Former Portuguese footballer Luis Figo joins crowded field looking to unseat Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA.: The 78-year-old Blatter is seeking his fifth consecutive term as FIFA President in an election to be held May 29th. Figo joins Frenchman Jérôme Champagne, Jordanian Prince Ali (who has won the backing of England's FA), Dutch FA President Michael van Pragg, and a bookmaker-backed publicity candidate. ESPN FC's Gabriele Marcotti offers a brief primer (autoplay audio/video warning).
The Miracle of Sociedad Deportiva Eibar: The town of Eibar, Spain, population 27,000, has a club playing in La Liga's top division for the first time in its history. Sociedad Deportiva Eibar has a $22 million budget compared to $934 million at Real Madrid, but after 16 games it has five wins and five draws and is in ninth place, seven points above the relegation zone. The club, the smallest ever in Primera Division, is debt-free and self-sustaining. "We could be a little bit uncomfortable for a lot of clubs, because they have done things in the opposite way," said club president Alex Arranzabal.
Chris Wondolowski Relives That Shot: "Wondolowski went back to the locker room and showered and dressed. Moments later, he did something that no athlete in the aftermath of failure should ever, under any circumstances, do: He checked Twitter." Jordan Ritter Conn of Grantland catches up with Chris Wondolowski, six months after the World Cup round of 16 game-winning goal that wasn't.
Plans for 39th Premier League Game Abroad Fizzle: Six years after Premier League chief Richard Scudamore floated the idea of playing a 39th game in other countries, he is conceding defeat. "The idea of an extra game is gone," he said. "I bear the scars from thinking it’s a good idea." Another proposal has been more successful: The next broadcast deal will feature Friday evening games beginning in 2016.
New India Super League Has Fourth-Highest Attendance in Soccer: The India Super League began a month ago, hoping to bring soccer to prominence in a country where it was once the most popular sport. The league has brought on some older foreign stars -- Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and David Trezeguet -- and drew 56 million viewers to its opening matches. The league has eight teams, plays three months and does not relegate, although it plans a merger with the smaller, established I-League within five years. Organizers tout that it has the fourth-highest attendance of any league, ahead of Serie A and behind the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga. In a country of 1.2 billion, there are a lot of potential eyeballs. "Even a niche does very well for numbers," said Siddhanth Aney, editor of Sports Illustrated India. "You only need 1 percent of the TV audience to be successful."
Wigan owner makes controversial comment about Jews: Will the English get their own Donald Sterling moment? Kick It Out think so, and Wigan's shirt sponsor has already cancelled their deal over Mackay's hiring.
FIFA Goal of the Year nominees:
(Where "year" is October 2013 to September 2014.)
World Cup inquiry clears Qatar but criticises English FA: Or does it? Fifa report 'erroneous', says lawyer who investigated corruption claims and Fifa World Cup report pointless and a joke - FA boss Greg Dyke. So, Fifa corruption report: Who is to blame and what happens now?
What's in a shirt?: "With financial fair play forcing clubs worldwide to maximize their revenue streams, the once-humble kit deal is now more important than ever before. What used to be a local, pragmatic endeavor - you sponsor it, we wear it - has become a global statement of commercial intent."
Drone with Flag Sparks Brawl at Euro 2016 Match: The Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a banner with an Albanian nationalist message flew over the pitch at Partizan Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, and sparked a brawl between the teams after a Serbian player pulled it down and Albanian players tried to take it from him. Albanian supporters had already been banned from attending over security concerns, given turbulent relations between the countries. Deadspin has the video.
Gus Johnson Booted as Fox Soccer Announcer: Gus Johnson has stepped down as Fox's No. 1 soccer broadcaster. When Fox Sports president Eric Shanks was asked whether Johnson being widely reviled calling the sport was a reason for the move, he said no but added, "I am not going to lie and say we were unaware of it."
Diego Simeone gets eight match ban: Although Athletico Madrid started off the season with a trophy, winning the Spanish Super Cup will cost their manager a spell off the sidelines as he behaved very poorly when the assistant ref was slow in allowing his fullback back on the pitch after treatment for a bloody nose. Simeone was suspended for four games for tapping the back of the assistant referee's head, two games for protesting, one game for applauding his sending off, and one game for remaining in the stands instead of going to the changing room after his expulsion. Atletico assistant coach German Burgos will take charge in his absence.
Soccer Player Killed by Thrown Object from Stands: Albert Ebosse, a 24-year-old striker from Cameroon playing in the top-flight Algerian league for JS Kabylie, died after he was hit in the head by a thrown object from the stands at the end of a game Saturday. Ebosse scored the team's only goal in a 2-1 home loss to USM Alger.
Men in Blazers Move to NBC Sports: Sunday's Premiership opener between Manchester City and Newcastle was followed on NBC Sports by the Men in Blazers, television producer Michael Davies and writer Roger Bennett, broadcasting from their new Panic Room. "Not since Lewis and Clark have two men been so excited to be here," Bennett told the Wall Street Journal. "We're incredibly surprised that they wanted us," Davies said.
