Psycho killer

Stuart Pearce pinned the blame on his Under-21 players and refused to defend them after they suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat by Israel that means they depart the European Championship finals bottom of Group A and without a point. In short, pointless and clueless.

Sounding like a man who knew his time was up, Pearce made no attempt to hide his anger after England’s worst performance at an Under-21 tournament.

“I’m not coming out here and defending anyone. I’m sick to the back teeth of doing that in this tournament,” Pearce said. “The standard we’ve set ourselves over a three-year period is a million miles away from what we’ve shown in this period. I honestly don’t believe I should be here answering questions on behalf of [the players].

“They should be here answering questions on why their performances were so poor. I don’t think it’s my responsibility at this stage to answer for a performance as bad as that.

“The basics – holding possession of the ball, passing it and moving it, wanting to get into shape when the opposition have the ball – we’ve been really poor.”

Pearce is set to meet the Club England management board next week to discuss his position. It promises to be a brief meeting.

“In regard to my future my mentality has not changed in 10 days. Results in this tournament have not affected that one iota,” said Pearce, whose impressive record in qualifying for major finals (4 our of 4) has been overshadowed by some lamentable performances when England eventually get there. Pearce’s record at the last four European Under-21 Championships reads: played 15, won 3, drawn 1, lost 7.

Cream of the crop

Pearce is expected to relinquish his role immediately, and while he will take more than his fair share of blame for England’s poor showing, he will no doubt point to the dearth of talent available to both him and Roy Hodgson, the coach of England’s senior team.

Further ‘proof’of the current lowly standing of English footballers comes with today’s publication of Bloomberg Sports Power Football 50 list, purporting to identify Europe’s top 50 players ranked according to new performance statistics.

The list says it uses scientifically-based analysis to evaluate players on skills relevant to their position and finds room for just two English players, neither of whom make the top ten.

Everton left-back Leighton Baines is the top English player at 16, while Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is in 26th position.

Now for the science bit.

“We continue to look at new ways to use analytics that will be interesting to fans, and are pleased today to unveil what we believe will be a game-changer in the way professional football is looked at in the future with the ‘Power Football 50,’” said Bill Squadron, President of Bloomberg Sports.

“Analytics is becoming more and more prevalent in both the minds of the fans and in the decision making power of the clubs, and we are confident this index will help both stir healthy debate and be a great measuring stick for player evaluation going forward.”

Well, before we go anywhere, let’s look at the current list. Most of Europe’s big players are there, Lionel Messi heads the list, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery, but there are some strange anomalies.

For instance, how can it be possible that Andres Iniesta, current holder of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, fails to make the top 50, while his compatriot, Santiago Cazorla, who enjoyed a solid but unspectacular season at Arsenal, makes it into the top ten? Iniesta topped the assist table for Spain last season, five more than Cazorla who trailed Chelsea’s Juan Mata – another strange omission – at the head of the Premier League table.

Top 50:

