Archive for August, 2008

Nike Live: The Fabio Cannavaro Show

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Ever since Cesc Fabregas took all the plaudits with his very own TV show, fans across Europe have been wondering who’ll be next to hit the silver screen. Now the wait is over, as the lovely Giorgia Surina and Italian comic group Trio Medusa kick off The Fabio Cannavaro Show.

Note that unlike Fabregas’, this show was a one-night event which aired for the first time on May 21st (i.e. before Euro 2008), on the Italian digital TV channel Sky Sport. However, the Nikefootball lads have only recently uploaded it on YouTube, graciously providing English subtitles.


SoccerPro – A Review

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Not so long ago, I was contacted by a certain Travis from, offering me to test their products for free and then post a short review on the site. At first I was suspicious. Like… “where’s the catch”? Do I have to pay hidden fees somewhere? Will they send me some obscure, itchy training jacket which will give me a rash to last a lifetime?

Actually on this one: no catch whatsoever. As Travis clearly explained to me in his introductory email, *I* get to pick the products from their catalogue, and they pay for everything. Shipping included. In turn, they get some publicity on mCalcio with a short review of their article (written by me). Win-win situation, right? Obviously I accepted.

The great thing about someone offering you free stuff though, is that it automatically makes you interested in what they have to offer (and open yourself up to new things). That is, you’re much less likely to say “Oh great :roll: … another door-to-door salesman who wants to unload something on me“. That is how I discovered that SoccerPro is actually a pretty darn cool business, with plenty of things to offer and not limited to soccer merchandise.

Paris SG 1-0 Bordeaux – Or, A Tale on How I Went to the Parc des Princes…

Monday, August 18th, 2008

And so, after a year-long absence from a soccer stadium (the last live match I watched was Chile vs. Nigeria, FIFA U-20 World Cup Quarter-Finals, and only because the tournament took place in Canada), I courageously donned my “soccer fanatic” shirt and went to see Paris Saint Germain vs. Bordeaux Saturday, Day 2 of the French Ligue 1 2008-09 season.

Actually I lied: I was wearing a Montreal Canadians t-shirt which, amidst the hundreds of PSG fans surrounding me, invariably (and appropriately) tagged me as a “fish out of water”. Little did they know that beneath the shirt, a brilliant analytical soccer mind was there to scrutinize, analyse, and report to you on the state of Ligue 1 football…

So right from the get-go, let’s get it out of the way: based what I saw on Saturday, what is the state of French Ligue 1 football? Bad. Boooooring. Soporific. In fact after the first 45 minutes of play, I became progressively terrorized with a thought. The very same which had been plaguing my mind ever since I purchased my €85 ticket (all the cheaper tickets were sold out… for me this was a justifiable expense, since I watch about… I don’t know… ONE live football match every year?): like too many times in the past years in France, this game could end with a 0-0 draw. The horror! The horror!

Fortunately, last year’s Ligue 2 topscorer and new PSG recruit Guillaume Hoarau made my day. His 53rd minute match opener transformed what until then had been a dry, insipid, sorry excuse for a kick-around, into a vibrant and offensive game of footy. Indeed galvanized by their goal, PSG were now turning on the style with fast one-touch plays, while Bordeaux were now forced to push forward in order to equalize. Mind you, I’m not saying this suddenly turned into a match between Brazil and Argentina, but it did actually become interesting to watch. Besides, since I was cheering for Paris (when in Rome…) I was happy they had finally scored.

Nevertheless, as much as I was glad the club achieved a good win (against a Champions League team mind you), it’s sad to notice there is still an abyss between the level of play of Ligue 1 and say… Serie A. I remember watching the French first division back in the day (when I was still living in France), and damnit! I did get excited over the matches!!!! Yet for some reason during the past few years, Ligue 1 became a boring haven for 0-0 scorelines!! How did that happen, I ask!?

Anyways, aside from what we saw on the field, the stadium atmosphere was truly amazing. The supporters chanting, the color of the flares (the smoke, a bit less), the “home crowd” effect were all a wonderful experience, and actually made me wish I could see more live games in the future. Unfortunately, that’s a bit hard in Canada, as I’m not fully ready to go watch the Montreal Impact just yet (it’s painful enough to watch them on TV… )

With that said, allow me to shout a quick “Pariiiiiis est magique“, and leave you to L’Équipe‘s full match report below. Thanks also to my buddies Renaud and Louis for taking the time (and the money… €85… what a folly) to accompany me. As you can tell in the picture below, Louis (far left) was evidently very excited about the match.

