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Bad Blood – Germany v. Argentina Preview

GERMANY – ARGENTINA

“BAD BLOOD”

Preview

July 3rd, 2010

When the ball drops Saturday in Cape Town and it will have nearly been a week since Germany and Argentina had secured their places in a mouthwatering quarterfinal fixture that has nothing less than a finals atmosphere.  Arguably the most anticipated quarterfinal matchup was created from two very similar second round matches as Germany sent home fellow European “rivals” England with their tails between their legs upon capitalizing on a Lampard goal-that-never-was that seemed to deflate any English momentum as the Germans went on to dismantle the absent English defense on second-half counter attacks.

The scuffle in Germany, 2006.

Argentina’s “Hand of God” sequel compliments of Italian referee Roberto Rosetti’s un raised arm seemed to take El Tri’s mind off of their game plan and more on exacting revenge by way of a half-time tunnel scuffle.  An early Tevez bullet after the break sent El Tri on a one-way ticket back to the beaches of Acapulco.  It’s fair to say that both teams arrived in the Quarterfinal on questionable circumstances.

Historical bad blood has sparked Germany’s captain-in-waiting Bastian Schweinsteiger to take the opening shot of what has developed into a war of words between the two heavily decorated sides. Schweinsteiger has recently accused the Argentineans of displaying a “lack of respect” during their second round tilt against Mexico. The German midfielder went on to cite that Diego Maradona’s squad are anything but reluctant to influence the referees in any way possible for their benefit. “It starts before the match. You see how they gesticulate, how they try to influence the referee. That is not part of the game. That is a lack of respect. They are like that. We should not be provoked by them.” Schweinsteiger continued to legitimize his claims by pointing out that this has been commonplace of the Argentinean mentality and character on the pitch.

It is clear that the Bayern workhorse has still not forgotten the post-game clash that erupted after Germany’s victory in penalties over Argentina that produce a clash between the players and coaching staff from both sides during the 2006 World Cup Quarterfinals. Schweinsteiger has come out and said that he has made it a point to remind his team-mates of their history and to not react to any Argentinean provocation come the start of Saturday’s showdown, which doesn’t seem to be quite a bad idea with the immense presence of the seemingly card-happy officiating thus far in the World Cup. (i.e. Kaka)

On the other hand, who was surprised to see the constantly outspoken Carlos Tevez presenting his rebuttal to the off-field German offensive? Not me.  Tevez combated Germany’s critiques of his side’s character by insisting that Mexico are a far more formable

The Manchester City man has been more than happy to have a spat with the Germans.

and fearsome squad than the one anchored by Schweinsteiger. “The Mexicans play better football. They took the ball from us in the first minutes of the first half and at the start of the second. We should have suffered more if we hadn’t struck at the right moments.”  Shortly after the Schweinsteiger comments, Tevez told Clarin that he was more afraid of Mexico than Germany despite an absolute showcase of pass and move counterattacking against the star-studded Three Lions.

It is clear that Tevez’s confidence may arise from the two sides’ last meeting during a Friendly match in Munich where Diego Maradona’s squad defeated the Germans 1-0 in a less than strenuous effort. When brought to his attention, Schweinsteiger seemed unmoved by this fact saying, “One, it was a friendly. Two, they did not create many chances either. Three, we have gained a lot of confidence by beating England and the good tactics we used in that game.” Those good tactics will undoubtedly need an encore against the South Americans who seem to be unstoppable at the moment, having not lost a single match yet during this year’s World Cup campaign.

The two sides look to be extremely well matched, which seems to be the reason for the sudden outburst of words from either camp as each team seems to be desperately looking for added ammunition to use as motivation in a quarterfinal match that looks to be as unpredictable as the Argentinean master and commander, Diego Maradona.

Liverpool hard man, Mascherano, will be key to stopping the young Mesut Ozil.

I have no doubts that either team will come out at their strongest to live up to either country’s immense expectations. Argentina has more than an adequate supply of attacking power with a laundry list of world class finishers (Higuain, Messi, Tevez, Milito, Aguero) but their defensive play has long been suspect. As if the England game doesn’t provide enough evidence, the Germans have a reputation of capitalizing on such weaknesses by utilizing the speed and width play of their youth movement. Look to Germany to continue their balanced and control-based passing game with calculated and organized counterattacks, which will test the nerve of Argentina’s back line.  Even more so than any other game, the capitalization of chances will be crucial for either side in a match where the sheer presence of world-class talent will be on full display.  I see Germany putting away at least one or two of these chances against a possibly more vulnerable back line than previously presented to them by England, where Argentina’s strike happy hit men will see fewer opportunities against a veteran German back line.  Ozil may play less a part in this game as he sizes up against Captain Javier Mascherano.  The latter is certainly capable of neutralizing any offensive threat in the world, and the German youngster is no different.  Still…

