Spurs Spoil return of the Prince

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (August 9th 2014)

Tuned Up


Mauricio Pochettino saw his revamped Spurs team deservedly beat Bundesliga outfit Schalke04, captained by German-born Kevin-Prince Boateng 2-1 at White Hart Lane this evening in their final tune-up before the new season starts next weekend. An offside flag spared Aaron Lennonʼs blushes as he hit the post after 4 minutes. It was a dreadful miss, but fortunately for him the assistant refereeʼs late flag against Emmanuel Adebayor rendered it moot.

Christian Eriksen fed Lennon on the left of the area after 13 minutes, but goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann came off his line quickly to smother the danger. Apart from that the opening quarter of an hour produced little of note. Within ten minutes Tottenham Hotspur began to exert control. Lewis Holtby spurned a gilt-edged opportunity provided by Eriksen once again. Fährmann saved well to deny the German, whose finish was hesitant, possibly believing that he was offside.

It didnʼt matter. Their possession was quickly rewarded with just under half an hour played. Togoʼs talisman Emmanuel Adebayor turned and shot into the roof of Fährmannʼs net. Holtby crossed to him from the right wing. Erik Lamela and Lennon had combined well with Holtby on the edge of the area before the German crossed for Adebayor.


“I think very important”, Holtby said. “Every game is important especially in pre-season to get match fitness, to get a good run out and to be prepared for the first game”.

Schalke had produced little up to that point. Lamela fouled Boateng and Swiss international Tranquillo Barnettaʼs free-kick begged for a finish to match, but was headed wide by Roman Neustädter after 33 minutes. Spurs deservedly went in at half time leading by Adebayorʼs goal.

I think it was a really good test for us”, Barnetta said. “Spurs was really aggressive. Yes, they were very compact, really fast when they come from deep into the offence, so I think they make a good game and for us I think we have to work next week, so that we are ready for the first game”.



Pochettino rang in the changes at half time. Andros Townsend made an impact and Harry Kane should have, but the officials were uninterested in his claims for a penalty. Replays established that Felipe Santana had shoved Kane over in the box after 53 minutes. Townsend tested the Germansʼ defence on the left flank with Kane unable to convert before popping up on the other side of the pitch.

The much maligned former Valencia striker Roberto Soldado gave Spurs comfort just over 20 minutes into the second half. Eriksenʼs pass found Townsend in space just outside the area. His fierce shot from over 20 yards out proved too hot for Fährmann to handle. The keeper parried it up in the air only for Soldado to embarrass him by nodding the rebound over him and into the net.

A couple of minutes later Townsend should have made it three, but wasted Eriksenʼs sublime reverse pass to free him on the right of the area by pulling his shot wide of Fährmannʼs far post.


Zero Vier

With less than 20 minutes remaining Schalke, who qualified for the Championʼs League automatically, finally came to life. Camerounian international Jean-Eric Choupo-Moting released substitute Christian Clemens on the right wing. He pulled it back for Max Meyer to shoot just wide of Hugo Llorisʼ left-hand post. Five minutes later Sandro unleashed a fierce 30 yard shot which Fährmann parried rather flashily, but the danger passed.

Schalkeʼs belated ambition was rewarded with just over ten minutes left. Dennis Aogo was found in space just outside the left edge of the area. He crossed for Boateng to score to Llorisʼ right. The French international tried to block with his legs and ought to be disappointed with his efforts. It was Boatengʼs last contribution. He was brought off to a great ovation from both sets of fans.


Yeah, obviously itʼs a mark of respect and I think Kevin obviously did a very good job here”, Holtby said of Boateng. “Otherwise the reception wouldnʼt have been that good. I think itʼs good for him and itʼs good to see Tottenham fans being so positive and I got the same reception when I came back from Fulham, so Iʼm very happy”.

Boateng was replaced by Donis Avdijaj who almost made a rapid impact, but after making space to shoot Lloris saved at the expense of a corner. Stung into a response a quick counter-attack saw Townsend feed Soldado, who found Holtbyʼs replacement Cristian Ceballos on the right of the area. His shot was saved by Fährmann at the expense of a corner.

In added time Townsendʼs excellent run and shot from just outside the area was parried by Fährmann, but Ceballos, following in, could only lob it just over the bar. He should have scored.



Both sides put out strong teams with Spurs having the stronger bench. They start their league campaigns next week. Schalke began with five veterans of the recent World Cup. Bosnia-Herzegovinaʼs Sead Kolašinac: Swizerlandʼs Barnetta, Ghanaʼs Boateng and Camerounʼs Joël Matip and Jean-Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting provided a strong base.

Tottenham started with eight internationals on the pitch, two of whom played in the recent World Cup. They had the stronger bench which included Brasilian international Sandro, Andros Townsend who missed the World Cup due to injury and Robert Soldado whose form last season cost him a place in Vicente del Bosqueʼs ill-fated plans for the recent World Cup. Kyle Walker was also missing along with players on both sides who played in the latter stages of the World Cup.


I think they gave us a good test”, Holtby said of his former club. “A lot of players were missing as well, Jan [Vertonghen] and Moussa [Dembélé], Paulinho, who just came back from that break and so Iʼm happy that we had a good game today and keep going forward”.

But Schalke had more significant absentees including two World Cup winners, Benedikt Höwedes and Julian Draxler. “I think we have also two world champion players”, Barnetta said. “Thatʼs not bad and also for the home fans it was a very good championship, but now it counts what happens with Schalke, so we have to look on us”. Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was also missing.



by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 25th 2014)



With the cash dispute settled – Ghanaʼs President John Dramani Mahama chartered a plane to deliver £1.76m cash for the players to share among themselves – further chaos emerged. The players had not been paid appearance money and threatened a strike – now averted – against Portugal. This is a match the Black Stars need to win, but they are in chaos.

Schalke04ʼs Kevin-Prince Boateng and AC Milanʼs Sulley Muntari have been sent home for disciplinary reasons by coach James Kwesi Appiah. The pair have been suspended indefinitely by the Ghana Football Association.


“The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has suspended Sulley Ali Muntari indefinitely from the Black Stars with immediate effect”, a statement from the GFA said. “The decision was taken in the wake of his unprovoked physical attack on an Executive Committee member of the GFA and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr Moses Armah on Tuesday 24th June 2014 during a meeting”.

Boateng was accused of insulting coach James Kwesi Appiah. “The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has approved coach Kwesi Appiah’s decision to suspend Kevin-Prince Boateng indefinitely from the Black Stars. The decision takes immediate effect”, a statement issued by the GFA said. “The decision was taken following Boateng’s vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah during the team’s training session in Maceio this week. Boateng has since showed no remorse for his actions which has resulted in the decision”.

Boateng says the players were just having a laugh when ordered to the changing room by Appiah. He claims that Appiah was abusive towards him when he asked for an explanation. However, he accepted his dismissal from the squad.


The African nations have won few friends in this World Cup. Ivory Coast failed to qualify for the last 16 for the third time in a row, despite only needing to avoid defeat, although the penalty that eliminated them was controversial as replays suggested that Georgios Samaras was not fouled by Giovanni-Guy Sio. Nevertheless, the penalty was scored and Greece progressed to the last sixteen at Ivory Coastʼs expense.

Cameroun were a complete shambles demanding bonuses, threatening not to come to Brasil at all and fighting each-other rather than for each-other. And now Ghana – the most successful African country in recent times at the World Cup have found a way to implode too. Portugal must be watching in pleasant disbelief as the Black Stars self-destruct.

If Africa expects more places at the top table of world football, they have to earn then. Squabbling over bonuses and behaviour such as this shows even the squads are not harmonious. Performances on and off the pitch in this tournament have done nothing to show FIFA that Africa deserves a bigger slice of the pie.

The USA and Germany only need to draw to send Ghana home. Meanwhile, The Desert Foxes are due a break. Having been shamefully robbed by a fix in 1982, Brasilʼs World Cup would not be disgraced if Algeria got the opportunity to restore some damaged African pride by reaching the last 16. So far Nigeria have made it to the last sixteen for Africa.


