I’m back! There is nothing on Darren Gibson’s two-hour Twitter nightmare, Mourinho’s two-hour Bernabeu nightmare or even Falcao’s hat-trick heroics. This week we go to Chile, Salt Lake, Zagreb, Africa, Oceania as we find 10 football stories from round the globe. Enjoy!
Last week’s stories
Errrr…I was on my honeymoon.
This week’s stories
Zagreb kings again
Dinamo Zagreb wrapped up their 6th successive Croatian title at the weekend to reinstate their continued dominance on the domestic scene. The club from the capital beat Osijek 1-0 at home. Bitter rivals Hadjuk Split are a full 13 points behind in 2nd place where they have finished for the last two seasons. The success has been based on a tight defence with Plavi (The Blues) conceding just 11 times this season and losing just 2 games.
Universidad Católica’s week to remember
A 5-2 win at the weekend for the team from Santiago put them six points clear at the top of the Chilean league and they proved they are up for a double challenge as they travelled to Brazil for their Copa Libertadores clash. Incredibly two goals from young Argentinian striker Lucas Pratto gave them a 2-1 win in Porto Alegre and stunned one of the Copa’s fancied sides Grêmio. It took them to 10 games unbeaten in all competitions, their last reverse was a surprise home loss to Caracas in the group stages of the Copa Libertadores.
Change at the top in Holland
A Steve McClaren-less Twente are hoping to repeat last year’s league success as they moved into 1st place at a crucial time of the season, taking advantage of PSV’s slip up. The Eindhoven-based side lost to Feyenoord and remain on 65 points while Twente and Ajax move to 68 and 67 respectively. There are just two games left in the season but that last game is Ajax vs Twente, in Amsterdam on 15 May which could well be the title decider.
You thought Torres was on a long drought?
After Fernando Torres finally scored for Chelsea to end his 903 minute goal drought, another drought was broken in Argentina. Boca Juniors legend and all-time top goal scorer ended the longest goal drought of his 19-year career when he finally scored again on Sunday against Huracan. The Boca hitman had been 951 minutes without a goal and despite plenty of commentators expecting him to be dropped at any moment, Falcioni had persisted in picking him and maybe now the floodgates will open? Or maybe he’ll have to wait another 951 minutes!
It’s my joke for the week, Auxerre are artists because they love to draw. On Sunday they drew their 17th game of the season (putting them 3 short of the Ligue 1 record of 20) and the score was 1-1 for the 13th time! Between December and January they drew 5 straight league games by that scoreline. All this isn’t helping their league campaign, they currently sit 16th just two points of the relegation zone with six games left to play. Back in August the future seemed so bright, they were in the Champions League and were unbeaten in their first three league games (all 3 being draws of course).
World Club Cup taking shape
On Wednesday night while all eyes were in Madrid it was all happening in Salt Lake City in the 2nd Leg of the Final of the CONCACAF Champions League. The home side Real Salt Lake had the advantage after drawing 2-2 away to Monterrey, yet it was the Mexicans who took the crown with a 1-0 victory. The winning strike came from a man previously featured in this blog, Humberto Suazo. The rayados now qualify for the FIFA World Club Cup joining OFC representatives Auckland City.
France to bring in ethnic quota system?
Rumours emerged from France yesterday that the FFF plans to limit the amount of black and Arabic players coming into national academies. The accusation, by Mediapart a French website, is that no more than 30% of players recruited should be of black or Arab descent. Laurent Blanc has been mentioned as part of the top brass present in a January meeting where the quota system was discussed. Apart from the racist implication of this policy it seems rather illogical, after all the 1998 World Cup starting XI had over 30% of black/Arab players. Zidane, Djorkaeff, Thuram, Desailly and Karembeu in case you were wondering.
U-20s in Africa and Oceania
With just months to go until the U20 World Cup in Colombia the qualifiers are taking place in Africa and have finished in Oceania. The CAF qualifiers were meant to take place in Libya but due to the political unrest it was moved to South Africa at short notice. All four semi-finalists, Mali, Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria progress to the World Cup. The latter face each other in the final on Monday. In the OFC qualifiers the final is done and dusted, New Zealand vanquished Solomon Islands 3-1 to end hopes of the Pacific Islanders qualifying for their first U20 World Cup. The draw for Colombia took place on Wednesday, full groups here.
Goal of the Week
It isn’t the best (after all it is only a pen) but it was the one that excited me most, Roberto Carlos got his first goal in Russia.
Stat of the Week
0 – Man Utd have never lost a European game at home by more than one goal (via @OptaJoe). So Schalke really do have no chance.
Top Ten of the Week
Having heard about Dinamo Zagreb’s sixth consecutive league triumph (see above) it got me thinking about which of Europe’s teams are currently on the best run of domestic championships. The results are up to the 2009/10 season unless the 2011 champion has already been crowned (as in Zagreb’s case). It throws up some interesting results.
= 6. Santa Coloma (Andorra) – 2
= 6. Red Bull Salzburg (Austria) – 2
= 6. FC Copenhagen (Denmark) – 2
= 6. HP Torshavn (Faroe Islands) – 2
= 6. HJK Helsinki (Finland) – 2
= 6. Debrecen (Hungary) – 2
= 6. Linfield (Northern Ireland) – 2
= 6. Rosenborg (Norway) – 2
= 6. Tre-Fiori (San Marino) – 2
= 6. Rangers (Scotland) – 2
= 6. Barcelona (Spain) – 2
= 4. BATE Borisov (Belarus) – 5
= 4. Inter Milan (Italy) – 5
3. Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) – 6
= 1. Pyunik (Armenia) – 10
= 1. Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova) – 10
So in reality it isn’t a Top Ten with only 5 teams having won more than 2 straight championships. It is likely to shrink as well with Inter’s rivals Milan closing in on Serie A and even Moldova’s Sheriff Tiraspol in 2nd place with little left to play. It also shows just how hard it is to win back to back championships in modern football…across Europe not just in the ‘big’ leagues.
By Ralph Hannah