As the European leagues slowly return after a summer break, so will big matchups among national teams from the Old Continent. And a much-anticipated battle will be between FIFA's fifth and seventh place teams. Portugal and the Netherlands will clash today at 3:25 pm ET in Faro at the EstÃ¡dio Do Algarve.
Tottenham Hotspur pulled off an inspirational win this weekend, coming from two goals down to send Southampton home scratching their heads. The win keeps them in fourth, which is quite an achievement when one considers the club's goal difference. But don't let the table fool you; Spurs are in turmoil and not just with regards to management.
What ho, and welcome to 2013/14. With our season now literally minutes away this seems as appropriate a juncture as any to push away the second helping of kippers, retire to the favoured reading chair, stuff a pipe and consider the (by no means exhaustive) AANP Towers Eight-Points Wishlist for the new season.
A rummy thing, football. Up diddly up, down diddly down, whoops poop twiddly dee, to quote one particularly sagacious soul â€“ after which Man Utd win the whole dashed thing and our lot get edged out by that other lot. And that, it appears, is how football works. But when 38 games end with us essentially taking pride of place at the head of a 16-strong cohort of no-man's-land stragglers, I am rather inclined to think â€˜Dash it all, what's the point?
Has the good ship Hotspur ever enjoyed such a serene voyage? From the moment that angry lad spat and walked this eased into an absolute stroll â€“ one-way traffic throughout the second half, and even though the lead was but one goal there was none of the usual frenzied panic that accompanies the final five minutes.
Gareth Bale's immense value to Spurs has been underlined in the last seven days by two vital goals. While it may be unfair to say that the Welshman has single-handedly earned four points from our trips to Norwich and West Brom, he seemed the player most likely to find the net in two close games.
Of course, many would argue that Rafael van der Vaart had the same ability to sneak the most important of goals but while we've coped to an extent without VDV, losing Bale would be a far bigger obstacle to overcome.
Still not really clicking, which is just about grumpily bearable against the European champions, but a darned sight more irritating against Slovenia's finest. The lack of cutting edge in attack had me thumping my head repeatedly against the nearest wall from around midway through the first half. Injury to Adebayor was a shame, for this game had â€˜Two-Man Attack' scrawled across it in the sort of chunky font normally reserved for unintelligible graffiti.
This week in Offbeat Wednesday (your weekly gossip special!), Ronaldo and Irina hit up the Bernabeu, The Rooney boys pose with Father Christmas, Sylvie van der Vaart admits to infidelity, Xabi Alonso welcomes a new child and Sara Carbonero's baby bump takes over the social network!
Sepp Blatter's best friend, Cristiano Ronaldo, was spotted at the Bernabeu VIP stands over this weekend with girlfriend, Irina Shayk.
"It was the best goal of my career" said Hakan Ã‡alhanoÄŸlu after his 40 yard free kick made a fool of Borussia Dortmund's goalkeeper, Roman Weidenfeller and sealed a 3-0 win that even a week ago would have seemed fanciful.
Ã‡alhanoÄŸlu is only 20 years old so he has many years to try to score a better goal.
This week's Top 5 Bundesliga goals feature the likes of Bayern Munich, Hamburg, and more. Bayern Munich had to fight back from a goal down to secure all three points and two of their goals made it into the top five. Newly promoted Hertha Berlin make the list with an excellent header flicked on by Adrian Ramos.
The Bundesliga is in full flow and the league is really starting to shape up after 8 weeks of action. Usual suspects Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are at the top of the table in first and second respectively, with Leverkusen level on points with Dortmund and in third simply because of goal differential.
Hamburg have unveiled their away shirt for the 2013-14 season.
Designed by adidas, the beautifully designed navy blue shirt with sky blue trim is a clean looking design that features the classic iconic Hamburger SV club crest. While I'd prefer to see Rafael van der Vaart wearing a Premier League club jersey, the Dutch attacking midfielder seems at home in his Hamburg away shirt.
Rafael van der Vaart of Hamburg-Photo via bundesliga.com
Despite a season that has left Hamburg SV smack dab in the middle of the pack in Bundesliga, 9th out of 18 teams, there have been a couple of very bright spots for the team and their supporters to look forward when their team takes the field.
Rafael van der Vaart, Mittelfeldspieler des Hamburger SV, hat nach der "Aussprache" zwischen Fans und Mannschaft, bei der es zu Rangeleien, Angriffen und BeschÃ¤digungen einiger Autos der Spieler gekommen ist, Angst vor den eigenen Fans.
Ich habe Theater gemacht, aber nicht geschauspielert, weil ich gemerkt habe, dass der Schiri nur Gelb zÃ¼cken wollte. Ich wollte ihn davon Ã¼berzeugen und aufmerksam machen, dass das ein rotwÃ¼rdiges Foul an Per gewesen ist.
