Archive for the ‘German National Team’ Category

TRF Faithful … Happy summer! Time to recharge your batteries before they do it all over again starting July 19th with German 2nd Bundesliga action and 1.FCK’s quest to earn Bundesliga promotion for the 2014/15 campaign. Fast forward three  weeks … the first 2 weeks of BL2 are in the books, Kaiserslautern has won both its BL2 matches as well as handling business (7:0) versus 6th tier Neckarsulmer Sport Union.

Let’s backtrack a bit to early June and the German National Team’s visit to the States and the Centennial Match vs, the U.S. National Team … So as we head back home to the ATL after a great soccer weekend (well except for that final US v Germany score) it’s appropriate to reflect a bit on what we saw & heard.

Imagine seeing THIS walk through the U.S. Soccer Federation hotel in DC … Germans everywhere. Photo source: Woody, University of Maryland grad student

Funny Fact: It turns out that our hotel (Hyatt Regency Washington) was the official U.S. Soccer Association HQ for the centennial celebration so we were greeted by literally 100s of local, regional and national U.S. soccer officials in town for the big event. Walking through the hotel decked out in Germany schwag was a blast especially when all of our chats with the officials focused on the bright future of the German NT, not their own. Of course, we toned things back a bit post-game on Sunday.

While on location, we took the chance to catch the Germans’ Saturday pre-match practice. Here’s a short vid edited and produced by the fabulously talented Victoria Hersey

Another highlight of the weekend, was seeing Miro Klose, who had just joined the team after winning the Italian Cup in Rome, practice and strut his stuff.  While Klose was not able to break Gerd Mueller’s total national team goals record against the Americans, we’ll keep our fingers crossed he stays healthy and in form heading into next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
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US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (130)US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (106)US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (138)We spent last Saturday baking in the DC sun with the hopes of watching our German National Team Fussball heroes during their final practice session before the friendly vs. the U.S. Men’s team on Sunday. We were not disappointed and as posted previously, got our share of action shots. Granted, we would have enjoyed seeing the absent ‘A-listers’, but seeing some familiar faces and many more fresh ones was still a thrill.US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (61)

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U.S. Soccer celebrates its 100th anniversary with back-to-back matches on Sunday, June 2, in Washington, D.C., and Toronto, Canada, respectively. The Men’s National Team faces Germany at 2:30 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium and the U.S. Women’s National Team takes on Canada later in the day.

Germany vs. U.S. on American soil. While there is no shortage of story lines and themes to the DC Showdown, I am most intrigued by … the reunion of the WC 2006 managerial masterminds, but this time on opposite sides; Germany’s ‘C’ Mannschaft vs. U.S. ‘Chinese fire drill’ squad; Germany’s battle with the local heat vs. U.S.’s balancing act of conserving energy ahead of next week’s ‘do or die’ WC qualifiers.

Although we circled this date on the world football calendar back in late November 2012 when the German’s mini ‘US tour’ was first announced, much has changed in terms of what we’ll see on the field come Sunday afternoon. For one, the untouchable Juergen Klinsmann is no longer the USMNT golden child; his leadership has been questioned by key NT players, his coaching strategy and big change management initiative have been ridiculed, and most importantly from a results standpoint, his team’s standing in the overall World Cup qualification standings is less than rosy. However, with all that said, we should not forget what a great day this will be not only for US soccer but for Germany’s contribution toward making the 100th year celebration a memorable one.

Supporters of the German National Team watch the ‘Jungs’ practice one more time before Sunday’s U.S. match

Thanks to some pre-match alerts and our ‘know-it-alls on Twitter, we learned that the German and US team were inviting the public to an open practice session yesterday late morning and early afternoon. We headed straight to RFK Stadium upon landing at Reagan National and were joined by a hundred plus other Germany supporters, most of them local expatriates, with a few US sympathizers (waiting for the UMNT to take the field) mixed in.