The Premier League Season Kicks Off Tomorrow: After a short post-WC break, the season in England's top flight begins tomorrow. The first manager to quit or get fired has already left the building, in the form of a man who seems almost unrecognizable minus the hat. Don't forget to join the SpoFi Fantasy Premier League mini-league (anyone know the SpoFi league code?). Post your season predictions inside.
Donovan to Retire at the end of this MLS season: An outstanding player and professional.
Will Financial Fair Play kill youth development at larger clubs?: "They will, at some point, be sold on, a premium fee guaranteed by having attended finishing school at one of the world's elite clubs. Chelsea are essentially running a recruitment and development business completely unrelated to their first team . . . Investment in their youth structures is exempt from FFP. But the money the club raise by selling players is not. They are making their money work for them. As one observer put it to me Wednesday, they are 'gaming' FFP."
Drogba!: "He is coming with the mentality to make more history."
SportsFilter's World Cup Confidence Pool Winner: The World Cup Confidence Pool has been won by Tron7 by 24 points over Goddam and 36 over Rcade (sigh). Two factors in the win were putting Spain out of the top 5 and Netherlands at 5, higher than anyone else in the top 10. My son Ecade takes home the coveted Costanza by being best at scoring the fewest points (you have to be encouraging as a parent). Tron7 wins an Adidas Brazuca Glider Soccer Ball.
How is Qatar building a national team for the 2022 World Cup?: by importing promising children from poor countries. Their families are given stipends and the boys come to live in a beautiful, possibly insane facility ("Across the campus, speakers pipe in the sounds of birds chirping throughout the day.") in hopes of some day making it onto the Qatar-owned team in Belgium. Doubly so since their options, much like those of the people building stadiums for 2022, limited:
Aspire executives were displeased by the departures. "They didn’t want us to talk to other agents, they definitely did not," said Tchoutou, who now plays for A.S. Roma’s top youth team. But after three years, he decided to leave with their approval or not. According to one scholarship agreement, the boys pledge not to sign any contract without the written authorization of Aspire. Of the few boys who have left the program, Bleicher said agents approached them secretly and made promises.
Germany Wins World Cup: Germany won its fourth World Cup after a tense 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday. Mario Gotze's strike, seven minutes from the end of extra time, ensured Germany ended its 24-year wait for glory at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium. Deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, it was left to substitute Gotze to provide the game's defining moment with a touch of magic. The Bayern Munich star took Andre Schurrle's pass on his chest before displaying exquisite technique to volley the ball past Sergio Romero.
Liverpool Sells Luiz Suarez to Barcelona: Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez is being transferred from Liverpool to Barcelona for a reported transfer fee around 80 million Euros. The 27-year-old serial biter is serving a four-month suspension from soccer as punishment for chomping Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup. Barring his appeal, Suarez will miss 18 games for Barcelona, including three in the Champions League, one for Copa del Rey and nine in La Liga.
Argentina Faces The Netherlands for Spot in World Cup Final: Argentina plays its first World Cup semifinal since 1990, facing today a Netherlands team looking to reach its second consecutive final. The countries have met four times in the tournament and four other times. Argentina won only one of the matches, but it was the 1978 World Cup final.
Nate Silver Had Brazil at 65% to Win Today: "We have some reasonably good news for Brazil. Even without Neymar and Silva, the team remains the leading contender to win the World Cup in our estimation. You may or may not agree with the math, but the intuition behind it is this: Soccer is a team sport, and Brazil is a very deep team. ... If we run the new numbers through the SPI match predictor, we come up with a 65 percent chance of Brazil prevailing against Germany." -- Nate Silver's pre-match prediction on 538
Brazil Faces Germany for Spot in World Cup Final: In the worst World Cup loss by Brazil in the country's history, the host nation lost 7-1 to Germany in the semi-final after goals by Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Andre Schuerrle. Oscar scored for Brazil.
The Netherlands Faces Underdog Costa Rica in World Cup: The Netherlands and Costa Rica meet in the World Cup for the first time Saturday to decide the final spot in the quarterfinals. The Netherlands has won 10 of its last 11 World Cup matches, losing only to Spain in the 2010 finals. Costa Rica, the biggest surprise of the tournament, is the first CONCACAF team to reach a quarterfinal in 12 years.
Argentina Faces Belgium in World Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina and Belgium meet Saturday in the day's early World Cup quarterfinal. The teams have met twice in the tournament before, Belgium winning in the group stage in 1982 and Argentina in the semifinals four years later. All eyes are on Argentina great Lionel Messi, who has four goals and one assist out of his country's seven total goals at this World Cup.
Brazil Knocks Out Colombia, But Loses Neymar: In a match full of hard fouls and poor officiating, Brazil defeated Colombia 2-1 with goals from Thiago Silva and David Luiz. Colombia's James Rodriguez scored on a penalty to cut the lead in half. Brazilian star Neymar took a knee to the back in the 88th minute on a hard foul by Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga and suffered a broken vertebra, ending his tournament.
