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Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2017 05:02:00 PST

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Africa Cup of Nations 2017 Images

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:24:56 PST

Enjoy these images of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.Check back as we add more each day. Click on the image to enlarge it.Ghana fans enjoy Afcon 2017Uganda fanGabon fansStade de l'Amitié, Libreville, GabonMali fans at Afcon 2017Stade de Franceville (capacity 22,000) in FrancevilleGabon mascot & dancing girlsGhana fans give their team a big handMali manStade de Port-Gentil (capacity 20,000) in Port-Gentil [...]



Fifa World Rankings January 2017

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 04:44:20 PST

Fifa's World Rankings for January 2017 were published on January 12 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. These are the first rankings of the year.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is the same as last month: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th.Senegal are the top African team in 33rd place, no change from last month.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 44th place; Japan are in 46th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place.The USA are in 28th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland in 23rd place, Northern Ireland are in 32nd position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 Colombia7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Croatia15 Poland16 Italy17 Costa Rica18 Mexico19 Peru20 EcuadorFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs [...]



Afcon Three Down

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 04:45:39 PST

Four days of the Afcon 2017 tournament and I am now three down.On the eve of the opening game we had been assured by the local volunteers that no tickets were available for the opening game and that the ground would be full.On the day of the game you would not have believed that as the opening ceremony began with only a few thousand in attendance. People kept coming even after Gabon kicked off the competition. There was a healthy attendance, but it was not full. Keyboard warriors have been busy opposing the tournament and have allegedly been organising peaceful protests and asked people to stay away from the tournament. There have been no sign of any protests so far, although I have spotted police wagons loaded with police positioned in strategic places, but at ease.Although nothing happened in the first 45 minutes, the football fayre improved considerably over the next 135 with the group ending up level and every team in with a chance of the next round after two draws.The next day I went to the airport in the hope of sorting out my travel arrangements for later in the week. Instead of doing that I just got a plane to Franceville to watch that day's games. I was assured I would also be able to return that night.I met Maher an Algerian as I went in to the departure lounge, he was stopped before we entered and they took his bag, to put it in the plane.There were people waiting to go to Port Gentil as well as Franceville and Maher then started to wonder where his bag was going. They hadn't asked; he hadn't told them.Anyway, we boarded after checking with a porter who thought he remembered seeing a brown bag.The stewardess asked which team we were, "FC Bohemia" I replied.Trying to sort out a schedule is proving impossible, so I was talking to others, about future days.Planes seem to be added to schedules at a moments notice.The conversation went along the lines of"What time should you be at the airport?" One hour before the flight?"What time is the flight?"I don't know."So what time do you have to be at the airport."So you will gather that I still have no firm plans.During the day I booked the hotel that I had stayed at the previous two nights online.The stadium was about 20 kilometres from the airport, and the windy country roads were decorated with game for sale.... tortoise, fish, ape and others! During the second game I made enquiries about how I would get back to the airport. I was told there would be a shuttle after the match and just to come to the reception.Sure enough I went to the reception, and asked. Now I got a quizzical look. There no longer seemed to be one. An official was called over and he said he would arrange it. I was told to follow a volunteer and led outside and across the road.I waited as he went down to a car park and returned 10 minutes later with a mini bus. For me.We waited as convoy of CAF officials left with a police convoy, and joined the end of it hastily making our way to the airport. I had noticed on the journey there that the cars have a tendency to drive in the middle of the road and put their hazard lights on.As we climbed windy roads the convoy could be seen for some way into the distance.I presented myself at check in, and they checked the list for my name. They double checked, triple checked and still couldn't find it.They questioned how I had got to Franceville and luckily I found the boarding card I had been given earlier in the day.With this they added my name to the list and I was on the plane eventually landing after one in the morning.Staying at the same place meant getting a taxi and directing them was no problem.I eventually arrived at the hotel at 1.45 and presented my email confirmation of my booking - one night for the equivalent of €100 or £100 using fairly recent exchange rates. (If you thought that was bad when I first landed I tried to change £'s and for Euros they offered 25% more!!!).The surly night porter checked and once again my details could not be found. There was no room available. Faced with the prospec[...]



One down and we haven't kicked off!

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 15:57:01 PST

Three of my favourite books Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Trial by Franz Kafka and Rates of Exchange by Malcolm Bradbury. Imagine if you merged these three and moved the setting to Central Africa. I wonder what would happen? Of course they are all works of fiction but This is Africa.My journey took a familiar path starting with playing football the evening before, calling into the pub afterwards and walking into town to catch the 23.30 bus to Heathrow.The weather forecast is currently grim and snow is expected. News reached me earlier in the day that 80 flights from Heathrow had already been cancelled. As the coach was leaving Milton Keynes a passenger shouted to the driver. "The luggage side door is still open." He quickly stopped and closed the door.Spent the journey waiting for us to hit the bad weather. On the M1 after Milton Keynes the gritters were out, but I could see by the signs saying 18 miles in 18 minutes that traffic was flowing.We made it to Heathrow on schedule with no sign of any bad weather whatsoever.I was the only passenger getting off at Terminal 4. The bus driver had a perplexed looked as he searched for my luggage. "You don't think I'd put anything in there do you?" I said.At Heathrow as we were about to board I was asked for my visa, which I duly provided and was allowed to proceed. I mentioned the visa process earlier and had advised a friend what to do. He chose to ignore me after he had booked his flight and received an accreditation to act as a photographer at the tournament. He wasn't allowed to board his plane and won't be coming.Changed planes in Paris, no one asked to see my visa. This is France.We waited over an hour on the runway as the plane was de-iced.Upon arrival in Libreville the plane seemed to take a swerve that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would have been proud of. But we emerged unscathed ready for the next challenge to collect the visa.We were ushered from one queue to another and eventually a hand took my passport along with my paper confirmation of my evisa. I could see a pile of passports on a desk the other side of the glass and photocopies being taken. We all waited, impatiently as time passed. It was 90 minutes after we landed before we were reunited.The next day I met a German friend who had arrived that morning after missing his connection in Paris, by seconds - I didn't make it worse and tell him about the de-icing. He had been rerouted via Morocco and arrived at 4am. He applied for his visa at the airport! [...]