Prediction:

Germany 3 – 2 Argentina

– Eric Fortin



Hat Trick Hero

A nervy second half saw Argentina come out victors and top Group B despite South Korea pressing into their area.  After the departure of Walter Samuel through injury early in the first half, the Argentine back line hasn’t looked the same.  Newcastle’s Jonas Gutierrez picked up a pointless yellow card to rule him out of the next match against Greece, so Maradona will have to find a few boys to deputize for said starters.

An own goal from Chu Yong (17′) and a headed goal from Gonzalo Higuain (33′) gave the Argentines a great start to the match that they were fancied to win from the get-go.  Much of the first half played to the South American’s fancy, however, immediately before the break, South Korea got theirs.

Higuain celebrtes his hat trick.

A terrible mistake by Demichelis allowed Bolton’s Chung-Yong Lee to cooly net past the onrushing keeper while the Bayern Munich man was caught napping on the ball.  After the goal, the Koreans experienced a new lease of life after the half, constantly foraging into the South American’s third of the pitch.

However, Higuain struck again in the 77th minute after Messi did some fancy footwork, forced a save out of the Korean keeper before Messi shot again off the inside of the post.  The rebound landed kindly for the Higuain as the Real Madrid man was left with the simplest of tap ins.

But Argentina weren’t done.  Just a few minutes later, Messi skipped around the edge of the box, chipped Sergio Aguero into the area, who played a lofted ball to the back post where Higuain got his hat trick.  A very impressive play, worked with precision.

Despite the match being all but won for Diego Maradon’s men, the Koreans still put in a valiant effort of their own.  Venturing forward through goal scorer Chung-Yong Lee and Park Ji Sung, they did not look toothless in attack.

Overall, it’s good to see teams scoring goals as freely as Argentina, especially given the fact that after the first round of games, this is the lowest scoring World Cup ever.  Now, the South Americans have to be taken seriously, and to most peoples’ surprise, so does Maradona,



Set Your DVR For…Pt. 1

Group A –

– South Africa vs. Mexico –

The young Mexican will open up defenses in Group A.

Yep, the opening game.  It will be the first test for both sides hoping to make it out of one of the more exciting groups.  Recently marred by the Benni McCarthy scandal, the nation will be eager to get behind their boys and cheer the Bafana Bafana to victory. However, they are coming up against a battle ready Mexican side featuring the likes of Andrés Guardado, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Cuauhtémoc Blanco.  But, it is important to stress the effects that homefield advantage can have on a squad (cue 2002 South Korea).  Whatever happens in Group A, it should amount to some fireworks.

Prediction

South Africa 1 – 2 Mexico

– France vs. Mexico –

To say France has drastically underachieved in qualifying could be putting it lightly.  Les Bleus have one of the strongest rosters in the world, but have failed to live up to that potential.  Forever famous for his handball (the Hand of Gaul), Thierry Henry, the French’s leading scorer, will look to net early and often against a Mexican side that isn’t without its flaws.  Rafael Marquez has only just returned from injury and could be prime for a runaround, a fact that Franck Ribery knows assuredly, as well.  One of the only consistent performers for the French, and only recently, is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.  The youngster has been in superb form for Lyon and will more than likely attract the attention of big European clubs in South Africa.

Snugglin'

Prediction

France 1 – 1 Mexico

Group B

– Argentina vs. Nigeria –

Most likely the most anticipated match-up of Group B, as the attacking flair of the Africans and the unrivaled talent in the striking

department of the Argentines should provide fireworks.  The Nigerian defense isn’t half bad either.  With the likes of Joseph Yobo, Danny Shittu and Taye Taiwo, they won’t be push overs.  However, when you consider the opposition of Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Milito and Higuain up front, it’s hard to be confident.  Expect a high scoring match with little being offered by either team to defensive standoffs.

