July is here and it marks the start of the 2011 Copa America with hosts Argentina playing Bolivia, the last time they met it was 6-1….to Bolivia! Also July means just one more month until Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Inter Milan et al are in action in Europe. But this week we focus on Santa Coloma, Tri Fiori, Palestine, Afghanistan and mix that with Ronaldinho and a classic England vs Argentina encounter – and finally with FIFA rankings released this week we see who is the best team in the world taking into account population.
Previous Week’s Stories
The Gold Cup came to a close with a USA repeating their 2009 Confederations Cup meltdown, the hosts throwing away a 2-goal lead in the final to lose 4-2 to Mexico. Soulamane Coulibaly of Ivory Coast has ended his U17 World Cup in the last 16 but is top scorer with 9 goals, equalling Florent Sinama Pongolle’s record. River Plate suffered the unthinkable and were relegated to ‘La B’ along with Gimnasia de La Plata, Mundoalbiceleste tells me it is only the third time (2004 & 2007) that both Primera teams have lost the relegation/promotion playoff since the system was introduced. Spain’s U21 side beat Switzerland to be crowned European champions. Oh and Thailand have a manager, it is Winfried Schaefer
This Week’s Stories
England crush Argentinian aspirations
Argentina have won every major international tournament except one…the U17 World Cup. England made sure the search continues with victory in the 2nd round yesterday. The South Americans took the lead early on through Maxi Padilla before Jamaican-born Raheem Sterling (on the books at Liverpool) grabbed an equaliser just before half time. With no goals in the second half the game went straight to penalties with Argentina hoping to emulate their senior counterparts of 1998 – but they didn’t count on Jordan Pickford. The Sunderland stopper saved two spotkicks to give England a famous 4-2 penalty shootout win. Next stop Germany on Monday.
Road to Rio begins in Asia
FIFA expressed concerns that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was running behind schedule and with good reason, the qualifiers have now begun in Asia as well as the CONCACAF region (see last week). Palestine won their first ever qualifier against Afghanistan on Wednesday the only ‘away’ win (the game was played in Tajikistan) recorded in the first round of matches. This first round is a two-legged home and away qualifier for the group stages, Vietnam virtually booked their place with a 6-0 thumping of Macau and there were wins for Mongolia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia and Malaysia. On Sunday it is back to CONCACAF with the Virgin Islands derby: US Virgin Islands versus British Virgin Islands.
Women’s World Cup gets emotions running high
An incredible miss from Equatorial Guinea’s Anonman led to some wild behaviour in the stand from this man. Big fan or had a big bet riding on them?
Champions League kicks off
The world’s premiere club tournament re-started on Tuesday with Andorran champions Santa Coloma taking on Luxembourg’s double winners F91 Dudelange (who have been featured here before) and Tre Fiori from San Marino against the Maltese giants Valletta. Coloma were beaten 2-0 despite playing four Argentine’s (admittedly none will be lining up today against Bolivia in the Copa America) and Tre Fiori also had no help from the home support of 544 or their sprinkling of Italian ‘stars’ as they crashed to a 3-0 reverse. The 2nd legs are next week with the winners advancing to the 2nd qualifying round where Ekransas and Maribor await.
Europea League kicks off too
Fulham had an easy start to the 2011/12 season with a 3-0 home win against NSI but the biggest winners yesterday were Rad. The Serbians trounced San Marino’s Tre Penne 6-0 a bad week for San Marino on the continent, although they must be used to it by now. The ‘shortest’ match up was IF vs KR, Infostrada Sports informs us that it equals the record for the European match with the fewest characters. They equal HB vs FH who faced off in 2007 and are also from the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
Ronaldinho on song in Flamengo win
Ronaldinho proved to be the match winner for Flamengo as they came from behind to beat América Mineiro 3-2. The former World Player of the Year opened the scoring with this freekick before coolly sliding home the winner 7 minutes from time. The victory puts Flamengo in sixth place three points behind league leaders Corinthians who have a game in hand.
Copa Sudamericana draw decided
The little brother to the Copa Libertadores, the Copa Sudamericana, finally held the first round draw (postponed twice by the volcanic ash cloud from Chile) on Tuesday. The first two rounds are regionalised (Paraguayan clubs play Bolivian clubs for example) with the big guns from Brazil and Argentina sitting it out until the 2nd round. Pick of the round – probably Bella Vista from Uruguay against Universidad de Catolica of Chile – although that’s pushing it, don’t expect any classics until the last 16.
Spainards in reverse
As mentioned above Spain beat Switzerland to claim the U21 European Championships and it marked a new record for two of the squad members.In the process Juan Mata and Javi Martinez became the first players to win the U21 European Championships having already won the World Cup. A few of the players who have done it the ‘right way round’ are Laurent Blanc, Rudi Voller and Fabio Cannavaro.
Goal of the Week
Goals have more weight if they are in big games, doesn’t come much bigger than a major international final, Giovanni Dos Santos wins with his luscious chip in the Gold Cup Final for Mexico
Stat of the Week
5 – Number of Argentine nationals coaching in their homeland in this month’s Copa America. Sergio Batista (Argentina), Gerardo Martino (Paraguay), Ricardo La Volpe (Costa Rica), Gustavo Quinteros (Bolivia) and Claudio Borghi (Chile).
Top Ten of the Week
If you are a regular reader you’ll remember that back in February I looked at the Top 50 FIFA ranked teams and rejigged them taking into account population size. To recap the formula is simple population size/FIFA Ranking points giving you the number of inhabitants per point, obviously the less people per point the better because inversely this is means more points per head! That time Montenegro came out on top, but this time I’ve gone one step further and assessed ALL 207 NATIONS currently recognised by FIFA. Results below.
10. St. Vincent and the Grenadines – 973.21 people per point
9. British Virgin Islands – 742.45
8. Montenegro – 701.60
7. Cayman Islands – 609.76
6. Grenada – 392.45
5. Dominica – 352.33
4. Antigua and Barbuda – 311.19
3. St. Kitts and Nevis – 209.68
2. Faroe Islands – 178.01
1. Liechtenstein – 142.91
So it is perennial losers Lichtenstein who top the list despite being ranked 120th in the world. Our winners from last time, Montenegro are in a distant eighth place but are the only team in the Top Ten with a population of over half a million. The highest placed team with a population of over 5 million are Denmark, ranked 52 (20th in standard rankings). Finally the big losers, well there are five teams currently with no FIFA ranking points (American Samoa, Andorra, San Marino, Montserrat and Papua New Guinea). It is the latter who are the worst showing, they have a population of 6.7 million, twice that of World Cup Semi Finalists Uruguay. Finally Spain, where do the world’s best team sit? With 24,655 people per point they are in 107th sandwiched between Burkina Faso and Haiti.
By Ralph Hannah