Tag Archives: Diego Forlan

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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Final thoughts on the 2010 World Cup

13 Jul

I am still slightly saddened by the fact that the most glorious month of football is over for another four years.  It all went by so fast.  I’m resigned to watching MLS and waiting on transfer rumours until the Premier League starts August 14.  Lame.  Anyways, I got the idea for this post from Sports Illustrated’s 50 observations story and figured it was a good way to do things since I have too many jumbled up thoughts in my head to actually write a coherent post.

My 27 thoughts on South Africa 2010 (in no particular order and which I’m sure to add to)

1. There was no better way to start the tournament than Siphiwe Tshabalala’s rocket shot.  An awesome start for the host nation.

2. I still can’t believe what a disaster the French team was.  Those players are going to be embarassed when they look back on this.

3. I lost track of the number of times I wished that Charlie Davies was healthy and able to play for the U.S. Robbie Findley’s inability to get a decent shot off was so damn frustrating.

4. The more replays I see of Nigel De Jong’s karate kick to Xabi Alonso’s chest, the more I’m amazed that he only ended up with a yellow card.

5. The emotion in this sport is phenomenal.  You can go from tears to cheers to outrage, all over the course of 90 minutes.  What a fantastic sport.

6. How awesome would it have been to be in Spain for the final on Sunday? 

7. Spain’s win emphasized the team over individual.  That team is full of all-stars, but they put their egos aside for their country.  Take note of that, England.

8. While entertaining, Diego Maradona is not fit for coaching.  Like I’ve said before, being a great player does not make you a good coach.

9. Germany was the most fun to watch (well, except against Spain).  The way they could move the ball up the pitch so quickly and finish so well was awesome. 

10. I still think refs needs to be held accountable for their decisions during a game.  There’s no real punishment if they screw up.

11. Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria was one of the highlights of my U.S. soccer watching career.  Absolutely amazing.  It made me cry.

12. Who would have thought Uruguay would make it to the semifinals?  Diego Forlan was a complete stud throughout the tournament and rightly won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

13. Italy’s failure to advance out of the group stage was all about cockiness. They thought they could cakewalk through the group and that wasn’t the case.

14. I think the vuvuzela will stay a South African tradition.  I’m sure a few will pop up in other places, but there’s no way it’s going to replace a good old-fashioned yell.

15. Tim Howard was disappointing for team USA.  Yeah, he had a couple of good saves against England, but he was otherwise pedestrian.  I expected more from a top-class keeper.

16. Fernando Torres was clearly not 100% fit.  His touch was off and he couldn’t find the back of the net to save his life.  An apparent hamstring? groin? injury was just the crappy end he needed.  Well, at least he ended up with a winner’s medal as consolation.

17. I think there should be retroactive punishments for horrible diving.  Example: Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita’s dramatic “facial injury” after running into Kaka, which earned the Brazilian his second yellow of the game.  The game does not need that shizz.

18. How did Lionel Messi not score a goal?  He had some pretty wicked shots on goal and had some goalies make some terrific saves.

19. I have absolutely no problem with what Luis Suarez did in the Uruguay-Ghana game.  Was it illegal? Yes.  Did he get punished appropriately? Yes. It was such a big deal because Ghana was the last African team left, but I’m glad FIFA wasn’t jaded by that fact.  If things had gone the other way around, I’m sure the Ghana fans would’ve said it was worth it.

20. I would not want to be a national team manager, especially for a team like England.  Too many egos involved.  Props to those managers that put up with that crap on a regular basis.

21. My call for biggest upset: tie between Slovakia 3, Italy 2 and New Zealand 1, Italy 1.  I hate the Italian national team so these results were amazing.

22. The World Cup brought out some really good journalism.  It also brought out some total crap.  After Rick Reilly’s horrible WC column, I refuse to read anything he writes.

23. For the love of all that is holy, Bob Bradley, what the hell were you thinking with the lineup against Ghana?

24. The whole Paul the Octopus phenomenon really amused me.  It was crazy to see how seriously people were taking his predictions.  It’s an octopus, people!

25. Game of the tournament: Uruguay-Ghana, hands down.

26. I don’t think Robert Green will ever live down his howler against the United States.  He’s just lucky that draw didn’t cost England a spot in the knockout round or it could’ve gotten a lot uglier.

27. The supposed “stars” of this World Cup didn’t shine, but I’m ok with that.  It allowed players that are equally as awesome like Diego Forlan, Xavi, Asamoah Gyan and more to get their deserved chance in the spotlight.

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-Uruguay prediction

9 Jul

Of course all the talk is about the final on Sunday, but there’s one other game yet to be played: the third place game on Saturday.  It has got to be tough to play in that game after coming oh-so-close to the final.

Anyways, I think that the game between Germany and Uruguay has the potential to be more exciting than the final (I know, blasphemy).  Both teams like to run and counterattack and should feel like they have something to prove.

For Germany, it’s most likely the last hurrah for Miroslav Klose, who has one final chance to break the all-time World Cup scoring record.  He currently sits at 14 goals, while fat Ronaldo holds the record with 15.  They will also have Thomas Muller back from suspension, which will provide a huge boost to the offense.   It’s going to be a mental thing for Germany as they have the potential to put on a dynamic performance, but will their hearts really be in it?

As for Uruguay, they will also get a dynamic player back in Luis Suarez, which has got to make Diego Forlan happy.  Suarez and Forlan form quite the partnership and I’m sure Suarez will be aching for some goals after not being able to play in the semifinal.   Their defense is a little shaky and will have a tough time containing Germany.

I’m hoping for an exciting, end-to-end, dramatic goal-a-palooza in this one.  Hopefully both teams will show up and look to end the tournament on a positive note.

Prediction: Germany 3, Uruguay 2

(Paul the psychic octopus – definitely typed psychotic the first time – picked Germany too, so I’m know I’m on solid ground with this one.)

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: