Tag Archives: Brazil

Why Spain got Knocked out of the World Cup

20 Jun

Furia_Roja_by_akative

 

1. Inability to score first: Back in South Africa in 2010, Spain won each of their knockout round games against Portugal, Paraguay, Germany, and then finally the Netherlands in the Final by scores of 1-0. Spain never won by putting the ball in the net time and time again- they used possession as their defense- wearing the opponent down in the midfield. Players like Xavi, Xabi Alonso, and Iniesta were constantly on the ball, moving it around. This tiki-taka, total football strategy only works if the score is 0-0, or if Spain is leading. Spain never was in the position where they had to come back from being more than a goal down. This time around in 2014 in Brazil, Spain found themselves down early against the Netherlands, and then to Chile. Spain does not have the offensive firepower, nor the counterattacking ability to overcome deficits.

2. Awful Goal Keeping: Iker Casillas, the captain of this team and of his domestic club Real Madrid, had two of the worst games of his career against Netherlands and Chile. There were opportunities for huge saves- saves which he made in 2010 and in the Euro 2012- but Iker lacked the ability (physically and mentally) to get it done. In order for a soccer team to win a game, the winning goal keeper must makes at least 2 huge saves in the game. Iker didn’t show up, and never looked sharp. Part of this can be attributed to his lack of playing time at Real Madrid this past season- as his full time goal keeping duties were split, primarily in league games, with Diego Lopez.

3. Awful Defending: Sergio Ramos, widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, looked absolutely awful in these 2 games. His communication with Pique in the first game was horrid- the two of them ran into each other, and seemingly loss site of the ball on several occasions. In the second game, he was way too aggressive, overcompensating and over-pursuing the ball rather than staying at home in the center of the goal. This Ramos was different than the one who was arguably the best player in the UEFA Champions League Campaign. There is a very good chance Ramos in named captain for Spain at the next major international tournament (Euro 2016 in France), but this most recent performance is definitely a concern for the player, and the future of Spain.

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The Lineup Spain Should Start in Brazil at the World Cup

10 Jun

Premise: As defending World Cup champions Spain enter this 2014 tournament in Brazil as one of the favorites (along with host nation Brazil, Germany, and Argentina among others), Spanish Manager Vicente del Bosque has a difficult decision when it comes to picking his initial starting xi. Below is the team I would select as the one that gives La Roja the best chance of defending their title.

Here is a 4-2-3-1, the formation Del Bosque has used most often both in the previous World Cup, as well as in the European Championship in 2012.

 

Goal Keeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)- Spain’s captain has 154 caps heading into this world cup. Pepe Reina and David de Gea are serviceable backups and definitely capable of performing well in a starting role, but until Iker retires- this spot belongs to him and him alone.

Right Back: Cesar Azpilacueta (Chelsea)- Azpilacueta is a hard nosed, intelligent defender capable of playing on either side of the field. Despite only having 6 caps, the 24-year old player is strong and quick enough to guard even the world’s best wingers. He had an exceptional season at Chelsea in the Premier League, and is well suited to defend an opposing side at any pace.

Center Back: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)- In his prime at the age of 28, Ramos already has 117 caps for the national team and has started some of the biggest games La Roja has ever been apart of, including the World Cup 2010 Final, and the Euro 2012 Final as well. The best Spanish defender, and one of the best defenders in the world, Ramos is one of the most important players on this team.

Center Back: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)- The man married to Shakira is, like Ramos, one of the best defenders in Spain. Similar to his counterpart, he has started in Spain’s 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro Finals. The Barcelona defender has great passing ability, and has great chemistry with the rest of the squad.

Left Back: Jordi Alba (Barcelona)- Alba burst onto the scene and really made a name for himself in Euro 2012, where he received most of the starting minutes at the left back position. With an incredible burst of speed, and lightning quick passing ability, Alba’s greatest strengths are his abilities to blend in and be part of the attack going forward. With a lack of natural wing players on this team, Alba will be counted on to push the ball down the flank, looking to cross the ball into Diego Costa.

Holding Mid: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)- Barcelona’s defensive midfielder is one of the best players in the world at his position. While he often gets a bad rep for flopping and being overly dramatic, his work rate at getting the ball back, and his initial pressure is often what leads Spain to hold onto the ball as much as they do. He is considered this team’s (and his club Barcelona) first defender, and will lay it all on the line to make sure Spain has the ball.

Holding Mid: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)- With 111 caps, Xabi Alonso is one the staples of Del Bosque’s first team selection. While his responsibilities are similar to Busquets’, Alonso’s greatest strength is his long range passing. Patient with the ball, what he lacks in overall athleticism is made up for in his ability to pick out a pass from anywhere on the pitch. His soccer IQ is second to none both on this team, and arguably in this entire tournament.

Right Wing: David Silva (Manchester City)- David Silva is an elite player, and one of the best in the Premier League. With 80 caps, Silva can play in the midfield or on either wing, and is often relied upon to score goals in the midst of a possession, tiki-taka based strategy. Silva has an exceptional, lungeing 2,3 steps heading into the box, where he will often look to shoot, or cross the ball inside. A fantastic team player who’s willing to play anywhere and do what it takes to make sure his team is successful.

Center Attacking Mid: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)- There is not a better player on the planet than Andres Iniesta. I know, Messi and Ronaldo fans would strongly disagree with that statement, but as far as an overall, team oriented brand of soccer, Iniesta is as good as there is. The hero of the 2010 World Cup Final, the most important goal in the history of the Spanish National team, Iniesta is as consistently brilliant as anyone i’ve ever watched play the game. I chose him for this role because he is the engine that will get this team going- he is the decision maker, and the ball should be at his feet more than any other player on this team.