Prediction

Argentina 4 – 2 Nigeria

Group C

England vs. United States –

There is a lot of buzz surrounding this match, as the two nations have an illustrious history.  Wartime foes and allies, fierce

So much Wayne. So much angst.

rivalries in sports (Ryder Cup anyone?) and the constant claim that the Americans will never be up to snuff in the footballing world.  And with a squad like England’s, it’s hard to argue…at least this time around.  Despite losing Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry (for the opener only), England still has plenty of bite.  Their pacy wingers will be eyeing up the slower Yank defense and licking their lips.  However, the Americans prosper as underdogs and have proved it before against Spain, Italy and nearly Brazil.  They also do have a few game changing players in their ranks in the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.  Michael Bradley will surprise some critics at this World Cup for his stifling defensive work but will have his hands full with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard…especially if Ricardo Clark starts and keeps being useless.

Prediction

England 2 – 2 United States

Group D

….All.  The Germans look favorites to top the group, who could blame them?  They are historically dominant and just legit all the time.  Without Ballack, there will be a big hole in midfield that some undersized plugs will try to fill, but the Germans will still manage to oust this group.  The Ghanians will obviously be missing their star man, Michael Essien, but there is still hope as Asamoah Gyan will be a viable option up top and Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah will look to anchor down the middle of the park.  The big physical play of the Serbs could see them through this group as they have sufficient talent all over the pitch, namely defense. Aleksander Kolorov, Branislav Ivanovic, Neven Subotic and Nemanja Vidic…enough said.  They won’t allow many goals and won’t be devoid of goal scoring options up top.  The Australians might be the underdogs of this group, but not by too much.  Their defensive work, like the Serbs, could make up for any menace they lack going forward.  Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill and keeper Mark Shwarzer will be up to the task to snuffing out more than enough attacks.  The question is: can they hold off enough of them to get forward themselves to score?  We don’t think so.

Prediction

Germany to take top spot, with Serbia and Ghana slugging it out for second.  Slight edge Serbia.

Group E

Cameroon vs. Denmark

Simon Kjaer will be entrusted with stifling Samuel Eto'o

The two would-be runner up contenders will contend what we believe to be an intense contest.  This is backed up by a little guycalled Christian Poulsen.  He’s explosive, he provokes players and he’s violent.  After run ins with Francesco Totti, Gennaro Gattuso and Kaká, Poulsen has made a name for himself as a bit of a dirty player.  That coupled with the intensity sure to be building up within the Cameroonian midfield could lead to a show.  Don’t put it past Poulsen to make a racial slur, provoke one of the Lions.  That said, Cameroon have an iconic hitman in Samuel Eto’o, however that may be slightly scuppered by the big Danes, Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer.  Cameroon are also dealing with internal team issues with Samuel Eto’o being called out by legend Roger Milla, essentially for being a baby.  Denmark will look to snuff out attacks with their big boys in back and counter through their young gun Nikolas Bendtner.

Prediction

Cameroon 1 – 0 Denmark



Maradon’t
May 27, 2010, 12:33 AM
Filed under: International | Tags: ,

“If we win the Cup then I will run naked to the Obelisk in Buenos Aires.”

– Diego Maradona

….please don’t.  I think I speak for all of us when I say, that the statement alone will project the appropriate amount of excitement you would feel.

Only 50% naked, and I'm 100% sure I don't want to see any more.

And if that doesn’t get your blood going, maybe this will.  Maradona’s omission of World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi, in their friendly against Canada was explained to the player by saying,

“If something had happened to you in that match, I’d have been shot – you know where.”

Not sure how necessary the last little bit is.  If he had just said, “I’d be shot,” you think that would get the point across.

Thankfully, Argentina aren’t exactly odds on favorites to take home the Cup in South Africa.  Barring some upsets, Diego should stay fully clothed.



Beauty & the Beast in Group B

Group B –

Argentina

Nigeria

Korea Republic

Greece

Group B looks, off the cuff, a tame group.  Who would say otherwise?  Argentina should have a fairly easy task with all three teams, but, I suppose, the second spot is up for grabs.  The stingy Greeks will be defensively stout, as they always are.  Korea won’t have the home field advantage they had in 2002, but will still have a few tricks up their sleeve.  And Nigeria will probably be tipped to take the second spot, but funny things happen at the World Cup and this one should be no exception.

Greece – Probably the most boring team to watch it football.  How they won Euro 2004 is remarkable, but their defensiveKyrgiakos will test the resolve of attacking play resolve and their grinding out of wins got them the trophy.  The Greeks will look towards Theofanis Gekas for goals, Liverpool’s Sotirios Kyrgiakos for defensive leadership and Giorgos Karagounis for everything in the middle of the park as the Captain is also the most capped at 32 years old.  It’s hard to doubt Greece’s ability after their historic upset of the Euro 2004 tournament.  Still though, it’s hard to look past the attacking threats of Argentina and Nigeria.  They will probably watch footage from that 2o04 for inspiration and ideas…seriously.

