ANC: Another former MLS player outshines Junior Agogo to give Cameroon win

Alain Nkong has been journeyman his whole career (a still young one at that, only 28 years old). He was in his native Cameroon for a while, then Portugal, Spain, Portugal again, then Uruguay, and then the Colorado Rapids. While with the Rapids, he played well enough to be kept around for a couple years (5 goals in 33 appearances) but the tall attacking midfielder was finally waived heading into the 2007 season. From there he linked up with Atlante (MEX), where he helped them to the 2007 Apertura Title. And what many people forget is that Nkong is the unsung hero of the Cameroonian national team. He has struck for 9 goals in 21 games before today…

CAMEROON 1, GHANA 0 – ANC SEMIFINAL

The Indomitable Lions didn’t need Samuel Eto’o to pull them through this time as Alain Nkong did his best, striking late in the game (71st minute) after coming in the 62nd to provide Cameroon with their first shot at a African Cup of Nations championship since 2002. In doing so, the former Rapid knocked out a Ghanaian host squad that many thought were locked favorites at least for the final. As I say often, you can’t argue with Essien and Muntari in the middle, but Ghana was lacking a true target man today (yes, even Junior Agogo couldn’t pull off continued heroics). Unfortunately, the Lions – despite the victory – will be missing Reading centreback Andre Bikey after he was sent off in the 90th minute for – and listen to this – pushing over a FIRST-AID ASSISTANT while he/she was attending to his own teammate. He can’t be that dumb – please tell me it was accidental and the ref just jumped the gun????

Now we await the score of Egypt vs. Ivory Coast, which is set to kick off at 3:30 EST.

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England win, EPL goes even more foreign?

ENG vs. SWI: England got by a mediocre Switzerland side led by teenager (and now cap-tied, thankfully) Eron Derdiyok. The Three Lions’ 2-1 win over the Swiss featured old David James and a “there’s only one David Beckham” chant, the return of Jermaine Jenas and Matthew Upson, and a final reflection of Capello amounting to “we need lots of work”. Only several on the field showed any sort of urgency – the two Coles (Joe and Ashley), Steven Gerrard fought to get things moving in the midfield, and Shaun Wright-Phillips came on and ultimately provided the winner. Wayne Rooney was shut-down by Senderos until he found enough time to provide Gerrard with space to hit SW-P for the winner. There was little flash and pizazz showcased by the English and if any were expecting that, they clearly forget that Fabio Capello is at the helm now. This is the same guy that was axed from Real Madrid after not playing Madrid’s fluid, attacking style (still winning La Liga no less, and clearly there were more factors than just tactics). Either way, England is going to have a whole spring and summer to improve as they make their charge towards World Cup 2010 without a European Championship to play for.

FOREIGN GAMES?: The 2011-2012 EPL season looks to be one to remember if the Premier League goes through with an outlined plan they have set up a press conference to announce today. There is expected to be an addition of 1 extra game for each of the 20 squads, in a foreign destination. This is to take advantage of the growing worldwide interest of the EPL. Ultimately, on and even under the surface, this just looks like another way for EPL to make more cash…and I don’t think they’ll even deny that. The EPL has a home and away structure right now – why add an odd game in there against an opponent picked out of a hat, in a location they could play a friendly at and STILL make the same amount of money (apparently, the ‘Big Four’ would be kept from playing each other. That’s acknowledging the fact that it’s only a four horse race all year and the parity in the EPL is for shit). The report referenced a successful NFL match-up between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins held at Wembley Stadium – but what they didn’t mention was the fact that it was WORKED into the existing schedule structure. The NFL didn’t add a game to make things work. Listen, would it be cool to see Manchester United take on Reading in New York City? Sure…hell, it would be heaven for some. But to add another game to do it? Let me know what you think…

Here are the pros.

La Selección: Spain 1-France 0 Another Lacking Performance

La Furia Roja (literally ‘The Red Fury’) have never looked so not-furious as they currently do under the god-awful leadership of one, Luis Aragonés.

This game I really thought things were going to be different. On The Offside Podcast this week Ian asked me what I thought going into the game. I was for certain that the young Bojan Krkic was going to get his cap for Spain, cementing him as a full-fledged member of La Furia. I was certain that Spain would put out a team that would be somewhat experimental, but still have some attacking flair. I was certain that Spain would comfortably win against France in the lovely southern town of Málaga.

But I was wrong, yet again.

Continue reading

U.S. 2-2 Mexico: Losing a Tie

I’ll start with the usual caveats: I watched this with a 3-year-old distracting me throughout with puzzles, demands to play with balloons, gigantic playground balls, etc.

That said, that was one lucky tie. The U.S. squandered possession, our midfield got slaughtered, our flanks overrun, and the chances we deliberately created could be counted on one hand – and Josmer Altidore got on the end of most of them. Fortunately, Mexico continued their tradition of mentally seizing up every time they got within 30 yards of the U.S. goal…so not all was lost.

It has been sometime since the temptation struck to say we simply don’t know how to play the game. But that’s not fair. Over a few, brief spells the evolution of U.S. soccer showed, but these fleeting moments came and went too often near the center stripe and, more often still, they played out in a kind of ragged, random vibe. Worse, our composed moments featured too many long balls forward and those came to players who appeared ill-suited to cope – again, Altidore and Clint Dempsey.

Against that, the Mexicans displayed – to borrow a “John Harkesism” – good “characteristics”on the ball’: between better movement and sharper passing, they simply outplayed the U.S. in every meaningful aspect of outfield play (thank god for goalkeeping, right?) The most striking sequence came in the second half when four Mexican players set up an impromptu game of keep-away in the U.S. half against up to eight U.S. players. But the Mexicans’ better moments came with the simplest stuff – finding the open man in space, too often just in front of the U.S. defense. This approximates the time when my heart shrunk into my stomach and my balls lifted toward my stomach…a kind of “Oh Shit” pinch designed, perhaps, with the intention of holding the crucial pieces together until the bad stuff passed. Continue reading

Podcasts: The Offside Podcast-Week 9

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk on The Offside Podcast about what was going on in Spain.  Since then, I have been asked to come on the show each week and to talk about all things La Liga and Spain oriented and also to stand there and say ‘mhm’ when I think something is interesting.

In this week’s show, Daryl talks about the African Cup of Nations, Inara talks about France, we all talk about what transfers were important during this break and I ramble on for a while about Ever Banega and about Real Madrid’s loss to Almeria last weekend.

You can find the podcasts on The Offside’s website or you can also download them via ITunes (just search for The Offside).