Posted in Uncategorized

Who’s Up for the Cup?

I think in the entirety of my blog, I’ve only ever written about the cup once. Like I have said on numerous occasions, I like to solely write about the Pro League, but seeing as the last 16 has been a shoot out of top flight clubs, eight have now progressed towards reaching the final in March.

With a country so small and treated as a second rate league across Europe, with some big hitters, sometimes theres never a dull moment. I saw on the ‘Chicken Balti Chronicles’ on Facebook that somebody was there to witness the 1-1 draw between Mechelen and Genk. Yeah, so what?!? Well a penalty shoot out and 2 injured referees in the 2 hours made it a memorable night!

Then in Brussels, we see a halt to the match, antics on the touch line by a one Ricardo Sa Pinto and a singular goal to see the hosts…go out with Standard Liège progressing. I know right! But from one goal to 6 at the Guldensporen (yes I got it right this time) where I felt Kortrijk would be blown away by Antwerp if I’m honest. However, 4-0 up with 20 minutes left made me look more stupid than usual and saw De Kerels progress.

The rest of the matches seemed quite straightforward with Beveren, Gent, Charleroi and Oostende go through to the quarter finals. But the only team not mentioned is Club Brugge who needed extra time to beat a battling Zulte Waregem 3-2 for the second time in 5 days. Emmanuel Dennis Bonaventure proving to be the hero for the champions elect who look on for the double.

The draw has already been made and sees some interesting draws where frankly, anyone can win.

Oostende vs Standard Liège

Kortrijk vs Gent

Genk vs Beveren

And…

Club Brugge vs Charleroi

Tie of the round is definitely the last of the four which will take place in 2 weeks. But honestly I really think anyone can beat anyone here. I won’t even say anything about Kortrijk again because I’ll either look stupid again and KVK did only just draw recently against De Buffalos too. But all we know is, the holders are unfortunately out and there will be a different name on the Beker Van Belgie this season.

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Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Dion Cools

I actually didn’t do a Player Profile last week! No matter how I have felt regarding…well…anything, I’ve never not done one! However, as I have always done, I’ve tried to spread these around the 16 clubs in the Belgium top flight, and it’s not only time for a Club Brugge player, but I’m giving to Dion Cools.

The Malaysian/Belgian has flourished this season under Ivan Leko. However, everything wasn’t going to plan as he didn’t feature in the Champions League qualifiers and in the first 3 matches of the season. But as a young, promising player, he has performed superbly well and has featured in every match since mid August.

His versatility is extremely useful, but has predominantly played right midfield, and is as effective going forward as he is defensively, which is more natural to him. Scoring 3 goals in the league and creating 1 too in an all out attacking side isn’t actually too bad, averaging a goal just over every 4 matches.

The positive for Dion, which is a negative for Blauw-Zwart, is that good young players will get snapped up from Belgium. Maybe I’m jumping ahead here, but a title win this season, which is more than likely, with his progressive performances, could well see him move on to pastures new, and I wouldn’t class it as a risk either.

Another huge positive is the aforementioned versatility, meaning why can’t the hopeful youngster keep an eye on the Belgian senior team situation. Of course a squad glittering with stars, it’s more likely Cools will be one for the future, if he punts for Belgium over Malaysia. But with him being able to cover across the back, and most probably midfield, he could be vital at some stage, or even for experience which does happen.

When all said and done, should he be selected for Sunday, which is likely, it could be a comprehensive victory over bottom side Eupen. Not much of a test physically, but for Brugge and Cools, this’ll be a mental and professional test.

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Where Are They Now?

I was thinking about this quite recently and I actually decided to look up where are the managers, who were made unemployed at the beginning of the Pro League season, and where are those who have been let go so far?

As I’d finished the first paragraph I then realised this could be a briefer post than I thought, but never mind. I am starting with Čedomir Janevski who was let go by Beveren at the end of last season. The Macedonian is now with FK Vardar in his native land and is doing pretty well. In Europe they are bottom of a decent Europa League group without a point, so not so great there, but domestically Vardar are 2nd which isn’t too bad, 11 points off top and with 2 games in hand!

