Tag Archives: Iker Casillas

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.

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?

Spain-Netherlands prediction

10 Jul

The 65th and last game (sigh) of the 2010 World Cup will be played tomorrow between two first time finalists, Spain and Holland.

I have a sinking feeling that this game tomorrow could be an absolute snoozefest and I really, really hope that I am wrong on that count.  Don’t get me wrong, both teams are incredibly talented, but they don’t exactly play scintillating football.  However, it’s the last World Cup game for four years, so I plan on enjoying it to the fullest extent.

I’m pegging Spain to win their first ever title for five reasons.

1. If they continue to control the ball like they have throughout the tournament, it’s going to be difficult for the Dutch to get their offense going.

2. The Spanish midfield will be able to neutralize Wesley Sneijder’s influence on the game. (Again, ball control being key.)

3. Iker Casillas > Maarten Stekelenburg

4. Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevilla push forward a lot.  Their contributions to the attack could prove decisive.

5. Players like Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas can come OFF THE BENCH. Talk about stacked.

Final prediction: Spain 2, Netherlands 1

P.S. Sorry for the short post, but I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. and am absolutely exhausted.

Three reasons Spain will win

9 Jul

Spain and the Netherlands play Sunday in the World Cup final.  One of the two will be lucky enough to become the eighth country ever to hoist the trophy.  Here’s three reasons Spain will win.  (Netherlands post coming later.)

1. Possession.  No team in the tournament can play the possession game like Spain.  They’ve won the possession battle in all six games they’ve played so far, averaging 58.5%, which is rather awesome.  Because of the fact that they pass so well (81% pass completion rate in the tournament), they force teams to play Spain’s way.  That’s what happened with Germany; Spain played such a controlled passing game that Germany never had a chance to launch counterattacks.  If they can do the same thing to the Dutch and make them play Spain’s brand of football, it bodes well for the European champions.

2. Xavi. This man has been spectacular for Spain and a huge reason why they are in the final at all.  He is one of Spain’s three nominees for the Golden Ball.  Xavi is the lynchpin of the Spanish midfield and much of the organized, calm play runs through him.  He has completed the most passes of any player in South Africa and how he plays on Sunday will be a huge factor in the outcome.  The team’s midfield as a whole has been excellent and Xavi, along with Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets lead the passing charts (Spain holds six of the top ten spots. Check it out for yourself.).  Coincidence?  I think not.

3. Defense. Spain has only given up two goals in the tournament thus far.  One in the opening loss to Switzerland and one in a 2-1 win over Chile in the final group game.  Goalie Iker Casillas and the defense have posted four shutouts, including three straight.  Casillas has come up big several times, including a penalty save against Paraguay and a breakaway save against Germany.  As a whole, the defense plays smart and doesn’t commit a lot of stupid fouls.  Of course, it also helps that Spain’s defenders are also talented at going forward too.  After all, it was a defender that got them into the final.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Paul the Psychic Octopus picked them to win the final.  Paul was six for six on picking Germany’s results, so clearly he’s right.

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.