While the fans’ enthusiasm is undeniable, so is that of the media. We were very surprised to see Germany’s Sky TV Sport News crew walking around the grounds looking for soundbites including TRF’s opinion on the state of German and US Soccer as well as the current popularity of  U.S. boss Klinsmann. In addition, we spent some time with Woody, a overachieving University of Maryland grad student, who decided to battle the DC heat and soak up the German’s practice session first hand as part of a digital media assignment. We had a great chat about the upcoming friendly and soccer fandom, in particular as it relates to our support for the German side.

We spent the rest of Germany’s practice session snapping photos of  Poldi, Mertes, Miro, Drachsler, Jogi Loew and the rest of the boys so here are some samples …

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Welcome to week 3 of Euro 2012 and the beginning of the elimination round. With two more quarterfinal match-ups upon us [Ronaldo's Portugal beat the Czechs 1:0 Thursday & Jogi Loew's Germans dismantled the hapless Greeks 4:2 last night], it’s ‘brass tacks’ time and a good opportunity to review some interesting Euro 2012 numbers, stats and facts …

500,000+ Germany fans gather at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to celebrate Die Mannschaft during Euro 2012

860  A record for most passes in a EURO match, achieved by Spain in their Euro 2012 Group C match with Ireland. Spain’s midfield maestro Xavi led the way with a new record of his own, completing 127 of 136 pass attempts vs. Ireland.

368  The total player count at Euro 2012 represented by 16, 23-man European national teams.

120  The total number of national team appearances for Miroslav Klose after yesterday’s start against Greece.

64  All goals scored by Miroslav Klose in a Germany shirt since his national team debut in 2001. His 64th goal yesterday puts him only four behind Gerd Mueller’s DFB scoring record.

64  Goals scored by Germany at the UEFA Euros after their latest 4-2 quarterfinal win over Greece, putting them seven in front of the Netherlands as the competition’s all-time leading scorers.

58  With it’s recent win over Croatia, Spain has now enjoyed more possession than its opponents in each of the last 58 matches.

38  The age of the oldest Euro competition player to score a goal [at Euro 2008, Ivica Vastic found the net for Austria]. 35 years and 256 days was the age at which Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko undid Sweden with a decisive double goal performance and established himself as the second-oldest goalscorer in the history of the UEFA European Championship.

27   The age at which Lukas Podolski won his 100th cap on Sunday, becoming the youngest European player to reach this landmark in the process.

19  Germany have now scored at least once in their last 19 matches dating back to November 2010.

12  The group of players who have scored at least twice in a match at both the Euros and the FIFA World Cup. Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko joined this elite club with his Euro 2012 goals.

7  Goal total for Greece during their 2004 Euro Championship campaign compared to Germany’s 9 tallies during 2012 Euro Group and quarterfinal play.

5  The number of major international tournaments that have been graced by a Cristiano Ronaldo goal. The Portugal star struck twice in a Group B win over the Netherlands and once in the quarterfinal victory over the Czechs.

4  The total of consecutive semi-final appearances made by the German National Team. This includes the semi-final loss to the Italians at the 2006 World Cup in Germany; the 2008 Euro match-up with Turkey (who Germany beat only to lose to Spain in the final); the 2010 World Cup semi-final loss to Spain, and the upcoming Euro 2012 semi-final match on Thursday, June 28th against either England or Italy.

0  The Netherland’s point total in Euro 2012 Group B competition after losing all three group matches at a major tournament for the first time in their history, and suffering three successive defeats for the first time in 22 years.

With five Euro 2012 matches remaining and European football powerhouses England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain still competing for Euro glory, there are bound to be more records broken and ‘firsts’ recorded. Stay tuned.

The are way too many facts, stats, numbers, rankings and lists when it comes to UEFA’s Euro 2012 football tournament. This is particularly true as it relates to the 16 participating countries, the 368 players, the 31 matches, the Polish and Ukranian venues … the list goes on and on.

So, in order to help you focus on the essentials and our personal “everything Germany” bias, we have pulled together the highlights or in boxing terms, the ‘tale of the tape’ on Euro 2012. In fact, true to the bilingual content posted throughout our The Real Futbol blog, the broader Euro highlights up top are in English while the Germany team details below are displayed via a fancy German language infographic. Thanks to the compelling visuals produced by www.fussball-em-2012.com, your grade school German skills should suffice in enjoying this one.

