Mysteries of the universe

After two years scientists at CERN finally appear to have found the elusive Higgs boson particle. Now that this small (dark) matter has been sorted out, perhaps they can focus their energies towards solving another of the great mysteries of the universe. I speak of course about the FIFA rankings.

The latest rankings, published today, show newly-crowned European champions, Spain, consolidating their lead at the top, while Brazil, five-time World Champions and perennially hovering near the summit, drop below Denmark and fall out of the top ten for the first time since the rankings started.

However, it is the lofty position of England, that has caused the most consternation. After an underwhelming Euro 2012, which saw them knocked out at the quarter-final stage, Roy Hodgson’s side have climbed to 4th place in the rankings – their highest ever placing – two places above losing finalists Italy.

How can this be? I understand the mechanics of the rankings, but even a cursory examination of England’s performances over the last few years would offer conclusive proof that this is not the 4th best team in the world. Surely, it’s not beyond the wherewithal of the scientists at CERN to feed the data from England’s most recent performances into the Large Hadron Collider in order to determine the actual ranking this team deserves.

Forget the elusive God particle, how about the delusive FIFA rankings.

Goal of the day

Euro 2012 may have just finished, but the 2012-13 season is already underway. Tuesday marked the commencement of the Champions League campaign that will culminate next May at Wembley.

The opening game featured Luxembourg champions, F91 Dudelange, face their San Marino equivalents, S.P. Tre Penne.

It’s fair to say that neither side will still be around when the business end of the competition gets underway next spring. Dudelange recorded a comfortable 7-0 win over S.P. Tre Penne. It was, unsurprisingly, their biggest win in Europe. For the san Marino outfit, the defeat equalled their biggest ever loss in Europe, a 9-2 reverse in the Europa League.

Quote of the day

“[We are being] bullied, railroaded and lied to. We are being lied to by the Scottish FA and the SPL. We are being threatened and bullied. It is not football as I know it. It was a ridiculous document which came out last week whereby the threat was there that if you don’t vote for an acceptance into the First Division, a breakaway SPL2 will come along and those who didn’t vote wouldn’t be invited. What kind of game are we running here? It is corrupt.” 

Raith Rovers director Turnbull Hutton says clubs in the Scottish Football League are being intimidated in a bid to persuade them to accept a newco Rangers into the First Division.

Stories we couldn’t make up

Milan transfer consultant Pier Silvio Berlusconi, son of owner Silvio Berlusconi has revealed that Liverpool’s Andy Carroll is a future transfer target. I kid you not.

Berlusconi Jnr is president of Mediaset – the company that owns the Serie A side – and has advised the club on transfers in the past.

He said: “This is a new era for Milan.”

One in which they abandon football and focus all their efforts on basketball perhaps?

“We will continue to get younger while maintaining the culture,” he added. “Milan still has its superstars.”

“As a future target I’d like Andy Carroll.

“I must admit that, for his body build, and after seeing his header in the Euros, I would like to have Carroll at Milan.”

It was indeed a colossal header, but did the rest of his performances during the tournament go by unnoticed?

Milan do have a record of signing traditional British centre fowards. Among those who have represented the Rossoneri in the none-too-distant past have been Joe Jordan, Mark Hateley and most improbably Luther Blissett – the latter, according to some, signed by mistake, as the club actually wanted to sign John Barnes. Perhaps something similar has happened with Carroll: the club was looking to diversify into horse racing, and signed Carroll by mistake.

Angst in Anzhi

Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala has criticised UEFA after they judged the team’s Dagestan province home unsafe for Europa League matches.

Anzhi qualified for the competition by finishing fifth in the Russian league last season, but they have been told to find an alternative Russian stadium to host a second qualifying round match on July 19 against Flamurtari Vlore of Albania or Honved of Hungary.

”Such decisions of the UEFA executive committee contradict the values claimed by UEFA,” Anzhi general director Aivaz Kaziakhmedov wrote in an open letter to UEFA President Michel Platini published on the club’s website. ”Anzhi is ready to provide all necessary documentary guarantees from the due state bodies.”

”After such a decision made by UEFA -what shall we do with all these projects? There is just one question left – maybe we’d better stop this initiative, maybe all this is useless,” the Anzhi director wrote.

He’s being a little disingenuous there. None of the playing staff are based in Dagestan. They live and train in Moscow and only fly in to Makhachkala on match days. If the club themselves don’t think it’s safe for their players to stay in the region, can they be that surprised that UEFA is concerned about the welfare of visiting teams?

Have coaching badges, will travel

Fabio Capello has confirmed he wants to open talks about becoming the new boss of Russia.