Michel Preud’homme seems to be taking some time out of the dugout. Linked with Glasgow Rangers and I think Saudi Arabia recently, I felt the job in Scotland could’ve been a huge opportunity, if the rumours were true. But maybe only he knows where he wants to live, stay and hopefully succeed next? Karim Belhocine, former Kortrijk boss, is at a big club. He is obviously now at Anderlecht, assistant to Hein Vanhaezebrouck. Not much else to say there really.

Then we have Rúnar Kristinsson. Sacked after 2 matches this season, the Icelander is now back where he started at KR Reykjavík. I’m sure he’ll look to kick on and maybe hope to venture back east into mainland Europe again or Scandinavia.

And that’s really it. Every other coach has either found work back in Belgium (Yves Vanderhaeghe and Hein Vanhaezebrouck) or are still unemployed, although some have only recently been let go in Yannis Anastasiou, Jordi Condom and Yannick Ferrara. Tintín Márquez is still unemployed unfortunately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Spain maybe, and René Weiler hasn’t found work yet, although the main rumours seem to be that he’ll pitch up back in Germany.

The thing is, we all know that football management can be the most rewarding, financially, if unsuccessful and you can find work somewhere, anywhere, if you’re willing to take the job. They’ll know doubt be ‘going to different matches and countries’ and ‘looking at players’ as they always apparently seem to be. But with some that I’ve mentioned, I’m sure the next job is just around the corner.

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Should You Ever Leave Early?

There has been a discussion this week over here about leaving early from a football match. I myself have only ever left early twice in my life. One out of disgust and one due to work and have missed a goal each time, luckily not actually altering the result whatsoever. The worst occasion was watching a lower league match about 15 years ago and turning up late, missing a goal, which happened to be the only goal scored in the 90 minutes!

But this season in Belgium, I’ve looked up who has scored the most and in the last 10 minutes and who has scored what in each half? Now, before I begin, I was sat with my son asleep on me, knowing I could do the ‘research’ yet I’ve somehow missed the odd match and have somehow got Standard Liège down as scoring just 12 goals this season, when they’ve actually scored 17.

Going back to that though, I’m sure it doesn’t affect the outcome of anything I came across. What I have found, if everything is basically correct, is that certain clubs do push on and grab a vast amount of goals in the second set of 45 minutes. Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Antwerp, Mouscron and Eupen for example aren’t one of those clubs, meaning they’re almost identical with first and second half goals, and they’re all in double figures in each half. Summing up, pretty much even in the amount they score in the first and second period of matches. The other thing revolving around those clubs is that four of those five have all scored 5-6 goals in the last 10 minutes, which isn’t bad, and also means do not leave early! Mouscron were the exception scoring just 3 in the last 10 minutes.

Some of the numbers I’ve come across are a bit skewed because if you’ve scored 15 goals for example, and 10 have come in the second half, then it looks like you score double in the second 45 minutes. For me, the question should be why have you only scored 15 goals in 16 matches? However, here are some teams where around 50% were in the second half, and it means something.

Charleroi have scored 19 second half goals. Sint Truiden is an unbelievable case, scoring 18 second half goals, but scoring just 3 first half goals! Extraordinary. They’re also second best at scoring in the last 10 minutes of matches too. Another team who are experts at scoring second half goals are Zulte Waregem, scoring 3 times the amount of second half goals than first half goals with 21!

The only team who have scored more first half goals than second half goals are Gent. I’m not sure if that’s weird in one way because the way Anderlecht blew Mechelen away this season being 4-1 up at half time is the way you should play. Quick fire goals, blowing teams away and professionally seeing out the second half, even though Mechelen and Eupen tried their best to scupper anything for Les Mauves at the time.

To end, Beveren have the best tally of goals in the last 10 minutes, scoring 9, which is decent. Nine out of a total of 31 goals altogether shows how much they fight to the end. But an even impressive stat is that Kortrijk have scored 16 goals all season, a goal a game, but none of them in the last 10 minutes. That can be the difference between no points and 1, or even 1 point or all 3!

The moral of this is to not watch Standard, Kortrijk or Gent in the second half of matches, unless they’re playing Beveren, STVV, Zulte Waregem or Club Brugge!

Posted in Matches in Brief

Better Late then Never

This weekend in Belgium I sort of had my mind elsewhere. Yes I kept myself informed, but I am seriously considering whether I should carry on writing this? It’s with a heavy heart that I even say this because I look at this as some sort of second child, but it’s not that I don’t consider this as ‘fun’ but more insignificant.

