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Posts Tagged ‘ Mario Balotelli ’

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

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World Cup 2014: Predictions For Every Team

brazil

With the kick-off of World Cup 2014 now less than a week away, the excitement is starting to build. Coverage of the event is starting to really pick up, as the footballing world gets ready for the beginning of it’s biggest event of any calendar year. With that in mind, I would like to put forward my predictions for every team and how they will fare, including all the teams who will fall at the group stage hurdle, all the way on to who I predict will be the eventual winners.

Group stage eliminations

Cameroon

The most likely victim of what is a very tough draw, Cameroon seem like long shots to emerge from Group A. Hosts Brazil, potential dark horses Croatia and Mexico make up the rest of the group, and it may well prove too much for Cameroon to claim enough points to sneak in to the knockout stages. An experienced squad led by captain Samuel Eto’o as well as veterans Alex Song and Jean Makoun, Cameroon also boast young defensive talent in Nicolas N’Koulou and Joel Matip. Unfortunately for them, it seems unlikely that they will prove good enough to edge out two of the other teams, and so it looks like three games and out for Cameroon.

Mexico

It looks quite likely that Brazil and Croatia will emerge from this group, especially if the Croatians can get a point in the tournament’s inaugural match. Mexico had a very ugly qualifying campaign to even reach Brazil, finishing fourth in their group, behind the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras. They eventually beat New Zealand comfortably in a play-off, but it does not augur well for them in such a tough group. Still, Mexico boast a very experienced squad, with the likes of Rafael Marquez still around to organise them. If the likes of Javier Hernandez (who has a scoring rate of better than one every two games for his country) catches fire, then maybe they have a shot. But all signs point to an early exit for Mexico.

Continue reading

Ten Crucial Moments In European World Cup Qualifiers

BOS

With the nine automatic 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualification spots sealed in Europe, plus the eight contenders in the upcoming play-offs known, for many it is hard not to think how different it all could have been.

The final matchday of the European qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup saw group winners Bosnia-Herzegovina,England,Russia and Spain join already qualified Belgium,Italy,Germany,Netherlands and Switzerland on the plane to Brazil. Continue reading

Premier League Preview: Jose’s Blues Are The Boys To Beat

mgrs

With the new Premier League season fast approaching, it’s hard to look beyond an old foe of many managers and fans alike from stealing the limelight once the season gets underway.

This summer’s transfer window and indeed all of the summer’s talk has been shaped around three men, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Arsenal’s pursuit of the Uruguayan, Wayne Rooney and his transfer request and Spur’s Gareth Bale who is being courted by Real Madrid.

One team, with the exception of a handful of Rooney rumours, has slipped under the radar as they plan to wrestle back a title that they won back to back in 2005 and 2006, and they have Jose Mourinho back to steer them there. Continue reading

Newspaper Industry Treading In Dangerous Waters

bandwagonIn many parts of the world, Ireland and its people have become little more than a joke, just another lapdog to the leaders of Europe, a country which couldn’t handle money and could make a right mess of everything, riddled with corrupt politicians and general stupidity. The latest controversy to ensure the rest of the world keeps on laughing at Ireland and our backward ways surrounds the Irish newspaper industry and its surreal insistence that organisations who engage in posting links (no content) to industry members’ articles should pay a price (price list handily attached to each angry email should the recipient forget that the law is on their side or decide that they have money to needlessly burn). And this isn’t just being promulgated by small writers on the blogosphere, Forbes, the New York Observer, Slashdot and Techeye have all run with the story alongside other mainstream print and online media, though, most notably, Irish newspapers have been mysteriously ignoring this breaking story in favour of more customer-driven angles such as the revelation of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy and Mario Balotelli’s shenanigans.

One of the biggest mistakes is clearly their misrepresentation of the law, which allows for fair use of material, and certainly for simply linking to an online article. According to the letters which are being sent out to organisations such as Women’s Aid, a charity for victims of domestic abuse, a ‘license’ is required should you wish to furnish your audience with a link to the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) list of members, as published in a blog post by McGarr Solicitors, which is representing the charity pro bono against these claims. One would think that no organisation in their right mind would send such a demand without the full backing of the law behind them. But alas, the NNI doesn’t bother with any niggling annoyances like lawful cause, and merely makes these pronouncements with the full belief that those on the receiving end will simply bow down and comply with their wish – after all, are these not Ireland’s biggest newspapers? A statutory basis is only really of minor concern. Unfortunately for them, whether they like it or not, the law is on the side of those they want to extract money from. Section 39 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 provides for a ‘Reproduction Right,’ though as McGarr Solicitors point out, no provisions are made for the owners of copyright regarding the publishing of links leading to their property. And just to top it off, they point out that member groups of Independent News & Media (INM) share similar terms and conditions, amongst which are the following words – ‘You are granted a limited license solely for your own personal, non-commercial use to refer to, bookmark or point to any page within this website,’ which will undoubtedly be removed from the website’s fine print as quickly as possible.

