Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2012 European Championship, 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2014 World Cup, Brazil, English Premier League, FIFA, FIFA Club World Championship, Frank Lampard, Germany, GoalRef, Hawk-Eye, International Football Association Board, Japan, Pandora's Box, UEFA Champions League, Ukraine, Zurich
Soccer’s rule-making body, the International Football Association Board, has approved the use of technology to confirm whether a ball has crossed the goal line inside the goal.
The technology will be introduced at the FIFA Club World Championship in Japan in December and will be in place for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup, both to be hosted by Brazil.
Also OK’d was the use of five-man officiating teams. That concept, which involves a goal-line judge on each end of the field, was tested during last season’s UEFA Champions League and the 2012 European Championship.
Two different technology systems–Hawk-Eye and GoalRef–were unanimously approved by the Board during its special meeting in Zurich.
According to FIFA, Hawk-Eye, a British system already in use in cricket and tennis, employs six to eight high-speed cameras set up at different angles at each end to calculate the exact position of the ball. The data is then transferred to video software. From this data, the system generates a 3D image of the ball’s trajectory. The officials are informed whether a goal has been scored within a second.
GoalRef, a Danish-German system, creates the radio equivalent of a light curtain. Low magnetic fields are produced around the goal, and as soon as the ball, fitted with a compact electronic device, fully crosses the line, a minor change in the magnetic field is detected, thus allowing the exact position of the ball to be established. If a goal has been scored, an alert is transmitted to the officials via a radio signal within a second, with a message displayed on their watches and by vibration.
The English Premier League, which is expected to employ one of the systems, estimates the cost at between $200,000 and $250,000 per stadium. [July 5]
Comment: There are two soccer worlds: one in which hidebound traditionalists live and one populated by progressives who welcome things like goal-line technology. The only common ground is that everyone wants the officials to get it right, especially because the final score is likely to be 2-1 rather than 115-98. No room for error.
It has been said that soccer already uses technology: the headphones that connect the referee, assistant referees and fourth official at major matches. But this latest move by the International Football Association Board doesn’t just crack open Pandora’s Box, it rips the lid off its hinges.
What the introduction of the Hawk-Eye and GoalRef systems does is give us hybrid officiating. In a sport played by humans and officiated by humans, one aspect has been turned over to machine–and why, in the pursuit of perfection, stop there?
The infamous not-allowed goal by Ukraine at Euro 2012 aside, the incident that created the biggest hue and cry for goal-line technology was the shot by England’s Frank Lampard in the 2010 World Cup round of 16 that was clearly in the goal to everyone looking on–except the referee and his linesman. Egregious and inexcusable and, for FIFA, embarrassing. It is highly questionable that the correct call–something Hawk-Eye and GoalRef would not have missed–would have changed what was ultimately a comfortable 4-1 victory for Germany over the English. But what of all the hundreds and thousands of calls and non-calls made during a 32-team, 64-game tournament that lasted more than 100 hours?
Get Lampard’s goal right, but what of the fouls that should have resulted in a yellow card, the yellow card that should have been a red, the red that shouldn’t have been anything at all, the dive in the box that went unpunished and, especially, all those offside calls. Why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to get one kind of decision right when a game turns on so many other decisions that rest in the hands of the referee and his assistants?
So expand technology. It can be done. Go to Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats and read about some of the other gizmos at the ready, including the Belgian system that can detect offside through sensors embedded in the players’ shinguards. It’s all never-ending, and thanks to the International Football Association Board’s ruling in this case, it won’t be.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1924 Paris Olympics, 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, 1930 World Cup, 1972 European Championship, 1974 World Cup, 1997 Copa America, 1998 World Cup, 1999 Copa America, 2002 World Cup, 2004 Copa America, 2012 European Championship, Brazil, Cesare Prandelli, Cesc Fabrigas, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, David Silva, ESPN, Fernando Torres, France, Germany, Gianluigi Buffon, Italy, Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Kiev, Pele, Spain, Thiago Motta, Uruguay, Vicente de Bosque, West Germany, World Cup, Xavi
Defending World Cup champion Spain became the first country to win a second consecutive European Championship, humbling a shorthanded Italy, 4-0, in the 2012 final in Kiev.
The triumph made Spain, which won its first Euro crown in 1964, the second three-time winner of Europe’s biggest prize after West Germany/Germany (1972, 1980, 1996).
David Silva got the rout underway in the 14th minute when he headed in Cesc Fabrigas’ short cross. Jordi Alba latched onto a pass by Xavi to beat Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon four minutes before halftime to put the match out of reach.
