Monday Musings – “Football Leaks” and a geyser of gluttony…

Monday musings is a weekly series, you can find the other entries here.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton 1887

FIFA had been the subject of numerous inquests — most recently involving Sepp Blatter and a multitude of additional staffers. In 2015, Swiss authorities arrested 7 and US authorities arrested 39 more after bribes were found for marketing deals, World Cup placements, and other major actions. In light of these arrests and prosecutions FIFA made wholesale changes and promises of transparency and fairness… but it turns out that lasted but a few months…

Several high-profile clubs were reportedly able to ignore gross violations of financial fair play rules. Smaller clubs that violated these tenets were banned from continental competition. Turns out that if you’re rich enough, the rules don’t apply. Gianni Infantino is supposedly responsible for allowing (and even hindering the investigations of FIFA) gross abuses for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Read moreMonday Musings – “Football Leaks” and a geyser of gluttony…

Champions League – Matchday 3 Recap

We are halfway through the Group Stage in the Champions League, and we have three groups that have leaders with the maximum of nine points. While they are not yet assured of advancing to the knockout phase, their chances are much higher, and they can be sealed up with wins on Matchday 4 in two weeks.

We also have two clubs with zero points through three matches, so they would have to go on and amazing run to redeem their Champions League play and possibly qualify for the Europa League by finishing in third place in their groups. However, neither club – Lokomotiv Moscow and AEK Athens – were favorites to advance coming in, and they have shown with their play thus far that people were right.

Finally, we have two of our own “favorite” clubs in the tournament – Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys – that are probably going to miss out on Europa as well. While they have both scored one point through three games, they are far behind their groups in fourth place with terrible goal differentials. I have higher hopes for Young Boys moving up to third, if only because they just drew with the club ahead of them in the group, but they will need to find three points against two clubs that have already defeated them easily.
Here are some of the more shocking results of the first round of matches from around Europe (based on UEFA rankings heading into the match or location). Home teams are listed first:

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Atletico Madrid
Atlético Madrid entered the Champions League Group Stage as the second-ranked club in UEFA; Borussia Dortmund entered in 10th. One would expect a competitive match under those circumstances, not a 4-0 destruction. Maybe Atletico chose not to send their Best XI to the match because they were tied with Dortmund with six points heading into the match, far ahead of the other two clubs in Group A. Maybe they knew that Matchday 4 would see a rematch, except at home in Madrid, so they expect to even the score then. Either way, both clubs are still the overwhelming favorites to advance out of the Group, and will fight for the first position, if only to face off against another group’s second finisher. But the only other matches in the Champions League that have had as lopsided of a score were matches between top clubs and qualifiers, not from two of the top 10 clubs in the tournament.

Read moreChampions League – Matchday 3 Recap

Monday Musings – UEFA Nations League and international friendlies

With the modern soccer/football player already playing upwards of 50 games a season (Barcelona played 59 competitive matches and Liverpool played 56). Players playing in teams outside the Premier League have been greater demands, for example, Ben Livermore will play 46 league games in the Championship for West Bromwich Albion and players from Middlesbrough could have played up to 54 with only marginal showings to the fourth round in only the EFL/FA Cup.
This topic has been hotly debated in the past because of “needless international friendlies”. So in response, UEFA has come up with the Euros and the Nations League which are supposed have precedence over “domestic leagues” as they are now competitive match fixtures. In addition to making them into competitive matches there is, of course, prize money involved now, but when is too much?
I know it’s an honor to represent your county, but it’s also one more opportunity for injury. Take Luke Shaw for example, he has a horrendous injury record, he’s finally on the mend and is playing phenomenally for the first team. Enter the international break in September, where this happens. Shaw has since posted on twitter that he is “ok”, but we’re creating a culture where there is no such thing as a friendly.

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Champions League – Group Draw

After two and a half months of qualifying play, we’ve finally reached the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League! But before matches kick off on 18 September, the qualifiers had to be drawn into their respective groups.
Six qualifiers – who joined at various stages of the qualification depending on the UEFA coefficient of their association – have to fight through five qualifying rounds. Only one club that entered in the first qualification round – Red Star Belgrade – made it through to the Group Stage. They are joined by Ajax (second qualification round), AEK Athens & Benfica (third qualifying round), and Young Boys and PSV Eindhoven (Play-off round).
The 26 teams that are placed directly into the Champions League at the Group Stage are pulled from the following associations:

  • 11 champions from associations 1–11
  • 6 runners-up from associations 1–6
  • 5 third-placed teams from associations 1–5
  • 4 fourth-placed teams from associations 1–4

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UEFA Europa League Primer

The Champions League is for the best of the best, the top teams from the top leagues all across Europe. The Europa League pulls from a lot of the same population, though it tends to be reserved for teams that are not competing in the Champions League. There are also more opportunities for lower ranked leagues based on the UEFA coefficient, and a better chance for these lower ranked clubs to have representation in the later stages of the tournament.
All that being said, let’s take a closer look at how a team can get into the Europa League.
For the 2018-19 Europa League, there will be a grand total of 213 teams (as of now) participating in the tournament. Depending on where the association league is ranked determines how many spots are awarded to that league, and that in turn determines how the league determines who is selected. Teams are selected based on their performance the previous season, which is why it is sometimes possible to see a Premier League team competing in the Europa League while also falling to the relegation zone, like Wigan Athletic during the 2012-13 season.
The associations ranked between 1-51 (except Liechtenstein) all get at least three spots in the tournament. Associations 52-54 (presently Gibraltar, Andorra, and San Marino) receive (at least) two spots, and Kosovo and the aforementioned Liechtenstein each get at least one. I say “at least” as a qualifier for those numbers because associations can have more teams added to the field as they are eliminated from the Champions League tournament during the same year. For example, there have been 19 teams that have been eliminated from the Champions League tournament thus far, and they have all been placed in the Europa League tournament somewhere.
With me so far?

Read moreUEFA Europa League Primer

UEFA Champions League Primer

One of the reasons it is so important for an English football club to be so competitive in the Premier League is the qualification for the UEFA Champions League. This is a very lucrative continental tournament for all the club teams in European football, and is second to only the World Cup in worldwide viewership among football competitions.
Part of the reason for this is the prize money associated with the various stages of the tournament. The winning team can expect to share in a prize that approaches $100M, which averages out to about $5M per player. That is not pocket change, even for some of the highest paid players in Europe. They also share in money from the “market pool,” which is distributed based on value of the media market in the winning country.
The top four league based on UEFA coefficient – Spain, Germany, England, and Italy – each place four teams in the tournament every year. This is typically determined by the finishing order from the previous year’s league, though there are exceptions that may allow for teams to place more than their allocation based on the league’s performance in other leagues. For example, the winner of the UEFA Europa League, another continental competition for nearly all of the European club teams, is guaranteed a spot in the following year’s Champions League. If that team doesn’t qualify otherwise, like finishing in the top four in their league, they are given a spot, though no country can have more than five teams in the tournament.

Read moreUEFA Champions League Primer