Top Tens of the Week – 2 September 2011

Last Week’s Stories

Last week Ronaldinho had a new dance, now he is scoring from corners, it is all going right for the ex-Barça man! Ouakam have had to keep the champagne on ice in Senegal, losing at the weekend while Casa Sport won. Bayern Munich won again, 3-0, Mario Gomez with his 7th hat trick in under a year at the club. ITURBEWATCH: *bale of hay blows past in the wind*

This Week’s Stories

Argentina Veteran reaches century

Diego Rivarola of Universidad de Chile struck his 100th goal for the club last weekend, unsurprisingly he is the all-time leading foreign scorer for the Chilean outfit. He now has 82 league goals for the side and only the legendary Marcelo Salas (87) has scored more league goals at the club.

Sand Soccer

In Ravenna, Italy the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup has kicked off with two penalty shoot outs and one thrashing already. Hosts Italy edged past Iran 5-4 on penalties following a 6-all draw and African champions Senegal pipped Switzerland 1-0 in a shoot out after an 8-all draw. Portugal  won 11-2 against Honduras with all-time top goalscorer Nadjer scoring twice in the first 100 seconds of the game, he finished with a hat trick to take him to 70 goals in Beach World Cups.

Pacific Games

In Oceania some of the world’s less competitive sides are trying to win an international tournament as the Pacific Games began on Monday. At the time of writing hosts New Caledonia had set Group A alight with a 9-0 thumping of Guam in their opened followed by an 8-0 crushing of Tuvalu. Fiji also won 9-0 in Group B, Kiribati on the receiving end in a result that may have rocked the 98,000 population.

Ligue 1: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

In France this week’s ‘Good’ was definitely Burkina Faso’s Alain Traoré who grabbed two for Auxerre in a 4-1 win and put him at the top of the scorers charts. The bad, Toulouse, maybe harsh because Pastore is a great talent but they were 1-0 up at PSG and 1-1 with a minute to go, they slumped to a 3-1 defeat! The Ugly, Sochaux vs  St.Etienne, which produced three goals but also a penalty, a red card and five bookings! Sochaux won 2-1 against 10-man St.Etienne.

Wairarapa United historic first

88 years after it’s inception the 84th edition of New Zealand’s Chatham Cup has concluded (it wasn’t contested during WWII and in 1937 due to a lack of entries) with Wairarapa champions for the first time. The club had never been past the Last 16 previously and in the globalised modern game it maybe isn’t a surprise that the goals in their 2-1 victory came from a Vanuatuan and Fijian. The club with the most Chatham Cup titles is University Mount Wellington who have won it 7 times, the last back-to-back winner was Central United (1997/98).

Gabala in the groove

Former Arsenal & England defender, Tony Adams, is now managing in Azerbaijan and his side, Gabala, have started the new season well, undefeated after four games and the best defence in the league. They picked up two draws at home but have won both away games and currently sit second just two points behind Khazar Lankaran having only conceded two goals.

Madagascar madness

The entire island nation’s football team has been dismissed regarding a row over payments. It is a dark time for Malagasy football with the side disappointing at the Indian Ocean Island Games and sitting at the bottom of their qualifying group. Days away from their fifth group game at home to Nigeria, the U23 side will line up against the Super Eagles. If that wasn’t enough, the coach was sacked as well.

Zimbabwe league

In Zimbabwe the title race is opening up as the joint leaders Motor Action and Platinum FC drew for the second consecutive week. With just eight games to go they remain neck and neck on 42 points but Dynamos are now just three points behind having beaten Gunners 3-1 at the weekend. The Dynamos from capital Harare last won in 2007 and have been runners up in the three league championships since. For those of you looking for 1991 vice-champions Wankie, they changed their name in 2005.

Stat of the Week

1 – the number of Premier League sides who have played under half of their passes in the opposition half. According to Four Four Two’s new Stats Zone it is Swansea with 1354 completed passes but no goals to their name.

Goal of the Week

This is a top class volley from Anthony Mounier who controls it on his chest before rifling home to secure a win for Nice away to Toulouse.

Top Ten of the Week

As international week is full of games to watch I thought I would find out which side is the most exciting. Simple formula, I took the Top 50 FIFA-ranked sides and looked at their goals per game record in 2011 (*as of 1st Sep – so doesn’t inc. this morning’s matches). Here are the top scorers to date!

