Football Station


Fresh Meat

NETHERLANDS – SPAIN

“Fresh Meat”

Final – Preview

July 11th, 2010

There’s a first time for everything, and for Spain, it’s a World Cup Final.  For the Netherlands, it could potentially be their first ever World Cup trophy after featuring in the final in 1974 and 1978.  Those appearances coupled with their Euro 1988 win give the Dutch the historical edge, but recently, Spain is the more accomplished of the two sides after winning Euro 2008.

Neither side is a sure bet for the win, as they are both more than capable of winning the tournament.  The pitch will be packed with talent as the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt will take on the Spanish Armada consisting of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and David Villa.  Ironically, both teams have been notorious for choking in the past, yet both find themselves thrust onto literally the greatest stage in world football.

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Netherlands –

The Oranje are a well oiled machine.  Any questions that were asked of them before the tournament have promptly been answered as the Dutch are now 6/6 in South Africa.  They’re not as flashy as some of their supporters would like, but you can’t argue with the results they’re cranking out.  Beating Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay is no small order but the Oranje have done it well.

In a rich vein of form, the Inter Milan man could win the Champions League and World Cup this year.

Stengths

The Dutch have world class talent littered across the pitch.  Wesley Sneijder is almost without question, the best attacking midfielder in the world and he’s flanked by Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt – two very different players but both extremely effective in their play.  Against Uruguay, their back line looked a lot better than it did in the first half against Brazil, and all four starters should be fit and ready to go against Spain.

Weaknesses

Their defensive unit.  Van Bronckhorst, their captain is 35, Joris Mathijsen is 30 and Andre Ooijer (should he be used) is 35.  Now Van Bronckhorst showed that he still has quite a bit of power in his screamer against Uruguay, but he still can be exposed by speed and trickery.  Notably, he will face quite a bit more of that against the Spaniards, who are brimming with confidence and skill.  If David Villa has a bad game (you never know), then it could really open the match up as Netherlands will be able to fortify the back line while using van Bommel to help defense flow seamlessly into attack.  Also, the Dutch will really have to hope that Robin Van Persie finds some kind of form, because their striking department has lacked bite.

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Spain

If there’s any time to buckle, this is not it.  However, you can’t help but feel that having never been to the finals, that this might be their most likely time to do so.  With so much expectation and playing such hot-and-cold football, who really knows what Spain team will show up against the Netherlands.

Strengths

What isn’t a strength for Spain?  The boast one of the best keepers on the planet, Pique and Puyol anchor the back line, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro/Busquets make up the midfield and they have one of the most in-form strikers in the world in David Villa.  They play classy and attractive football, and should they score the first goal, the Netherlands will find it incredibly tough to bounce back.  They’re the strongest squad on paper going into the final, but, as we all know well, that doesn’t mean much.

Weaknesses

The Spanish aren’t flawless, as many would like to believe.  They have tendencies and soft spots that can be exposed if rubbed the right way.  Playing with a lone striker allows teams to crowd them out and frustrate their attack.  Netherlands isn’t known as a counter attacking team, which isn’t good news for Spain as their style is tailormade for stiffling counter attacking play.  I’ve always said that Joan Capdevila is their weakest player, and while that says a lot about their starting line up (because Capdevila is a solid player), he will be facing Arjen Robben and likely Dirk Kuyt.  As the Germans tried to exploit (albeit unsuccessfully) were the soft spots behind the holding midfielder and in front of the defense.  And with Ramos pushing so far up the pitch, Sneijder will make a killing off those pockets in which he can work with Kuyt or Robben.

Gelson Fernandes scores the winner for Switzerland against Spain in the Group opener.

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Prediction – Both teams are formidable sides, but it’s hard to look past Spain now.  Germany was probably their sternest test, and with that out of the way, they look like they could well go on to win it.

Netherlands 0 – 2  Spain



Round 2 – Germany v. Spain Preview

A late addition to Football Station, I know, but today is a vital match up between familiar foes who have met on the international stage before in Euro 2008.  In that instance, Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game as the Iberian squad marched to victory over the Germans.

David Villa has carried the goal count almost entirely (Iniesta has one!).