Africa Cup of Nations 2017 Managers

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:46:09 PST

A list of the coaches of the participating teams at the Africa Cup of Nations 2017.Black managers have a hard job getting a look-in at clubs in England, they also have a struggle to manage their own national sides. Only 4 teams at the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 have native African coaches: DR Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Zimbabwe.France provides the most managers with four followed by Belgium with two.The coaches most known to an international audience include Hector Cuper who had spells with Valencia and Inter and Avram Grant who managed Chelsea, Portsmouth and West Ham in the Premier League.Ex-Spain coach Jose Antonio Camacho has managed Real Madrid (twice), Benfica (twice), Espanyol (twice) and the China national team. He is remembered for having very sweaty armpits during the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. Camacho, who has one only trophy in his career as manager, a Portuguese Cup with Benfica in 2004, might find the weather in Gabon a challenge for his shirts.Frenchmen Herve Renard and Claude Le Roy both have connections with Cambridge United back in 2004. Renard has won the trophy twice with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.Group AGabon - Jose Antonio Camacho (Spain)Burkina-Faso - Paulo Duarte (Portugal)Cameroon - Hugo Broos (Belgium)Guinea-Bissau - Baciro Cande (Guinea-Bissau)Group BAlgeria - Georges Leekens (Belgium)Senegal - Allou Cisse (Senegal)Tunisia - Henryk Kasperczak (Poland)Zimbabwe - Callisto Pasuwa (Zimbabwe)Group CIvory Coast - Michel Dussuyer (France)DR Congo - Florent Ibenge (DR Congo)Morocco - Herve Renard (France)Togo - Claude Le Roy (France)Group DEgypt - Hector Cuper (Argentina)Ghana - Avram Grant (Israel)Mali - Alain Giresse (France)Uganda - Milutin Sredojevic (Serbia) [...]



Gabon hosts Africa Cup of Nations 2017

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:59:26 PST

So, who would have thought it. Gabon will host the African continent's biggest tournament for the second time in 5 years (Yes, that's right they also hosted in 2012, when they shared hosting with Equatorial Guinea).The bidding process for these things started back in 2010 when Botswana, Cameroon, DR Congo, Guinea, Morocco, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe first expressed an interest. In the end only three countries put in bids - DR Congo, Morocco and South Africa. 2017 was awarded to South Africa.Now just to complicate things further in 2011, due to the Libyan Civil War, South Africa agreed to host the 2013 competition, which was due to be held in Libya that year, with Libya hosting in 2017.Now unfortunately the Libyan Civil War has lasted longer than we hoped and in 2014 Libya was withdrawn as the venue. There was interest from Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania and Kenya discussed a joint bid with Rwanda and Uganda. In the end seven countries submitted bids: Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya (alone), Sudan and Zimbabwe.In April 2015 Gabon were named as hosts.So when bidding began in 2010 there were 53 African countries and 20 of them have expressed an interest in hosting this tournament. There are of course now 54 African countries with South Sudan being the newest formed in July 2011.This tournament was originally going to be held in South Africa, then Libya and now Gabon - although CAF  (Confederation of African Football) were forced to issue a statement on 25 November 2016 denying the fact that the venue was to be changed again.So, with Gabon having hosted in 2012 the infrastructure will be there to hold another successful Championship.The first obstacle to overcome will be to get into the country - for which you need a visa. To make this easy Gabon announced the introduction of an electronic visa from January 2015. However to complete the visa you need details of your accommodation and of a contact in Gabon.So I duly went out and bought the only guide book there is on Gabon. I went through the whole book and took note of all the email addresses and sent an email introducing myself and that I was looking for help with my trip.Yes, those are the replies I got above...over 30 of them. You might think this was strange. Well let me tell you a little more. Last August there was a Presidential election where incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba ran for re-election against the former Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Ping.The election is decided in a single round by plurality that is, the person with the most votes wins regardless of whether they have secured an overall majority.On the day after the elections Ping (whose supporters had collected results showing him winning by 59% to 38%) said that "he was waiting for the outgoing president to congratulate me."The result were delayed a day and Ali Bongo was announced the winner with 49.80% against Jean Ping's 48.2%.Results from Haut-Ogooue, Bongo's heartland showed that he had secured 95.5% of the votes in a 99.9% turnout.As you can imagine chaos ensued. As a result a media blackout was introduced. I believe that may be the cause for my returned emails.Now to get this visa a contact in Gabon would be really useful. But if I haven't got that then the other way would be to book a hotel that could help. I was told that the Le Méridien Rendama would help with visas, but I decided against this even though there was a 20% price reduction as I felt £215 a night was a bit much.So how is everyone else getting on with their visa applications: Jonathon Wilson, Osasu Obayiuwana, Nick Ames.So is it safe now  in Gabon, well with no news coming out of the country it is hard to say. But remember CAF issued their statement on November 25th...so everything must be OK. Mustn't it.How smoothly did the last African Cup of Nations go in Equatorial Guinea in 2015?Ok so w[...]



Portimonense Sporting Clube

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:40:01 PST

Portimonense Sporting Clube are the major football team in Portimão, a fishing port and former sardine canning center on the Algarve coast of southern Portugal.Founded in 1914 by students returning from England, Portimonense S C are presently in the second division of Portuguese football, the Segunda Liga, but are hoping for a return to their glory days of the 1980's when the team were a presence in the top flight and even competed in the UEFA Cup in 1985-86. Portimonense, nicknamed Alvinegros, were last in the top flight in the 2009-2010 season.The team is presently top of the Segunda Liga after 20 games with a good chance of promotion as they are four points clear of second-placed Aves and 14 points clear of third-placed Santa Clara.Portimonense play in black and white stripes at the 9,500 capacity Estádio Municipal de Portimão, right in the center of the town. One stand at the ground is covered.www.portimonense.ptwww.facebook.com/PortimonenseSC [...]



Fifa World Rankings December 2016

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 04:50:07 PST

Fifa's World Rankings for December 2016 were published yesterday at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. These are the last rankings of the year.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is the same as last month: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th.Senegal are the top African team in 33rd place, no change from last month.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 47th place; Japan are in 45th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place.The USA are in 28th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland in 23rd place, Northern Ireland are in 32nd position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 Colombia7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Croatia15 Poland16 Italy17 Costa Rica18 Mexico19 Peru20 EcuadorFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs [...]



