Another fine Messi

Brazilian club Flamengo may challenge Lionel Messi’s calendar year goalscoring record, claiming that former Brazil captain Zico scored 89 goals in 1979.

The news comes just 24 hours after the Zambian FA announced they were aiming to verify that striker Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu scored 107 goals in the 1972 season.

“We are upset. Messi still hasn’t passed the milestone,” Bruno Lucena, head of Flamengo’s research and statistics department, told Brazilian Lance.

Lucena calculated that Zico scored 81 goals for Flamengo in 1979, plus another seven for Brazil and one in a friendly between Argentina and a Rest of the World XI.

He added that Zico missed two months of the season through injury between September and November.

“If he had played for the whole year, he would have scored more than 100 goals,” he said, sounding increasingly desperate.

Lance produced a list of goals scored by Zico in 1979. According to the statistics, he hit six goals in a game on two occasions, four goals in a game once and five hat-tricks.

Messi may soon be in a position to silence the Brazilian claim; on Wednesday he scored his 87th and 88th goals of the year in the King’s Cup last-16 first leg at Cordoba. With two more matches to come in 2012, the odds are that he will eclipse even Zico.

Arch-rivals

There’s no great love lost between Brazil and Argentina and nowhere was this more evident than during Wednesday’s Copa Sudamericana final between Sao Paolo and Tigre.

Brazilians Sao Paulo were crowned the winners of the Copa Sudamericana after Tigre refused to return for the second half. The Argentinian side claimed they had been attacked by Sao Paulo’s gun-wielding private security guards during half time.

The two teams clashed as they left the field for the break with Sao Paulo leading 2-0 thanks to goals from Lucas Moura and Osvaldo.

“For Tigre today was an historic day. The referee told us he was going to suspend the game and ended up doing that.

“It was all a mess, football should be a celebration.”

Tigre coach Nestor Gorosito claimed keeper Damian Albil had a gun pointed at his chest.

He said: “During the break, a big guy came out with a gun.

“Some policemen started to hit some of my players. We tried to defend ourselves. My players fought with the security people for 15 minutes. Then the police arrived and the incidents continued. What happened is disgraceful. There are several players hurt, but none serious.”

Tigre security chief Ruben Pasquini said: “It was an ambush. They were waiting for us.

“Our midfielder Ruben Botta has an injured eye. They put a gun in the chest of Albil. Gaston Diaz was also hurt.”

Tigre president Sergio Massa has described Wednesday night’s abandoned Copa Sudamericana final against Sao Paulo was one of the most shameful days in Brazilian football history.

“It’s one of the most shameful pages in Brazilian football,” he said.

“We came to play a game of football, not a war. All this makes us very sad.”

Still in charge

Arsene Wenger retains the support of Arsenal’s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, and the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis.

The pair have stood by him, despite recent setbacks, most notably the Premier League defeats at Norwich City and against Swansea City at home, and they will continue to do so despite Tuesday’s humiliating Capital One Cup penalty shootout defeat to Bradford City of League Two.

Gazidis did, however, apologise to Arsenal fans on Wednesday night for the defeat at Bradford, saying it was “not good enough”.

“I think I am frankly tired of getting up here and delivering the same message,” the chief executive said at a Christmas drink with Arsenal supporters. “Last night was not good enough and it made us all upset and angry. I would like to apologise to all of you, especially the fans who travelled up there. It was unbelievable support as ever and you deserved better.

“That is something we will work hard to put right. We all work here and are desperate to deliver the success and trophies we all want. Look into the eyes of the staff here, look at the way they talk. We will get this right.”

Having heard the same line for 7 years now, one wonders at what point the fans start to vote with their feet.

Goal of the day

Christian Bustos for Celta Vigo in their 2-1 Kings Cup win over Real Madrid.

Quote of the day

“I think Torquay gave us a tougher game. It was like a role reversal against them. Torquay defended well against us and we defended really well against Arsenal. The lads were unbelievable.”

To add insult to injury to Arsenal, Gary Jones, skipper of their Capital One Cup conquerors, Bradford City, believes that his side endured a tougher time this season against League Two rivals Torquay United.

Loneliness of the long distance fan

A football fan has attracted international attention after being the only supporter to show up to watch his club play an away game in Serie A.

Udinese fan Arrigo Brovedani was the club’s sole supporter in Genoa for the match against Sampdoria.

Mr Brovedani told the BBC he expected a small turnout from Udinese but he didn’t expect that it would consist of just him.

“But I went there thinking I’d find five or six other people,” the Udinese fan said, clearly anticipating a party.

“I went into the stadium while they [Udinese] were warming up. I shouted and said ‘hi’ to the team.

“When I went in the local fans booed me, I felt a bit offended.

“But in the end they clapped and invited me for coffee and a meal, and the club managers gave me a shirt. They wished me a merry Christmas.”

Mr Brovedani was in Genoa on business, so it’s correct to state that there was not one travelling supporter for this fixture.