1

Lionel Messi Barcelona

91.25

2

Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid

91.16

3

Franck Ribery Bayern Munich

89.27

4

Marco Reus Borussia Dortmund

89.10

5

Andrea Pirlo Juventus

88.62

6

Robin van Persie Manchester United

88.14

7

Giorgio Chiellini Juventus

87.46

8

Marek Hamsik Napoli

87.01

9

Gareth Bale Tottenham

87.01

10

Santiago Cazorla Arsenal

86.37

11

Arturo Vidal Juventus

86.19

12

Marouane Fellaini Everton

85.92

13

Maxime Gonalons Lyon

85.89

14

Bastian Schweinsteiger Bayern Munich

85.88

15

Luis Suarez Liverpool

85.49

16

Leighton Baines Everton

85.11

17

Mesut Ozil Real Madrid

84.75

18

Jan Vertonghen Tottenham

84.25

19

Thomas Muller Bayern Munich

83.96

20

Edinson Cavani Napoli

83.78

21

Rafael Manchester United

83.33

22

Toni Kroos Bayern Munich

83.19

23

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Paris Saint Germain

82.91

24

Juan Mata Chelsea

82.26

25

Xavi Barcelona

81.97

26

Wayne Rooney Manchester United

81.95

27

Kwadwo Asamoah Juventus

81.51

28

Christian Abbiati Milan

81.27

29

Christian Benteke Aston Villa

81.03

30

Falcao Atletico Madrid

80.78

31

Dante Bayern Munich

80.52

32

Mario Gotze Borussia Dortmund

80.39

33

Hugo Campagnaro Napoli

80.10

34

Jefferson Farfan Schalke

79.89

35

Oliver Sorg Freiburg

79.72

36

Erik Lamela Roma

79.56

37

Robert Lewandowski Borussia Dortmund

79.11

38

Phillipp Lahm Bayern Munich

78.54

39

Gonzalo Higuain Real Madrid

78.52

40

Dani Alves Barcelona

78.15

41

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Saint Etienne

77.98

42

Yaya Toure Manchester City

77.86

43

Kevin Constant AC Milan

77.81

44

Stefan Kiessling Bayer Leverkusen

77.42

45

Mikel Arteta Arsenal

77.26

46

Simon Mignolet Sunderland

76.87

47

Antonio Di Natale Udinese

76.55

48

Alexander Meier Eintracht Frankfurt

76.21

49

Mathieu Valbuena Marseille

76.06

50

Ron-Robert Zieler Hannover

75.88

Neanderthal man

Australia coach Holger Osieck has apologised after saying “women should shut up in public” following the his side’s World Cup qualifying victory over Jordan in Melbourne.

Osieck made the comment prior to his post-match news conference after the 4-0 win on Tuesday, with the German adding ”I’m going to be the darling of all Australian wives” after discovering the cameras were already rolling.

On Wednesday, Osieck apologised before departing for Sydney where Australia play their final qualifier at home to Iraq on Tuesday.

“I got information it created waves. That was not the intent. To everyone offended, I sincerely apologise,” the German was quoted as saying by SBS.

“It was off the record and… a complete misunderstanding… it was more meant as a joke. There was no seriousness in it.

“We shouldn’t take any remark (like this) literally.”

Osieck was told where to sit for the news conference by an official leading to him saying “you push me around like my wife.”

Osieck, 64, then offered a phrase in Latin which he translated as “women should shut up in public” which drew groans from journalists.

“I say it to my wife at home, it’s a private one,” the German added, all the while, digging the hole that little bit deeper.

War zone?

Togo players are refusing to play a World Cup qualifier in Libya after violence there led to dozens of deaths over the weekend and prompted FIFA to move Friday’s game from Benghazi to the capital, Tripoli.

The African nation have already lost midfielder Alexis Romao of Marseille and striker Jonathan Ayite of Brest, both of whom flew back to France from Togo, citing security worries as their reason for not wanting to travel to Libya. Now, the Togolese players want the match moved out of Libya altogether.

On Saturday, 31 people were killed in clashes in Benghazi, where the Libya-Togo match was scheduled to be played. The violence occurred just a day after Libya drew 0-0 with Congo in World Cup qualifying, the first competitive match in the country since the uprising that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi.

FIFA granted Libya permission to play games at home again in April.

Togo football has been affected by recent tragedies; a helicopter crash at Sierra Leone’s Lungi International Airport in 2007 in which sports officials, including the country’s sports minister, died and an attack on the team bus in Angola before the 2010 African Nations Cup, when a member of the coaching staff and a team media official were killed.

“After what we went through in Lungi and Cabinda, where some of us died and others (were) injured, you must understand that we are right to refuse to take any risk,” Togo captain Serge Akakpo said.

“We have friends in the Congolese team which played (in Libya) last week and what they told us does not assure us. We want the match to be played outside the country.”

Togo Football Federation official Yvette Klusseh told national television ‘we do understand the players’ and said the federation had asked FIFA to move the game out of Libya.

Goal of the day

Uruguay’s form in the World Cup qualifiers has been patchy at best, and Oscar Tabarez’s side knew that a win over Venezuela was vital if they were to revive their flagging campaign. Step forward one of the big guns, Edinson Cavani, who sidestepped a defender before calmly placing the ball in the corner of the net.