Colombia top Group in Style

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 24th 2014)


With qualification secure Colombiaʼs first foreign coach for 30 years José Pékerman Krimen rested players, including Monacoʼs star in the making James Rodríguez Rubio, but fortunately Radamel Falcao García Zárateʼs heir apparent did not remain watching. His goal Colombiaʼs last in an emphatic 4-1 win over Alberto Zaccheroniʼs Japan was easily the pick of the bunch.

Jackson Martínez, one of the replacements certainly didnʼt short-change the fans. His through pass to striker Adrián Ramos Vásquez led to a penalty when the Hertha BSC striker was brought down by Gamba Osakaʼs Yasuyuki Konno. The defender was booked and Fiorentinaʼs influential winger Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello scored the spot-kick.

Sandwiched between Cuadradoʼs penalty and Rodríguezʼ magnificent finale was a Martínez brace and Japanʼs solitary strike. On the stroke of half time Keisuke Hondaʼs cross was headed past OGC Niceʼs David Ospina Ramírez by Shinji Okazaki. Colombia upped the ante in the second and deservedly took control as Japan became more and more resigned to defeat.


Colombia is the only team so far to go through, having won all of their group matches. They did so in considerable style too. Having made their own history – they had never won two matces in a row prior to this World Cup, they have now won three, but Pékerman showed that there is room for sentiment in football too.

With the match won Pékerman decided that a Colombian legend deserved to make new World Cup history. Camerounʼs Roger Milla set his record in 1990, embarrassing the eccentric, but always entertaining Colombian goal-keeper René Higuita Zapata in the process. Milla made Higuita look foolish when he caught the keeper in possession to leave the goal exposed. Milla and Cameroun reached the quarter-final becoming the oldest player to play in the World Cup Finals aged 42 years and 39 days.

With less than 8 minutes remaining Ospina led the applause when his number came up, but not for himself. He was paying tribute to his predecessor whom he warmly embraced as Cuiabáʼs Arena Pantanal rose to acclaim a small piece of World Cup history. Faryd Mondragón Ali broke Millaʼs record. Aged 43 years and 3 days old he saw out the remaining time.


Even without Falcao, Colombia look impressive. Rodríguez came on at half time It wasnʼt hard to see why Rodríguez featured highly – third – in the vote for French Player of the Year. His goal was magnificent, but that was far from all he did. He made this exciting team tick almost immediately winning a corner after a mazy run into the area. He rushed over to take the corner and then curl in a teasing cross.

With less than ten minutes of the second half played Rodríguez whipped in an enticing free-kick from the left-wing. Carlos Carbonero Mancilla should have done better at the back post, but failed to deliver the finish that the 22-year-old Rodríguezʼ cross deserved. A minute later Éder Álavarez Balanta began the move deep in his own half that culminated in Martínez ending his five year wait for another goal for his country. PSV Eindhovenʼs Santiago Arias Naranjo cut in from the right and passed to Rodríguez, who controlled and laid off to Martínez in one elegant motion.

Japan continued to press and Ospina made a rare hash of Yūto Nagatomoʼs cross, but nothing came of it. Their first half efforts had not been convincing before the equaliser. Shinji Kagawaʼs first half effort was weak, but at least demanded a save from Ospina, whereas Hondaʼs free-kick went marginally wide. With 25 minutes left a lovely move was almost capped off with a goal, but Yoshito Ōkuboʼs shot from Atsuto Uchidaʼs cross just missed.

With less than ten minutes of normal time remaining a wonderful counter-attack made it safe. Rodríguezʼ telling pass into the area reached Martínez, who turned inside Uchida. Martínez wasnʼt about to miss that kind of opportunity to double his tally. Kagawa had a quick opportunity to pull one back, but pulled his shot wide. History was made shortly afterwards with Mondragón having his moment in the spotlight. The crowd sang his name as football paid tribute to the much travelled Deportivo Cali goal-keeper.

Rodríguez received the ball on the left of the area from Ramos before turning Maya Yoshida inside out to score a sublime goal, chipping over a diving Eiji Kawashima. Heʼs set to be a star if he isnʼt already. Yoichiro Kaitani had the distinction of demanding a save from Mondragón.


