Monthly Archives: July 2011

Juventus Ready To Exorcise Demons

Five seasons have gone by since Juventus’ relegation to the Serie B, a span which has  yielded only a second division title for the men in black and white. Juventus’ fall from grace over the past few years has been well documented, the Old Lady were victims of their own greed and arrogance, as well as of Italian footballing culture.

However, after yet again finishing the season empty handed last time around, the bianconeri are ready to bounce back; insure that in 2013 they will go without the ignominy of absence from all European competition. The seeds of a successful new year were sown right at the beginning of the summer transfer window, as a host of loanees were made permanent additions; old faces, soon to be complemented by new.

 Andrea Pirlo had already arrived from AC Milan, the veteran regista ready to prove that he still has gas in the tank, and the hunger to pursue a last wave of silverware. Swiss defensive duo Reto Ziegler and Stefan Lichtsteiner joined the Italian on the list of newcomers, moving from Sampdoria and Lazio respectively. Michelle Pazienza also, added a fourth name to the list, trading Naples for Turin, accepting the chance to play for one of Italy’s most legendary clubs.

At the other end of the pitch, Juve’s transfer dealings are particularly fascinating; a move for Sergio Aguero is still in the pipeline, as are ones for Giuseppe Rossi and Carlos Tevez. It seems strange that Juventus are concentrating so much energy on bringing in a high profile striker, they already have five recognized forwards in their ranks, namely, Luca Toni, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Del Piero, Vincenzo Iaqinta and Alessandro Matri.

Doubtless last season’s mid year striker crisis is the advertised reason for the search, but in fact, Juve’s pursuit of star power shows that they are determined to acquire something more than just a goalscorer. In their transfer dealings so far, the bianconeri are looking to send a message to the World; after years of hibernation, Italy’s most successful club is back.

Respect is foremost on Juve’s transfer radar, respect they lost with Luciano Moggi’s greed, respect that has fallen even farther afield due to a chain of unimpressive seasons. The last trophy Juventus won was a Serie B title, their most important twenty first century super stars either retired or nearing it- Juve are in bad need of a lift, and they’re going out of their way to get it.

So what does all this business mean in respect to the Serie A next season? The top clubs already know they will have to be on their toes, as the safety net of fourth place Champions League qualification is no longer available. Last season heralded the rise of two teams into the Italian top flight’s upper echelon- along with the traditional big boys, clubs like Juventus will have Udinese and Napoli to contend with too.

Even if a big name is attained, Juventus’ chances of Scudetto glory remain remote; the new flow of cash into the red side of the Olimpico will insure a more consistent showing from Luis Enrique’s new club, while both Milan teams are looking to strengthen over the summer.

However, of all the teams jostling for position, Juventus will see themselves as the only worthy candidates to reclaim the title that they have so often called their own. Still haunted by the ghost of Calciopoli, Juventus are working hard to put themselves on the fast track for redemption; whether it will come next year or not, only time will tell.

So Fergie Isn’t After Sneijder… Well, Here Are Four Alternatives

1. Javier Pastore- Rumored to prefer a stay in Italy, but nevertheless, Pastore is a player more than capable of providing United with creative spark; he has been one of the Serie A’s most exciting attacking players since arriving from Argentina in 2009. A gifted dribbler, Pastore is composed on the ball, capable of creating an attack through movement on the dribble, or an incisive pass. At only twenty-two years old, the Argentinian international would fit United’s transfer policy to a tee; he has the potential to improve, and significant sell on value if he busts. Currently plying his trade at Palermo, Pastore lacks Champions League experience, and I wouldn’t count on him adjusting to the physicality of the Premier League, however, he still remains a decent second or third choice transfer target.
2. Samir Nasri- We already know that United have tabled a bid for the Frenchman; it was widely reported that Fergie’s twenty million pound query was rejected by Arsenal. Since then, Ferguoson has stated his doubt at the potential arrival of Nasri, making it clear that he suspects the midfielder will either stay at Arsenal or reject Manchester United for someone else. Personally, I see Nasri as a player who should only be signed in addition to a Sneijder/Pastore/Modric, he is less of an out and out midfielder, and more of a creative winger, capable of cutting in and weaving passes through. Unlike Pastore, Nasri has already proved that he is capable of cutting it in the Premier League, the former Marsielle man was especially impressive last season, though concerningly, he did fade a bit towards the end.
3. Luka Modric- More of a deep lying, regista type playmaker, Modric would represent a different option than that provided by Nasri or Sneijder. A Croatian international, Modric seems to have his heart set on a move to Chelsea, though even that transfer is unlikely due to Tottenham’s stubborn stance- one that Ferguson has had plenty of experience with in the past. Of all the midfielders linked to United, Modric is the one with the playing style most reminiscnet of that of the now retired Paul Scholes; the former Zagreb man is content to sit deep and ping passes around the park, rather than bomb forward in search of goals and assists. During his time at White Hart Lane, Modric has consistnetly proved himself adept at helping wingers into play, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to replicate his great relationship with Bale and Lennon, and forge a dangerous partnership with Nani, Valencia and Young.
4. Marek Hamsik- Of all the four players listed, Marek Hamsik is the least likely to join, but he does meet United’s transfer specications perfectly. Still only a young player, the Slovakian boasts World Cup experience, as well as that of a title chase in a top class European league. A rumored target of AC Milan, Hamsik has made it clear that he wishes to leave Naples for pastures new, leaving the possibility of a move to United viable, if perhaps a little unlikely. Hamsik would certainly add something to the United attack, last year he forged a dangerous relationship with Napoli duo Lavezzi and Cavani, as the trio of attackers helped make Napoli one of the most feared sides in Italian football.
So, who do you think will be Fergie’s main midfield transfer target? Who should be?