Substitute Fernando Torres, who also scored against Germany in Spain’s 1-0 victory in the 2008 final, scored in the 84th minute, and Juan Mata, set up by Torres, applied the finishing touch at 88 minutes. Italy lost Thiago Motta to injury in the 62nd minute after coach Cesare Prandelli had used his three substitutions–the last of them Motta in the 57th–and appeared nearly helpless on the Torres and Mata goals. [July 1]
Comment: Spain’s dominating performance put a much-needed shine on a tournament that for the most part was downright dull. But those quick to brand this team as the best of all time need to take a deep breath.
Is Spain the best? Those who disagree might start with the West German team that won the 1972 European Championship and the ’74 World Cup. That team also lost the ’76 Euro final to Czechoslovakia on penalty kicks before winning its second Euro four years later. Others would point to Brazil’s Pele-led 1970 World Cup champs. And so on.
So are the Spaniards the best ever over an extended period? Various media reports branded coach Vicente del Bosque’s ball-possession magicians as the first to win three consecutive major titles. ESPN, which televised Euro 2012, was among them. But the first was Uruguay, winners of the 1924 Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam–back when Olympic soccer was the sport’s de facto world championship. The Uruguayans so dazzled the Continent on those occasions that they fueled the drive to create the World Cup in 1930, which that year was hosted and won by Uruguay. De facto or no, that was three world titles in a row over a half-dozen years.
Too long ago, when soccer wasn’t quite the global game it is today? Then for hardware in the modern era, go with another South American team, Brazil, just a decade ago. Except for an interruption by Colombia at the 2001 Copa America, the Brazilians, three years removed from their win at USA ’94, won the next two South American championships, in 1997 and ’99, finished second at the 1998 World Cup to host France, then won their fifth world championship at Korea/Japan 2002, followed by another Copa in 2004.
But then, when it comes to soccer and other matters, we live in a Eurocentric world.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1986 World Cup, 2012 European Championship, ABC, Alan Green, Alan Merrick, Alkis Panagoulias, Aris Thessaloniki, Arnie Mausser, Cosmos, Costa Rica, Dale Ervine, Dan Canter, Falls Church, Gdansk, Germany, Greece, Iraklis, Jeff Durgan, Jeff Hooker, Kevin Crow, Los Angeles Games, Mexico, Mike Fox, New York Greek Americans, New York Times, North American Soccer League, NYU, Olympiakos, Olympics, Paul Caligiuri, Perry Van der Beck, Steve Sharp, Team America, Ticos, Torrance, U.S. National Open Cup, U.S. National Team, U.S. Soccer Federation, Walter Chyzowych, Washington DC, World Cup
Alkis Panagoulias, coach of the U.S. National Team from 1983 to 19985, has died at his home in Falls Church, Virginia, at age 78.
The native of Greece and naturalized U.S. citizen posted a 6-5-7 record as the USA’s coach, second in wins at the time to Walter Chyzowych (8-14-10 from 1976 to 1980).
Greek players were to wear black armbands in his memory during their upcoming European Championship quarterfinal match with Germany in Gdansk. Panagoulias coached Greece from 1973 to 1981 and fom 1992 to 1994, guiding the Greeks to their first-ever World Cup appearance, in ’94. He guided Olympiakos to Greek titles in 1982, ’83 and ’87, and he also coached Aris Thessaloniki and Iraklis. [June 18]
Comment: Panagoulias had the misfortune of presiding over perhaps the most frustrating and fruitless period in U.S. National Team history. Worse still, it seemed as if no one cared–no one, that is, but Alketas “Alkis” Panagoulias.
A national team coach, of course, is paid to care. But Panagoulias gave the U.S. Soccer Federation far more than it’s money’s worth in that department. Chomping a cigar and sprinkling his brutally frank comments with profanities, the burly Greek battled with the federation and battled with the North American Soccer League, all the while leaving his players with no doubt as to who was in charge. (He once told me in an interview that the team had “all these goddam California surfers,” such as Mike Fox, Paul Caligiuri, Kevin Crow, Jeff Hooker, Dale Ervine and Steve Sharp.) Above all, he was unabashedly patriotic when it came to his adopted country and absolutely passionate as an advocate of the national team, trying with little success to explain to the media and public in general its importance in a country overwhelmingly indifferent to soccer.
A player for Aris before moving to America to earn a degree at NYU, Panagoulias turned to coaching and steered the New York Greek Americans to three straight U.S. National Open Cups beginning in 1967, back when that cup was more or less the championship for the country’s ethnic semipro clubs.
In 1983, with the U.S. having played only one match since a World Cup qualifier in 1980, Panagoulias was chosen by the USSF to succeed Chyzowych as coach of both the national and Olympic teams–a foreign-born coach with international experience and, presumably, an understanding of the American player. And in a unique twist, his players were to play in the NASL as Team America.
