"With extra officials you're aware of more things: the fear of getting caught is there. There's no more shirt-pulling, players know that the referee is there." At this point in his interview with Sky Sports, Michel Platini was doing reasonably well. We haven't seen the kind of holdups at set pieces, caused by pushing and shoving, to which we've become accustomed in club matches. Then, warming to the tune he was parping on UEFA's trumpet, Platini added an extra long note of satisfaction. "With five, officials see everything." If he hadn't already been reassessing his feelings on the matter, today's play might have forced him to.
Things done changed, as Notorious B.I.G put it. Back in the day (Monday), France and England tied 1-1 in what probably stands as the tournament's least entertaining game, while Ukraine was carried to the top of Group D by a sumptuous double from Andriy Shevchenko, beating Sweden. "We can't play like that against a very good team," said French coach Laurent Blanc afterwards. "I'm glad to get this game out of the way," said the English manager Roy Hodgson. "No one is happy and we grieve together," said the Swedish boss Erik Hamren. The only thing to stay the same in Group A on Friday was defeat for his side.
An Oklahoma man said he doesn't hate African-Americans and counts some of them among his best friends. Murder and hate crime charges were filed on Friday accusing him and another man of killing three strangers because they were black.
The 19-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma, man whose Facebook page lamented his father's death "at the hands of a f--king n----r" told investigators he shot three of the African-Americans injured or killed in a Friday shooting spree, according to police documents.
Police are investigating whether the shootings of five African-Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were a hate crime after the weekend arrests of two white suspects in the case, local authorities said Sunday.
Plucky England, fighting back from two down only to be thwarted by a deflected last-minute winner. A brave effort from Psycho's young lions. Pleasing fluency at times. The start of a bold new era for English football. ... As a response to a single game played with a youthful side under a caretaker manager, such commentary made a certain sense. But the crucial thing to remember after England's 3-2 defeat to Holland last Wednesday was context.
As ever, with thedraw for the European Championship, the first thought is how many exciting ties there are in prospect in the group stage. Holland vs. Germany, Spain vs. Italy, France vs. England, Portugal's games against the Dutch and the Germans ... this is how tournament soccer ought to be; big games at every turn. The World Cup, ludicrously bloated as it now is, doesn't offer that sense of immediacy, of giants clashing from the off, and the fear must be that as the euros expand to 24 teams from 2016, it too will be diminished by the grind of small sides packing their half and seeking to frustrate opponents.
By the end of last Saturday's international friendly at Wembley, Spain had completed 844 passes to England's 293. It had been caught offside five times to England's one. And it had taken 19 shots, while England had taken just three. One of those was a long-range effort from Frank Lampard that might as well have been a back-pass and the other two came in the same move -- the only attack England had. And from a set play, too.
Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany have already qualified for next summer's European Championship in Ukraine and Poland. Six more group winners will join them, plus the runner-up with the best record against the teams finishing first, third and fourth in the standings, with the eight other runners-up playing off for the four remaining slots. Here's a look at key upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers:
The 4-3-3 formation that England twice turned out in this past week wasn't quite as groundbreaking as Fabio Capello appeared to think, but his choice of personnel (particularly for Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Ghana) was change enough to tickle the nostrils with the scent of progress. It's already becoming difficult to imagine England without Jack Wilshere, Gary Cahill's first start was an assured one, and Liverpool striker Andy Carroll looked at home winning his second cap. But it was the Aston Villa trio of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Darren Bent that really got tongues wagging.
Amid all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth that followed England's failure to win the right to host the 2018 World Cup, the detail of Russia's bid has been rather overlooked. For Russia, like South Africa, the World Cup represents a great opportunity but also major challenges ...