This article was originally published on Red Flag Flying High.

Sneijder To United, And Two Other Ridiculously Annoying Sagas

Every year it happens, or does it. My sources say it doesn’t, wait, it actually does…Pending image rights, of course. Okay, here are three of football’s most annoying transfer sagas…

1. Sneijder To United- Alright, so perhaps this saga has yet to reach the epic proportions of some that have rocked the World in the past, but nevertheless, it has annoyed me sufficiently to warrant inclusion. First, there is the on-off effect, the changing news every day, one newspaper reporting one thing, before headlining its polar opposite the next day. However, it was Sneijder’s “god” comment which really got me riled up…

There is nothing worse than when a footballer claims that only “god” knows what his future holds. An act of foolish religious commitment some would say, but tantamount to a transfer request others might argue; talk of god only leads to confusion…And my disgust.

2. Fabregas to Barcelona- If tapping up was really a crime that Uefa were at all interested in punishing, then Barcelona would have banned, fined and docked points about ten thousand times over the past few years. Their constant efforts to unsettle Cesc are frankly disgusting and (probably) prohibited by transfer law. Not to mention the common respect and courtesy that they breach every time one of their players force a Barca kit onto him.

Yes, what Barca have been doing to Cesc Fabregas should certainly be considered “tapping up” despite the fact that no one has any real evidence of them contacting him illegally through the phone. Every day it seems, another Barca player comes out to announce Fabregas’ “secret” desire to leave The Emirates, and every day Sandro Rosell or Pep Guardiola or some one high up at the club talks about him covetously. For a club so often sickeningly classy, Barca’s pursuit of Fabregas really disappoints me.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid- The mother of all modern transfer sagas, Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid was perhaps the most followed transfer story of the “Naughties.”

After starring with Manchester United, Ronaldo immediatlly moved on Real Madrid’s unusually large radar screen. Along with every other attacking player who had kicked a ball straight during the past twelve months, Ronaldo was hotly linked with the Merengues, rumors that the Portuguese international neglected to quell.

Much like during Sneijder’s saga, the big “g” word was brought up a few times, as Ronaldo did his best to stir the pot in Manchester. Despite publicly comitting his future to Manchester United on several occasion in the months preceding his exit, Ronadlo eventually left United for eighty million pounds in 2009.

Comment with some of your least favorite transfer sagas.
Follow The Chairman @INFTH

Mexico’s Summer Success Doesn’t Bode Well For The United States

A summer of discontent for the United States. First a disjointed showing at the Gold Cup, capped by defeat at the hands of Mexico, and now more proof, that the next decade of North American football with be swathed in a sea of green.

As one era of Mexican football ends, another is set to begin; while Rafa Marquez is still the anchor for El Tri, up front a new wave of youngsters are ready to make life miserable for American defenses in the years to come.

Javier Hernandez, Pablo Barrerra and Gio Dos Santos were all key elements of the Mexican’s Gold Cup success, three players gifted with speed, skill and an eye for goal. While Hernandez is already on the path to greatness at Old Trafford, both Barrera and Dos Santos are set to resurrect their fledgling careers over the next twelve months, the wing duo are yet to replicate their national success at the club level.