Euro 2012 Facts, Figures & Euros

  • Co-hosted by Poland (pop. 38.5 Million) and the Ukraine (pop. 45.6 Million), Euro 2012 marks the 14th edition (#1 was held in France in 1960) and the 3rd competition with co-hosts
  • Euro 2012 features 16 European national teams. 24 teams will qualify for Euro 2016 in France
  • 31 matches will be contested in eight stadiums (four in Poland, four in the Ukraine) commencing June 8th and concluding with the final in Kiev on July 1
  • The 16 teams have been drawn into 4 groups, with co-host Poland leading Group A and co-host Ukraine leading Group D
  • According to FIFA World Rankings, 7 of the top 10 football teams in the world will be competing at Euro 2012. Only two teams have a ranking lower than 30, with Poland’s 65th place being the lowest
  • Euro 2012 is the most ‘remote’ championship yet with 16 teams collectively travelling 16,000 miles to reach the final in Kiev
  • 12 referees have been selected to officiate the 31 Euro matches representing 9 of the 16 countries. England’s Howard Webb is the only ref with previous Euro competition experience
  • Each team roster is limited to 23 players taking the total Euro 2012 player count to 368
  • Match tickets range from 30 to 600 Euros ; 85% of the roughly 1.4 million available tickets have been allocated for fans, the rest for tournament sponsors
  • The total price money earmarked for Euro 2012 is 196 million Euros, 12 million more than in 2008. All 16 participants will earn 8 million Euros; teams will get 2 million each for qualifying from the group, and 3 million for reaching the semi-final. The winner receives 7.5 million Euros. 
  • More than 12 million tickets were requested during the first application phase ending March 31, 2011
  • The market value of the Danish National Team (94.45 million Euros) is only 4.45 Million more than that of Portugal’s super star Cristiano Ronaldo
  • The Euros will feature the most expensive players in the world. Here’s a ‘top market value’ breakdown:

GROUP A: Poland, Robert Lewandowski (15 million Euros); Czech Republic, Petr Cech (25 million Euros);   Russia, Igor Akinfeev (17 million Euros); Greece, Kyriakos Papadopoulos (9 million Euros)

GROUP B: Holland, Robin van Persie (45 million Euros); Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo (90 million Euros); Germany, Mario Gomez (42 million Euros); Denmark, Christian Eriksen (13 million Euros)

GROUP C: Spain, Andres Iniesta (65 million Euros); Croatia, Luka Modric (39 million Euros); Ireland, Aiden McGeady (9 million Euros); Italy, Daniele De Rossie (32 million Euros)

GROUP D: England, Wayne Rooney (65 million Euros); Sweden, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (37 million Euros); Ukraine, Andriy Yarmolenko (9 million Euros); France, Franck Ribery (42 million Euros).

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German National Football Team Infographic (auf Deutsch) 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. and commemorate the celebrations that originated in Plymouth in 1621, I figured it would be an ideal time to give thanks to something near and dear to my heart … ‘Die Mannschaft’, the German Men’s National Soccer Team. The popularity and on-the-pitch success of Joachim Loew’s men is at an unprecedented high and if current form is an indicator of future performance than the country’s #3 world FIFA ranking is probably on the low side.

Here is Germany’s ‘tale of the tape’ for 2011:

  • 13 national team international matches-6 Euro 2012 Qualifiers, 7 Friendlies
  • 9 wins, 3 ties, 1 loss
  • Perfect Euro 2012 qualifying campaign: 10 games, 10 wins, 30 points, 34 goals scored, 7 conceded (21 goals scored in 2011)
  • Five starters scored 5 or more goals including Mario Gomez (6), Miroslav Klose (5), Thomas Mueller (5), Mesut Oezil (5) and Andre Schuerrle (5)
  • Youngest Germany team in modern history
  • Miroslav Klose, 2nd on international goal list to Gerd Mueller, celebrates 100th cap with 2 goals in Kaiserslautern (March 26)
  • Friendly victories over Brazil (3:2), The Netherlands (3:0) and Uruguay (2:1)

