Football Station


Drab Draw in Durban

Brazil and Portugal played out a rather tame 0-0 draw in Durban, which sees Brazil finish top of the group and Portugal as runner up.  The full effect of the result will not be felt until Group H plays later today and they figure out who is advancing into the knockout stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo shows Gilberto Silva some love.

Portugal coach Carlos Quieroz interestingly rested Simao, Hugo Almeida, Liedson, and Deco, while Brazilian manager Dunga took this game to rest Robinho and Elano.  With Deco, Simao and Robinho out of action, it meant there was a serious lack of creativity from both sides, even with Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Fabiano starting.

The story of the first half was Mexican referee Benito Archundia Tellez, who issued 7 yellow cards in the first 45 minutes (record of the tournament).  So what promised to be a action packed second half with a red card looming, the man in the middle didn’t award a single yellow card! Somebody must have given him a talking to at the interval.

Brazil carved out the first set of chances, as they dominated possession 71% to Portugal’s 29%.  Luis Fabiano had an open header 4 yards from goal and somehow skewed it wide, while Nilmar was in on goal at an angle and blasted a shot which Portuguese keeper Eduardo knocked into the post and out into safety.

Portugal looked the deadliest with Ronaldo on the ball, as he ghosted past defenders but he rarely got the help he needed in the final third.  He was often left shooting wide, crossing to nobody or just losing out to the physical Brazilian defense.  One of the best chances for Portugal was after Ronaldo stormed the box, slid the ball across the face of goal but it was just beyond the reach of Danny.

What the first half promised the second more than failed to deliver.  It dealt any onlooker a cheap shot.  It hardly did anything.  Both teams seemed content with a draw and played some lackluster football.  But, let’s be honest, what do they really have to play for?  They have no idea where Spain will end up, and that is the only team in Group H that they will really be trying to avoid.  One can only assume La Roja will take top spot, but, as this tournament has proven, that is nowhere near guaranteed.

If these two teams want to make more noise in the knockout rounds, they’ll need to start playing with more flair, deception and unpredictability.  After Simao was brought on, Portugal found a great outlet in the winger and he was at the heart of most moves forward.  Robinho would have been a great substitute, but, like we said before, why risk it? Both teams are through and Spain could end up anywhere in the group…even rock bottom if the chips fall right.



Powerhouse Party – Group G

Group G –

Brazil

North Korea

Ivory Coast

Portugal

You can’t help but feel kind of sorry for the North Koreans.  They finally come out of hiding, and we promptly stick them in the “Group of Death”.   That’ll teach them to try and socialize with the world.  Group D has been called the “Group of Death”, and I can understand the logic in that.  But come on…there’s just no way around the fact that this is easily the toughest group to advance from.  Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal would normally be shoo-in’s to advance to the knockout round, but instead they are thrown into a pit and told to slug it out for the top two spots.  And that’s exactly what they’ll do…

Portugal –

Being seeded in the 4th pot, along with France, certainly created the potential for a Group of Death.  However, the stars aligned

How far can Ronaldo take Portugal in the "Group of Death"?

for a group like this.  When you look at all the teams in Pot 4, there are only two teams that could create a power group, and in Pot 3, the strongest team, without too much of an argument is the Ivory Coast.  Who are the two teams on everybodys’ lips when talking about the real potential to win?  Spain…and Brazil.  Portugal doesn’t come packing pea-shooters though.  They’ve obviously got the 2008 World Player of the Year, Simao & Nani running laps around outside backs on the wings, Deco pulling strings in the middle and Ricardo Carvalho snuffing things out in the back with Jose Bosingwa and Bruno Alves for company.  They certainly have the talent to take them out of the group, however, there is a serious disliking of the manager Carlos Quieroz.  According to the players, he acts like a “teacher” and forces them to watch hours of game footage, and suddenly, the chipper atmosphere left by Scolari is all but gone.  In his formation, however, Ronaldo is played in a free role behind the striker (likely Hugo Almeida), and that, for any team, is a major concern.  Explosive and dangerous, Ronaldo could single handedly carry the Portuguese to the next round.

Ivory Coast –

Losing Didier Drogba is a huge blow to the Elephants, despite reports he still might make the World Cup.  The Ivory Coast’s international website issued a statement, “He’s not at all out of the World Cup. He can still play. We don’t know if he will be able to play the first game — that depends on the verdict of the medical team. But he’s definitely not out [of the tournament].”  Well that’s great news, as they are arguably the most talented African side at the World Cup, and had a serious chance of making some noise in the later rounds.  That said, without Drogba, the Elephants still have some stomping power.  With Salomon Kalou (no Drogba, obviously, but up to snuff), the young Gervinho, The Toure brothers, Sevilla’s Didier Zokora and Emmanuel Eboue there is more than enough potential for them to rough up the Portuguese maybe even the Brazilians.  They have good attacking flair ont he wings in Gervinho and Abdul Kader Keita (of Galatasaray), and should be able to supply Kalou and whoever partners him up top.  However, it will be hard for him to create an aerial threat against the sound Brazilian back line.  If Drogba has any chance of playing in the World Cup, The Elephants will need to find a way to progress into the later rounds.