Going back to football, the league has lost its unpredictability and picked up more of a competitive edge. Five of the top seven won this weekend, and if Antwerp and STVV hasn’t hid the skids, it could’ve been a very good week for the gamblers out there.

Gent look like they’re on the way back with a decent Friday night win. Standard look to have finally clicked into gear, judging by their league position and hard fought away win at Genk. I asked the question of De Smurfen where they’re kind of cheating the fans. How can they beat Club Brugge, Anderlecht and Zulte Waregem but not Standard, Eupen, Lokeren and Kortrijk?

Anderlecht swept De Kerels away as Glen De Boeck’s gameplay was torn up in the first minute, and after that, the game of the weekend lived up to its name as a plucky Waregem lost to Brugge in a real tussle at the Jan Breydel. The only team to win other than the five already mentioned were Oostende against Eupen. If 1-0 defeats can keep you up, then Eupen will be safe, but obviously football doesn’t work like that.

I wonder if you ask the question that ‘would you rather lose 4-3 every week or 1-0?’ What will the answer be? Because the pandas aren’t as fun now and are still losing. I want Makélélé to succeed, even if he is linked to Chelsea, but playing football which isn’t a rollercoaster and not gaining points isn’t fair to the fans.

For the sake of this blog post as well…Beveren, Mechelen, Lokeren. Certain I’ve covered everyone now as Charleroi were part of the top 7 piece…oh, Mouscron. There, everybody should now be happy, whether they had anything written about them, or with some teams and performances, the less said the better?!?

Posted in Matches in Brief

Teams Can Now Exact Revenge

It is currently 5:48am in the morning as I am waiting for my flight back home from a really mild Germany, so I thought I’d use this time, well, some will say wastefully, I’d say wisely, you be the judge. Of course we have gone past the halfway mark and teams can get their own back on those who’d taken points from them already.

And with another scintillating 8 matches, although in honesty, four of them look like an actual contest or worth watching, I may go in order of what I’d rather not watch, although to thrash out a long winded list of matches, I’ll do this. Club Brugge host Zulte Waregem in easily the one to watch this weekend.

Brugge look unstoppable and whereas Essevee look more than stoppable. Brugge just look too good frankly. Ruud Vormer just looks a touch above everyone this season and just looks too good. Waregem domestically still don’t sit right. Last night they performed admirably and will hope to take that into Sunday night, but with a 3 day turnaround again where Blake-Zwart have had a week, that rest may prove beneficial.

The bottom four all have huge matches again, but none bigger than Oostende vs Eupen. De Kustboys are looking better each week to be honest and will feel confident tomorrow against an Eupen side who will hope to be defensively tight. It’s weird how a 1-0 defeat isn’t actually a bad result in Makélélé’s first match, but the pandas problems have always been their defence, although I can only see a home win.

Then we have Mechelen travelling to Antwerp and Kortrijk going to Anderlecht. I can only see defeat when I look into my crystal ball, but that’s only because Anderlecht did look that good on Wednesday night and Kortrijk may not be good enough. Add to Mechelen who are without Schoofs and looked abject until they brought on Bandé last week, I’ll wonder if Jankovic will actually start the youngster?

Kortrijk were lucky last week and will hope their luck will continue, along with an inspired performance from Kaminski in goal will help. Antwerp will hope to win no matter what themselves against De Kakkers, and I just have a feeling they’ll be more clinical on the night.

There are also another 2 real good matches, on paper, in Belgium this weekend. But I say on paper for one of them because Genk face Standard Liège. What I mean is if I have the need to fall asleep, I’ll just watch Les Rouches. No offence to Genk, but Standard look toothless sometimes.

Beveren welcome a revitalised Charleroi in a match that finished 2-2 when these last met. Both look good and I really feel this will be entertaining. Les Zébres are looking fantastic again and Beveren could, on their day, score another 5 if everything falls their way, making this match, on paper, potentially better than Genk-Standard. Unpredictable at the Freethiel against possibly the predictable at the Luminus.

The last two matches in focus, for me, seem the most lacklustre. Okay that’s unfair, but if you gave me the option, I’d pick the 6 I’ve already mentioned above these, and that includes what could be a snooze fest at Genk.