Beyond the outstanding on-the-field results,what made Die Mannschaft particularly lethal in 2011 and heading into Poland And Ukraine (Euro 2012) next June is the roster depth at each position and overall youth. There’s a running joke routinely thrown in the face of new job applicants (especially in Germany where the average age of out of school employees is 25+) that calls for a 20-year-old job candidate with 10 years of work experience. This reminds of the German youth movement, players like Goetze (19), Schuerrle (21), Toni Kroos (21), Thomas Mueller (21), Mats Hummels (22) and Oezil (23) are babies but have all played for many years and gathered more than their share of high-profile, international match experience.

Speaking of the young guns as well as the ‘tribe elders’, here are some individual accolades I deemed appropriate for 2011:

Schuerrle celebrates his first goal for Die Mannschaft vs. Uruguay

Newcomer of the year: Andre Schuerrle. Last year he played at Mainz, this year’s he’s secured a lucrative deal with Leverkusen, and with 5 goals (all in 2011) in 11 national team appearances he’s one of the young guns shooting for Euro 2012 glory.

Comeback player of the year: Mario Gomez for finally finding the back of the net as a member of the national team and swaying German public opinion about his value as Germany’s star.

Oezil and his Real teammates celebrate

Bonefide superstar: Mesut Oezil is a stud. Propelled into the international spotlight with a solid world cup performance in South Africa, his Real Madrid debut in 2010 was nothing  short of spectacular. He led Spanish La Liga in goal assists last year and has become Mourinho’s MVP with his ability to satisfy Cristiano Ronaldo’s insatiable appetite for goals.

The 75+ CAPS Club: Piere Mertesacker (79), Lukas Podolski (95), Miro Klose (113), Philip Lahm (85) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (90) are German’s tribe elders and by far the most experienced of the bunch. While Klose might still make it to Brazil in 2014, the others have at least 3 or 4 more major international tournaments in them.

“Seems like he’s been there forever” award: Manuel Neuer has only collect 25 caps as Germany’s #1 in goal but ever since he replaced Rene Adler before South Africa, the humble Bayern keeper has settled in as the calm and collected ‘back-stop’ of Die Mannschaft. Considering many goalies play well into their 30s, Neuer has at least another decade of history making in front of him.

Razzie recipient (award for ‘worst’ performance): Michael Ballack is settling into his supporting role for Bayer Leverkusen, but his exit from the German team was anything but graceful. Hexed with a major pre-worldcup injury, he never recovered to represent Deutschland and feuded loudly and often with DFB (German Soccer Federation) officials about his dismissal.

“Don’t quit your day job’ award: Philip Lahm for authoring a ‘tell all’ book on various managers of the national team forcing a public apology and debate over his worthiness as German captain.

“Clicking on all cylinders” award: German Youth academies for nurturing supreme soccer talent and re-vitalizing and re-juvenating German soccer from the amateur ranks to the national side.

“Would hate to have your job” award: Paul the Octopus, the famous German cephalopod mollusc known world-wide for its ability to predict all victors of the 2010 World Cup. Although Paul is no longer in the prediction business (in fact, he ended up as a tasty fried side dish some time ago), he has inspired a new generation of savvy octopuses that will no doubt be  thrust into the Euro 2012 spotlight when it comes to next summer’s wagers and predictions.

The German Fussball ladies huddle up pre-game

“Show them how it’s done” award: German Women’s National team and their gracious early exit from the 2011 World Cup as well as their overall tasteful and humane handling of the Birgit Prinz saga.

November 11, 2011 means different things to different people. To some, it signifies the Cosmic Portal Transit Date (hop aboard the train of ‘life’s true happiness’), others observe it as World Day of Interconnectedness (at 11AM be nice to and ‘connect’ with anyone and everyone), while others celebrate Nigel Tufnel Day, the fictional rocker from the world’s loudest band Spinal Tap, who loves to turn his amps up to 11 when he needs that “extra push over the cliff.”

