Firstly there is the shock news that there will be no Top Tens next week (my wedding) or the week after (honeymoon) – already under the thumb! So in the meantime enjoy my final footballtoptens as a single man. We don’t mention Mourinho’s home record ending or Rooney’s ban for swearing or anything else you’ve probably read ad nauseum this week. We do have news from the Indian League, why Guatemala had a party this week, what Marcelo Gallardo is up to these days and why nobody should ever try and play Sunday League while on their mobile phone. We round off with the Capital Winners – which of the Top Ten International teams has the best record in her own capital city?
Finally, if you want to read my article for IBWM on possibly the greatest player you never heard of, Arsenio Erico, here is the link: http://inbedwithmaradona.com/he-was-a-paraguayan/
Last Week’s Stories
Going a few weeks back but Hulk notched goal number 21 as Porto beat Benfica to secure their 25th league title. Zé Roberto made his 331 Bundesliga appearance to become the outright record holder for appearances by an overseas player. Aims to curb violence in Paraguayan football don’t seem to have worked with Guaraní fans stoning a bus full of schoolchildren who had received free tickets to watch Libertad. Gabriel Franco, the victim of last week’s shooting remains in hospital in a stable condition.
This Week’s Stories
Gallardo’s week goes from good to bad
Marcelo Gallardo had an almost perfect week for his club Nacional of Montevideo turn sour. He scored at the weekend to help his side to a 3-0 victory over Racing. That was the good. Things were looking great on Wednesday night in the Copa Libertadores when he came on the pitch as a substitute and set up Garcia for his and Nacional’s 2nd goal against Fluminense to kill the game. But then after 86 minutes he was sent off, picking up his 2nd yellow for arguing with the referee. It means he will be unavailable for the final group game against Club América where only a win will guarantee qualification to the knockout stages.
New Caledonia stop the 3 year rot
Although most international friendlies took place last week, New Caledonia took to the field against Tahiti on Monday in Papeete. The away side (it’s New Caledonia if you’re unsure of Papeete’s location!) won 3-1 thanks to a hat trick from Iamel Kabeu. It was a big win for the islanders, the last time they tasted victory was in June 2008 against Vanuatu. They hadn’t won away from home since September 2007 when they beat Fiji 1-0.
Who will replace Japan?
After several rumours on Twitter a couple of weeks ago Japan officially withdrew from the Copa América, as things stand they have been given 10 more days to re-consider but it seems likely there will be no Blue Samurai in the competition. While the obvious choice to replace them is probably a CONCACAF side the organisers have invited World and European Champions Spain. It seems unlikely however that La Roja will make their players take to the field for 7 consecutive summers (Euro 2008, Confederations, South Africa 2010, Copa América, Euro 2012, Confederations, Brazil 2014) and are likely to decline. The other names in the hat are Costa Rica and Canada, who may well only send B teams as the senior sides will have just competed in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Why not to defend while on your mobile phone
This Sunday League defender in Germany was clearly distracted by an important phone call he just had to take in the middle of his game. As the opponents launched a counter attack he tried to cut off the threat but instead chopped the striker with this horrendous lunge.
The CONCACAF U-20 qualifiers for the U-20 World Cup in Colombia later this year have been underway since 28 March in Central and North America. The semi-finals take place today but as four teams qualify from the region, all of Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and hosts Guatemala will be involved. And it is the latter who are the biggest surprise having defeated the USA on Wednesday 2-1 with goals from Lima and López to take Guatemala to the U-20 World Cup for the 1st time ever. However come June it will be another sky blue and white team to look out for – Argentina have won the trophy on 5 of the last 8 occasions!
Leading Indian charge
In the Indian I-League it is the team from Goa, Salgaocar SC, that is topping the table with just 7 weeks to go. Coached by Moroccon Karim Bencherifa the team are now unbeaten in 9 games winning their last five. Like many clubs in the division they rely heavily on two West African signings, Yusuf Yakubu (Ghana), and Ekene Ikenwa (Nigeria) with the former netting 11 times in 18 games. If Salgaocar were to become champions this season it would be only the 2nd time in their history.
Champions League pitch invasion
The CAF Champions League game last Saturday between Zamalek and Club Africain in Egypt had to be suspended after fans invaded the field of play having seen a goal disallowed. Zamalek were leading 2-1 but the third goal would have put them ahead on aggregate. It spelled more problems for the Egyptian FA who had to suspend the domestic league almost 2 months ago after the political unrest in the country that deposed Hosni Mubarak. The good news however is that the league is scheduled to restart next week according to reports.
Stankovic slow off the mark
Dejan Stankovic’s sweetly struck volley after 25 seconds was definitely the best goal I’ve seen in the Champions League for long time – but it wasn’t the fastest. He sits in fifth place behind these quick-draws: Clarence Seedorf (21 secs), Del Piero (20 secs), Gilberto Silva (20 secs) and the fastest of them all was Roy Makaay – 10 seconds to score for Bayern Munich against Real Madrid in 2007.
Stat of the Week
174 – Seydou Keita became the 174th different goalscorer (exc. Own goals) in this year’s Champions League. He was the 2nd Malian to score after Cédric Kanté for Panathinaikos in the group stages.
Goal of the Week
There were plenty around the world but to keep to form I’ll stick to South America and specifically Argentinian league leaders River Plate. They put together this fantastic move to unpick Quilmes’ defence and secure a 1-0 away win.
Top Ten of the Week
This has been weeks in the making but we finally now know that out of the Top Ten FIFA-ranked teams who is the best in their own capital. Because of the drastically different numbers of games each team has played (e.g. England 282, Germany 43) I had to work on Win % rather than overall number of wins, here we have the results:
10. Germany (Berlin) – 41.86 %
9. Greece (Athens) – 48.09%
8. Netherlands (Amsterdam) – 50.72%
7. Portugal (Lisbon) – 51.11%
6. Uruguay (Montevideo) – 59.00%
5. England (London) – 59.57%
4. Argentina (Buenos Aires) – 64.71%
3. Spain (Madrid) – 66.10%
2. Croatia (Zagreb) – 68.52%
1. Brazil (Rio/Brasilia) – 73.68%
So there you have it, maybe unsurprisingly the 5-time World Champions are top of the list although it is worth noting that since Brasilia became capital in 1960 Brazil have only played there 7 times – so most games were pre-1960 against South American opposition when most travelling was done by land. England have played the most games which again is no surprise being the oldest team. Argentina have recorded the same amount of wins, 154 and Croatia have incredibly only been beaten twice in Zagreb in 54 games, to Germany in 1942 and then World Champions, France in 2000.
By Ralph Hannah