Nine FIFA officials and 5 corporate executives were arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich, Switzerland. However, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not charged and released an official statement later in the day (http://fifa.to/1QaqpCq). FIFA said they expect the presidential election to go ahead as scheduled for Friday, May 29th, although UEFA has called for the election to be postponed.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement saying: “A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer. The guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants were also unsealed today.”
The fact that the Justice Department statement cites a history of 24 years just shows how much corruption has become rooted in the game of soccer. It’s heartening to see something finally being done about FIFA’s corruption but it also makes the beautiful game look so ugly.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort…I’m not able to comment further on Mr. Blatter’s status.”
Swiss prosecutors said they have opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering relating to the awarding the rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
This might just be the biggest day in the history of football/soccer. This investigation and these arrests acknowledge the sport has been corrupted for a long while and a revolution may not be far off. This is a very important first step that should send a strong message to the rest of the football world. Eventually Sepp Blatter needs to be banned from all football activities and never permitted near the sport ever again. He is a disgusting, power-thirsty man who has ruined and tainted the image of the beautiful game. For FIFA to become a seriously credible and well-run organization more than just 14 people or Blatter have to be changed. The whole system in which the organization functions needs to be improved. This day is a vital step in the right direction for the sport and hopefully positive changes will come.
The indicted defendants:
• Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.
• Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.
• Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.
• Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.
• Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.
• Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.
• Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.
• José Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments. Former CBF president.
• Nicolás Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.
Four of the defendants were sports marketing executives:
• Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
• Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).
• Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
And one of the defendants was in the broadcasting business but allegedly served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials:
José Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.
With Inzaghi set to leave at the end of the season, Milan is actively searching for a head coach. There have been many reports of a possible Carlo Ancelotti return, as Real Madrid seem set to part ways with the Italian coach.
Gianluca Di Marzio has reported that Galliani could travel to Madrid on Monday to convince Ancelotti to take the reins at Milan with a 5-year contract. Milan owner and president Silvio Berlusconi said in an interview to NapoliTV today: ‘if Real Madrid let him go, then Carlo Ancelotti will return to us.” While getting Ancelotti on the sidelines would be a great step in the right direction there will much more work to do before Milan get back to their greatness. Although in his post-math press conference today Ancelotti sated: “Either I stay here at Real Madrid, or I take a one year break.”
Milan still have some dead weight on their roster which they’ll look to get rid of, with the likes of Mexes, Muntari, Essien, Abbiati and Bonera. Essien, Abbiati and Bonera’s contracts expire this summer so they’ll likely leave the club. It seems like Milan will let Nigel De Jong leave when his contract expires this summer even though he’s been one of their best performers in recent years. Milan will also need to spend smartly in the summer. Their defense and midfield both need some improvement, while Mattia Destro could be signed permanently from Roma. If Destro doesn't stay, Milan should look for a center forward, especially since Giampaolo Pazzini looks likely to leave the club this summer.
Milan have been linked to other coaches since Ancelotti’s return isn’t guaranteed. Fiorentina’s Montella, Empoli’s Sarri and Sevilla’s Unai Emery are the other names that have been linked to coach the Rossoneri. There’s no question Ancelotti is the best coach among the candidates but hiring a great coach wont solve all of Milan’s problem’s by itself. Some people question how good this Milan team would be with Ancelotti as coach but I think it’s fair to say they wouldn't be Scudetto contenders. But many people feel that hiring Ancelotti would bring great investment into the team. Even if Ancelotti returns to Milan, he will need an improved squad to achieve the same accomplishments during his first stint.
Then of course there were Berlusconi’s comments about the possibility of Ita-Milan, a team comprised mainly of Italian players. While it’s unlikely that comes to fruition, Maurizio Sarri would be a great coach for that team as he’s done a fantastic job with newly promoted Empoli. Milan have many more problems to solve then just their coach to become a top team in Europe again. Hopefully they make smart decisions to become competitive again.
Who do you think would be the best guy to hire for Milan? Let us know what you think.
The Old Lady continued their dominance on the Italian peninsula on Wednesday night. Juventus defeated Lazio 2-1 in extra time to lift the Coppa Italia trophy.
There are two Champions League spots for next season still to be fought for in Serie A. Roma, Lazio and Napoli will battle it out over the last two match days of the season.