Besides the catastrophic decision to first target a not-for-profit women’s aid charity in an attempt to extract outrageous fees, their second mistake is their dismissal of the internet as a viable and functional alternative or colleague to print media. Let’s just follow a little logical thinking here for a minute. In a cash strapped climate, and particularly for not-for-profit organisations who have to manage their money as carefully as they can, the obvious choice here is to simply not bother linking to such content. The less links that exist online, the less traffic that is being driven to that particular website, the less people are likely to read online, which in turn can influence consumers at the news stand. And these newspapers won’t be the first to find this out the hard way. A battle is already raging within the publishing industry across Europe which has been going after search engine giant Google, in an attempt to force them to stop using their stories under Google’s ‘News’ feature. In Belgium, one such newspaper won their court battle and their stories were withdrawn from the search engine’s feature, the result being that the rate of traffic to their website plummeted dramatically. Now while the Irish media industry in this case isn’t going for such a radical approach, the result won’t be so different as they try to force other people to pay for increased traffic to their news sites. It just doesn’t make sense, does it?

Frank Cullen, coordinating director of the NNI, writing in the Irish Independent last November, made an impassioned plea for the right to copyright for Irish newspapers. A real fear, he stressed, was gripping the industry regarding the possibility of the government loosening copyright law in favour of the “rich and powerful technology firms.” Newspapers, he argues, have been a vital part of Irish life for the last two centuries, both in generating millions for the economy and part of “our democracy,” and as such, it seems, warrants an unmitigated trampling upon of the individual’s freedoms in favour of the organisation, which, as it generates much more money for the Irish economy, is surely more important. What Cullen seems to miss is that people’s attitudes towards the industry surely have an important role to play alongside the protection of their copyright. After all, alongside their advertisers, it’s the ordinary people who purchase these papers and make the industry their money.

The new maxim heard across the board is that the print media industry is dying. While this may not quite be the case just yet, things are certainly moving towards such a point with the proliferation of technology where users can get access to the news on phones, laptops and tablets without ever picking up a paper. But if the newspaper industry has its way, they’ll blindly slash and burn every bridge between themselves and survival in a bid to wrangle and squeeze every possible penny from any source possible and in the end, if this is the path they choose, few will be sorry.

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.

Spotlight On Italy

Ireland’s third game is against our old friends Italy and takes place on the 18th June in Poznan. Italy have only won this tournament once which is a surprise seeing as they have won the World Cup four times, their most recent victory coming in 2006.  The critics have said that Italy will finish in close second to Spain in this group but as we know from past meetings, the Italians are beatable and with our secret weapon, Mr.Trapattoni, an upset could be on the cards. 

Italy came through qualifying unscathed, remaining unbeaten and only conceding two goals in ten games. The Italian squad, as always, contains some very talented players but their defence could be key to them going far in this tournament. Spain knocked Italy out in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 and they failed to make it out of a group they would have expected to win at the 2010 World Cup so they will be out to prove that they can still compete at the major tournaments. 

Before the World Cup in 2006, Italy was rocked by a match fixing scandal and it seems to have reared its ugly head again after police turned up at the Italian’s Euro 2012 training camp recently to inform left back Domenico Criscito that he was under investigation for match fixing. Criscito has since been dropped from the Italian squad, and is being investigated about betting on games along with nineteen other people including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri and Juventus’ title winning manager Antonio Conte. 

Many people will say the Italians went on to win the World Cup in 2006 despite the match fixing scandal but they had a much stronger squad six years ago. Italian manager Cesare Prandelli will hope that Antonio Cassano is fully recovered from a recent heart scare and can spearhead his attack alongside Manchester City bad-boy Mario Balotelli. Prandelli will hope Balotelli can hit the headlines for his footballing ability and not for his off the field antics. Prandelli has the hard task of succeeding World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi and with his young side, he hopes to outwit fellow Italian, Trappatoni. 

Previous Meetings: The two sides most recent meeting was last summer in a friendly that Ireland won two nil in Belgium. During qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the two teams drew twice, the second of those draws meaning the Italians qualified despite Ireland leading in the late stages of the game. In twelve games against the Italians, Ireland have only won twice but one of those victories was one of Irelands greatest ever victories. At Giants Stadium in New York at the 1994 World Cup, a Ray Houghton goal was enough to see off an Italian side that went onto lose the final to Brazil. Ireland will be hoping to cause another upset against the Italians in Poznan. 

Strengths: The Italians have a history of solid defences and that trend continues with the side only conceding two goals in ten qualifying games. Despite their usual solid defence, they are no longer a negative counter attacking side and look to play an attractive style of football. 

Weaknesses: Giovanni Trapattoni & Marco Tardelli. The Ireland manager who coached the Italians at World Cup 2002 and Tardelli who won the World Cup with Italy will be out to beat their homeland and will have sussed out the Italian tactics. Mario Balotelli can be a liability and if he is not on his best behaviour, he could cause trouble in the camp. The camp has already been rocked by a match fixing scandal and will have that hanging over them during the tournament. A young & relatively inexperienced team may fail to flatter like they did in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010.

 Key Player : Antonio Cassano  

Some people may argue that veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo is still the main man controlling the game but Cassano has flourished under Prandelli scoring six goals in qualifying. Cassano suffered what could be described as a mini stroke in October and after good recovery he will hope to continue his form at his third European championship. He has improved his game quite a lot at AC Milan providing many assists and will be a serious threat in Poland.

 

By Andrew Harte

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