Euro 2012: The Big Round One Round-up, by Big Round Richard Pye

So the first round of games are over. Gone. No more. This tournament is slipping away from us desperately insatiable football fans, quicker than Greece is from the Eurozone.

Talking of Greece, how they came back from a goal and a man down with Giorgios Samaras on the pitch no-one will ever know. Someone needs to sit him down and have a real heart to heart with the poor hairy dope. “This football thing’s not really worked out, has it big man? Have you ever thought of running for Parliament?”

Their first opponents Poland will be kicking themselves (or just Wojciech Szczęsny perhaps) after throwing away a game in which they comfortably dominated the first period against woefully inept opposition. But for the grace of Szczęsny’s replacement, Przemysław Tyton, the co-hosts would have been facing down the barrel of defeat to the worst Greek team since… 2004.

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Why English fans didn’t take up their Euro 2012 ticket allocation

A lot has been spoken, written and tweeted about this week, as to how terrible Ukraine and Poland will be as an experience for fans, how racism, violence and – heaven forbid – high hotel prices have caused English football fans to stay away from this summer’s European Championships.
I have another theory: England are shit, and the fans – often credited with the collective intelligence and fickle memories of a bunch of hungry toddlers – simply haven’t forgotten this time.

We’ve been shit since 1996 (when we weren’t shit, but we still lost). Just six years prior in 1990 came our high (when we were shit, then we weren’t shit, then we were just about shit again, but only at penalties), with some particularly shit years in ’92 and ’94.  Before that we were pretty shit all the way back to 1966. We had a particularly high level of shitness – even by our own high standards – in the ‘70s.

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Is this the biggest small step forward for English football?

In the run up to the European Championships and with the naming of a new manager and his squad dominating the news agenda, the FA have been quietly treading a route of reinvigoration. A path that will hopefully at long last, put paid to decades of underachievement.

This summer will see the completion of the FA’s new national football centre (NFC) at St George’s Park. Heralded as England’s answer to France’s famed Clairefontaine academy, there will now be a centre of excellence for our national game, not seen but desperately needed, since the demise of Lilleshall in 1999. As top clubs created their own academies to train young players, Lilleshall became redundant, with the task they performed so admirably in bringing through the likes of Joe Cole, Michael Owen and Scott Parker to name but a few, being taken in house by professional clubs. With the enormous resources of the Premier League era clubs, the training of top young players could scarcely be improved upon by a Lilleshall replacement and the NFC seems primed to address this, by investing far more time and resources, into the development of young, skilled English coaches.

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The Bhoys from Seville

by Paul Fisher

I’d bet the majority of you would remember 2003 with relative ease. I was only 11 years old when the football season came to an end, but it was one of my most vivid memories of that year. I started secondary school in 2003, the same year as the start of the war in Iraq and when Australia won the Cricket World Cup.

Living in the west coast of Scotland I was brought up supporting Celtic Football Club and 2003 was a successful year for the club, in European terms at least. They missed out on the SPL title to bitter rivals Rangers by just one goal. The Ibrox side also clinched the League and Scottish Cups. They defeated Celtic 2-1 in the first Cup Final of the season, with first-half goals from Claudio Caniggia and Peter Lovenkrands before Henrik Larsson’s effort after 57 minutes. They then clinched a famous treble following a 1-0 victory over Dundee thanks to a goal from defensive stalwart, Lorenzo Amoruso.

So Celtic, domestically, had a season to forget, but the UEFA Cup run that the squad put together was simply fantastic. We actually got knocked out of the Champions League Qualifying Round by FC Basel, on away goals I might add. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

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Gary Speed

by James Riches

Editor’s Note: We weren’t going to post a tribute to Gary Speed today. What could we say that hasn’t already been said? This morning we were contacted by our resident Championship blogger James Riches, a proud Welshman who wanted to voice his own feelings. We chose to run James’ piece for no other reason than it is a touching personal tribute to a Welsh football legend. RIP Gary Speed, you will be sorely missed.