After their 3-2 victory over Cesena on Monday, Napoli are 3 points behind Lazio. Lazio, meanwhile, are just 1 point behind Roma leading up to the Rome derby on Monday. Lazio face Juventus in the Coppa Italia Final on Wednesday, which is why they requested the derby be rescheduled to Monday for an extra day of rest. Napoli face Juventus on Saturday in a game where they cannot drop points if they wish to keep their Champions League hopes alive. They’ll also very likely need Lazio to drop points against Roma. Napoli face Lazio on the last match day of the season but they sit 3 points behind them right now and Lazio’s goal differential is +12 better. Napoli’s chances are somewhat difficult but definitely possible. Lazio’s last 3 matches of the season are against Juventus (Coppa Italia), Roma and Napoli.
Stefano Pioli’s side are really going to need to play well as their success this season lies within these last few games. A win against Roma would put Lazio in pole position to finish in 2nd place guaranteeing an automatic bid into the Champions League next season. If they lose the derby, the Napoli match would likely be a must-win match for Lazio. If the Biancocelesti finish in 3rd place they will have to play in the qualifying round to reach the Champions League.
Despite their very poor form in the beginning of 2015, Roma are still in the best position. A win on Monday in the derby would clinch 2nd place ensuring an automatic Champions League berth. Even if they draw, they could clinch 2nd with a victory against Palermo on the last day of the season. If they lose the derby then the match against Palermo would become a must win for the Giallorossi. There is a very, very unlikely chance that Roma could possibly drop down to 4th place and miss out of the Champions League, which would be a catastrophe for them. The last few matches of the season could provide many twists and turns. Here’s to it being a dramatic finish!
2nd Roma – 67 points +23 goal differential
3rd Lazio – 66 points +32 goal differential
4th Napoli – 63 points +20 goal differential
Juventus drew with Real Madrid 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabeulast night and advanced 3-2 on aggregate to reach to Champions League Final. Max Allegri’s side will face Barcelona on June 6th in the most prestigious game in club football.
Juventus defeated Real Madrid 2-1 in Torino during the first leg on May 5th on goals from Morata and a Tevez penalty. Juve took a slender lead into the second leg, traveling to Madrid.
The second leg started off pretty even with both sides possessing the ball leading to a few half chances. Then a little after the 15th minute, Juve seemed to let their foot off the pedal a bit and Real started having the better of the match. Madrid was on the offensive and began taking the game to Juve; they eventually found the breakthrough. Giorgio Chiellini made a clumsy challenge on James Rodriguez inside the 18-yard box and Madrid were awarded a penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo scored placing the ball down the middle in the 23rd minute. Real went up 1-0 and would advance with that scoreline. Juventuscontinued to underperform the rest of the 1st half not creating any real opportunities. Real had a few chances to double their lead but veteran Gianluigi Buffon made a couple of good saves. Juvecould be considered lucky to only be down 1-0 at halftime.
The beginning of the second half was much like the first, with both teams having an even amount of the play. Then, in the 57th minute Casillas punched out a free kick, Vidal pumped the ball back in the box and Paul Pogba headed it across the box to findAlvaro Morata. The former Madrid striker chested the ball down and hammered home the equalizer. In the 69th minute, Juve had a chance to put the tie to bed as Claudio Marchisio slipped through the defense after a pass from Tevez, but Casillas did well to save his shot. Needing at least one goal to survive, Real Madrid kept pushing forward but could not break through. Juventus held on to advance to their first Champions League Final since 2003. 8 years ago they were in Serie B and now they face Barcelona in the Champions League Final. It’s great to see an Italian side do well on the European stage again.
A few observations from the match:
- At the age of 37, Gianluigi Buffon, can still play at the top level. I personally think he is the greatest goalkeeper of all time, definitely from among those who I’ve watched in my lifetime. He deserves to lift that Champions League Trophy.
- Andrea Pirlo struggles in fast-paced matches against athletic teams. He was playing in a gear too slow and gave the ball away too often against Madrid but I think he’ll be in better against Barcelona.
- Patrice Evra is an unsung hero on this team. After a tough start to the season, he’s done a terrific job at left back for Juve. His experience has been vital in this Champions League run. He also had a great defensive header, getting in front of Gareth Bale and saving a goal.
- It was ironic and fitting to see Real Madrid get knocked out by a player who came through their youth system and sent away while they spend hundreds of millions of dollars every summer. Alvaro Morata has four goals in his last 6 Champions League games. That sounds like a pretty good record to me.
- Either he just disappeared or Juve’s defense completely shut him down but Cristiano Ronaldo did pretty much nothing at all in the second half.
- Max Allegri deserves a ton of credit for guiding this team to the Champions League Final. Most people, including myself, thought his hiring was a bad decision last summer. He’s definitely proved his worth.
- Barcelona-Juventus certainly looks to be anentertaining matchup for the Final! When Buffon, Pirlo and Barzagli played in Berlin in 2006 they lifted a trophy… Oh and don’t forget Luis Suarez vs. Evra & Chiellini!