Till next year…

(From L’Équipe): New season, new habits. Paris St. Germain launched their home campaign on Saturday evening, and did so in the best of ways by beating Bordeaux (runners-up behind Lyon last year, and once again a Ligue 1 title favorite) with a score of 1-0 at Parc des Princes. The very same stadium in which PSG could only muster 4 wins during 2007-08, was witness to a cynical performance by Paul Le Guen’s team, in particular that of ex-Le Havre striker Guillaume Hoarau who transformed into goal the only real chance that landed in his vicinity. Indeed, last year’s Ligue 2 topscorer was the main reference point for the Parisians, a constant target man in aerial plays as well as passes on the ground, and proved to be essential for PSG’s thrust to victory.

It was really too bad for Bordeaux, because at the time they conceded the goal (minute 53) the Girondins had dominated (and continued to dominate) most of the game. Despite a lot of ball possession however, it took the away team as much as 30 minutes before striking their first shot on target, a Fernando Menegazzo blast that tested the reflexes of Mickaël Landreau. It was, in effect, the only real chance of the half also because of the lack of initiative demonstrated by both teams. Ex-Caen striker Yoan Gouffran could not provide much to the attacking cause (partly because, due to his cancelled transfer to the Paris club this Summer, he was constantly booed by the home crowd whenever he touched the ball), while on-loan AC Milan midfielder Yoann Gourcuff appeared much less inspired than the previous week.

As for Paris SG, the home team was way to timid in the first half and this despite the presence of playmakers like Jérome Rothen, Stéphane Sessegnon and a certain Ludovic Giuly (fresh from his transfer from AS Roma). As for newly-appointed captain Claude Makelele, his defensive work was productive… his passing a bit less. With the ex-Chelsea midfielder lacking the support of Jérémy Clément (left on the bench in favor of Clément Chantôme), PSG were severely deficient in creativity and the only first half chances they could muster were a mid-range Giuly volley (deflected by the Bordeaux defense) and shot by Sessegnon miles over the bar.

After the break however, Paris only needed 8 minutes to take the lead. Recovering the ball on the edge of the Bordeaux box, Armand’s good pressuring work permitted him to deliver a pinpoint pass for Guillame Hoarau, and the Ligue 2 topscorer had no trouble in beating Ramé with a left-footed instep. 1-0 Paris SG.

The match opener was a welcome novelty for the Parc des Princes crowd, who could now enjoy bits of open, attacking football. Indeed taking the lead had “woken up” the Parisians, who were now executing well-calibrated passes and exploiting the vivacity of Sessegnon and Giuly in the offensive zone. Bordeaux were now forced to take risks in order to equalize, but while maintaining much of the ball possession (especially in the final 15 minutes) Laurent Blanc’s team lacked the precision necessary to put the ball in the net: Landreau was quite attentive on shots by Wendel (59th minute free-kick) and Cavenaghi (70th minute one-on-one), thus allowing his team to retain the lead until the full-time whistle.

It will probably be a long one, but PSG’s home season started well this year…


Paris Saint-Germain FC PARIS SG-BORDEAUX
[Match Highlights]
 FC Girondins de Bordeaux
GOALSCORERS: 52’ Hoarau (P)
PARIS SG (4-4-1-1): Landreau – Ceara, Z.Camara, Sakho, Armand – Giuly (84′ Pancrate), Makelele, Chantome, Rothen (90′ Clément) – Sessegnon (78′ Sankharé) – Hoarau. (Coach: Paul Le Guen).
BORDEAUX (4-4-2): Ramé – Chalmé, Jurietti (71′ Obertan), S.Diawara, Henrique – Fernando, A.Diarra (86′ Trémoulinas), Gourcuff, Wendel – Gouffran (71′ Bellion), Cavenaghi. (Coach: Laurent Blanc).


AC Milan 4-1 Juventus: Rossoneri Win Trofeo Berlusconi 2008

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Sunday was a sad day for Italian soccer, as one of the most charismatic club presidents of Serie A passed away. In things of this nature there is no club distinction: we are all bound by the same love for the beautiful game, and when one of us leaves the family it’s always a sad moment. He might have had a big mouth sometimes, but he was loved by many especially in the capital, as he was the symbol of AS Roma’s return to top European football and the man steering the boat to Scudetto nº3. R.I.P. Franco Sensi, and my sincerest and heartfelt condolences to his family.

