Monday, 31 May 2010

World Cup warm-up results

Teams are cramming in their warm-up games in order to be ready for the World Cup, which is only 11 days away. Chile managed to play two games in two days, with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland on Sunday, followed up by beating Israel 3-0 today.

Yesterday England had to rely on two own goals to help them come from one down to defeat Japan 2-1 in Austria. France could only draw 1-1 with Tunisia; William Gallas equalised on 62 minutes after Tunisia had been ahead since the 6th minute. Didier Drogba was on the scoresheet as the Ivory Coast let a two goal advantage slip away, as they drew 2-2 with Paraguay.

On Saturday, Llorente scored a 90th minute winner when Spain beat Saudi Arabia 3-2 in Innsbruck, Austria. Clint Dempsey scored the winner for the USA in their 2-1 victory over Turkey and New Zealand pulled off a shock 1-0 win over Serbia.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Maradona's offensive nature

Diego Maradona's manners may not be the best, but I am writing today about his hugely offensive team selection for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Argentina have selected six forwards for the competition, and Maradona seems quite happy to ignore full backs or cover in midfield, as long as he has massive fire power up front. Argentina's strike force is certainly impressive, with five of the six playing for top European clubs (Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero & Diego Milito). Between them this season, these five players have won the Coppa Italia, Serie A title, La Liga title, Uefa Europa League and Champions League. In comparison, the England strikers between them have won the Carling Cup. Lionel Messi won the European Golden Shoe this season with a staggering 34 league goals in Spain, while Higuain and Milito finished as second top scorers in Spain and Italy respectively. The skill and clinical composure with which Diego Milito put away his two goals against Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final really emphasises how this Argentina squad is bursting with attacking class, especially when you realise that Maradona only considers him as fifth choice.

Maradona's six forwards have scored a staggering 165 goals in all competitions between them this season, and have the world's best player in their ranks, yet they are still not expected to win the competition. This is because Argentina are lead by the inexperienced, eccentric, unpredictable and inimitable Diego Maradona. He may have been one of the greatest players of all time, however as a manager, nobody can quite work out what he will do next. Being unpredictable could work out for Maradona, as he certainly has the talent at his disposal to go all the way in South Africa, but there seems to be a large self destruct button looming over this team. There will be more tactically sound teams and managers at the World Cup than Argentina and Maradona, and this could lead to lots of frustration for the South Americans. A team that keeps its shape, is compact and sets up with an effective game plan is likely to cause Maradona problems to which he has yet to prove he can solve. This is where England may be in a better position in 14 days time, even if our Milito and Higuain are Peter Crouch and '3 goals for Villa' Heskey; England have Fabio Capello in charge.

Argentina lost six games in the South American qualifying group and only managed to finish fourth behind Brazil, Chile and Paraguay. Their results included losing 2-0 away to Ecuador and being beat 6-1 in Bolivia. They come into the World Cup under a cloud of confusion, people genuinely do not know what to expect. Surely with this group of players, we are bound to be treated to plenty of goals, aren't we?

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
34 league goals, 8 goals in Europe
Won La Liga title

Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid)
27 league goals

Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
23 league goals

Diego Milito (Inter Milan)
22 league goals, 6 goals in Europe
Won Uefa Champions League, Serie A & Coppa Italia

Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid)
12 league goals, 6 goals in Europe
Won Uefa Europa League

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Messi outshines them all

It is easy for me to accept that professional football players can do things on the pitch that I could only dream of. This is easy because I accepted the fact, long ago, that I am not very good. I wonder however, whether some of the top players in the world can accept the same thing when comparing themselves with Leo Messi.

The main reason that Messi is so extraordinary to watch, is that he has the ability to combine effective close control dribbling with very high speed. This is where Messi defies the logic which limits virtually everyone else; close control and speed do not mix. Look at players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka or even Steven Gerrard, great players with the ball at speed - direct, powerful and effective, but the pace at which they run means that they tend to push the ball quite far ahead of themselves before chasing it down. This technique can obviously still be devastating when players like Ronaldo drive into space or through a gap in a defensive line. These players however do not have a choice, they simply cannot do what Messi can with the ball. Messi doesn't need a clear gap, because of his exceptional control while dribbling he can zig-zag his way through a defence via a path which only he seems capable of navigating. I sometimes wonder whether Torres, Drogba and co sit at home watching Lionel Messi on television and think to themselves 'I wish I could do that'.

Messi is not only a brilliant dribbler, he is a great passer, fantastic at linking play and superb at creating chances for others. On top of all that, he is also a composed and deadly finisher. This season, Messi has scored 34 league goals in Spain, earning him the European Golden Shoe award and equalling Barcelona's club record for the most amount of goals scored in a season, set by Ronaldo in the 1996/97 season. He has scored more goals in this season's Champions League than any other player (so far), and has amassed an amazing 47 goals in all competitions.