10. Mexico (34 goals in 15 games) – 2.27 goals per game

9. Germany (16/7) – 2.29

8. Spain (14/6) 2.33

7. Egypt (17/7) – 2.43

6. Sweden (15/6) – 2.5

=4. Netherlands (13/5) – 2.6

=4. Ghana (13/5) – 2.6

3. Nigeria (15/5) – 3

2. Ivory Coast (13/4) – 3.25

1. Israel (19/5) – 3.8

So Israel are the team to watch it seems, or have had five very easy games. Just eight sides in Top 50 average under 1 goal a game with bottom being Algeria (0.5) although they have only played two games this year so a bit unfair. England (1.75) are 19th and Brazil (1.22) are down in 32nd.

By Ralph Hannah

Twitter: @paraguayralph

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Top Tens of the Weeks – 27 Aug 2011

Last Week’s Stories

Kaiser Chiefs won again in South Africa and are top of the league, as the Pirates and Bloem Celtic lost. No goals for Raúl, Hernan Barcos or Dario Conca this week. ITURBEWATCH: He is in Portugal, will wear 27 and likes McDonalds. Oh and today he traveled with the Super Cup squad to face Barcelona. That is all.

This Week’s Stories

Ortega back on scoresheet

There wasn’t much to interest me in  Defensores de Belgrano vs Deportivo Moron (great name) in Argentina’s third division on a cold Tuesday night, that was until I found out Ariel ‘El Burrito’ Ortega was playing for the home side. Incredibly on his debut for the side from Cordoba he scored the equaliser, albeit a penalty, to cap yet another comeback from the 37-year-old.

Brazilian in Baghdad

Brazil legend Zico has decided to take the reins at the Iraqi national team. On Monday he stated he is just waiting for the i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed on his new contract. The AFC World Cup Qualifiers begin next month and Iraq start with Jordan at home and Singapore away. They are bidding to qualify for their second World Cup (1986 is only appearance to date) in Zico’s native Brazil.

Back in Baghdad

Look at this two stories from Iraq in one week! On Sunday the Iraqi league finished and Al Zawraa won the Iraqi title for the 12th time to bring it back to the country’s capital having been in Arbil in the Kurdish region to the North of the country for the last three years. It was Arbil who Al Zawraa beat in the final, in front of 45.000 supporters, on a penalty shoot-out 5-4 after a 0-0 draw. The consolation for Arbil’s Luay Salah was that the diminuitive striker finished top scorer something for Zico (see above) to note when he names his first national squad.

Maradona’s Middle-East message

Staying in the Middle-East (we’re leaving for Europe after this!) and Diego Maradona makes a political statement at new club Al Wasl. Nothing more to say but, Viva Palestina!

Bayern get going

German giants Bayern Munich have put their opening day loss to Borussia Monchegladbach behind them and have now won four on the trot in all competitions. Last weekend they won 5-0 against Hamburg with Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery impressing before Mario Gomez’s early strike sealed their Champions League qualification against Zurich. The four straight wins has been accompanied by four consecutive cleansheets as Bayern look imposing at both ends of the field.

Sengal Sunday sinks Sport

Casa Sport crashed to a 2-0 defeat away to Touré Kounda in the Senegal Premier League on the same day leaders Ouakam won by the same margin to Diaraf in Dakar. With three games to go Ouakam are now 9 points clear and virtually assured of their first ever title tomorrow against Niarry Tally. Diaraf are the team with the most titles (11) followed closely by Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) with 10.

Mexican Good, Bad and Ugly 

Good, Bad and Ugly is going to become a regular feature I think. In Mexico the good was Christian Benitez at new Club America who having gone 1-0 down to a most unwelcome goal from George Welcome (humour me) ended up winning 5-2 thanks to a hattrick from Chucho. The Ecuadorian scored all three goals in the last 20 minutes to seal the win. The bad was Pumas who had been unbeaten domestically going into last weekend and having lost in the Champions League midweek suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Puebla. The ugly, well that was the Santos Laguna vs Morelia clash which only lasted 40 minutes before gun shots caused the game to be called off. Thankfully nobody inside the stadium was hurt and it later transpired that the shots had been fired outside the stadium by a police checkpoint, common in areas where drug traffickers operate. Full round up of last weekend is here in excellent FMF State of Mind.

Ronaldinho has a new dance

Ronaldinho’s renaissance continues, having scored the winner in the 1st leg of their Copa Sudamericana game against Atletico Paranense he scored the winner in the 2nd leg this week, a back post header. But while the goal wasn’t special the celebration that followed was – a well choreographed effort with teammate Negueba. Oh and here he is taking the biscuit in training with some outrageous goals.

Stat of the Week

8 – Number of English players Norwich had on the field on Saturday the most for any Premier League side at the weekend.

Goal of the Week

Haven’t featured  a Paraguayan goal for a few weeks so this week I’m giving the award to Olimpia’s  Colombian midfielder Vladimir Marin for his freekick (2nd goal) against General Caballero.