Earlier today too brought more bad news in the direction of Bob Bradley and the boys, as an even younger generation of Mexican footballers cut their teeth at the international level. A team headlined by hat trick hero Julio Gomez claimed the World U17 World Cup, defeating Uruguay after semi final success over Germany; a team which earlier in the competition had thrashed the USA 4-0.

While youth competitions are not always clear indicators of where the future really does lie, it is safe to say that the performances of the Mexican youngsters, in comparison with their American counterparts, makes ominous viewing for fans of the United States. Mexico clearly have a talented set of players ready to emerge at senior level, something that the US sorely needs.

Players like Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury are hardly of the quality of Javier Hernandez, and even if they were to reach their full potential, it is unlikely that they would achieve the same feats of brilliance as Chicharito. Even more worryingly, the back line being groomed to protect against the threat of players like the Little Pea, is hardly good enough to insure solidity; the very one footed Tim Ream failed to shine at the Gold Cup, while the equally one footed Omar Gonzalez wasn’t even called into the squad.

As Mexico watch their youth blossom at both the senior and U17 level, the United States continue to stick with the group they have, persisting with players like Carlos Bocanegra at the back.

Mexico’s U17 World champions are by no means guaranteed to ever even play in a senior match against the United States, but the fact remains that they vastly outperformed Americans of a similar age. Regardless of whether or not the bicycle king with a bandage wrapped around his head ever makes it, it is clear that Mexico’s up and coming talent is totally superior to that of the United States. Something must change, or Americans will just have to get used to losing to their Southern neighbors on a much, much more frequent basis.

Ferguson’s Nasri Stance Proves Player Power Is King

From the moment the “Bosman Rule” was introduced, this was always going to be an inevitable occurrence, one that that for better or for worse, has changed the face of football forever.

Gone are the days when a disgruntled player would have to grin and bear it, waste away at their club despite wishing to leave. Now, if a  player wishes to depart, they do so, and really, there is nothing the clubs can do about it. 
Already, this summer has produced a transfer saga ruled by player power, Samir Nasri’s rumored exit is one that will happen eventually, despite the best efforts of Arsene Wenger. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s stance on the situation tells much about the current state of the transfer game, after having an initial bid of twenty million pounds rejected, Ferguson has chosen to walk away, leaving the money on the table. 
Ferguson knows that if Nasri really wants to leave, and he does, then Arsenal will have to sell this summer, or risk losing one of their most prized assets on a free transfer. As the summer winds down, Arsenal will find that they are unable to attract bids much higher than twenty million for a player with only a year left on his contract, forcing them to sell or risk fielding an unhappy footballer for at least three months. 
At this point in the development of football, situations like Nasri’s are by no means uncommon, most transfers  are dictated by the Bosman Rule, the ruling made in 1995 has proved to be one of football history’s main turning points. However, that fact does not put Arsenal in any stronger a position, they are still chained down by the solitary season remaining on Nasri’s contract, and the Frenchman’s burning desire to leave the club. 
If Nasri does end up joining Manchester United for twenty million pounds, the transfer will represent one of the strongest examples ever of player power. Obviously, Arsenal have no desire to sell their star player, let alone to one of their closest rivals, let alone during a summer which will likely see them lose Fabregas as well. No, Arsenal would gain nothing from such a transfer, even the twenty million is well below Nasri’s real worth, and not enough to seal the signing of a replacement of equal quality.
The only parties that will benefit from Nasri’s potential transfer are United and the player, but most importantly the player. It seems that now the footballing World is dictated by players, and perhaps, that is the way it ought to be. For years, players were pushed around and controlled by clubs, even now, in league’s like MLS, players are still bullied by the teams they represent. 
Over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how the Nasri’s transfer future plays out, the Frenchman’s situation is a great example of typical twenty-first century transfer dealings, and the result of his saga could define the beginning of a new era in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
If European football wants to avoid putting their players in the positions of those who played years ago, or even those who still play in leagues like MLS, than it is vital that players have this negotiating power; whether the clubs like it or not.

Messi Fighting Impossible Battle

 It is tragic that the career of a player as brilliant as Messi, will forever be haunted by the ghost of a past legend. Oh, what wouldn’t Leo give to rid himself of Diego Maradona’s specter.

From the moment that Messi blew that terrible free kick miles high and wide of the target, he must have known that a chastening morning was in the offing. That miscue infront of goal was just one of a plethora of attacking errors, which consigned Argentina to yet another unimpressive performance, one compounded by an even less impressive result.

