Tag Archives: Arjen Robben

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)

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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?

Netherlands through to final

7 Jul

For the first time since 1978, the Netherlands are back in the World Cup final after a 3-2 semifinal win over Uruguay.

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst drew first blood with a long range strike in the 18th minute.  It looked like it could get ugly, but Uruguay regained possession and some control and who else but Diego Forlan equalized just before half.  In the second half, it only took the Dutch a three minute span to wrest control of the game.  Wesley Sneijder struck first and Arjen Robben moments later to give the Netherlands a 3-1 lead.  Uruguay didn’t quit though and Maxi Pereira gave the South American side hope with a goal a minute into stoppage time.  They continued to push for an equalizer, but had several decent opportunities blocked.  Man, talk about a comeback, how amazing would it have been if Uruguay had been able to tie up the game that late?

Overall, the Netherlands controlled the game.  They handled the pressure well and took advantage of their opportunities (with a little help from the post – seriously, every single goal hit the post).  They deserved the win yesterday and will go into the final full of confidence, having won every game they’ve played in South Africa.  Now they play the waiting game to see whether their opponent will be Germany or Spain.

Meanwhile, Uruguay will head to the third place game and awaits the loser of today’s semifinals.  The South American side played a solid game yesterday, but the Netherlands were just a little bit better.  You could tell that Diego Forlan missed Luis Suarez up front.

Uruguay-Netherlands prediction

5 Jul

Uruguay is the lone remaining South American team in the World Cup and are coming off one of the most dramatic games of the tournament.  Can they make it back to the final?

I’m going to go with no for one main reason.  Luis Suarez.  Suarez, as you might have heard, is suspended for the semifinal after showing off his excellent goalkeeping skills in the dying moments of extra time against Ghana.  He is also a huge goal-scoring threat.  His partnership with Diego Forlan is very dangerous and his absence will allow the Netherlands defense to focus more on Forlan.  Although, Forlan is dangerous on his own as well (see: free kick vs. Ghana).

The Netherlands are also an extremely talented team and only got better since Arjen Robben returned to the lineup.  The Uruguayan backline struggled against Ghana and the Netherlands possess more fire power than the African nation.  Wesley Sneijder is on a tear and will be difficult to stop.  

However, the Netherlands also have the pressure of trying to win their first World Cup ever, so ya know, not much pressure at all.  They will be able to handle it and make it to the final.

Final score prediction: Netherlands 2 – Uruguay 0

Quarterfinal drama

2 Jul

Wow, what a day.  This was by far the best day of the tournament. 

In the day’s opening game, Brazil dominated the first half against the Netherlands.  Robinho gave Brazil an early lead after a gorgeous through ball from Felipe Melo and it looked like it was going to be all Brazil.  The second half, however, was a different story.  Dunga’s disciplined defense showed signs of cracking after Melo was credited with an own goal after a long ball into the box from Wesley Sneijder.  (To make matters worse, it’s Brazil’s first ever own goal in World Cup play.  Although to be fair, it could have easily been called a Sneijder goal.)  Sneijder scored the game-winner in the 68th minute, heading the ball in after Dirk Kuyt headed a Arjen Robben corner across the goal.  Melo put the stamp on a crappy game minutes later, rightfully earning a red card by stomping on Robben’s leg.  

It was a huge victory for the Dutch as they have a long history of underachieving at the World Cup.  A win over Brazil will give them a major boost of confidence going into Tuesday’s semifinal.  It was an impressive turnaround in the second half after a seriously lackluster first half.  

The day’s second game was one for the ages.  A resurgent Uruguay against Africa’s final hope.  Sounds like a bad TV movie.  Anyways, Uruguay came out strong, but Ghana fired back with a couple close chances of their own.  Ghana struck first with a long range strike from Sulley Muntari in stoppage time of the first half.  It could’ve been a knockout blow for Uruguay, but Diego Forlan had other ideas.  The striker curled in a free kick in the 55th minute to level the game at 1-1.  It continued to be a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to break through in regulation.  

So to extra time we went.  Again, both teams struggled to find the back of the net.  It looked like things would be headed for penalties, but no.  A last minute free kick from Ghana caused chaos in the box and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the goal line.  Penalty to Ghana in the dying seconds of extra time – holy cow!  Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take it and looked set to send an African nation through to the semifinals for the first time, but he hit the crossbar!  Holy drama batman, what an ending.  To penalties they went.  Gyan showed nerves of steel to convert first for Ghana mere minutes after missing in extra time.  Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera made two saves on less than stellar shots, but it was enough to send Uruguay through to the semifinals and cause ultimate heartbreak for Ghana.

It was definitely the game of the tournament so far.  Both teams played solid football and created good chances.  It was quite the game to watch and ended in one of the most dramatic way I think I’ve ever seen.  The (I think) deliberate handball from Suarez ended up being Urguay’s saving grace.  He will now miss the semifinal, which is a big loss for the team.  I think it was a smart move by Suarez to get the red card though because at the point in the game, you’d rather give up a penalty than a goal because players can miss penalties (like Gyan did).  

I can’t say that I wanted Ghana to win, but that had to be the most heartbreaking loss to handle.  Gyan is probably kicking himself for missing the penalty in extra time after he was able to make it in the shootout.  It would have been something else if Ghana had been able to become the first African nation to make it to the semifinals of the World Cup.

Here’s hoping the Germany-Argentina game and Spain-Paraguay game live up to today’s standards.

Video of Gyan’s extra time miss right this way:

World Cup results – June 28

28 Jun

Well, the refs did not take center stage today.  In the day’s opening game, the Netherlands notched a 2-1 win over Slovakia.  Arjen Robben made his first start of the tournament and made his presence known with an 18th minute strike.  Wesley Sneijder added a goal of his own in the second half after Dirk Kuyt did all the dirty work and gave Sneijder a lovely cross.  Slovakia’s Robert Vittek scored on a penalty in stoppage time, but the final whistle blew before they even had a chance to get a equalizer.

Brazil ran rampant over Chile in the second game of the day with a 3-0 win.  Juan opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a header off a corner kick.  Luis Fabiano added one of his own a mere four minutes later.  Robinho put the exclamation point on the win with a goal in the second half.  

Both the Netherlands and Brazil are starting to get on a roll, so the quarterfinal match between the two teams should be stellar.  I can’t wait.

Monday, June 28 results
Netherlands 2 (Robben 18, Sneijder 84)
Slovakia 1 (Vittek 90 – pen)

Brazil 3 (Juan 34, Fabiano 38, Robinho 59)
Chile 0

Quarterfinal matchup
Netherlands vs. Brazil

Latest World Cup casualty: Nani

8 Jun

Portugal winger Nani is the latest player to be ruled out of the World Cup after suffering a bruised collar bone.  He will most likely be replaced by Rubin Amorim.  (I think I’d be petrified to play a friendly at this point if I was a coach.  I would insist on bubble wrapping all my players.)

A couple other injury updates:

Despite reports initially ruling him out, Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba has joined the team in South Africa.  He had surgery on his broken arm and it is currently casted, but coaches are hoping that he will be able to contribute at some point during the group stage. 

Dutch striker Arjen Robben’s hamstring injury is not as serious as first thought and he will remain on the Dutch squad.  It’s not yet clear how much he will be able to contribute come June 14.

As a quick note, teams are allowed to replace injured players up until 24 hours before their first game.