Top Ten of the Week

With the Champions League Qualifiers done and dusted for another year we look at just who is the king of the Qualifiers (instigated in 1994/95). This is the Top Ten winners of Champions League Qualifying matches (not ties) including victories in extra time but not penalties.

=8. Galatassary 15 qualifier victories

=8.Copenhagen 15

=8.  Dinamo Zagreb 15

=8. BATE Borisov 15

=8. Anderlecht 15

=6. Steaua Bucharest 16

=6. Shakhtar Donetsk 16

5. Sparta Prague 18

=3.  Rangers 19

=3. Partizan 19

2.  Rosenborg 28

1. Dynamo Kiev 29

So Dyanamo Kiev are the kings of the qualifiers and alongside Rosenborg they blow the competition out of the water! No place for Arsenal who are only into double figures this season and they aren’t even the Premier League’s best representative with Liverpool on 11 victories!

By Ralph Hannah

Twitter: @paraguayralph

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Top Tens of the Week – 19 Aug 2011

David Beckham lines up with Hernan Barcos, we feature Argentinian playmakers at Boca Juniors and Guangzhou Yiyao, we’ve got news on the contrasting fortunes of Raúl and Raja and goal of the week from Recoba. Then we round it all off by telling you which country is most represented in international management. Football Top Tens time!

Last week’s stories

The U20s World Cup has reached the final as Argentina were dumped out by bogey side Portugal who then beat France to face Brazil in Sunday’s showpiece game. The Indian Ocean Games was won by Seychelles, their first ever title, condemning Mauritius to a penalty defeat. ITURBEWATCH: Right now Iturbe is on a plane to Portugal to begin his European football career with Porto…right backs beware!

This week’s stories

High Five Hernan

It was a good weekend for Hernan Barcos, the 27-year-old Argentine striker who has played in Paraguay, Serbia and China before settling in Ecuador 18 months ago hit five goals in LDU Quito’s 6-0 rout of Manta FC – he completed his hat trick in 19 minutes before adding two more just seven minutes after the break. LDU Quito’s week got even better on Wednesday when Paraguayan international midfielder Enrique Vera scored the only goal as they progressed to the 2nd round of the Copa Sudamericana.

Riquelme’s Boca magic

Boca Juniors grabbed their first win of the season and did so in style, coasting to a 4-0 win over newly promoted Unión de Santa Fe. Lucas Viatri may have scored two goals but Riquelme’s effort, the third, was sumptuous, he picked out the bottom corner with a curling shot nonchalantly despatched from his right foot.  It was one of those reminders from a great footballer that with age you can lose pace and stamina but that technique and skill remains. It gave me goosebumps when I first saw it. For my full roundup of Week 2 of the Apertura go here.

Raúl off the mark…again

As Schalke cruised to a 5-1 win over Koln at the weekend, Raúl made sure he got in on the act with this chipped goal to open his account for the season. It is now the 18th consecutive season Raúl has scored at least one league goal, in fact his worse return ever in the league has been five goals so the early signs suggest he is set to continue that streak as well. His European goals record doesn’t look likely to be extended however, as Schalke were defeated 2-0 to HJK on Thursday.

Guangzhou Yiyao ruling China

The Chinese Super League is 20 games old and one side, Guangzhou Yiyao, are still unbeaten and sitting pretty at the top of the league nine points clear of Beijing Guoan. Game 19 last weekend was the closest they came to losing but a last gasp Gao Lin goal saved their record and deprived the almost aptly named Liaoning Whowin a victory. Wednesday’s game at home to Shenzhen was a formality, despite going behind to an early strike from Honduras striker Rony Flores they hit back with four goals of their own. Former Celtic forward Zheng Zhi got a double, weekend hero Gao Lin was also on the scoresheet with supremely talented Argentinian playmaker Dario Conca (clip is from a previous game).

Casablanca experiences mixed fortunes in CAF Champions League

Three more CAF Champions League group games took place on Sunday and while Wydad Casablanca were pleased to battle back for a 2-2 draw having been 2-0 down against Tunisia’s ES Tunis their cross town rivals Raja slumped to another defeat, this time against Enyimba of Nigeria. After three games Wydad stay top of their group with five points but Raja find themselves propping up Group A on just one point from five matches. In the other game Sudan’s Al Hilal Omdurman responded well to going behind to Cotonsport and won 2-1 with a late goal from Edet Otobong coincidentally of Cameroon.