Club World Cup Final 2016

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 18:52:34 PST

I acknowledged earlier that the current set up does not produce the greatest games. The final people want to see is Europe v South America. Now wasn't this the previous competition. So here we have the team that finished 11th in the second half of the J League one match away from being named the best club side on the world.FIFA President Gianni Infantino has talked about moving the competition from December to June and increasing the number of teams to 32. Currently the teams from Europe and South America play two games, the renewed format could possibly mean three more games for them. He has also hinted that domestic leagues should feature just 18 teams. That is all well and good for the teams that qualify for the FIFA tournament but the majority will lose income. The fact that Kashima Antlers will earn US$4m for reaching the final is the holy grail clubs look for, and the reason it may happen .I have no doubt the format will change, with FIFA looking to increase their income at the expense of national associations.I met Ángel (pronounced Anhel) with a Spanish accent as I checked in my hotel in Tokyo. He said I could call him Angel, but I declined.He was here to support America, but had to be back at work on Monday so couldn't stay for the Final on Sunday. He had somewhat overdone the shopping and showed me his bags asking for advice on how to check it in. My best suggestion (for this time of year) was a Santa sack.Anhel had decided he was going to visit Mount Fuji. I was interested, but confused as I knew he only had one day left. My idea of going to Mount Fuji is climbing the mountain and planting a flag.He had found that he could get take a three hour trip by train and a bus and get to a spot where he could take a photo of the mountain. I mentioned that it had been visible on the train from Osaka to Tokyo, but he hadn't seen it. After a late night I woke up and found that Anhel had gone. The time 10.15 Oh dear, I have a meeting with an old friend in one hour across town!I got up and went straight to the subway and contemplated the route that would get me to my destination on time. Despite wanting to run, I am aware of the Japanese etiquette and calmness they personify, even when in a rush. Also there are plenty of signs around the subway stations saying "Don't run."Remember I told you I had mastered the Tokyo subway. I have. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare. At exactly 11.15 I could see a figure in the distance I could see a figure running in my direction now, even though you couldn't make out who it was. I knew it was Yoichi. He was also the only Japanese salaryman I saw without a tie on. Yoichi took me for an early lunch as he had a meeting at 1. We approached a building that looked distinctly closed. When he announced, look it says it is open. Of course it does!Here there were no plastic meals and no photos. But Yoichi ordered - Sukiyaki and Sashimi. I have since learnt that it was served in the nabemono style, with a flame burning under the meat pot, and the meat and vegetables dipped in a beaten egg.I used to play football with Yoichi a few years ago and he showed me the pitch where he now plays right in the middle of this urban jungle, near Osaki station. The rate - US$ 200 an hour. After this I headed to the Samurai Museum. Now normally I am not keen on Japanese museums as they have in the past neglected foreigners.This was different. It started with a samurai giving a demonstration of sword moves. When he moved to attack he let out a scream, which made a young child jump. At the end he apologised most gracefully and acknowledged that the samurai could be frightening.Then with two others I was given a guided tour of the two floors. A detailed explanation was given of the items on display and what was happening in the country at the time.I learnt that the Japanese were only saved by Kam[...]



Club World Cup 2016 Semi Finals

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 18:57:35 PST

A rare occurrence for me - two days off! As I hadn't been to Osaka before I thought I would stay locally. The weather wasn't great, cloudy about 8 degrees with a cold wind. So I set off by foot for Osaka Castle.As I wandered through the streets I noted the shape of the vehicles on the roads, they are increasingly becoming box like. Which when you begin to think about it is much more practical. OK, not elegant.But for all those adverts that boast about the space inside, how much of that can you actually use? The use of space was becoming a theme. As I noted a bike rack suspended in mid air above those parked on the ground. Then a building no more than three metres wide, but five stories high. The petrol pump suspended in mid air, giving more room on the forecourt. The next observation was of the intricate network of roads, pedestrian walkways and train tracks above the ground. I reckon somewhere here there must be a noodle junction!Osaka Castle was originally built on this site in 1583 but has been destroyed twice - the latest reconstruction was built in 1931 and survived the war intact. In the grounds of the castle I saw a jumper approach me, it was a mixture of colours, obviously hand made and one which you might expect to see a student with long hair in the 70's wearing. This jumper belonged to Kenji, now retired but had been an artist. He used to make and design the curtains that would hang outside shops, with the bright colours and calligraphy. He travelled to Europe back in the mid 70s (I didn't ask if that was when he got the jumper) at a time when the exchange rate was good for the Japanese yen. At that time he didn't speak English, but right now he was keen to practice. He had always lived in Osaka, his family had a house in the centre of Osaka, that was destroyed, along with much of the rest of the city in the Second World War. His parting shot was that he realised that Japan was changing and that customs were dying out. I walked back and headed to the Umeda Sky Building, two 40 storey towers connected by bridges. Underneath the German Market was in full swing. Later in the evening I headed for Dotonbori, an area full of restaurants.The great thing (for me) about Japanese restaurants is that they will also have either photos or a plastic replica of the food they offer. Despite this I still couldn't always tell you what I had eaten. The weather forecast was getting worse and with little to do in Osaka, I decided to head to Nara, capital of Japan in the 8th century. I wandered round the sights in the rain for a few hours before taking the 50 minute journey back to Osaka. By now the rain was much heavier and didn't look like it was going to stop anytime soon. This reminded me of Rabat, Morocco two years ago when the rain was so bad they moved the venue for Real Madrid's semi-final. Seeking refuge I noticed a sign saying Japanese Buddhist food. Who could resist? I was greeted with a smile and after taking my shoes off shown the seating area and kitchen. I would say 4 would be the maximum seating capacity and definitely room for only one chef. My host explained, with the help of a photo that there was a set vegetarian menu. There was no other photo. This time I could tell you one course was Mushroom and Cabbage, oh and Rice of course. The next day was the day of the first semi final. Surprisingly the visitors from Colombia brought more supporters to the game than Kashima Antlers, from Japan. During the first half I saw an incident in the penalty area in front of me where an attacker appeared to be impeded. He appealed to the linesman and play carried on. It seemed like 30 seconds later, with the ball now down the other end that the game stopped for no apparent reason. VAR (Video Assistant Referee apparently) replay was flashed on the electronic scoreboard. The referee was [...]