There have been many times during my years watching Wales that I have thought it couldn’t get any worse than this. Yesterday proved in devastating fashion that I was a fool to think such things.

As I sat on the sofa, nursing a hangover and waiting for kick off at the Liberty Stadium, I heard my girlfriend getting out of bed with an urgency not usually associated with a Sunday morning. When she came in and told me the news that Gary Speed had died I, like everyone else, did not want to believe it.

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Chelsea need to keep the faith with AVB

André Villas-Boas

So it would seem everyone’s agreed then? Andre Villas-Boas should be first sacked, second dragged through along the Kings Road by horse and cart and then fired from a cannon, at a wall, from a very short distance. Of course the British media are never ones to under-react to the slightest whiff of crisis, but the only way the young Chelsea manager is going to put these irksome stories to bed – particularly with club and Abramovich favourite, Guus Hiddink’s recent availability – with some victories and points.

Back to back home defeats, losses against their perceived main competitors, a blunt edge at the business end of their supposed attacking formation; all of these things have led to the departure of, amongst others, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti in recent seasons. So what can the Portuguese do to arrest his side’s slump?

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Ronaldinho – The man who plays with a smile

by Gary Linton

Headers & Volleys - Ronaldinho - The man who plays with a smile

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known to the world as Ronaldinho, was at one time or another a favourite of every football fan. With his skill, goals, and stylish looks (maybe just his smile), everyone of a certain age wanted to be Ronaldinho. Who could blame them?

Born in the city of Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Ronaldinho lost his father at the early age of eight to a heart attack and was raised by his mother, Dona Miguelina Elói Assis dos Santos, with the help of his big brother Assis and sister Deisi. The first time anyone really took notice of him as a footballer was when he was still a young boy and managed to score an incredible 23 goals in a match that his local side won, well, 23-0. He was certainly noticed again at the 1997 under 17′s World Championship which Brazil won; he scored two goals in the tournament. People started whispering how young Ronaldinho was like past players Garrincha and Didi.

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The Bucket List, part eight

8. These are the Champions de de de de de deeeee

Welcome to the Headers & Volleys Bucket List. World football is a big place and sometimes there seems almost too much to see. In this series we will be looking at the top things to see and do, before you pop your clogs. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below, or contact us here and we will feature the best entries on the site.

Ryan Leverton of SportsLeviathan.com concludes his journey through his own Bucket List with today’s final instalment. Here, Ryan looks at one of the world’s most prestigious club competitions, the Champions League.

Milan lift the Champions League - catch a Champions League game as part of your Bucket List

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Didi: The Ethiopian Prince

by Rob Fielder, from the superb Ademir to Zizinho as featured on IBWM
Didi - Master of the "Dry Leaf" free-kick

Didi - Master of the "Dry Leaf" free-kick

When remembering Brazil’s World Cup winning sides of 1958 and 1962 it is easy to focus entirely on Pele and Garrincha. The twin giants of Brazilian football made such an impression at the two tournaments that so many other great characters fade into the background. For the emergence of a boy who would be king and a little bird so captured the imagination of the world at large that many other heroes were forced into the periphery.

The result of the natural fascination with Pele and Garrincha is the marginalisation of a host of other legends. From goalkeeper Gilmar, to full-backs Djalma and Nilton Santos and the likes of Mario Zagallo and Vava in attack, Brazil possessed all-time greats in every position. No man’s legacy has been more frequently forgotten though than Didi.

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The Bucket List, part seven

7. International Football Fever

Welcome to the Headers & Volleys Bucket List. World football is a big place and sometimes there seems almost too much to see. In this series we will be looking at the top things to see and do, before you pop your clogs. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below, or contact us here and we will feature the best entries on the site.

Ryan Leverton of SportsLeviathan.com continues his journey through his own Bucket List. In today’s penultimate instalment, Ryan looks at the biggest global football competition, the World Cup.

Headers & Volleys Bucket List: Brazil and Portugal fans at World Cup 2010

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