Tag Archives: David Villa

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.

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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.

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.

Germany, Spain advance to semis

3 Jul

The South American revolution at the World Cup is officially over and it’s now Europe’s show to lose.  Uruguay is the only South American side remaining after wins for Germany and Spain today.

Germany wasted no time getting on the board against Argentina with Thomas Muller heading in a free kick from Bastian Schweinsteiger in the third minute.  The Germans never looked back, putting on a stellar all-around display.  The defense did an excellent job of shutting down the potent attack of Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain.  Germany added three (THREE!) second half goals.  Miroslav Klose scored twice to move into a tie for second on the World Cup all-time scoring list, one behind Fat Ronaldo with two games to play.  Defender Arne Friedrich added one of his own after Schweinsteiger beat three defenders with his dribbling before lying the ball to Friedrich.  

Germany is going to be a tough nut to crack for Spain.  The German passing game has been excellent and the counterattack has been second to none.  However, they will be without Muller in the semifinal after he picked up a crap yellow card for a “handball”.  Even without Muller, the team has the weapons to put on another solid display.  

In the day’s second game, there was more penalty drama as Spain earned its first ever berth in the semifinals.  Paraguay did a great job of shutting down Spain’s vaunted attack, often swarming three players around the ball and giving Spain no time to connect their passes.  Despite Spain’s dominance in possession, Paraguay ended up with the best chance of the first half, but the resulting goal was called back on a questionable offsides call.  Things heated up in the second half after Gerard Pique pulled down Oscar Cardozo in the box, earning Paraguay a penalty.  Goalie Iker Casillas came up with a huge save and a mere minute later, Spain had earned a penalty of their own after David Villa was taken down in the box.  (Some people are saying that foul was a red card, but I agree with the yellow.)  Xabi Alonso buried the spot kick, but no!  It was called back for encroachment and he had to retake it.  This time, Paraguay goalie Justo Villar made the save and then got away with taking out Cesc Fabregas on a rebound shot.  Villa came up big again for Spain in the 83rd minute, putting in a shot that ricocheted off both posts off a rebound from a Pedro shot.  He now leads the tournament with five goals and has scored five of Spain’s six goals.

Spain looked shaky for large stretches of the game, especially in the final third.  They couldn’t connect on any crosses and the partnership between Villa and Fernando Torres was continually on two different pages.  

This sets up a rematch of the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain.  Spain ended up with its first major title after Torres notched a goal late in the second half.  If Germany continues their stellar run and Spain has a slow start like they did today, I could see this round going to Germany.   Spain will have to have players other than Villa step up to score goals as Germany’s defense can shut out dangerous players very well.  With Germany’s ability for a speedy counterattack, Spain’s defense will have to be on full alert at all times.  The midfield battle will get interesting too since Schweinsteiger has been a rock in the midfield throughout the tournament and Xavi and Iniesta are some of the best in the world.

Pick for the final: Germany, they are just playing too well to be stopped.

World Cup results – June 29

29 Jun

We got our first penalty shootout of the tournament today as the remainder of the quarterfinal field was set.  Paraguay prevailed 5-3 on penalties after a boring 0-0 draw with Japan.  Yuichi Komano’s spot kick ricocheted off the cross bar and Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo buried the game-winner to send the South American nation through.  With Paraguay’s win, four South American teams are in the quarterfinals for the first time ever.  There’s potential for the semifinals to be all-South American, but I think that’s rather unlikely.

Spain and Portugal battled it out for Iberian peninsula superiority (lame, I know, quarterfinal spot much more important) in the day’s second game.  Eduardo came up big in goal for Portugal after getting tested by David Villa and Fernando Torres in the first half.  After a scoreless first half, Spain broke through in the 63rd minute with who else but David Villa knocking in the game-winner.  Villa has now scored four of Spain’s five goals in the World Cup, not too shabby.  It was a solid display from Spain, but Portugal looked rather out of sorts on the offensive end of things.  Cristiano Ronaldo was hardly involved and that did not help their cause.

Tuesday, June 29 results
Paraguay 0 (5 pen)
Japan 0 (3 pen)

Spain 1 (Villa 63)
Portugal 0

Complete Quarterfinal field
Netherlands vs. Brazil – July 2 at 10 a.m.
Uruguay vs. Ghana – July 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Germany vs. Argentina – July 3 at 10 a.m.
Spain vs. Paraguay – July 3 at 2:30 p.m.

World Cup results – June 25

25 Jun

The final day of group games lacked any real drama.  In group G, Brazil and Portugal played a lackluster 0-0 draw to both advance to the round of 16.  Ivory Coast went out on a positive note, beating North Korea 3-0.  The Ivorians needed to make up a nine goal difference to surpass Portugal, a tall task by any stretch of the imagination.

In group H, every team was alive for a spot in the round of 16 going into today’s games.  Honduras and Switzerland each needed to win to have a chance at advancing, but it just wasn’t happening for either team as the game between the two ended in a 0-0 draw.  Spain clinched top spot in the group with a 2-1 win over Chile.  David Villa scored Spain’s first goal in rather spectacular fashion.  After Chile goalie Claudio Bravo cleared the ball way out of his area, Villa was in the right place to belt the ball into the empty net from about 50 yards out.   Andres Iniesta added the second only 13 minutes later.

Group G results
North Korea 0
Ivory Coast (Toure 14, Romaric 20, Kalou 82)

Portugal 0
Brazil 0

Group H results
Chile 1
Spain 2 (Villa 24, Iniesta 37)

Switzerland 0
Honduras 0

Final Group G standings
Brazil – 7 (+3)
Portugal – 5 (+7)
Ivory Coast – 4 (+1)
North Korea – 0 (-11)

Final Group H standings
Spain – 6 (+2)
Chile – 6 (+1)
Switzerland – 4 (0)
Honduras – 1 (-3)

Round of 16 matchups
Brazil vs. Chile
Spain vs. Portugal