Tag Archives: penalty

Unfortunately, It’s That Time of Year

The September international break is universally despised. It inaugurates a new round of boring qualifiers, rooney norwaybrings the daily news cycle to a standstill, and forces fans to wait two weeks to see their teams’ deadline-day signings in action. Moreover, most of the games take place on Monday or Tuesday, so the first weekend of September is almost always devoid of soccer.

During this summer’s World Cup, sports fans stayed glued to the television as star players competed for a prestigious title. Last week, England played Norway in a half-empty Wembley stadium, and virtually no one watched on TV. That’s the great irony of international soccer: for a few weeks every four years, it attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, many of whom aren’t even soccer fans – but the rest of the time, it’s kind of a drag.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Fabregas Fights For Starting Spot

The one thing missing from Cesc Fabregas’ catalogue of honors is a victory at a major club tournament. Fabregas has never won a league title or a Champions League. In terms of trophies – and, in the modern game, football success is almost always measured in trophies – Fabregas still lags behind his international colleagues.

His move to Barcelona was supposed to change all that, and, eventually, it may. Last season, however, Fabregas failed to justify the years of wrangling that preceded his transfer. Although he impressed for the first few months, injury halted his progress, and he never regained that early momentum. In the months between Barcelona’s trip to Espanyol in January and Spain’s opening game two weeks ago, he didn’t score a single goal. Fabregas’ barren run seems even worse compared with the recent successes of his Spain teammates.

Fabregas is part of a generation of Spanish footballers that will probably never be bettered. The Xavi-Iniesta-Busquets-Alonso midfield is peerless. The presence of those four footballers, as well as striker David Villa and defenders Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol, in the same country at roughly the same time is a never-to-be-repeated phenomenon.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Moment #2: Van Der Sar’s Moscow Heroics

This one is by me, The Chairman; David Yaffe-Bellany, editor of In For The Hat Trick.

The rain glistened off his head. Sparkling like the cosmos, the gloriously bald Nicolas Anelka took his first tentative steps. In the slightly blurred background, Van Der Sar beat his hands together looking, presumably, to inspire a last bout of energy. Twenty fellows anxiously waited, millions more consumed excitedly, all were transfixed by the action unfolding. 

I had always been a sucker for penalty shoot-outs. The sheer, almost manufactured drama inherent in these most ultimate of deciders is an addictive drug – pure, unadulterated adrenaline.

But here something was different. The grown men covering their eyes with scarves were my men, the sweat soaked victims of football’s fickle executioner were my players.  Everything was distinctly more personal.

A neglected, fast cooling box of pizza lay discarded in the corner, beside it, an untouched pitcher of water. ESPN’s transmission lit up a rather morbid setting, even Tommy Smyth’s inept analysis was met with no complaint. Laying prone on the couch was a rather unattractive lifeform, its steely gaze fixed on the television – as the nostalgic elderly might have it, a quintessential twenty-first century human.

As Anelka strode nervously to the penalty spot, the slumping figure straightened to attention. Expectation began to prevail, hope usurped negativity. Dressed in marvelous green, Van Der Sar looked the part. His arms waved menacingly, daring Anelka to score, daring him to deny United a third sojourn into European nirvana.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,