Archive | October, 2010

Ballon d’Or shortlist revealed

26 Oct

The shortlist for the 2010 FIFA Ballon D’Or, the award for the world’s best footballer, was announced earlier today.  The award combines the FIFA World Player of the Year and the France Football ballon d’Or trophy, which previously were given out seperately.  Spanish players dominate the list and rightfully so after winning the country’s first World Cup trophy over the summer.  There are seven Spanish players and three each from Germany and Brazil.  Lionel Messi, the winner of both awards in 2009, makes the list along with Diego Forlan, the Golden Ball winner at the World Cup.  Conspicuously absent? Anyone English, but I can’t say that’s surprising after their less-than-impressive World Cup performance, coupled with the absence of any English squad in the Champions League semifinals.

It’s a formidable list to be sure and if I had to pick five finalists and a winner, I’d go with (in no particular order)…
1. Diego Forlan – The catalyst in Uruguay’s third place finish at the World Cup…Ended the tournament with five goals…Also led Atletico Madrid to the Europa League title, scoring both goals in the final against Fulham, as well as twice in the semifinals against Liverpool.
2. Arjen Robben – A large reason why the Netherlands made it to the World Cup final (although he did choke away a couple stellar chances in the final)…Clutch goals for Bayern were also huge as the team reached the Champions League final for the first time since 2001.
3. Xavi –
Lynchpin of Spain’s marvelous passing game…Excellent distribution…Completed 81% of his tournament-leading 669 passes at the World Cup, highest percentage of any player…Led Barcelona to La Liga title and the Champions League semifinals.
4. Wesley Sneijder – Big-time performer for the Netherlands, including two goals in somewhat surprising win over Brazil…Major player for Inter as the Italian side claimed the Champions League title…Extremely influential for both squads.
5. Lionel Messi – Electrifying player, especially for Barcelona…Played well in the World Cup despite not scoring any goals…Helped lead Barcelona to La Liga title…And let’s be honest, who is more exciting to watch? That’s right, no one.

And the award goes to…
Xavi – He is a true game-changer and Spain does not hoist the World Cup trophy without him.

Xabi Alonso (Spain/Real Madrid)
Dani Alves (Brazil/Barcelona)
Iker Casillas (Spain/Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid)
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast/Chelsea)
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon/Inter)
Cesc Fabregas (Spain/Arsenal)
Diego Forlan (Uruguay/Atletico Madrid)
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana/Sunderland)
Andres Iniesta (Spain/Barcelona)
Julio Cesar (Brazil/Inter)
Miroslav Klose (Germany/Bayern Munich)
Philipp Lahm (Germany/Bayern Munich)
Maicon (Brazil/Inter)
Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona)
Carles Puyol (Spain/Barcelona)
Arjen Robben (Netherlands/Bayern Munich)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany/Bayern Munich)
Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands/Inter)
David Villa (Spain/Barcelona)
Xavi (Spain/Barcelona)

Liverpool finally wins

25 Oct

Liverpool snapped a seven-game winless streak on Sunday, defeating Blackburn, 2-1.  Who scored the winner? None other than Mr. Fernando Torres.  The last goal for Torres came in the team’s last Premier League win, a 1-0 victory over West Brom Aug. 29.  Joe Cole, who has been MIA in pretty much every contest, actually decided to show up and notched the assist on Torres’ winner.

The team finally put together a solid performance and ,what a concept, played with confidence.  This is the kind of football they are capable of playing.   Torres desperately needed to score and hopefully, that strike will give him the boost he needs to get back to the top form he is capable of.  The Reds still sit in 18th, but are only three points out of seventh, and if they can continue to build on what they did Sunday, they are more than capable of climbing up the table.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Chelsea still holds a five point lead at the top, while Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all sit at 17 points.  Arsenal was greatly helped by its 3-0 win over 10-man Manchester City.

Oct 20 Champions League schedule

20 Oct

Tottenham has a tough task ahead as they play the defending champs, Inter Milan, in Italy. Both teams have four points to lead group A. Lyon looks to extend its lead in group B when they face Benfica. Of course, Manchester United has to deal with the distractions of one Wayne Rooney, who won’t play because of an ankle injury (real one this time). However, even without Rooney, the Red Devils should be able to handle Bursaspor. Meanwhile, Barcelona looks to reclaim top spot in group D, which is currently occupied by today’s opponent, Copenhagen.

Panathinaikos vs. Rubin
Rangers vs. Valencia
Barcelona vs. Copenhagen – 5 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)
Twente vs. Werder Bremen
Schalke vs. Hapoel Tel-Aviv
Manchester United vs. Bursaspor – 2:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)
Inter vs. Tottenham – 2:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer Plus (Live)
Lyon vs. Benfica

Arsenal, Madrid roll in UCL action

20 Oct

Arsenal had no problems dispatching Shakhtar Donetsk as five different players netted goals in a 5-1 victory.  For the first time in a long time, there was not a single draw in the day’s action. Real Madrid put on a dominating performance to dispatch AC Milan, 2-0, while Chelsea defeated Spartak Moskva by the same scoreline.  Basel shocked Roma with a 3-1 win in Italy and Marseille clung to hope of advancing with a 1-0 win over Zilina.  Bayern Munich used two own goals by Cluj to escape with a 3-2 victory and Braga defeated Partizan, 2-0.  Ajax claimed a 1-0 win over Auxerre, thanks to a strike from Luis Suarez.

