France was the last nation to go into a tournament as reigning world and European champions, but its efforts to win a first "treble" in international history floundered dramatically after finishing last in Group A at the 2002 World Cup.
Barcelona marked Pep Guardiola's final match in charge with a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey Friday.
Stars from one of the world's great soccer teams will be encouraging reading as part of a new project to put one million digital books in the hands of African children.
Sometimes football simply doesn't make sense. The cliché that a club's name is on a trophy can't have any truth, and yet it was hard during Chelsea's Champions League final victory not to feel it had some greater power behind it.
Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola will stand down at the end of this season. CNN's Alex Thomas reports.
Real Madrid may have ended Barcelona's Spanish title reign in midweek, but Lionel Messi is poised to dethrone Cristiano Ronaldo as La Liga's goal king after adding four more to his tally on Saturday.
Real Madrid sealed a record-extending 32nd La Liga title after Wednesday's 3-0 win at Athletic Bilbao maintained an unassailable seven-point lead over arch rivals and defending Spanish champions Barcelona with two matches to play.
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol says Tito Vilanova is "the ideal man" to replace Pep Guardiola as Barcelona coach.
Barcelona's failure to beat misfiring, mismatched, misbegotten 10-man Chelsea was one of the most surprising and indeed troubling results in recent history. It calls into question everything we thought we knew about the sport. Pep Guardiola's free-flowing tiki-taka merchants are supposed to be the greatest team on the planet, if not the greatest team in history. So what went wrong?
Pedro Pinto catches up with Barcelona president Sandro Rosell after his squad won Best Team of the Year.
Smarting from their first back-to-back defeats in nearly three years, Barcelona are on the defensive for a change as they approach Tuesday's Champions League semifinal second leg against Chelsea.
You know how folks have a list of people in history who they'd most want to share a table with at a dinner party? I've got a few of those lists, but one that I really do hope to enjoy someday is this: Dinner with Ray Hudson and Dick Vitale. They're two of the most passionate announcers I know for the sports I love -- soccer and college basketball -- and they both happen to live in Florida, Hudson in the Fort Lauderdale area and Vitale in Sarasota.
It was the goal that broke a thousand Chelsea hearts.
Cristiano Ronaldo beat his own La Liga scoring record on Saturday as Real Madrid maintained a four-point advantage over rivals Barcelona with a 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon.
Barcelona notched up the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a 4-0 home win over Getafe as Alexis Sanchez scored twice on the day that the Spanish club's defender Eric Abidal had a liver transplant.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has written off his former side Chelsea's chances of beating Barcelona in the semifinals of the Champions League.
Barcelona booked a place in the European Champions League semifinals after convincingly beating AC Milan 3-1 on Tuesday, but the victory didn't come without its controversies.
A resolute defensive display by AC Milan denied Barcelona a crucial away goal as the first leg of the European Champions League quarterfinal ended goalless at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Real Madrid restored their six-point lead at the top of Spain's La Liga with a 5-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad Saturday.
Real Madrid had two players and coach Jose Mourinho sent off as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Villarreal, offering hope to Barcelona in the race for the Spanish title.
Lionel Messi's became Barcelona's highest goalscorer of all time after his hat-trick against Granada helped the Spanish champions close on La Liga leaders Real Madrid.
An 'El Clasico' European Champions League final between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona remains a mouthwatering prospect after the teams were kept apart in the quarterfinal draw.
Barcelona defender Eric Abidal is to undergo surgery to replace his liver, according to a statement released on the Spanish club's website on Thursday.
Lionel Messi scored five goals in a single game last week, becoming the first player in the Champions League ever to do so. Most were impressed; some were not. Against Bayer Leverkusen, they said: So what? It is a familiar argument -- and one that Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular have been forced to confront time and time again. Between them, they have racked up astonishing goal scoring figures, breaking records at every turn -- Messi has scored 50 goals already this season, Ronaldo 40 -- but the nagging doubt lingers. Yeah, they say, but against who?
Two more goals from Lionel Messi, taking him to 50 goals in all competitions in a remarkable season, saw Barcelona win 2-0 at Racing Santander on Sunday to close the gap on Spanish leaders Real Madrid back to 10 points.
News and notes from around La Liga:
Two late goals from Seydou Keita and Xavi Hernandez earned 10-man Barcelona a 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
Lionel Messi scored four times as Barcelona routed Valencia to keep alive their slim chances of overhauling Real Madrid at the top of Spain's La Liga.
