Tag Archives: Andres Iniesta

Top Moments of 2011

31 Dec

Happy New Year one and all!  2011 has been quite the year and here are my favorite moments:

1. Abby Wambach’s game-winner against Brazil – This goal was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.  Playing a man down and a goal down in stoppage time of extra time, Megan Rapinoe picked out Wambach with a pinpoint cross and Wambach’s header sent the game to penalties, which the U.S. dominated.  Not going to lie, definitely made me cry – on par with Landon’s Donovan’s late winner against Algeria in 2010.  Amazing moment.

2. Hodgson out, Dalglish in at Liverpool – After reigning over one of the worst starts for the Reds in a long time, Roy Hodgson was finally shown the door in January 2011.  His replacement?  None other than the legendary Kenny Dalglish.  The team was revitalized under Dalglish, showing the passion and desire that was missing the rest of the season and moving up the table to finish seventh.  Dalglish was given a three year contract in May.  New ownership, combined with the return of Dalglish changed the outlook for fans all over.

3. Japan’s Women’s World Cup victory – Even though it came at the expense of the U.S., it was impossible not to feel good for Japan.  Homare Sawa equalized for Japan late in stoppage time and the team went on to win the penalty shootout.  It was the first World Cup title for Japan, which was  (and still is) battling with the aftermath of the horrific earthquake and tsunami.  The victory was about more than just soccer.

4. Barcelona’s triumph – Barcelona showed why it truly is the best team on the planet, winning the Champions League title in convincing fashion over an outclassed Manchester United.  Barcelona also claimed the La Liga title and recently the Club World Cup title as well.  The team was (and is) mesmerizing to watch, especially player of the year Lionel Messi and midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta.

5. City thrashes United – I don’t think it’s any secret that I am not the biggest fan of Manchester United.  Manchester City totally embarrassed the defending champs, 6-1, in mid October, much to the surprise of all but the most delusional of fans.  It was quite the win for City, a warning shot that they are to be taken seriously in the league race.  And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see United get knocked off its high horse every once in a while?  To top it off, United (along with City) was eliminated from Champions League play in early December.

What are your top moments from this year?

Drama, drama, drama

27 Apr

Yesterday’s semifinal between Schalke and Manchester United was merely the appetizer for today’s main course: El Clasico #3.  Let’s recap the last two meetings, shall we?  El Clasico #1 – A  1-1 draw in league play thanks to penalties on both sides, Real effectively shut down Barca’s passing game.  El Clasico #2 – Real wins its first domestic trophy in 18 years on an extra time header from Cristiano Ronaldo and again they shut down Barca’s midfield.  Sergio Ramos drops the trophy under a bus (yep, still funny).

What can we expect from this edition? Real had  success against Barcelona the last two times out mainly because Pepe is a beast.  That man was all over the place.  Barcelona did not have the space or time to get the ball high up the field to players like Lionel Messi.  I’m sure Pep Guardiola has realized that there needs to be a shift in the way Barca plays today, so it will be interesting to see the adjustments.

There are also some injury issues for both squads.  Real will be missing Sami Kheidra and Barca will be without midfield man Andres Iniesta.  Good news for Barca, though, as Carles Puyol is back in the squad.

Barcelona has dominated the clash the last couple years, but Real’s drastically improved performance over the last week shows that this Champions League match is totally up for grabs.  Hopefully it will be epic.

My prediction: Real 1, Barca 1  Why?  I just can’t see Barcelona getting shut out by Real for the second time in a row.

TV Schedule
Real vs. Barcelona – 2:45 p.m. ET/FX (Live)

Messi wins Ballon d’Or

10 Jan

Lionel Messi won the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or today.  The award merged the FIFA World Player of the Year with France Football’s Ballon d’Or.  It was voted on by national team coaches and captains as well as one media member from each country.  Messi beat out Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi for the award.  This is his second straight FIFA player of the year award.

