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Shamrock Rovers Hoping To Meet Juventus In Europa League

List of Shamrock Rovers F.C. records and stati...
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Dublin based side Shamrock Rovers are in line for a glamour tie against Italian side Juventus if they can overcome Israel’s Bnei Yehuda, the first leg ended 1-1 and now they need to win in Tel Aviv to play one of Europe’s top sides.

Other UK based sides in action this week include Cliftonville who currently lead HNK Cibalia 1-0 and could meet Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia if they hold out. Northern Irish side Portadown play FK Qarabag but are 2-1 down and look like struggling to overturn this,  while Sporting Fingal who are celebrating their first ever European Campaign trail Maritimo 3-2 but being at home a 1-0 win would be enough. Sporting Fingal have only been in existence since 2007 so this is a marvelous achievement by them. If they do get into the next round they could play Welsh side Bangor City who held Finland’s Honka Espoo 1-1 in their away leg and will be hopeful of progressing.

The other British Europa League Hopfuls are Motherwell who hold a 1-0 lead for their trip to Icelandic league leaders Briedablik and Dundalk who will need a minor miracle to overturn the 6-0 deficit they face against Bulgaria’s Levski Sofia.

It will be a great result if any of these clubs make it to the group stages but we can always hope.

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Celtic Face Braga In Champions League Qualifier

Neil Lennon (left) relaxing with User:Excalibu...
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Having failed to make the lucrative group stages of the Champions League last season New Celtic boss Neil Lennon would have been hoping for an easier tie than Braga who will be making their Champions League debut after finished second in the Portuguese first division last season. Celtic will play the first leg in Braga in late July.

The winners from these third qualifying round games will then face a two-legged play-off to get into group stages, Celtic lost at this stage last season to Premier League Arsenal 5-1 on aggregate.

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Liverpool to Face Rabotnicki or Mika In Europa League

Rabotnicki FC logo
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Having finished a dismal (by their standards) 7th in the Premier League last year Liverpool have found themselves in the 3rd Qualifying round of the Europa League this season where they will face the winners of the Rabotnicki v Mika. Neither of their potential opponents are exactly household names with Rabotnicki originaly being a Second Tier Yugoslavian club prior to the break up. Now a member of the Macedonian Premier League they have had some success in Europe reaching the 1st round of the UEFA Cup in 2006-7 after failing at the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Champions League and in 2007-8 where they narrowly lost to Bolton 2-1 on aggregate. They hold a 1-0 lead after the first leg but have the away leg to come.  However they should be good enough to overcome their opponents so setting up a money spinning tie with Liverpool. Armenian side Mika were only founded in 1999 have also played several European ties but have only ever one one, when in 2007-8 they edged past MTK Budapest  on away goals.

New Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson joined the tournament with Fulham at this stage  last season and proceeded to guide them to the final. Liverpool fans will be hoping for a repeat performance at least

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Over One Million World Cup Tickets Unsold

Official 2010 FIFA World Cup match ball
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The South African World Cup organisers have announced that in excess of One Million tickets (some estimates are as high as 1.2 Million) for the 2010 tournament went unsold, largely thanks to the returns by sponsors and VIP supporters. Given there were only 2.9 million tickets in total this is a shocking result. FIFA again in their wisdom are refusing to comment on the number, but anyone who watched the games on TV will have seen the masses of empty seats. This is a terrible waste of potential revenue and must be galling for many genuine football fans who were either priced out of the games or couldn’t get a ticket when they applied. Fortunately FIFA have decided to change their ticket allocation structure for the 2014 final in Brazil which will hopefully avoid a similar farce.

Amongst the worst culprits were the sponsors who included Addidas who not content with inflicting their awful Jabulani on us also contributed to the 360,000 sponsor tickets returned. Not a stunning indictment of their enthusiasm for watching games played with their supposed wonder ball.

Other culprits included Manchester based Match Hospitality with 240,000 returns and official tour operators who only managed 144,000 sales from 344,000 ordered.