Club World Cup

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 07:50:15 PST

Off to Japan for my 5th Club World Cup and 4th visit to Japan, this time via China - must have been the cheapest flights on the dates I wanted.So how did the teams get here. Well they won their respective Continental Premier Cup competition and the hosts provided their Championship winner. I was a little worried when I noted that the Japanese were to be represented by Kashima Antlers who had finished 11th (out of 18) in the second half of their domestic Championship. In Japan they have a split season. Kashima won the first half and beat Urawa Red Diamonds (winners of the second half) on away goals in a play off to win the League (despite being 15 points overall behind them) and qualify for this competition.How did I get here?Arriving at the check-in desk you would have thought you were in China already as there was only a handful of other Westerners on the flight, whom it transpired were all on transit to other international destinations. This feeling was confirmed as we bordered the plane as all the chatter was in Chinese and no one moved out of their way to ease the congestion as people tried to make their way to their seats. At this stage I thought to myself of the similarities between the Polish and Romanians in the UK and the Japanese and the Chinese (am I allowed to think that?).My young companion was grateful to me for pointing out his errors in his Sudoku puzzle, not once, but twice. I noticed he was struggling so had to have a look....didn't I. But not a word was said.I noticed the initials PEK on my boarding card and am also sure I heard the pilot describe our destination as Peking. I remember that was the name of the Chinese capital I knew. So I did a bit of research and found that in 1979 the Chinese came up with a new system for interpreting the pronunciation of Mandarin, known as Pinyin. So the local name hasn't changed at all, but it has in English.The nine hour flight was overnight, so I tried to rest while keeping an eye on our route and the local time. I learnt that whilst China covers five time zones it only has one. Do you remember the day when people would dash to a certain pub across town as they had later licensing laws for maybe 30 more minutes drinking time, well in China they could get an extra five hours by nipping over the border.When it came to breakfast time the stewardess kindly enquired whether I would like a Western or Chinese breakfast. She handed out omelette and bacon to those around me and I replied "Chinese". She shouted it back at me clearly indicating that she thought I had made a mistake. She delivered congee a Chinese rice porridge with fish!Arriving in Beijing's impressive airport, designed by Foster & Partners for the 2008 Olympics, the signage was a little confusing and the foreigners gathered together as we worked out exactly where to go. Once we did we presented ourselves for a security check. I spotted the usual notices for liquids, but noticed they wanted cameras removing from bags. I didn't notice on the other side of a wall that they also wanted any battery chargers. Which, of course were spotted and I had to remove them while they had a good look. Paranoid?In the airport there were posters announcing that wifi was available to all but that they would need to capture the user's details in order that you could use it.I did try to log on, but they didn't seem to like me.I noticed a number of people with masks on their face, this didn't strike me as unusual as I have seen this in Japan before. What did strike me was the need for them to remove the mask so they could go and spit in a bin!The next leg of my journey was to Kansai Airport Osaka. On board the plane the safety demonstration was given and then an announcement was made by a voice saying they were the security officer for the plane. It the[...]



Fifa World Rankings November 2016

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 05:56:14 PST

Fifa's World Rankings for November 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain. England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 12th. Senegal are the top African team in 33rd place. Asian Cup winners Australia are in 47th place; Japan are in 45th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 37th place. The USA are in 28th. Wales are 12th. Scotland are in 67th position. The Republic of Ireland are up ten places in 23rd place, Northern Ireland are in 32nd position.1 Argentina2 Brazil3 Germany4 Chile5 Belgium6 Colombia7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Switzerland12 Wales13 England14 Croatia15 Poland16 Italy17 Costa Rica18 Mexico19 Peru20 EcuadorFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs align="left" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=soccerphileco-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0297608886&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="align: left; height: 245px; padding-right: 10px; padding-top: 5px; width: 131px;"> [...]



Os Belenenses

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 04:22:00 PST

Clube de Futebol Os Belenenses are very much Lisbon's third team after the big two of Benfica and Sporting.Founded in 1919, Os Belenenses play their home games at the 19,000 capacity Estádio do Restelo in Belem in the west of the Portuguese capital, where crowds average a lowly 1,500 unless one of the big three Portuguese clubs, Benfica, Sporting or Porto, are in town.Belenenses have had their moments, however, and have played in Europe, competing in the UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and Europa League, even beating the mighty Barcelona in the 1987-88 UEFA Cup 1-0 at the Restelo. Belenses were last in the Europa League last season, finishing bottom of a group containing Basel, Fiorentina and Lech Poznań. Belenenses, along with Boavista, is one of the only clubs outside the big three to have won the Portuguese League (Primeira Liga), when they triumphed in the 1945-46 season. They have also won the Portuguese cup, the Taça de Portugal, three times.Belenenses play in blue and white and are nicknamed Os Azuis do Restelo (The Blues from Restelo) or Pastéis (Pastries) after the famous sweets made in Belem. [...]



Fifa World Rankings October 2016

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 05:23:59 PST

Fifa's World Rankings for October 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.The full top ten is Argentina, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Chile, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Uruguay and Spain.England are 12th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 11th.Côte d'Ivoire are the top African team in 31st place.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 40th place; Japan are in 51st spot. Near neighbors South Korea are in 44th place.The USA are in 24th. Wales are 11th. Scotland are in 57th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 33rd place, Northern Ireland are in 36th position.1 Argentina2 Germany3 Brazil4 Belgium5 Colombia6 Chile7 France8 Portugal9 Uruguay10 Spain11 Wales12 England13 Italy14 Switzerland15 Poland16 Croatia17 Mexico18 Costa Rica19 Ecuador20 The NetherlandsFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs align="left" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=soccerphileco-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0297608886&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="align: left; height: 245px; padding-right: 10px; padding-top: 5px; width: 131px;"> [...]



Another fine mess at the F.A.