Korea Republic

Like Greece, the Tigers will be looking to draw on experience and their 2002 World Cup run as the driving force behind this campaign.  Their oldest player and most capped at a whopping 129 games is goalkeeper Woon-Jae Lee and their most experienced at an elite level is without question Manchester United midfielder and captain Ji-Sung Park.  Park will float in right behind Dong-Gook Lee in attack with Chung-Yong Lee looking to press forward on the left as well.  They will have to rely heavily on their work rate to get them through as they are quick but not as quick as Nigeria and not as technically gifted as Argentina.  If they progress it will be because of their hard work and a little luck.

Nigeria – Do not underestimate the Super Eagles in Group B, as they have terrific pace and a lot of experience in the squad.

Obafemi Martins will lead the line against Group B

Three members (Joseph Yobo, Yakubu, Victor Anichebe) of it ply their trade at Goodison Park of Everton in England.  Portsmouth (Kanu, John Utaka), Fulham (Dickson Etuhu), Bolton Wanderers (Danny Shittu) and notably Chelsea (John Obi Mikel) boast Nigerian players.  Obafemi Martins is another player I’m expecting to make things happen in South Africa.  Martins once played for Newcastle and now plays for Wolfsburg in Germany.  His pace paired with the pace of Victor Obinna will give the physical Greeks something think twice about as well as the rest of Group B.  The captain, Kanu, stands the most capped, and his creative play will allow Martins to perform well, however his age has looked more noticeable as of late.  In qualifying they conceded only one goal in six matches and had a perfect run.  With John Obi Mikel steadying the ship in the middle of the park, breaking down attacks, and starting moves forward, the Nigerians are well equipped in all areas.

Argentina – How do you solve a problem like Argentina?  Maradona’s rag-tag group of players look unbeatable on paper, but have failed to impress as Maradona has come under intense scrutiny back in Argentina.  Obvious stand outs for the team are Lionel Messi, who has more individual honors than you can count on both hands, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and up and comer Angel Di Maria.  Their attack is probably the best in the world with Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Messi and Milito all big time names.  Their midfield is commanded by the hard tackling Javier Mascherno and their defense steadied by Martín Demichelis.  The only question mark over La Albiceleste is the team chemistry.  For some reason, they have not been able to click into full gear and many are hoping they find their feet soon.  Maradona is taking the majority of the blame as he rotates more players in and out than anybody ever has.  His style is almost similar to Rafael Benitez’s bizarre rotation policy at Liverpool.  Still though, they’re not the best at the tournament, but they are too good to not advance out of their group and past a few more games.

Prediction –

1. Argentina

2. Nigeria

3. Greece

4. South Korea



Barça Won’t Break Open Piggy Bank For Villa
July 15, 2009, 3:27 PM
Filed under: la liga, Transfer | Tags: , , ,

– SportingLife

Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists the club will not break the bank to sign David Villa, revealing they have other options lined up if they fail in their bid to land the Valencia striker.

The treble winners have already made an offer for Villa but reports suggest it is significantly less than the 50million euros Valencia are demanding.

The Spanish star is a hot item this summer for top clubs in Europe.

The Spanish star is a hot item this summer for top clubs in Europe.

And Laporta has revealed they will turn their attention elsewhere if Los Che refuse to back down.

“We’re not going to spare no expense,” he said. “We will do the touch ups that we have to but we have to bring in the players that interest us in reasonable conditions.

“Villa is a player who could interest us in certain conditions but if those aren’t met, we have to activate other equally valid options and evaluate which of those are more fitting to the conditions we are interested in.”

While arch rivals Real Madrid have already splashed out over 200million euros on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Raul Albiol, things have been much quieter at the Nou Camp where Barca have yet to bring in any reinforcements.

Analysis: David Villa is a top notch striker, no doubt about it.  He could walk on to just about any team in the world.  But with Barcelona, I’m not so sure. It still seems shocking to me that Barcelona could be OK with letting their attacking triumvirate (Eto’o, Henry, Messi) dissolve over the summer.  They scored exactly 100 goals between the three of them, and I don’t know if Guardiola would want to risk their chemistry and screwing it up…unless he’s already consigned to losing one of them.  That’s what I’ve been thinking ever since Barcelona started their interest in Villa.  Eto’o has interest from Manchester City, Henry reportedly has interest from Liverpool (never going to happen), but Messi is Mr. Barcelona.  You could make the argument taht David Villa is better than Henry, it’s a close match with him and Eto’o, but I regard Messi as the best player in the world.  Even if Villa is better than Henry, Guardiola would risk losing the chemistry up front.  They are potent.  Beyond potent.  And I think he’s smart enough where he wouldn’t botch that unless he had to.