Possibly most surprising was the poor take up by the 31 non host competing countries who would have been expected to snap up their allocations.  Here the figures were an almost unbelievable 31% take up leaving 384,000 unsold.

On this score at least the 2010 South African World Cup will not go down in history as the success it is currently being portrayed as and although at this stage it should’t be a future impediment to playing the finals in poorer nations, a similar flop in Brazil will be cause for serious debate.

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Takeley FC To Make FA Cup Debut in 2010

Takeley F.C.
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One little piece of history associated with this years competition with be the presence of Essex based Takeley FC playing. Although they have been around since 1903 it has taken them 107 years to finally enter the competition and on the 14th August they will kick off their FA Cup campaign when Hertford Town come to visit them at their Station Road ground. Anyone in the area who is interested in seeing a little bit of Cup history can find some more details at the Takeley FC web site.

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The 2011 FA Cup Trail Begins On 14/08/2010

The FA Cup Trophy at Portsmouths Spinnaker Tow...
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With the 2010 World Cup now resigned to history its time to start thinking about the 2011 FA Cup, which is scheduled to begin on the 14th August 2010 when the extra preliminary round kicks off.

This year 402 hopefuls will commence their cup run at this stage, where they will only be 14 wins away from lifting the hallowed trophy. Entries are slightly down on the 406 who took part in 2010, and realistically it is highly unlikely that any of them will make it as far as the 1st round proper. However this right to dream it is part of the FA Cups magic and there is also some prize money available, which for these grass roots teams will come in very handy indeed. The prize money has not been announced yet but last year the Preliminary round winners collected £750.

A full list of the Extra Preliminary Round Fixtures can be found here

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Emile Heskey Announces International Retirement

Emile Heskey
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England striker Emile Heskey has announced his retirement from International Football following a disappointing 2010 World Cup campaign. He has  never been a prolific scorer at club level managing 113 goals in 499 matches so far (around 1 in every 5 games) in a career which has spanned Leicester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wigan & Aston Villa.  At international level his record is even worse with only 7 goals in 62 senior appearances, which is less than  Paraguayan goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert who managed 8 including 4 in their 2002 world Cup Qualifying campaign.

Still it is unfair to criticize his goal record too much given the role he is often asked to play for England, which is more conducive to setting up chances for his team mates than for grabbing the glory himself.

Overall he will not go down in history as one of England’s star names but the fact he gained 62 caps despite his scoring record speaks volumes about the regard he was held in by successive England managers.

His overall Record at International Level was:

England U18 – 8 Caps  – 5 Goals
England U21 – 16 Caps – 6 Goals
England B- 1 Cap – 1 Goal
Full England Team – 62 Caps – 7

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World Cup 2010 Epilogue

Man blowing a vuvuzela, Cape Town, South Africa
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The 2010 World Cup ended with victory for Spain who admittedly made very heavy weather of it losing their opener to the Swiss and hardly impressing in their other matches. However despite this lack of flair they were the best team in the tournament and it will go down as a victory for football. Holland who will feel slightly aggrieved due to the extra time refereeing decisions changed their tactics for the final and had they won it would not have been because they had played the “beautiful game”. They are being criticised for their aggressive play, but anyone who grew up in the 1970s will if looking back realise the majority of the fouls they committed would never have attracted a yellow card and in many occasions the ref probably wouldn’t have even blown his whistle.

With all the rule changes it looks increasingly like FIFA would like football to become a non contact sport which will take away much of its attraction. You have to feel some sympathy for Howard Webb who had little choice but to award a record number of cards, although this might in turn mean he is remembered as a card happy final ref rather than the one whose dodgy decisions led to the winning goal. At least Howard Webb’s performance will give the conspiracy theorists supporting former FA chairman Lord Triesman’s something to talk about. For the benefit of those who have forgotten this brief piece of headline news Lord Triesman was sacked for suggesting that Spain would win the World Cup aided by Referees bribed by Russia, who would then get Spain’s support for their 2018 World Cup bid.