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:17:12 PDT

Well, that did not last long.Sam Allardyce may retire with a 100% record as English manager but his reputation is so sullied it is hard to see him going back into club management.The egg is on the F.A.'s face of course for signing up a man already well-known as a bit of a wheeler-dealer. They had not learn from appointing Terry Venables or their passing over Harry Redknapp.At Bolton, Big Sam had assembled a United Nations of players much like Redknapp had at West Ham, ringing the alarm bells that the boss was more active than normal in the transfer market.Redknapp for all his talents, carried too much suspicion that a financial misdemeanor would blow up for the F.A. to pick him above Roy Hodgson, which makes their decision to opt for a similar character bizarre.The lack of English options following Euro 2016 and the desire to pick a strong personality who knew the domestic game inside out mitigates somewhat their error, but in hindsight the risk of a scandal with Allardyce was large.Ten years ago a BBC expose had already fingered his agent son as being involved with bungs attached to his father's club dealings some years back. Big Sam's fall cannot have come as a shock to anyone. Did the F.A. insist in their job interview that Allardyce sever all friendly connections with agents who might try to insert themselves in his inner circle?Were they satisfied one of the highest-profile wheeler-dealers in the domestic game was squeaky clean, or did the lack of obvious alternatives force their hand and make them hope for the best?The Allardyce video was merely the side of the game the fans do not see and the press often ignore - the big boys' rules which have always gone on behind the scenes.Across the board, managers had respect that 'Big Sam' was one of their own. Journalists seemed to warm to him too, though tabloid hacks really adored Redknapp above all, blithely ignoring all his financial chicanery.All that has changed are the inflated sums of money changing hands now. Alan Sugar claimed Brian Clough liked an envelope stuffed with cash while Allardyce was hoping to pick up £400,000 from this fatal deal.The Daily Telegraph has form, having sent two reporters disguised as constituents to bring down the otherwise impressive Vince Cable M.P. from making a bid to be chancellor in the coalition government.Then as now the sting seemed to be a show of arrogance from the newspaper rather than a noble act for a greater purpose.Handling the press is indeed as tricky for England managers as handling overseas opposition. Bobby Robson was hounded relentlessly by the tabloid media, as were Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren.Robson and Sven-Goran Eriksson had their private life splayed over the newspapers while Fabio Capello was lost in translation. Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables enjoyed relatively good relations with Fleet Street but their own careless off-field errors cost them their jobs.What we see is a continuous comedy of errors with England managers. Only Roy Hodgson did the decent thing and quit his job for having lost a must-win match.But given Big Sam's ungracious comments about Hodgson, Gary Neville and the Duke of Cambridge, his criticism of his employers splashing £870 million on Wembley, plus the promise of more revelations, the F.A. had no option but to call time today on their new man, even after only 90 minutes of football.Reputations matter.-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile [...]



In hindsight, the Euros were easy to call...

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 05:18:19 PDT

THIS SUMMER PROVED AGAIN HOW USELESS THE 'EXPERTS' ARE"We are not going there on an excursion," insisted Portugal coach Fernando Santos."We are going there to win!"Cue the smirks from the assembled press at the pre-Euro 2016 conference.Looking back at this summer's big European tournament, we can all we so maddeningly wise after the event, convinced now having read the statistics at leisure that the best team all along won it in the end. The elements for Portuguese victory were thus:Three appearances in the semi-finals out of their last four European Championships, seven consecutive one-goal wins, a tight defence, a focused and unified group of players, the young star of the tournament, oh and Cristiano Ronaldo.Speaking to 442 magazine before the tournament, Portugal centre-back Jose Fonte's resonating words should have alerted us to his team's potential:"We have the best player in the world," he reminded us. "We have a strong team, a fantastic manager and the full support of a nation."Well that sounds like a recipe for success.He went on:"I think we're very well organised, we're a close-knit squad and we have players who are extremely dangerous offensively."Yup, can't argue with that."I think Portugal have a very good chance, " ex-goalkeeper Ricardo told World Soccer. "I know there is an excellent spirit within the squad and the team has a very good coach. I think everything is in place for Portugal to have a good tournament."Ah, the 20/20 vision..."I think we're going to have a great Euro," added Paulo Futre. "Portugal can beat anybody if we're at the top of our game...Portugal are a great team when they are in good shape."Tom Kundert in World Soccer talked up their chances as well:"Portugal have an impressive European Championship record," he began. "They also have the outstanding player in the tournament, a core of experienced, solid performers and an exciting crop of young players."Looking at the Euros with the benefit of hindsight, Portugal were clearly always in with a chance of winning the thing but nobody tipped them as far as I can recall, despite this abundance of evidence.Why was this? Don't hundreds of men and now expensive computers spend hours analyzing football?Yes, but the best so-called experts, paid analysts and algorithms clearly cannot pick the rabbit out a 24-team hat. If they were able to, the football betting industry would die a death (no great loss perhaps) but football fandom would too, as everyone would know who was going to win.It is reassuring therefore that football retains this unpredictability in the face of smug punditry and advanced technology, a chaos factor that makes it relentlessly watchable. But getting back to Portugal, the ingredients for success were clearly there but pre-match odds placed them joint-sixth favourites with Italy at best, behind France, Germany, Spain, England and Belgium...?!?Most betting companies placed them seventh in fact!How could so many highly-paid observers get it so spectacularly wrong and fire so amazingly wide of the mark? I think the answer lies in gut instincts more than anything. Despite its team's pedigree, Portugal is a small country with only 62% of the population of the Netherlands, the other obvious small nation which punches above its weight, albeit not since the last World Cup.Portugal just did not have the F Factor of big names like Germany, Italy, France, Spain and England, national teams from the countries with the biggest domestic leagues coincidentally.Ronaldo's gargantuan profile continued to cast the rest of the team in the shade as far as casual spectator recognition went.His ongoing failure to win trophies in a Seleçao shirt havi[...]



