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The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tunisian Cash Cow

It's a quiet day on the betting front but the African Cup of Nations again offers some interest, especially with Tunisia in action against the hapless South Africans. Tunisia are fast becoming the cash cow of this competition and anyone who backed them in their previous game, or to win their group outright, will be very happy at the moment. With Dos Santos (as much as 16s prior to the opening game) embroiled in a shoot-out with Eto'o for the tournament's golden boot, there are multiple opportunities to be quids in. South Africa should offer little opposition today and you can read a small article about the decline of the Bafana Bafana here. The other game in the ACN sees Guinea back in action against winless Zambia. The Zambians gave Tunisia a stiff battle for an hour of their match but were eventually undone by their naivity and inexperience. The heavy scoreline did not really reflect the pattern of the game but I still can't take Zambia for a win over Guinea today, although it should be very close. To recap, I will be taking the Guinea and Tunisia win double to keep the bank ticking over today.

One seperate game of interest could be the Copa del Rey quarter-final clash between Real Zaragoza and Barcelona. I am always wary of betting on domestic cup games but there is some considerable value to be had on Zaragoza, who are as big as 6.00 in some places. The mighty Barcelona are on a record unbeaten run but when it eventually comes to end it will most likely be away from home in this competition. Rijkaard has several injuries to contend with (Xavi, Deco and Giuly) as well as the absence of Eto'o on international duty. The incredibly important defender Puyol is also being rested, and there are rumours that Ronaldinho could sit it out (although this hasn't been confirmed at the time of writing). I would not suggest people go heavy on Zaragoza here, but a small nibble could yield a nice unexpected bonus.

posted by Trilby at 12:48 pm
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

International Duty

Kameni (Espanyol)- Angbwa (Lille); Ateba (PSG); Kalla (Bochum); Song
(Galatasaray)- Atouba (Hamburg); Djemba-Djemba (Aston Villa); Emana
(Toulouse); Geremi (Chelsea); Kome (Murcia); Makoun (Lille)- Douala
(Sporting Lisbon); Eto'o (Barcelona); Webo (Osasuna)

posted by Trilby at 2:36 pm
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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Togo Down the Pan

It's official: Togo are an African Cup of Nations bust after just one game. The shambolic manner of today's 2-0 defeat to DR Congo will be a sickener to all those who have tipped the Hawks as the competiton's darkest horses; while the ensuing post match fall-out will frustrate Emmanuel Adebayor backers in the top goalscorer market.

The towering Adebayor, responsible for 11 of the 22 goals Togo bagged in their successful World Cup qualifying campaign, had been named in the starting line-up for the DR Congo game. At some point in the 30 minutes prior to kick-off- doubtless the time when many punters were confidently staking their money- Adebayor contrived to pick up a mystery 'stomach bug' and was sat down for the first hour of the game. What followed was a lamentable Toga display, one that veered from early comical profligacy in front of goal to a progressivly listless and largely aimless effort once the Congolese took the lead. When Adebayor finally took to the field he was unable to significantly influence proceedings. The scenes after the game, including a heated exchange between Keshi and Adebayor on the team bus, will have done little to quell the growing furore in Lome and elsewhere. What is unclear is just what effect the turmoil will have on the team for the rest of the competition. Will Adebayor leave the camp or can the striker and his coach put their differences to one side? Will the traumas of the opening game now galvanise the team, or further splinter an already fractious situation? Whatever happens from here, the Togo team has become so unbackable in the market that only those with a granite stomach should now consider parting with their hard-earned Communaute Financiere Africaines.

The Togo situation is an interesting one. The national team have undergone a quiet revolution under the tenure of Stephen Keshi as coach, reaching their first ever World Cup and squeezing out Senegal in the process. They are a well-organised and hard-working team, built around a miserly defence that leaked just 8 goals in 10 qualifying matches. Prior to this tournament Toga had a growing reputation that always looked incongruous to their pre-ACN odds. Perhaps the market sensed trouble on the horizon, or more likely it had taken note of a poor friendly tournament performance in Tehran. The side finished last behind Paraguay, Iran and Macedonia and Keshi had lambasted the FA for severe unprofessionalism. I had been willing to brush this aside when making an assessment of Toga's chances here, hoping the situation would not be revisited in the ACN. In hindsight, I have learnt another rule when evaluating a team. That is to say...Never underestimate the destabilizing effect that behind-the-scenes problems can have on a team!

posted by Trilby at 2:19 pm
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

African Cup of Nations

The African Cup of Nations kicks off in Cairo this Friday and runs through to February 10th. From a betting prospective the tournament can often prove a lottery, only one team has managed to retain the title in 35 years of the competition and no less than thirteen different countries have lifted the trophy in that time. The fact that two countries (Togo and Angola) have qualified for the World Cup but are not among those who have lifted the ACN, speaks volumes for the unpredictability of the competition and African football in general. When you throw in witchcraft, boycots, riot police, furious club versus country cat-fights, political machinations, financial quarrels, illegal kits, dodgy pitches and bafflingly eccentric refereeing, you get some idea how arbitrary and capricious this market can be.