Panagoulias recalled in a 2006 interview with the New York Times, “It was very difficult. I first had to sell the league people and owners on the idea that the national team has to be the No. 1 team in the country. We needed their players. I was almost crying when I talked about the national team. They looked at me like I was crazy. They didn’t know from the national team.”
NASL club owners dragged their feet over what some regarded as a flawed grandstand play, most of the Cosmos players invited to join this grand experiment chose to stay in New York and Team America, based in Washington DC and featuring naturalized Americans like Alan Merrick and Alan Green and national team regulars Arnie Mausser, Perry Van der Beck, Dan Canter and Jeff Durgan, stumbled to a league-worst 10-20 record in their only season.
The following year, with Olympic soccer’s amateur restrictions rapidly crumbling, the U.S. was allowed to field its national team at the Los Angeles Games. The Americans went 1-1-1 but it wasn’t enough to get them into the quarterfinals, and a golden opportunity to put soccer on front pages across the nation–or at least get the sport some airtime on Olympic broadcaster ABC–was missed.
Then in 1985, the U.S., needing just a draw at home to advance to the final three-team round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, lost to Costa Rica, 1-0, before a small but overwhelmingly pro-Ticos crowd in Torrance, Calif.
That heartbreaking defeat ended Panagoulias’ run as U.S. coach, but he bowed out knowing that he was right. The sport desperately needed the rallying point of a successful national team, not yet another NASL championship by the Cosmos. And without one, soccer in America would remain largely rudderless, a game much more fun to play than to watch. Unfortunately for Panagoulias, it would take many years, other coaches and several generations of American players for the country to actually experience what this passionate Greek had been talking about.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Czech Republic, FC Barcelona, Germany, Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Italy, Juventus, Manuel Neuer, Petr Cech, Real Madrid, Roma, Spain, UEFA Champions League, Victor Valdes
Bayern Munich will meet Chelsea in the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League final on May 19 at Munich’s Allianz Arena, becoming the first team since Roma in 1984 to play at home in European club soccer’s biggest match.
The two finalists both pulled off stunning upsets in the semifinals. German powerhouse Bayern, a four-time Euro champ (1974, 75, ’76, ’01) eliminated Real Madrid while England’s Chelsea, a finalist in ’08, shocked cup holders FC Barcelona.
Prediction: With all due respect to Iker Casillas (Spain, Real Madrid), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy, Juventus), Victor Valdes (Spain, FC Barcelona), and, yes, Chelsea’s Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer will emerge from the match having cemented his place as perhaps the world’s best goalkeeper.
And if he doesn’t, he has plenty of time to do so. Already a World Cup veteran, Germany’s No. 1 is just 26.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: adidas, Algarve Cup, Argentina, Arsenal, Azzurri, Belgium, Borrusia Dortmund, Brussels, Cesare Prandelli, Clint Dempsey, Colombia, CONCACAF Gold Cup, Copa America, Denmark, England, FIFA Confederations Cup, Genoa, Germany, Gianluigi Buffon, Italian National Team, Juergen Klinsmann, Juventus, Mexico, Miami, Nike, Portugal, Sebastian Giovinco, Serie A, Spain, Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Terrence Boyd, Tim Howard, U.S. Cup, U.S. National Team, U.S. National Under-23 Team, U.S. National Women's Team
The U.S. National Team upset Italy, 1-0, in a friendly at Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris to post its first victory over the Italians in 78 years. Clint Dempsey rolled a shot from the top of the penalty area past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 55th minute and the Americans, behind some stout defending, held on for their fourth consecutive win under new coach Juergen Klinsman. [February 29]
Comment I: The triumph was described in many quarters as historic, and given the fact that the U.S. went into the match with a 0-7-3 record against the Azzurri and had been out-scored, 32-4, over those 10 matches, the feat was indeed historic. Italian commentators no doubt shrugged it off as an aberration. Dempsey’s goal, they no doubt pointed out, came against the run of play–decidedly. Italy out-shot the U.S., 19-4, and would have had more had the pesky Sebastian Giovinco and mates not been flagged for offside nine times (to the USA’s zero), mostly on hopeful balls lofted over the U.S. back line. Italy also had the edge in corner kicks, 8-2, and Buffon was forced to make only one save to U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard’s seven, which included a clutch kick-save in the fourth minute. This also wasn’t a full-strength Italian squad; neither could it be said of the U.S., but while the Americans remain sorely lacking in depth, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli could trot out a starting lineup heavy on players from Juventus, at the moment Serie A’s second-place club. Moreover, all would agree that a better look at reality came in the teams’ last meeting, at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, a competitive match in which Italy took the U.S. to school in a 3-1 win that left the Americans’ hopes in that tournament on life support.
