Tag Archives: UEFA

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Champions League: Man U get the easiest group, Man City get the most difficult, and Arsenal left gunning for second

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal will be delighted with UEFA’s new seeding method as it ensured them the easiest group in this season’s Champions League.

In previous seasons UEFA seeded the draw purely using their UEFA club coefficient which measured a team’s strength by how far they progressed in European competitions over the previous five years. This season, the top pot was formed by the champions of the top seven associations; Spain, England, Germany, Italy, Portugal, France and Russia – plus the Champions League winners. Since Barcelona won both the Champions League and La Liga, UEFA seeded the top pot with the winners of the Dutch Eredivisie, the eighth ranked league. That lucky team was PSV Eindhoven.

The remaining three pots were divided hierarchically by their UEFA club coefficient with the next eight highest ranked teams in pot 2, the next eight in pot 3, and so on.

The draw was held on Thursday and the groups are as such:

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmö
Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moskva, Wolfsburg
Group C: Benfica, Atlético, Galatasaray, Astana
Group D: Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Group E: Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, BATE Borisov
Group F: Bayern München, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb
Group G: Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kyiv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Group H: Zenit, Valencia, Lyon, Gent

UEFA’s club coefficient is generated by a team’s performance in Europe over a five year period. The further a team goes in either the Champions League or the Europa League the larger their club coefficient. Further, that number is cumulative, so that the longer and better a team performs at the highest level, the larger their coefficient.

By adding each team’s UEFA’s club coefficient we can judge how strong each of the eight groups are based on total coefficient in that group. Essentially, by adding all those coefficients we are measuring how experienced each group is at winning in Europe. In order of strongest to weakest they go:

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmö — 371 total coefficient
Group F: Bayern München, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb — 352 total coefficient
Group G: Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kyiv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 337 total coefficient
Group E: Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, BATE Borisov — 332 total coefficient
Group D: 
Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Mönchengladbach — 296 total coefficient
Group C: Benfica, Atlético, Galatasaray, Astana — 293 total coefficient
Group H: Zenit, Valencia, Lyon, Gent — 277 total coefficient
Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moskva, Wolfsburg — 249 total coefficient

By this measure, Real Madrid have the hardest group and Manchester United have the easiest group. Real Madrid’s group is stocked with European experience: the Spanish club just won their 10th Champions League title two years ago and have the highest coefficient in Europe with 172. Malmo is a minnow club but PSG and Shakhtar combine to make a 186 point coefficient. This could be a good group to watch as Shakhtar might give PSG a real run for second place.

At the bottom of the table, Man U got the dream draw. PSV would have been put in pot 3 but for UEFA’s change of the rules this summer. And given that the Champions League winners often win their domestic league and that the Champions League winners are almost exclusively from the top four leagues, UEFA’s rules change in essence ensured one group would have two pot 3 teams. In this case, United’s group.

Further sweetening the pot for United is the fact that they purchased PSV’s top striker, Memphis Depay, this summer and VfL Wolfsburg’s top playmaker is going to be playing for Man City. If Manchester United don’t win their group handily it will have to be considered an utter failure.

That total coefficient table above is heavily weighted by teams with huge coefficients. Teams like Real Madrid and their 172 coefficient or Barcelona with their 165 coefficient push their groups artificially high making it look like they have a tough group. They don’t necessarily have the toughest group because they may actually be the thing making the group tough. So, if we subtract them out of the equation and average the bottom three teams the table looks like this:

Group D: Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Mönchengladbach — 67 avg. bottom 3 
Group A:
 Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmö — 66 avg. bottom 3
Group F: Bayern München, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb — 66 avg. bottom 3
Group G: Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kyiv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 65 avg. bottom 3
Group H: Zenit, Valencia, Lyon, Gent — 59 avg. bottom 3
Group C: Benfica, Atlético, Galatasaray, Astana — 57 avg. bottom 3
Group E: Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, BATE Borisov — 56 avg. bottom 3
Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moskva, Wolfsburg — 49 avg. bottom 3

Now the table looks a little different. Man U still have an absurdly easy draw against their bottom three teams. Again, the easiest three teams they could possibly hope for. Barcelona also have an easy draw. But above them, Chelsea, Arsenal, and especially Manchester City all have tough groups.

