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Football Review of 2011 Part 2: July-December

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On this week’s main listening report we look back at some of the big stories from the football world in 2011. Part one will feature January to June while part two will focus on July to December. This report has a transcript below, as well as explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases (in blue) also have meanings explained.

July-August

Two major international tournaments took place in July: the Women’s World Cup from Germany and the Copa America from Argentina. The big surprise package in the women’s World Cup was the Japanese team, nicknamed Nadeshiko, who managed to defeat the pre-tournament favourites the USA – though they did need penalties to do so. This was the first title for the Japanese who stunned Germany and Sweden in the knockout stages to claim their berth in the final before dedicating their title to those who lost their lives in the March earthquake.

July also saw Uruguay winning their record-breaking 15th Copa America title after thrashing Paraguay 3-0 in the final at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires. La Celeste, or the Sky Blues, had the player of the tournament in Luis Suarez, they did not lose a match and they also knocked-out hosts and favourites Argentina proving that their third place in the 2010 World Cup was no fluke at all.

August saw the start of the European football season although in Spain this did not begin until the end of the month thanks to a strike called by the players’ union over insurance issues. By then, the first clasico of the season had taken place with the Spanish Super Cup and the animosity between the two sides re-surfaced when Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho appeared to poke a Barcelona staff member in the eye. This would not be the last time that Barcelona got under the skin of the Portuguese manager of Madrid.

The final weekend of August also saw two incredible results from the Premier League. First up was a statement of intent from Manchester City in their 5-1 hammering of Tottenham at White Hart Lane while a couple of hours later Manchester United thrashed Arsenal 8-2 – a slaughter of the innocents as one newspaper called it. Good news for the two north London sides was that they did not have to play again for two weeks thanks to the international break.

September-October

The European Championship qualifying rounds reached their decisive moments in September and October with more than 20 nations still in with a chance of progressing to the finals next summer in Poland and the Ukraine. Current World champions Spain easily qualified along with pre-tournament favourites Germany, as well as the Dutch and the Italians, while England, Russia and former winners Greece all topped their groups to make it to the finals. The final four spots were decided by a series of play-offs which took place in November and Ireland, France, The Czech Republic and Portugal all made it through to the finals.

Qualifying for the Brazil 2014 World Cup has also already started – there have been games in Asia, Central America, Africa and South America. Indeed, some countries such as Djibuti, Eritrea and Chad from Africa, the Cayman Islands and Suriname from the Central American region, as well as former World Cup participants the UAE, North Korea and surprisingly China from the Asian region have already been eliminated. Uruguay, Argentina and surprise package Venezuela top the group in the arduous South American section though there is a long way to go.

October saw one of the more bizarre incidents from football when Argentinian star Carlos Tevez refused to come off the bench for his club side Manchester City in their defeat away at German powerhouse Bayern Munich. His manager Roberto Mancini vowed that Tevez would never play for the club again and so far has been true to his word. City went on to be eliminated at the group stage along with their local rivals United who performed poorly in a relatively easy group that included teams from Portugal, Switzerland and Romania. There was one other major surprise in the Champions League group stage and that was Cypriot side Apoel qualifying for the first time – they defeated former winners and current holders of the Europa League title Porto.

The end of the month saw another thrashing in the Premier League but this was one that no one saw coming, one where tactics counted for nothing. Manchester City scored six times at Old Trafford to record their biggest derby victory in years, while it was United’s heaviest defeat in more than half a century. City clearly laid down a marker with respect to their title claims but since then, United have been unbeaten in the league and are now top of the table again along with their rivals. The other major news from the Premier League involved England captain John Terry who was accused of making a racist remark to QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry maintains he is innocent and the decision on this case is to be taken in January. One decision already taken concerning racist remarks was the one involving Liverpool’s Luis Suarez who was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. He has been suspended for eight games though the club are to appeal this verdict. The debate on whether racism exists in football has been re-opened – surely a good thing – but the fact that such high-profile cases exist demonstrate that the problem of racism has not yet been eradicated, particularly when the chief of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, had to apologise for his comments on racism.

November-December

Lots of titles were handed out in November and December including the Asian Champions League title – that went to Qatari side Al Sadd who beat Korean team Jeonbuk on penalties. Al Sadd reached the final in controversial circumstances but held their nerve to win in the final and then went on to represent their region in the Club World Cup at the end of the year. The MLS title went to LA Galaxy after they defeated Houston 1-0 to win their first championship since 2005. In Argentina Boca Juniors took the Apertura title, while in Brazil the title race went down to the wire with Sao Paolo side Corinthians winning out over Vasco in the end. In Japan Kashiwa, a newly promoted side, were crowned champions, but it also went down to the wire as they held off Nagoya by 1 point to win their first J-League title. Finally, in December the Club World Cup was played in Japan with Barcelona winning their second world title in three years after thrashing Santos 4-0 in the final. Well done Barca – yet again.
The footballing world was saddened at the deaths of two big figures from the world of football: Welsh manager Gary Speed and Brazilian legend Sócrates. Speed played 85 times for his country, captaining the side on 44 occasions, while he was also the first player to play over 500 games in the Premier League. The reaction from fans and players throughout the game since his death demonstrates the respect that the game had for Speed.

In Brazil former captain of the national side Sócrates passed away at the age of 57. The team he was most associated with was Sao Paolo’s Corinthians with whom he played 297 times, scoring a remarkable 172 goals. He played for the national side on 60 occasions, scoring 22 times, and was captain of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup sides. Sócrates was more than just a footballer – he studied medicine and was very political at a time when being so could get you into trouble in Brazil.

Top of the table at the end of the year in Europe does not guarantee title success in Europe but the two Manchester sides in England, Bayern Munich in Germany, Paris Saint Germain in France, Celtic in Scotland, AC Milan and Juventus in Italy, and Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain will all feel they have a chance of lifting their respective national titles in May 2012. Or maybe we will see a dark horse emerging…

Vocabulary

the surprise package: a team that has done better than expected

stunned: surprised, shocked

berth: place

thrashing: A heavy defeat

fluke: luck or chance

the animosity: the bad feeling; the hatred

a statement of intent: shows what you want to do in a forceful manner

hammering: a thrashing, a heavy defeat

topped their groups: Came first

arduous : tough, extremely hard

have already been eliminated: Are already knocked out; will not take part in the World Cup 2014

vowed: promised

held off: defeated

eradicated: eliminated; cut out

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