The New York Red Bulls hosted New York City FC in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday night in the first New York Derby.
The Red Bulls got off to a quick start as Lloyd Sam dribbled to the end line and chipped the ball into the six-yard box to find a wide-open Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 4th minute. 20-year-old Red Bulls youth product Matt Miazga was sent off in the 36th minute after picking up a silly 2nd yellow card. In the few NYRB games I’ve watched this season, Miazga has been very impressive at CB but his inexperience certainly showed in the derby. He will be travelling to New Zealand soon to represent the United States in the U-20 World Cup, which starts at the end of this month. The Red Bulls actually continued to play well and keep a decent amount of possession after going a man down.
As the 2nd half got under way, NYCFC started having more possession. But in the 52nd minute the Red Bulls started a counter attack as Lloyd Sam played a nice ball out wide to Sasha Kljestan who then played a square ball into the box for Wright-Phillips to tap in. NYCFC’s defense was picked apart way to easily as BWP scored both goals unmarked inside the box. NYCFC manager Jason Kreis showed some courage substituting his two best players, Mix Diskerud and David Villa, in the 64th and 68th minute respectively. Diskerud and Villa both massively underperformed and were disappointing to say the least. Kreis’ substitutions did pay off as Patrick Mullins got on the end of a cross and slotted the ball home in the 76th minute. NYCFC tried to salvage an equalizer but were unsuccessful as the Red Bulls hung on to win the first New York Derby. I was disappointed with the lack of urgency and liveliness from NYCFC since they were trailing with a man up for nearly an hour.
A few observations I had from watching the match. First off, as almost anyone who’s seen them play, NYCFC defense is dreadful. They aren’t very good at possessing the ball and they’re even worse defending. They’re quite disorganized and aren’t a cohesive unit. That should be the team’s first area to improve. They also lack pure technical ability in the midfield. NYCFC misplaced way too many passes in the middle of the park. Frank Lampard will certainly be able to help improve the midfield when he joins the team this summer. On the other hand, the Red Bulls central midfielders Sasha Kljestan, Dax McCarthy and Felipe have done a fantastic job so far this season controlling and dictating play.
It was clear watching this game that NYCFC is an expansion team, which lacks experience. After they went up a man they seemed as if they didn’t really know what to do or how to manage the game.
Too many players on the field just had poor first touches. A quality first touch is key to playing a possession-based style of soccer and it is evident that the first touch of an average MLS player is a key difference to the big leagues in Europe. An improvement of players’ first touch and decision making will make MLS soccer better.
The last two days haven’t been the best for Italian soccer. After Juventus defeated Real Madrid 2-1 on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday brought some bad news. The 1st leg of Europa League semi-finals took place on Thursday, with both Napoli and Fiorentina in action. Fiorentina travelled to Sevilla while Napoli hosted Dnipro at the San Paolo.
La Viola definitely had a night to forget. They lost to Sevilla 3-0; a stunning result and perhaps not truly indicative of play on the field. Montella’s side created a handful of great chances in the first half but their finishing was very poor. Mario Gomez, Mohamed Salah and Mati Fernandez all missed golden chances. That came back to hurt Fiorentina as they let up 3 goals against an attack-minded Sevilla side. It will certainly be a very difficult hole for Fiorentina to dig themselves out of.
Napoli will also be upset with their result. As strong favorites to beat the Ukrainians, Rafa Benitez’s side will be disappointed they drew 1-1. Napoli controlled almost the entire match, with Dnipro content playing with 10 men behind the ball. Napoli finally found the breakthrough in the 50th minute as David Lopez headed home a corner kick from Insigne?. Napoli missed several chances to add to their lead. Dnipro goalkeeper Denis Boyko made 6 saves, including 3 great ones against Gonzalo Higuain. In the 80th minute on a surprising attacking play, Dnipro’s Yevhen Seleznyov got on the end of a cross to tie the game. Unfortunately, the assistant referee made a mistake, as Seleznyov was clearly offside. It was a tough break for Napoli who dominated the match but were hard done by a poor officiating decision. Napoli will need to score next week in the return leg in hopes of advancing to the Final.
On Friday, UEFA announced verdicts on a total of 10 clubs who breached Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. Both Roma and Inter were fined and had their European squads limited.
If they qualify for the Europa League next season, Inter will only be able to name 21 players in their European squad, rather than the usual 25. The following season would see the Nerazzurri limited to 22 players and the restriction will be lifted in the 2017-18 season if certain targets are met. Inter were also fined €20 million but €14 million could possibly be waived if certain objectives are satisfied.