This time, it’s different.  Much different.  Germany are steamrolling teams and looking like an downright powerhouse going into this tie, and despite the fact that Spain has one of the most talented rosters in the world, they haven’t hit top gear in South Africa just yet.  After losing to Switzerland, the Spanish have won every game, but they have yet to play a team such as Germany, and their shortcomings could become evident while playing such a team.

Do the Germans have any flaws?  You bet.  They aren’t as deep a squad as they would like, luckily for the Germans, it doesn’t look like they need one.  However, with Thomas Mueller suspended from the freak “handball” call in their game against Argentina, the youngster will have to sit this one out.  Piotr Trochowski the 26 year old Hamburg man, takes his spot and will be looking to take the Spanish apart with his skillful dribbling.

The Spanish don’t exactly have many flaws.  If the form of Fernando Torres was present in one of their full backs, then there might be a real problem.  Maybe that’s why he isn’t starting.  But the nice thing for the Spanish is that you can afford to have a

Mesut Ozil has been key for the Germans in South Africa.

forward not on top form.  That said, Spain’s biggest problem, historically, is their inability to finish teams off.  This could be entirely possible if Torres doesn’t hit top gear.  Villa has been carrying the goal load almost single handedly in South Africa and could really use some help from his striking compatriot.  Germany play rough and tough defense, something Torres will be familiar from being a Liverpool player.  Will it pay dividends?  Eh, we’ll see.

The Spanish have a loaded midfield full of talent, pinpoint passing and plenty of guile.  Well isn’t that convenient…because so do the Germans.  Germany have Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Ozil and Podolski.  Spain have Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets.  It’s close but the edge may go to Spain.  Spain are vulnerable to the counter attack, though, as their striking department contain the most pace on the pitch.  Xabi Alonso isn’t known for pace, nor is Busquets.  Puyol can be vulnerable to a pacy player and Capdevila (probably the weakest link for the Spaniards, which is saying a lot) has been exposed in the past as well.

Germany’s biggest fear should be extra time.  Should they have to draw from the bench late on in the game, the Spanish can take it.  Also, the Germans haven’t had to really chase a game this World Cup, and when they did, they lost to Serbia.  If the Spaniards score first, that could be curtains as well.

Prediction

If the match doesn’t go to extra time…

Germany 2 – 1  Spain

If it does…

Could go anywhere…but we fancy Spain.



Spain Chokes…again

Before the tournament started, Spain were tipped by many to make a massive impact, even take home the Cup.  But their perennial underachievers tag keeps several pundits in check, as they consistently find a way to make themselves lose.  With no Fernando Torres in the starting lineup, David Villa started on his own up top for La Furia Roja.

After a fairly drab first half (now a standard at this World Cup), the second half was promising much of the same.  However, a chaotic goal from Switzerland in the form of Gelson Fernandes was squeezed past the Spanish backline.  After being pinned back in their half for the entirety of the second half, the rare break forward and goal was particularly surprising for anybody watching the game.

Goal scorer Gelson Fernandes battles Sergio Ramos in Durban

In response, Vicente Del Bosque brought in Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas to try and pry apart the Swiss.  The change nearly paid immediate dividends as Torres was played in twice by Villa in what is looking reminiscent of their once potent partnership, but the former scuffed his first shot and forced a corner with his second.  With the ensuing corner, Xabi Alonso absolutely thrashed his shot into the crossbar to see it bounce out.  Jesus Navas also managed an effort that made Diego Benaglio get down for the save.

Eren Derdiyok nearly made it two for the Swiss as he danced around Pique and then Puyol to hit the post.  Had that gone in, Spain would have emulated their underachieving ways from times past.

Spain attacked with 9 men and the Swiss defended with 10 while looking dangerous on the counter attack all match.  With time winding down, Spain repeatedly beat on the door and won several corners…but to no avail.

The Swiss pulled off the upset of the tournament as they beat Spain 1-0 and that has officially concluded the first round of games.  Here’s a fun fact – this is the lowest scoring World Cup ever after 16 games. A moot issue.  Now the tournament has started.

