Tag Archives: Xavi

Top Moments of 2011

31 Dec

Happy New Year one and all!  2011 has been quite the year and here are my favorite moments:

1. Abby Wambach’s game-winner against Brazil – This goal was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.  Playing a man down and a goal down in stoppage time of extra time, Megan Rapinoe picked out Wambach with a pinpoint cross and Wambach’s header sent the game to penalties, which the U.S. dominated.  Not going to lie, definitely made me cry – on par with Landon’s Donovan’s late winner against Algeria in 2010.  Amazing moment.

2. Hodgson out, Dalglish in at Liverpool – After reigning over one of the worst starts for the Reds in a long time, Roy Hodgson was finally shown the door in January 2011.  His replacement?  None other than the legendary Kenny Dalglish.  The team was revitalized under Dalglish, showing the passion and desire that was missing the rest of the season and moving up the table to finish seventh.  Dalglish was given a three year contract in May.  New ownership, combined with the return of Dalglish changed the outlook for fans all over.

3. Japan’s Women’s World Cup victory – Even though it came at the expense of the U.S., it was impossible not to feel good for Japan.  Homare Sawa equalized for Japan late in stoppage time and the team went on to win the penalty shootout.  It was the first World Cup title for Japan, which was  (and still is) battling with the aftermath of the horrific earthquake and tsunami.  The victory was about more than just soccer.

4. Barcelona’s triumph – Barcelona showed why it truly is the best team on the planet, winning the Champions League title in convincing fashion over an outclassed Manchester United.  Barcelona also claimed the La Liga title and recently the Club World Cup title as well.  The team was (and is) mesmerizing to watch, especially player of the year Lionel Messi and midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta.

5. City thrashes United – I don’t think it’s any secret that I am not the biggest fan of Manchester United.  Manchester City totally embarrassed the defending champs, 6-1, in mid October, much to the surprise of all but the most delusional of fans.  It was quite the win for City, a warning shot that they are to be taken seriously in the league race.  And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see United get knocked off its high horse every once in a while?  To top it off, United (along with City) was eliminated from Champions League play in early December.

What are your top moments from this year?

Barcelona sublime in Champions League win

29 May

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the Champions League final yesterday, you are missing out. Barcelona put on a masterful performance to win the European title over Manchester United, 3-1.

  • Thank goodness the game was decided on the field, by the players.  There was no controversial sending-off, no shot-from-the-stands diving and no B.S. penalties – as it should be.
  • I love watching Barcelona play.  They all work so well together, it almost seems unfair.  And of course, there’s the passing, which is jaw-dropping.  They are so patient with the ball, watching for just the right opportunities to attack the goal.  And because of their ridiculous amount of possession, it made United work all the harder to even try to get the ball back.
  • I wish I could play like Xavi.  That man has phenomenal vision.
  • United started the game strongly, forcing Barcelona into uncharacteristic bad passes and mistakes.  The Spanish side soon settled down and took over proceedings.  United got some fire back after Rooney’s equalizer, but the second half was all Barcelona.
  • Why, oh why would you give Lionel Messi any room to operate?  Even though Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand made some excellent last ditch tackles, Messi had all the space in the world to receive the ball and run at the defenders at pace.  One of the reasons he was able to score his goal was that neither Vidic or Evra closed him down.  I still can’t believe the best player in the world is only 23 years old.  Scary.
  • Even though Barcelona was clearly the better side, props to Manchester United for not giving up, especially after the third Barca goal.
  • United tried to play the same way they have all year, but they were unable to come up with a way to contain Barcelona.  Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs were outclassed in the midfield.  Antonio Valencia had a less than memorable outing and Chicarito was unable to take advantage of his speed up top.  Rooney played well, but couldn’t spark a miracle comeback.

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).

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.

2010 Players of the Year

31 Dec

It’s been a heck of a year in soccer and this is my first in a series of, um, two posts about the best of 2010.  This first post will focus on the year’s top players, while the second will highlight the year’s top/most memorable moments.  Without further ado, here are The Soccer Wall’s top four players of 2010 in no particular order.