Beckham helps LA Galaxy to a win

Continental action was also taking place in the Americas with the start of the group stages of the CONCACAF Chamipons League. David Beckham’s LA Galaxy won comfortably against Honduran side Montagua with the former England international setting up the second goal in a 2-0 win. The other three MLS sides, Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids and Dallas all won their games with the latter the most impressive victory, beating Mexican champions Pumas 1-0 in Mexico City. It was however another Mexican side who had the most to shout about, Monterrey were the biggest winners taking apart Herediano’s hapless defence in Costa Rica to record a 5-0 victory – 23-year-old striker Abraham Carreño with a hattrick .

Copa Sudamericana The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (2)

If you remember we featured this before, but this week’s action lends itself to a repeat. The Good is undoubtedly teenager Silvio Torales who scored the only goal in Paraguay club Nacional’s win over San José and was impressive throughout the game. The Bad is Juan Aurich’s goalkeeper Diego Penny for being beaten too easily at his near post to concede a second goal against La Equidad. The Ugly goes to Guillermo Marino of Universidad de Chile for this headbutt in the game against Fenix.

Chiefs and Pirates joined by Celtic

The South African Premier League is just two weeks old and after the midweek round of games only three sides remain with a 100% record. Unsurprisingly defending champions Orlando Pirates are there as are Kaizer Chiefs one of just five sides to have featured in all 16 editions of the PSL. Bloemfontein Celtic are the gate crashers at the top of the table, true they finished 5th last season but the team from Free State have never finished in the top 2 before. They started with an impressive 3-0 away win over Golden Arrows followed by Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Black Leopards, next up is Platinum Stars. We’ll keep an eye on them here from FTT HQ.

Stat of the Week

5.3% – The probability of Manchester City winning the league according to the Euro Club Index which takes into account results over the past three seasons giving relevance to the opposition and an array of other factors

Goal of the Week

We already talked about players who have still got it and that also goes for Uruguay’s Alvaro Recboa who scored this curler for Nacional of Uruguay at the weekend but just an honorary mention to Luciano Civelli who scored two on his Libertad debut the 2nd a rocket to win the game against Olimpia in the dying seconds.

Top Ten of the Week

We continue the focus on international football with a look at international managers. When I lived in England I often heard “We’re just not producing good quality coaches” so I wondered which country is. Here we have the Top Ten represented nations in international football management. I’ve referred to FIFA for the list so any queries can be taken up with them – and for sake of argument nationality supersedes country of birth (e.g. Gustavo Quinteros is Bolivian not Argentinian, Ever Almeida Paraguayan not Uruguayan).

=7. South Korea – 4  managers at international level

=7. Serbia – 4

=7. Italy – 4

=7. Croatia – 4

=7. Brazil – 4

=4. Portugal – 5

=4. Belgium – 5

=4. Spain – 5

3. Netherlands – 6

2. France – 8

1. Germany – 12

So there we have it, the Germans are leading the charge with Klinsmann’s recent appointment as coach of the United States just one of many appointments. I was surprised by both Portugal and Belgium but the biggest shock was South Korea who I didn’t expect to see here, they currently have coaches in South Korea, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei and Sri Lanka. England have two coaches at Nepal (Graham Roberts) and Turks and Caicos Islands (Matthew Green) which puts them equal with Bosnia, Colombia, Canada and Slovenia amongst others.

By Ralph Hannah

@paraguayralph

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Top Tens of the Week – 5 August 2011

This week the blog is filled with lots of stuff from Africa, Asia and South America including Messi and friends in Mexico, Indian Ocean Games, the winner of the Suruga Bank Cup and the best team in the world taking GDP per head into account. We even find a league table that puts Real Madrid ahead of Barcelona!

Last Week’s Stories

Flamengo and São Paulo continue to chase Corinthians in Brazil, Benfica are through to the next round of the Champions League and so are Viktoria Plzen both featured last week. In the U2o World Cup England outdid Paraguay in the Copa America as they drew all three group games 0-0. The future is not bright.  ITURBEWATCH: I was going to switch this for ChiquiWatch this week but we’ll give it one more week as he produced a fantastic pass to set up Argentina’s second goal against North Korea. For more on Chiqui Arce you can check my article here.

This Week’s Stories

Messi and Friends

Sunday saw Lionel Messi and friends take on a Rest of World XI in a charity match in Mexico. While 44-year-old Jorge Campos pulled of some stunning stops the star of the show was ex-Brazil and Barcelona star, Romario with some great showboating. It was also an absolute joy to see recently retired Martin Palermo do what he does best. As expected the game was full of goals, finally finishing 5-4 to Messi and mates (would have been a better name).