Spain didn’t play terribly, Switzerland just defended like crazy and countered well.  One may argue La Furia Roja could have used Fabregas to give a different edge to the Spanish side.

Diego. He's got your number.

Man of the Match – Diego Benaglio – The Swiss keeper was on top form all match and kept the Spaniards at bay.

Analysis – Spain should still make it out of the group alive, but it throws a huge spin on Group H…especially when Chile plays Switzerland.  Spain need to shrug this off in order to advance, though.



Battle for Second Spot – Group H
Group H –

Spain
Switzerland
Honduras
Chile

The top dog here looks assuredly like Spain.  La Furia Roja are one of the most complete sides in the world, and they, along with the entire nation, would be disappointed with anything less that 9 points from 3 matches.  So with Spain looking the dominant force in Group H, an intriguing battle arises for the runner-up spot.  Honduras are no slouches by any means, this isn’t the Swiss’s first rodeo, not to mention they have a superb coach, and Chile’s attacking mentality is sure to disrupt some of the backlines in the group.
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Chile –
The Chileans look to be one of the early favorites to head into the next round.  With their attacking play and free form

Humberto Suazo (left) and Mark Gonalez look to celebrate in Group H.

forward movements, they will surely wreak havoc on more than one team.  In Humberto Suazo, they have South America’s leading scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, and playing off him is Alexis Sanchez, who has been dubbed “The Wonder Boy” for his technical ability.  On the other side, there’s Mark Gonzalez aka “Speedy Gonzalez”, and make no mistake, his pace will undoubtedly cause some problems for slower outside backs, particularly Switzerland, Chile’s main rival for second spot.  Behind these three lies Mathias Fernandez, the 2006 South American Player of the Year, who not only takes on defenders with aplomb, but is known for his creative play and no look passes.  Chile has top notch manager in Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed “El Loco”.  However, there’s nothing crazy his results.  He experiments…a lot.  He plays a 3-3-1-3 some days, a 3-4-3 the next or a 4-1-2-1-2 when he’s feeling lucky.  His experimentation and attack-minded play have been a revelation for Chile and they will look to bring that same style of play to South Africa.

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Honduras –
The technically gifted South Americans will be nothing to take lightly.  They have talented players in just about every area across the pitch and though they might be favorites to bottom the group, are by no means the minnows of Group H.  Up top, there’s David Suazo of Genoa on loan from Internazionale , the Serie A Foreign Player of the Year in 2006.  Behind him is his cousin and Wigan Athletic’s Hendry Thomas and Tottenham’s Wilson Palacios.  The manager Reinaldo Rueda will likely play a 4-4-2 with Palacios and Thomas playing holding mid while Edgar Alvarez and captain Amado Guevara feed the ball up top. Their trickery will be interesting to see when paired with that of Chile’s own ability and then Switzerland’s defensive approach to the game.  Los Catrachos’ biggest flaw lies between the goalposts.  Noel Valladares guards the goalmouth for Honduran professional team Olimpia, but he is known for shaky displays and weak clearances.  That could cost them dearly in a group hell bent on advancing to the next round.
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Switzerland –
The Swiss have qualified for the World Cup for the second time in a row, and they are hoping to avoid their fate last time around when they narrowly missed out on the knockout stages.  Going in their favor they have Alexander Frei , their captain and leading goalscorer by twice the amount of the second highest scorer (40 goals).  Unfortunately, the second highest scorer is Hakan Yakin, the 33 year old midfielder/striker.  Yakin is past his prime and should only feature as a substitute.  The next highest scorer is Blaise Nkufo, who is 35 and has scored a lowly 7 goals.  After them, Tranquillo Barnetta has 6 goals and Philippe Senderos with 5.  Obviously, Switzerland’s biggest problem lies in front of goal.  The goal scoring tally goes: 40, 20, 7, 6, 5…etc.  That is why the Swiss rely on their defense to get them through.  They do, however, have several midfielders that are looking to be quite the players but aren’t quite at the pinnacle of their careers.  Next World Cup could be a much different story for the Swiss.
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Joan Capdevila could be the achilles heel of the Spanish side, if any.