Left Wing: Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona)- Pedro is the only true, natural wing player on this entire Spanish side (after Jesus Navas was left off the team), making his role extremely important. Arguably the fastest player on the team, Pedro will be relied upon to feed striker Diego Costa, as well as to mesh well and seamlessly the rest of the midfield. Pedro is a hard worker and has experience playing in big games, having started in the 2010 World Cup Final, having come on as a substitute in the Euro 2012 Final as well.

Striker: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, for now)- Costa is a major wild card for this Spanish national team. With only 2 appearances (in friendlies) with this team, Costa is brand new to La Roja after spurning Brazil in order to play for Del Bosque. Costa had an incredible season with La Liga Champions Atletico Madrid, scoring 27 leauge goals. 6’2 and strong enough to body up on most center backs, Costa will be counted on to score goals and make plays in front of net.

Key Substitutions: Xavi (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)

 

English Premier League, Week 38 Game of the Week

28 Apr

Recap: So Liverpool’s 16 match unbeaten streak comes to a halt at home to Chelsea. Liverpool now has 2 games left, at Crystal Palace, and then home to Newcastle to close out the season. Liverpool needed 7 points from their last 3 games to secure the league title, but falling to Chelsea now puts the pressure squarely on Manchester City to win out and perhaps win, for the second time in history, the Premier League title.

This Week:

Everton FC vs Manchester City FC

Everton FC vs Manchester City FC

Saturday, May 3rd, 11:30am (CDT) Goodison Park

Why this game is intriguing: The saying often goes “we are prisoners of the moment”- well in this case, yeah, i’ll buy that, because depending on the result of this game- there might even be a more important game next week- the final week of the Premier League. This game is VITAL for both Everton and Manchester City. For City, it’s simple- win out at Everton, home vs Aston Villa, then home vs West Ham- and they are champions of the 2013-14 Premier League season. Everton also needs to win, though their hopes of securing a top 4 finish and Champions League bid hinges upon Arsenal and how the Gunners perform in their last 2 games. Everton has stumbled as of late, losing 2 of their last 3.

Other Reasons to watch this game: World class players. Players who will feature prominently in the World Cup in less than 2 months will take the field in this game. For City: Joe Hart, Kun Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta- these guys will be counted on to not only perform well in Brazil, but will also be trusted to captain their teams to victory. For Everton- Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku, Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, and Phil Jagielka will all be key players in the World Cup. But before all of that, both sets of players have some serious work to do- and some trophies possibly to win, before they set out to join their national teams in Brazil.

Prediction: Manchester City 2, Everton 1

Other Games worth watching: West Ham vs Tottenham, Aston Villa vs Hull, Stoke vs Fulham, Arsenal vs West Brom, Chelsea vs Norwich, Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

English Premier League, Week 6 Game of the Week

25 Sep

Recap of Last Week: I incorrectly predicted a Manchester City 3-1 win, as the eventual score was a 1-1 tie. Arsenal’s center back Laurent Koscielny tied the game off a loose ball that appeared just in front of him after an Arsenal corner kick in the ’82. The powerful strike culminated a resounding Arsenal attack that seemed to overwhelm City for much of the last 20 minutes of the game or so.

This Week:

Arsenal FC vs Chelsea FC

Saturday September 29th, 6:45 AM (CST), Emirates Stadium (ESPN2)

Why This Game is Intriguing: Who doesn’t enjoy a London derby featuring two of the top teams in England? Both of these teams boast incredibly talented squads, and each is seeking to do some damage in the Champions League this year as well. Chelsea currently sits in 1st place atop the English Premier League standings, and remain undefeated through its first 5 games- its lone draw was to QPR. Arsenal on the other hand has struggled at times to score this season, but ever since the Liverpool match a few weeks ago, they have played remarkably well- including a tough Champions League group play win over French champions Montpellier. Chelsea and Arsenal are two of the most popular English teams in the world, and both have rabid fan bases that stretch well beyond the boundaries of London.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Oliver Giroud. Both clubs look drastically different than they did the last time they played each other, primarily because of some roster overhauls that occurred during this past transfer window. Chelsea said goodbye to living legend Didier Drogba, and welcomed in players such as Belgium star Eden Hazard and Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar. Arsenal lost Robin van Persie, and replaced him with striker Olivier Giroud, winger Lukas Podolski, and attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla. Eden Hazard has made a rather seamless transition from Ligue 1 where he played for Lille into the English Premier League. In just 4 regular season games, Hazard has 1 goal and 6 assists. At only 21 years of age, Hazard is emerging as one of the top players in England- his skill set is off the charts and he will only improve with more experience playing at this level. Arsenal so far has struggled to fill the void left by league leading goal scorer last year Robin van Persie. Santi Cazorla has looked impressive and his creativity on the ball has wowed his opponents as much as Arsenal fans, but the problem lies with Olivier Giroud. The French striker, who tallied 21 goals and 9 assists for Montpellier last season in 36 regular season games, has failed to do anything for Arsenal thus far. He has no goals, no assists, and really hasn’t shown any resemblance to the player he was at Montpellier. The pressure is on Giroud, as Arsenal, even with the 1-1 tie against Manchester City last week, has struggled to put the ball in the net.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 3, Arsenal 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Fulham vs Manchester City, Norwich vs Liverpool, Reading vs Newcastle, Manchester United vs Tottenham, Aston Villa vs West Brom