Tag Archives: Gerard Pique

Barca, United win Champions League clashes

7 Apr

To the surprise of almost no one, Barcelona dismantled Shakhtar, 5-1, in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.  The Catalan side got goals from five different players and Lionel Messi was not one of them.  Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Xavi found the back of the net.  Shakhtar looked likely to level the game after Iniesta’s second minute strike, but Alves’ goal squashed any chance of a comeback.

In London, Wayne Rooney’s first half strike gave Manchester United a 1-0 victory over a lackluster Chelsea side.  He managed not to curse at the camera after scoring, but that didn’t stop him from earning a two-match ban for his outburst from the weekend.  Anyways, United looked the better side for much of the game, although Edwin Van Der Sar did have to make several stellar saves, including a couple on one Fernando Torres.  Of course, the game wouldn’t be complete without some controversy as Patrice Evra took down Ramires in the box in stoppage time.  Evra did not even come close to getting the ball, but the ref waved play on.  No penalty, no free kick, nothing.  Pretty clear penalty if you want my opinion.  Well, regardless, Chelsea still has the best opportunity of the four losing quarterfinalists to make up the one goal deficit (everyone else has a margin of at least three).

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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)

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.

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 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.

Inter dethrones Barca

28 Apr

Despite a 1-0 loss to Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal, Inter Milan booked a spot in the final on 3-2 aggregate.

The feat is made all the more impressive after Inter played over 60 minutes with only 10 men.  Thiago Motta was shown a straight red in the 28th minute after pushing Sergi Buschets in the face.

Gerard Pique made the game interesting by scoring in the 84th minute, but Barcelona couldn’t conjur a second goal that would send them through to the final.

Inter is now back in a European Cup final for the first time since 1972.  They will play Bayern Munich in Madrid on May 22.

Champions League semifinal berths on the line

6 Apr

CSKA Moskva is currently hosting Inter Milan with a spot in the Champions League semis up in the air. Inter won the first leg, 1-0, in Italy. CSKA is looking for its first trip to the semifinals while Inter is aiming for the semis for the first time since 2003. As I write, Wesley Sneijder has scored on a free kick for Inter and given them a huge away goal. CSKA has it all to do now as they are now down 2-0 on aggregate.

Barcelona hosts Arsenal in today’s other quarterfinal. The defending champs blew a 2-0 lead late against Arsenal last week as the Gunners came back to earn a 2-2 draw. Barca holds the edge due to away goals. It will be quite the different matchup than last week as both squads will be missing key players. Arsenal will be without captain Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas and Andrey Arshavin due to injuries. It was also confirmed Monday that Alex Song will be unavailable after suffering a knee injury at the weekend. Meanwhile, Barca will be without injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and suspended defenders Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique.  The Spanish side did receive some good news though as Andres Iniesta has been included in the squad for today’s game.

TV Schedule
CSKA vs. Inter – 12:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)
Barcelona vs. Arsenal – 5 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)