For a team blessed by attackers like Messi, Aguero, Higuain and Lavezzi, one goal in two games against teams far below top quality is unacceptable. Whether such failures are the fault of a tactical system which partially negates Messi’s threat, or just a symptom of the lack of initiative needed to qualify from the farcially organized Copa America group stages, it is hard to say. The stodgy play of Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Mascherano does nothing to complement the World’s greatest player, though in the end, stodgy or not, Argentina are virtually guaranteed to qualify for the next round.

The fall out from Argentina’s latest underwhelming match will do nothing to lift what is fast becoming a cloud of criticism soaring over the head of a certain little number ten, Messi’s failure to inspire so far has led to unfair treatment by the fickle Argentinian press.

For all his genius, there is nothing Messi can do to relive the pressure building upon him, the two time Champions League winner is forever cursed by comparisons to arguably the all time greatest exponent of the beautiful game. Diego Maradona constantly haunts all Argentinian players of a certain stature, the man who single handedly won the Albiceleste a World Cup is the benchmark that all of the country’s attackers are held to.

Copa America, awful free kick depresses MessiWhile Messi has reached heights at the club level that Maradona never touched, El Diego’s World Cup winners medal will always see him favored in comparative conversations. Whatever Messi does, how ever many goals he scores, he will always rest firmly in the shadow of Maradona, just as entrenched as other Argentinians of less prodigious skill.

Surely at this point in the development of the game, we have reached a stage where players should exist in their own right, and not have to be constantly entered into a futile race to overtake Maradona and Pele. At this stage, Lionel Messi is by far the most accomplished player on the planet, and maybe it is time for the footballing public to accept that, and stop trying to push him even farther.

What Maradona achieved with his performances at the 1986 World Cup is a type of success unlikely to be replicated ever again. The man dribbled, passed and cheated his way to football’s summit, and with it sealed a legacy which will likely outlive that of brilliant players who never won a World Cup, men like Cruyff, Puskas and Best. Maradona is football’s ultimate player, and no man of any ability deserves to be held to his standards.

Messi is a gift to the modern footballing world, a player that deserves better than to be chained down by a perpetual discussion. Messi is Messi, Maradona is Maradona, perhaps now is the time to abandon our efforts, and let Messi be his own man.

Follow The Chairman on Twitter @INFTH
Read more by The Chairman at Red Flag Flying High

Da Silva Brothers Ready For Greatness

There is nothing more touching in football, then to see two brothers together rise up the ranks of a club, and eventually reach stardom. At United, it has been done before, Gary and Phil Neville will forever be remembered by fans as loyal servants to the club, players crucial in some of the Red Devils’ golden years.
And now, it looks as though a new set of twins are ready to ascend the Old Trafford steps, and finally make the impact that was expected of them when they arrived. From the start it was clear that there was something special about the Da Silva twins, an excitement everytime they got the ball, and a refreshing rawness about the way they played both in defense and on attack.

At first, it was Rafael who succeeded in gaining entrance to the senior team, competing with players like John O’Shea and Wes Brown for the starting right back spot. With steele and feistiness to go with a bit of Brazilian magic, Rafael starred for the first team on several occasions, scoring goals against Wigan and Arsenal, and at every opportunity whipping in fabulous crosses for the strikers to feed upon.

By the end of 2009/10, Rafael was Ferguson’s first choice at the right back position, a role which he maintained into the 10/11 season, and will likely continue to command next year. With John O’Shea and Wes Brown both on the verge of a move to Sunderland though, Rafael’s twin brother will also begin to come more into play, Fabio usefulness on both wings has already served United well in the past.

On only a few occasions have we seen the two brothers start together for United, most notably when they played on either wing in an FA Cup tie with Arsenal. That match could prove to be a little taster of what is to come, the two Brazilian brothers are likely to spend even more time on the pitch together next season.

This summer has had a very “out with the old, in with the new” tone to it so far, and the likely ascendance of the Da Silva brothers fits that pattern perfectly. Over the final months of last season, you did get the feeling that stalwart players like Wes Brown and John O’Shea were being phased out, prepared for sale to a lower profile English team. At the same time though, Rafael and Fabio were being preened for the future, readied for a new era in the United defense.

