May 2006 Archives

Today's news...

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Today's Champions League final may be the main event, but there's plenty to news out there to keep up on...

The Times of London waxes poetic on the potential artistic merit in tonight's final in Paris, which includes perhaps the two most graceful superstars in football in Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry...The Daily Mirror says Henry himself is the real prize up for grabs tonight...While Ronaldinho, the world player of the moment, begins a summer in the world spotlight..Former Liverpool midfielder Vlad Smicer, who scored the key second goal in Liverpool's three-goal fightback against AC Milan in Istanbul last year, gives Arsenal and Barcelona a lesson on how to win the European Cup... James Richardson, the Guardian's excellent expert in Italy, has the details on the Italy match-fixing, gambling, and referee-intimidating scandal...

And as for World Cup news, Chelsea forward Didier Drogba will use his World Cup performances for the Ivory Coast as a springboard to Italy, says the Guardian...Here's hoping Germany and the Netherlands finish in the same positions in groups A and C, respectively, and win their second round matches, so we'll have a memorable quarterfinal on June 30 in Berlin or July 1 in Gelsenkirchen...England may be without Wayne Rooney for much, if not the entire tournament, but the-striker-formerly-known-as-the-boy-wonder, Michael Owen, looks likely to figure despite missing much of the season with Newcastle.

"If there was a game tomorrow, I would want to play in it. I've been adjusting to having a pin in my foot - but I'm raring to go," Owen told the Daily Mirror after an England training session in Faro, England. "I'm in Portugal to take part in all of the training and even some extra sessions... My main focus is getting myself in peak condition ahead of the World Cup finals. I'm surprised to see people still listing me as a big doubt for the tournament."

The squads are set, and so is the table

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After all the speculation worldwide, Monday's May 15 roster deadline set by FIFA came and went with plenty of intrigue.

Group E

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The only shuffling of the Bruce Arena's squad came the day after he announced his 23 on ESPN, when LA Galaxy fullback Chris Albright replaced Frankie Heyduk, who had injured knee ligaments...

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But Monday was a big day for the American's opposition. Despite the revelations of his gambling history, which came out during the investigation of the Juventus match-fixing scandal, Gianlugi Buffon was selected by Italy coach Marcello Lippi. Lippi also chose Milan striker Pippo Insaghi and Udinese forward Vincenzo Iaquinta over Real Madrid's Antonio Cassano.

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Like so many of his peers, including England's Sven Goren Eriksson, Czech Republic manager Karel Bruckner elected to include the names of several injury worries, including attacking midfielder Vladimir Smicer (torn leg tendon).

The Czechs got good news over the weekend when 6-foot-6 striker Jan Koller, who had missed much of the club season with a knee injury, not only played 90 minutes for the first time since his injury, but scored twice with his head in Borussia Dortmund’s 3-3 draw with Bundeliga champion Bayern Munich.

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Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic provided the real surprises of the Group E quartet, electing to retain less than half the squad from the team that failed to make it out of the group stage in January’s African Cup of Nations.

Dujkovic included seven players who hadn’t suited up for the Black Stars in more than two years and a defender, Habib Mohamed, who has yet to make his debut.

Needless to say, the people had a mixed reaction. It was reported that captain Stephen Appiah wasn't happy with the selections, but the former Juventus wide man released this statement in hopes to clearing up his comments.

The head-shaking decisions began last week, when Eriksson selected 17-year-old Arsenal forward Theo Walcott — over such settled quality as Tottenham's Jermain Defoe, who scored a key goal at Poland in qualifying, and Charlton's Darren Bent, the English Premiership's leading English scorer this season — without seeing him play a game.

The announcement shocked Walcott, who just a few months older than American wonderboy Freddy Adu, yet much more well known worldwide, and polarized the football world.

Eriksson admitted he had taken a gamble, but that didn't stop such names as

former England captain Alan Mullery, former England manager Bobby Robson, Tottenham manager Martin Jol and Pele, who was in the Santos first team when he became a star at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Names that have come out supporting the Walcott choice include his manager at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger,
Liverpool forward Peter Crouch, who played with Walcott briefly at Southampton and is a potential his striking partner in Germany,
Barcelona stars Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o,

Seeing a trend, German coach Jurgen Klinsman also took a chance on an uncapped speedster, including 22-year-old David Odonkor, who had a goal and five assists in 33 games with Borussia Dortmund.

"He gives us something we need badly: speed and an element of surprise. He can break down the flanks quickly," Klinsmann said. "We've been watching him a long time, and he is a great talent. He was really surprised, to say the least, when I called him this morning."

Odonkor's inclusion meant Klinsmann dropped Kevin Kuranyi.

"This is almost incredible," Odonkor said in a statement posted on the German soccer federation's Web site. "The coach has been watching out for young players this season, and that's why I managed to get into the World Cup at the last moment."

Other interesting names on Klinsmann's list included 32-year-old defender Jens Nowotny, who hasn't played for Germany under Klinsmann, forward Mike Hanke, who is suspended for the first two World Cup matches because of a red card he received in last summer's Confederations Cup. Also included were two injured players, defender Christoph Metzelder (torn calf muscle) and midfielder Sebastian Kehl (ankle).

