Archive | December, 2010

Most memorable moments of 2010

31 Dec

Since my top players have now been sent their official Soccer Wall Player of the Year certificates, it’s time to move on to the most memorable moments of the year.  Of course the drama of the World Cup greatly influenced this selection.  In other exciting news, I close 2010 with my 500th blog post (wow!)

6. Barcelona defeats Real, 5-0 – Wow, just wow. This game on Nov. 29 was a master class by Barcelona, they picked Real apart with precision passes and smart movement.  Real did not stand a chance; it was mesmerizing to watch.

5. Qatar gets the 2022 World Cup – What the bleeping hell?  That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Spain wins first World Cup – Thanks to a late extra time goal from Andres Iniesta, Spain won its first-ever World Cup title with a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.  The Spanish side clearly deserved the win as the Netherlands resorted to dirty play early since they knew they couldn’t slow down the Spanish passing attack.

3. Suarez handball – With a spot in the semifinals on the line at the end of extra time, Uruguay’s  Luis Suarez clearly swatted away a certain score for Ghana off the goal line.  Asamoah Gyan stepped up to surely send Ghana to the semifinals and sent his shot off the crossbar.  The game went to penalties, Uruguay emerged victorious and there went the chance for the first African nation to go to the semifinals.

2. New owners for Liverpool – After many terrible months with the douchebag duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool FC finally got some new owners in October.  NESV, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, took over the club and while things have not necessarily gone swimmingly for the team, there’s at least hope that things can improve in the near future.

1. Donovan’s goal vs. Algeria – The U.S. went from eliminated to top of group C with Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria in the final game of group play (take that England!).  It was an incredibly emotional moment that actually ended up bringing me to tears.  Here’s the clip of the goal and the video of the reaction from around the country (which also made me cry).

What are your top moments?

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2010 Players of the Year

31 Dec

It’s been a heck of a year in soccer and this is my first in a series of, um, two posts about the best of 2010.  This first post will focus on the year’s top players, while the second will highlight the year’s top/most memorable moments.  Without further ado, here are The Soccer Wall’s top four players of 2010 in no particular order.

1. Diego Forlan – Forlan led Uruguay to the World Cup semifinals, scoring five goals along the way.  He earned the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and fully deserved the award.  Uruguay would not have gotten very far without his vision and scoring ability.  In addition to Uruguay’s success, Forlan also played a major role in leading his club team, Atletico Madrid, to the Europa League title.  He scored the goal against Liverpool in the semifinals to send the Spanish side to the final and also scored both goals in the final against Fulham.

2. Xavi – Xavi is the maestro in the midfield for both club and country and clearly proved his worth in 2010.  Xavi helped lead Spain to its first-ever World Cup title and also was a key part of Barcelona’s La Liga winning side.  My pick for the FIFA Ballon D’Or award, Xavi’s passing and play-making abilities are second-to-none.  In the World Cup, he completed 81% (544 of 669) of his passes.  Xavi also completed over 50 more passes than the next player in the stats, teammate Sergio Busquets.

3. Wesley Sneijder – Sneijder had a heck of a year, but somehow was left off the shortlist for the Ballon D’Or .  He helped Inter Milan win the treble (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Champions League) and was a vital piece in leading the Netherlands to the World Cup final.  He was one of four players at the World Cup to score five goals, including both goals in an upset win over Brazil in the quarterfinals.  Sneijder was influential in Inter’s title wins, particularly coming up big in the Champions League semifinals and final.

4. Lionel Messi – The bottom line is that no one in football is as entertaining to watch as Lionel Messi.  The Argentine was La Liga’s leading scorer in the 2009-10 season with 34 goals and sits joint top on the same list this season with 17.  Messi played a vital role in Barcelona’s run to the La Liga title.  At the World Cup, Messi failed to find the back of the net, but he was still a very dangerous player and helped create space and opportunities for his teammates.

Birthday request

28 Dec

Dear Liverpool,

All I want for my birthday is a win over Wolves.

Love,

The Soccer Wall’s one and only writer

The wheels are falling off for Chelsea

27 Dec

First of all, happy holidays everyone!  Hope all you readers have a marvelous festive time. Now, onto the post at hand…

Chelsea opened the season looking like a team that would just roll to the Premier League title for the second straight year. They scored 14 goals in their first three games and did not concede a goal til the fourth game of the year (3-1 win over West Ham). The Blues only lost once over the first two months of the season and sat on top of the table with eight wins, one loss and one draw.