As good as Vidic and Ferdinand are, it is important to realize that their time as the starting defensive pair at United is beginning to run out; while Vidic is still as solid as ever, Ferdinand’s injuries are catching up with him fast. The Jones-Smalling axis that was so impressive at the U21 Euros is likely to be the one to take United forward, and Fabio and Rafael are the probable men to be flanking that duo.
There is no question that the twin brothers have already enjoyed brilliant careers at United, both have Premier League winners medals, and both have scored goals at Old Trafford. However, there is still so much more to come from those twins, if their progress continues at the rate that it has the last couple of years, then the duo could end up becoming one of the most menacing full back pairings in World football, and a staple at the international level.

Next season, Rafael will start virtually unchallenged at right back, while you can be sure that if Evra fails to improve on a poor showing last season Fabio will be ready to pounce on his starting spot. The duo are primed for an exciting future at Old Trafford, let’s hope that they fulfill their enormous potential.
Follow The Chairman on Twitter @INFTH

Forever A Traitor, Carlos Tevez Is At It Again

As I flicked through the BBC Sport headlines earlier today, one piece of “breaking news” which really should have grabbed my attention, just didn’t. Carlos Tevez had issued a formal transfer request, again.

It wasn’t so long ago that fans around the World were transfixed by an ongoing legal saga at Old Trafford, one which saw Tevez, Kia Joorbachian and David Gill attempt to reach an unattainable compromise that could potentially have kept Tevez at Manchester United.

But no, after beguiling the fans of all his previous clubs, Tevez replicated the process at Old Trafford, betraying a faithful that had grown to love him, by joining their greatest rivals.

Tevez embodies everything that is wrong about the modern player, his perpetual journey through the European football landscape is one guided only by the cheque book’s compass point, and not by any love or passion. Tevez is the quintessential footballing mercenary, he goes and does as he likes, wooing the adoration of fans before reciprocating their love with the game’s greatest slap in the face.

While the sudden departure of some players is greeted with surprise, Carlos Tevez’ transfer will be accompanied only by a chorus of sighs, as the footballing world witnesses yet another act of foul betrayal by the man fast becoming the sport’s number one villain.

While other players prize the love of a support above anything else, Tevez uses it only as a means of negotiation, a way to either force a new lucrative contract, or push through a move to another team.

Tevez’ latest actions are the continuation of a pattern which has rightly earned him a rather negative reputation, the man seems to enjoy sucking up the love of a stadium, before spitting it back into fans’ faces.

First it was Boca, as Tevez left his very first club for Corinthians, where the striker would earn his biggest pay check yet; though his time in South America was only a brief interlude before the real business of betrayal began across the pond.

At West Ham, Tevez single handedly saved the Irons from relegation, but only before pushing through a move to Manchester United. At United, the Argentinian once again garnered the support of millions; only to see it turn to venom as he joined rivals Manchester City. What’s more, while at  City Tevez continued to aggravate his former supporters, taunting them after scoring in the first leg of a Carling Cup semi final, and entering into a verbal sparring match with Gary Neville.

However, City fans relishing the pain Tevez imposed on their rivals were not to have the last laugh, as always, Tevez reserved that right for himself. After toying with the Citizens for months, Tevez earlier today announced that he intends to leave the City of Manchester Stadium for “family reasons.” About eleven months ago, having failed to settle in Manchester, Tevez’ estranged wife moved back to Argentina, bringing along his two daughters. Yet, Tevez’ inability to gain access to his children remains a mystery to me, why he was unable to have them stay with him in Manchester is a question that the Argentine international would no doubt struggle to answer.

Though it is difficult to claim that family wasn’t a motivating factor in Tevez’ latest move, his history of betrayal indicates that possibly, it was not the only one. A move to Spain or Italy has been one forever attractive to the striker, and it wouldn’t surprise me if pleasant weather and an opportunity to escape from a city he loathes also played into the decision. Tevez must have known the drawbacks of playing in Manchester when he signed for City though, but as always, money talks, and I’m sure it will continue to do so as the Argentinian evaluates his options, and prepares for a move to pastures new.

Follow The Chairman on Twitter @INFTH

The Big Four Are On Their Way Back, And North London Isn’t Invited

Over the past few seasons, the too often predicable top twenty percent of the English Premier League table has been tossed up; cast asunder by the changing tides of high level English club football, and then rebuilt, but this time adorned by a smattering of Middle Eastern checks.

There was Grand Slam Sunday, the All English Champions League final, and the constant lack of action between fifth and fourth; the days of the big four were monotonous ones indeed. Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool seemed set to rule football’s most exciting league for years to come; financially as much as anything else the others just couldn’t get close.