To me, November 11 means two things; a great excuse for a delicious roasted goose dinner to celebrate The Feast of St. Martin (aka St. Martin’s day) and the chance to witness some of the most intriguing football fixtures spanning international friendlies, EURO2012 play-off qualifiers and 2014 World Cup (WC) qualifiers. Since this is a football and not a food blog, I’ll focus on the 11 matches, teams and players bound to make an impact on this historic day. If you are keeping count, Friday will feature 4 Euro qualifiers,  13 international friendlies, and a whopping 35 WC qualifiers played across 4 continents.

[11] Colombia vs. Venezuela (WC2014 qualifier): Colombian football has always intrigued me and I have always rooted for the traditional underdogs who’s last WC appearance dates back to 1998.

  1.  While the likes of Higuita and Valderrama are long gone, new phenoms include forwards such as Radamel Falcao and  Hugo Rodallega. Speaking of underdogs, Venezuela has never qualified for a world cup, and until its 2011 Copa America semi-final finish, has never finished better than 5th in any tournament. With a recent WC-qualifier win over the mighty Argentinians, this match should prove wide open, but in the end Venezuela will come up short by 1:2.

    Bad hair was a trademark of this Colombian football legend


[10] Republic of Ireland: ‘The luck of the Irish’ EURO2012 play-off draw saw the team from the Emerald Isle paired up against Estonia, by far the easiest (at least on paper) of the four play-off match-ups. After being cheated out of a World Cup South Africa spot based on Thierry Henry’s now infamous ‘hand of god’,  the footballing world is ready to see Ireland return to the world stage. With the Euro Championship in 1988 being their only appearance, colorful coach Giovanni Trapattoni and captain Robbie Keane are determined to a new page to the history books. I predict a 3:1 goal spread on aggregate across the two Estonia matches on the 11th and 15th.

[9] France vs. USA:  As U.S. soccer historian and avid soccer film collector Dave Wasser pointed out to me, the last encounter of these two was 1979, a 3:0 cake walk for France. Honestly, I don’t know if the U.S. is any better off than 32 years ago but at least ESPN2 found it worthy enough to broadcast. With all cynicism aside, it will be interesting to see how Juergen Klinsmann preps his men for the battle over frog legs. Thanks to Dave, here are a few clips from the 1979 encounter.

Keane is still Ireland's 'King of the World'

[8] Robbie Keane: The Irish National Team captain has made a recent move to LA but is still considered the ‘difference maker’ for The Boys in Green and their top international goal scorer with 51. With the LA Galaxy’s November 20th MLS Cup Final approaching, Keane will have to log more than 10,000 miles to compete in both Euro playoffs and the MLS match over the next 9 days. We’ll see how much juice is left in the tank by the time 2oth rolls around.

[7] Turkey vs. Croatia: I thought Turkey would have a much easier go of it in qualifying for EURO2012. While they did not stand much of a chance to top their qualifying group vs. the Germans, the talent-heavy side led by the iconic Dutch master Guus Hiddick has looked very ordinary and now faces Croatia in the 2 game play-off. Turkey might be the home side for the first leg match, but without Nuri Sahin they could well find themselves dominated by Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric. Also look for some fireworks from Croatian and Bayern striker Olic as he looks to rebound from a slew of nagging injuries. I see Turkey finally getting its act together and claiming the EURO spot with a 2:1 aggregate victory over Croatia.

