denmark is fourth with 10 points in Group F - behind Sweden, Northern Ireland and Spain - but although it has played a game less, it needs to win to have a realistic chance of qualifying.

The Danes' home game against Sweden on June 2 was spoiled by a drunk Danish fan who attacked German referee Herbert Fandel after he awarded Sweden a penalty in the final minutes.

The match was abandoned with the score at 3-3, but UEFA awarded Sweden a 3-0 victory and banned Denmark from playing its next two Euro 2008 qualifiers at its national stadium in Copenhagen.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Matchdays for the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

With the groups for the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League announced, the Matchdays for the same tournament have also been decided. The Matchdays 1-6 are listed below. These are all of the matches for the group stage of the tournament.

Each team plays a home and away series versus the other 3 teams in their groups making a total of six games per team. The standings are done like the World Cup: 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie and 0 points for a loss.

The top 16 teams (top 2 from each group) move onto the knockout stage of this tournament. The knockout stage is done in a home and away series between the two teams who draw each other with the aggregate goals (total goals in both games) being tallied to determine the winner of the round.

Matchdays 1-6 of the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League are:

Matchday 1

Tuesday, September 18th

Marseille vs. Besiktas
Porto vs. Liverpool
Chelsea vs. Rosenborg
Schalke vs. Valencia
Real Madrid vs. Bremen
Olympiakos vs. Lazio
Milan vs. Benfica
Shakhtar vs. Celtic

Wednesday, September 19th

Rangers vs. Stuttgart
Barcelona vs. Lyon
Roma vs. Dynamo Kiev
Sporting vs. Manchester United
PSV Eindhoven vs. CSKA Moscow
Fenerbahce vs. Inter Milan
Arsenal vs. Sevilla/AEK
Slavia vs. Steaua

Matchday 2

Tuesday, October 2nd

Lyon vs. Rangers
Stuttgart vs. Barcelona
Manchester United vs. Roma
Dynamo Kiev vs. Sporting
Inter Milan vs. PSV Eindhoven
CSKA Moscow vs. Fenerbahce
Steaua vs. Arsenal
Sevilla/AEK vs. Slavia

Wednesday, October 3rd

Liverpool vs. Marseille
Besiktas vs. Porto
Valencia vs. Chelsea
Rosenborg vs. Schalke
Lazio vs. Real Madrid
Bremen vs. Olympiakos
Celtic vs. AC Milan
Benfica vs. Shakhtar

Matchday 3

Tuesday, October 23rd

Stuttgart vs. Lyon
Rangers vs. Barcelona
Dynamo Kiev vs. Manchester united
Roma vs. Sporting
CSKA Moscow vs. Inter Milan
PSV Eindhoven vs. Fenerbahce
Sevilla/AEK vs. Steaua
Arsenal vs. Slavia

Wednesday, October 24th

Besiktas vs. Liverpool
Marseille vs. Porto
Rosenborg vs. Valencia
Chelsea vs. Schalke
Bremen vs. Lazio
Real Madrid vs. Olympiakos
Benfica vs. Celtic
AC Milan vs. Shakhtar

Matchday 4

Tuesday, November 6th

Liverpool vs. Besiktas
Porto vs. Marseille
Valencia vs. Rosenborg
Schalke vs. Chelsea
Lazio vs. Bremen
Olympiakos vs. Real Madrid
Celtic vs. Benfica
Shakhtar vs. AC Milan

Wenesday, November 7th

Lyon vs. Stuttgart
Barcelona vs. Rangers
Manchester United vs. Dynamo Kiev
Sporting vs. Roma
Inter Milan vs. CSKA Moscow
Fenerbahce vs. PSV Eindhoven
Steaua vs. Sevilla/AEK
Slavia vs. Arsenal

Matchday 5

Tuesday, November 27th

Stuttgart vs. Rangers
Lyon vs. Barcelona
Dynamo Kiev vs. Roma
Manchester United vs. Sporting
CSKA Moscow vs. PSV Eindhoven
Inter Milan vs. Fenerbahce
Sevilla/AEK vs. Arsenal
Steaua vs. Slavia

Wednesday, November 28th

Besiktas vs. Marseille
Liverpool vs. Porto
Rosenborg vs. Chelsea
Valencia vs. Schalke
Bremen vs. Real Madrid
Lazio vs. Olympiakos
Benfica vs. Milan
Celtic vs. Shakhtar

By Wordsleuth

2008 UEFA Champions League Draw For The Group Stage

The draw for the Champions league was populated with the usual suspects and some new fringe teams. There were no less than six British in the draw. The big four from England Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are joined in the draw by the old firm from north of the border. Glasgow Rangers will welcome the windfall from the group stage, the £10m should help ease their current financial situation. Celtic scraped through the last round beating Spartak Moscow in a penalty shoot out to earn a place in the draw for the group stage.