Quote of the day

“They have swallowed us up. We could use nice words about it it, but it is a takeover. It is very sad that the Scottish Football League has had to be a casualty but unfortunately we were left with one option. Did I want to see the end of the Scottish Football League? Absolutely not.”

Scottish Football League (SFL) president Jim Ballantyne denies suggestions that his organisation has ‘merged’ with the Scottish Premier League. The agreement will bring with it the end of 123 years of SFL history.

Trick of the day

This moment during the European Under-21 Championships could have been a contender for Goal of the Day, but the delightful piece of improvisation from Italy’s Andrea Bertolacci deserved a special mention of its own. With his side trailing Norway 1-0 as the match entered injury time and with all routes to goal seemingly blocked, Bertolacci conjured up a moment of magic.

Losing the plot

Argentina’s World Cup clash in Ecuador was marred by a bizarre incident when Javier Mascherano was sent off for kicking the driver of a medical cart.

Mascherano was removed from the the pitch by medical staff after going down due to a tackle.

However, the 29-year-old lost his temper and kicked the cart driver from behind after appearing to be squirted by water.

“I feel ashamed. You must always be against violence,” a contrite Mascherano said afterwards. “The truth is I made a mistake. It is not nice that you get sent off in such a way, and generate such a controversy.”

Asked why he reacted as he did, Mascherano said: “The cart was going too quickly, I was moving around and thought I might fall. We told the medic to go slower, he ignored me and I reacted. But, I repeat, it was not justified.”

Whatever his injury, the midfielder was soon back on his feet again, challenging all-comersto a fight.

It was one of the more unusual dismissals we have seen on a football pitch.

Taxing problems

Lionel Messi has been accused of tax fraud of £3.4million.

A lawsuit was lodged against the Barcelona forward and his father by a state prosecutor for the north eastern region of Catalonia.

Both Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio, are accused of three offences for allegedly defrauding more than £3.4m in income tax returns relating to the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

A judge at the courthouse must accept the prosecutor’s lawsuit before charges can be brought.

Barcelona declined to comment on the lawsuit while Messi expressed his surprise.

He said: “We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about those news, because we have never committed any infringement.

“We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advices of our Tax Consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation.”

Work ethic

New CSKA Sofia coach Hristo Stoichkov is determined to instil hard work and discipline and limit the use of mobile phones and social networking at his former club, he said on Wednesday.

“I can promise the fans discipline,” Stoichkov told reporters. “It’ll be more difficult for the players during the week as they should give their best in training, not only in matches.

“You know that I’m something of a perfectionist and I’ll do everything possible for the good of the club but the players must understand they should work hard in every single training session.”

 Stoichkov, regarded as his country’s greatest ever player, received a rapturous welcome as thousands of fans cheered him and let off flares during the club’s first pre-season training session.

The former European Footballer of the Year, who became CSKA’s fourth coach this year, took over after spells in charge of the Bulgarian national team, Spanish side Celta Vigo, South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and Litex Lovech.

“What matters to me is to fight to win, to do everything to win, I want to teach the players to constantly strive for excellence,” he said. “That’s why I want to see less talk and more work.

 ”We must be focused when we’re working, so the players don’t need to use their phones and Facebookso often.”

The appointment has increased media speculation that CSKA and Litex could merge in an attempt to save costs, with the two clubs already discussing the possibility in January.

“Let’s wait and see,” Stoichkov said. “I don’t want to comment but I hope there’ll be no problem.”

The 47-year-old was most recently in the news fined 7,000 levs (£3000) on Thursday for threatening to beat upBulgarian Football Union (BFU) president Borislav Mihaylov after his Litex Lovech team lost 2-1 at home to Lokomotiv Sofia.

Stoichkov had told reporters: “I’ll catch him somewhere and I’ll beat him up. This will happen.”

His appointment as CSKA does lead one to believe that the lunatic has finally taken over the asylum.