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Monday, July 27, 2009

2009 World Football Challenge Won by Chelsea FC

John Terry, captain of the Chelsea Football Club.
Image courtesy of Michael Ehrlich of Hill & Knowlton-Los Angeles.

Premier Leauge Tickets

Chelsea FC won the inaugural World Football Challenge last night at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The tournament was a tremendous success, and raised the profile of international club soccer significantly in North America.

Negative Features: Too Much Travel, Limited Exposure for Big Stars, Stadium Problems

These teams are not used to playing games on two days of rest. Especially given the vast travel distances found in North America. Three teams had to travel cross-continent twice in less than a week. Despite unlimited substitutions, that may have contributed to some less than stellar displays over 90 minutes. Yesterday in Boston, Inter and Milan played mostly at a walking pace. Please note the comments by Leonardo below with the highlight video.

At Cowboys Stadium, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, and John Terry did not feature at all for Chelsea. Terry was in street clothes as he accepted the World Football Challenge Cup from Jerry Jones.

If you are going to advertise the best players for their respective teams, they need to make an appearance. Regardless of pre-season realities, fans expected to see them. Again, due to the travel, it gave Mr. Ancelotti a built-in excuse not to play them at Cowboys Stadium.

Look at the attitude of AC Milan. Alessandro Nesta and Ronaldinho played four games in 7 days. Leonardo also gave a lot of time to the American, Oguchi Onyewu, who had only joined the team last Tuesday. He played in all three games, and started yesterday. Milan gave the fans who they had paid to see.

With regards to Inter Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic flew home after the friendly in Pasadena due to his transfer to Barcelona. Again, a major global star who only played one half against Club America in Palo Alto, and about 30 minutes, with his thoughts elsewhere, against Chelsea. Julio Cesar, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment, only played yesterday in Boston. As did his Brazilian compatriot, Maicon.

Jose' Mourinho,
the usually loquacious quote-machine manager of Inter, was nearly invisible and visibly upset most of the time in America. He gave no major interviews, refused to attend the post-game press conference at the Rose Bowl (fueled by a tunnel bust up with Frank Arneson of Chelsea,) and despite the fact he speaks perfect English, ESPN was not able to find him for any post-game comments. The Special One was the Silent One during this tour. ;-)
  • AC Milan played 4 games in 7 days: Los Angeles (x Galaxy), Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston.
  • Chelsea played 4 games in 8 days: Seattle (x Sounders), Los Angeles, Baltimore, Dallas.
  • Club America played 3 games in 7 days: Palo Alto, Atlanta, Dallas.
  • Internazionale played 3 games in 7 days: Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Boston.
During Chelsea x AC Milan in Baltimore, the public address system was used throughout the game to announce advertisements. This is not normally done during soccer matches, and is another reminder that the stadium environment in North America is still not where it needs to be. Fans, mostly new to soccer, running up and down aisles in Baltimore was another problem. Can't fans (and their parents) in America sit still for 45 minutes? ;-) Despite this, in my opinion, the match in Baltimore featured the best collective display of the tournament. Chelsea was very aggressive early on, and the 30 meter strike by Didier Drogba was pure quality. Milan, with Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf linking up for some great displays, gave the crowd what they came to see. Petr Cech was also nearly flawless in goal for the Blues.

At the Rose Bowl, Hollywood celebrities were sitting on the bench a few feet away from the teams. This is not the NBA. In fact, Carlo Ancelotti of Chelsea complained about it. "There were too many people in the technical area."

The Tournament Fixtures

Sunday, July 19: Internazionale 1 x America 1 (4 x 5 on penalties), Stanford Stadium, 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) on ESPN 2 (Attendance: 30,000)

Tuesday, July 21: Chelsea 2 x Internazionale 0, Rose Bowl, 11 p.m. ET (0300 GMT) on ESPN 2 (Attendance: 81,000)

Wednesday, July 22
: AC Milan 1 x America 2, Georgia Dome, 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) on ESPN 2 (Attendance: 50,000)

Friday, July 24: AC Milan 1 x Chelsea 2, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, 8 p.m. ET (0000 GMT) on ESPN (Attendance: 71,000)

"Otto anni da allenatore del Milan non si dimenticano, ma io devo rimanere concentrato sul mio nuovo club. Mesi fa avevo detto: il 24 luglio sarò comunque a Baltimora, e ho mantenuto la promessa. Non sarà una partita come le altre, ma insomma niente di particolare". Come dire: nel calcio capita tutti i giorni di cambiare bandiera. Però Ancelotti insiste: "Il fatto è che i rapporti sono ancora tanto stretti, con la società e con i giocatori. Si è interrotto il mio legame professionale con il Milan, ma tutto il resto rimane." Carlo Ancelotti at the news conference in Baltimore.

Source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 24 July 2009.
"One doesn't forget 8 years as manager of Milan, but I need to remain concentrated on my new club. Months ago I had said: the 24th of July I will be in Baltimore, and I have maintained that promise. It will not be a game like the others, but overall nothing in particular...

The fact remains that the rapport (with Milan) are still very tight, with the club and its players. My professional ties to Milan have been interrupted, but the rest remains."

Sunday, July 26
: AC Milan 0 x Internazionale 2, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) on ESPN 2 (Attendance: 42,500)

«Il regolamento del torneo è un po' sbilanciato, abbiamo fatto tanti viaggi giocando dopo due giorni, mentre l'Inter ha preparato la partita stando già qui. Sul primo gol abbiamo fatto un grande errore, non si può prendere gol dopo tre minuti. Nella ripresa abbiamo provato a cambiare qualcosa, ma non c'è stato niente da fare. Sicuramente l'Inter ha giocato meglio, ma non posso chiedere di più ai miei. Oggi, comunque, la prestazione nostra è ingiudicabile perché non eravamo in condizione fisica per giocare».

Italian Source: Corriere dello Sport, 27 July 2009.
"The regulations of the tournament were a little unbalanced. We had to make many journeys playing after only 2 days, while Inter was already here preparing for the game. On the first goal, we made a great error. You can't concede a goal after 3 minutes.

In the 2nd half, we tried to change something, but were not successful. Surely, Inter played better, but I can't ask more from my players. Today, however, our display can't be judged because we were not in physical condition to play."

---Leonardo, manager of AC Milan
Sunday, July 26: Chelsea 2 x America 0, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, 7 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) on ESPN 2 (Attendance: 57,000 but seemed like much more.)

“We played this game at the right moment,” the Italian added. “We did 10 days in Cobham (Chelsea’s training ground), working hard, and now was the moment to play. We played well in America, we have improved the team, we grew and we are ready to start the season now. We worked well and now we are ready to start winning trophies.”

--- Carlo Ancelotti, manager of Chelsea FC.
Source: The Guardian, 27 July 2009.
  • Unlimited substitutions will be allowed.
  • Games that end in ties will go directly to penalty kicks without extra time.
  • If teams win on penalties, they will be awarded 2 points.
  • One extra point will be awarded for each goal scored. (Welcome to America...) ;-)
The Table

Chelsea: 15 points from 3 games.
Club America: 8 points from 3 games.
Internazionale: 8 points from 3 games.
AC Milan: 2 points from 3 games.

The Teams
  • AC Milan and Internazionale (Inter) from Milan, Italy.
  • Chelsea Football Club from London, England.

Didier Drogba of the Chelsea Football Club.
Image courtesy of Michael Ehrlich of Hill & Knowlton-Los Angeles.

  • Club America from Mexico City, Mexico.
The Venues
  • Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
  • Georgia Dome in Atlanta
  • Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts
  • M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Rosebowl in Pasadena, California

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