UEFA Champions League GROUP A

Liverpool FC (England)
FC Porto (Portugal)
Olympique Marseille (France)
Besiktas (Turkey)

Last years beaten finalists Liverpool will hope their newly strengthened squad can go the extra mile this year, but they may be distracted with their domestic campaign. They will have trips to Portuguese side Porto who have been successful in the competition in recent years. Marseille are back in the big time after recovering from the scandals of the last decade, they may do well enough to compete for the second spot although they might settle for for the UEFA Cup spot. Besiktas will enjoy their participation in the Champions League, they are familiar with the format having played in the UEFA cup last season.

UEFA Champions League GROUP B

Chelsea FC (England)
Valencia (Spain)
Schalke 04 (Germany)
Rosenborg (Norway)

Premier League runners-up Chelsea will be confident of their progression from Group B, their assembly of stars should cruise through the group as they try to secure the one trophy that has eluded Jose Mourinho in his tenure as Chelsea manager.

Chelsea’s toughest test will come against Spanish side Valencia, who they managed to beat in last years quarter final. Although it must be said that Schalke and Rosenborg will be no push overs as they fight for the second qualification or UEFA Cup place, Schalke finished second in the Bundesliga last year behind Stuttgart.

UEFA Champions League GROUP C

Real Madrid (Spain)
Werder Bremen (Germany)
Lazio (Italy)
Olympiakos (Greece)

Spanish League winners Real Madrid have Germany’s third placed team Werder Bremen in their group along with Italy’s third place side Lazio, which will suit Madrid’s new man in charge Bernd Schuster who has recently strengthened his squad, adding names like Robben, Sneijder and Heinze. The fourth team in the Group C is Olympiakos from Greece.

UEFA Champions League GROUP D

AC Milan (Italy)
Benfica (Portugal)
Celtic (Scotland)
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)

2007 Champions Milan will face Glasgow Celtic again this season after playing them last year. Benfica, Celtic and Shaktar Donetsk will be competing for the second place and the UEFA Cup place, unless they manage to raise their game to upset the Champions.

UEFA Champions League GROUP E

FC Barcelona (Spain)
Olympique Lyon (France)
VfB Stuttgart (Germany)
Rangers (Scotland)

Instantly recognised as the ‘Group Of Death’ Glasgow Rangers will struggle to make even the UEFA Cup place. Winners from 2006 Barcelona who are fresh from a pre-season tour of Scotland will be favourites to top Group E. Barca & Celtic are joined in the group of death by winners of their respective leagues Lyon who won in France and Stuttgart who won the Bundesliga.

UEFA Champions League GROUP F

Manchester United (England)
AS Roma (Italy)
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)

The English and Italian authorities will hope there is no rekindling of hostilities between Manchester United and Roma, after the violence that erupted in last seasons clash. The new and improved United squad will want to try and better the 7-1 result they managed last season. Ronaldo and Nani will face their old club Sporting Lisbon. The fixture that could cause the upset will be Dynamo Kiev, clubs that have a trip to Kiev in late October early November in the bitter cold may not perform well allowing the Ukrainians to exploit their familiar conditions.

UEFA Champions League GROUP G

Inter Milan (Italy)
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)
CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Fenerbahce (Turkey)

Another group where trips to a freezing cold Moscow could be a deciding factor in who is successful in the group. Italian Champions Inter Milan should finish top of the group, then it is a three way scramble between PSV, CSKA & Fenerbahce for the other two places.

UEFA Champions League GROUP H

Arsenal (England)
Sevilla (Spain) or AEK Athens (Greece)
Steaua Bucharest (Romania)
Slavia Prague (Czech Republic)

England’s fourth placed team face two eastern European sides in Steaua Bucharest and Slavia Prague, having dispatched the Czech Republic’s other entrant to the competition Sparta Prague in the qualifying round. The fourth club to be in the group has yet to be decided. The game between UEFA Cup holders for the last two seasons Sevilla from Spain, had their game against AEK Athens postponed following the death of Sevilla defender Antonio Puerta.

by Barry

Thursday, August 30, 2007

UEFA Country Ranking 2008

Domenech appeals ban

France coach Raymond Domenech has appealed against his one-match suspension imposed by UEFA earlier this week for a breach of UEFA's disciplinary regulations.

Fine and ban
Domenech was handed a one-match touchline ban by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body for his side's UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against Italy on 8 September, as well as being fined CHF10,000 (€6,000), for bringing football into disrepute. The decision was made following remarks made in an interview to the French newspaper Le Parisien.

Wednesday hearing
UEFA's Appeals Body will examine the appeal next Wednesday, 5 September in Nyon, Switzerland at 13.00 CET, and Domenech has been summoned to appear before the body.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Format. UEFA 2008.


