Death of a Wales fan
Several countries secured qualification for the Euro 2012 finals after last night’s matches. Spain, Italy and the Holland are all assured of a place in Poland and Ukraine next summer, while England are virtually there following a 1-0 win over Wales.
It was an unconvincing England performance, but the result was overshadowed by the death before the match of a Wales fan. The man in question, a 44-year-old Cardiff City fan, was assaulted – allegedly by fellow Welsh fans – and suffered a fatal heart attack.
All in the name of a game of football.
Miss of the day
Wales’ players did their support proud, causing some uncomfortable moments for a nervy English defence, none more so than when Robbie Earnshaw found himself unmarked in front of an empty goal. It really was easier to score.
Here’s a bird’s eye view (almost literally) of the miss that will ensure plenty of sleepless nights in the Earnshaw household.
Goals of the day
On a brighter note there was a fine individual performance last night from Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri. The Albanian-born winger scored a marvellous hat-trick in his country’s 3-1 win over Bulgaria. Every goal was a beauty.
Save of the day
Ireland’s defensive stalwart Richard Dunne put in an immense performance in Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Russia in Moscow. If Giovanni Trapattoni’s side do make it next year’s finals, they may well look back on this goal line clearance by Dunne as the the pivotal moment in their campaign.
Club v country
Enjoy these international moments while you can, because the chances are they’re members of a dying breed.
If leading European clubs get their way the number of international fixtures will be cut considerably. Actually, let’s be honest here: if leading European clubs did have their way there would be no such thing as international football.
The European Club Association (ECA) have demanded FIFA end “nonsense” international friendlies, halve the number of international dates and give the clubs a greater say in the game’s future.
Bayern Munich chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the ECA’s Dark Prince and chief enforcer, stated: “I believe that we are the most important stakeholder in football. Without our players, our employees, paid exclusive by the clubs, you cannot run the business. Everybody believes it is time that governing bodies recognise that clubs have to be included in the decision-making process.
“Everything in the international calendar is balanced in favour of national teams. [Qualifying groups] used to have groups of four, now it is six or seven. It has to be stopped that we release players for nonsense dates.”
Rummenigge denied that the ECA were looking to breakaway from FIFA and UEFA if their demands were not met.
You’ll have to wait for ECA’s next meeting for that threat to be made.
Rarely does a day go by without someone having a go at FIFA. Today is no exception, with Australia’s Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib, claiming his country would no longer consider bidding to host major tournaments until FIFA had reformed itself.
Australian cynicism is understandable. The country bid to host the 2022 World Cup finals, but lost out to that hotbed of football, Qatar.
“Knowing what we know, without reform of the FIFA organisation (and) reform of the bidding process, no government would want to put funds into any bidding process,” he told ABC radio.
“FIFA need to clean up their game and, until they do, no government should have confidence in their processes.”
Losing the plot
Queens Park Rangers new owner Tony Fernandes seems to be enjoying his time in the limelight. No sooner had he taken the reins at the recently-promoted Premier League club, than he confessed his desire to sign David Beckham.
Fernandes tweeted: “I think having someone like [David] Beckham at the club would be great. Was always in my thoughts.”
Fernandes appears to be the latest victim of the curse of the football owner: previously sane, successful businessman really do lose the plot when they become involved with a football club.
More to life than money
Fluminense boss Abel Braga has revealed he was approached by the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) about their coaching role before Srecko Katanec was dismissed on Tuesday night.
The 59-year-old Brazilian, who guided Al Jazira to last season’s UAE Pro-League title before leaving Dubai for Fluminense, confirmed he had received a financially “absurd” offer to become coach of the national team.
“I received a link to the official proposal. Financially it was absurd. I said ‘no’ because I like a club with serious people,” Braga told parana-online.com.
“I’m in my country, my city, next to my family. Anyone who knows me knows that the financial side never weighs in my decision.”
If the offer really is absurd there will be no shortage of takers.
Biting the hand that might feed you
Neymar is doing his prospects of a move to Real Madrid no good at all. A report in El Mundo Deportivo suggests the Spanish club are becoming increasingly annoyed by the player’s oft-quoted enthusiasm and affection for Barcelona.
Neymar had already irritated Real boss José Mourinho and club President Florentino Peréz in an interview on FIFA.com when he praised both the Catalan club and their star player, Lionel Messi.
The 19-year-old followed this up with a message of support to international teammate Dani Alves via his Twitter account before the Supercopa de España against Madrid: “Good luck, brother,” he tweeted.
Now he and Alves are understood to have swapped notes about life at Barcelona. The pair were in London this week for Brazil’s 1-0 victory over Ghana at Craven Cottage on Monday.
Asked by Madrid journalists if he was trying to convince Neymar to move to Barca Alves replied: “I’ve told him Barcelona is a great club and he would be very welcome.”
Mario Balotelli was warmly greeted on his arrival in prison. Don’t worry, he was visiting not staying. The Manchester City striker attended the prison in Florence alongside Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Upon walking into the complex, Balotelli was greeted by embraces, kissing, chanting and cheers of “Super Mario”. Which makes a pleasant change from the racist abuse he normally receives when he’s on duty for his country.
The player seemed genuinely touched by the reception he received.