Rafael van der Vaart, Mittelfeldspieler des Hamburger SV, Ã¼ber sein theatralisches Hinfallen beim Gerangel nach dem rotwÃ¼rdigen Foul von Dortmunds Robert Lewandowski.
In this week's installment of Fab Footy Gossip, Chelsea's Ashley Cole gets told off by an American bartender for under-tipping, Sara Carbonero embraces her pregnancy, Sylvie van der Vaart enjoys the summer, Ronaldo fuels rumours that his girlfriend is pregnant and Milan Pique makes another adorable appearance.
This week, Rafael van der Vaart moves in with his ex-wife's former best friend (for obvious reasons), Messi is caught red handed with a Vegas stripper (!), Iker Casillas and Sara's baby gender is confirmed and Neymar is swarmed by a group of girls at the Barcelona airport.
Love him or hate him, boys, there's no denying that you'd love to spend a day in his shoes.
It's time for your weekly, fabulous dose of Futbol Gossip! This week, the Van der Vaarts decide to reconcile after a brief separation, Mario Balotelli flies in his new Belgian girlfriend to Manchester and Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil is seeing a German popstar!
When the Van der Vaarts' announced that they were separating earlier this month, we shed a tear or two for the couple.
After the shocking announcement of Rafael van der Vaart's divorce from his wife of eight years on Tuesday (after hitting Sylvie at a NYE party), six camera crews and 25 reporters eagerly awaited the Dutch striker's arrival in Abu Dhabi last night.
Naturally, everybody was expecting to see him in tears, but men are not allowed luxury of showing their emotions (!
Welcome to Offbeat Wednesday! This week, read aboutÂ Van der Vaart Mania in Hamburg Mario
Balotelli's 'Hypnosis' Therapy, Caroline Celico's funky editorial and Alex Gerrard's thoughts on
the hilarious David Beckham- Katherine Jenkin affair rumour.
The Van der Vaarts have made their descent into Hamburg and what better way for
the city to celebrate it than with a life-sized cardboard version of both Sylvie
Andre Villas Boas says it is time to move on from Gareth Bale and start expecting to see brilliance from Christian Eriksen instead. The Tottenham manager made it clear that he sees Eriksen as someone who can develop into a player who is equally important to the club as the recently departed Welshman.
Spurs left-back Benoit Assou Ekotto is well known for having absolutely no interest in football except for the 90 minutes he's playing. He has emphasised that point even further by revealing that he has never heard of his new Â£17m team-mate, Brazil international Paulinho. The boy from Brazil shouldn't feel too hard done by though: [.
That's what they're calling the otherwise yet-unnamed goal that Fabian Johnson helped to create with Firmino to put Hoffenheim ahead of Hamburg in the fifth minute. Rafael Van der Vaart equalized just before halftime but Hoffenheim has added two more since to make it 3-1. Clip to come ... - Jacob Klinger
L'estartit Another prime time showdown against one of the top youth academies in world football.
The Netherlands have produced countless world class players with Ajax being the conveyer belt. Johan Cruyff, Edwin van der Sar, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Marco Van Basten, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, and Nigel de Jong to name a few.
Before Borussia Dortmund steamrollered Ajax 4-1 on Wednesday night to ensure a place in the final 16 of the Champions League, Mario GÃ¶tze pulled off some showboating of the highest order during a training session at the unnecessarily capitalized Amsterdam ArenA.
The midfielder skilfully juggled his chewing gum and - unconcerned by its contact with his boots that have been on the dirty ground â€” flicked it back into his own mouth.
Wir stehen auf fÃ¼r eine Welt ohne Rassismus! Laut gegen Nazis, Interkutureller Rat, Make A Noise und Bundesliga-Stiftung prÃ¤sentieren den Aktionsspot fÃ¼r die Internationale Wochen gegen Rassismus. Es heiÃŸt jetzt wieder ein Zeichen setzen und das geht besten, wenn alle an einem Strang ziehen.
There is a report in CaughtOffside that Newcastle are interested in 30 year-old Dutch International play-maker Rafael van der Vaart, but there's noway Newcastle will be bringing in a 30 year-old well as long as Newcastle are owned by Mike Ashley. Rafael van der Vaart - turns 31 next week With Newcastle having failed [.
The table continues to suggest that life is actually tickety-boo, but the brow furroweth with fresh earnestness around these parts, because hanging on for a narrow victory/draw, in games that ought to have been stopped after an hour for sheer cruelty to the opposition, now sits alongside inane twitterings and naughty-business-with-good-looking-but-vacuous-reality-TV-models on the list of favoured past-times of our heroes, with Maribor, Southampton and now Norwich providing recent evidence of this dubious trend.