Spain
They are technically gifted, pinpoint passers, clinical finishers and overall world class opponents.  Spain has something that not every team in South Africa has, talent AND team chemistry.  The Spanish duo of Xavi and Iniesta are very familiar with each other from playing at Barcelona together, and Fernando Torres and David Villa have partnered each other for the last few years.  Xabi Alonso sits deep and sprays long passes all over the pitch and opens up the wide lanes for play.  If you had to chose a weakness in this Spanish side it would be the left side of defense, Joan Capdevila.  Capdevila is a very capable outside back, however he is probably the least capable player at their position on the pitch, which is saying a lot at how talented this squad is.  Even if there is some shortcomings in defense, they have Iker Casillas in goal, who is a World Player of the Year for 2009 and one of the best ‘keepers on the planet.  It will take some great skill to make one’s way through the midfield, defense and goalkeeper to score, and we may only see that in the later stages
of the competition.
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Prediction
1.  Spain
2.  Chile (possibly by goal difference)
3.  Switzerland
4.  Honduras


Rafa Out!

After six years at the helm of the Liverpool FC by “mutual consent”.  He will be given a compensation package rumored to be somewhere in the range of £3-5 million pounds, a much lower offer than the £20 million that was being touted around several months ago.

Benitez is responsible for bringing names such as (among others) Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia, Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson and most

The big man getting a head start on praying for a new job.

notably Fernando Torres to Anfield, and, despite 3 trophies during his tenure (Champions League 2005, FA Cup 2006, Charity Shield 2006), the axe has been called for by quite a number of people.

The Spaniard, now 50, moves on to greener pastures which look to be in the shape of Inter Milan who have made their interest in him known.  Now, the question has become, who will follow Rafa out of Liverpool?

Rumored replacements for the hotseat are current Academy Director Kenny Dalgish who is said to actually be leading the search for a new manager, Fulham boss Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill of Aston Villa, Mark Hughes and possibly Frank Rijkaard.  Whether there is any truth in that conjecture remains to be seen.

Until then…



Alonso On His Way to the Bernabeu
August 4, 2009, 11:19 AM
Filed under: la liga, premier league, Transfer | Tags: , ,

Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso is poised to sign for Real Madrid after the clubs agreed a fee believed to be £30million for the Spain international.

The end of a summer-long saga over the 27-year-old’s future ended when Liverpool issued a short statement effectively bringing to a close his spell on Merseyside.

The statement read: “Liverpool Football Club this evening confirmed they had reached agreement for the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, subject only to a medical. The terms of the deal will remain confidential and undisclosed.”

But although Liverpool will not reveal the details of the deal, privately sources were maintaining that manager Rafael Benitez had got his own way over the fee.

The Spain International looks set to complete his move, pending a medical

The Spain International looks set to complete his move, pending a medical

It is believed that Madrid made another attempt to end the deadlock with an offer of £30m that will rise to £34m depending on Alonso’s success over the first two years of what is believed to be a five-year contract.

Alonso had trained with his Liverpool colleagues this afternoon at the club’s Melwood complex.

But as the Liverpool party headed for John Lennon airport and a charter flight to Norway for Wednesday’s friendly with Lyn Oslo, Alonso was heading back to Spain.

Real Madrid issued a statement of their own, confirming he will have a medical on Wednesday.

Assuming all goes well, he will join his former Liverpool team-mates Alvaro Arbeloa – who moved to Real last week for £3.5million – and goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek at the Bernabeu.

Alonso and Dudek were part of the famous night in Istanbul when Liverpool lifted the European Cup after a penalty shoot-out victory over AC Milan.

Now only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher remain at the club from the 18 players on the team sheet in Istanbul that night.

Alonso’s departure has been a long and painful experience for Liverpool fans, who had taken the Basque midfielder to their hearts.

Benitez tried to sell him last summer in the complexities of his unsuccessful fight to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.

Alonso did not want to go then, and has always felt that he was being forced out of the club to finance the Barry deal.

This summer it was Benitez who did not want to lose the player, who is believed to have told his manager on the final day of last season that he wanted to return to Spain.

From that point on, Madrid waged a persistent war to sign the player as they assembled a new squad under president Florentino Perez.

