How the U.S. learned to love soccer
USA fans in Chicago watch their team's World Cup game against Portugal.
June 26th, 2014
10:35 AM ET

How the U.S. learned to love soccer

As an England football fan, I’m well used to the national mood swings that ebb and flow with the fortunes of my country’s team at major tournaments. For a youthful supporter in 1990 and 1996, glorious semi-final runs have defined my recollections of those entire summers.

Equally, the catastrophic capitulation to Germany in 2010 and numerous penalty shootout fiascos are recalled much less fondly.

Either way, something I had usually taken for granted was that every few years I could expect the England team to compete on a major international stage and - for a few weeks - it felt like the whole country was in it together.

Win or lose and whether the failure was triumphant or abject, there was always something comforting about the collective, patriotic experience.

Having moved to the United States a couple of years ago, it quickly struck me that American sports fans have never experienced anything like it. FULL POST

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Filed under:  Football • World Sport Analysis
World Cup: The best photos from June 18
June 19th, 2014
11:59 AM ET

Brazil 2014: The reasons for Spain's World Cup pain

Hours after Spain's new monarch ascended to one throne, the kings of football - the Spanish nation's pride and joy - were being knocked off theirs.

And while I agree with those citing tiredness as a cause, I think any fatigue was more in the mind than the body.

You only had to look at the demeanor of goalkeeper Iker Casillas to see he was suffering from the sporting equivalent of post-traumatic stress; shellshock brought on by the explosive nature of conceding five goals against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup winners' opening game. FULL POST

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Filed under:  Football • World Cup
The beast has been slain thanks to matador Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti lifted the European Cup for the third time as a coach having won it twice as a player.
May 26th, 2014
09:55 AM ET

The beast has been slain thanks to matador Ancelotti

After the tumult of the trophy lift, as the Real Madrid players frolicked on the Stadium of Light's pitch, the eye was drawn towards Sergio Ramos.

Using a large silk flag as a matador's cloak, he drew loud blasts of "Ole" from the crowd with every swish of the cloth. There was no bull in sight but a beast had been slain; an imaginary one, given tremendous bulk by the club's fervent desire for "La Decima."

With a record-extending 10th European Cup secured, the removal of that burdensome weight helped propel the buoyant celebrations of everyone associated with the tournament's most successful ever team. FULL POST

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Chosen One MK II
May 20th, 2014
11:43 AM ET

Why 'Only One' Louis van Gaal is perfect for Manchester United

It’s his way. Or no way.

Simply put, Louis van Gaal doesn't suffer fools gladly - and as Manchester United’s star-studded squad is about to find out, no-one’s immune!

The Dutchman’s appointment as manager on Monday truly marks the end of the glorious Alex Ferguson era. Never again will we see that kind of longevity or continuity. Ferguson had ruled Britain's biggest club with a rod of iron from 1986 to 2013, winning everything in sight including 13 English Premier League titles and two European Champions League crowns. FULL POST

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Neymar - Too cool for school?
CNN World Sport's Amanda Davies sits down with Neymar, the star of the Brazil team.
April 30th, 2014
10:55 AM ET

Neymar - Too cool for school?

So much has been said and written about Neymar Jr, the 22-year-old from Santos being billed as the next Pele – particularly since his controversial move to Barcelona, it's difficult not to head into an interview with preconceptions.

Big money move and below-par form aside, he's one of the most photographed footballers of the moment, he was named the most marketable footballer on the planet by Sportspro and he has the haircut and model girlfriend to boot.

I'm pleased to say I'm not so long in the tooth that I don't get excited by sitting down to interview star footballers like Neymar. But there can be a certain amount of "take a deep breath, here it goes" ahead of sitting down with some of the current generation.

With the out-of-touch, overpaid, media-trained-within-an-inch-of-their-lives types, it can be a challenge. FULL POST

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Is Man Utd too big a club to manage?
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal is reportedly a leading candidate to succeed David Moyes as Manchester United manager.
April 23rd, 2014
12:06 PM ET

Is Man Utd too big a club to manage?

When former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson steps up to the lectern to deliver the first of his Harvard Business School lectures in May, he won’t be short of material.