1. Diego Forlan – Forlan led Uruguay to the World Cup semifinals, scoring five goals along the way.  He earned the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and fully deserved the award.  Uruguay would not have gotten very far without his vision and scoring ability.  In addition to Uruguay’s success, Forlan also played a major role in leading his club team, Atletico Madrid, to the Europa League title.  He scored the goal against Liverpool in the semifinals to send the Spanish side to the final and also scored both goals in the final against Fulham.

2. Xavi – Xavi is the maestro in the midfield for both club and country and clearly proved his worth in 2010.  Xavi helped lead Spain to its first-ever World Cup title and also was a key part of Barcelona’s La Liga winning side.  My pick for the FIFA Ballon D’Or award, Xavi’s passing and play-making abilities are second-to-none.  In the World Cup, he completed 81% (544 of 669) of his passes.  Xavi also completed over 50 more passes than the next player in the stats, teammate Sergio Busquets.

3. Wesley Sneijder – Sneijder had a heck of a year, but somehow was left off the shortlist for the Ballon D’Or .  He helped Inter Milan win the treble (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Champions League) and was a vital piece in leading the Netherlands to the World Cup final.  He was one of four players at the World Cup to score five goals, including both goals in an upset win over Brazil in the quarterfinals.  Sneijder was influential in Inter’s title wins, particularly coming up big in the Champions League semifinals and final.

4. Lionel Messi – The bottom line is that no one in football is as entertaining to watch as Lionel Messi.  The Argentine was La Liga’s leading scorer in the 2009-10 season with 34 goals and sits joint top on the same list this season with 17.  Messi played a vital role in Barcelona’s run to the La Liga title.  At the World Cup, Messi failed to find the back of the net, but he was still a very dangerous player and helped create space and opportunities for his teammates.

Ballon d’Or final three revealed

6 Dec

Well, someone from Barcelona is going to win the Ballon d’Or. The three finalists were revealed today and Barca players Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are the three standing after the initial shortlist was cut down from 23. All three of those players are deserving, but Wesley Sneijder got shafted. He deserved to be on the list too after the stellar season he had for Inter in winning the treble as well as his crucial role in getting the Netherlands to the World Cup final.

All three finalists are clearly excellent players, but my vote would have to go to Xavi. The lynchpin in the midfield, Xavi led Spain to its first-ever World Cup. Without him, Spain does not hoist that trophy. Xavi’s passing skills and ability to control the midfield are second-to-none. I wish I had that kind of vision. He helped lead Barcelona to the La Liga title and Champions League semifinals as well.

Check out his skills:

Thoughts and observations on Barcelona’s shellacking of Real

29 Nov

What was billed as a tough battle for first place in La Liga quickly turned into a 5-0 Barcelona rout.

  • Barcelona has so many weapons, it’s unfair. Can they please share one with Liverpool? Thanks.
  • Barca won the possession battle, 67%-33%.  Their  passing was sublime.  Even in crowded areas, they would be able to work it out of danger with a series of short, quick passes. Mesmerizing.  Real looked like they were content to sit back and let Barca pass the ball around and go for the counter attack. Problem is, they didn’t get many looks at that.
  • It didn’t take long for Real to get visibly frustrated.  After Barca’s two early goals, Real showed no spirit in trying to come back.  It’s rather surprising that no one ended up with a red card until the final seconds.
  • Even though Lionel Messi didn’t score, he was still an influential player for Barca. Cristiano Ronaldo? Not so much. Shoving Pep Guardiola was the most interesting thing he did all game.
  • Xavi and Iniesta are one hell of a pair in the midfield. They’ve got to be one of the best tandems of this generation.
  • Barcelona is a lot of fun to watch. They make everything look so effortless. I realize it was only one game, but it was against the other top team in the league and when you can dismantle a team like that, well, you might just be a phenomenal team.
  • It’s nice to see Jose Mourinho brought back down to earth. The man lives on his own planet and clearly thinks quite highly of himself. This was the first time a Mourinho-led team had ever given up five goals (impressive stat, btw).