Gent play Mouscron tonight where the visitors haven’t won for 3 months, and Gent have been in great form since Vanderhaeghe arrived. You’d think a home win would happen as this unpredictable league becomes more predictable. And STVV welcome Lokeren. Again, most likely a home win but the honeymoon period is over for De Roeck in some way and both will hope to bounce back from disappointing defeats last week.

Oh, and my flight has been delayed for 4 hours!!! Wish me luck

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My Day (so far) in Frankfurt?

I am currently drunk in Frankfurt. I know, leaving it late for Arsenal, and adding to that my correct spelling (thank you predictive text) I am doing just fine.

I decided to have a coffee with my mum in a gelateria and they have no waffles or crepes! I am disgusted as I am slightly lactose intolerant and can’t simply eat ice cream, nor can I have milk with my coffee. Forgetting all that, I am now finally enjoying myself.

My mum loves her football. She is more of an ardent Arsenal fan than I am nowadays as I have a family and I honestly care more about the Pro League. I have always said I enjoy Belgian football more now, regardless of my 6 Arsenal tattoos. But anyway, I am upset in that the ‘research’ I had lined up for a blog yesterday was found on the back of my settee.

Today seems to be a good diary with pictures, although I haven’t stuffed my face, but just been an eating/drinking session of my third trip abroad this month and of course, all have a link to football.

With my Belgian link, I felt terribly for Anderlecht last night, and even I made excuses for Łukasz Teodorczyk where it could’ve been 6-2 to Les Mauves. Tonight Zulte Waregem fly the flag, and hopefully they do Belgium proud as they have done to be fair. Revenge is needed after the drubbing Nice gave them back in September.

However, as I am in Germany I’ll be drinking, eating and supporting Essevee more than my club as I know Arsenal are already through! #ForcaZulte

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I’ve Been Quiet

Everyday I pick up my phone or tablet and I am desperate to write something. I yearn to write, especially about Belgian football, but maybe I am asking too much of myself. What I mean is that maybe I want a ‘scoop’ on any news, but unless I have unlimited funds I can’t hang around these clubs like a bad smell and get any information that they’re willing to give.

I do have ideas of course. I also have a full time job too where I have occasionally written a piece instead of working. I just vent and miraculously hope somebody will read my drivel. This isn’t one of my usual pieces where I write to let people know that I am alive or that I have thought about giving this up (again). This is more an apology to any regular readers or to anyone who may stumble across this, even though it isn’t strictly football related.

If you want me to bring this back to football, I went to West Ham United u23s vs Benfica B last night in Billericay and the Portuguese won 2-0. Random yes but for a fiver, why not? If anyone else wants to know, Benfica were very good. To add to that I’m off to Köln vs Arsenal tomorrow and then Burnley on Sunday, so in essence, I have brought this back to football, just not Belgian football.

In other news, I’m honestly thinking of going to Belgium on Boxing Day, but the airlines and Eurostar are trying their best to price me out. I’m desperate to monthly go to Belgium to either watch a match or interview, and luckily, Antwerp finally responded to a possible interview very soon! I have looked at southern Belgium, honest, but in terms of price and other things, it’s easier to get into the north and east than the south and west!

But anyway, I’ll leave this pitiful effort for today and I’ll crack on soon.

Posted in Matches in Brief

This Week was more Predictable

Belgian Pro League football. The unglamorous of Europe’s ‘Major Leagues’ with some huge clubs within Belgium and further out. However, it has taken half of a season to finally catch up with itself and add some normality if you were a gambler. Every league will have its occasional upset. This one has already had its fair share.

Yesterday was the end of a sumptuous weekend of football with myself predicting 6/8 results correct. Happy yes, but unhappy in that, for example, Mouscron vs Anderlecht wasn’t played in August or September, but at a time when Les Mauves have decided to get their act together.

But let’s just stay with the now. Yesterday saw the game of the weekend in my opinion, and it involved Zulte Waregem vs Genk! A match where not only anything could happen due to the nature of the league, but because of the Jekyll and Hyde form these 2 have produced. Fortunately for the visitors, one goal is enough and Alejandro Pozuelo grabbed it. Genk are now 6th as Essevee slump down the table.