Havelange was the Greatest Dictator

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 05:09:42 PDT

THERE WERE FEW MOURNERS AS THE KING OF CORRUPTION DIED 100 NOT OUTIt almost passed unnoticed during the Rio Olympics that Joao Havelange, the Brazilian former FIFA President, had died, aged 100.The major figure in post-war football governance is no more, and on immediate inspection, what a dark legacy he leaves.Havelange, who effectively ruled world soccer from 1974-1998, oversaw the transformation of a sport with global appeal into a money-making behemoth replete with corruption, tarnishing the reputation of the game's governing body.It was a Brazilian, Pele, who woke the world up to dazzling football and thanks to the proliferation of television, popularised the World Cup.But it was another Brazilian who also realised television had also made football into a fat cow ripe for milking.Substituting value with price, Havelange made selling the Beautiful Game FIFA's prime motivation and the resulting harvest of TV rights and corporate sponsorship dollars he only too happily spread among his coterie of parasites.Under his tenure, the FIFA Executive Committee turned into a Stygian den of thieves populated by jobs-for-life do-nothings like Ricardo Texeira, Nicolas Leoz, Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner, unbelievably corrupt men who would in any normal organisation have been fired years earlier.The musical chairs in FIFA's ExCo and the current chaos in football governance is a natural result of the Brazilian's revolution.His culture of embezzlement and bribes was carried on by his protege Sepp Blatter and after the fiasco of the 2018 & 2022 World Cup hosting vote, tournaments widely believed to have been bought, the Augean stables of FIFA have been under an unprecedented spotlight.Havelange even showed up in Zurich like a thousand-year-old vampire to nod approvingly at the travesties of awarding tournaments to Russia and Qatar, a fitting testament to the dishonesty he engendered at the highest levels.Over the years he had courted anyone with power, including several dictators, and effectively ran FIFA as one too.In bed with Adidas' Horst Dassler, Havelange made the selling of rights his priority and the pocketing of as much of the revenue as possible his favourite pastime.The overkill of international sponsors at World Cups is thanks to him more than anyone else, sponsors whose tawdry products demean the prowess of the tournament and often work against the health benefits football brings.Havelange it should be remembered had never been a football man in the first place - he had swum for Brazil at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and played water-polo at the 1952 games.His early administrative experience was in swimming, cycling and as president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation before he realised football had the biggest potential for political and financial exploitation.Havelange's defeat of Stanley Rous for the 1974 FIFA Presidency remains a key turning-point in football history.His capture of the presidency from the decent, if stuffy Englishman, brought bribery and other dark political tactics into soccer and almost half a century later the game's governing body still reeks of the hand of Havelange.Rous had played a straight hand and sat down confident that his supporters would keep their word, while Havelange kept working the room until the end and managed to steal the victory through buying enough voters.In Havelange's defence, Rous had shown an unwise acquiesence with apartheid South Africa and limited the number of finalists at the World Cup to 16, ignoring the growth of the global game.At the 1974 finals, there were only three berths for nations outside the traditional strongholds of Europe a[...]



Olympic Lessons

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 05:12:10 PDT

RIO'S SHINE SHADES OVER THE START OF THE FOOTBALL SEASONThe Rio Olympic Games have just finished and that two-week fiesta every four years has rightly had the lion's share of our hearts and minds again, despite the opening of the European football calendar.The Olympics is a useful aide-memoire that other sports are out there, rather like the Roman who was employed to whisper "Remember thou art mortal" in the ear of generals returning to the seven hills in triumph.Rio also served, like London 2012 did, to show the public how elite sportsmen can be good role-models and do not have to cut such greedy, ill-educated figures as so many top footballers do. The clean and honest endeavour of so many gold medallists always cast footballers' modest achievements in a poor light again, and the abundance of aggression-free joy from Olympic spectators also served to shine a light on the darker sides of the Beautiful Game.Only two months before, Europe's top international sides had gathered in France for Euro 2016 and several city centres were left full of broken glass and blood stains. Rio has its social problems of course but they were not caused by visiting sports fans in August.The corrupting influence of too much money is of course the salient difference between football and Olympic sports, but it is hard to see that problem improving anytime soon.Such was the unbridled joy Rio unleashed, the start of the football season suddenly seemed distinctly unattractive.Brazil seemed to be unaware that sports other than football existed during the games, given that swathes of empty seats was the norm at most events, with the notable exceptions of ones in which they had a shout of winning - boxing, judo and beach volleyball.The full Maracana got its golden moment when Neymar scored the fifth and clinching spot-kick in the men's football final, but Marta & Co. missed out on a home double by losing their semi-final to Sweden. In losing the men's final, Germany missed their own football clean sweep too.Women's football makes more sense at the Olympics than male football given the full national teams take part, but the absence of England, World Cup semi-finalists, but not an Olympic nation, jarred once more.There should be no problem having Team GB for women, any more than there is having the British Lions play rugby now and again. Having a men's team still looks a no-go however, because qualification depends on UEFA U-21 competition, where there is no Great Britain.Brazil's win in the men's tournament went a little way to soothing the horror of the 7-1 Maracanazo at the World Cup two years ago, and the host nation had at last a reason to get out in the streets and party, so all's well that ends well.The golden boy's successful seizing of his big chance on the big stage closed that chapter in Brazilian football history with aplomb, but no-one should be under any illusions that Olympic success will translate into victories at the subsequent World Cup in Russia in 2018.The seleçao's next big short at glory is realistically the Copa America at home in 2019.In the swirl of victory it is easy to forget that Brazil drew their first two games 0:0 with South Africa and Iraq. Only when they switched from a malfunctioning 4-3-3 to a 4-2-4 did they start scoring goals.Brazil also had two Barcelona regulars - Neymar and Rafinha - in their final team, which contrasted with the unknown German U23s lining up against them.The tournament rules of eight U-23 players and three overage players is perhaps the best compromise they organisers can come up with but football, try as it [...]



Fifa World Rankings July 2016

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 04:44:12 PDT

Fifa's World Rankings for July 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.In the first World Fifa Rankings after Euro 2016 there have been quite a few changesThe full top ten is Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Portugal, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Spain, Brazil and Italy.England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 11th.Algeria are the top African team in 32nd place.Asian Cup winners Australia are in 59th place; Japan are in 57th. Near neighbors South Korea are in 48th place.The USA are in 25th. Wales are 11th. Scotland are in 50th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 25th place, Northern Ireland are in 28th position.1 Argentina2 Belgium3 Colombia4 Germany5 Chile6 Portugal7 France8 Spain9 Brazil10 Italy11 Wales12 Uruguay13 England14 Mexico15 Croatia16 Poland17 Ecuador18 Switzerland19 Turkey19 HungaryFull world rankingsPrevious Fifa World RankingsBet with Bet 365Soccer betting tipsSoccer Books & DVDs align="left" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=soccerphileco-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0297608886&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="align: left; height: 245px; padding-right: 10px; padding-top: 5px; width: 131px;"> [...]



