Posts Tagged ‘Eto’o’

On December 23rd, after a little over six months at the helm, Rafa Benitez agreed to part ways with Inter Milan.  I’m not a fan of Inter but they did the right thing by getting rid of Benitez.  Inter is currently in seventh place in the standing, thirteen points behind leaders Milan, unacceptable.  That’s not reason enough to get rid of him.  He deserved to go because upon winning the FIFA Club World Cup he decided to give the owner an ultimatum.  He told Massimo Moratti that either the club back him with new signings or they should consider whether or not they wanted to keep him in charge.  Inter chose the latter and they decided that his services were no longer needed.

That didn't last long

Where does Benitez get off making these demands?  Did he not realize that this team has won the last four scudetti (the fifth one was handed to them)?  Did Benitez also forget that Inter just came off a season where they also won the Champions League and Coppa Italia?  Does this sound like a team that needs new signings?  Jose Mourinho was able to get this team to them top so why couldn’t Benitez make it work?  Hell, if Roberto Mancini can win a Scudetto, anyone can.  This team has five titles in the span of one year (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup) but the players weren’t good enough for Rafa Benitez.

Proof anyone can win a Scudetto

Inter has 34 player on the roster.  How do you not win with the likes of Julio Cesar, Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Wesley Sneijder, Sulley Muntari, Esteban Cambiasso, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev?  Throw in youngsters Jonathan Biabiany (France), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), and Davide Santon (Italy) and thats a pretty good team.  That’s only fifteen of the thirty-four players on this team.  Too bad Benitez had no use for Mario Balotelli (Manchester City) and Victor Obinna (West Ham), they could have really helped out this team.

Balotelli would've looked good in an Inter uniform....oh, wait

Who did he think he was going to sign?  I know the names of Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were being thrown around in the summer but why should Inter have to pay that much money to improve a team that has won so much in recent years?  Why couldn’t Rafa Benitez make do with what he had?

Sure, Rafa Benitez won a Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, an FA Cup in 2006, and two La Liga titles but what has he done lately?  That sounds harsh but in today’s game you have to win now.  Unless you’re Sir Alex  Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho, what you’ve done in the past doesn’t mean a thing now.  Benitez left Liverpool in ruins and wanted to change Inter in his own image.  Rafa Benitez might have been able to talk Gillett and Hicks into buying every player he wanted but Massimo Moratti doesn’t work that way.  You don’t tell Massimo Moratti what to do.  He does what he wants to do.  Benitez didn’t understand that and it cost him his job.

Massimo Moratti

Do you know who I am?

Where does Rafa Benitez go from here?  His name has enough cache that he’ll be in the running for some major jobs but teams will also be leery of giving him too much authority after seeing what he did with Liverpool and his actions at Inter.  There’s talk of Liverpool being interested in Benitez but that probably just talk.  No way the new owners of Liverpool hand the reins back to the guy who ruined it in the first place.  Roy Hodgson won’t make it through the season as the Liverpool coach but I seriously doubt we’ll ever see Benitez there again.  He’d be better off going back to La Liga and trying to find a team to wrestle the league away from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

I thank Inter for giving him a shot because AC Milan was able to take advantage of his poor showing and find its way atop Serie A.  Thanks for the memories Rafa, we hardly knew ya.

This was a long time ago Rafa

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Day fourteen is over and the reigning champions are going home and rightfully so.  More on that in a bit.  New Zealand proved they weren’t one of the worst teams in the World Cup and actually had a shot at advancing.  Japan proved me wrong and they’re moving on to round two while the Dutch continued to shine in a win over Cameroon.

I thought Italy would get lucky, like the always do, and go far in this tournament but I was so wrong.  It’s easy to get lucky when you have a talented team but this team was awful.  This has to be one of the worst Italian teams, on paper and on the pitch, in a long long time.  The first mistake Marcello Lippi made was bringing Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus, soon to be Al-Ahli Dubai) to South Africa.  Yes, he was the darling of 2006 but memories don’t win you games.  His career has been in decline since the final whistle blew in Germany four years ago.  It’s not a good sign when your oldest player is also your starting center back.  The rest of the defense wasn’t much better.  Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan) is a name everyone probably knows but his play wasn’t the greatest in Serie A this season.  No matter, Lippi coached him at Juventus so that has to count for something.  Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa) and Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), do those names scare you?  Weak!  Maybe I’m being biased but one of the AC Milan youngsters of Ignazio Abate or Luca Antonini would’ve looked good on this Italian team.  Hell, bring them both.  They’re defense was outstanding this season and they can make runs up the sides of the field.  That’s just me.

It's not 2006 anymore. What have you done for me lately?

The absence of Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) in the first two games was huge but they should have had someone to make up the difference.  Who?  You can’t tell me that Marco Boririello (AC Milan) wouldn’t have looked good up front for this team.  Instead, let’s bring Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) and watch him come up small in big games.

How much of a dent does this put in the legacy of Marcello Lippi?  He was riding high after taking the World Cup to Italy in 2006 but he has to be the goat for bringing this team to South Africa.  An Italian team can’t win one game in a group with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia?  Merda!

