Archived entries for European Football

John Scales – Euro 2012 Interview

Intelligent, articulate and with constantly insightful views on Football, it is easy to see why so many media outlets including Sky, ESPN and the BBC often turn to John Scales, as an ex-England International, for comments about the game.

Alongside Zinadine Zidane, John is currently an ambassador for Danone, and involved in the Danone Nations Cup, the largest international tournament in the World for 10-12 year olds that will host its World Cup Final in the national stadium in Warsaw, Poland, a couple of months after some of the best professionals compete there this summer.

He kindly took time out to speak to The Substantive ahead of Euro 2012, with his thoughts on the tournament which starts tomorrow. Continue reading…

England v Belgium 2 June 2012

With balloons in the crowd, a strong focus on Royal Family look-a-likes and the Mexican Wave starting before the first fifteen minutes had passed, the general atmosphere in England’s match against Belgium less than a week before the start of a major tournament summed up the ambivalence towards the current national team. In fact there were so many paper aeroplanes thrown from the stands, made from the red and white ‘clappers’ left  in every seat, it is arguable there hadn’t been as much rubbish on the pitch of an England match since the display against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.

However, real evidence of the low levels of expectation as the national side head towards the European Championship came at the end of the match; two years ago after England played Mexico at Wembley ahead of the 2010 World Cup the majority of the crowd stayed behind after the final whistle to fervently wish the players well before they set-off to South Africa. Steven Gerrard even commented about how he could see the determination in the eyes of so many that Wednesday evening. This time as the players started their walk around the ground, most had already headed-off despite the more convenient Saturday early evening kick-off, with polite applause from those that stayed.

And with news yesterday that a sixth player from the team that finished eighth in the League will now be part of an England squad challenging for the European Championship, as Martin Kelly was called-up to replace the injured Gary Cahill, it is no surprise there is such little anticipation and excitement, as the current England side takes on an uninspiring style, both on paper and on grass. Continue reading…

Arsene Wenger Profile

Sian Ranscombe profiles the man who single-handedly changed the culture of a football club.

I appreciate that a profile on a person is normally written without too much emotion or bias. I appreciated this long and hard while writing and rewriting the first paragraph for this profile – and then again as I rewrote the rewrite. I eventually decided it would be far easier to ignore this fact and go for it regardless. This is a profile on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, unfortunately written by an Arsenal fan and, worse, one who would most definitely list Mr. Wenger right at the top in a list of ideal dinner party guests. Sorry.

In August 2011, Arsene Wenger was under fire. Journalists, football supporters, pundits and former players alike began adding their voice to the constantly simmering minority in expressing the opinion that Wenger was a man who had taken his job as far as he could. Some were respectful in their criticism, claiming he ought to be applauded for his achievements but equally that he ought to close the door quietly behind him as he bowed out. Others were less diplomatic in their views that he was past it. Football fans, a mildly insane bunch at the best of times, have an incredible ability to take any old fact and suit it to their own agenda. Some Arsenal fans claimed they wanted their Arsenal back. When pushed, few could explain exactly what this Arsenal they spoke and dreamt of was, but it sure sounded better than the current predicament to some. Continue reading…


Saturday was billed as “The Day of Destiny” by Sky Sports, with two big football finals where in the build-up we led to believe the prize for the first one, the Championship play-off final, was bigger because of the financial rewards. A strange way to measure the prize in sport. On a similar note, Chelsea’s win in the Champions League meant they qualified for the tournament next year, which in itself will probably be worth around at least £20m in extra revenue than being in the Europa League; but you don’t get medals, open-top bus parades or a place in the Club’s roll-of-honour for increased turnover, although in Chelsea’s case, their finances have been key to their success.

However, even with the backing of a billionaire owner for nine years that allowed them to have the luxury of a £50m player on the bench despite a handful of suspensions, Chelsea’s approach to the game was that of an underdog looking for a giant killing, with defensive, negative tactics; and as Johan Cruyff told De Telegraaf, the outcome was one that no-one, other than Chelsea fans, could be happy with.