And then came good old Tottenham Hotspur, keen to put a spanner in the works, the team led by Harry Redknapp finally broke up the big four’s Premier League oligopoly, firing themselves into the Champions League places through sheer verve and excitement on attack. Inspired by the fantasy of Luka Modric and the goal scoring exploits of Jermain Defoe, Tottenham were able to take advantage of Liverpool’s calamitous season; claiming fourth spot after a 1-0 away victory over Manchester City.

However, for all the fun and energy of Spurs’ ascent, their success was an anomaly, a rare occurrence that is unlikely to be replicated in the future. Like it or not, a new big four is on its way back, and this one could be here to stay much longer than past versions. For the first time set to compete in the Champions League, Manchester City are the team ready to figure the new “big four” as Tottenham face exclusion, where they will be kept company by neighbors Arsenal.

With Manchester United and Chelsea as strong as ever, City filled with ambition and Liverpool on their way up, North London’s time at the top of the English game has reached its sell by date; next season could be the start of a serious decline.

Arsenal’s actions this summer have come awfully close to the footballing equivalent of suicide; selling top players to rivals is never a good idea, especially during a period of such flux. With Cesc Fabregas ready to finally secure a return to Barcelona, the last thing Arsenal needed to do was sell another two of their best  players to rivals. Clichy will sign for Manchester City next week, while Samir Nasri can take his time deciding whether to join Chelsea, City or United, whichever destination he chooses, the end result will spell trouble for the Gunners.

Both Arsenal and Tottenham are fast falling behind their Premier League rivals, Chelsea have hired one of the most promising young managers in the game, while United, City and Liverpool have all started transfer projects designed for the long term, designed for consistent Champions League qualification. Young English players have been brought in at both Anfield and Old Trafford, while Manchester City’s monetary might is set to guarantee them a fresh wave of talent to help reinforce for next season.

Meanwhile, Tottenham have spent most of their transfer energies playing down rumors that Luka Modric is on the verge of an exit, in a saga that is becoming increasingly reminiscent of the one which saw Dimitar Berbatov depart in 2008.

Arsenal have been perhaps slightly more productive. When not begging and pleading with Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, Arsene Wenger has been off arranging for the signing of Ivory Coast international Gervinho, a man with no Champions League experience, and a track record that boasts only a couple semi-impressive seasons in French football.

Yes, as the new season’s beginning looms ever closer, so does the possibility of North London’s elite being left in the dust. Liverpool, City, United and Chelsea mean business heading into 2011/12, while Arsenal and Tottenham are yet to show their willingness to fight back.

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Read more by The Chairman at Football Speak

Today’s Women’s World Cup Farce, And Two Other Handballs That Rocked The World

Immortalized in legos..

1. Bruna vs AustraliaLet me paint the picture for you. It’s one-nil Australia at the Women’s World Cup, both the Australians and opponents Equatorial Guinea are badly in need of a win to salvage their chances of qualifying from Group D. A cross from the left is steered onto the post by an Australian attacker, from there it rebounds into the arms of Bruna, a defender for Equatorial Guinea. Without batting an eyelid, the number two catches the ball, takes a step and drops it again, before casually jogging away amidst mass protests within the Australian ranks.

I don’t know which is more bizarre, Bruna deciding to catch the ball, or the referee somehow not noticing. Either way, this latest farce will do nothing to silence skeptics who refuse to appreciate the women’s game, though on the other hand, it might attract a few NBA fans looking for entertainment during the lockout.

2. Henry vs Republic of Ireland- Perhaps the most blatant example of cheating since Maradona in 1986, Henry’s handball sent the footballing World into meltdown. Call for punishment was immediate, the more civil minded Irish asking for a ban, the less so, castration.

In the end, Henry emerged out of the incident with his reputation slightly sullied, but without any major punishment from the footballing bodies. Karma would soon do its job though…

3. Maradona vs EnglandFootball’s original sin, Maradona’s hand of god goal at the 1986 World Cup remains the most famous instance of cheating in all of sporting history. Jumping up, Maradona managed to punch the ball beyond English goalkeeper Peter Shilton, to score a goal that would eventually consign England to a World Cup exit.

Famously, Maradona refused to accept blame initially, calling the goal “the hand of God.” However, unlike Henry, karma never came into play, not only did Maradona go on to score the goal widely regarded as the greatest of all time in that very game, but Argentina went on to win the World Cup.