Current odds- Cameroon(6) Egypt(6); Tunisia(7.6) Ivory Coast(7.6); Nigeria(10); Senegal(13); Morocco(17.5); Ghana(20); Angola(24); Togo(26); South Africa(32); Guinea(60); Zambia(75); Congo DR(95); Zimbabwe(130); Libya(140)

GROUP A- Egypt, Ivory Coast, Libya, Morocco
History suggests it is never wise to back against the hosts in the African nations and Egypt have a better home record than most, winning almost twice as many games on their own territory as they do away. They have also won two of the three previous competitions they have hosted. If they are to prosper this time then they will need a good tournament from Mohammed Barakat, the playmaker who guided Al-Ahly to the African Champions League in November. Goals have not been a problem despite a poor World Cup qualifying campaign, but Egypt can only benefit from the return of their big European based player Mido. The in-form Tottenham striker had fallen out with previous coach, Marco Tardelli. The seedings bizarrely place Ivory Coast only third in the group but, in Didier Drogba and Aruna Dindane, they have arguably the most potent strikeforce in African football. Add in the mesmeric dribbling of Bonaventure Kalou, the midfield guile of Didier Zakora and the defensive strength of Kolo Toure and, having already eliminated Cameroon from the World Cup, there is no reason why Henri Michel's well-organised side cannot be serious contenders for the ACN. A question mark still remains about the side's ability to perform on the big stage and in the hostile surroundings of North Africa, but encouragement can be taken from the fact that the side twice defeated Egypt in qualifying for Germany. Morocco are under a new coach and much will depend on how a young squad of players react to the new regime. Under the previous coach Morocco missed out on the World Cup by a single point to Tunisia, and were the only team on the continent to be undefeated away from home. The Atlas Lions will have arguably the strongest defence in the competition but are likely to struggle to score goals. Much will depend on the form of Bordeaux hitman Chamakh. In 21 previous meetings with Egypt, Morocco have lost just twice. Libya are the undoubted outsiders of the group, but, thanks to the expenditure of Al-Saadi Gadaffi and the coaching of Croatian Loncarevic, they are improving. Talent spotters will be watching gifted captain Tarek El Taib but a first round exit looks probable.

GROUP B- Angola, Cameroon, DR Congo, Togo
Four sub-Saharan sides and a fascinating battle between the traditional powers of in African football and the emerging forces. Cameroon will not be in Germany and are desperate to reassert their supremacy within African football by clinching a third title in four attempts. They retain a defensive resiliance instilled by Winfried Schafer and can also claim the continent's best keeper in Espanyol's Kameni. As long as he travels, prodigiously talanted Samuel Eto'o will provide the main attacking threat. DR Congo are seeded second in the group but it would be a considerable achievement for them to progress from this group. Recent improvement under the stewardship of Claude LeRoy is continually undermimed by a chaotic domestic background. Angola's Portuguese coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves has developed a bristling team spirit reminiscent of Senegal four years ago. However, if they are to prosper, so much will depend on the shoulders of frorwards Fabrice Akwa and the sensational Pedro Mantorras, who could be one of the stars to emerge from the tournament. Togo are also heavily reliant on a work ethic, keeping things tight and hoping Emmanuel Adebayor can nick a goal. The new Arsenal striker will be many punters' choice for tournament top goalscorer. Although Togo have qualified for the World Cup, coach Steve Keshi has still condemned the FA for unprofessionalism after the side finished last behind Paraguay, Iran and Macedonia in a recent competition.

GROUP C- Guinea, South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia
Tunisia have benefitted the most from the seedings as they have been handed the easiest group. They are the reigning African champions and will also be on their way to Germany. Roger Lamerre presides over a very talented squad and has infused his charges with a supreme confidence. Defensive stability provided by Trabelsi and Jaidi and an attacking inventiveness courtesy of Jaziri and the Brazilian-born Dos Santos make this team genuine contenders, especially given the tendency for north African teams to prosper in north Africa. South Africa, champions in 1996, are likely to struggle. They had a bad World Cup qualifying campaign and only just scraped passed Burkino Faso to reach the ACN. They have a bullish new coach in Ted Dumitru but a severe lack of firepower following the retirement of Shaun Bartlett. Guinea reached the quarter-finals two years ago and in forward Pascal Feindouno they have a real talent. Their coach, Patrick Neveu, has targeted the last eight again and given that Guinea did beat Tunisia in the World Cup qualifying, his confidence is not without foundation. African legend Kalusha Bwalya has Zambia heading in the right direction after they failed to reach the ACN two years ago, but there is some doubt that Russia-based Gift Kampamba will make the trip. Without their main star the Chipolopolo are likely to find things tough.