Even when it's not about them it's about them. The big issue in Spain over the last week or so has been the final of the Copa del Rey: wherever you look, they're indulged in the same, familiar argument. Seeped in the same hatred and the same suspicion, it follows familiar lines -- the constant search to feel offended, to demonstrate the other side's moral inferiority. A playground argument: You started it, no you did. You're the bad guys, no you are. Everyone everywhere seems to be talking about the rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona and how that will play out at the Spanish Cup final.
Barcelona put one foot into the quarterfinals of the Champions League after completing a 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed his sixth hat-trick this season as Real Madrid went 10 points clear of arch-rivals Barcelona in Spain with a 4-2 home win over fourth-placed Levante.
Barcelona's La Liga title hopes took a serious setback on Saturday after they crashed to a 3-2 defeat at Osasuna.
Barcelona are through to the final of the Spanish Cup after goals from Cesc Fabregas and Xavi Hernandez saw them beat Valencia 2-0 for a 3-1 aggregate success.
Real Madrid maintained a seven-point lead over Barcelona on Saturday night with a 1-0 win away to mid-table Getafe.
Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of La Liga to seven points on Saturday after they won against Real Zaragoza and rivals Barcelona only drew away to Villarreal.
Here's a date for your diaries: March 27, 2012. That's the earliest that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona can meet each other again. That's when they will play if they get drawn together in the quarterfinal of the Champions League -- and if the first clash is on the Tuesday. If they meet in the semifinal, they cannot face each other until April 17. If that happens, they will play three times in eight days, or possibly maybe even three times in six, because the second league game will be on April 21 or 22.
Barcelona survived a late onslaught from rivals Real Madrid to win their Spanish Cup quarterfinal tie 4-3 on aggregate and knock the holders out on Wednesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored two penalties as Real Madrid beat ten-man Athletic Bilbao 4-1 to maintain their five-point lead over arch rivals Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league.
A late goal from Eric Abidal gave Barcelona a 2-1 comeback victory in the first leg of their Spanish Cup quarterfinal clash with arch rivals Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat 10-man Real Betis 4-2 at the Nou Camp on Sunday to close the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to five points ahead of this week's El Clasico Spanish Cup clash.
Barcelona came from behind to beat Osasuna 2-1 in the Spanish Cup on Thursday to secure a mouth-watering quarterfinal El Clasico clash with arch-rivals Real Madrid.
CNNGo takes a look inside the home of Spanish and European football champions Barcelona FC.
Lionel Messi has been crowned world footballer of the year for a third successive time after claiming FIFA's Ballon d'Or award at a ceremony in Zurich.
Barcelona's La Liga title hopes suffered a setback after being held to a 1-1 draw at Espanyol in Sunday's Catalan derby.
Real Madrid piled the pressure on Barcelona by moving six points clear at the top of Spain's La Liga with a 5-1 thrashing of Granada on Saturday.
Lionel Messi scored twice as European champions Barcelona secured the Club World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Brazil's Santos in Yokohama Sunday.
Spanish international striker David Villa suffered a broken leg as European Champions Barcelona brushed aside Qatari side Al Sadd 4-0 Thursday to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup.
Spanish and European champions Barcelona took a break from their preparations for the FIFA Club World Cup semifinals by meeting children displaced by Japan's devastating tsunami.
Some more postgame thoughts following Barcelona's 3-1 win over Real Madrid in the clásico:
There are still those, remarkably, who ask whether tactics really matter, still those who persist with the Luddite insistence that the best players will win out come what may. No matter that Lionel Messi never produces his Barcelona form for Argentina or that Dani Alves regularly flounders for Brazil, Barcelona, these flat-earthers keep saying, win because they have the best players.
Shasta Darlington talks with Brazil's new Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo about preparations for the World Cup in 2014.
Barcelona ended Real Madrid's 15-match winning run to snatch back top spot in Spain's La Liga with a 3-1 "El Clasico" victory in the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
This weekend sees a fixture which football fans across the world look forward to at the start of every season, with Spanish archrivals Real Madrid and Barcelona going head-to-head at the Bernabeu Stadium.
The first cut is the deepest. In the last seven years, the team that has won the first match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona -- and there has yet to be a draw -- has gone on to win the Spanish league. Barcelona won five of them, Real Madrid two. This season, the cut could prove even deeper still. Exaggerated though it may sound, it's hard to avoid the feeling that Saturday's clásico is decisive. Certainly if it goes Real Madrid's way.
Goals from Angel di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo ensured Real Madrid maintain their lead at the top of La Liga on Saturday as they coasted to a 3-0 win at Sporting Gijon.
Real Madrid moved six points clear in Spain after winning a fiery derby match against nine-man Atletico on Saturday and then seeing defending champions Barcelona suffer a shock first La Liga defeat this season.