Klinsman scored 47 goals in 108 appearances for his country

[6] Juergen Klinsmann: I love this guy; love what he achieved as a player, love how he resurrected German soccer and made the entire country look like heroes in 2006, love that he made Jogi Loew a household name (well almost) and love the fact we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the US since his national team coaching appointment.I realize he’s already under fire for not winning much as U.S. coach thus far, but let’s look at France as the turning point. He’s taking his time, taking chances and believing in talented youth, much like he did with David Odonkor in 2006 when he shocked German football ‘experts’ with the speedsters’ world cup squad nomination. Go Klinsi go and take 4 points from the next two matches with France and Slovenia

[5] England vs. Spain: I am skipping ahead to Saturday’s clash of the Titans but would be remiss if I did not mention this classic match-up (12:15pm Eastern, Live on Fox Soccer) and the bragging rights a stake. While this might just be another friendly on paper, the two camps are taking matter seriously with England skipper Fabio Capello truly taking one for the team by missing his youngest son’s wedding also scheduled for Saturday. On the footballing side, I see England struggling to keep up with Spain’s high-powered offense and second to none team play. Spain 2, England 0.

Phillip Lahm sport's his country's new EURO2012 Home kit

[4] Ukraine vs. Germany: Germany can break its curse of loosing end-of-the-year international match by upending Ukraine in Kiev tonight (live on ESPN3.com at 2:45PM Eastern).  While this will be a cold, maybe even close to zero degree affair, and stars like Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Neuer and Klose are inactive, ‘Die Mannschaft’ surely realizes the symbolism of playing in Kiev’s newly renovated Olympic Stadium and host of next summer’s EURo Final on July 1 (233 days and counting). Other match notables include Jogi Loew’s decision to feature the Oezil Goetze midfield duo (a first) and the DFB (German Soccer Federation) will unveil Germany’s EURO2012 kit.

[3] Mario Goetze: “Wir sind Deutschland” (we are German). Jung, dynamisch und erfolgreich (young, dynamic and succesful).” Dortmund’s Super Mario 2.0 is all that is good with German football … the domestic leagues are gaining international respect and pulling in record revenues; the German’farm system’ is sophisticated and extremely well-funded and ‘harvesting’ one bumper crop after the next (Mueller-Boateng-Reuss-Schuerle-Kroos-Pedersen-Goetze …); and the national team is winning (record EURO qualifying stats, solid friendly victory over Brazil this summer).

[2] Luka Modric: The Croatian midfielder and Spurs star was the most talked about English Premier League transfer that did not happen during the July-August transfer window. Modrić was heavily pursued by cross-town rivals, Chelsea who made an offer of £40 million ( £25 more than they paid for him) which was later rejected. He is a midfield marvel and was once dubbed the ‘Croatian Cruyff’ and at 26 has yet to reach his full superstar potential.

[1] Bosnia vs. Portugal: Bosnia-Herzegovina has a score to settle with Portugal after the Iberians edged the Balkan nation to a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after winning the WC qualification play-offs. While Portugal boasts the more impressive roster led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Pepe, Bosnia’s 25 year old striker Edin Dzeko is currently in cracking form with Manchester City so maybe he can single handily carry his squad to Ukraine & Poland. I think this will be the upset match-up and Bosnia will outlast Portugal 3:2 on aggregate after the return leg on November 15th.

Portugal celebrates after securing a 2010 World Cup birth in a tense play-off with Bosnia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, to all the players and teams today competing for glory, pride, respect or honor, channel your inner Nigel Tufnel and remember to turn your amps up to 11 (on11.11) when that “extra push over the cliff” is required.

Kevin-Prince Boateng has undoubtedly earned his bad boy image over the years regardless of his spiffy threads

Ask professional footballer Boateng about his match performance on Sunday, October 23rd and you will get two wildly conflicting answers …  AC Milan attacking midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng scored 3 goals in 14 minutes to lead a second half comeback from 0-3 down. Boateng scored the fastest Serie A hat-trick in 10 years (since former French International David Trezeguet did so in 10-minutes for Juventus back in 2001). And, teammate Mario Yepes grabbed a late winner as AC Milan came back from 3-0 down for a sensational 4-3 victory at Lecce Sunday. Check out this short clip of all 7 goals from the AC/Lecce match including Boateng’s killer strikes

While his brother was scoring a 14-minute hat trick for AC Milan, Jerome fought his way to a red card and early exit vs. Hannover

1900 kilometers North, in Hannover, Germany,  Kevin’s younger brother Jerome, a central defender for Bayern Munich and member of the German National Team, was shown a red card and ejected in the 28th minute of Bayern’s match vs. Hannover. Boateng lost his cool and pushed one of the Hannover players leading to a sideline melee and straight red card. A several-match suspension might follow as well.