GROUP D- Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe
One group and three powerhouses of African football. Nigeria were probably the most surprising casualties of the World Cup qualifying competition, but there seems a renewed optimism since the arrival of new coach Austin Eguavoen. The final two qualifiers saw the team score five against both Tunisia and Zimbabwe, Martins helping himself to five of those 10 goals. The Inter striker will be a key figure and on song there is no reason why Nigeria should not win the tournament even if they are a nation with a unique predilection for self-destruction. Ghana last won the the ANC 23 years ago but are riding a wave after finally reaching the World Cup finals. They have the strongest midfield pairing in African football in Essien and Appiah but one half of that partnership will be missing here and that seriously damages their chances. They will be expertly coached by alchemist Ratomir Dujkovic but miserble recent form is a considerable worry. Senegal are another team licking their wounds after not making Germany. The perception is they are a team in slow decline, with many of the players from four years ago still clinging to their places. They have never really replaced coach Bruno Metsu, but with the likes of Bouba Diop and El-Hadji Diouf still retain the ability to pack a punch. Zimbabwe are in only their second ACN and have been handed an almighty task to qualify here. The fact that veteren Peter Ndlovu remains their biggest name speaks volumes about their chances here.

There is a perceived wisdom that home advantage is a huge factor in African football and in the recent World Cup campaign it certainly seemed the case. Morocco were the only side on the continent to remain unbeaten on their travels, although too many draws saw them eventually pipped by Tunisia for a place in Germany. When the ACN was played two years ago, in Tunisia, the hosts edged out Morocco in the final. On three other occasions, Egypt in '59 & '86 and Algeria in '90, North African hosts have lifted the cup, part of a series of nine 'home' victories in 24 tournaments.

Below is a country by country list of the European based players who could be on show in Egypt. It doesn't include such casualties and absentees as Essien, Nonda and Atouba. The list is also liable to change as squads are not finalised until the last minute...

- Kali (Santa Clara)- Titi Buengo (Clermont Foot); Pedro Mantorras (Benfica)

- Kameni (Espanyol)- Angbwa (Lille); Ateba (PSG); Kalla (Bochum); Song (Galatasaray)- Atouba (Hamburg); Djemba-Djemba (Aston Villa); Emana (Toulouse); Geremi (Chelsea); Kome (Murcia); Makoun (Lille)- Douala (Sporting Lisbon); Eto'o (Barcelona); Webo (Osasuna)

Cote D'Ivoire
- Gnanhouan (Montpellier)- Boka (Strasbourg); Domoraud (Creteil); Eboue (Arsenal); Kouassi (Troyes); Meite (Marseille); Toure (Arsenal); Kpolo (Messina)- Akale (Auxerre); Demel (Hamburg); Fae (Nanates); Tiene (St Etienne); Yapi-Yopo (Nantes); Zokora (St Etienne)- Dindane (Lens); Drogba (Chelsea); Kalou (PSG); A Kone (PSV); B Kone (Nice); Romaric (Le Mans)

DR Congo- Ilunga (St Etienne); Kinkela (Amiens)- Matingou (Bastia)- Lualua (Portsmouth)

- A Hassan (Besiktas); Hosni (Strasbourg)- Mido (Spurs/Roma)

Ghana- McCarthy (Feyenoord)- Abubakari (Vitesse); Kuffour (Roma); Mensah (Cremonese)- Appiah (Fenerbahce); Asamoah (Modena); Yakubu (Vitesse)- Amoah (Vitesse); Gyan (Modena)

- Bobo Balde (Celtic); Kaba (Gueugnon)- Camera (Burnley): Diawara (Ajaccio); Feindouno (St Etienne); Mansare (Toulouse)

- Muntasser (Triestina)

Morocco- El Karkouri (Charlton); Naybet (Spurs); Ouaddou (Rennes)- Aggoudi "Moha" (Osasuna); Hadji (Rennes); Kharja (Roma); Regragui (Racing Santander); Safri (Norwich)- Aboucherouae (Lille); Chamakh (Bordeaux)

Nigeria- Taiwo (Marseille); Yobo (Everton); Lawal (Roda)- Obodo (Udinese); Okocha (Bolton); Oruma (Marseille)- Kanu (WBA); Makinwa (Palermo); Martins (Inter); Obinna (Chievo); Odemwingie (Lille); Utaka (Rennes)