Result:  If Villa does come, it will be for one of the departing trio – my money’s on Eto’o.  Otherwise he will stay at Valencia for a final season (or maybe even until January) where he will then be exported either to Barcelona or the EPL.



Transfer News – July 9th

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July 9th, 2009 – Sporting Life

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DAILY MIRROR

  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is weighing up a move for Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
  • Lionel Messi has urged Barcelona to sign Cesc Fabregas and Javier Mascherano to retain their European crown.
  • Chelsea are ready to make John Terry the best-paid player at Stamford Bridge to fend off Manchester City.
  • Alisher Usmanov has cast doubt on Arsenal’s transfer policy.
  • Newcastle’s wannabe owners plan to put Alan Shearer and Gianluca Vialli together in a managerial dream team.

    Ibrahimovic could be leaving the San Siro this summer.

    Ibrahimovic could be leaving the San Siro this summer.

  • Martin O’Neill wants to take Stewart Downing to Aston Villa.
  • Mark Hughes wants to add Tugay to his Manchester City coaching staff.
  • Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce is ready to swoop for Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones – if Steve Bruce lands his own big-money targets.
  • Fulham are weighing up a £1million swoop for Leeds midfielder Neil Kilkenny.
  • Spurs have sold Didier Zokora to Sevilla to clear the way for Harry Redknapp’s summer recruitment drive.
  • Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is planning a swoop for Crystal Palace kid Victor Moses.
  • Carlo Ancelotti is ready to do Wolves manager Mick McCarthy a massive favour and loan him Michael Mancienne.
  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to send young defender Richard Eckersley out on loan to QPR.
  • Arsene Wenger is closing in on St Etienne midfielder Blaise Matuidi.
  • West Ham are poised to sign Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis.
  • Everton boss David Moyes is eyeing Espanyol’s Spanish full-back Sergio Sanchez.
  • Burnley starlet Alex MacDonald is going on loan to Falkirk.THE SUN
  • Owner Roman Abramovich has been urged to do all he can to keep ‘Mr Chelsea’ John Terry.
  • Spurs are plotting a £3million bid for Sheffield United whizzkid Kyle Walker.
  • Sunderland will bid £2.5million for AWOL Middlesbrough star Mido.
  • Salif Diao and Andy Wilkinson have both sealed new deals with Stoke.
  • Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is slugging it out with Hamburg for Swedish scoring sensation Marcus Berg.
  • Southampton are in the hands of a German billionaire after being bought at the 19th attempt.
  • Didier Zokora quit Spurs in a £9million switch to Sevilla to protect his World Cup place.
  • Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce could hijack Sunderland’s bid to sign Darren Bent.
  • Phil Neville says he will miss playing against Cristiano Ronaldo, who insists Real Madrid have bought him for a snip at £80million.DAILY EXPRESS
  • Steven Gerrard yesterday signed a lucrative new contract at Liverpool that will keep him at the club for life.
  • New Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is ready to loan Michael Mancienne to Wolves for the season.
  • Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is sure Lee Bowyer can still make a big impact in the top flight.

    Liverpool Skipper will be hands off after reportedly signing another deal to keep him at Anfield for the rest of his career.

    Liverpool Skipper will be hands off after reportedly signing another deal to keep him at Anfield for the rest of his career.

  • Arsenal have warned Barcelona, Real Madrid and other clubs who covet Cesc Fabregas and the rest of their youngsters to stay away.DAILY MAIL
  • Adam Johnson is expected to join the exodus from Middlesbrough after emerging as a surprise target for Chelsea.
  • John Terry will hold informal talks with the Chelsea hierarchy today with his future still shrouded in uncertainty.
  • Liverpool fear they may be without first-choice left-back Fabio Aurelio for the rest of the year.DAILY STAR
  • Barcelona will sanction Samuel Eto’o’s move to Manchester City in order to raise the £40million needed to try and lure Cesc Fabregas.
  • Roberto Mancini yesterday held talks about becoming Portsmouth manager.
  • Chelsea last night told Inter Milan to show then the money for Deco and Ricardo Carvalho.DAILY RECORD
  • Hamilton are in talks with Burnley which should see Biran Easton sign on with the Premiership new-boys.