Germany Closes Down France in World Cup: Germany scored on a Mats Hummels header in the 12th minute and that was all it needed in a 1-0 victory over France in the World Cup quarterfinals. The win makes Germany the first country to reach the semifinals in four straight World Cups. France had a late chance as Karim Benzema launched a final-minute strike in the box, but German keeper Manuel Neuer got a hand on it. An ESPNFC writer was disappointed by the French effort, calling the game "one of the more turgid affairs of this consistently excellent tournament."
This isn't The Onion : Championship League football owner cuts player from team because date of birth is unlucky.:
Cellino is so suspicious of the number 17 that he had the seats at his former club, Cagliari, taken out and replaced with 16B.
Michael Bradley Covered Most Ground in World Cup: Michael Bradley covered 54.7 kilometers during the four U.S. games, the highest total of any player in the World Cup. Headlines such as What Happened to Michael Bradley? suggest the 26-year-old underperformed, but nobody outworked him. "His positioning has been flawless and his work ethic is quite literally unmatched," wrote Beck Barnes before Monday's match.
How Good Are the Americans, Really?: An interesting analysis of where the U.S. men's national team stands in the soccer hierarchy after its exit from the World Cup, written by Mark Satterfield of the Christian Science Monitor. "Team USA has not stagnated. The bus is still moving forward," he observes. "But the issues that made the first 105 minutes of the Belgium game -- and much of America's World Cup, frankly -- an exercise in intestinal fortitude are the same issues that have defined the USA ever since it reemerged on the world stage in 1990."
U.S. Falls to Belgium Despite Epic Tim Howard Performance: In one of the biggest games in the history of the U.S. men's soccer team, the United States lost to Belgium 2-1 in a round of 16 elimination game in the World Cup. The game went to an extra 30 minutes after it was 0-0 at the 90 minute mark. Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku scored goals for Belgium, and 19-year-old American substitute Julian Green -- the youngest player ever to take the field for the U.S. at a World Cup -- scored to cut the lead in half with 12 minutes to spare. American goalkeeper Tim Howard had the most saves in a game in recorded World Cup history.
Costa Rica Faces Greece in Unlikeliest World Cup Knockout: Costa Rica, the surprise of the World Cup tournament thus far, faces Greece Sunday in a knockout game in the World Cup round of 16. The Ticos were not expected to survive a group that included Uruguay, Italy and England, but they won it. Greece beat Ivory Coast in its final game for a surprise escape from its group. This is the first time the countries have ever played each other, and only the second time Costa Rica has reached this stage. They're bidding to be the first CONCACAF team to reach the quarterfinals since the U.S. in 2002. Greece has only one two of its nine World Cup matches and was scoreless in all seven losses.
Mexico Faces The Netherlands in Round of 16: After making the World Cup only through the divine intervention of San Zusi, Mexico has been on an impressive run so far. But now they face The Netherlands, the 2010 runner-up who absolutely demolished 2010 champ Spain in the opening game and helped them exit early. Mexico has lost three times and drawn once in its last matches against the Dutch and exited the World Cup at this stage every time since 1994. Arjen Robben and Robbie Van Persie are within 1 and 2 goals, respectively, of Johnny Rep's all-time national goal record in the finals.
Colombia Faces Suarez-Less Uruguay in World Cup Knockout: Uruguay may have bitten off more than it can chew in a World Cup round of 16 match against fellow South American side Colombia, playing without star striker Luis Suarez after his suspension for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the final group game. This is only the second time Colombia has reached the round of 16 and the first time it enters as a group champion. Uruguay has won 6 of the last 8 against Colombia, but lost the last two cup matches it played without Suarez.
Brazil Faces Chile in World Cup's First Knockout Game: South American rivals Brazil and Chile meet Saturday in the World Cup round of 16. Brazil hasn't lost to Chile since a cup qualifier in 2000, winning 10 out of their last 12 meetings, and has beaten Chile three times in knockout games. Chile has only reached the final four of the tournament once, in 1962, where they lost to Brazil 4-2 and it went on to hoist the trophy. Neymar, Thiago Silva and two other Brazilians enter this match on yellow cards.
Luis Suarez Banned 9 Games for Biting Opponent: Uruguay star Luis Suarez has been banned for nine games and four months by FIFA for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during their World Cup match. Suarez had two prior biting incidents in the past five years, one while he played for Liverpool in England's Premiership and another at Ajax in Holland. The decision takes away Uruguay's top player and one of the standouts of the tournament before its match against Colombia in a knockout game Saturday. The punishment covers the start of Suarez' club season as well for Liverpool.
U.S. Escapes Group of Death, Advances Despite Loss: The U.S. men's soccer team lost to Germany 1-0 but advanced to the next round of the World Cup with Portugal's 2-1 victory over Ghana, winning the goal differential tiebreaker over Portugal. Thomas Mueller scored for Germany in the second half. This is the first time the Americans have advanced out of the group round in two successive World Cup tournaments.