He knows all about the art of building winning teams, how to deal with the pressure of the media and, of course, the secrets of time management, more commonly known in football circles as "Fergie Time."

Ferguson retired last May after claiming a 13th English Premier League title with United - the 49th and final trophy of an illustrious 39-year career in football management.

It’s a record of unparalleled achievement, but barely a year after the Scot stepped down it appears there is one gaping hole in the Ferguson management repertoire - successful succession planning. FULL POST

Hillsborough disaster: 25th anniversary
April 14th, 2014
02:22 PM ET

Will Hillsborough scars ever heal?

For British football fans in the spring of 1989, it was our JFK moment.

Every one of us remembers exactly where we were and what we were doing on April 15, when we learned that over 90 Liverpool supporters had been crushed to death at an FA Cup semifinal. Along with many others across the country, I was listening to the game on the radio, quickly switching on the television to watch a disaster unfold in front of me.

This was a time before the Premier League, before the massive investment in all-seater stadia; football was very different back then.

Anyone who'd stood on a terrace and been herded like cattle into and out of a stadium could relate to what those fans must have gone through. Most of the time, standing behind the goal at a first division game was a lot of fun, the crowd ebbed and flowed with the action on the field, a crowd that was a vibrant, living entity and you were thrilled to be a part of it. FULL POST

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Can Man Utd dare to dream ahead of Bayern Munich tie?
Living on a prayer? David Moyes Man Utd are underdogs against the mighty Bayern Munich. (Getty Images)
April 7th, 2014
11:34 AM ET

Can Man Utd dare to dream ahead of Bayern Munich tie?

Sitting in block 225 of the South Stand at Old Trafford last Tuesday, just to the right of the bench and beneath the press box, my eyes were drawn to the banner that proudly hangs on the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.

It reads “The Impossible Dream, Made Possible”. It’s a banner paying tribute to the former Manchester United manager and the ridiculous number of trophies he helped bring to the club - most notably 13 English Premier League titles and two European Champions League triumphs.

But seeing that banner while watching the post-Ferguson United take on the might of European champions Bayern Munich in a Champions League quarterfinal first leg – it made me chuckle. FULL POST

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Can football change the world in its fight against poverty?
Football great Zinedine Zidane took part in the annual Match against Poverty.
March 5th, 2014
01:47 PM ET

Can football change the world in its fight against poverty?

By Tom McGowan

A band of heroes unite to change the lives of those in need, to feed the starving and house the homeless.

This is the rationale behind a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initiative which it hopes will help halve world poverty by 2015.

Arguably the UN faces an uphill struggle.

A recent Oxfam report estimated that the world's richest 85 people share a combined wealth of $1.67 trillion, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population.

The World Bank's definition of poverty is based on an income of less than $2 a day, or a calorie intake of less than 2100 calories.

Football stars Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane are the faces of the Match Against Poverty, launched in 2003 and now an annual event aimed at raising funds for the impoverished.

"It's the world's most accessible and equal sport. You can even make your own football," Petra Lantz, director of the UNDP representation office in Geneva, told CNN.

"I've seen that with kids who use paper and string, then they have a football and they pretend that they're Ronaldo or Zidane.

"If you want to reach these kids who are no longer in school, sport is an excellent activity. Football is a sport that is accessible even for those who are poor."

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Filed under:  Football • World Sport Analysis
Is Manchester United in meltdown?
Manchester United have lost 11 times under manager David Moyes this season.
February 26th, 2014
01:08 PM ET

Is Manchester United in meltdown?

The jokes came thick and fast on Twitter after Manchester United’s 2-0 first leg Champions League defeat by Olympiakos in Athens: “The greatest Hellenic triumph since George Michael’s Careless Whisper.”

Former footballers were equally unforgiving: "MUFC have had the odd bad day over the years, but I cannot recall such an abject, hopeless, forlorn performance,” tweeted ex-England international Gary Lineker. “And against such mediocrity."

Then there were the photoshopped pictures of Manchester United’s tactical shape joined together by a thick red line spelling out “LOL.”

Wednesday’s media headlines tightened the tourniquet.

Tabloid newspaper the Sun went for full punning scorn: “Pitta-ful Utd in Greek tragedy as fans demand … MOUSACKA MOYES.”

FULL POST

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