Les Miserablues

Tue, 12 Jul 2016 04:50:37 PDT

I wasn't intending to come to the Final, but since I returned home two weeks ago I had kept an eye on the UEFA ticketing website and had been able to get tickets for every game played in the knockout stage whilst I was back at work.I mentioned this at work, and explained that if I got a ticket I would be late for work on Monday.I checked all the details and figured I could stay at the same place in Paris and catch the first Eurostar at 6.30am on the Monday morning.So on Friday 8th I saw that match tickets would be available from 1pm. I arranged to have my lunch at two ish as I know from experience that the first hour will just be waiting to get onto the website. Sure enough I managed to secure a ticket, a last check with colleagues at work who kindly agreed to cover for me and I secured the ticket.Returning home that evening I set about sorting out my journey. Slight problem.The first Eurostar available on their website would arrive in London at 2pm, meaning I would not be able to get back to Nottingham for work before my colleagues finished.I looked at other options. Available flights were in the evening and the overnight bus back to London left Paris at 10.15pm. Too early.I remembered Ivan telling me about Captain Train, a French website that he used to book European trains. They had an option. I could get the TGV to Lille from Paris at 7.40am, and then join the Eurostar, arriving London 10.29am which should mean I get back to work for 1pm so my colleagues can have some lunch.Not surprisingly this option was more expensive than I hoped, so to offset the cost I looked at cheap ways to get to Paris, the best I could find was Ouigo, the SNCF low cost bus at €29 and nine hours.I had already checked what's on in Paris and found I had already been to the top five so I decided I was in no rush and so completed a sequence of visits to Paris, by Plane, Train and boat (as the bus uses a ferry between Dover and Calais).After testing the three different routes the winner for me is definitely the Eurostar.It goes from the heart of the city, and delivers you to the heart of Paris. You can arrive 45 minutes before departure, no lengthy queues to get on ferries (as Welsh fans will testify). My first task Sunday morning was to collect my final ticket, and so I headed to Parc des Princes for the fourth time this tournament where my ticket was waiting.It felt strange on Sunday morning, travelling towards the ground without the football crowds, it was on my last journey here that I learnt the words to most of the Welsh songs... "5 at the back, With Bale in attack", couldn't quite manage the Welsh national anthem though.During the afternoon I visited The House of European Photography, where they just happened to have an exhibition with French photographers covering the work of Oscar Niemeyer (remember him?). It reminded me I have unfinished business and intend to be back in Brazil in 2019. After that I visited Victor Hugo's house, of course I left it wondering who were going to be Les Miserables this evening.I arranged to meet a few friends for a pre-match meal. The majority of whom had been here for the whole tournament. They agreed that it had been great travelling round France, but that the football was nothing special.The match itself saw Ronaldo, manage the Portugese team to victory. After he was forced off on 20 minutes. I saw him reappear at the end of 90 minutes, then gather the team for a huddle for the start of the second period, before wandering up and down the touchline barging his manager out of the way as he gave[...]



French revenge could light up the Euros

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 04:51:57 PDT

Let us be honest, the Euros have been a bit of a damp squib this time around.Northern Europe has had a wet and cloudy June and this seems to have been reflected on the field of France 2016.The free-flowing football of Brazil 2014 is a bit of a memory, perhaps a telling comment on the tactics-heavy European teams.With the possible exception of Portugal's 3-3 draw with Hungary, there have been no standout games which ebbed and flowed to keep the neutrals enthralled. There have been a couple of thrashings – France racing to a 4-0 half-time lead over Iceland or Belgium thumping Hungary 4-0 for instance, and some very clinical, high-quality football – Italy in the group stage most notably, but not a lot to write home about.The multi-team format, three times the size of the eight country Euro '92 in Sweden, has led to some teams deliberately playing for draws (Slovakia against England), fielding weakened elevens (Italy v Eire) or even happily losing 1-0 (Northern Ireland against Germany).The knock-out stage was supposed to add some spice to the mix and has done to a small extent – Wales' surprising 3-1 dismissal of Belgium woke the continent up even more than Iceland's 2-1 win over a soporific and mesmerised England.Then Germany and Italy provided some welcome comedy in their penalty shoot-out after an exhausting 120 minutes.Finally France remembered their lines as host nation to the relief of most football followers and put in a bravura performance to eliminate the Viking upstarts. The lack of an on-fire host nation, in sharp contrast to their outstanding team when they hosted the World Cup in 1998, has probably hurt the tournament.The Champs-Elysees may yet become a sea of red, white and blue on Sunday night, an echo of 1984, 1998 and 2000, but Les Bleus have only two games left in which to impress.Euro 2000 lingers in the mind as a colourful tournament decided by a rollercoaster final, Euro 2004 had the fairytale of a minnow, Greece, cheekily stealing the crown with unashamedly entertainment-free tactics.Euro 2008 was nourished by the exciting emergence of the Spanish tiki-taka dynasty and in 2012 La Roja's 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the final was the stuff of wonder.On paper a 24-team field in 2016 should have provided a fertile patch for great stories and indeed the tales of Wales and Iceland will live long in the memory.Just ask the citizens of those formerly minnow nations and they will tell you. I have an Icelandic friend who said despite many experiences, a wife and children, his country's run to the quarter-finals was the happiest time of his life. And Welsh football has had nothing to sing about since 1958 for goodness' sake.How disappointing therefore that the dragons lost their fire-breathing lungs last night in Lyon when they needed it most. Portugal had been there for the taking having stumbled into the semis after finishing third in their group and not winning a single game in 90 minutes.The shallow Welsh squad was sadly exposed last night with the yellow-card absences of defensive rock Ben Davies and their midfield schemer Aaron Ramsey. How wrong is this rule every tournament? Yet again the authorities' po-faced insistence on an imaginary ideal of fair play has deprived the big matches of some of their key actors. Play in the league and you only miss a game after five yellows, so why after only two in tournaments? Ramsey's second caution, earned for a handball against Belgium, was a harsh call at the time whose consequences cruelly blunted his nation's big shot at gl[...]



Euro 2016 Fin?