As with the game earlier in the day, when West Ham beat Blackpool with a late goal in a 2-1 win, the better side lost. Blackpool played some excellent football at Wembley, and like Bayern later in the evening, had their finishing been up to scratch on the day, would have run out comfortable winners. So it was nice that the following night Napoli beat Juventus 2-0 with a fluid, attacking passing game that stopped the Italian Champions completing a double, and going through their domestic season unbeaten with their often pragmatic approach. Continue reading…


The intercut highlights of the two games that decided the title on Sunday make compelling viewing; almost addictive, they demand repeated watches on some of the many different shows now available, with drama and emotion that only sport can provide. The shots of first the Manchester City crowd when they go 2-1 down and then later Manchester United players and management when the penny drops that City have won the title feel like an intrusion in private grief, yet they are, as with the celebrations either when goals went in or news came from other grounds, a reminder that the supporter is an integral part of the action the Premier League license out in various formats.

As a brand the Premier League still has the hype; the presenter on Sky Sports ‘Football First’ authoritatively said it was the first time the title had been decided in the top flight had been decided by goal difference – only true if anything prior to the last twenty seasons has been wiped from the records, but not letting facts get in the way of a good story. And countless other pundits, caught up in the excitement of Sunday, have been talking about the best season ever, as the Premier League reaches its landmark twentieth birthday, glossing over the fact the quality has at times been inconsistent. Continue reading…

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ahead of Milan hosting Barcelona, Il Capocannoniere profiles Zlatan Ibrahimovic. (Exclusive illustration by Lilly Allen).

“Zlatan. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively have to win the league title, accept no substitutes.”

Of course I’m paraphrasing Samuel L Jackson’s character from Jackie Brown, but you can imagine a number of top coaches in European football would go along with this sentiment. Every season since 2003-04 the team that Zlatan has played for has finished top of their league, one with Ajax, two at Juventus (both subsequently revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal), three at Inter, one in his only season with Barcelona and then last season for Milan. This season Milan lead the way again in Serie A this season and it looks likely that Ibra’s team will finish top for a phenomenal ninth consecutive season. Continue reading…

Euro Football Round-up/CL QF Preview 27 Mar 12

Last Tuesday was a record breaking day for Lionel Messi. Barcelona beat Granada 5-3 at the Nou Camp, as Messi hit a hat-trick to make him Barcelona’s record all time goalscorer. Goals 232, 233 and 234 equalled then beat Cesar Rodriguez’ 57 year old record. Messi continues to break and set new records and standards of excellence every time he steps foot on the pitch. As Madrid only struggled to a 1-1 draw away to relegation threatened Villareal this win also moved Barca to within 6 points of the La Liga leaders. One stat that has gone relatively unmentioned is that whilst Messi was breaking the record, Granada were becoming the first away side to score three at the Nou Camp this season. Continue reading…

European Football Round-up: 20 March

Events on and off the pitch in England and Spain in the past week have shown that despite what Bill Shankly may have said, football really isn’t more important than life and death. Football is just a game; albeit one that evokes tremendous passion and partisanship. Sometimes however events happen to unite the footballing family. On Sunday night Real Madrid put years of rivalry and bitter enmity to one side to show support for Barcelona’s Eric Abidal. They also demonstrated the global support for Fabrice Muamba. Continue reading…

European Football Round-up/CL Preview: 13 Mar

Last Wednesday Juventus played their game in hand in Serie A. The Old Lady of Turin went to Bolgna, but in true style this season could only draw. This left them 2 points behind Milan whilst still being unbeaten.

This past weekend proved to be another good one for Milan, the defending champions hosted Lecce and put in a strong performance to run out 2-0 winners. Zlatan Ibrahimovic set up the first goal and scored the second, propelling him to the top of the Capocannoniere charts with 19 goals in the process. That Ibra’s quality is still questioned, especially in England, is beyond baffling. For the past eight years whichever club he has played for has finished top of their respective league (the two with Juventus were revoked after Calciopoli); the man is a born winner and he has a better than 1 in 2 goal to game ratio across his career. Continue reading…

European Football Round-up/CL Preview: 6 March

Jurgen Klopp is likely to be a man in demand this summer. He’s being linked with jobs at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and is also seen as the heir apparent to Joachim Loew as Germany’s national boss. Borussia Dortmund however will be fervently hoping they can keep their inspirational coach. This weekend saw Dortmund take a massive step towards a second successive Bundesliga title as they overcame Mainz 2-1 at Westfalenstadion. With perennial title favourites Bayern Munich falling to a 2-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund now have a 7 point advantage with 10 rounds to go. Meanwhile former giants of the German game, Hamburg fell even closer to the relegation trap door after being humbled 4-0 at home to Stuttgart. There are probably enough teams worse than Hamburg to ensure they stay up, but fans who in recent times have seen the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong strutting their stuff will demand significant improvement. Continue reading…

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