Tag Archives: Carles Puyol

Barcelona-Arsenal highlights Champions League action

8 Mar

Barcelona is in the surprising position of being down going into the second leg of their Champions League clash with Arsenal. The English side claimed a 2-1 win at the Emirates last month. Playing the return leg at the Camp Nou is no easy task and it will take a strong performance from Arsenal to come away as winners. The Gunners will be boosted by the return of Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie, while Barcelona will be without key defensive players Carles Puyol (injury) and Gerard Pique (suspension). Of course, there is always the Lionel Messi factor to contend with, but Arsenal did a good job of containing him in the first leg. Is it possible to do that twice?

In the day’s other match, Shakhtar looks to hold onto its lead over Roma. The Ukrainian side scored a big 3-2 win in Italy in February. With the second leg in Ukraine, Roma have a tough task ahead, especially with the suspensions of Marco Cassetti and Jeremy Menez. The home side will be boosted by the return of Fernandinho, who has recovered from a broken leg.

TV Schedule
2:30 p.m. ET – Barcelona vs. Arsenal (Fox Soccer/Live)
5 p.m. ET – Shakhtar vs. Roma (Fox Soccer/Delayed)

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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 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)

My World Cup best XI

12 Jul

I’m sure everyone in Spain is drunk with glee, the Dutch are drunk with sorrow, but I’m sober and it’s time for my World Cup best XI.  Let me know what you think.

BEST XI

G – Iker Casillas, Spain – He didn’t win the Golden Glove for nothing.  The Real Madrid keeper posted four straight shutouts in the knockout round and came up huge when it counted, notably on two breakaways from Arjen Robben in the final.  He also saved a key penalty in the quarterfinal win over Paraguay.

D – Carles Puyol, Spain – He was a rock in the back and a leader for Spain throughout the tournament.  His flying header to send the team through to the final.   Puyol was part of a defense that only gave up two goals in seven games.

D – Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Netherlands – The Dutch captain was crucial to their final run.  Playing in his final World Cup, Van Bronckhorst scored one of the goals of the tournament in the semifinal win over Uruguay, unleashing an absolute cracker from about 30 yards out.  The defender was aggressive, yet controlled throughout the tournament and helped keep David Villa off the score sheet in the final.

D – Sergio Ramos, Spain – Sorry for the multitude of Spanish players, but Ramos deserves to be here.  This guy probably ran more than anyone else in the tournament, thanks to his long runs into the attacking third.  He put on a solid defensive display, particularly in the final, and was also a threat to put the ball in the back of the net.

M – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany – He had a stellar World Cup.  Playing in the middle of the field, he was the lynchpin for Germany’s offense.  His field vision and calmness on the ball was excellent and he wasn’t afraid to mix it up in there either.  He’s clearly matured a lot since his first go-round in 2006.

M – Xavi, Spain – Spain’s passing game would not be nearly as fluent without Xavi.  He was a catalyst for the champions and plays his non-glamourous role with aplomb.  He also played a major role in shutting down key players like Wesley Sneijder and Schweinsteiger.

M – Thomas Mueller, Germany – The 20-year-old won the Golden Boot and was also named Young Player of the Tournament.  Not too shabby.  He finished with five goals (same as three others), but won the tiebreaker with three assists.  He made his presence known as part of the killer German counterattack and his dynamic play was sorely missed in the semifinal.

M – Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands – What a season for Sneijder.  He won the Champions League with Inter Milan and came oh-so-close to winning the World Cup.  Although his impact was minimal in the final, his five goals in the tournament helped propel the Dutch into the final.

M – Asamoah Gyan, Ghana – Although maybe best known for missing the penalty at the end of extra time against Uruguay, Gyan was a force for Ghana in its quarterfinal run.  He scored three goals, including the extra time winner against the U.S.  He also gained major respect (at least from me) for nailing Ghana’s first penalty in the shootout with Uruguay mere minutes after missing in extra time.

F – Diego Forlan, Uruguay – Forlan won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and rightly so.  Another five-goal man, Forlan was key to Uruguay’s surprise fourth place finish. (If you called Uruguay as the last remaining South American team, more power to you.)  He came up big when it mattered and was thisclose to sending the third place match into extra time after clanging a last second free kick off the crossbar.

F – David Villa, Spain – He continued to excel on the international stage, scoring five goals, including three game-winners.  He has shown that he can be a threat from anywhere on the field, including 50 yards out (goal against Chile).

BENCH

M – Landon Donovan, USA – Finally shed the big game choker label and scored the goal that sent the U.S. through to the knockout round.  Showed the ability to carry the team on his back.

D – Gerard Pique, Spain – Had a great tournament anchoring Spain’s defense, probably bled more than any other player.

D – Maicon, Brazil – So dangerous down the right flank.  Strong defender with an excellent touch on the ball (See: goal vs. North Korea)

F – Luis Suarez, Uruguay – Made up a fearsome  partnership with Forlan, not afraid to shoot from anywhere.

FIFA Player of the Year Short List Revealed

30 Oct

The 23 nominees for FIFA World Player of the Year and 10 nominees for Women’s World Player of the Year have been announced by FIFA.

The five finalists for each award will be announced at the beginning of December with the winner being revealed on Dec. 21.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the honor last year and makes the list again.  All five finalists from 2008 are on the short list again this year (Ronaldo, Fernando Torres, Kaka, Xavi and Lionel Messi).

I’d have to give the edge to Messi this year as he played such a pivotal role in Barcelona’s treble last season.  Despite Argentina’s struggles in World Cup qualification, he’s always an incredibly dangerous threat.

On the women’s side, Brazil’s Marta has won the award three years running and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she won it again.

From FIFA.com:

The following 23 men (in alphabetical order) are in contention for the title of FIFA World Player 2009;

Michael Ballack (Germany), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Diego (Brazil), Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), Michael Essien (Ghana), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Steven Gerrard (England), Thierry Henry (France), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Kaká (Brazil), Frank Lampard (England), Luis Fabiano (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Carles Puyol (Spain), Franck Ribéry (France), Wayne Rooney (England), John Terry (England), Fernando Torres (Spain), David Villa (Spain) and Xavi (Spain).

The following ten women (in alphabetical order) are in contention for the title of FIFA Women’s World Player 2009;

Nadine Angerer (Germany), Sonia Bompastor (France), Cristiane (Brazil), Inka Grings (Germany), Mana Iwabuchi (Japan), Simone Laudehr (Germany), Marta (Brazil), Birgit Prinz (Germany), Kelly Smith (England) and Abby Wambach (USA).