This almost makes the evening match between AC Milan and Juventus seem insignificant, but let’s just go over briefly about what happened in the annual pre-season’s Trofeo Luigi Berlusconi.

(From Gazzetta): MILAN, 17 August 2008 – After spending most of the summer accumulating embarassing losses through Europe, Milan wanted to play a good match in front of their home crowd Sunday night. Mission accomplished I guess, as Juventus was defeated 4-1 in the Luigi Berlusconi Trophy, the traditional August tournament played at San Siro between Rossoneri and Bianconeri. Juve wanted to confirm their good run of form, which they did (for a while at least) as they pushed the Rossoneri against the ropes for a good part of the first half. The 90th-minute 3-goal deficit however pales in comparison to the worse news of the evening: Giorgio Chiellini’s injury (apparently a twisted/sprained knee), which will put the Juve center-back out of commission for a minimum of 40 days.

LINE-UPS – Pippo Inzaghi was expected back in the forward line for Milan, but it was actually Alberto Paloschi getting the start instead. Christian Abbiati was in goal for the Rossoneri, an essential “tested” element behind a “not-so-tested” center-back duo formed by Bonera-Favalli (who all in all, didn’t do too badly). Marek Jankulovski and Gianluca Zambrotta completing the defensive line. In midfield, Gattuso, Pirlo, Flamini and Ambrosini occupied 4-man line, while playmaking power was left into the expert feet of Clarence Seedorf (who our friends over at the Juve Offside call the “Black Pavel Nedved” -and considering the never-ending runs Seedorf makes, that’s quite an apt comparison).

On the other end, Claudio Ranieri had to deal with (minor) injuries to Iaquinta, Camoranesi, and Trezeguet, thus forcing the Juve manager to load up on a lot of Primaveras. At the back, goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti (later relayed by Alex Manninger) allowed Buffon to take one turn of rest, while the defensive line was composed of Grygera-Chiellini-Mellberg-Molinaro. In midfield, Poulsen, Sissoko, and Nedved occupied the bottom part of a diamond formation, while Ranieri gave Tiago his umpteenth chance, putting him as offensive mid behind forwards Amauri and Del Piero.

JUVE DOMINATION – The first few minutes of the match were all Juve: quick passes, floating balls, a perfect emulation of the playing style exhibited against Artmedia Bratislava. Alessandro Del Piero’s backheel for Grygera (unable to finish the play) was just the tip of the iceberg for AC Milan, because the Rossoneri were virtually inexistent in attack and missing a boatload of easy passes (thus rendering useless the choice of operating on counters). In minute 18, a splendid assist from Del Piero to Amauri was transformed into goal by the Brazilian, but the linesman (erroneously) flagged for offside. Was it a sign of things to come for Juve? Not exactly.

TURNING POINT- All Milan needed to turn the match around was a bit of “push”, and Chimenti gave them just that. It all happened in the 21st minute, when Jankulovski (after one of his trademark forward runs), tried a left-footed blast from 20 metres. It looked central… and it was, but the Juventus goalkeeper seemed to ignore the ball (or failed to deflect it, it’s really hard to tell) and the ball went in. The result: a goal, an almost surprising 1-0 that would become 2-0 just four minutes later. Milan’s second goal was primarily the work of Clarence Seedorf who, receiving a bad pass from Pirlo, had to run all the way towards the left sideline to recover it. A couple of dribbles later however, the ball was on its way over the Juventus defence and toward Massimo Ambrosini‘s noggin. 2-0 Milan, highlighted also by an Ambro-goalpost collision.

GIORGIO’S KNEE GOES CRACK – Bad news for Juve; not only they were losing but the real disaster was yet to come. Ten minutes from the break, Chiellini made a bad move with his left leg as he attempted to challenge Gattuso for the ball. Crack, sprained knee, and player down. It rapidly became clear that this was a serious injury, especially when the Italian defender left the pitch in tears and in a stretcher. Nicola Legrottaglie came on to replace him, and almost immediately turned into a super-sub with a great chance to score on a header.

SUPER PIPPO CLOCKS IN – With Chiellini’s injury marking the night, Filippo Inzaghi‘s season debut (early in the second half) was left a bit in the background. However, the Milan striker decided he was going make his presence felt quickly. His goal was a carbon copy of Ambrosini’s, with Seedorf running the ball on the left and waiting for the right time to deliver it to Super Pippo, who then only needed a touch to catch Manninger (who had replaced Chimenti in the second half) by surprise. 3-0 Milan.