The winners and runners-up in the seven qualifying groups will go through to the UEFA EURO 2008™ final round in Austria and Switzerland.

Seven groups
The qualifying phase for EURO 2008™ consists of one group of eight teams and six groups of seven. The qualifying competition will begin in the autumn of 2006, after the FIFA World Cup in Germany. Co-hosts Austria and Switzerland will qualify automatically.

Seeded teams
The qualifying groups will be formed with seeded teams by the UEFA administration. The reigning European champions will always be seeded. The other associations will be classified on the basis of results achieved in the qualifying competition of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, as well as their results in the qualifying competition of the 2002/04 UEFA European Football Championship.

The total number of points obtained in the qualifying competitions of both of the aforementioned competitions will then be divided by the number of matches played. The resulting quotient is used to determine the rankings. In the case of an association that qualified automatically for the final tournaments of the competitions in question, the coefficient is calculated on the basis of its results in its most recent qualifying competition.

Group composition
The composition of the groups will be decided by means of a draw after completion of the current World Cup qualifying competition.
If two or more associations have the same coefficient, the following criteria will be applied:
a) coefficient from the matches played in its most recent qualifying competition,
b) average goal difference,
c) average number of goals scored,
d) average number of away goals scored,
e) drawing of lots.

Match system for the qualifying competition
The matches in the qualifying competition will be played in groups according to the league system, with each team playing all opponents in its group in a series of home and away matches. Three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a defeat.

Equality of points after the group matches
If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings.
a) Higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question.
b) Superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question.
c) Higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question.
d) Higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question.
e) If, after applying criteria a) to d) to several teams, two or more teams still have an equal ranking, the criteria a) to d) will be reapplied to determine the ranking of these teams. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria f) and g) will apply.
f) Results of all group matches: 1. Superior goal difference 2. Higher number of goals scored 3. Higher number of goals scored away from home 4. Fair play conduct.
g) Drawing of lots.

Final Tournament

Sixteen teams will qualify for the final tournament – the seven winners and runners-up in the qualifying groups, and the host associations Austria and Switzerland.

Group formation
The UEFA administration will divide the 16 teams that qualify for the final tournament into four groups (A, B, C & D) of four teams each.

The seeded teams will be the host associations, with the reigning European champions if they qualify, and one or two teams with the best coefficients on the basis of results achieved in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying competition and/or in the qualifying competition for the 2006/08 UEFA European Football Championship. The other finalists will be assigned to the four groups by means of a draw, according to their coefficients.

Group match schedule
Each team plays each of the other teams in the same group according to a league system (three points for a win, one point for a draw, no points for a defeat). The group matches will be played according to the following schedule. The last two matches in each group must both kick off at the same time.

The winners and runners-up in each group play the quarter-finals over one match

The four winners of the quarter-finals play the semi-finals over one match

The winners of the semi-finals play in the final.

Same number of goals in a quarter-final, semi-final or the final
If the result stands as a draw at the end of normal playing time, extra time of two periods of 15 minutes will be played. If the two teams are still equal after extra time, the winners will be determined by kicks from the penalty mark.

©uefa.com 1998-2006. All rights reserved.

Poland Road to UEFA EURO 2008

Polish National Football Team in UEFA EURO 2008 Austria & Switzerland Qualification Stage From Pod: arijavec's video collection Added By: arijavec

Great video:



UEFA Euro 2008. Mustknow info.

The 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as Euro 2008, will take place in Austria and Switzerland, from 7 June to 29 June 2008. It is the second in a series of three successful joint bids in the competition's history, alongside the 2000 European Football Championship, hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands and the 2012 competition in Poland and Ukraine.

A total of 16 teams will participate in the tournament. Austria and Switzerland will automatically qualify as hosts; Austria will be making its first appearance in the tournament. The remaining 14 teams will be determined through qualifying matches which started in August 2006.


RTÉ secures rights for Euro 2008

RTÉ Sport announced today that it has added yet another major international sports event to its extensive portfolio by securing exclusive rights to the UEFA Euro 2008 Championships.

RTÉ has successfully secured broadcast rights for the 2008 European Championships across television, radio and online, further strengthening RTÉ's extensive soccer coverage.

Exclusive Irish broadcast rights have been secured by RTÉ Television and RTÉ.ie while RTÉ Radio has been awarded national broadcast rights for the entire tournament. Coverage will include the live broadcast of all 31 matches from Austria and Switzerland next summer.

RTÉ is one of the few public service broadcasters in Europe to retain such a strong sports rights portfolio.

This latest coup adds to RTÉ's comprehensive soccer coverage which already includes broadcast rights for the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, two nights live Champions League coverage, eircom League Live as well as both of the FAI Ford Cup semi-finals and the final.