Portuguese referee Pedro Proença appeared to err twice both times in favour of Colombia. A theatrical fall – it was a dive – by Portoʼs Juan Fernando Quintero Paniagua after 28 minutes should have had greater consequences. Proença rightly ignored the appeals for a penalty, but he failed to book the player. As controversies go that was a minor one, but such ridiculous diving must be controlled and that wonʼt happen unless referees crack down on it. Young players like Quintero need to learn that it wonʼt be tolerated.

However, Proença made an excellent decision when Martínez went down after 24 minutes near the penalty area. It proved to be an excellent tackle by Konno who got the ball before colliding with Martínez too. But he missed an important decision after an hour as did his assistant. Balanta clearly swung an elbow that caught and bloodied Okazakiʼs nose. It should have been a straight red card without argument. It may yet be reviewed as there is no place for that in football.

Colombia will face Uruguay in the last 16. It remains to be seen if Luis Suárez Díaz will be allowed to play, but on this form the Colombians will take some stopping.


Brasil Ease Past Cameroun

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 23rd 2014)


Brasil inspired by Neymar brushed past a disorganised Cameroun easily. Neymarʼs first half brace overcame the shock of Joel Matipʼs 25th minute equaliser. Neymar restored order with his second ten minutes before half time. Brasil could have more in their most convincing display of this World Cup. The much maligned Fred finally opened his account to the relief of his team-mates and all Brasil fans, although he looked offside.

It should be remembered that the Fluminense striker started slowly in the Confederationsʼ Cup last year as well. How did that work out? He failed to score in his first two matches and faced calls for him to be dropped. Luis Felipe Scolari was having none of it and stuck by Fred.

Neymarʼs Show

He scored a brace in his next match and finished the tournament as top scorer. The World Cup-winning coach obviously sees something in Fred and has surely earned the right not to be second guessed on his selections.

Manchester Cityʼs Fernandinho got the fourth to seal a convincing 4-1 drubbing of a sorry looking Cameroun team who arrived in Brasil with a huge cloud hanging over them and depart a shambles with players fighting each-other rather than for each-other and viewed as traitors in their own country.


Apart from a terrible defensive lapse that affected Thiago Silva, Marcelo and David Luiz for Matipʼs goal – Allan-Roméo Nyom squared it to Matip – Brasil never looked likely to be tested defensively. That freed Scolariʼs team to entertain the crowd in Brasilia. Neymar was in fine form orchestrating Brasilʼs occasional swagger as well as getting a brace before being substituted to protect him for later matches.

Neymarʼs outrageous flick up and volley in the 19th minute was parried by Itandje. It showed his skill. Thiago Silvaʼs long pass found Hulk whose cross was poorly cleared. It broke to Neymar who showed why Scolari built his team around Barçelonaʼs star in waiting.

Fred scrambled for a goal. A minute later, Stéphane Mbia was caught in possession and the ball was helped through to Paulinho. Tottenham Hotspurʼs defensive midfielder has had a difficult first season in England, but crossed and Fred tried to bundle in, but Henri Bedimo Nsamé tackle prevented him making contact. Itandje smothered it.

Less than a quarter of an hour later David Luiz received the ball from Luis Gustavo in his own half and initiated an attack. Luizʼ long ball to the left was headed clear by Nyom to Marcelo. The Real Madrid defender released Neymar to run and shoot from just inside area with Itandje going wrong way after 34 to make it 2-1. Just before half time another long pass from Luiz allowed Neymar to continue to display his tricks, but nothing came from it once he had laid it off to Hulk as Matip conceded a corner.


Brasil were rarely threatened in the second half. Almost as soon as the second half got under-way Hulk was put through by Fernandinho, but an excellent tackle by Bedimo thwarted him. It led to a good shot by Fred and save by Itandje, but Fred was getting closer.

A bad foul by Eyong Enoh on Neymar, should have resulted in another caution for Enoh, but referee Jonas Eriksson chose to be lenient and did not brandish a card. Enoh was fortunate. A minute later Cameroun were unfortunate in the extreme. Fredʼs goal was needed by the Fluminense forward, but he was clearly off-side and so was David Luiz when he was put through to deliver the cross for Fred to score – dreadful misses by the officials.