Quite simply, the 2009/10 season has been dominated by the diminutive Argentinian, and everything is now set up perfectly for the World Cup in South Africa. On 11 June 2010, the world's best players will meet, and will be joined by arguably the best ever, Lionel Messi. Its going to be quite a show!

Watch Messi's goals against Zaragoza from earlier this season

News round up - Monday 17 May 2010

Lots going on at the moment in the world of football. The top European leagues have come to a close, and we only have the Champions League left to keep us going until the World Cup. Here is a selection of articles:

Michael Ballack has been ruled out of the World Cup - Telegraph
Swindon reach League One play-off final after beating Charlton on penalties - BBC
Paolo Bandini reviews the final day of the Serie A season - Guardian
Sid Lowe reports on Barcelona's season and the rest of La Liga - Guardian

A very interesting quote from Sid in his article regarding Barcelona's record this season:
'Four defeats all season have left them with just one trophy; 23 defeats could see Atl├ętico win two.'

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Inter and Barcelona seal titles

Today saw the final fixtures taking place in both Serie A and La Liga with both titles up for grabs. In the end Inter Milan and Barcelona both started and finished the day top of their respective leagues.

In Spain, Barcelona started the day a point ahead of Real Madrid, and knew that a win at home to Valladolid would secure them their second successive La Liga title. They successfully executed their plans with a comprehensive 4-0 victory, to the delight of the Camp Nou crowd. In the other game, Madrid faltered with a disappointing 1-1 draw away at Malaga. It concludes a season which saw Real Madrid amass a staggering 96 points, yet still finish 3 points behind champions Barcelona. Leo Messi grabbed two more goals in the final game today, to see him finish with a total of 34 league goals, 47 in total.

Earlier in the day, 500 miles east of Barcelona in Siena, Internazionale claimed their fifth successive Serie A title with a 1-0 win. Diego Milito scored the only goal of the game to seal Jose Mourinho's Inter a League and Cup Double, with the Champions League final still to come next weekend. Roma finished two points behind Inter after a 2-0 win over Chievo.

We can now look forward to a great match-up on Saturday, as Inter and Bayern both have the chance to turn their Doubles into Trebles by winning the UEFA Champions League in Madrid.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Chelsea win the FA Cup

After a crazy game in which Chelsea hit the post five times in the first half, the Premier League champions finally prevailed 1-0 over Portsmouth at Wembley. The game also included two penalty misses, one for Kevin-Prince Boateng and one for Frank Lampard.

Having held on for the first half, it looked like Pompy might just pull off a remarkable shock when Dindane was brought down by Juliano Belletti in the box. However Boateng's penalty was rather weak and Cech saved with his legs. Chelsea were ahead two minutes later when Drogba scored a marvellous free kick. Lampard missed a late penalty, but it wasn't to be Portsmouth's day. This FA Cup win gave the club its first ever Double, and is a great end to a near perfect domestic season for the London club.

(Photo by Mike Egerton/Empics Sport)

Friday, 14 May 2010

Read all about it

With the World Cup only 28 days away, every football fan is starting to feel the anticipation build. In order to get our fix of top class coverage of all the goings-on in the build up to and throughout the tournament, we need to stay connected to the right people.

That's why today I have created a Twitter list of some of my favourite football journalists. The list includes some fantastic talent such as Gabriele Marcotti, Sid Lowe and Raphael Honigstein. I hope others find it useful and enjoyable to read.

To follow the list, simply go to

Leonardo and Milan part company

Leonardo has left AC Milan by mutual consent today after much uncertainty regarding his position in recent weeks. After a disappointing season, Milan are currently twelve points behind leaders Inter with one game to play. Milan are expected to appoint a successor from within the club, however the club's former hero Marco van Basten has also been linked with the position.

(Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images Europe)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

World Cup 30 man squads

FIFA have released a list of all 32 preliminary squads for the World Cup Finals. The list is available to download in PDF format from the official 2010 FIFA World Cup website.

There are a few surprise omissions from various squads. Brazil have not decided to take Ronaldinho or Alexandre Pato, and Argentina have not selected Champions League finalists Esteban Cambiasso or Javier Zanetti.

The coaches have until the 1 June to cull their selections down to the final 23 that they will be taking to South Africa.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Atletico Madrid win Europa League

Diego Forlan grabbed the winner four minutes from the end of extra time tonight to claim Atletico's first triumph in a major European tournament since 1962. Fulham put up a brave fight throughout the match, however they looked tired in extra time, and Forlan's excellent finishing proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Fulham have played 63 games this season after starting their Europa League campaign back in July 2009. Roy Hodgson and his team have been on a wild adventure, and have accomplished more than anyone would have imagined this year. It is a shame that it all ends so cruelly for the Cottagers, however Atletico also deserve praise for their performance tonight. Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero are both top class forwards, and Atletico continued to push until the end.

A very enjoyable final to watch.