YOUNGN’S TIME – As Milan increased their lead to three, “big-names-Juve” became “young-talent-Juve”. Perhaps Chiellini’s accident instilled some fear into him, but Claudio Ranieri decided to take Del Piero, Tiago (once again disappointing), Nedved and Sissoko off the pitch to replace them with S.Esposito, F.Rossi, Ekdal and Pasquato. The latter easily overtook Bonera in minute 70, and blasted a shot that Dida (on for Abbiati) did not expect: 3-1, and Juve were back in the game.

Indeed, this baby-Vecchia Signora (perfect oxymoron) was incredibly energetic and within minutes, managed to obtain another two great chances (a missed penalty call for a foul on Ekdal, and a point-blank double blast by Amauri and Pasquato) that only bad luck did not see finalized. Energetic and perhaps too much, because Milan only needed a breakaway to tip the scales. Receiving the ball in the Juve box, Inzaghi patiently waited for Ambrosini‘s run and slipped him the ball, allowing the Rossoneri captain (Maldini was absent) to hit the top of the net with a left kick. 4-1 Milan and two goals for Ambro, veritable manna in this time of striker draught.

As the ref called full time, this was the right epilogue for the Rossoneri: a match which symbolized their recovery from a lethargic summer. Juve on the other hand (as well as Marcello Lippi, who called Legrottaglie in replacement), are now worried about Chiellini.


[Match Highlights]
 Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 21’ Jankulovski (M), 25’, 89’ Ambrosini (M), 52’ Inzaghi (M), 70’ Pasquato (J).
MILAN(4-4-1-1): Abbiati (46’ Dida) – Zambrotta (65’ Oddo), Bonera (86’ Darmian), Favalli, Jankulovski (82’ Antonini) – Gattuso (70’ Brocchi), Flamini, Pirlo, Ambrosini (84’ Cardacio) – Seedorf (76’ Viudez) – Paloschi (46’ Inzaghi). Coach: Ancelotti.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Chimenti (46’ Manninger) – Grygera, Mellberg, Chiellini (36′ Legrottaglie), Molinaro – Sissoko (62’ S.Esposito), Poulsen, Tiago (62’ Pasquato), Nedved (46’ Ekdal) – Del Piero (62’ F.Rossi), Amauri. Coach: Ranieri.


Italy 2-3 Belgium: Azzurrini Say Goodbye to Beijing… (OLYMPICS 2008)

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Italy 2-3 Belgium: the Azzurrini’s Olympic adventure ends in the Quarter-Finals. And it’s such a shame too, because the gold medal (which talent-wise was well within the Azzurrini’s reach, also because Brazil/Argentina were on the opposite side of the table) will remain a mirage for Casiraghi’s boys. Dominating most of the game against a tough, organized Belgian side (who played over 60 minutes with 10 men due to Vermaelen’s early red card), the Italians could not make full use of their numerical advantage, conceding three goals in a single game (after conceding none in the group stage) and forcing Giuseppe Rossi & friends to an early departure from the tournament.

And so, after the Women’s foil team and Men’s Water Polo, Italy gets another disappointment from Beijing today, partly due to their own demerits (too many mistakes in defense, wrong attitude on the field) and partly because of controversial reffing decisions (South Korea 2002 would perhaps too risky a comparison, but let’s just say Belgium’s first goal did not cross the line and that Italy were denied two clear penalty shots in the 2nd half). I won’t play the conspiracy theory card, but surely one expected better from an Olympic tournament…

(From Gazzetta): BEIJING (China), 16 August 2008 – After getting a glimpse of gold (or at least, the possibility of playing for it), Italy failed before they had the chance to try. The Azzurrini were sent packing in the quarter-finals, despite having two penalties awarded to them and almost one hour of one-man advantage. Belgium proved to be the feared squad the Italians had anticipated: strong, intelligent and with talented players rising above the rest (in particular Moussa Dembélé, who scored two goals, and Kevin Mirallas). As much as Belgium played well though, Italy allowed their opponents too much freedom at the wrong time. And when the dagger struck, it was an ice-cold shower for the Italians… a real blow. Based on what we saw in 90 minutes of play though, it can’t be considered a scandal.

To say the least, Italy’s first half had nothing in common with the performance we saw in their first two matches, when the team had played a free albeit organised game, giving room to showcase their talent but always maintaining a good tactical balance. Today during the first 45 minutes, this proved their main falling point (alongside a serious lack of lucidity): the Azzurri were too nervous, made too many mistakes, had too many players away from their positions, and all this despite the positive turn the match had taken in minute 17.