North Korea

There isn’t a lot of info on North Korea, which I guess is explained by the fact that Kim Jong-Il has shut them off from the world.  What we do know is that they are very paranoid and are hardly answering any questions at press conferences.  Jong-Il also told the nation that they will only get word of the team’s results if they win…it’s going to be a quiet summer.  They haven’t appeared at a World Cup in 44 years since they debuted in England.  However, it turns out that they stormed into the quarterfinals amidst low expectations.  Can they emulate that kind of form and motivation?  Time will tell.  They do play a relatively tight defense, allowing only 7 goals in 16 games, which isn’t too shabby at all.  Tae-Se Jong is their leading scorer and plays his game in Japan with Kawasaki Frontale, and their captain Yong-Jo Hong plays professionally in Russia at FC Rostov.  Their best bet at getting any points will be to outmaneuver the Ivory Coast, out-jinx the Portuguese and…forget Brazil.  These guys are just happy to be here.

Brazil –

Coach and former player Dunga has fashioned El Selecao into quite the machine.  They flow effortlessly from defense into attack

Julio Cesar has been one of the best 'keepers in the world this year and is coming off of a Champions League Final win.

and their counterattacks are clean, crisp and awesome.  Their passing is creative and can cut open defenses before they know where the ball is.  Need proof? Glad you asked… I won’t gush about Brazil, but their chances of winning are pretty decent if they can keep themselves healthy mentally and physically.  With stars dropping like flies and being rushed into our Sick Ward, Dunga will want to take extra special care of his boys.  The spine of the team lies: Julio Cesar, Lucio, Kaká, Luis Fabiano.  All four are masters at their craft and will need an off day to be caught out by a better opponent.  The only ones who look likely to do it could be Nani and Ronaldo of Portugal and Drogba (if he gets fit) of the Ivory Coast.  In midfield, despite the fact that Felipe Melo is having a drab season at Juventus, he has been pretty consistent on international duty.  On attack, it’s almost silly to start, because they attack from all over.  Melo holds down the center of midfield while Kaká, Robinho and Elano all try to feed the ball to Luis Fabiano.  All this to say, they aren’t untouchable.  They lost to Bolivia and Paraguay on the road in qualification and may struggle playing in the colder temperatures of South Africa, as it is winter.  Other than that though, they finished 9-7-2 with a goal difference of +22, meaning when they won, they won big.  Can they claim another World Cup in South Africa?  I wouldn’t bet against it.

Prediction

1.  Brazil

2. Ivory Coast

3. Portugal

4. North Korea



La Mestalla Goes Crazy for Ronaldo
July 6, 2009, 11:19 PM
Filed under: la liga | Tags: ,

Cristiano Ronaldo fulfilled a “childhood dream” as he was unveiled as a Real Madrid player in front of a packed Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

The Portuguese forward, who has been handed the number nine jersey, was greeted by Alfredo di Stefano – considered the

Ronaldo sends the Spanish fans into a frenzy at the Mestalla

Ronaldo sends the Spanish fans into a frenzy at the Mestalla

greatest player to have worn that particular shirt – Eusebio and Florentino Perez, the club president whose re-election prompted Ronaldo’s £80million signing from Manchester United.

“I am just so happy to be here,” he said to a rapturous reception from the gathered thousands.

“For me, I have made my childhood dream a reality, which was nothing less than playing for Real Madrid.

“I didn’t expect a jam-packed stadium – this is truly impressive.”

Perez claimed Monday night’s events “might not have a precedent”. “We are very satisfied to know that you made the firm decision to play for Real Madrid,” Perez said.

He told Ronaldo what to expect from his new adoring fans, adding: “They will ask of you the very best, but will also give you their all.”

Ronaldo is the third player to be unveiled by Madrid since Perez returned to the presidency at the start of June, following in the footsteps of Kaka and Raul Albiol.

Brazil playmaker Kaka was a reported £56million signing from AC Milan, while Spain centre-back Albiol was brought in from Valencia for a fee believed to be around £13million.

Madrid have also agreed a deal with Lyon for their striker Karim Benzema for an initial fee of £30million, a transfer that takes the Spanish giants’ summer spending close to the £200million mark.

Monday night’s attendance at the Bernabeu swamped the estimated 55,000 that watched Kaka’s unveiling here last Tuesday, and is believed to be the biggest turn-out for a presentation since a reported 75,000 saw the arrival of Diego Maradona at Napoli from Barcelona in 1984.

Earlier on Monday, Ronaldo, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, successfully completed his medical with Madrid after landing in the Spanish capital just after midday.

Carlos Diez, Real Madrid’s medical chief, told realmadrid.com: “(Ronaldo) is in perfect condition and very eager to start the season as soon as possible.”

Ronaldo had already undergone initial medical tests with the Spanish giants while on holiday in Portugal last month, which the player claimed at the time had gone “perfectly”.