Despite the poor final the tournament is widely regarded as having been a success and although it didn’t bring forth the emergence of Africa as a major international force it did have more positives than negatives and produced a few surprises.


South Africa as hosts. The whole country threw themselves behind the tournament adding an element of colour and excitement which really added to the event. Even the much maligned vuvuzela added to the atmosphere. The stadiums were all pretty good considering South Africa is still a developing nation and the much feared violence against the visiting spectators never materialised.  Overall a great result for a country working hard to make up for its past.

The general competitiveness of the Groups. Despite the careful seeding FIFA employ the groups proved to be exciting and in many cases qualification was only decided in the final games. This kept the interest going and helped produce some nice surprises.

The rise of the Asian teams.  Although most neutral fans would have been hoping for a good showing from the African nations, it was instead Asia who seem to be the most likely to overhaul the South American & European Domination of International football. Japan and South Korea both had impressive tournaments and even the lesser lights Australia and North Korea gave us some moments to enjoy. With the Far East fast becoming the World’s economic power house ensuring football is strong there will be good for the game going forward.

The Refereeing. Overall this was generally good although there were several bad mistakes, which in many cases influenced the outcome of the game. The positive which might come out of this is that FIFA will re evaluate the use of technology. With so much hanging on a decision it is no longer acceptable for football to be one of the few sports not to adopt technological help where available

The 3rd – 4th place play off match which eclipsed the final. This is supposed to be the game no team wants to win, however someone forgot to tell Uruguay and Germany this, as they served up probably the best match of the tournament.

The not so positives

The Adidas Jabulani ball. Whatever the makers say this ball was poor and no doubt contributed to the abundance of misplaced passes and the poor long range shooting. Hopefully this ball will be resigned to the annuls of history never to be seen again.

Disappointing performances by the pre tournament stars. Players like Wayne Rooney, Torres, Eto’o, Kaka & Ronaldo were expected to light up the pitch at the finals, however they were mere a shadow of the player who graced their respective domestic leagues and the Champions League.  Ok Torres was injured but overall the star names failed to shine big time. It was left to the likes of Forlan,  Ozil,  Muller & Gyan to give the neutrals something to shout about. The whole French team awful too, but at least gave us something to laugh about with their petulant antics.

The Surprises

The main surprise of the tournament was France and Italy bowing out with a whimper having both contested the 2006 final. Italy were a trifle unlucky, but France were just Abysmal. More pleasant surprises were the superb performances by Uruguay, and a young German team with both reaching the semi finals. Germany look like being a major threat in the 2012 European Championships. Other pleasant surprises included the battling performances by New Zealand, forecast as whipping boys pre tournament but ended up the only unbeaten side, and of course North Korea’s fantastic efforts against Brazil in their opener.

Overall a great few weeks of entertainment with probably the best team winning the trophy, and a few great matches to remember. The World Cup remains the ultimate football competition and the good news is there’s only 3 years and about 11 months to go till the next one ,which will be held in Brazil. Better start saving now.

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Recognition for Diego Forlan’s World Cup Contributions

Leônidas da Silva and Arthur Friedenreich, Bra...
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Very few people will argue with FIFA awarding Diego Forlan the Golden Ball award for best player at the 2010 World Cup Finals. He was instrumental in Uruguay’s run to the semi finals, and with 5 goals he finished joint top scorer. He is only the third winner not to have appeared in the final joining Brazil’s Leônidas da Silva (right) from 1938 and Italy’s Salvatore (Toto) Schillaci from 1990 in this select group.

The other awards were:

Golden Boot – Thomas Muller Germany

Golden Glove – Iker Casillas Spain

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Golden Boot For Thomas Muller

2010 FIFA World Cup
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20-year-old striker Thomas Muller has been awarded the Adidas Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup Finals, an incredible achievement for a player who who only made his international debut in March of this year. Although the 5 goals he scored in the South African Finals puts him the same as David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan, the Bayern Munich man’s three assists saw him grab the award.

Muller’s efforts in helping Germany reach the semi-final also won him the Hyundai Best Young Player of the tournament award.

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