Indian Ocean Games

The Indian Ocean Games are taking place at the moment as seven teams compete for what new website FIFA Minnows states”the one trophy they are ever likely to win”. Madagascar were pre-tournament favourites being the highest rank side (150th) in the competition although they’ve only won the tournament twice compared to non-FIFA member Reunión who have won it three times including most recently in 2007 when they beat Madagascar on penalties. Madagascar drew 1-1 in their opener yesterday with the only other non-FIFA affiliate Mayotte. The tournmanet concludes next weekend.

Social media ladder

Very interesting site, brought to my attention by my little brother ranked football teams on their combined facebook fans and Twitter followers. The Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are 1st and 2nd respectively with Madrid picking up almost 1.5 million extra fans this month. Manchester United are, predictably, the best represented from the Premier League and 3rd overall. Somewhat surprisingly Turkey has 3 teams in the top ten, Galatassary (7th), Fenerbahce (9th) and Besiktas (10th). The biggest team outside of Europe is Boca Juniors (11th). Full list here.

South Sudan start FIFA application odyssey

Having recently gained independence South Sudan had a football team ready and made their debut just a day after independence. But according to ESPN’s Gary Al-Smith the process to join CAF and then FIFA is fraught with bureaucracy. The Bright Star hope to be in FIFA within two years but with political issues over the nationality of their key players (who play their club football in Sudan) this could be a much longer journey than expected.

Copa Sudamericana: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Europa League of South America started off with a cracking game on Tuesday between Bella Vista and Universidad Catolica in Montevideo. The game was played at a good pace, plenty of quality from the Chileans and three exceptional individual performances from three young left footers who caught the eye (Jonathan Perez of Bella Vista, Felipe Gutierrez & Matias Mier of Catolica if you were wondering). On Wednesday I watched Olimpia labour to a 2-0 win against The Strongest – maybe the game wasn’t that bad but the Bolivians misleading name is. Incidentally it was Olimpia’s 14th win against Bolivian opposition in 21 games. Last night was ugly, Yacarayunos started with a flurry of fouls in the first five minutes and the game continued in that vein. The only real moment of quality was Colombian striker Mauricio Chalar’s well taken goal to cancel out Barcos’ penalty for LDU Quito. For an in-depth analysis check http://www.theelastico.com/ later on for my round up!

U17s Nordic Tournament

Having seen above England’s struggles in the U20s there is some good news at the U17s level. England managed by ex-Chelsea and Aston Villa utility man Kenny Swain have made a promising start to the Nordic Tournament. Having crushed the Faroe Islands 4-0 on Tuesday helped by a Chris Long brace, they earned a valuable point against Norway in a 1-1 draw the following day. Today they take on hosts Iceland in the last of the group games before a final game on Sunday.

Jubilo Iwata fly J-League Flag

On Wednesday Jubilo Iwata overcame Independiente on penalites to win the fourth Suruga Bank Cup, which pits the winner of the Copa Sudamericana against the J-League champions. The game finished 2-2 with Jubilo taking the lead through a Roberto Battion own goal. Independiente equalised through Eduardo Tuzzio before taking the lead through Facundo Parra. Tomoyuki Arata’s second half goal levelled the match and it went to penalties just like the 2010 final. Just like last year it was the Japanese side who overcame their South American rivals in the shoot out as Jubilo Iwata join FC Tokyo as the only J-League winners of this competition. Arsenal de Sarandi and Internacional were the 2008 and 2009 winners respectively.

Paraguayan clubs profit from new signings

In Paraguay the season kicked off last weekend and returning players and new signings were important in the major games. Champions Nacional earned a 1-1 draw against Libertad thanks to an equaliser from Brazilian Rodrigo Teixeira signed from Guaraní. Guaraní themselves lost 4-3 in a thrilling game with Olimpia but opened the scoring through Federico Santander back on loan from Toulouse. Cerro Porteño are top of the league after the opening round of games having won 2-0 against Rubio Ñu and the second goal was this fantastic chip from Julio Dos Santos set up by forward Edgar ‘Pajaro’ Benitez bought from Pachuca of Mexico.

Stat of the Week

8 – Number of times Ryan Giggs has won the Community Shield, the most by any player, he goes for his ninth on Sunday (via @statmanjon)

Goal of the Week

I was close to giving it to Marc Overmars for this but in the end I decided that Marco Fabian deserves it because it isn’t everyday you see an overhead against Barcelona.