Later on, the outstanding Club Brugge dispatched of Beveren with Phillipe Clement returning to the Jan Breydel, but as an opposition manager. I honestly thought Beveren may have taken something out of this game, but my head overruled…well…my head and you always know Blauw-Zwart just aren’t going to slip up.

When Ruud Vormer scores, I did suggest for him to get into the next Holland squad. And why not? Adding goals to his assists, he is the best player in the league in my opinion, yet his done it without a fanfare. A 3-0 win for the hosts is how it ended as Brugge look unstoppable this season frankly, with goals later added by Cools and Vanaken.

Lastly, Gent turned Lokeren over the way they should. Another Sunday 3-0 win but at a stubborn Lokeren which is impressive as De Buffalos are still on the mend after their early season form. The other good thing is that goals are getting shared around the team too. I’m guessing Lokeren fans will be disappointed because you’d want the Daknam to be a tough place to visit, be hard to beat and be clinical, otherwise they’ll get dragged into a relegation dogfight after December.

A brief and late entry today as I have been extremely busy and I can’t leave out yesterday’s winners…and losers.

Posted in Matches in Brief

Kortrijk are the Winners This Weekend

With my occasional mid weekend blog entry, and once again the impossible task of actually seeing any action I’ve missed, I’ve only seen the Friday night action and Mouscron vs Anderlecht goals. But forget the 2 teams currently occupying 2nd and 3rd, let’s look at those in the bottom four who I thought would have the tougher matches ahead.

And if we do go back to Friday, we’ll see Mechelen lose to Charleroi in a game where they barely laid a glove on Les Zébres. A goal in each half by Kaveh Rezaei, the second being a wonderful strike, Mechelen just didn’t show enough. I just don’t understand why Boureima Bandé doesn’t start, and the substitutions are becoming predictable.

De Kakkers will wait till they need a goal and then they bring on Bandé, Kolovos and Drazic. Charleroi have well and truly put that terrible run of results behind them, and just think if they even gained draws from those defeats and didn’t throw away that win to draw against Beveren. I do feel Mechelen will be too good to go down, but if these performances continue, then I may have to reassess my opinion.

Yesterday saw the rest of the bottom four play in matches where this morning, two out of three will be happy. I’ll start with Oostende who drew 0-0 against one of the dullest sides to watch in the Pro League in Standard Liège. I have heard on good authority that the referee did his best to ruin the match with 3 red cards.

But regardless, with the limited Pro League action that is out there, I have seen Standard play STVV, Gent and Antwerp this season and with the South American influence Les Rouches have, they just have no flair. And with a Portuguese coach…well, that means nothing really looking at the way Portugal won Euro 2016. De Kustboys on the other hand may reflect and say ‘9 men. Away in Liège. Good point’.

Eupen next. Claude Makélélé has his first match at home against Antwerp where you would’ve put money on an away win, and that’s what we got. Whether it would’ve been a 4-3 loss under Jordi Condom, or this 1-0 defeat under Makélélé, it’s still a loss.

I guess it’s positive that only 1 goal was conceded and not the usual 3 or 4, but it’s unlike the Pandas to not score themselves. The Great Old probably just don’t care. They haven’t won in over a month so Bölöni will just be happy with the 3 points in a late win!

Moving south west to the Stade Cannonier where Glen De Boeck oversaw a fine win, although the last 10 minutes probably had him going! Taking a 3-0 lead, it’s a huge positive that Perbet and Chevalier both got on the scoresheet. With a red card sandwiched amongst the 3 goals, De Kerels tried as hard as they could to spoil everything, scoring an own goal in the process.

Sint Truiden managed 2 late goals in the final 10 minutes to maybe do to Kortrijk what Eupen did to them, but there wasn’t enough time. STVV haven’t exactly crumbled, but they’re beginning to level out now. With the takeover during the week too, it’s been eventful at the Stayen.

Lastly, Mouscron are trying their upmost to get relegated after being top 6 at Christmas. In this match we’ve also seen how important Henry Onyekuru is to Les Mauves. Another winner and knee slide ensured the points went back to Brussels.

Mouscron are turning into the Mouscron I thought they’d be in pre season. Rednic needs to go back to basics as the club are slipping every week and sleep walking into a relegation battle themselves.