Category Archives: Soccer News

CTE & Soccer – New Stories Out

For those of you who read this blog, you know that I post as much information as I can find about the effects of repetitive heading and brain injuries in soccer players.  Yesterday, a story broke about a recently deceased soccer player confirmed with CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).  He died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at age 29.  He played soccer all of his life and continued his play in college then in the Professional Development League (PDL).  Here are a couple of stories about it:

The main point that is made is that soccer is a game where there is repeated trauma to the head.  The first article noted practice as the main culprit because of the repetition there.  Interestingly, in Italy, they had already concluded a study stating soccer players were more likely to develop ALS than populace in general.  (See first article).

CONCACAF Update – Last night of WCQ

Tonight is the last round of the Hex to determine which teams from CONCACAF automatically qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil.  The U.S. and Costa Rica are already in, so that only leaves one more automatic spot.  Unless something dramatic happens tonight in Costa Rica, that appears to be Honduras.  Honduras currently sits three points clear of Mexico and seemingly has the easier game — they travel to Jamaica who will be trotting out a young team in preparations for the next major tournament.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, will be playing their regulars as they host Mexico.  Mexico is three points clear of Panama, who is hosting a rotated U.S. squad, but if Panama beats the U.S. badly, depending on the score of the Costa Rica – Mexico match,  anything can happen.  Here is the current table heading into the last match:

USA 9 6 1 2 12 6 19
Costa Rica 9 4 3 2 11 6 15
Honduras 9 4 2 3 11 10 14
Mexico 9 2 5 2 6 7 11
Panama 9 1 5 3 8 11 8
Jamaica 9 0 4 5 3 11 4

The most obvious result is that USA, Costa Rica, and Honduras automatically qualify while Mexico has to play in through the playoff against New Zealand.  While there are many US fans who are glad of Mexico’s struggles, I for one want to see them in Brazil.  Their difficulties in qualification do suggest that CONCACAF has gotten stronger, but it would be a shame if our historically strongest team were missing in Brazil.  That doesn’t seem to bode well for CONCACAF going forward.

The US game and the Honduras game will be aired on beIN Sport and beIN Sport Esp.  The Mexico game will be on Telemundo. All games kickoff at 8:30 pm tonight.

European WC Playoff – How UEFA Gets to 13 Teams with 9 Groups

OK…so UEFA (Europe qualifying) gets 13 teams into Brazil for the World Cup Finals.  They start with 53 teams.  They are divided into 9 groups.  The winner of each group qualifies for the finals.  So far, that is Belgium (A), Italy (B), Germany (C), Netherlands (D), Switzerland (E), Russia (F – if they hold onto their 1-0 lead at half).  The remaining groups can go either way.  At halftime, Greece looks to go in its Group G with Bosnia-Herzegovina to playoff.  England plays Poland later with Ukraine still in the running for automatic qualification.  Assuming Spain at least draws at home to Georgia, they automatically qualify. But, how are the remaining 4 places allocated?

According to the UEFA qualifying rules, the “eight best group runners up” will contest in home and away based on a draw for the remaining four spots.  Not quite sure what that means because, in Group I, France will have played one less game than all the other potential runners up.  But, based on the schedule today, my guess is as follows:

Croatia (A), no one from Group B, Sweden C, Romania edging out Turkey in D, Iceland (hopefully) in E, Portugal in F, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Greece in G, Ukraine in H, and France in I.  The rules are vague as to how the draw is conducted — do Coca Cola rankings apply?  Surely France will not play Portugal….that would be a bummer.

One thing is clear, the playoff round will be between November 15 and 19th of this year.

World Cup Qs on Today

Get your ESPN3 ready!  Lots of important Qualifiers on today.  Here is a quick rundown:

CONCACAF (our region)

US has already qualified so they will send a less experienced squad out tonight against Jamaica.  While the drama may be over for us, it is not for Mexico.  While many perceive Mexico as the strongest of the CONCACAF squads, they are in danger of not qualifying.  In the HEX (final 6 teams in CONCACAF), the top 3 qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil while the 4th place team goes to a playoff against Oceania (New Zealand has already qualified).  With only 2 matches left, Mexico sits in 5th place.  They host Panama tonight in a must win.  They then travel to Costa Rica for their final game on October 15. Interestingly, Costa Rica has been dominant at home in their qualifications except for a blip against, guess who, Mexico in September.  Mexico has changed their manager.  Can they change their fortune?

Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
USA 8 5 1 2 10 6 16
Costa Rica 8 4 3 1 11 5 15
Honduras 8 3 2 3 10 10 11
Panama 8 1 5 2 7 9 8
Mexico 8 1 5 2 4 6 8
Jamaica 8 0 4 4 3 9 4

Lost in this dialogue is Honduras.  Honduras qualified for the 2010 Finals in South Africa — it was the first time they had qualified in 28 years.  They are in good position to qualify again for Brazil.  Honduras has a critical match at home today against Costa Rica and then travel to Jamaica.

UEFA (Belgium Fan Club Still Here)

Group A

Yes, this is Belgium’s golden generation — but when we adopted them, they had not qualified for a major tournament (Euros or WC) since 2002.  Sometimes “golden generations” disapoint, but not so for Belgium thus far.  With only 2 matches to play, they sit 5 points clear of Croatia, who was the group favorite on inception.  Today, in a key match, they travel to Croatia.  A draw here (or win), and they are through.  A loss at Croatia would place the focus on their home match against Wales and Croatia’s away match to Scotland.  This game is on RIGHT NOW!

Group B

Italy is solid with 7 points clear of Bulgaria.  Denmark is 1 back of Bulgaria and looking for the playoff.

Group C

Germany has appeared unstoppable, but Sweden sits only 5 points behind.  And, Sweden is home for its final 2 matches, against third place Austria with 14 points and first place Germany.  But, if Germany beats Ireland today at home, they are through.  Sweden likely playing for the playoff.

Group D

The Netherlands have wrapped up their place in the finals, but there is still a battle for the playoff spot between Hungary (14), Turkey (13), and Romania (13).  None of them play each other in the final two matches and Romania looks to have the easiest ride as both Hungary and Turkey play the Netherlands.

Group E

The Swiss are only 5 points clear of Iceland and Slovenia.  They travel to Albania today and a result there would punch their ticket.  Iceland hosts Cyprus in a likely win before traveling to Norway.  Norway could get in the playoff race with two results.  The sports-mad country still has a shot.

Group F

Portugal sits 1 point behind Russia but gets the benefit of 2 home games.  This is likely the last thrust from Portugal’s “golden generation” so we all want to see them in Brazil.  They look sure for 6 points at home against Israel and Luxembourg.  Russia, on the other hand, travel for their final 2 matches.  They have the benefit of traveling to the 2 weakest teams, but they will need to get results away to keep their lead.  The runner-up will go to the playoff.

Group G

Bosnia-Herz. and Greece are tied with 19 points each.  BIH host basement dwellers Liechten.  and travel to Lithuania, while Greece host both final matches against Liechten. and Slovakia.  This one is one to watch.  One of these teams will go to the playoff.

Group H

This is the Group that have all the English in a tizzy.  England’s (16) impotence in qualification is written about daily.  After 8 matches, they have failed to separate themselves from Ukraine (15), Montenegro (15), or Poland (13).   Everyone is watching how Hodgson does in the final 2 matches, both of which are at home, against Montenegro and Poland.  Will the play a 4-3-3 and dilute Rooney’s influence (he is not a lone striker).  Or, will they still to a more conventional 4-2-2.  Lots of opinions on England.  If they blow two home matches to secure qualification, it may just be Armageddon.  I mean, English coach?  Italian coach?  We are all tired of the excuses.

Group I

Spain and France are tied (14) atop the group but Spain has a game in hand.  France hosts Finland (9) while Spain hosts Belarus and Georgia.  Spain looks like good money to secure automatic while Lex Blues will have to go through a playoff.

CONMEBOL (South America):

The question in this group is who will be forced to play their way in in a playoff versus automatic qualification.  CONMEBOL get 4.5 places (plus Brazil).  Here is the table, with a max of 6 points remaining for most teams, watch the battle for 5th place.

Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
Argentina 14 8 5 1 30 11 29
Colombia 14 8 2 4 22 9 26
Chile 14 8 0 6 24 21 24
Ecuador 14 6 4 4 18 14 22
Uruguay 14 6 4 4 22 22 22
Venezuela 15 5 4 6 13 19 19
Peru 14 4 2 8 15 22 14
Bolivia 15 2 5 8 16 29 11
Paraguay 14 3 2 9 15 28 11