Top Ten of the Week

Last month we did best international team in the world taking population into account, this week it is taking GDP per head into account. Nearly all the GDP per head statistics were taken from IMF statistics with some of the smaller territories (thought nobody in Top 20) using CIA Factbook estimates. The formula is simple GDP per head divided by FIFA ranking points giving you dollars per point, less dollars per point the better. It makes for interesting reading:

10. Sierra Leone – $2.32 per FIFA ranking point

9. Niger – $2.28

8. Guinea – $2.20

7. Burkina Faso  – $2.03

6.  Central African Republic  – $2.01

5. Malawi – $1.88

4. Ivory Coast – $1.82

3. Liberia – $1.69

2. Congo DR  – $1.38

1. Zimbabwe – $1.14

Perhaps predictably Africa dominates the list, the top 21 are actually all CAF sides – in terms of the other continents the zonal leaders are the following. CONCACAF, Haiti (22 overall) – CONMEBOL, Paraguay (28) – AFC, Nepal (29) – UEFA, Moldova (35) – OFC, Fiji (113). Excluding the five sides currently with no points (making it impossible to divide GDP by their FIFA ranking points!) the big loser is Brunei with a whopping $5,432.44 per point. World Champions Spain find themselves 77th ($18.73) while recently crowned Copa America kings are 52nd ($12.37). England are nudged into 109th place by Kyrgyzstan but they did see off United States who are way back in 148th.

By Ralph Hannah

Twitter: @paraguayralph

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Top Tens of the Week: 29 July 2011

Firstly apologies for the lack of blogging – winter (summer) holidays combined with Paraguay getting to the final of the Copa America took up a lot of my free time! But with the new season on the horizon Football Top Tens is back with lots of pre-season fun and some tournaments to follow if you just can’t wait until mid-August! Read on for Beckham and Henry’s penalty challenge, Ronaldinho’s hattrick, Neymar’s wondergoal and the Top Ten foreign managers who dominated the English league.

This Week’s Stories

CONCACAF Champions League preliminaries

This week saw the 1st leg of the preliminary rounds in CONCACAF club football’s premier tournament. Panama continued their good run against the United States (having beaten them in this year’s Gold Cup) as local side San Francisco beat Seattle Sounders 1-0 in Panama City. Not a good start though for Guyana’s Alpha United who took an 8-0 hammering by Herediano of Costa Rica in the Central American country’s capital San Jose. Return legs are next week.

England dancing in Colombia already

The U20s World Cup is arguably the best place to go if you are seeking new talent – while a lot of the European players will already be on the radar of big clubs there is plenty of African, Asian and South American teenage sensations just waiting for a big money move. Although the tournament doesn’t start until this afternoon, the England team (who play the opening game today against North Korea) have been dancing already. Just check out this crazy welcome they got from the Colombian police when they arrived on Tuesday.

2014 World Cup Qualifiers march on

In Asia the preliminary stages are over with most of the favourites progressing, Jordan were the biggest winners in the first leg (9-0 against Nepal) but having drawn the second leg the highest aggregate score award goes to China who beat Laos 13-3 over two legs, 7-2 followed by 6-1. Over in Rio de Janeiro is all set for the qualifying draw today, with all the group stages set to be decided (other than South America which is one large group). FIFA tells us that this year a record 203 teams have taken part (compared to 200 in 2010) but only 824 qualifying games are scheduled compared to 853 for the last World Cup.

Beckham and Henry set a new penalty record

In New York, the MLS All Stars took on Manchester United on Wednesday evening but the build up started well before then. In Herald Square, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Alexi Lalas and a host of MLS fans took part in the Guinness World Records attempt for the most consecutive penalty kicks. The record stood at 525 (set in Germany for the Women’s World Cup) but they put it beyond doubt with 742 different people stepping up to take spot kicks. Rumours that all the Brazilians who took part missed the target are totally unfounded.

More penalty fun at the Audi Cup

Internacional of Porto Alegre, Brazil were invited to participate in the Audi Cup in Munich finishing third after losing on penalties to Barcelona before beating Milan in a shoot-out. Brazilian midfielder Leandro Damião boosted his price tag with a goal in each game and Andres D’Alessandro reminded Europe of his unfulfilled talent with a well taken goal against the Italians. Milan finished last having lost two penalty shoot outs, mimicking Brazil at the Copa America by missing all four against Internacional. In the final Thiago Alcántara proved there is plenty of life after Xavi and Iniesta (lay off the Fabregas jokes at this point) with three goals in the two games and both in the final to defeat the hosts Bayern Munich.

Champions League Qualifiers

Benfica were impressive in the 1st leg of the 2nd Qualifying round – Aimar playing a great pass to Nolito for the Spainards first goal for the Portuguese outfit. The second goal was a brilliant curler from Nicolas Gaitan who could have been accused of copying compatriot D’Alessandro had they not been playing at the same time. The shock was in Norway as Rosenborg crashed to a 1-0 home defeat to Czech side Viktoria Plzen…you can be sure the beer was flowing back in the Czech Republic that night.