Mon, 27 Jun 2016 02:01:22 PDT

Who would have thought it? Two weeks have passed since we set out on our own "Tour de France" and I heard in the last few days that all the Home Nations have qualified for the next round. Brilliant, who are Scotland playing?I have struggled to keep up to date, (wifi in France isn't great) with things whilst we have been on the road, so maybe I missed something. Did UEFA finally actually act against Russia? Did they reinstate Scotland? Are the chances of those two things happening the same?OK, so now you know that the final game I watched at this tournament was Wales against Northern Ireland. With the break between the group stage and the Round of 16, I was lucky enough to have time and good weather to explore Paris.The Louvre, Petit Palais, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Napoleon's Tomb, Pere Lachaisse, Centre Pompidou were all visited where exhibitions of art by Rousseau, Paul Klee, Albert Marquet were viewed. But my favourites were The Beat Generation, with as well an exposition at the Philharmonie de Paris featuring The Velvet Underground (yes the ones that wrote I'm waiting for my man. Never early, always late, - you know who you are!).Looking for positives in the football I have witnessed is proving difficult. The real positives lie in having visited nine French cities, and sampling the food. Everyone knows about Paris, and I have just listed a few of the things you can see there. We were lucky enough to have good weather in Nice which helped to make it my favourite city. If you've seen the photos you may notice the difference, and understand why I choose it as my favourite on this trip.Then there was Bordeaux where it’s historic old town is on the UNESCO World heritage list and described as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble of the 18th century". Toulouse, the Pink City.Lyon with the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Marseille, a huge city which unfortunately saw bad weather to stop us fully exploring it on the two occasions we were there. Lille, with its Flemish architecture where we could see the beauty of this city, but didn't feel comfortable due to the situation I mentioned on our first night.Lens & St Etienne are football hotbeds unlike the rest of France where you would have struggled to find out there was a tournament going on. The size of the towns and the size of the stadiums bear witness to this fact. Lens population 32,663 - Capacity of Stade Bollaert-Delelis 38,223. St Etienne 178,530 - Capacity of Stade Geoffroy-Guichard 42,000.Special mention to the best Croque Monsieur, which was found at Fric Frac by Canal St Martin. But the French have other things to worry about. I visited the lively 11th arrondisment, scene of atrocities eighteen months ago when the Charlie Hedbo offices were attacked, and The Bataclan as recently as last November. It remains closed but is due to reopen on November 16th with Pete Doherty. The lively backstreets are vibrant, with bars full of students away from the tourist crowd.We witnessed strikers marching at the Bastille against Hollande's labor legislation. There were more police than we had seem at any football match. Two thousand sealed of the area around the Bastille to ensure there were was no repeat of the incident the previous week when cars were set alight in protests at République. If you remember before I set out there was problems with the level of water on the Seine, the rain seen in the first ten days couldn't have helped this.There was also the small matter of strikes, whic[...]



Paris The Last Leg

Thu, 23 Jun 2016 22:46:04 PDT

The last leg of our Tour De France, saw us wake in St Etienne, and catch a train to Lyon, where we boarded our Ouigo train to Paris Marne-La-Vallée-Chessy. A journey of over 300 miles.Ouigo is the French National Railways low cost train line (their Ryanair if you like.) We (I) booked our tickets last year for €10 each. We met someone yesterday who had paid over €100 for the Lyon to Paris leg of the journey. There was a large queue to board, as tickets and baggage were checked. On board facilities were basic, again just think Ryanair - without the garish blue and yellow.The two hour journey saw us arrive in Paris just after 10.30am. Paris was open.Lunch was had before heading to the stadium, where Northern Ireland fans out sang their German counterparts.We then headed off to the eleventh arrondissement, a lively area near La République, today 21st June is Fête de la musique. Where you can find bands in most bars playing live music.Unfortunately for us the festival seemed to be continuing into the night as we arrived back at our accommodation.The next day, and we didn't have to travel!We stayed in Paris and visited the cemetery at Pere Lachaise, The Crypt at Notre Dame and passed by the Louvre before heading off to Stade de France to see Iceland v Austria.After the match we went to Grand Train, a disused railway building turned into an assortment of pop up bars and eateries. [...]



St. Etienne

Thu, 23 Jun 2016 22:00:48 PDT

Beautiful blue sky first thing in the morning as I ran up the hill at Fourviere, 5km and 250 steps later, I returned to find the other two still asleep.We visited Musée Des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, before catching the train to St. Etienne.In the afternoon we found the majority of shops and restaurants shut. Clearly the locals were put off, by what they had seen and heard earlier in the tournament and had decided to lie low. We had to settle for a pizza. There was nothing else.Despite talk of alcohol bans, people were drinking in the streets, where Slovak fans mingled with the English. There was no hint of any trouble, but police were in the background in case.Supporters marauded through the streets to the ground, several clearly suffering from the lack of any alcohol ban, to the stadium, a fifteen minute walk from the centre of town.The four stands inside the ground are next to the pitch and provide a better atmosphere than the newer stadiums with their sterile seating plans. I couldn't quite make out the words to songs, as they seemed to be sung in a foreign language, but inspired by their performance on the pitch I think they were singing "England's going home". Then there was some other song "30 years of hurt", I must have misheard that one as I am sure it's 50.I am pleased to report that I witnessed no problems in the city throughout the day, other than a few individuals who had drunk too much.Ross Cleggfootballtravelswithross.wordpress.com [...]



Marseille Again

Thu, 23 Jun 2016 22:03:24 PDT

Got up at 6am in Nice in time for a 10km run along the 4km promenade. The pace felt like that of the starter in Lyon two days earlier.My alarm first went off at 3.50am, the time a week ago that this journey started. Since then we have been to 8 different venues and spent a day on a train (plus one flight) travelling.The cool morning air, the waves breaking on the pebble beach and the Art Deco buildings made the run pass quickly. At the far end of the promenade a number of Northern Ireland flags were laid with flowers in memory of the young man that died there last week.Nearby the police were moving on some Spaniards who had been partying/ sleeping on the beach.The promenade was being hoovered and washed down whilst a boat sprayed water on the pebble beach to clean it.After the run, I headed straight into the sea and quickly cooled down.Returning to our apartment, no one knew that I had been out.We took the train back to Marseille and met the clouds again.The Hungarian supporters congregated in Vieux Port, setting of an array of flares as they headed off for the Velodrome Stadium.We hid in a bar as the rain poured down before heading to the stadium for Iceland v Hungary.The behaviour of a nearby Hungarian fan, led me to support Iceland and gave the game an edge. There was a tense atmosphere throughout as the Hungarians laboured. Riots were only avoided by a last minute equaliser for the Hungarians.We headed to Notre Dame du Mont for Filet de Dorade Royale à la Planche, avec Risotto Basilic Bio. Ross Clegg [...]