In Group D, Manchester City have one of the most difficult groups in the competition. Manchester City’s group was seeded with Serie A winners, and last season’s Champions League runners-up, Juventus which could have made for an easier group since Juve has a relatively low UEFA Ranking of just 95.102 but as the luck of the draw would have it, Group D is comprised of three teams with a UEFA coefficient of 80 or more: Juve, City, and Sevilla.

Juventus lost star striker Carlos Tevez and kingmaker (not just a playmaker) Andrea Pirlo this summer and things could get easier for Manchester City if Juventus sell Paul Pogba to Chelsea as expected. Sevilla, however, are not going to be an easy team to beat — as their relatively high UEFA ranking suggests. They have a dynamic and powerful midfield duo of Ever Banega and Grzegorz Krychowiak serving up assists to center forward Carlos Bacca.

Group F has the second highest total UEFA Coefficient at 351.963 but this is no surprise as the Gunners were drawn against Bayern Munich and their ranking of 154.883. But excluding the German giants, Arsenal’s group has an average of 65.693 which is the third hardest group by that metric.

Bayern Munich are expected to win Group F easily and that leaves Arsenal fighting with Olympiacos for second place.  Arsene Wenger has never taken a single point against Olympiacos when playing in Greece, a record that the Gunner’s boss will be desperate to correct, no doubt.

Only the top two teams in each group advances to the knockout phase, or Round of 16. The teams that win their groups are seeded against the teams which finish second but they can’t be matched with a team from their own country or a team they faced in the previous round.

That means that if Arsenal advance, they will almost certainly be paired against another big club in the round of 16, where the Gunners have been eliminated in each of the last five seasons. Arsenal’s most likely opponents are Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, or Barcelona. It looks like the pain in Spain is in the cards for Arsenal this spring.¹

Qq

¹I’m excited!

Your winnings Mr. Blatter

FIFA and UEFA threaten to turn football into Kayfabe

Here are some facts I can say for certain:

There have also been convictions in other sports, such as the NBA, baseball, hockey, rugby, boxing, and cricket. All of which is to say that corruption exists in sports. And it has been that way since the first athlete took a dive in the first Olympic games.

The problem is these scandals are becoming more common place every year, the investigations more superficial, and the money at stake exponentially larger such that it threatens to undermine the very belief in football. To turn it into what professional wrestling refers to as “kayfabe” or just a show, a suspension in disbelief.

It’s already so bad that we have started wondering out loud whether certain things that happen on the pitch and in the halls of the FA, UEFA, and FIFA are the actions of corrupt officials. To be clear, I am not accusing anyone of corruption but who among you has not heard from numerous sources various questions about the governing bodies?

For example, how many people believe that Qatar bribed their way to host the World Cup? Few will say it in print, because they are afraid of repercussions, but I’ve had plenty of conversations with plenty of people who will say it outright in person and who may even say it here in the comments on this blog. I’m not saying that Qatar bribed FIFA to host the World Cup. What I’m saying is that the belief that they did matters, because it means that a significant number of people don’t have faith in the authorities who are charged with policing our game.

When it pours it Rains

Baseball suffered a series of match-fixing scandals from the later part of the 19th century up until the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919. Corruption in baseball was widespread in that period and it took some harsh rules, harsh punishments, and an iron-fisted commissioner to stamp it out.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected commissioner of baseball in 1920 and immediately enacted a rule whereby no player is allowed to gamble on baseball, ever. Moreover, any player or official who is even approached must report immediately to the authorities or suffer a lifetime ban from the sport. If a man like Kenesaw Mountain Landis was head of FIFA would Antonio Conte be a manager right now? I don’t know, but I do know that he is tipped to be the next manager of Chelsea. In so doing, he would bring a scandal-ridden career to the English Premier League. Exactly the kind of thing that should never be allowed to happen.

And for the average fan, there’s always the suspicion that a referee has it out for your team. For example, Mike Dean’s record refereeing Arsenal games is, bar none, the strangest record I have seen in professional sport. In the last 20 times Mike Dean has refereed an Arsenal match, the Gunners have only won twice and have never been awarded a penalty despite many clear-cut fouls in the area. Surely this is just coincidence but even still, the League’s refusal to introduce technology such as Instant Replay officiating, or change the Laws exacerbates a public perception that officials are influencing games. And whether that’s through corruption or bias is irrelevant.

