Soccer 2005: From A-Z

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: December 23, 2005

Angola-Along with Togo, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast, the Palancas Negras will make their first appearance in the 2006 World Cup. While the latter two were due, Angola, led by striker Akwa, was the major surprise beating out perennial power Nigeria.

Beasley, DaMarcus-While Landon Donovan gets the face time and the focus, DaMarcus (Run DMB) Beasley had the better 2005. After moving from the Chicago Fire to Holland�s PSV Eindhoeven, he immediately became a regular in the starting lineup, helping PSV claim another Dutch title and was their leading goal scorer in its run to the UEFA Champions League Semifinals. Internationally, the Fort Wayne native was instrumental in helping the US qualify for its 5th consecutive World Cup, scoring a goal in the clinching match against Mexico.

Cup of Nations, African-In mid January, the 25th African Cup of Nations kicks off in Egypt with defending champions Cameroon and Nigeria looking to salvage some pride after failing to qualify for the World Cup. The aforementioned Angola and Togo will learn just how far they�ve come in preparation for the big event next summer.

Death, Group of-Normally at the World Cup, there�s just one group in which any of the 4 teams could progress. Next year�s may feature two: Group C features 2-time winners Argentina, Holland, the Ivory Coast and Serbia-Montenegro while Group E pits Ghana, 3time champions Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States. You can point to Argentina, Holland, Italy and the Czechs as the favorites but don�t sleep, the rest of the countries can play.

***image8***England-The 2006 World Cup will be a put up or shut up tournament for the English. For years they have touted their team and league as one of the best but they have ONE international title to their name: the 1966 World Cup played on home soil. Sven Goran Ericksson has assembled arguably their most talented team ever but a couple of questionable results during qualifying have left doubts swirling over their heads. Can Beckham, Lampard, Rio, Cole et al justify the hype?

***image9***Fils, Samuel Eto’o-The full name of the hottest striker on the planet not named Ronaldinho. He helped Barcelona gain its first La Liga title in several years, repeated as African Player of the Year and has been outspoken in the fight against racism in Spanish football. A pity he won’t be in Germany next year as Cameroon was pipped by the Ivory Coast but Barcelona might be on its way to the Champions League title.

***image10***Galaxy- A mediocre regular season in which they finished 4th in the West ahead of two expansion teams didn�t stop the LA Galaxy from capturing the US Open Cup and MLS Cup in 2005, becoming the first team since 1998 to do the domestic double. UCLA grad Cobi Jones finished his 10th season in LA with his 3rd and 4th domestic medals.

***image12***Houston-MLS is coming to H-town. Unable to get a soccer specific stadium in San Jose, MLS moved their franchise to Houston, a city that had been trying to land a franchise for several years. The new team, as of this writing, has not yet been named (no confirmation of the rumor that the name of the franchise will be FC Geto Boys) but will be entering an already crowded sports market.

Interviews-Thanks to former US International Roy Lassiter and John Thomas, Assistant Director of Coaching Education for the United States Youth Soccer Association for taking time out of their busy schedules to be interviewed for GolNoir and BASN. I hope to bring more, job, family and God willing.

***image7***Johnson, Eddie-By the start of April 2006 we will have learned a lot about the self-proclaimed Grown Ass Man. After getting a fat pay raise by the league, reward for his fast start with FC Dallas and his play with the National Team, Eddie fell injured and missed the last month or two of the season. Is he working hard to regain the form that made him a sure bet for the 2006 World Cup for the US or is he enjoying his money? Given the awareness he has about his unique status as a soccer inner-city success story and his hunger to excel, I tend to believe it�s the former. Prove me right, EJ!!!

***image14***Keane, Roy-You thought T.O.�s calling out of McNabb and the Eagles was bad? Manchester United captain/legend Roy Keane clashed with his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson in the pre-season about arrangements for wives and girlfriends at training camp, then while nursing an injury, went into a tirade questioning the quality and commitment of his teammates during an interview on Manchester United TV. The interview, which was so scathing it was pulled and never shown per Sir Alex� orders, was said to have singled out specific players such as Rio Ferdinand (and his salary), Darren Fletcher (questioning why he was so highly rated in Scotland) & Alan Smith. United and Keane parted company �by mutual consent�, with Keane signing with Scottish club Glagow Celtic and leaving a large legacy at Old Tafford.

***image15***Liverpool-Down 3-0 to Italian power AC Milan at halftime of the UEFA Champions League Final? Already used one of your subs due to injury? Your domestic campaign leaving you with no guaranteed spot in next season�s Champions League? No problem. Liverpool scored an astonishing 3 goals in 6 minutes in the 2nd half, survived overtime and won its first Champions League trophy in decades on penalties, leaving the rest of the world amazed and AC Milan wondering what had hit them. It was the greatest comeback in the history of the tournament.

