Posts Tagged ‘ Xavi ’

Long Awaited World Cup Set For Big Kick Off

worldcup (easports)

The first kick-off of the 2014 World Cup will take place later this evening. If your reaction to that is a sigh of relief, then you are likely not the only one. There has been an awful lot of build-up to these finals, with the analysis and predictions and hopes and fears gradually growing louder and louder. With no major European club football to speak of for nearly a month, the only thing to do was to look forward to the major tournament ahead. Surely it is a glorious summer when possible transfer deals are not the big talking point for football heads. But the time for action has come, finally.

It is no surprise that people are excited, of course. There is no World Cup that would not be celebrated, or treated as anything but the ultimate competition the game has to offer. But this time around, it is even more special. This is a World Cup in Brazil, the home of beautiful football. It is a rare treat for the players involved, knowing that they some of them will get to claim the game’s grandest accolade in the country which has always always managed to breath creativity and flair into the game at the highest level. To win a World Cup in Brazil is about as big as it gets. Continue reading

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.

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Five Players To Watch At The World Cup

ronaldomessiiniesta

With just two weeks to go now until the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, it feels like time to start examining the participants in greater detail. There is hardly any point in telling you to look out for the likes of Xavi, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo, so instead we’re going to take a look at some of the slightly lesser hyped individuals, whose performances could be the difference between their countries falling flat in the group stage or making a surprising run to the latter stages of the competition. A lot of countries at this year’s World Cup will fancy their chances of going all the way, and a lot of unheralded players are about to become a lot better known. With that in mind, here are five players we have picked out to watch. Continue reading

World Cup 2014: The Favourites

worldcup2014

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for football. With exciting finishes ahead in the Premier League and La Liga, both of whom are currently topped by pre-season outsiders with only a few games to go, and a couple of exciting ties remaining in the Champions League, it will be a year to remember. There is, of course, a World Cup coming straight after the end of the club season, so quality football will continue well into the middle of the summer. Here, in the first of a two part special, we will examine the favourites for the competition, who look set to take Brazil 2014 by storm. Continue reading

Catalans Face Tough Test To Topple Milan

AC Milan's Muntari scores against Barcelona during their Champions League soccer match at the San Siro stadium in Milan

Despite having most of the possession and the status of favourites among the many journalists and pundits who wrote Milan off, against the Italians last night Barcelona quite often seemed bereft of ideas. The entire Milan team worked as one solid unit, keeping the midfield packed and stifling Barcelona’s play while the enlarged defence worked supremely hard to ensure their opposition couldn’t simply pass their way in. Barcelona were reduced to a very un-Barcelona like approach in taking shots from distance – Iniesta came close while Messi blew a free kick far over the crossbar, Xavi following up with an effort a little closer. Aside from that there was little else Barcelona could do. Continue reading

Pep’s German Test

pepThe news that Pep Guardiola has been confirmed as Bayern Munich’s next manager has surprised many, particularly those in the media who were sure a job somewhere in England was on the cards. But underneath, the move to the dominant German side seems like another shrewd move from a calculating manager.

You can see why Guardiola was attracted to the club. The most successful team in Germany, Bayern Munich are certainly one of the powerhouses of European football and the European pedigree is there, with the club having won three back to back European titles between 1974 and 1976 and once more in 2001 while they reached the finals most recently in 2010 and 2012. This is a winning side, and Guardiola can ease himself back into the football world with a project already destined to pick up trophies, domestically at the very least. And like Barcelona, the club is membership based with more than 185,000 members. Similar to the Catalonians, football is only one facet; the club has other departments for chess, gymnastics, bowling, basketball and table tennis. On the regular team sheet feature some very impressive names; Manuel Neuer, Ribery, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger to name but a few. What would many managers around the world give to have just one or two of those players in their squads? An impressive modern stadium, top quality training facilities, youth development programmes and a sizeable budget which allows for growth and development all combine to present Guardiola the chance to turn back the clock in Munich and allow the players and fans to experience the golden years of the 1960s and 70s once more.

“There aren’t many clubs within European football that have the stability and structure that Bayern Munich has in place. People look at the glamour of the Premier League and its global appeal but I think he probably saw the structure in place at the club, the success of the club and quality of the players,” said former Bayern midfielder, Owen Hargreaves, speaking to the BBC. “The facilities and the stadiums are better than anywhere in the world, I would guess. I think he’s probably looked at all aspects and, in my opinion rightfully so, thought that’s the best destination for him.”

A move to EPL was clearly never on the cards. The timing was just all wrong. Moving to Chelsea would have been a mistake; if he didn’t deliver Barcelona style football and the accompanying list of honours, there’s no doubt the former midfielder would have joined the growing list of managers booted out by the dictatorial Russian Abramovich who is clearly trying to prove at his time with Chelsea that he is largely ignorant on the subject of football, and will go to any lengths to subject his managers to this ignorance (for example, the forced playing of his £50 million toy, Fernando Torres). Managerial power, it seems, is an ignored afterthought and Abramovich is like the customer – always right, especially when he’s wrong. As for Manchester United, the setting would have been different; Alex Ferguson has long enjoyed autonomy at the club, and rightly so, given his success, and it’s hard to argue that Guardiola wouldn’t have enjoyed a similar status. But Ferguson, despite his advancing years, seems intent on remaining in the job for at least another year or two to come, displaying the same hunger and desire to win as when he arrived from Aberdeen all those years ago and so the timing simply wasn’t right. Meanwhile Manchester City seem to represent everything Barcelona and Bayern are not – a team that doesn’t always act like a team, rather a group of overpaid individuals, many of whom appear to be playing blue not for the glory, but the cheque at the end of the week. Sure the money is there for development should the right manager come in but its seems Guardiola was looking for a certain type of club with certain values, like Barcelona, like Manchester United, like Bayern Munich. Outside of those three, it’s hard to imagine any other club he might entertain thoughts of joining, realistically. Arsenal included.