Denilson debuts as Ronaldinho runs riot

São Paulo are honing in one Corinthians at the top of the Brazilian league, and things are set to get better with Arsenal’s Denilson on board and exciting prospect Ivan Piris set to make his debut this weekend. Denilson made his debut last week and while he had a solid game at the base of the midfield it was a goal from former World Player of the Year Rivaldo who earned a draw. On Wednesday night they were in action again, away to Coritiba and this time it was a 4-3 thriller but was arguably the second best game of the night. Over in Santos O Peixe threw away a 3-0 lead to Flamengo (including Elano missing his second consecutive penalty) and were drawing 3-3. At half time! Neymar struck early for the second time in the game (see below for goal) to put Santos ahead but in the end they lost 5-4 thanks to two late goals from Ronaldinho who finished with a hattrick.

Marseille win pre-season thriller

In France the French Super Cup took place on Wednesday and it resulted in a 9-goal epic between Marseille and Lille. With five minutes to go it seemed Lille had sewn up the game with a 3-1 lead. Then it all went haywire. Jeremy Morel and Loic Remy pulled two back for Marseille before Ghana’s Ayew converted a penalty on the stroke of 90 mins. 4-3 and Marseille had seemingly won it. But there was still a twist as Marko Basa struck a last gasp equaliser in the 92nd minute. Or did he? In the 95th minute Ayew was handed another chance from the spot to win the game, he duly tucked it home to give Didier Deschamps’ side a 5-4 win with 8 second half goals and five between the 85th and 95th minute.

Goal of the Week

Well it would have been Yossi Benayoun had this overhead kick not gone horribly wrong but instead the award Neymar (mentioned above) for this great run and fantastic piece of skill before slotting home against Flamengo. The pace he does everything at is scary.

Stat of the Week

28 – The number of sides already out of the running for 2014 World Cup Qualification. What do they do now? Thanks to Mister Chip for the stat

Top Ten of the Week

Firstly I pulled my information from My Football Facts which is a very useful website for tables and the like. I had a look at the managers from outside of England who have won the English top division the most times – here they are.

= 10. Bob Kyle (Sunderland) -1

= 10. Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea) – 1

=10. Dave Mackay (Derby County) – 1

= 10. Johnny Cochrane (Sunderland) – 1

=10. Matt McQueen (Liverpool) – 1

= 8. Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) – 2

= 8. George Graham (Arsenal) – 2

= 6. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) -3

= 6. Bill Shankly (Liverpool) – 3

= 4. Frank Watt (Newcastle United) – 4

= 4. Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool, Blackburn) – 4

3. Matt Busby (Manchester United) – 5

2. George Ramsay (Aston Villa) – 6

1. Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) – 12

We knew Sir Alex Ferguson would be top but unless you are a Villa fan I bet you didn’t get number two. Next week in light of this week’s FIFA Rankings I’m going to do a best value for money international team (looking at GDP per head).

Ralph Hannah

@paraguayralph

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Top Tens of the Week – 1 July 2011

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

Twitter: @paraguayralph

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Top Tens of the Week – 24 June 2011

Football from all over the globe this week, Messi in Argentina, the new Pele (and the old one!) in Brazil, back to Argentina for River Plate’s woes and then off east to Russia and Japan to catch up on the league’s there. Finally the Copa America Top Tens series finishes with the most exciting teams to watch.

Previous week’s

We’ve mentioned Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan’s scoring exploits in the MLS before, Henry now has 8 goals in his last 9 games to put him level with Donovan at the top of the ladder with 8 goals each. Donovan has been involved in the Gold Cup which is coming to a close and it is Mexico vs USA in the final for the fifth time, Mexico have a 3-1 record so far.

This week’s

Marathon Russian Premier League one-third of the way through

We’re now 15 fixtures through the Russian Premier League season and the usual suspects are occupying the top spots. CSKA Moscow are top (with a game in hand) having won their last 4 and going unbeaten in their last 8. Zenit are two points behind in 2nd and have won their last three games keeping clean sheets in all three. A further two points behind are Rubin Kazan who are now 10 matches unbeaten. The teams will play another 15 games before the league splits in two with the top 8 teams playing 14 more times to determine the championship and European places. The bottom 8 will be fighting it out for survival.