“I like the stadium there, it’s very similar to English stadiums,” he said. “I always take my flag and scarf around – they’re always in the car with me.”

Luckily for Mr Brovedani, Udinese won the match 2-0 and the team dedicated their victory to their only fan. He has been invited to attend its next home match on Saturday.

Summer breeze

Qatar’s World Cup organisers have pledged to hold the 2022 tournament in the summer despite calls for it to move to a time of the year when players are less likely to evaporate.

UEFA president Michel Platini, who voted for Qatar without really thinking about the consequences, has been campaigning for the tournament to be held in winter months rather than the absurd heat of the summer.

However, Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of the Qatar 2022 supreme committee, insists they are determined to stage the tournament in the summer and that plans have been made to develop air-conditioned stadiums and also areas for fans to cope with the searing temperatures.

“Fans will come. They will experience a middle eastern World Cup,” Al Thawadi told the Guardian. “They will feel safe, they will feel secure, they will feel comfortable and they will have a lot of fun.”

And that’s an order!

“They will be physically cool and they will be cool in every sense.,” added Al Thawadi somewhat bemusingly.

“There are two cities where the neighbourhoods use active and passive cooling techniques, whether in terms of shading or the way it brings in the wind.

“Blowing in the cooled air is the active aspect but at the same time utilising shading techniques. Part of our commitment is that when fans come in they’ll enjoy their time here. We made that commitment to the world and we can’t back away from it.”

Many years ago, film producer Lew Grade was asked about the exorbitant cost of making the film ‘Raise The Titanic‘; “it would,” he quipped, “have been cheaper to have lowered the Atlantic.”

I was reminded of this whilst contemplating the cost of introducing the cooling technology at Qatar 2022; the thought occurs that it would be cheaper to change the weather.

Taking it on the chin

Jose Mourinho was unusually gracious in defeat on Wednesday night, after watching his Real Madrid side lose their Copa del Rey clash at Celta Vigo.

Trailing 2-0, Madrid were grateful to Cristiano Ronaldo whose strike with four minutes left gave the visitors hope ahead of the return leg.

“I liked how Celta played and I think that they deserved to win the match,” said Mourinho. “The result reflects what happened on the pitch, but perhaps they didn’t do enough to merit scoring twice and neither did we to merit scoring once.

“They deserved to win the match, but I still think we are favourites to win the tie and I’d like to think that we will go through.

“There is no great drama, everything is still to be played for and we know they are a good team. I’d rather lose here today than to do it in the league because we can do something about this.”

Mourinho was less effusive about several, unnamed, members of his squad, adding: “There are players who disappointed me, but I will not speak about anyone directly.

“I think that it would have been better if (Alvaro) Morata was here, he is still a little bit green but he has ambition, wants to give his best and is entitled to make mistakes.

“I make the decisions and it is my responsibility. I think we saw the same match and you can criticise the coach and his decisions, but maybe it is not always only the coach who has to take responsibility. I take mine.”

There’s almost a demob-happy, carefree air to Mourinho at the moment. Clearly, the reports about him leaving Madrid in the summer are working wonders for his state of mind.

Party time

Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata believes Sunday’s Club World Cup final between his side and Brazilian outfit Corinthians will be a “football party.”

The Spaniard opened the scoring with a well-taken goal and forced an own-goal for the third as the Blues ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Mexican side Monterrey to seal a spot in the final.

Mata admits that Rafael Benitez’s men are taking the competition seriously and was happy with the way they applied themselves against Monterrey.

“I am so glad today for winning, the way that we won, for us it’s a very important tournament we want to win this trophy, to be world champions on Sunday and we will do our best to win,” he told BBC Sport.

“I am very happy with the goal and the result, I think we started really well, we were really focused on scoring more goals and we did. 3-1 is a good result for us.

“We have confidence about winning but we know Corinthians are one of the best teams in South America,” he said. “It will be a football party and hopefully we will win.”

Chelsea, as they did en route to their Champions League triumph last season, will play the role of the poopers.

Finally…

Police have arrested six players from Bulgarian first division club Chernomorets Burgas and five from their city rivals Neftochimik  for questioning in an investigation into alleged match-fixing.

“I can confirm that 11 players were arrested for match-fixing,” a spokeswoman for the interior ministry said. “All of them are Bulgarians.”

She said that the initial investigation was prompted by signs of illegal betting but refused to divulge more details.

Local media reported that Chernomorets’s Rumen Trifonov and his team mate Preslav Yordanov were taken in handcuffs from the police station in Burgas and driven to an undisclosed destination.

“Our coach Dimitar Dimitrov told me that a few players had been arrested,” Chernomorets owner Mitko Sabev said. “We’re sure that they didn’t manipulate Chernomorets games.”

Neftochimik coach Dimcho Nenov said he was not aware that any players had been questioned and confirmed that all players took part in Thursday’s training session.

In September, Bulgaria’s prosecutor opened an investigation into claims of match-fixing in four domestic games this season.

 

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