Tag Archives: uefa

The Real Reason Arsenal Struggles in Europe

Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Monaco wasn’t enough to overcome a 3-1 defeat in the first leg. But arsenal monacoaccording to Arsene Wenger, Monaco didn’t deserve to go through, since the away-goals rule is an outdated relic of the 1960s. “Two Premier League teams have gone out on away goals and that should be questioned,” he said. Because if a rule hurts English teams, it must be a bad rule.

But here’s the thing: Arsenal’s recent Champions League struggles – five Round-of-16 eliminations in a row – have less to do with the away-goals rule than with the team’s inability to play consistently over the course of a two-legged tie. Arsenal has a long history of capitulating in the first leg, only to mount a courageous, but ultimately futile, comeback two weeks later. In 2012, Arsenal lost 4-0 to AC Milan at the San Siro, and then won the return game 3-0. A year later, having lost the first leg 3-1, Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in Germany. Indeed, Wenger’s team has lost just one second-leg game since 2011.

“You can’t win a tie in the first leg, but you can lose it,” or so the old cliché goes. Arsenal routinely loses its Champions League knockout ties in the first leg. And Wenger, who’s paid to motivate his players and plan the team’s tactical approach, has no one to blame but himself.

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Three Days. Two Upsets. Zero Practical Significance.

On Saturday, Poland beat Germany 2-0 in a European Championship qualifier. The general consensus seems to be that the match was really, really important: it marked Poland’s poland germanyfirst ever victory in a fixture freighted with historical significance and ended Germany’s amazing seven-year unbeaten streak in qualifiers.

But here’s the thing: UEFA’s controversial expansion of the Euros, one of the few international tournaments that consistently features exciting soccer, pretty much guarantees that powerhouses like Germany and Spain, which lost 2-1 to Slovakia on Thursday, will qualify. This week’s upsets were exciting to watch – but in terms of the Road to France ’16 (or whatever we’re supposed to call the qualification campaign), they were completely meaningless.

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Nicolas Anelka, the Quenelle, and UEFA’s Oppressive Rules

The media rarely misses an opportunity to denounce football’s governing bodies – for corruption, for anelka quenelleincompetence, for awarding prestigious international tournaments to corrupt and incompetent governments. Indeed, over the last few years – amid stories about problematic elections, dodgy sponsorship deals, and nefarious plots to help Cristiano Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or – anti-FIFA/UEFA harangues have become a staple of football coverage, an easy way for grizzled sports journalists and renegade bloggers alike to stick it to the man.

So it’s more than a little surprising that in the aftermath of West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka’s celebratory “quenelle” – a sort of inverted Nazi salute popularized by a controversial French comedian – football writers have spent far more time complaining about the stupid, immoral, insensitive behavior of pampered players than examining the UEFA rules governing political expression.

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Reflecting on the Euros: 15 Things We Learned

1.      It’s getting harder and harder to host- In recent years, FIFA and UEFA have made a lot of noise about the importance of spreading football around the globe, encouraging traditionally unsuccessful football nations to host international tournaments. It’s no surprise, then, that, despite a couple of glorious moments, this year’s hosts were both eliminated before the first knockout round. After all, neither Poland nor Ukraine is one of the best eight teams in Europe.

Wild expectations don’t help. After Poland’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Greece, Francizek Smuda claimed that his team had been “paralyzed by pressure.” Ukraine looked similarly disabled against England, though a controversial goal-line decision provided them with a readymade excuse.

2.      Holland are still unreliable- Almost 40 years after the 1974 World Cup final, Holland are still masters of self-destruction. First, their pre-tournament preparation was marred by a dressing room argument over whether certain black players had been racially abused by someone outside the squad. Then the team imploded against Denmark, Arjen Robben forgot how to shoot, and Robin Van Persie reverted to, well, Robin Van Persie-at-the-2010-World-Cup-form. Holland exited the Euros without a single point, and Bert Van Marwijk resigned soon thereafter.

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