Spartak Moskva 0
Chelsea 2 (Zhirkov 23, Anelka 43)

Real Madrid 2 (Ronaldo 13, Ozil 14)
AC Milan 0

Roma 1 (Borriello 21)
Basel 3 (Frei 12, Inkoom 44, Cabral 90+3)

Marseille 1 (Diawara 48)
Zilina 0

Braga 2 (Lima 35, Matheus 90)
Partizan 0

Ajax 2 (De Zeeuw 7, Suarez 41)
Auxerre 1 (Birsa 56)

Bayern 3 (Cadu 32 – OG, Panin 37 – OG, Gomez 77)
CFR Cluj 2 (Cadu 26, Culio 86)

Arsenal 5 (Song 19, Nasri 42, Fabregas 60 – pen, Wilshere 66, Chamakh 69)
Shakhtar Donetsk (Eduardo 82)

Reaching the halfway point in Champions League

19 Oct

After the games today and tomorrow, we will be halfway through the Champions League group stage. When Spartak and Chelsea kick off, it will be for first place in the group as both teams are currently 2-0. The game will be played in Moscow at the same site where Chelsea nearly claimed the 2008 Champions League title, but missed out after John Terry slipped on his penalty attempt. Chelsea will be without striker Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Alex. The game between Arsenal and Shakhtar also features the undefeated teams in the group. Even the teams that have zero points after two games still have it all to play for. A good run of form could see a team jump into the top two.

Today’s games
Spartak Moskva vs. Chelsea – 5 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)
Roma vs. Basel
Bayern vs. CFR Cluj
Marseille vs. Zilina
Ajax vs. Auxerre – 2:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer Plus (Live)
Real Madrid vs. AC Milan – 2:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)
Braga vs. Partizan
Arsenal vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

Liverpool’s performance leaves much to be desired

18 Oct

I was in Chicago for the weekend to see the Chicago Fire-D.C. United game Saturday, so I made my way to The Globe Pub* for Sunday’s derby against Everton.  It was so fantastic getting to share in the misery of another crappy performance with other Reds fans. (That would be sarcasm, people.)  Now Liverpool might have played terribly, but Everton deserves credit for a solid performance. They fully deserved the win.

Liverpool, on the other hand, fully deserved to lose. It was another passion-less performance. If you can’t get up for a derby match, then there’s little hope for any other game.  The first half was particularly bad and the second was only marginally better. They couldn’t string passes together, the service was terrible and the field was too crowded in the middle.  Joe Cole and Maxi Rodriguez kept gravitating towards the center, which in turn gave Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles less room to operate. Liverpool hasn’t been able to get much going down the flanks  at all this season and that’s one of several things that needs to change if they are going to turn things around.

Fernando Torres clearly has zero confidence and it shows. Opportunities he would have buried last year are taken a half-second too late. His touch has failed him too and the man can’t beat a defender to save his life right now.  Although it must be said that he’s not exactly getting phenomenal service or support right now, even his chemistry with Gerrard has been thrown off-kilter.

Tim Cahill’s opening goal came after he was left unmarked six yards out from goal. Generally it’s not a good idea to leave the other team’s top goal scorer wide open.  You could sense the goal coming and Liverpool would have been very lucky to go into half at 0-0.  Mikel Arteta’s goal in the second half was really quite spectacular and Pepe Reina had no chance at making that save.

The Reds did get some half-decent chances in the second half, but overall, the play around the penalty box was extremely poor. They would be able to string some passes together to build up an attacking chance, but once they hit the top of the 18, it all broke down, whether it was an errant pass or a bad touch.

The bubble of elation of finally getting rid of Hicks and Gillett was popped pretty quickly Sunday.  New owner John Henry was in attendance at Goodison Park and had to be thinking, ‘Really? This is the team I just bought?’  The Reds are currently 19th and based on their current form, fully deserve to be in the bottom three.

After the game, Roy Hodgson said that the players were “under pressure”, as if that’s a legitimate reason for being terrible. Every player at the top level of the game is under pressure.  That was a really lame excuse for another sorry performance, Roy.  You have a lot of work ahead of you to get this team back on track.

*As a soccer fan, The Globe is amazing. It’s a good thing I don’t live close by, otherwise I’d be broke. It’s open 24/7 and shows games live from all over the world. It’s also home to the Chicago branch of the LFC Supporter’s Club, who raffled off a signed Jamie Carragher jersey after Sunday’s game. (And I was only four numbers off winning, damn.) Of course, the Globe is not only about the soccer, but also shows rugby, Aussie Rules, and many other sports.

It’s official: Liverpool has a new owner

15 Oct

After enough drama to last a lifetime, New England Sports Venture announced that it has completed the purchase of Liverpool FC. Earlier today, Tom Hicks and George Gillett withdrew their restraining order stopping the sale of the club. They now intend to pursue damages of 1.6 billion instead since the new deal was an “extraordinary swindle”. Yep, still assholes, but assholes that are no longer in charge of Liverpool, so thank goodness for that.  Apparently, they also offered to pay off the outstanding debt to RBS but were rejected. (If you had the money to pay off the debt, why did the club end up this close to adminstration to begin with?)

John Henry, head of NESV, said that they have “a primary focus on returning the Club to greatness on and off the field for the long-term”. Excellent.

While there’s no guarantee that Liverpool will win the league in the next couple years and fans clearly have every reason to be wary, the removal of acquisition debt will give the team much more flexibility and ability to compete in the transfer market.  In his press briefing today, Roy Hodgson said it was a like a cloud had been lifted and I couldn’t agree more. Hicks and Gillett were cancerous and John Henry and co. seem to have the best interests of the club at heart.  They got a first-hand glimpse of the ridiculousness of the duo in the last couple weeks and have already vowed to listen to all the people involved with the club, which is a good start.

Hopefully this news is the start of a good weekend and Liverpool can go out and kick some Everton ass on Sunday.  They won’t have this saga hanging over their heads and will hopefully be able to get back to playing (and winning) some football games.

When the news finally broke this morning, I felt like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz after the Wicked Witch of the East is killed. Hicks & Gillett are the Wicked Witch of course.