In addition to the weak ways that FIFA and UEFA deal with allegations of corruption among coaches like Conte and the way that they refuse to bring the game into the 21st century, there’s too much room for error in the way the laws are written: the offside laws are bizarre, these ideas of “intent” and “aggression” are antiquated, the way that advantage is handled is one of the easiest ways that an official could cheat, and officials are afforded far too much protection post match. FIFA, UEFA, and the FA need to re-write or at least re-jigger the Laws of the Game.

I’d start by banning gambling, the nexus from which all of this corruption spews. Any player, coach or official who gambles on any football match is banned for a year; anyone who gambles on their own team is banned for life; anyone who is approached by anyone to throw a match and refuses to report it is also banned for life.

Then I’d fix the offside rule. Simplify it so that even Tony Pulis can understand it. This active/inactive stuff just confuses everyone and while I understand the intent of the rule, the implementation is just disastrous. Why are we arguing over whether a player is inactive? Why is a player allowed to be offside at all? To increase scoring? Well, then why have an offside rule?

So too with whether a player “meant to do” something. Who cares if Taylor meant to break Eduardo’s leg? He lunged, studs up, over the ball, and did break Eduardo’s leg. Surely that’s a red card. Why is this not codified somewhere? And I don’t mean in the mealy-mouthed way that it’s written now.

Similarly, the advantage rule is the one rule that I feel gives referees too much leeway in terms of effecting games. Arsenal, for example, are often gifted “advantage” when the opposition fouls an Arsenal player in the middle of the park or even in their own defensive third. That “advantage” almost never turns into a goal because it’s not an actual advantage. Conversely, the same official will almost always stop play for the same infraction when Arsenal commit a foul against a long ball team, regardless of where the infraction occurs because stoppage of play actually does gift that team an advantage. Advantage should only be given when the attacking team has a clear chance at goal.

An finally, Major League Soccer introduced post-match refereeing of games last season and it has been a success. If you refuse instant replay because it will slow the game down then at the very least you have to do what MLS has done and look at the tapes of all games and punish players retroactively for red-card offenses.Officials get things wrong, it’s OK to admit that they are not Gods.

With the unveiling of Europol’s incredible allegations, World football is suffering from it’s very own Black Sox scandal and it is teetering on the edge of being about as believable as Professional Wrestling. What football needs is a time machine to get itself out of the 19th century in regards to the Laws of the game, technology, corruption, and gambling. It needs a Kenesaw Mountain of a man to lead the game into the new era. Sadly, it has Platini and Blatter.

Qq

Fuck yeah!

ACN + UEFA + FIFA + Olympics = A Maniac Copies Fluffy

After the Africa Cup of Nations last January, UEFA Euro 2012 this summer, and the Olympics erm… also this summer, we here at 7amkickoff were getting worried that we might not have any international football to look forward to this erm late-ish summer and fall. But fret not comrade and bust out the flags! Because if you haven’t gotten your fill of Nationalism this year you will still be able to dance a jingo on August 15th.

That’s right! Just three days before the start of the Premier League season, football will get off to a bang with an officially sanctioned FIFA friendly match day. That’s just 4 days after the Olympic Men’s Gold Medal match on August 11th!

It’s almost as if FIFA and UEFA heard the criticisms of club managers and fans who want their highly paid athletes to play for the club that pays them instead of some corrupt gang of thugs erudite gentlemen who take bribes the best bids and simply replied: “oh you want less international action? how about FUCK YOU, there’ll be MORE international action!”

And if you haven’t had your fill of nationalism by January, there’s always a second helping of the Africa Cup of Plenty (of Tournaments) because they need to move that tournament to an off year that doesn’t conflict with the UEFAFIFAOLYMPICS.

Has it been suggested yet that we just abandon this whole “club system” and just hold international tournaments year round? No? I don’t know why not. Think of all the money that could generate for FIFA officials national schools to teach poor kids soccer. They could be held in new and cool places, like the a gulag in Siberia, a desert, or Mars — if the Martians can get a good enough bribe bid package together.

This has been such a great year for FIFA football.

Qq