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Posts Tagged ‘ Iker Casillas ’

World Cup 2014: Best XI Of The Tournament

worldcup (easports)

The sun has now set on the 2014 World Cup finals, with Germany trotting off back to the heart of Europe with the trophy tucked neatly under their collective arm. It threatened to be a World Cup for the underdogs, until the established powers of Brazil, Argentina, the Netherlands and Germany used their nous to edge out the likes of Costa Rica and Colombia in the quarter-finals. But it was undoubtedly entertaining from start to finish, and here we will look back and celebrate the best performers on this grand stage, with our best eleven players from the World Cup.

Goalkeeper:
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)

A key part of Costa Rica’s surprising drive into the last eight of the competition, Navas was a reliable pair of hands behind his defence, when called upon. The Costa Rican defence was very strong throughout, but Navas still had to make twenty-one saves over the course of five games, and that was before taking part in two penalty shootouts. Predictably, his exploits have led to plenty of rumours of big clubs trying to sign the Levante man, with the word now that he is off to Bayern Munich. A well-earned reward for the stalwart custodian between the Costa Rican sticks. Continue reading

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World Cup 2014: Recap Of Week One

worldcup (easports)

The first week of World Cup 2014 is now behind us, and there has been plenty of talking points and memorable moments. Here is our recap of all the action that has taken place so far.

Thursday:

The opening game between Croatia and the host nation Brazil was the sole game on Thursday, and provided no end of controversy. Croatia had taken a well deserved early lead against a sluggish Brazillian outfit, before Neymar conjured an equaliser out of very little to get the home fans on their feet. Yet they failed to get the upper hand in the contest, until the referee awarded a very controversial penalty to Fred as he tumbled under Dejan Lovren’s presence in the penalty area. Neymar converted, and Oscar wrapped up the 3-1 win with a good finish from outside the box, although there was strong suspicion that Ramires had fouled the Croat player in possession before moving the ball to his Chelsea teammate. The home side were very unconvincing throughout, however.

Friday:

The standard of the officials continued to be brought into question during Friday’s first game, as the linesman ruled out two seemingly good goals for Mexico’s Giovanni Dos Santos in their game against Cameroon. Mexico did eventually get the breakthrough when Oribe Peralta turned in a rebound after Charles Itandje failed to hold Dos Santos’ shot. That was the only goal of the game, securing the win for the lively Mexicans, with Cameroon looking very poor. Continue reading

Spain vs Italy – A Battle of the Titans

So it happened, perhaps not quite like many would have predicted but the almost inevitable happened – Spain beat Portugal and now must face off against Italy in Sunday’s eagerly anticipated Euro 2012 final. Undoubtedly it will be a tough match. Italy have already proven they can match Spain blow for blow with their 1-1 draw against the current holders in the group stage. Spain, like Barcelona are the golden boys of football today. Their passing game, footballing brain and build-up play is touted as how the beautiful game should be played. Unsurprising, really, when you consider how many of the players on the national side have come through Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, who have had the tiki taka style of football imprinted on their brains from a young age. They’ve already won the European Championship back in 2008 courtesy of a 33rd minute goal from Fernando Torres, ensuring a 1-0 victory over Germany. But can they retain the trophy they already have one hand on?

Spain are an excellent side, like Barcelona, there’s no doubt about it. In Iniesta and Xavi they possess the greatest two midfielders of the present day, supplemented by the forces of Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and the solid form of Madrid stopper, Iker Casillas. Ever since their elimination from the World Cup of 2006, they began to employ the tiki-taka style, an upgrade of the Dutch total football system, characterised by short passing and plenty of movement around the pitch, complemented with extended possession of the ball. And it has clearly worked. The first tournament following the disappointing World Cup was Euro 2008. Spain won each match of the group stage, went on to claim the trophy and were the highest scoring team, while David Villa took the gong for top scorer.

But they have their flaws too. Tika-taka may sometimes be breath-taking to watch but unless it’s going somewhere then it is somewhat redundant. Ugly football that wins games is more useful than entertaining play that comes up short. We saw this on Wednesday night when the Spanish faced off against Portugal in the semi-finals. Head to head, Spain had the better players, while for Portugal only three players attempted to stand out – Ronaldo, Nani and Fabio Coentrao storming up the wing. But Spain were sloppy and certainly not their usual selves. Several passes went astray, the vision and touch seemed to be lacking and Portugal really should have taken their chance to knock their neighbours out. Spain slowed the pace of their game right down, passing, passing, passing, with the occasional strike on goal. A David Silva move highlights the problems their mentality sometimes brings, and something we have seen on more than one occasion. On the edge of the box in the first half, Silva had the ball on his foot, with the space to shoot at goal, a position he has been in and scored from many a time. Instead, he passed the ball off, and the move petered out. This shows the need for a strong striker up front for Spain, a real presence at the top, a Wayne Rooney, a Didier Drogba. Spain do have forwards, Fernando Torres (who hasn’t exactly been at his best of late), Alvaro Negredo (disappointed thus far) and the skilful Pedro Rodriguez who still has things to learn and who doesn’t always appear supremely confident on the ball. And anyway, Spain prefer to stock the centre and top of the pitch with midfielders anyway. At times in the match against Portugal there were swathes of spaces in front of the Portugal goal, devoid of any red shirts. Spain’s use of the ‘false number 9’, a supposed striker who in reality drops deeper into midfield, usually in the guise of Cesc Fabregas has indeed worked previously. Against France in the quarter finals last Saturday evening it was midfielder Xabi Alonso who grabbed a brace for his country, although it was Florent Malouda and his utter failure to track back which led to the opener, while a fairly soft penalty handed Alonso the chance to net a second, which he duly did. But even the masters of this passing game, Barcelona, utilise strikers up front, to get into the spaces, to draw back defenders or to grab goals in and around the box – David Villa has and will again, Alexis Sanchez who fills in for him while he recovers, the youngster Pedro and last but certainly not least, the unpredictable and supremely talented Lionel Messi.