I thought the fact that Andres Iniesta and Xavi were both on the World Cup winning side would allow either of them to leapfrog Messi in the voting.  Apparently, I thought wrong. (For the record, Iniesta was second and Xavi was third.)  Messi’s outstanding play for Barcelona outweighed his World Cup performance.  The Argentine scored 58 goals in 54 appearances for Barcelona last season with many of those goals making you think ‘how the hell did he get that shot off?!’ (At least that’s how I responded.)  Messi is truly a stunning player to watch. The crazy part? He’s only 23 years old.  Here’s hoping he can keep up this same level of play forever?

On the women’s side, Brazil’s Marta earned her FIFTH straight player of the year award.  She’s also only 23. Ridic.  Jose Mourinho was named manager of the year after leading Inter Milan to the treble.

The World Best XI was also announced today and Barcelona dominated this too (shocking, I know).  Of course, Messi headlined the squad and was joined by teammates Xavi, Iniesta, Carles Puyol, David Villa and Gerard Pique.  Spain and Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo also made the team. A trio from Inter’s Champions League winning squad also made the best XI – Lucio, Maicon and Wesley Sneijder.

Ballon d’Or final three revealed

6 Dec

Well, someone from Barcelona is going to win the Ballon d’Or. The three finalists were revealed today and Barca players Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are the three standing after the initial shortlist was cut down from 23. All three of those players are deserving, but Wesley Sneijder got shafted. He deserved to be on the list too after the stellar season he had for Inter in winning the treble as well as his crucial role in getting the Netherlands to the World Cup final.

All three finalists are clearly excellent players, but my vote would have to go to Xavi. The lynchpin in the midfield, Xavi led Spain to its first-ever World Cup. Without him, Spain does not hoist that trophy. Xavi’s passing skills and ability to control the midfield are second-to-none. I wish I had that kind of vision. He helped lead Barcelona to the La Liga title and Champions League semifinals as well.

Check out his skills:

Thoughts and observations on Barcelona’s shellacking of Real

29 Nov

What was billed as a tough battle for first place in La Liga quickly turned into a 5-0 Barcelona rout.

  • Barcelona has so many weapons, it’s unfair. Can they please share one with Liverpool? Thanks.
  • Barca won the possession battle, 67%-33%.  Their  passing was sublime.  Even in crowded areas, they would be able to work it out of danger with a series of short, quick passes. Mesmerizing.  Real looked like they were content to sit back and let Barca pass the ball around and go for the counter attack. Problem is, they didn’t get many looks at that.
  • It didn’t take long for Real to get visibly frustrated.  After Barca’s two early goals, Real showed no spirit in trying to come back.  It’s rather surprising that no one ended up with a red card until the final seconds.
  • Even though Lionel Messi didn’t score, he was still an influential player for Barca. Cristiano Ronaldo? Not so much. Shoving Pep Guardiola was the most interesting thing he did all game.
  • Xavi and Iniesta are one hell of a pair in the midfield. They’ve got to be one of the best tandems of this generation.
  • Barcelona is a lot of fun to watch. They make everything look so effortless. I realize it was only one game, but it was against the other top team in the league and when you can dismantle a team like that, well, you might just be a phenomenal team.
  • It’s nice to see Jose Mourinho brought back down to earth. The man lives on his own planet and clearly thinks quite highly of himself. This was the first time a Mourinho-led team had ever given up five goals (impressive stat, btw).

Spain wins World Cup

11 Jul

It wasn’t pretty, but Spain finally became world champions, thanks to a late goal in extra time from Andres Iniesta.

Iniesta’s 116th minute goal snapped the 0-0 draw and gave Spain its first ever World Cup title.  Spain also becomes the third nation to hold the European and World Cup titles at the same time.

Five thoughts on Spain’s win:

1. That game was ugly.  Granted, it wasn’t nearly as boring as I thought it would be, but it was way too chippy and dirty.  The teams amassed 14 yellow cards, setting a new World Cup final record.  It wasn’t until extra time, but John Heitinga of Holland earned his second yellow and the Dutch were forced to finish the game with 10 men.  Referee Howard Webb lost control of the game early on and got really card happy.  (It’s not always a yellow card when a player hits the ground, Howard.)  The Dutch committed some atrocious fouls that they were lucky to get away with (karate kick to the chest, anyone?) and Spain did some atrocious diving.  Ugh, not a pretty game to end the World Cup. (The third place match was better.)