Since the beginning of November, it has been a different story. Chelsea has only notched one win in its last eight Premier League games and hasn’t scored more than one goal in any contest. The squad’s last win came on November 10, a 1-0 win over Fulham.

In today’s loss to Arsenal, Chelsea was completely outclassed. The Gunners played a smart possession game, especially after going up by two goals. Even after the final goal by Arsenal, Chelsea never looked truly dangerous to make a game of it.

There’s been talk that the dismissal of assistant manager Ray Wilkins has been a major factor in Chelsea’s skid and I’m sure it has played a role, but the truth is that Chelsea is an aging squad. Six of the starters against Arsenal today were at least 30. Not that players that age can’t still compete at an extremely high level, but there is not a lot of youth within the Chelsea regulars. Mikel was the youngest starter at 23. Carlo Ancelotti might want to look into getting some of the squad’s young talent some playing time because what they have right now certainly isn’t working.

Chelsea lineup vs. Arsenal (age in parentheses)
Cech (28)
A. Cole (31)
Essien (28)
Lampard (32)
Drogba (32)
Mike (23)
Malouda (30)
Ferreira (31)
Kalou (25)
Terry (30)

Gerrard is fit again

22 Dec

Word on the street is that Steven Gerrard has recovered from a hamstring injury that has kept him out for a month and that he will be good to go for Sunday’s game at Blackpool. The Reds have gone 2-2-2 in his absence, but will really benefit from the leadership he brings to the field. Liverpool has a span of five games in 15 days beginning with Blackpool and they will need all the healthy players they can get.

Reportedly, Daniel Agger will also be fit to play against Blackpool. This is particularly good news as the center backs have been struggling (to put it nicely) as of late. The Skrtel/Krygiakos pairing has been especially dysfunctional, so bringing someone else into the middle has got to improve things. (Right?!)

A strong start on the games post-Christmas could go a long way for Liverpool.  Even though Manchester United leads the pack right now, there is no really clear separation between the top teams.  Granted, I’m not saying Liverpool will win the league, but they definitely have a chance to work their way back into the top four IF, and that’s a big if, they can start stringing some positive results together.

Champions League, Europa League knockout stages set

21 Dec

So much for a rematch in the Champions League final – Inter Milan and Bayern Munich will meet in the round of 16 instead.  Chelsea’s probably got the easiest draw out of the English teams with Copenhagen, but with the way the Blues have been playing lately, that’s no walkover win.  Arsenal got the unlucky task of taking on Barcelona, who has been on quite the run as of late, so good luck with that one Gunners.  Spurs ended up with a tough, but winnable matchup with AC Milan.  Manchester United will take on Marseille.  The first set of games will be on the 15th and 16th of February.

In the Europa League, my Liverpool boys will take on Sparta Praha with the winner advancing to play the winner of the Lech vs. Braga match.  Manchester City, the other Premier League representative, will take on Aris on 12 Feb., while the rest of the matches will be played on 17 Feb.

Champions League round of 16
AC Milan vs. Tottenham
Valencia vs. Schalke
Arsenal vs. Barcelona
Roma vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Copenhagen vs. Chelsea
Lyon vs. Real Madrid
Marseille vs. Manchester United
Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich

Europa League round of 32
Aris vs. Manchester City
Benfica vs. Stuttgart
Anderlecht vs. Ajax
Lech vs. Braga
Besiktas vs. Dynamo Kiev
BATE vs. PSG
Rubin vs. Twente
Sparta Praha vs. Liverpool
Basel vs. Spartak Moskva
Young Boys vs. Zenit
Sevilla vs. Porto
Lille vs. PSV
PAOK vs. CSKA Moskva
Metalist vs. Leverkusen
Rangers vs. Sporting
Napoli vs. Villarreal

How is there not more outcry over this?!

14 Dec

I saw these somewhat enigmatic tweets from Jonathan Alter (http://www.twitter.com/jonathanalter), an Newsweek columnist and MSNBC analyst, earlier today about the World Cup going to Qatar.  This is the kind of information that needs to be out in the public vein, not just on Twitter, if indeed true.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this was true. FIFA has proved over and over that it only cares about money, despite insisting that is far from the truth.

Sepp Blatter’s recent uip about homosexuals refraining from sexual activities during the World Cup in Qatar (since homosexuality is illegal there) struck nerves too and begged the question yet again, why the hell would you send the World Cup to Qatar?