BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for July 2010

Maradona outmanoeuvred in Argentine battle of wills

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Tim Vickery | 07:21 UK time, Thursday, 29 July 2010

He was never likely to go quietly. "I have been lied to and betrayed," said Diego Maradona in response to losing his job as Argentina coach. He should have seen it coming.

In October 2008, on the eve of his appointment, I made the following comment on this website:

"Argentina are not in the habit of sacking coaches. Either they resign or their contract comes to an end. On Monday, Julio Grondona [Argentine Football Association president] was indicating that the new coach will not be given a four-year deal but will only serve until the next World Cup.

"A cynic might wonder if there are hidden intentions here - that Grondona can hardly ignore Maradona now that he is healthy and ambitious but that, assuming Argentina don't win the next World Cup, he can draw his sting and then get rid of him in little more than a year and a half. Time will tell."

Time has told. Maradona walked into the trap. As he commented, his spell in charge was the shortest of any Argentina coach in the last 35 years.

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Brazil job will test Menezes' inner calm

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Tim Vickery | 08:46 UK time, Sunday, 25 July 2010

When Brazil shine, the players get the credit for their flair and brilliance. When they fall short of expectations, the coach gets the blame.

Being in charge of Brazilian team is like sitting in a coconut shy - plenty of things are thrown in your direction. And the bombardment could be especially fierce in the case of new boss Mano Menezes, who is taking over with everyone knowing that he was not the first choice for the job.

Muricy Ramalho, currently in charge of Fluminense, was the preferred candidate of the CBF - the Brazilian FA - and a man who, after guiding Sao Paulo to three consecutive league titles from 2006-08 he gave an interview in which he described the notion of turning down the Brazil job as "a joke".

And yet, he has done exactly that, leaving the CBF looking stupid and lapping up criticism from the local media.

On Saturday, sports daily Lance! put an editorial on its front page describing the farce with Ramalho as an example of "the amateurism and improvisation of the actions of the CBF and its directors with things of real importance to our football. Attitudes for which we have already paid a high price, with the loss of titles and of chances to organise our domestic football. And which have transformed the organisation of the 2014 World Cup into a blind flight to an uncertain destination".

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Brazilian league lacks bite

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Tim Vickery | 08:44 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

Spain or Barcelona? No contest. Week in, week out, Barcelona combine the midfield interplay of Xavi and Iniesta with the cutting edge of Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves and co.

The comparison serves to confirm the impression that these days club football is of a much higher standard than international - as long as we restrict the debate to the major European leagues.

The big clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are in front of the national teams because of the time their players spend together and because they count on the best talent from all over the planet. When the World Cup stops and domestic football returns, the level of play goes up.

In South America, things are different. the Brazilian Championship, almost certainly the strongest in the continent, resumed last Wednesday after a break to accommodate events in South Africa.

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It's not the Cup, it's the qualifying

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Tim Vickery | 09:40 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

A European team has finally won the World Cup outside its home continent.

More than that, for the first time since 1954, Europe is now ahead of South America in the number of World Cup wins - with a strong advantage. Europe has staged the tournament 10 times and South America just four - but in 2014 the World Cup will return to the continent of its birth for the first time in 36 years.

In Brazil the South Americans will be favourites to level up the all time score at 10 wins each - especially after the form they displayed in South Africa.

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Emotion no substitute for clear thinking

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Tim Vickery | 11:00 UK time, Sunday, 4 July 2010

Diego Maradona compared Argentina's 4-0 World Cup defeat by Germany to being on the wrong end of a punch thrown by Muhammad Ali. Perhaps he needed Ali's legendary trainer Angelo Dundee alongside him on the bench.

In one of the great sports books. David Remnick's 'King of the World,' Dundee recalled his involvement in the first fight with Sonny Liston, when Cassius Clay (as Ali was still called at the time) had been blinded by a substance allegedly put on Liston's gloves. He was threatening to abandon the fight, but Dundee managed to calm him down.

"Isn't experience wonderful?" reflected Dundee.

"I've only been doing this for 48 years. You can't get to where you're hysterical and lose your cool. Then you're no good to the fighter."

The pressure of the World Cup quarter-finals exposed the inexperience - and the lack of emotional control - of Maradona and Brazil coach Dunga.

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When the Dutch led the way

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Tim Vickery | 09:17 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

Brazil versus the Netherlands has given us some wonderful World Cup memories. The 1998 semi-final was one of Ronaldo's best performances in the competition. The Dutch should probably have won a pulsating game, losing their nerve in the penalty shoot-out, but they softened up the Brazilians for France in the final.

The 1994 quarter-final had Bebeto's immortal 'rock the cradle' celebration, a shock Holland comeback and finally Branco's spectacular long-range free-kick.

But the really important contest - the one whose repercussions continue to ripple through the game - was the meeting in West Germany in 1974. In what was effectively a semi-final, the Netherlands won 2-0 while a frustrated Brazil, the reigning world champions, resorted to a full repertoire of rugby tackles and body checks.

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