UEFA's Director of Marketing and Media Rights, Philippe Le Floc'h paid tribute to RTÉ's quality coverage: 'RTÉ is the leading broadcaster in Ireland and is a long-term partner of UEFA with vast experience in broadcasting major sports events.'

Glen Killane, Group Head of Sport RTÉ, said: 'In an increasingly competitive market we are delighted that UEFA have taken in to account the quality of our coverage and the audiences that RTÉ attracts.

'We are also proud that they have paid tribute to our strong track record in sports broadcasting. Securing these games further enhances RTÉ's portfolio of live soccer and enables us to bring yet another major international sporting event to Irish viewers free-to-air.'

RTÉ's unrivalled team of soccer presenters, analysts and commentators will be on hand throughout the tournament providing their expert analysis and opinion free-to-air.

RTÉ Sport will also be broadcasting all of Ireland's remaining crucial Group D qualifiers starting with the national team's game against Slovakia on 8 September.


Belgium edges Serbia in Euro 2008 qualifier

BRUSSELS, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Belgium beat Serbia 3-2 in a crucial tie here in the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying Wednesday night, keeping alive its chance of qualifying for the finals next June.

Under must-win circumstances, Belgium's young guns played aggressively, with Moussa Dembele opening the score for the hosts after converting Steven Defour's right-wing cross from 12 meters before the goal in the 10th minute.

In the 30th minute, Kevin Mirallas doubled Belgium's lead to 2-0 with a long-range shot.

In the second half, Serbia was determined to hit back early on, with Zdravko Kuzmanovic cutting the deficit to 1-2 by slotting home Ivica Dragutinovic's left-wing cross from six meters.

But a Dembele double in the 88th minute sealed the victory for the hosts. Kuzmanovic scored his second goal of the night in the injury time, but it was too late.

With the much-needed win, Belgium is now fifth in the Group A, with 10 points from nine matches. Serbia has dropped to fourth, with 14 points from eight matches.

In the eight-team group, Poland still leads with 19 points out of nine matches, followed by Finland, with 17 points out of nine matches, and Portugal with 15 points out of eight matches.

The top two finishers will qualify from the group.


29-08-2007 Gamebookers' results adversely impacted by the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers in June

29-08-2007 Gamebookers' results adversely impacted by the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers in June

During the first half of 2007, Gamebookers and PartyBets generated total gross win of $10.0m, with an average gross win margin over the period of 6.8%, a net revenue of $6.5m and a clean EBITDA of $0.7m . The overall result was impacted by the performance in June 2007, when all but one of the 16 favourites in the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers won their matches. The gross win margin fell to 4.8% in the second quarter from 8.8% in the first quarter 2007.

Total sports betting turnover in the first half 2007 was $147.9m. Over 34,000 real money players signed up to the Gamebookers and PartyBets sites, up 35% from 2006, bringing the total of unique active players during the period to 112.400, up 3% compared with the same period in 2006.

Having integrated the Gamebookers and PartyBets betting products onto a single platform in June 2007, the group will now offer white label betting services to third parties. Following the combination of the back-end technology and the introduction of a multi-currency facility, PartyBets is also looking to capitalize on the substantial cross-selling opportunity within the group's poker customer base. Only 4.5% of the group's poker players placed a bet with PartyBets in the six months to 30 June 2007.

Meanwhile, parent company PartyGaming said its total revenue in H1 2007 was down 68% to $212.5m following the move out of the US market in October 2006, while the underlying performance by the continuing operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa was strong with a 42% increase to $212.5m. During the period, the group incurred an operating loss of $47.3m compared with an operating profit of $319.3m in 2006. Continuing operations showed a 29% increase in clean EBITDA to $36.9m.

The number of non-US real money signups increased by 83% to 403,713 during the first six months of 2007, while the total number of unique active players increased by 102% to 768,200 with the average number of daily players up 115% to over 80,000.

While poker remains the largest individual business segment representing 66% of total revenues from the group's continuing operations, the casino business enjoyed the largest growth year-on-year with revenue climbing 218% to $64.6m and clean EBITDA up by 108% to $15.2m.

Chief Executive Mitch Garber said: "The Group has delivered a solid performance in the first half of 2007 with excellent top line growth and new player sign-ups. We continue to execute our strategy through growing our player base, localisation of the customer offer and broadening our product suite. Over the coming weeks and months we expect to announce a number of further important business alliances with leading companies around the world that will help us to promote and grow our business. While the important fourth quarter lies ahead, the Board remains confident about the Group's prospects for the full year."

Garber also said the company was continuing talks with US authorities: "We had voluntarily approached the Department of Justice and we are working toward satisfactory resolution."


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