It will be interesting to see how they come out and play on Sunday. Italy are going to come to win the game and the Championship and will surely be spurred on, both by their own win over Germany and the protracted affair that eventually saw Spain triumph over Portugal, by no means comfortably. Who will win? Italy seem to be riding high at present, almost matching the intricacy of Spain in some of their play. Pirlo works a similar brand of magic to that of Xavi and Iniesta while up front Mario Balotelli is proving himself worthy. And while many in the media will rave about Spain, their deft passing game, their vision, the pedigree of their players, my money is on the Italians.

Euro 2012-The Favourites

Euro 2012 is almost upon us. Over 24 days, 16 teams will play 31 games in eight stadiums to earn the right to lift the European Championship Trophy. Over the duration of the tournament, upsets will occur, incidents will happen, controversy is expected, the top attacking players in European Football will go against the top defenders, but only one team will win. Here Irish News Review assesses our top three contenders for the Henri Delaunay trophy.

Spain: 

The first to be looked at and heavy favourites, as expected are Spain. The reigning European and World champions go into this tournament with heavy expectations on their shoulders. Despite missing the injured Barcelona duo Carles Puyol and David Villa, the Spanish squad still contain an exceptional number of talent such as Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Juan Mata, Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres at their disposal. To say they have the most talented squad would be an understatement.

They have a difficult group on paper, Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland should prove difficult opposition, but Spain having been in this position and come out on top twice, should have more than enough to win the group. The players will expect to be playing teams who keep ten men behind the ball and Euro 2012 should be no different. Both Italy and the Republic of Ireland have defensive mentalities and will attempt to stifle Spain in those games. Even Croatia, normally at team of an attacking nature will surely adopt a more defensive approach when going up against the number one team in the world.

The Spanish nation as well as the players and staff will be expecting a third international trophy in a row; it would take an exceptional team on top of their game to beat the Spanish. Bet against them at your Peril.

Holland: 

The Dutch had their hearts broken two years ago in South Africa, when a late Andres Iniesta goal handed Spain the world Cup at the expense of Holland, leaving the Dutch without an International trophy since 1988. Like Spain they have a number of extremely talented players including Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael Van der Vaart, Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Dirk Kuyt and Robin Van Persie. Where Holland struggle and where coach Bert Van Marwijk will need to be at his best is turning what is normally a group of individuals into a team. He succeeded at the World Cup, but not without a price, sacrificing their normal attacking football style for a more defensive approach and despite it getting them to the final, they were criticised.

Holland are faced with the most difficult group in the competition, the “group of death” along with Germany, Portugal and Denmark. Despite the obvious difficulties of the group Holland should overcome Denmark and Portugal and then tussle with Germany for position of group winner. It will of course depend on the form of their attacking players and whether they can duplicate their performances of two years previously, but if Van Marwijk can combine their toughness of 2010 with a little more attacking freedom this time around then Holland more than capable of going all the way.

Holland have a lot to prove in international tournaments. With the exception of 1988, the country that gave us total football have usually been the bridesmaid rather than the bride. This squad will be determined to erase the World Cup Final, but can they?

Germany: 

Germany were the surprise package in South Africa in 2010, Joachim Loew had selected a very young side full of potential, who combined and very attack minded philosophy with German efficiency to great effect. Two years later the surprise factor may be gone, but the players in that young German side have evolved into very good players in their own right. Players such as Mezut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Sami Khedira excelled at the World Cup and have established themselves in the first 11 because of it. Those four combined with Lukas Podolski, Bastien Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, Mario Gomez, veteran striker Miroslav Klose and new additions such as Mats Hummels and Mario Gotze make Germany one of the clear favourites for Euro 2012.

Germany joins Holland, Portugal and Denmark in the Euro 2012 “group of death”. Given the quality the Germans posses and their penchant for tournament football, it is fully expected that they will get out of the group.  The only question is in what position. The key fixture in Group B takes place on June 13th when Germany face Holland in the game that more then likely decide the outcome of the group as a whole and will more then likely avoid Spain until the final. Once out of the group, it will be fully expected that Germany will get to at least the semi-finals if not the final itself.

If history has showed anything, it’s you never right off the Germans. The longest they have gone without a trophy is 20 years; it has been 16 years since they last won in 1996. It is doubtful they will have to wait much longer.

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