Speaking at a press conference after his presentation, Ronaldo insisted that Real were “the closest club to my heart” – but admitted it was a wrench to leave England.

“I understand…it is not your everyday thing to manage these figures, but I’m happy to be the most expensive player in the history of football and I’m going to prove that they paid good money for me and it was worth it.”



Ronaldo Attacks 17 year old Fan
July 2, 2009, 9:59 PM
Filed under: premier league | Tags:

The 24-year-old former Manchester United star kicked the window sending shards of glass into 17-year-old student Sara Pardal, it was claimed by Portuguese media.  Sara was treated in hospital for her alleged injuries and later reported the attack to the police.  The teenager reportedly told police she was sat in the car outside Ronaldo’s Lisbon apartment because she is a fan and wanted an autograph.  The FIFA World Player of the Year has admitted kicking the car in a rage – but insisted the girl was working with a paparazzi photographer, and also has accused her of exaggerating her injuries.

Ronaldo, who has just completed his £80 million move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, said: ‘I regret what I did, but I can’t promise that I would not react in the same way again in the same circumstances.’

The incident took place on at around 9pm on Sunday in Lisbon, where the footballer is supposed to be relaxing before being presented as a Real Madrid player in Spain next Monday.  Ronaldo was heading to an Elton John concert in the Portuguese capital with his mum Dolores Aveiro, 54, sisters Elma and Catia, and a group of friends.  The star claims the girl was with a photographer who had been stalking him, ‘standing for days on end in front of my house, eating yogurt and waiting for anything newsworthy to happen.  The Real Madrid new-boy says the photographer and the girl had followed him to his house from the Ritz Hotel, and when he spotted the girl filming him, he leapt out of his £200,000 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano in a rage and kicked the car.

Ronaldo said: ‘This persecution caused my mother to be so disturbed and upset that I had to stop my car to try to convince them to leave us in peace.’

His management company admitted in a statement: ‘Faced with Dolores’ distress, Cristiano Ronaldo ended up reacting impulsively, kicking the car containing the individual in question and his travelling companion.’

The footballer added: ‘When I’m on my own, fine, I try to swallow it and remain indifferent. But when my mother is involved, then I’m sorry but I don’t let anyone, I repeat anyone, harass her.

Ronaldo

ANALYSIS:  It’s a hard knock life for a footballer, isn’t it?  Especially Ronaldo.  He swept Footballer of the Year awards, makes £80m to Real Madrid where he’ll be making enough money to purchase Leeds United soon.  I understand that it might be hard to deal with paparazzi and obsessive fans (I don’t really, but hey).  But that’s what comes along with being an icon for footballers and girls across the world.  It’s just something you will have to live with, grow up.  It’s one thing to get out and yell at someone (what celebrity hasn’t done?) but to get out of your car, and kick in the window of the car of a 17 year old girl?  I don’t care who she’s working for – if anyone.  Could be fined, watch this space.  Miserable…



Rooney Confident of Filling Gap

Wayne Rooney feels he can be the player to compensate for the loss of attacking talent at Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 84 Premier League goals for United, is set to complete his £80million transfer to Real Madrid this week.

Furthermore, Argentine star Carlos Tevez has rebuffed an offer from the Red Devils to prolong his two-year stay at Old Trafford.

Rooney is hopeful manager Sir Alex Ferguson will reinforce the squad this summer but is also keen to be spearhead his side’s attack next season.

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The 23 year old Englishman is confident of stepping up for Manchester United this season.

England international Rooney has often been deployed out wide under Ferguson, despite the forward feeling he shines when given a duty in the centre.

Key players

“We’ve lost two key players and obviously I hope we can get a few players in,” Rooney told The Times.

“Between them Cristiano and Carlos scored a lot of goals for us last season and the season before, but I would like to think I’m capable of filling that gap.

“I’ve said before that, if I can play in my right position, I’m capable of doing that.”

He added: “I want to play in the position where I feel I’m best. A lot of people think I’m best as a centre forward.

“To play in a UEFA Champions League final and to play week in, week out for Manchester United is a privilege and it’s something I’m very lucky to be doing, but I don’t think playing on the wing I can express myself as much as I like to.”

Analysis:  Can Rooney fill the void left by Ronaldo and Tevez?  Those are certainly some large boots to fill, but it might be possible.  To me, so much depends on who SAF signs as his backup.  It’s possible that Berbatov just needs some time to settle at United, but he’s been in the Premier League for three years and knows how things work.  He wasn’t up to snuff for United last season, especially when one considers he was a £30m investment.  The walking greaseball will be given more chances early on next season, but if he doesn’t perform, expect him on the bench.  But I have a hard time seeing someone as stubborn as SAF sell someone in January who cost him so much, so early. United are being linked, as always, with some big names around Europe.  I hear Valencia (supposedly a done deal), Benzema, Ribery and even Aguero could be potential Reds next fall.  But the likely hood of any of the coming seems slim.