Early season Spanish La Liga pace-setters Levante slumped to a third successive loss as Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Atletico Madrid leaves them eight points behind leaders Real Madrid in fourth place in the table.
Lionel Messi scored his second hat-trick in four days as titleholders Barcelona marched into the knockout stage of the European Champions League on a night of milestones for the Spanish club on Tuesday.
A first-half hat-trick by Lionel Messi helped Barcelona to a 5-0 win over Mallorca at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
Spanish underdogs Levante kept up their remarkable early-season form by beating Real Sociedad 3-2, their seventh successive victory, to stay top of La Liga.
Xavi Hernandez scored the only goal of the game with a thunderous free kick as Barcelona beat nine-man Granada Tuesday to return to the top of La Liga.
Holders Barcelona made hard work of beating Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen 2-0 in their Champions League Group H clash Wednesday but need just one win to reach the knockout stages.
Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Racing Santander 3-0 in the Nou Camp Saturday night to stay top of Spain's La Liga.
Jose Mourinho's bust-up with a Barcelona coach has cost the Real Madrid boss a two-match ban which will not affect his pitch-side attendance in La Liga this season.
Barcelona went top of La Liga with an unimpressive 1-0 win at bottom side Sporting Gijon Sunday.
Lionel Messi scored twice for Barcelona as the European champions crushed BATE Borisov 5-0 to claim their first Group H win in this season's Champions League.
Why doesn't José Antonio Reyes get a call-up for the Spanish national team?
Barcelona and Real Madrid have roared back to form ahead of next week's Champions League challenges, with the Spanish giants recording comfortable victories in La Liga on Saturday.
I spent the better part of a year working on this week's SI package on the burgeoning movement to use sport as a tool to save the world. The assignment was by turns astonishing, humbling and inspiring. But the deeper I delved into the cause of Sport for Development and Peace, or SDP, the more persistently I was struck by the United States' lack of leadership in the field.
Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid were both held in La Liga as they battled to unconvincing draws.
It was Fernando Roig who said it best, explaining the truth that lies behind the Spanish League or the LFP. "You go to a league meeting and you discuss things, you explain, you talk about your position for half an hour," the Villarreal president told the radio station Cadena Cope, "and then it turns out to be completely worthless. There you are making proposals, analyzing the situation and it means nothing because the decision has been taken by in some restaurant the day before the meeting. You can talk, but the decision has been made and there is nothing you can do."
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona produced a mesmeric display of attacking football to rout Osasuna 8-0 in the Camp Nou Saturday.
Two games, 11 goals and one mighty familiar looking league table. A player's strike denied the Spanish league its opening round of games and put everything back by seven days, turning Week Two into Week One, but it only delayed the inevitable. And the inevitable still arrived with indecent haste, not even hanging on for a fortnight or two. When it did, it brought with it laments and arguments.
Sometimes soccer can seem a very simple sport. The great Dutch coach Rinus Michels, the father of the Total Football school of the late sixties and early seventies and the man who took that style of soccer to Barcelona, believed that his side should always play one more defender than the other team had attackers. If the opponent played three up, Michels liked four back; if two up, then three back. To an extent, that has been the theoretical orthodoxy ever since.
The new season started the way the old one ended: with Real Madrid and Barcelona taking center stage, eclipsing everyone else as they fought it out for a trophy. And by the end, "fought" was the word. Those who hoped that passions would have cooled over the summer were disappointed. The fact that the Super Copa is, to use Jose Mourinho's words, "the most important of the preseason games, the least important of the actual season games" made no difference. This was no friendly. How could it be?
Mid-August and Cesc Fabregas still hasn't left the building. He didn't leave it for Malaysia, he didn't leave it for China and he didn't leave it for Germany. Most importantly of all, he hasn't yet left it for Barcelona. Just two days until the start of the Premier League season, four days until yet another clásico is upon us, and we wait for a final resolution. The good news is that there has been progress -- this looks set to be finally over soon. Very soon.
We've got plenty of time to go until the transfer window shuts, and plenty of big names have been circulating in the rumor mill. Expect a fair number of the following to pitch up elsewhere next season.
Editor's note: This is Part 4 of a four-part imaginary tournament between 16 of the all-time greatest club teams in soccer history. Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be found here.
One player has emerged from the first week of the Copa America with his reputation enhanced. Sadly for Argentina, that player is Spain's Xavi Hernandez.
Editor's note: This is Part 3 of a four-part imaginary tournament between 16 of the all-time greatest club teams in soccer history. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here.
