Lies, Damned Lies and Heat Maps


TFN’s Alastair Nasmyth is sceptical of football’s growing obsession with statistics…

Football has always been surprisingly suspicious of new technology. How long after cricket did we finally start seeing Hawkeye technology used for goal line disputes (it’s so simple and they also keep pigeons off the pitch)? Will football ever join the majority of professional sports that use television replays? Or is a can of shaving foam the only form help we’re willing to give the men trying to do the impossible job? While the authorities have treated scientific advances and their potential applications in the game in the same way that my Nan treats her mobile phone (used at arms length and with a look of worry on her face like it might explode in her hand), everyone else connected with the sport is embracing it with open arms, and no one more so than the statisticians. Continue reading

Last 16 in sight for USA after hard-fought win over rivals Ghana


TFN’s Kyle Hulme analyses USA’s 2-1 victory over Ghana…

The people of the United States are no strangers to history; they can proudly recall how they threw off the shackles of the British in 1776, name the field commanders of the Civil War and talk with intrigue and pride about the Battle of the Alamo. But after last night, perhaps they will have a new historical event to talk about around dinner tables and in classrooms up and down the country – the night soccer established itself as a part of their national identity.

Americans are no strangers to rivalries either – ask any hockey fan and they’ll explain how nothing feels better than getting one over the Russians or the Canadians – and last night another ghost was laid to rest. Ghana may seem like an unlikely rival, given that the two countries have no historic problems and they are separated by oceans and thousands of miles, but the Black Stars have been a thorn in the side of the US soccer team for years, bettering them in the group stage in 2006 and knocking them out with a goal in extra time in 2010. Ghana were a demon in long need of exorcising. But last night the US rewrote history, triumphing under a siege of Alamo proportions and moving one giant leap closer to the initially unlikely progression from their “group of death”. Continue reading

World Cup 2014: ITV Preview Belgium v Algeria

James Dutton and Greg Johnson imagine the scenes in the ITV studios as they cover Belgium’s opening game at the 2014 World Cup against Algeria…

Adrian Chiles: Goeiendag! Hallo! Welgekomen to ITV’s coverage of the Red Devils from Belgium against the Desert Foxes of Algeria. Yes, that’s right, Belgium are in town and the golden generation is ready to take the world by storm. With me, overlooking the beauty of the Copacabana Beach are Lee Dixon, Roy Kea… sorry… Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro. Continue reading

The Non-Redemption of Ricardo Quaresma


Ahead of Portugal’s opener against Germany, Hugo Greenhalgh looks at one player who didn’t make the cut…

Ever since the appointment of Jose Mourinho as Chelsea manager, there has been an obvious and sustained Portuguese imprint that lasted at the club for around a decade. The easily forgettable Filipe Oliveira predated his arrival, but he quickly brought in his able lieutenants from Porto, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, while Tiago Mendes joined from Benfica. In 2006, Hilario was added as a back-up goalkeeper and two seasons later, after Mourinho had left, Jose Bosingwa and Deco were signed.

During that 2008/9 season, another Portuguese also joined the ranks on loan in the January window. A one-time prodigy, Ricardo Quaresma had been playing for Inter, incidentally under Mourinho, but his time in Italy had not been particularly happy. Very much a ‘style over substance’ player, Quaresma was criticised for his lack of effort and suffered the indignity of winning the Bidone d’Oro award for the worst footballer in Serie A for 2008. Continue reading

Michael Owen: from that night in Saint-Étienne to cold nights in Stoke


TFN’s latest signing Alastair Nasmyth marvels at the career of Michael Owen…

Recently you may have had the opportunity to have seen a rarely broadcast piece of footage amidst the modest pre-tournament build-up of a young England player leaving an Argentinian defence for dead and scoring a goal that was to bring this little known (outside of England) youngster to the attention of the world. That man – boy – was Michael Owen. Now I don’t want to brag but as an experienced manager (3 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Champions League – Championship Manager 95/96) I’d been calling for his inclusion from the start of the tournament. Even as a 13 year old I’d seen how well he’d dovetail with Alan Shearer in my fictitious all-conquering Liverpool team. The goal itself was great; the deft touch with the outside of his foot to set himself up and then pace and strength, something not always associated with his game, to get past Jose Chamot. Then the cut grass (as the French say), drifting away from goal to get away from Roberto Ayala he thrakes the ball into the top corner on the far side of the goal.

After the dust had settled from David Beckham’s red card and loss on penalties, the one shinning light was this lad from Chester. If he could do this when he was only 18 think what he could achieve over the next 10 years, his first shave perhaps. Liverpool and England fans alike were salivating over the potential this boy (man) possessed and for the next 5 years he was to fulfil it as much as could be expected. The next season he went on to win a second Premiership Golden Boot (I wonder if they gave him a left and right?) including hat-tricks against Newcastle and Forest carrying Liverpool as best he could before injuring his hamstring towards the end of the season, an injury that would re-occur throughout his career. Continue reading