2. Spain shut down Wesley Sneijder and that made a huge difference.  The Dutch playmaker was quiet throughout today’s game and never really had a chance to exert his influence on the game.  Give credit to the Spanish midfield for that one.

3. Iker Casillas came up huge.  He got lucky on a couple saves, but they were the difference makers.  Arjen Robben had two breakaway chances, but Casillas was able to make the save on both of them.  If Robben had been able to finish either of those excellent chances, it would have broken the game wide open.  Casillas was great when he needed to be in this tournament and rightly earned the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best keeper.

4. It appeared that the Dutch decided that instead of trying to play their game to try and stop Spain, they would just get physical.  Well, they got way too physical.  I don’t understand why you wouldn’t at least TRY to play your own game.  The Dutch players lost their cool way too easily and looked stressed throughout the game, including screaming in the ref’s face.  For the most part, the Spanish players kept their heads and again, that made a huge difference in the game.

5. The Spanish super-subs were influential in the outcome.  The game opened up as soon as Cesc Fabregas came on the field.  Fernando Torres came on for David Villa in extra time and he was the one that started the move that led to Iniesta’s game winner (Fabregas had the assist).  Jesus Navas had a few dangerous plays as well.  It must be nice to have players like that to bring off the bench.

And a sixth thought…Paul the Octopus is a genius!  He got all eight games he predicted correct. 

Thus ends the 2010 World Cup.  It’s rather bittersweet and I don’t want to wait four more years for the next one.

What were your thoughts on the game?

Germany-Spain predictions

6 Jul

Predictions on who will get to play the Netherlands in the final from myself and my former coach.

The Soccer Wall: The Germans have mastered the art of winning pretty, while Spain has mastered the art of the David Villa victory.  

Germany has looked the more dynamic side and has multiple scoring threats going forward (although the team will be missing four goal man Thomas Muller because of suspension – lame rule, btw).  In addition to having a strong attack, the German defense has done a good job of shutting down opponents’ main scoring threats (Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney) and will have to be on top form to shut down Villa and Fernando Torres, who hasn’t done much, but that could change in an instant.  Bastian Schweinsteiger has had a fantastic tournament anchoring Germany and he will have his hands full with a talented Spanish midfield.

Spain’s strength lies in its midfield play. The play of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso will determine how the team does.  This is a team that doesn’t panic when things don’t click right away.  They are patient with the ball in building scoring opportunities.  The defense has also stepped up its game after an opening loss to Switzerland, notching shutouts in three games, including the two knockout matches.  Spain will have to shut down the Germans down the wings as the Germans do an excellent job of stretching the field (both length and width, actually).

I think Germany will continue to play its balls to the wall style and come out on top.  They will be able to shut down David Villa and Miroslav Klose will break the World Cup scoring record (he’s two goals away).  

Final score prediction: Germany 3 – Spain 1

Con (soccer coach at UWA in Perth):  I think the final is going to depend on how the teams go out to play in the semi.

Germany have “looked” awesome when teams have attacked them and allowed them to break quickly.

Against the Aussies, they faced a team that changed it’s formation for the first time in 4 years, played two non-strikers up front (Cahill and Garcia) and were all at sea as to what they were doing. They also had a player sent off and the score was only 4-0 including one goal that should surely have been stopped by Schwarzer had he come out quicker.

Against England, the poms attacked thinking that their previous wins against Ze Germans, could be replicated only to find that they were sucker punched as John Terry was continually drawn out of position leaving Germany with an easy 1 on 1 to goal each time.

Then there was Argentina, whose Plan A was to attack followed by Plans B – E which were… the same as Plan A. Attack they did but with no width (which the Germans realised and basically closed down the space around the top of the box knowing that the Argie wingers were playing on the wrong side (Right Footer on the Left and a Left footer on the right) meaning they could be closed easily without any good deliveries coming in. The argies reply to this was to commit more men forward but do the same thing which saw them open themselves up at the back.

Spain are a different kettle of fish, they aren’t as naive as the Argies and hold posession a lot better, and are more patient at breaking down their opponents. Plus lets not forget that many teams will change their style when it comes to a semi final, the fact that you’re one game away plays on the mind of players and coaches.

One can only hope for a German Dutch final.