So was this upset truly meaningful? If so, the U.S. in recent years has enough such moments to fill a history book, starting with the 2-0 win over Mexico in the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, and followed on a semi-regular basis by England 2-0 at U.S. Cup ’93, Colombia 2-1 at the 1994 World Cup, Argentina 3-0 at the 1995 Copa America, Brazil 1-0 at the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals, Germany 2-0 at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, Portugal 3-2 at the 2002 World Cup, and the biggest of all, World-Cup-champion-to-be Spain 2-0 at the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals.
The best way to describe what happened in Genoa is to suggest that the U.S. further cemented its reputation as a team capable of anything at anytime, an erratic opponent who’s a no-win proposition for the world powers. Why should they relish facing an opponent they’re expected to beat when, on the odd day, they’ll fall victim to grit, fitness and just enough skill to get the job done? At the same time, this giant killer can’t get past the mid-level teams on a consistent basis, as it demonstrated in its 1-0 loss to Belgium in Brussels in September, Klinsmann’s third match in charge.
What may have been most noteworthy about Italy 0, U.S. 1 is that Klinsmann stuck his neck out and agreed to have the game scheduled at all. He rolled the dice in Genoa and won with a conservative 4-5-1. His 4-4-2 may come and go, depending on the opposition and the circumstances, but it’s clear that he intends, as he’s said, to pull the Americans out of their “comfort zone” and tap into the bravura and blue-collar characteristics that made the U.S. job so appealing to the German in the first place. In sum, Klinsmann with nothing to lose, the fellow hired to be the anti-Bob Bradley.
Comment II: Klinsmann’s boldness crossed a line when he substituted a spent Jozy Altidore with Terrence Boyd. a striker who has yet to work his way from the Borussia Dortmund reserves into the club’s first team. Boyd was clearly a fish out of water, and it can be gently said that he was lucky not to be shown a yellow card for a high foot a few minutes into his 11-minute cameo. A 21-year-old kid making his debut against Italy in a one-goal game? There are limits.
Comment III: It’s been nearly 20 years since Nike took over for adidas as the national teams’ outfitter, and it still hasn’t gotten it right. The same company that has repeatedly ruined Brazil’s classic jersey–and those of the countless other national teams and prominent clubs it has come to sponsor–dressed the U.S. for its Italy match in something that could best be described as a bad version of Arsenal in navy blue. In fact, it simply looked like the Americans had their sleeves ripped off, revealing their white long underwear. Fortunately, the U.S. played better than it looked, sartorially speaking.
Comment IV: On one day, the U.S. National Women’s Team routed Denmark, 5-0, in Portugal in its Algarve Cup opener; the U.S. National Under-23 Team blanked Mexico’s U-23s, 2-0, in Dallas in an Olympic qualifying tune-up; and the U.S. National Team shocked Italy, 1-0, in a friendly in Genoa. Oh, and the Mexican National Team bowed to Colombia, 2-0, in a friendly in Miami.
It won’t take away the sting of a day like June 25 last year, when Mexico thumped the U.S., 4-2, at the CONCACAF Gold Cup final … but for American fans, it doesn’t hurt.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2012 European Championship, Belgium, Brussels, Denmark, FIFA Confederations Cup, FIFA World Rankings, Germany, Jose Torres, Juergen Klinsmann, Nicholas Lombaerts, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Tim Howard, Turkey, United States
Belgium defeated the United States, 1-0, in a friendly in Brussels, leaving new coach Juergen Klinsmann winless in his first three matches at the U.S. helm.
The youthful Belgians, whose chances of qualifying for the 2012 European Championship are slim at best, outplayed the Americans for long stretches and got the winning goal on a half-volley from distance by Nicholas Lombaerts 10 minutes into the second half after the U.S. couldn’t clear a long throw-in. [September 6].
Comment: It was only a friendly for a U.S. squad that has plenty of time for experimentation before CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup gets underway in June. And there were bright spots, including the play of goalkeeper Tim Howard, who spared the U.S. a lopsided loss, and Jose Torres, whose all-around performance gave Klinsmann plenty to consider as he constructs his midfield. But it was yet another reminder of exactly where the United States stands in the international soccer community.
Since defeating Poland, 3-0, in Krakow in March 2008, the U.S. has tumbled in its last six trips to Europe. While fans can celebrate some startling high points over the years, like upset victories over Portugal in the World Cup and Spain and Germany in the FIFA Confederations Cup, the fact remains that the U.S. hasn’t improved to the point where it can consistently beat Europe’s mid-level teams–the Belgiums, the Turkeys, the Romanias, the Denmarks, the Swedens, the Scotlands–in non-competitive games in Europe. That means that the USA hasn’t made true progress and puts the lie to its place in the FIFA World Rankings, where it usually hovers in the 20s but for one laughably heady moment in April 2006 found the Americans at No. 4. (For the record, within weeks, FIFA overhauled its rankings formula.)