Despite saying that the England job would be his last, the Italian has undergone a change of heart upon realising that international football is a part-time job, paying a full time salary.

“If in the next few days a call from the Russian FA comes to me or my agent, I will be ready for a detailed and serious conversation,” Capello told Moscow-based newspaper Sport-Express.

The 66-year-old has growing support within the country’s FA and Russian agent Shumi Babaev revealed more details of how he had been approached.

“After the European Championship I asked (Italian agent) Ernesto Bronzetti if Capello was interested in working in Russia,” said Babaev.

“After some time, I received a positive response. I personally spoke with Fabio on the phone and he confirmed this information.

“If the country’s leadership and the heads of the FA choose him, he is happy to come to Russia.

“From my point of view, Capello is the best candidate for the job. He is very disciplined, sometimes strict, and more importantly, has his own views on football.

“I believe his adaptation would be quick. He is a polyglot and will be able to master Russian as soon as possible.”

Well, four years in England and he didn’t even come close to mastering the language, but I’m sure there is one Russian expression he will have little trouble understanding.

Покажите мне деньги*

Slap happy

Paulo Di Canio has lambasted the contribution of Mario Balotelli in Italy’s Euro 2012 campaign, dismissing the striker as an “egoist, who thinks the world revolves around him”.

The Manchester City man created a broadly positive impression, scoring twice against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final, as well as a spectacular overhead effort against Republic of Ireland in the group stages.

However, Di Canio, no shrinking violet himself, claimed that the 21-year-old is too self-centred and that he is not a team player.

“[Mario] Balotelli is just selfish,” the Swindon Town manager told Sky Sport 24. “He deserves a lot of slaps.

“Against Germany he did two good things [by scoring both goals], but in the end I saw a player who was just waiting to celebrate [at the final whistle]. Balotelli does not play for the team, only for himself.

“He is an egotist, who thinks the world revolves around him. For guys like Balotelli, he deserves lots of slaps rather than pats on the shoulder from Prandelli because he is young.”

The 43-year-old then went on to praise Balotelli’s strike partner Antonio Cassano, arguing that it was he, not Balotelli who was instrumental in Italy’s march to the final.

“[Cassano] was instrumental for Prandelli,” He added. “He led the national team to the final.”

Best of friends

Xavi Hernandez’s father has claimed Iker Casillas endured problems with Jose Mourinho because of his friendship with the Barcelona midfielder.

Xavi Snr. has revealed that the Real Madrid/Barcelona schisms within the Spain squad were threatening the unity of the national side, and that only the diplomatic efforts of Casillas and Xavi – who had played alongside each other since they were teenagers – managed to heal the divisions.

There were reports last season suggesting Mourinho was unhappy that Real’s Casillas was trying to broker the peace with Barcelona’s Xavi.

Joaquin Hernandez told COM Radio: “Iker had many problems with Mourinho because Xavi and Iker didn’t want to end their friendship. The problems came to light and everyone knows about it.

“Had it not been for Iker Casillas, Xavi and Del Bosque, the national team would never have achieved what they have. It has been very complicated at times because of the Clasicos.

“Friendships between players were about to end. There were rows. There were issues with Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos and how they behaved towards their team-mates. The behaviour of some players was inappropriate. Luckily, Iker and Xavi intervened.”

Hell hath no fury…

Sir Alex Ferguson has criticised Paul Pogba after the French midfielder shunned an offer to remain at Manchester United in favour of joining Italian champions Juventus.

The 19-year-old’s contract at Old Trafford expired this summer and his decision to leave means United will only receive a token fee for him.

Ferguson told MUTV:  “Pogba signed for Juventus a long time ago as far as we’re aware. Which is disappointing.

“I don’t think he showed us any respect at all so, to be honest, I’m quite happy.”

Which is rich, when you remember that United signed Pogba in 2009 in similar circumstances. Then, his former club Le Havre made a formal, and unsuccessful, complaint to FIFA before accepting an undisclosed sum for the transfer of his registration.

What goes around…

Home from home

Diego Forlan has confirmed that he is poised to leave Inter, amidst speculation that the Uruguay international is set to join Brazilian outfit Internacional.

The veteran forward only moved to Inter last summer from Atletico Madrid and still has a year to run on his current contract with the Serie A side, but he struggled for both form and fitness last season and the club has confirmed they are prepared to cancel his contract to facilitate a move.

“After 14 years spent playing football around the world, for me to be able to play for a team close to my country, Uruguay, is something that makes me very happy,” the striker told Tele Doce.

*Покажите мне деньги translates into English as: show me the money.