Roma will be limited to a squad of 22 in European competition next season, which would be lifted if they post a loss of €30 million or less for 2015 and 2016. The Giallorossi have also been fined €6 million but €4 million could be waived if certain objectives are met.
Other notable clubs sanctioned were French club AS Monaco, Portuguese club Sporting and Turkish club Beşiktaş.
Juventus defeated Real Madrid 2-1 in the 1stleg of the UEFA Champions League at the Juventus Stadium in Torino.
The Old Lady came firing out of the gate at the start of the game. For the first 15th minutes, Juventus dominated, took the game to Real Madrid and create a few quality chances. Juve were rewarded in the 8thminute as former Real Madrid striker Morata scored off a rebound from a Tevez shot. Juventus strung together 27 passes before Morata put the ball in the net. After about 15 minutes, Juve seemed to let their foot off the gas a bit and Real Madrid started playing better. After a solid 10 minutes of Real Madrid having the better of the play, Cristiano Ronaldo found himself wide open in the box to easily head home off a ball from James Rodriguez in the 27th minute. The remainder of the first half was pretty even with both teams having solid spells of possession.
The beginning of the second half wasn’t as free flowing as the first 45 minutes with both teams committing petty fouls. A Real Madrid corner that was cleared to the feet of Marcelo, who had his left- footed shot blocked, sprung a 2 v 2 counter attack for Juventus. Tevez received the ball in the middle of the park and dribbled straight at Carvajal. Morata was sprinting forward to catch up to Tevez but Marcelo tripped him up. Tevez took the ball into the box on his left foot and Carvajal brought him down for a penalty. Marcelo received a yellow card for tripping up Morata but surprisingly Carvajal did not receive any booking. Tevez calmly slotted the spot kick down the middle for his 50th goal in a Juventus jersey. Real Madrid had a couple of half chances but no real clear-cut opportunities. As the game wore on, Juve seemed more content to stay organized and placed their priority on defense. Substitute Fernando Llorente had a golden opportunity in stoppage time as he found himself wide open at the far post off a Pirlo free kick but headed the ball downward straight to Casillas. If Llorente finished that, this tie would have a different dynamic at 3-1.
Yet nonetheless, Juventus Football Club showed tonight that they belong with the big boys in Europe. Max Allegri had his squad very well organized and compact all match which prevented any dangerous Real Madrid counter attacks. The ability to smoothly transition from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 is great and Allegri deserves credit for that. It’s a pleasure to see an Italian team having success this deep in the Champions League. Juventus can celebrate beating the defending European champions only for a short time though because the second leg in Madrid will be tough. The away goal could be decisive for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. Juventus showed tonight this is where they belong and they deserved the victory tonight. The return leg will be played in Madrid on May 13th.
With a 1-0 victory over Sampdoria on Saturday, Juventus have officially won their 4th consecutive Scudetto. Juve have become the first club to win 4 Scudetti in a row two different times. Allegri has had a great first season with the Old Lady; they are only one of two teams who are still competing for the treble in Europe, Barcelona being the other. Juventus have dominated Serie A for the last four years but this year under Allegri they’ve finally achieved European success. After defeating Borussia Dortmund and Monaco in the Round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively, Juve now face Real Madrid in the semi-finals with the first leg to be played on Tuesday.
Juve have wrapped up the title, ahead of second-placed Lazio, with four games of the season remaining. In 34 league games, Juventus have a record of 24 victories, seven draws and three losses, scoring 64 goals and conceding just 19. Allegri was the last coach before Conte to win the league, with AC Milan in 2010-2011 and he’s become to first coach ever to win the Scudetto with both Juventus and Milan. Andrea Pirlo has now won the last 5 Scudetti and Gianluigi Buffon has won 8 Scudetti, a record among goalkeepers.
“The players have great human qualities as well as technical ones. To win four consecutive scudetti is extraordinary,” Allegri said after the match. “Now we have to put this crazy evening to one side and think of the cups. I thank everyone who has helped me on this path, from the staff, to the club, to the players.”
“The first day with Allegri and the President in the car, we were greeted at the training ground by spitting, eggs and kicks," general director Beppe Marotta told Sky Sport Italia. “Max imposed his discipline and tactical philosophy, taking the team to the Scudetto, Champions League semi-final and Coppa Italia Final. I don’t think we could’ve expected any more.”
Max Allegri has done a fabulous job this year, as many doubted him when Juventus appointed him. He’s been able to both smoothly rotate formations and rotate the players on the field. He also continued Conte's legacy, but also upgraded Juventus, as he imposed his own philosophy and alternative tactics, which proved decisive in Juve’s Champions League campaign.
Despite the coaching change last summer, Juventus continue their dominance in Serie and look to complete the first treble in club history.