It was the perfect end for the perfect tournament, the moment that many said defined him. Thiago Alcántara saw his opportunity and took the free kick quickly, sending the ball 40 yards, beyond the goalkeeper and into the net. When the backspin on the ball was broken by the net, the score line became 2-0 to Spain and the European U-21 Championships had been secured. The Swiss goalkeeper was caught out a little off his line but the speed of thought and precision of execution still impressed; not least because the goal felt like the culmination of 10 days of wonderful soccer -- the proof that here stood a real revelation, a special talent.
Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a four-part imaginary tournament between 16 of the all-time greatest club teams in soccer history. You can find Part 2 here.
It sounds like a simple assignment: acting as general manager, assemble a soccer team featuring the best player in the world at each of the 11 positions. But as anyone who follows the sport knows, choosing that team is a complicated exercise. You want to reward the most talented individuals, of course, but you also want a coherent team. What's more, the result represents a sort of personal mission statement. How do I want to see soccer played? Is it possible in the 21st century to combine great aesthetics with winning fútbol?
And so it starts. There hasn't even been much of a break for the national team. No sooner had the season finished -- even before the season had finished -- than they were talking about the new signings. In doing so they confirmed a basic and ultimately destructive trend: Madrid and Barcelona not only have the most voracious appetites in Spain, but they are the only ones with the wallets to satisfy those appetites. Sometimes there is not even much of a plan, just an attitude that says: he's good, let's get him before anyone else does.
Team of the Season, not including "them."
A couple of days after the Champions League final, while the repeats were still running, the game every bit as brilliant as it had been live, an old episode of Family Fortunes was being broadcast over on another channel. For those unfamiliar with the program, Family Fortunes was the British quiz show in which families wearing extremely garish shirts and gigantic shoulder pads compete for the chance to win £5,000 ($8000) and a car -- and, more importantly, the opportunity to give the stupidest answer ever and thus be immortalized on a highlights reel and put up somewhere on the web.
The Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, a member of the 1994 squad that was victorious in the United States, called him "complete." According to the former Vasco de Gama, Fiorentina, Valencia and Celta de Vigo player, "he can use both feet, takes people on, has vision, can join the attack, and can finish off chances, scoring goals." Then again, Mazinho would say that. After all, Mazinho is his dad.
It may seem rather obvious to point this out, but in January 2011 it's good to be Gerard Piqué. Still just 23 years old, the stylish Spanish center back has won the World Cup, two Champions League titles (with Barcelona and Manchester United) and three league crowns in Spain and England. He was recently named one of the world's top four defenders in the 2010 FIFA/FIFPro World XI, and his Barcelona team is on course for a historic season in European soccer.
Reviewing the individual performances in the 2011 Champions League final (players graded on a scale of 1-10):
Three thoughts after Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1 to win the UEFA Champions League title:
WEMBLEY, ENGLAND -- Surely now the doubters have been won over: this Barcelona is one of the greatest teams there has ever been. In Pep Guardiola's three seasons in charge Barca has twice won the Champions League, and it was denied a hat trick that would have placed it statistically alongside the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides of the seventies only by the combined might of Jose Mourinho and an Icelandic volcano.
As they emerge on to the pitch for this Champions League final, one thought will buzz around every player's head -- both managers', too: this way greatness lies. Few reputations are likely to be destroyed by defeat here, but they could be gold-plated by victory. The winners will put a fourth European Cup in to their clubs' trophy cabinet having defeated the other of the world's two best sides this season at Wembley, the arena that, in a previous life, also hosted Manchester United's and Barcelona's earliest triumphs in Europe's flagship competition.
A look at memorable previous meetings between Manchester United and Barcelona:
MANCHESTER, England -- Paddy Crerand grew up near Alex Ferguson in one of Glasgow's poorest working-class districts. The former Celtic and Manchester United midfielder even remembers playing against the United manager in his youth. "He was a dirty so-and-so," Crerand, 72, laughs over a tea with SI.com in Old Trafford's Red Zone. "Looking after yourself," as the 1968 European Cup winner calls it, was a key component of British football in the 20th century. "Where we come from, you never show your opponent that you're hurting."
CNN's Alex Thomas talks to former Manchester United and Barcelona players ahead of the Champions League Final.
Barcelona's team we know; Manchester United's is a matter of speculation, a fact that, in itself, is indicative of two things. First, that Barcelona is the favorite, with such a defined and familiar style of play that, even in this age of rotation, it is possible, as with the greats of the past, to rattle through a first eleven.
There are many things that set this Barcelona team apart from its predecessors. But one which hasn't often been highlighted -- and which is truly striking -- is that this is a more settled side than any other Champions League finalist in recent years. Not just by a little: by a lot.