- Sylva (Lille)- Beye (Marseille); Cisse (Portsmouth); Coly (Parma); Daf (Sochaux); A Faye (Bolton); Diatta (Lyon); Diawara (Sochaux); Diop (Guingamp) I Faye (Troyes)- Bouba Diop (Fulham); Diao (Portsmouth); Fadiga (Bolton); N'Diaye (Levante)- Camara (Wigan); Diouf (Bolton); D Faye (Clermont Foot); Kamara (WBA); Mendy (St Etienne); Niang (Marseille); Sakho (St Etienne)

South Africa
- Issa (Watford); Makoena (Blackburn)- McCarthy (Porto); Zuma (A Bielefeld)

- Agassa (Metz)- Assemoassa (Clermont Foot)- Salifou (Brest)- Adebayor (Arsenal); Toure (Metz)

Tunisia- Haggui (Strasbourg); Jaidi (Bolton); Trabelsi (Ajax); Yahia (St Etienne)- Benachour (Guimaraes); Chedli (Nurnberg); Mnari (Nurnberg)- Ben Saada (Bastia); Dos Santos (Toulouse); Gmamdia (Strasbourg); Jaziri (Troyes); Jemaa (Lens); Namouchi (Rangers)

Zambia- Sinkala (Koln)- Mbesuma (Portsmouth)

Zimbabwe- Ndlovu (Sheffied United)

posted by Trilby at 12:13 pm
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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Basic Rating System

FRAN (Football Rating Assessment Number) is calculated as follows. Every team under consideration has an integer number which expresses its relative ability. The numbers are chosen so they average 1000. For example, if you were covering 92 teams as a closed system, the total number of ranking points available would be 92,000- to be divided between the teams.

The system is initialized by giving every team a rating corresponding to its status. In the simplest case, each team could start off with 1000 points but then it would take longer to settle down.
After every game played (league and cup matches) the FRANs for both sides are re-calculated to reflect the outcome. The adjustment proceeds as follows:
  • Each side contributes a fixed proportion of its rating to a 'kitty' or 'pot'- rather like placing a bet on the result. We suggest the home teams puts forward 7% of its strength into this pot and the away team contributes 5%. These contributions are rounded up to the nearest whole number.
  • The kitty is re-distributed between the two sides according to the result. (Winner takes all; draw splits the pot.)
  • If the home team wins, it takes the whole amount.
  • If the away side wins, it takes the whole amount.
  • If the game is drawn, half the kitty returns to the home team, and half to the away side. (To avoid fractional values, if the kitty contains an odd number of points, the away team is entitled to one extra point.)
Now the two teams have revised ratings, which can be used to help predict performance in later games.

A quick example: A home team with 1600 points meets an away team with 1755 points, and loses. The home team contributes 7% of 1600 (112 rating points); the away team contributes 5% of 1755 (88 rating points, rounded). The pot therefore contains 200 points. The victorious away team's new rating is thus 1755-88+200=1867 points. The defeated home team ends up with 1600-112+100=1488 points. A draw would have led to the following points redistribution:

Home team- 1600-112+100= 1588 points
Away team- 1755-88+100=1767 points.

Note the following points:
  • It is more beneficial to beat good teams than bad ones, since they contribute a greater amount to the kitty.
  • Drawing is somewhat more advantageous to the away than the home team, since the home side usually contributes a greater percentage of points.
  • There is no overall net gain or loss of points; what is lost by one side is won by the other, and vice versa.
  • Neither side fluctuates by more than 7% of its rating as a reult of a single game- i.e. there is a bias towards stability.

posted by Trilby at 8:48 am
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Friday, January 13, 2006


The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty. When the sport became an industry, the beauty that blossoms from the joy of play got torn out by its very roots. In this fin de siecle world, professional football condemns all that is useless, and useless means not profitable. Nobody earns a thing from that crazy feeling that for a moment turns a man into a child playing with a balloon, like a cat with a ball of yarn; a ballet dancer who romps with a ball as light as a balloon or a ball of yarn, playing without even knowing he is playing, with no purpose or clock or referee.

Play has become spectacle, with few protagonists and many spectators, football for watching. And that spectacle has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world, organized not for play but rather to impede it. The technology of professional sport has managed to impose a football of lightening speed and brute strength, a football that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring.

Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.

posted by Trilby at 2:29 pm
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The Journal

This blog is written by a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, the chances are, football is all that you will know.

This is a blog about a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, then chances are, football is all that you will know.

The Writer

This is a little bigger with the line-height adjusted to fit the style.

This blog is written by a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, the chances are, football is all that you will know.


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Once Upon a Time...
The history of football is a sad voyage from beaut...
The Man Who Saved The Beautiful Game
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International Duty
Togo Down the Pan


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