The most recent Boateng newsflash is just the latest in what has turned into nothing short of a ‘True Hollywood Story’ especially after Kevin (who wears Prince on the back of his jersey) single-handedly removed Michael Ballack from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (and as it turns out from the German squad for good!). The 2010 FA Cup Final set the stage when Boateng’s lowly Portsmouth squad faced off against league champs Chelsea in the Wembley finale. Just before half-time, Boateng swooped in and delivered a bone crunching (in this case right ankle twisting) tackle on Ballack forcing his early exit from the match as well as his medical withdrawal from South Africa. To make things stranger, Kevin had years before plead his allegiance to his native Ghana while his brother favored wearing a Germany jersey for ‘Die Mannschaft’. Of course, the press had a field day declaring that  Boateng had fouled Ballack on purpose in order to keep him out of the German lineup and more importantly out of the Germany vs. Ghana first round match. In hindsight, Boateng did Germany a huge favor and a Ballack-less squad played aggressive, fast and team-focused football ending up with a 3rd place world cup medal.  While both Boatengs faced off in the aforementioned Germany Ghana world cup game, their relationship has severely cooled since the dynamic duo played together for Hertha Berlin several years ago.

We want you ... to remember us like this: happy and united in Berlin (circa 2006)

Miroslav Klose, discarded by Hollywood FC (Bayern Muenchen) and released transfer fee-free past July, found a welcoming home in Roma and S.S. Lazio, the ‘other Italian 1st division (Serie A) team in the nation’s capital. The 33-year-old Polish born German who has set all sorts of scoring records with the German National Team, has enjoyed the move south due in large part to something very simple … he’s playing soccer regularly … and doing it very well. Since joining Lazio, Klose has scored 6 times in Serie A and Europa League games including match winners two weeks in a row. The latest, Sunday’s 93rd minute thriller against arch rivals AS Roma in front of rabid Lazio supporters at the Stadio Olimpico, marked for me Klose’s homecoming to Italian football and the beginning of another chapter in the series “German Footballers kick ass in Italy” … molto impressionante! I say homecoming, because to me, Klose has been a wanderer, looking for respect, ever since he ‘sold out’ and left Bremen for Bayern after the 2006/7 Bundesliga campaign. His saving grace … consistently dominant performances for Germany at all international competitions.

Out of this world, like the sign says ... Klose again displays extraterrestrial abilities with his ice cold winner to secure Lazio's victory over arch-rival Roma on Sunday

So Sunday, the world stage was set for the 167th edition of the  Derby della Capitale, the local derby between Rome’s major teams Roma and Lazio. Considered to be the fiercest rivalry in the country and one of the greatest and hotly contested capital derbies in Europe, the game and Miro Klose did not disappoint. A bit of background – since November 1953, all matches have been played in Stadio Olimpico, the 72,000+ capacity home pitch of both Lazio and Roma, and in total the two rivals have battled 167 times, 135 of those in Serie A competition. While Roma has tallied 17 more victories including the last 5 since December 2009, Sunday’s Lazio home performance and last-minute heroics put an end to that streak. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, a thrilling video clip is worth a million … here’s Miro’s goal and the ensuing mayhem.

 

Football is about passion and inspiration and Klose’s latest performance fueled my tank on both accounts. If you don’t ‘buy it’ from me, take the Lazio faithful’s word for it … Ole Ole Ole Kloseee

 

I am back to blogging and posting fun and hopeful interesting football/soccer stuff on the site so you can again get used to lots of fresh content … all leading up to UEFA’s EURO 2012 competition next summer in Poland and Ukraine

As of the end of play on Sunday, July 3rd, we have reached the halfway mark of games played (16) at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. Judging by various factors – stadium attendance; TV ratings; host country hospitality; player reactions and enthusiasm; quality of football played; and media interest – the 2011 Women’s World Cup will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression, even before the world cup championship trophy is hoisted in Frankfurt on July 17th.

