Last week I brought you Walcott’s goofy glasses, Maradona’s playing comeback and news from Brazil, Peru, New Caledonia, Greece and Qatar. This week I won’t be mentioning Andy Gray or Richard Keys or women – what a relief! I will be mentioning goals from behind the goal, the worst tackle of the year (maybe of recent times), the best defence in Europe and why Barcelona have proved that size doesn’t matter. Our Top Ten for the week is the Copa Libertadores winners as the 2011 edition got underway this week – I was at Cerro Porteño’s game against Deportivo Petare last night!
Update from last week
Remember Djibril Cissé is on fire – he got his 17th in 19 games on Sunday from the penalty spot. JJ Garza has offered a reward to kill his former accomplice “El Contador” for his betrayal over the Cabañas case. Maradona wasn’t playing football this week but he was “a player” on holiday in Mar de La Plata, telling Gabriela Figueroa “You have better legs than I did in ’86” – smooth Diego, smooth. And finally, Neymar hasn’t scored this week, but he has been doing this with his new Peruvian friend.
Stories of the week
Barcelona are the shortest team in Europe
Which makes sense when you think of their attacking quintet of Messi, Villa, Pedro, Xavi and Iniesta (Villa being the tallest at 175 cm, a shade under 5 ft 9 in). The average height 0f the team is 177.38 cm while the tallest teams, SV Mattersburg (Austria) and Volyn Lutsk (Ukraine) measure in at 186.68 cm. The data is provided by the PFPO (Professional Football Players Observatory) and an excellent article by Jonathan Wilson on The Guardian website summarises their key findings.
Australia hit Uzbekistan for six!
The Asian Cup semi-final could not have been more one-sided as the Socceroos reach the final for the first time in only their 2nd appearance. One man to thank is ex-Liverpool and Leeds winger Harry Kewell. He got the ball rolling against Uzbekistan, but it was his headed winner 118 minutes into the Quarter-Final against Iraq that got them there. It’s Kewell’s 15th and 16th international goals in just 52 appearances since his debut in 1996 (that’s 3.1875 games a year for the national side). Australia face Japan in the final on Saturday.
Raúl makes 10….again
Raúl scored the winner for Schalke this weekend to take his league tally to 10 goals for the season. It is the 12th season the 33-year-old has managed to score 10 league goals or more. His fellow veteran and former strike partner Ruud Van Nistelrooy has only achieved this feat 10 times, Ronaldo managed 11…Pelé, well he got 16 seasons but primarily in the Brazilian State Championships, so the most impressive I could find was Eusebio who scored 10 or more league goals 14 times including 13 consecutive seasons for Benfica (netting 40+ twice!). Let me know if you find better!
Ronaldinho scores from behind the goal
Here is one to try in training this week. Ronaldinho shows that he really can score from anywhere. I’m nominating this my goal of the week – Dax McCarty’s effort, also in training, is a close 2nd – if you have any better ones, post the link below.
Who needs Mourinho?
Well everybody, but the Special One’s former club Porto are doing rather well without him this season. Last week’s Top Ten proved that Mourinho coached the tightest defence in Premier League history and he seems to have left a legacy in Northern Portugal. The Dragones Azules are unbeaten in the league and following their 3-0 win over Nacional have conceded just 7 goals in 18 matches this season which at 0.39 goals per game is the 6th meanest defence in Europe. The best if you’re interested is Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova, 6 goals in 21 games or 0.29 goals per game.
Argentina and Inter clean up at the Oscars
The Serie A Oscars that is. Diego Milito was voted best player and best foreigner by his peers in Italy. His compatriot Javier Pastore picked up best young player and veteran Walter Samuel shared the prize for best defender with Giorgio Chiellini. Milito edged out teammates Eto’o and Sneijder and their former boss, José Mourinho was the coach of the year. It was another Inter Milan player who finished with the Goal of the Season award, Maicon for this screamer against Juventus.
Drama in Haiti
With one game left of the Clôture (the 2nd of the national championships in Haiti) there are four teams sitting at the top on 24 points. Two of them, Victory and Baltimore, go head to head in Parc Levelt in Saint-Marc home of Baltimore who were named after the Baltimore Colts NFL team. Their opponents have possibly the most misleading name in world football having never won the Ligue Haitienne in their 64 year history.
Honduras rule Central America
They won the Copa Centroamericana for the third time, the first since 1995, after beating Costa Rica 2-1 in last Sunday’s final. Costa Rica have traditionally dominated the tournament winning it six times since its inception in 1991 including three consecutive victories in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The tournament featured seven teams from the region with the top five qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup scheduled for June in the United States. The MVP was Ramon Nuñez currently on the books of Championship side Leeds United.
Blackburn and West Bromwich go cosmopolitan
You wouldn’t really think this game was going to be the only Premier League one that makes the article but the match between these two at the weekend saw 22 different nationalities on the field. England made up three, France, Scotland and Sweden two , then there was one player from the following countries (in alphabetical order). Austria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Congo, Congo DR, Croatia, Czech Republic, Grenada, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Paraguay, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, USA and Wales.
Muscat makes worst tackle ever
Wolves favourite former right-back…from Australia, Kevin Muscat, has been handed an 8-match ban for a horrific foul last weekend. The Melbourne Victory captain saw straight red for what he described as a mistimed tackle that has put winger Adrian Zahra out for the rest of the season. The length of the ban also means Muscat will play no further part in Victory’s A-League campaign and could spell the end of the 37-year-olds career.
Top Ten Copa Libertadores Teams
With the Copa Libertadores kicking off this week, we check the best teams in terms of titles won.
=8. Cruzeiro (Brazil) -2
=8. Grêmio (Brazil) -2
=8. Internacional (Brazil) – 2
=8. Santos (Brazil) – 2
=8. River Plate (Argentina) – 2
5. Nacional (Uruguay) – 3
5. Olimpia (Paraguay) – 3
5. São Paulo (Brazil) – 3
4. Estudiantes (Argentina) – 4
3. Peñarol (Uruguay) – 5
2. Boca Juniors (Argentina) – 6
1. Independiente (Argentina) – 7
And now you know why Independiente are nicknamed “Rey de las Copas” (King of the Cups) it is more impressive when you add that they have never lost a final. Things got under way for them on Tuesday night with a 2-0 victory in their qualifier against Deportivo Quito. Spare a thought for a team not on this list, America de Cali of Colombia. They’ve got to the final 4 times and lost every time!
More next week, comments appreciated!