With the Alonso deal, Perez will have spent around £220m in two months on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Raul Albiol, Esteban Granero, Arbeloa, Alvaro Negredo and Karim Benzema.

That haul is Madrid’s response to Barcelona’s historic treble of Champions League, La Liga and Spanish Cup.

But although Perez did not consider Alonso to be a player who ‘will sell shirts’, the Spain international has been almost as difficult to prise away from his club as Ronaldo.



Transfer News – July 30th

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Transfer News – July 30th, 2009

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THE SUN

  • Arsene Wenger wants Patrick Vieira to make a shock return to Arsenal.
  • Gianfranco Zola is stepping up his bid to sign a new striker after West Ham failed to muster a single shot in China.
  • Hull insist that it will take a ‘ridiculous’ bid to get Michael Turner.
  • Burnley boss Owen Coyle has been unable to sign winger Fernando Guerrero because his Ecuadorian club’s president is on holiday.
  • Kolo Toure was last night unveiled by Manchester City after sealing a £14million move.
  • Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic flew in to join troubled Portsmouth, but left without signing after a row over the £5.5million fee.
  • Portsmouth are close to sealing a shock move for ex-Southampton keeper Antti Niemi.
  • Manchester City’s injury-hit star Valeri Bojinov is poised to join Parma on loan.

    Cattermole, Liverpool and Tottenham target, is currently plying his trade at the JJB

    Cattermole, Liverpool and Tottenham target, is currently plying his trade at the JJB

  • Danny Murphy is set to sign a new one-year deal with Fulham.
  • Alvaro Arbeloa last night completed a £3.5million move from Liverpool to Real Madrid.
  • DAILY MIRROR
  • Real Madrid president Florentino Perez says signing Xabi Alonso from Liverpool is vital.
  • Ian Wright claims Patrick Vieira is going to rejoin Arsenal.
  • Aston Villa are set to make a £12million move for West Ham defender Matthew Upson.
  • Celtic boss Tony Mowbray is preparing to make a £2million bid for Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon.
  • Middlesbrough defender Robert Huth could be set for a £2million move to Fulham.
  • Blackburn have pulled out of a £1.7million swoop for Celta Vigo striker Kamel Ghilas after the Algerian failed a medical.
  • DAILY STAR
  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Dimitar Berbatov to finally live up to his £30.75million price tag.
  • Martin O’Neill admits that Aston Villa have to sign five players or risk stretching their threadbare squad to breaking point this season.
  • AWOL Middlesbrough star Mido is ready to take a £15,000 a-week pay cut to return to Egypt.
  • Laurent Blanc has warned Steve Bruce that he is out to scupper Sunderland’s £10million move for Marouane Chamakh.
  • DAILY MAIL
  • Aston Villa are monitoring Robbie Keane’s situation at Tottenham following Peter Crouch’s £9million arrival from Portsmouth.

    Robbie Keane is being monitored by Aston Villa.

    Robbie Keane is being monitored by Aston Villa.

  • Inter Milan are ready to revive their interest in Chelsea midfielder Deco if Alexander Hleb backs out of a loan move to the Italian champions.
  • Newcastle last night accepted a £9million bid for Obafemi Martins from German side Wolfsburg.
  • Manchester City made a £19million bid for Everton’s Joleon Lescott last night as they completed the signing of Kolo Toure from Arsenal.
  • Liverpool are on the verge of striking a compromise deal to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid and will plough part of his transfer fee into bids for Wigan midfielder Lee Cattermole and Hull defender Michael Turner.
  • Former Manchester City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver is training with Sheffield United.
  • DAILY EXPRESS
  • Arsenal could bank an incredible £17million by selling Kolo Toure to Manchester City.
  • Alex McLeish is fuming with new signing Christian Benitez after he played without Birmingham’s permission.
  • Darren Bent has his heart set on a move to Sunderland, but so far the Black Cats and Tottenham cannot agree a fee.
  • DAILY RECORD
  • Furious Kilmarnock players have threatened to strike after popular first-team coach Gary Locke was shown the door by the Rugby Park outfit.