While there are too many highlights to mention, here are our top 5 winners & losers 8 days in:

Winners (Starting 11)

Japanese Women’s Team: The Nippon warriors have not only captured the hearts of football fans around the globe, but also brought their ‘A’ game to the tournament. They currently sit atop Group B with the most goals scored, including a hat-trick by captain Homare Sawa vs. Mexico.

Genoveva Anonman: The 22-year old Equatorial Guinea midfielder wasted no time making headlines in Germany with 10 shots on goal vs. Norway and 2 goals scored in the last match against Australia.  While her gender may have been questioned pre-WWC, her heart and commitment to her team are unshakable. While many have been put-off by her arrogant, in your face style, I have found her outlook refreshing.

TV Ratings: More than 90% of all WWC tickets have been sold, public opinion of women’s soccer in Germany and worldwide are at an all time high, and TV ratings in the host country are unprecedented.  While 18 million Germans tuned in for Germany’s opener against Canada, more than 16.6 watched the Nigeria match, accounting for 50+% of all TV viewers last Thursday. More stats can be viewed here.

Cecilia Okoyino Da Mbabi: Cecilia is quickly becoming a household name in Germany although pronouncing her name is no easy feat. The German midfielder scored the 2nd goal in her country’s victory against Canada, securing her slot as one of the starting 11.  In addition to her obvious footballing skills, she is another sport poster child of the German ‘multikulti’, multi-cultural generation with foreign parents but a German passport. Nonetheless, her French mother will root for her daughter and teammates when Germany faces France next.

HERoics: As part of its 2011 Women’s World Cup coverage, ESPN aired a series of six soccer documentaries made by women, about women. The 10 minute short films profile WWC players Marta (Brazil), Kelly Smith (England), and Lisa De Vanna (Australia); and highlight unique stories about a group of grandmothers and senior citizens on a football team in Jerez, Spain; a woman referee in the Republic of Congo who earned accolades from FIFA while working through the stress of abuse from fans; and a probation officer who uses soccer to steer troubled teens away from gangs in a Central California town.

Losers (On the bench)

Birgit Prinz: Here’s another case of an aging German soccer star unwilling to see (or acknowledge) the writing on the wall. In what could turn into ‘Ballack, part two’, the German’s captain has been playing very poorly and acting worse off-the field (in reaction to her early substitutions). Time will tell how this turns out, but since the ego/psyche damage has obviously been done, I say bench the star and give U-20 World Champion Alexandra Popp her shot.

Gaal Gyoengyi: She is the Hungarian referee that missed the obvious handball (non-call) during the Australia-Equatorial Guinea match. Want more musings on this ultimate bad call and day 8 WWC action? Check out The All White kit blog women’s soccer blog.

Sepp Blatter: Not only did German WWC organizing committee members have to plead with fans to not boo the man at the Opening Ceremonies, the press was also instructed to not ask questions about the ongoing FIFA bribery allegations. In fact, FIFA was so worried about the boo birds coming out to greet Blatter, that the decision was made to not have him officially ‘open’ the tournament from the field. He was seen ‘hiding’ in the stands.

Nigerian WWC Team: Their on-field performance this world cup has been nothing short of dismal and their sportsmanship and aggressive tackling has raised eyebrows (for the wrong reasons). Just like the men’s team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the women are ’3 and out’ and will be flying home undoubtedly disappointed. We are somewhat surprised by the team’s poor performance since the Nigerian U-20 team had a phenomenal showing at last year’s U-20 world cup and only lost to Germany in the final.

Anheuser-Busch: The beer giant proves once again that selling a lot of beer to a lot of people has nothing to do with making good beer. Case in point, A-B’s continued sponsorship (as the sole beer vendor) of the FIFA World Cup including this year’s WWC. I first began rioting about this when I was subjected to lukewarm Budweiser peddled at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and consequently forced to stand in very long German beer lines (1 beer stand per venue) at the stadiums. More rants and perspective on this can be read here.