***image11***Malcolm Glazer-An American? Owning the biggest sports franchise in the world? Believe it. The Tampa Bay Bucaneers owner and apparently the inspiration for the current Burger King in the TV commercials, bought Manchester United and become its sole owner. The move didn�t go over well with fans of the club who worried that he would sink the team into debt to pay for the purchase but given the caricatures and NFL jokes, the fact that he was an American also seemed to raise their ire as well.

***image21***Nick and Steve- Hosts of World Soccer Daily (available Sirius Satellite Radio Ch. 122 and on the internet 11am-1pm ET) and the Fox Football Friday (Fox Soccer Channel) these two Englishmen have the best English language daily soccer show in the States. Ok, it maybe the only one but whether you agree or disagree with them, they bring knowledge, interviews and a love for soccer that is needed to help grow the game in this country. But geez, lay off Landon Donovan already…

***image13***Officiating- Heading into a World Cup year, officiating is the last thing FIFA wants to become an issue. Yet in 2005 it took center stage in Germany and Brazil as Robert Hoyzer (pictured) and Edilson Pereira de Carvalho each admitted taking bribes to fix matches and ended up facing criminal charges. Hoyzer has already been sent to prision while Carvalho is awaiting trial. Games in which he refereed were replayed and the change in outcomes in some of those matches threw the Brazillian championship into confusion.

***image16***Paul Wall-I know you’re happy about getting an MLS franchise but please stop smiling. Thanks.

Quest, A Tribe Called-Will you guys PLEASE get back together? Thanks.

***image17***R1-Ronaldinho confirmed his greatness by capturing the European Player of the Year award and repeating as FIFA World Player of the Year. He also led Barcelona to its first title in several years and will be one of the stars for Brazil as they try to repeat at the World Cup. His greatest moment? Going into the home of bitter rivals Real Madrid, scoring two unbelievable goals and getting a standing ovation from the Madrid faithful, an honor only accorded to one other player: Diego Maradona.

R2-Racism-From the racist abuse by their own fans of Espanyol’s Carlos Kameni and Malaga’s Paulo Wanchope to the incident in Sao Paulo (See below) to the monkey chants aimed at Samuel Eto’o, the facist salutes of Paulo DiCanio and SS Lazio fans to Marc Zoro in Italy to the paltry fines levied against the offenders, racism continues to be an ugly part of the game that needs to be dealt with harsly. My solution? Start taking points away from teams…

***image18***Sao Paulo-It was an eventful year for the Brazillian power. One of their Black players, Grafite, was subjected to racial abuse on the pitch by a white Argentine during a Copa Libertadores match sparking a debate all over Latin America. Sao Paulo overcame that to win the Libertadores title and then beat Liverpool in the finals of the FIFA World Club championship.

***image25***Trinidad and Tobago-Four games into the final round of qualification, the Soca Warriors were dead last in the standings for the final round of qualification for the World Cup. Enter Leo Beenhakker as coach and the Soca Warriors took off behind the play of Dwight Yorke, Chris Birchall and Russel Latapy and Stern John whose two goals against Mexico sent T&T into a playoff against Asian country Bahrain. After Birchall (the country’s first whtie player in 60 years) equalized the tie with an unbelievable volley in Port of Spain, Dennis Lawrence took T&T to Germany with a headed goal in the return leg in Bahrain. T&T are the 4th Caribbean side to make the World Cup. (Cuba ’38, Haiti ’74, Jamaica ’98)

***image19***USA-The Americans gained their 5th consecutive World Cup by finishing atop the Hex for the first time. They dropped no points at home during the final round of qualification including a 2-0 win over Guatemala that I attended and a solid over 2-0 win over Mexico that qualifed them for Germany. GK Kasey Keller was named Player of the Year but Black players like the aforementioned Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Johnson showed they belong on the international level.


***image20***World Cup-That what it’s all about baby. All games of the 2006 World Cup will be televised in high definition on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and Telemundo. Argentina, Germany, England are all hot favorites but let’s face it: Everyone is chasing Brazil.

Xavier, Abel-How do you endear yourself to the team you just signed for? Abel Xavier’s gift to English club Middlesborough was to take an illegal steroid and get himself banned by UEFA for 18 months. Um…thanks.

***image23***Yorke, Dwight-Last year in this space I chronicled Dwight Yorke’s fall from the top of the sporting world to near the bottom. But he’s back, playing good soccer for FC Sydney in Austrailia and has captained Trinidad and Tobago to the 2006 World Cup. That’s a Mariah Carey type comeback!!!

***image24***Zinedine Zidane- About this time last year, we said good bye to Zizou who had anonunced his international retirement. But with France unable to put any solid matches together and in danger of not qualifying, Zidane along with Lilliam Thuram, returned to international duty and helped France overcome a tough group to qualify once again for the World Cup.

That’s it for another year, folks! Keep tuning in as we continue to celebrate the biggest sport in the World. Thanks to my wife who puts up with my constant attention to this labor of love and to all those who have written me to support, criticize, question and applaud me during the past year.