So it seems it will be in Munich where we will find out the true nature of his managerial style. His experience outside of the Catalan club is zero, having completed a stint with the Barcelona B team before taking the reins of the senior side. Is manager of Barcelona a true test of a manger’s skills? The answer is no, not really. After all, when you have players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta on the pitch, they often manage themselves. Sure, tactical acumen is certainly an advantage, as is having the knowledge and skill to work out weaknesses in an opposing team. But more often than not Barcelona pass and pass and pass until the other team gets tired or makes a mistake, a gap opens and someone, often and inevitably Messi, slips through. Other people brought the system of tika-taka play to the club, others embedded it in the Catalan team’s psyche, and others brought through the players which dominate on the pitch today. Things will be a little different at Bayern, who are intimidating yet far more beatable and far less lofty than Barcelona. Who would you rather play, given the choice? Barcelona? Or Bayern? The answer, for now, I think, is rather clear. For now. Whatever happens, it will surely be interesting.

Top 5 Most Under Rated Footballers In The Premier League

World football is full of many talents but some never reach their through potential while others merely live in the shadow of four time world player of the year Lionel Messi and his arch rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

mcThe Premier League has long been regarded as one of the best if not the best league in the world, although recent events such as the world team of the year possessing eleven Spanish based players would tell you La Liga has a huge stake to that claim.

Nontheless despite the snub the Premier League is brimming with talent and here we chart the progress of the top five most underrated players currently plying their trade on English soil.

1) Michael Carrick

Six years ago the vast sum of £18 million brought Michael Carrick from Spurs to Manchester United, a team that were seen to be in a period of great decline. Carrick was handed the number 16 shirt and immediately tasked with replacing former United captain Roy Keane.

His early days weren’t as prosperous as he would have liked but nonetheless his talent was there for all to see as United went on to beat Chelsea to the Champions League title on that faithful night in Moscow.

There have however been incidents where the former West Ham ace was hounded as a scapegoat for United’s defects, none more so than the forgettable 2009 Champions League Final when Barcelona ran out 2-0 winners.

He has however moved on from then and Carrick is now having his finest season to date and is United’s second most influential player behind the potent goal threat that is Robin Van Persie.

The Newcastle born star is not known for his goalscoring ability but his ability to control a game and his precision passing have been at times comparable to the great Andrea Pirlo.

The Englishman, now 31, is the genuine complete article. A model midfielder. His influence on United’s game is more pronounced than ever before. He pulls the strings in attack – dictates the tempo, rhythm and style of their play. His short passing is equally as good as his long. His strength in defence has even resulted in featuring as a make-shift centre back when injuries and suspensions depleted United’s ranks.

It’s a damning indictment of English football that a player Sir Alex Ferguson proclaims is as good as Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard has started only 16 England games in 12 years.

Is Carrick the most underrated player in world football? Arguably so.

2) Steven Pienaar

Everton have a world class left side, with Steven Pienaar combining brilliantly with Leighton Baines this season. The Toffees have been buoyed by the South Africans return from a spell at Spurs and he’s hitting form at the right time.

Pienaar has always flourished under the radar and while not been held in the same regard as other world class wingers his ability is second to none on his day. Passing, crossing and an eye for goal are all key components of his play and he has prospered since returning home to Goodison Park last summer.

3) Mohammed Diame

Diame joined West Ham last summer, opting to move to Upton Park despite many big name suitors including Liverpool. The former Wigan Athletic star is one of the brightest prospects in the Premier League and it’s no wonder that there is increased speculation about another move been on the agenda in this transfer window.

The combative midfielder covers more ground than most players and his tackling and drive have been key components in helping to re-establish Sam Allardyce’s side in the top flight. Indeed his tackling and dribbling abilities far outweigh those of Man City star Yaya Toure and the Hammers will be hoping to keep hold of their prized asset.

4) Leon Britton

30 year old Britton is the only British player whose passing and ball control abilities can ever be comparable to Barcelona magician Xavi. Last January it was revealed that Britton had the highest pass completion rate of any footballer in the world at that point of the 2011/12 season with a 93.3% rate, 0.3% better than his illustrious opponent.

His control, vision and knack for picking out the inch perfect pass make watching Swansea City a treat for any pure football fan. Although this is not to say that the Swans are by any means a one man team.

swans

5) Ryan Shawcross

Fresh from signing the longest contract in the history of Stoke City, Shawcross is playing the best football of his life, throwing his body on line to block shots. He leads a very stubborn back four with his brute force and physical presence.

His command and reading of the game make him a big asset to any team and Tony Pulis has done well to secure the services of Shawcross, who had been catching the eye of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

At 25 he represents the future of the English national team and 2013 will be a big year for the Stoke skipper to cement his place in Roy Hodgson’s plans.