Landon Donovan joins FOX Sports 1’s Champions League set

This week, U.S. national team record goalscorer Landon Donovan joins Fox Soccer’s UEFA Champions League broadcast as an analyst on FOX Sports 1. But first, he answers a few questions about his foray into television.

FOX Soccer: What draws you to TV commentary?

Landon Donovan: “I’ve always had an outside interest. I’ve watched from afar and always thought it was something that would be enjoyable. As most of us are, I can be pretty opinionated and sometimes I see things on TV and I go, ‘Oh, I wish they would have mentioned that’ or I think ‘The viewer would have wanted to see that.’ While I understand it’s probably not easy, it’s always something that I’ve had an interest in so when this opportunity came up it was something I wanted to do.”

FOX Soccer: You’ve been talking about wanting to do television commentary for a year or so, maybe even longer. You’ve been saying you want to better educate the public. What do you think you can add to the conversation?

LD: “I think we’re at a point now where people watching our game are thirsty for more intimate knowledge and that’s why guys like Warren [Barton] and Eric Wynalda, [Brian] McBride, you see Kasey Keller and Taylor Twellman and [Kyle] Martino, all these guys can add an insight that a lot of the commentators couldn’t in previous years. I think that people understand the game better now, people are more connected to the game than they ever have been in our country. There’s still a lot of insight and a lot of intimate details of the game that people I think would really enjoy hearing our thoughts about.

FOX Soccer: With all respect to the guys you’ve mentioned, you’ve seen and done more than any American soccer player ever. Do you think that adds a dimension for the viewer?

LD: “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different experiences, played in all sorts of different competitions and against many high-class players so I’ve been able to see the game in many different ways, in many different scenarios. I think I have a pretty good understanding of what happens and why it happens and why certain teams play certain ways and all those finite details. I look forward to sharing that with people.

FOX Soccer: Why the UEFA Champions League?

LD: “The timing was good. FOX was very proactive about having me. I’ve made it clear to my agent and a lot of different people that this is something that I’m interested in and FOX really took the initiative to give me an opportunity. If you’re going to do a broadcast it doesn’t get much better than the Champions League and I’ve been really looking forward to it.

imageLandon Donovan hopes to add some “forward thinking” to this week’s coverage (Image: Thomas Hautmann/FOX Sports)


Four direct berths, playoff spots in balance as UEFA WCQ comes to a close


Expect plenty of drama and turmoil to unfold as Europe concludes the group phase of its World Cup qualifying efforts on Tuesday.

Most of the heavy hitters have either locked up a place in Brazil or situated themselves properly to claim one ahead of the last round of fixtures. Several prominent sides – including England and Spain – still need a result to guarantee a direct berth, while other countries – ranging from the usual suspects in France and Portugal to potential first-timers Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland – must obtain results to either finish in top spot or seal a place in the playoffs next month.

Here is a look at the state of play heading into a decisive day across the continent:

Qualified: Belgium (Group A), Italy (Group B), Germany (Group C), Netherlands (Group D), Switzerland (Group E)

Into the playoffs: Croatia (Group A), Sweden (Group C)

Assured of a direct berth or a playoff spot, depending on results: Bosnia-Herzegovina (Group G), France (Group I), England (Group H), Greece (Group G), Portugal (Group F), Russia (Group F), Spain (Group I)

Group A: Nothing to see here with Belgium (qualified) and Croatia (playoffs) already confirmed as the top two.

Group B: Italy has already booked its place in Brazil. Bulgaria (13 points, +6 GD), Denmark (13 points, -1 GD), Czech Republic (12 points, +3 GD) and Armenia (12 points, -1 GD) remain in contention for second place, but the low point haul and the smattering of the results here and elsewhere means not one of the four sides is likely to qualify for the playoff as one of the top-eight finishers (only the results against the top five teams in the group count in that convoluted table).

Bulgaria hosts the Czechs (already eliminated from playoff contention based on results) in Sofia with a chance to claim second place. If the Bulgarians falter, then Denmark will almost certainly top them given their task at home to bottom side Malta. Armenia must win in Italy and then hope for some help along the way.

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Colombia fans implore Pelé to not pick them as favorites

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé is as iconic as it gets in the global game. Widely considered as the best soccer player ever, it would stand to reason that his blessing of a team ahead of a World Cup would be welcomed.

Evidently, it isn’t.

Colombian fans have taken up a grassroots effort to dissuade Pelé from naming Los Cafeteros as favorites heading into the 2014 World Cup. The hashtag of choice? #PeléFavoritosNo


As noted in the video, the last time Pelé picked Colombia to succeed in the World Cup, 1994, the team failed to emerge from the group stage and crashed out unceremoniously from the competition:

Upon reviewing “O Rei’s” track record, it makes sense why the video refers to him as the “Anti-Nostradamus.” On separate occasions, Pelé picked Germany, Spain and Brazil to have varying degrees of success, and he whiffed on them all.

So what happens if the Colombians falter in Brazil? Well, it looks like they won’t have Pelé to blame.


(Image: Getty Images/Slaven Vlasic)

(h/t Kckrs)


Michael Ballack bids farewell in star-studded retirement match


Michael Ballack drew 45,000 fans and some of the soccer world’s biggest stars (past and present) for his ceremonial retirement match in Leipzig on Wednesday.

Ballack, Germany’s national team captain for many years including during the 2006 World Cup, scored a hat-trick in the match, which featured high-profile coaches, former teammates and opponents.


Team “Ballack & Friends” consisted of German stars such as Miroslav Klose, Ulf Kirsten, Philipp Lahm and even Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher, while the “World XI” consisted of legends such as Lothar Mattheus, Pavel Nedved, and Ballack’s former Chelsea teammates Didier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko.

The coaches? Oh, just his former bosses Jose Mourinho and Rudi Voller.


With all those stars under one roof, it was Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, of all people, who laid down the move of the night, dispossessing Drobga with this luscious spin move! What!?


You’ve probably heard this already, but, Germany are pretty good at soccer. Lukas Podolski made known as much, scoring just 9 seconds (NINE!) into Wednesday’s friendly match against Ecuador. Podolski, who is fighting to keep his place as a starter, broke Germany’s national team record for fastest goal scored, then added a second goal later in the match in a 4-2 win.