With six minutes remaining and México making a battle of it for top spot, Cameroun got careless. Chelseaʼs Óscar intercepted, allowing Fernandinho to exchange a one-two with Fred and shoot across Itandje from to make it safe for Brasil. Meanwhile, Croatia got a consolation goal. The positions were now clear. Brasil would top the group and face Chile in the last sixteen and the Netherlands would face México.


Netherlands Top Group

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 23rd 2014)

Job Done

Despite his complaints of a conspiracy to help Brasil, the Netherlandsʼ manager Louis van Gaal saw his team do what they had to see off the challenge of Jorge Sampaoli Moyaʼs Chile with a 2-0 victory in São Paulo. A largely tactical battle of wits was decided – eventually – by the class of Arjen Robben. Bayern Münchenʼs winger had a hand in both goals.

With 15 minutes or so remaining Robben pulled his corner back to Daryl Janmaat who crossed into the area for substitute Leroy Fer to break the deadlock. Chile, already needing to beat the Dutch, had to chase goals and were caught on the counter-attack in injury time after a long pass down the left wing by Nigel de Jong to Robben before he squared it for another Memphis Depay to make an impact from the bench again.

Chile progress to the last sixteen where they will play the winners of Group A – Brasilʼs group. The Dutch will face the runners-up.

Nip and Tuck

Feyenoordʼs Stefan de Vrij should have done far better from Robbenʼs free-kick in the first half, but headed over. Chile, meanwhile, seemed determined to be awarded a penalty. They had four appeals – two laughable. Another was closer, but replays proved it a fair tackle. The last was a clear foul on substitute Mauricio Pinilla. Pity the off-side flag was raised first – correctly. Gambian referee Bakary Gassama was proved right on each occasion.

Both the Netherlands and Chile must now wait to see who they will play as Group A is finalised this evening when Brasil play the already eliminated Cameroun and Croatia and México meet in Recife.



Going Home

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 18th 2014)

No Loss

Their preparation ruined by an unseemly dispute over bonuses Cameroun – once the darlings of world football – are going home early and they wonʼt be missed. Far from rewarding the players for such a dreadful display, the Cameroonian Federation should with-hold the bonuses and give them to Camerounian fans who paid their hard-earned money to support their team and witness an utterly dismal performance.

They needed awful officiating to escape the sound beating by México that their performance deserved in their first match. With their star striker Samuel Etoʼo Fils ruled out with a persistent knee injury they received a well deserved thrashing from Croatia and will be leaving the World Cup after their next match against hosts Brasil.

They wonʼt be missed and will leave, having done less than nothing to convince anyone that Africa deserves any extra places in the World Cup Finals when they not only spurn such chances, but throw them away. It is their fifth first round failure in a row!


Croatia easily beat Cameroun 4-0. It could and should have been more. Already trailing by a goal to nil to Ivica Olićʼs 11th minute strike, Cameroun were left with a mountain to climb by former Arsenal midfielder Alex Songʼs petulant 40th minute elbow in the back of Bayern Münchenʼs Mario Mandžukić under referee Portuguese referee Pedro Proençaʼs nose.

There was only ever going to be one outcome – a thoroughly well-deserved red card that quite rightly ends Songʼs World Cup early and he should not have been alone. Tottenham Hotspurʼs Benoit Assou-Ekottoʼs World Cup should have ended in utter disgrace. Head-butting an opponent is unacceptable, but head-butting a team-mate beggars belief and the victim of the butt Benjamin Moukandjo understandably raised his hands – expect the Camerounian Federation or FIFA or both to take action over this.

One Team

At least one team came to play. Croatia, unlucky to lose to Brasil, wanted to stay – were determined to stay and earned the right to keep their fate in their hands. Aurélien Chedjou failed to clear Dario Srnaʼs cross which fell to Ivan Perišić. The VfL Wolfsburg midfielderʼs cross fell to Olić who beat his man to shoot past Charles Itandje.

Six minutes later Perišić should have made it two, but he failed to score fro close range. The Europa Cup winner Ivan Rakitić should have tested Itandje far more than his tame effort did a minute later. Cameroun hardly mounted an attack in a poor first half. The second was even worse.