Santos champions of America

On Wednesday night Santos were crowned Copa Libertadores for the third time and first time without Pele (although he was in the stands in a shocking red jacket). Having drawn the first leg 0-0 in Montevideo, Santos beat Peñarol at home 2-1 with goals from Neymar and Danilo. The key player though was playmaker Ganso back from injury who dominated proceedings in the middle of the park. It was Peñarol’s 100th defeat in Copa Libertadores history and Santos’ 100th Copa Libertadores game. The game finished with a typically South America scuffle seemingly started by a moronic Santos fan (when will they learn) who entered the pitch to taunt Peñarol’s players. For Santos manager Muricy Ramalho it was his first major international title having dominated the domestic scene in Brazil with 10 trophies.

River relegation drama

River Plate, holder of most league titles in Argentina are on the brink of relegation having suffered a 2-0 defeat in 1st leg of their relegation playoff against Belgrano on Wednesday night. Saved from the drop in 1983 by an impromptu rule change by the Argentinian FA to protect them, it seems the ghost of La B (2nd division) has finally caught up with them. River are in this situation having performed poorly over the last three seasons and more recently didn’t register a win in their last 7 games in the 2011 Clausura. The 2nd leg is Sunday.

Brazilian showboating…again

We featured something similar a few weeks ago but you don’t get tired of watching Brazilian legends in training. Ronaldinho scored a great lob and backheeled against the post and then his former teammate Juninho Pernambucano  reminded us just how good he is from free kicks.

Quillan Roberts in record books

Quillan who? He is Canada’s goalkeeper at the U17 World Cup and against England he scored a late equaliser from inside his own half. Not only did he earn Canada their first ever point in the U17 World Cup (after 14 games) but he was confirmed on Fifa.com as being the first ever goalkeeper to score in the final stages of a traditional FIFA tournament.

Nagoya on the rebound

The defending J-League champions Nagoya Grampus Eight are finally finding form as they try to claw back ground in the 2011 championships. After only winning 1 of their first 6 games they have now won four of the last five putting them in sixth place. On Wednesday night they beat Cerezo Osaka away 3-2 and Keiji Tamada grabbed his 8th goal and 5th in the last five games. The Brazilian Adriano, one of the better Brazilians to move to Japan recently, is leading the scoring charts with nine strikes for new club Gamba Osaka.

Final Copa America Warm Ups

Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile were in action this week (the last two against each other) as South America’s sides put in their final preparations before next Friday’s Copa America. Argentina beat a hapless Albanian B team cobbled together at short notice, 4-0. Chile won by the same margin, also against European opposition overcoming Estonia. On Thursday night Uruguay also beat Estonia, this time 3-0 to record only their second win since October 2010. In Asunción, Paraguay were unable to beat a Chile team missing key players and the match finished 0-0, it was Paraguay’s fourth consecutive clean sheet and the second time the teams have drawn in Asunción in 15 meetings.

Oddest red card ever? 

Melbourne, Australia was the scene of one of the stranger sendings off I’ve heard about. Aaron Eccleston of Old Hill Wanderers was given two yellow cards having gone off for treatment after being hit by a ball in his (ahem) balls. The first yellow was for coming on the pitch without the referee’s permission, fair enough, but the second? He was handed another yellow for being unable to prove he had removed all body piercings – the referee had of course checked before the game but he hadn’t noticed this rogue piercing in a private area until the ‘ball on balls’ incident.

Goal of the Week

I wanted to give it to Quillan Roberts, but he deserved his own story so I had to find somebody else, I’ve gone for Sergio Aguero because of Lionel Messi’s assist, incredible.

Stat of the Week

9 – Florent Sinama Pongolle holds the record for the most goals in a U17 World Cup, for France in 2001. The best marksman at this year’s tournament is Ivorian Souleymane Coulibaly with five goals including four in last night’s match!

Top Ten of the Week

In the final Copa America related Top Ten, I thought it was worth looking at who scores more goals so you can decide which teams you want to watch in July. Here are CONMEBOL sides sorted by goals per game. Don’t forget the other Copa America Top Tens – Best win ratio in ArgentinaBest win ratio as hosts and Manager win ratios.

10. Venezuela – 0.69 Goals per Game

9. Bolivia – 0.95

8. Ecuador – 1.06

7. Colombia – 1.21

6. Peru – 1.46

5. Chile – 1.53

4. Paraguay  – 1.58

3. Uruguay – 2.09

2. Brazil – 2.32

1. Argentina – 2.44

So in our final Top Ten the host nation Argentina have just pipped Brazil, in absolute terms the Argentinians have scored 422 goals compared to Brazil’s 387 who will surely be looking to hit the 400 mark at this tournament. Bolivia and Peru are also close to goalscoring landmarks, the Bolivians have 97 goals while Peru have scored 193 times.

By Ralph Hannah

Twitter: @paraguayralph

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