BELGIAN RED CARD - Except for one player (Motta for De Silvestri at right-back), Casiraghi had selected the same line-up he used vs. Honduras. The rest remained the same: Viviano in goal; defensive line formed by Bocchetti & Criscito in the center, De Ceglie on the left; Cigarini in midfield with Montolivo and Nocerino on the flanks; and in front Acquafresca supported by Rossi and Giovinco. Speaking of, the Juventus player had the chance to open the score just after 6 minutes of play, but his close-range effort on a good Montolivo cross ended on the outside of the goal mesh. Eleven minutes later, the possible turning point: through on goal, Robert Acquafresca was restrained and knocked down by Vermaelen right in front of the Belgian goalkeeper. The clear goalscoring opportunity meant penalty for Italian and a red card for Belgium. Joe Red stepped up for the spot-shot, and the Azzurrini were in the lead. 1-0 Italy.

EARLY MISTAKE – Belgium were thus reduced to play with 10 men for over an hour, but right after their lead (and for a good 20 minutes after that) Italy could not benefit from the numerical superiority. The equalizing goal they conceded just 7 minutes later did not help either. Moussa Dembélé headed in a corner-kick straight at Cigarini, and although the ball had not fully crossed the line (see image below and KwSport sequence here) the linesman raised his flag to signal a goal. Hard to tell, right? In these cases, advantage is given to the defensive team… but 1-1 nevertheless.

Eventually a few minutes before the break, Italy regrouped and finally got within the Belgium danger-zone. In minute 43, Giovinco had the chance to return Italy’s lead (exploiting an error by the Belgian defence) but the Bianconero’s diagonal shot was too wide. Close, but no cigar. Actually, the ones smoking it would be the Belgians, deep into stoppage time: Kevin Mirallas received with his back to the net, and with no interference from Bocchetti managed to turn and put the ball past Viviano. 2-1 Belgium.

There was plenty of time left for an Italian comeback, but first half cold shower had left Casiraghi’s team frigid and uninspired. Despite a clear domination in ball possession, the Azzurrini didn’t get back in the game until minute 73, when Argentine referee Baldassi finally called a foul inside the Belgian box (De Roover & Vanden Borre “sandwich” on De Ceglie). Just before that, two very suspicious trips on Rossi and Abate had been virtually ignored (actually, Rossi received a yellow card for diving). Joe Red stepped up again and scored his second P.K. of the night. 2-2.

Still playing 11 on 10, the Azzurini were definitely expected to push for victory at this point but once more, Belgium managed to pull the chair out from under them. On a well-executed (or poorly defended by the Azzurri, whichever you prefer) counter-attack, Dembelé overtook four Italian players and finished with a strong left-footer inside Viviano’s net. 3-2 Belgium. Italian morale down the drain. To add insult to injury, Viviano lost his cool after the goal and was shown a red card for chasing and tugging Mirallas (who had… inadvertently…(?) thrown the ball in his face).

During the last fifteen minutes of play (including stoppage time) the Italians were eagerly trying to even the score, but now that numerical superiority was over, Belgium’s iron curtain was more efficient than ever. The Italian dream was thus (and much earlier than expected) over. On the upside, Serie A teams will be glad to get their players back. Magra consolazione, as they say…


 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio ITALY-BELGIUM
[Match Highlights]
Belgium FA (KBVB/URBSFA: Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond, Union Royale Belge des Societés de Football Association)
GOALSCORERS: 18’ pen., 74’ pen. Rossi (I), 24’, 79’ Dembele (B), 45’ Mirallas (B)
ITALY (4-3-2-1): Viviano – Motta (80’ Consigli), Bocchetti, Criscito, De Ceglie – Montolivo, Cigarini (61’ Abate, 83’ Candreva), Nocerino – G.Rossi, Giovinco – Acquafresca. (bench: Dessena, Coda, De Silvestri, Russotto). Coach: Casiraghi
BELGIUM (4-2-3-1): Bailly (68’ Ma-Kalambay) – De Roover, Simaeys, Vermaelen, Pocognoli – Haroun, Vertonghen – De Mul (94’ Mulemo), Dembele, Martens (65’ Vanden Borre) – Mirallas. (bench: De Winter, Odidja-Ofoe, Ciman, Fellain). Coach: De Sart.