Other selection news

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira selected Lyon defender Cris over injured Roque Junior and Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni over Marcos, who backstopped the Samba Boys to the trophy four years ago ... Spain coach Luis Aragones dropped Liverpool veteran Fernando Morientes in favor of a strike force of Raul Gonzalez, Jose Antonio Reyes, Fernando Torres and David Villa... Facing some difficult decisions, Argentina coach Jose Pekerman dropped Inter midfielders Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Zanetti, Bayern Munich stopper Martin Demichelis and Real Madrid defender Walter Samuel in favor of young attackers Rodrigo Palacio and Julio Cruz, who scored two more goals for Inter Milan than Brazil star Adriano...Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaraes cited a lack of versatility when asked why he will left young midfielder Roy Miller home. He did take three other youngsters — Gabriel Badilla, Randall Azofeifa and Cristian Bolanos... One year after winning the European Cup on penalty kicks, Liverpool's Jerzy Dudek officially lost his Poland place Monday when he was left off the World Cup roster by coach Pawel Janas of Lukasz Fabianski of Legia Warsaw and Tomasz Kuszcza of West Bromwich Albion, who a combined five caps. That means Glasgow Celtic's Artur Boruc is the likely starter...

Click below for a list of the rosters of all 32 teams.

El Noche de 10

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A friend and I sat around the other night watching the BBC documentary When Gary Met Diego, a fun, fascinating and utterly entertaining hour detailing former England striker Gary Lineker's recent trip to South America to meet up with legendary Argentine midfielder Diego Maradona 20 years after the
"Hand of God" goal match that saw them on the same pitch at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Maradona's recovery from the brink of death over the past 18 months has been one of the more facinating stories in world sport. The little man was nearly 280 pounds at his most obese. But he's lost more than 100 pounds and says he's substance free over the past year and a half, which has seen his reentry into popular culture through "El Noche de 10," a late night talk show in Argentina which has seen Fidel Castro, Mike Tyson and Lionel Messi as guests.

One of the best parts of "When Gary Met Diego" is during the duo's trip to see Maradona's beloved Boca Juniors play at the Bombonera. The two get caught in a line for the elevator to Maradona's private suit, and the Boca fans on their way to their seats catch a glimpse of their hero of all heros.

"Brazilians, Brazilians, why do you look so worried?" they serenade. "Because Maradona is better than Pele, of course!"

Maradona is an invaluable part of the Argentine national spirit and identity. Which is why this commercial has become such a big deal in South America.

Kaká, Ronaldo and Diego Maradona: All are wearing green-and-yellow jerseys adorned with the five stars. The anthem starts: Ouviram do ipiranga as margens plaaaaaaaacidas. De um povo heroico, brado retumbante!

Everyone sings it perfectly, including Maradoninha, as they call him. A bit of accent, but no problems.

And then the king of Argentina, Dieguito, suddenly wakes up. "Ay caramba! It was a nightmare!" cries Maradona, still under his blanket. But wait! He has sweated through his Argentina jersey! He glances at his night stand, where several empty cans of Guaraná -- the most Brazilian of soft drinks -- sit atop it.

"What a horrible nightmare," he says to himself. "I must stop drinking so much Guaraná. I'm becoming a bit Brazilian."

In people's wildest dreams -- or nightmares -- they never could have foreseen this: For a payment of about $350,000, Maradona agreed to appear in this TV ad for Guaraná, one of the main sponsors of the Brazilian national team!

"Wearing the jersey of Brazil is profanity!" wrote an Argentinean daily.

"But how on earth could he stay there, singing their national anthem?" asked a popular talk show in Buenos Aires. "It's more than betrayal, it's the end!"

While such good humor shows Maradona's progress, the commerical itself has sparked a fervor in Argentina, which has seen its fiercest rival, Brazil, qualify for five straight World Cup finals. Only success in Germany, where Brazil will be overwhelming favorites this summer, can ease this slight.

I'm still trying to figure out my predictions. But looking at that potential lineup -- a diverse backline of Ayala, Colloccini, Samuel and Heinze; Cambiasso doing the midfield dirty work, sleepy Riquelme tying the ends together, warrior Tevez surging forward into an attack consisting of Messi, the silky second-coming, and the blunt power of Crespo -- has me seriously considering Argentina, if I can find a way to believe in Abbondancieri in goal.

One month and 6,001 miles to go

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Ok, here we are, slogging away in the office in Ventura, Calif. Exactly one month from tonight, I'll be exactly 6,001 miles away as the crow flies, at Allianz Arena in Munich for the opening match of the 2006 World Cup between host Germany and Costa Rica.

The Germans call the $343 million, year-old stadium, which houses Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich and second division 1860 Munich, the "Schlauchboot," which means inflatable raft.

As you can see, the moniker is apt:

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But we don't start our trip stranded north of the Bavarian alps. We start it here in the Ventura County Star's newsroom, on a keyboard, surrounded by a sea of faxes and magazines and books and open browser tabs as I attempt to make some sense out of this tournament as the May 15 roster deadline bears down upon the 32 coaches.

The goal of this weblog will be to expand the Bayern Mundial experience to those unable to spend the summer in Germany. Even before a ball is kicked for real this summer, "Cup o'Joe" will have touched down in Cary, Hartford, Boston, Zurich and Hamburg. And you can be right there along with us with the US and Mexican national teams.

Two summers ago, I shared a villa on the Portuguese shores northwest of Lisbon with 10 of my closest friends for Euro 2004, one of the more exciting football tournaments in recent memory.

This summer, you're all invited.

Joe Curley
Soccer columnist
Ventura County Star

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College Sports Blog
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Ventura County Star sports writer and columnist Joe Curley covers college sports and soccer for this Star. This is the place to click for local college football and basketball coverage, including USC, UCLA, Moorpark College, Ventura College and Cal Lutheran.

Curley will update from live events and also interject with periodic comment on both international soccer and the local Ventura County Fusion.
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