Itandje made such a hash of his clearance three minutes in that it should almost count as an assist to Perišićʼs goal. He received Itandjeʼs clearance and bore down on goal before punishing it by doubling Croatiaʼs lead. Two minutes later Mandžukić should have made it three, but shot wide. Substitute Dany Nounkeu tried to instil some pride into Camerounʼs performance volleying Assou-Ekottoʼs cross just over Stipe Pletikosaʼs cross-bar.

Panathinaikos striker Danijel Pranjić has never scored for his country. He should have done after Rakitićʼs corner gave him the opportunity. He won another corner and Mandžukić showed him how itʼs done just past the hour mark. With 20 minutes remaining the former Arsenal striker Brasilian-born Eduardo came on for Olić. He made a quick impact. His curling shot was parried by Itandje, but fell to Mandžukić who snaffled his second.

Substitute Ante Rebić drew a fine save from Itandje and the rebound was cleared by Assou-Ekotto. A minute later Rebić finds Rakitić, whose lob clears Itandje, but went wide before the soon to be Barçelona man could retrieve it for a tap in.


Pierre Webó came close in injury time, hitting the cross-bar before acting as peace-maker for his team-mates as Camerounʼs World Cup ended in shame and disgrace. Shamefully it continued after the final whistle as Etoʼo tried and seemed to fail to calm Assou-Ekotto down.

On this evidence Cameroun wonʼt be missed. It appears that the Indomitable Lions of Italia 90 that football fell in love with are fast receding from memory. The current generation would do well to rediscover the spirit of that team.




México beat Cameroun – and Officials

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 13th 2014)


A dreadful performance by Colombian officials led by Wilmar Roldán resulted in former Barçelona and Tottenham Hotspur striker Giovanni dos Santos robbed of two perfectly good goals. His frustration and that of his manager Miguel Herrera were obvious – the injustice clear and amplified by repetition.

Replays showed that the left back played dos Santos onside for the first. The official had a perfect view and got it wrong – exactly the type of decision that a replay would have corrected. And adding insult to injury the officials got another wrong when Eric Choupo-Moting headed a corner on to dos Santos who adjusted to the deflection and headed in an excellent goal, or rather it would have been if the officials had been competent.

If a Méxican player had got the assist rather than the Camerounian, it would have been offside, but both the referee and his assistant missed the fact that Choupo-Moting headed on and dos Santos scored.


The Camerounian players branded traitors in their country over the bonuses fiasco were lacklustre. Apart from an excellent run down the left flank by Benoit Assou-Ekotto for Samuel Etoʼo to shoot instinctively and hit the post they did nothing to deserve anything more than they got from this match – nothing.

 Samuel Eto'o

A quick turn and shot by dos Santos was parried by Camerounian French-born goalkeeper Charles Itandje – remember him. Itandje was run out of Anfield after showing disrespect during a service honouring the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster five years ago. It was crass behaviour that ended his career at Liverpool.

The rebound was pounced on by Oribe Peralta who scored the winner. It should have been three and a very comfortable. México deserved their win and Cameroun exhibited deep-rooted problems. Not even the officials and footballʼs ostrich-like refusal to embrace technology could save the Africans from the defeat their performance deserved. Camerounians will be wondering why bonuses should be paid after such a wretched display.


Volker Finke – a coach with no experience of African football at all prior to his appointment to Camerounʼs top job- has a very difficult task ahead of him. Top European club coaches Paul le Guen and Javier Clemente recently failed to bring the best out of Camerounʼs players. Denis Lavagne tried and failed after Clemente before farce surrounded the end of Jean-Paul Akonoʼs reign.

Akono was never given a contract and the top job was advertised without telling him. He claimed that he was in negotiations for a contract at the time and was told to reconsider the salary he wanted, which was far lower than European coaches were paid. Among those considered were former Paris Saint-Germain manager Antoine Kambouare and former French Manager Raymond Domenech.

The lack of continuity with coaches, lack of experience of African football or of top jobs, combined with a series of disputes over pay of players has turned the Indomitable Lions – a team the world loved in 1990 – into a shambles. After the fiasco of South Africaʼs World Cup, the players are older now and their preparation was wrecked by the latest dispute – one which unlike the others has alienated their supporters.