On to the games:

Slovakia – Italy (3-2)

Goals – Vittek (SVK) 25’ & 73’, Di Natale (ITA) 81’, Kopunek (SVK) 89’, Quagliarella (ITA) 90’+2

Italy knew a win would get them through and even a tie might be enough.  They did neither.  Both teams were even in time of possession but Slovakia looked a step faster.  Robert Vittek’s (Ankaragucu) first goal came on a defensive mistake and his second goal came when all the Italian defenders were standing around watching while Vittek was going to goal.  Italy brought it back to 2-1 at 81’ but Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava) scored before the end of regulation to condemn the Italians to taking the walk of shame back home where the media and fans will have lots of venom for them.

It was nice seeing Gannaro Gattuso (AC Milan) starting for this team.  It was odd because he wasn’t good enough to even play in the first two games and now he’s a starter.  My joy didn’t last long because he was substituted at 46’.  He was a monster and had so much heart/anger.  The rest of the team should have so much heart.  I’m surprised Zdenko Strba (Xanthi) continued after the clash he had with Gattuso.  It was an accident but Gattuso slid in and his cleats hit Strba’s knee and sliced it open.  It was pretty gruesome.  Strba was about five seconds from being replaced because of the cut but he jumped up as his replacement was walking to be introduced into the game.  Gattuso said he would retire from the national team after this World Cup and that’s too bad, for me.

You will be missed. Maybe not but Zdenko Strba but definitely by me.

Paraguay – New Zealand (0-0)

Paraguay only needed a tie to advance and that’s just what they did.  Not to say they didn’t try but they just couldn’t put the ball in the net.  New Zealands goalkeeper Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix) had a fantastic game.  Paraguay had the edge in time of possession, shots and shots on goal.  Actually, New Zealand didn’t really have an actual shot that Justo Villar (Valladolid) had to worry about saving.

I have to give props to New Zealand because they left this tournament with three points and not losing a game.  I truly believed they would get killed by Paraguay and Italy.  I thought Slovakia would beat them too.  Again, I was wrong.  New Zealand showed that they deserved to be here.

Denmark – Japan (1-3)

Goals – Honda (JPN) 17’, Endo (JPN) 30’, Tomasson (DEN) 81’, Okazaki (JPN) 87’

The winner goes through in this one and a tie favored Japan.  Who wanted it more?  Japan played better even though Denmark controlled the ball longer.  The goals from Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka) both came from set pieces outside of the Denmark area.  Honda and Endo put the ball directly in the net.  I think it’s the first time all tournament that there’s been a goal directly from a free kick.  Most times, players have been smashing the ball into the wall or launching it over the goal.  I’m surprised it took this long for a free kick to make a direct goal.  I think the ball still might have something to do with it.

So much for this being a down tournament for Japan.  They have played very well and their defense is pretty good.  Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Nagoya Grampus Eight) is everywhere in defense and probably deserves a look from a mid-tier club in Europe.  Denmark was my dark horse in the tournament but they couldn’t get it done against the Netherlands and Japan.  The absence of Simon Kjaer (Palermo) to suspension was huge because he was a big part of the defense.

Cameroon – Netherlands (1-2)

Goals – Van Persie (NED) 36’, Eto’o (CMR) 65’ penalty, Huntelaar (NED) 83’

Netherlands were playing for fun and Cameroon were playing for pride.  Fun wins.  Cameroon have to be disappointed to be leaving the World Cup without even garnering a single point.  Much to no one’s surprise, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen stepped down after the match.  Most likely he’ll take the Australia job and run them into the ground.

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) finally scored after threatening in the first two games.  Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) made an appearance and also scored but that won’t be enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup.  Oh yeah, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) entered the game at 73’ and looked good.  The injury looks to have cleared up and that doesn’t bode well for Slovakia in the next round.  The only question is, who gets dropped to make room for Robben?  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid)?

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (7), Mexico (4),  South Africa (4), France (1) – Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B:

Argentina (9), South Korea (4), Greece (3), Nigeria (1) – Argentina and South Korea advance

Group C:

USA (5), England (5),  Slovenia (4), Algeria (1) – USA and England advance

Group D:

Germany (6), Ghana (4), Australia (4), Serbia (3) – Germany and Ghana advance

Group E:

Netherlands (9), Japan (6), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands and Japan advance

Group F:

Paraguay (5), Slovakia (4), New Zealand (3), Italy (2) – Paraguay and Slovakia advance

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (4), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, North Korea eliminated

Group H

Chile (6), Spain (3), Switzerland (3),  Honduras (0)

Sorry I am a day late with this post.  Sunday was very busy for me and I didn’t get a chance to write down my thoughts on the day’s action.  I’ll try not to let it happen again.

Day nine came and went and we finally have a team advancing (Netherlands) and a team going home (Cameroon).  I can’t believe it took until Group E for someone to be sent packing.  Also, one of my picks to be top scorer in the tournament (Huntelaar) finally made an appearance.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Japan (1-0)

Goal – Sneijder (NED) 53’

Netherlands controlled this game from start to finish.  Some stout defending somehow kept Japan in this game until the final whistle.  This game really should’ve been 2-0 or 3-0.  The only goal came on a rocket of a shot by Wesley Sneijder (Inter).  I’m not joking when I say rocket.  I’m surprised Japan goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale), didn’t break his hands.

What a shot!!!

Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) finally made an appearance for the Netherlands, albeit for five minutes.  I picked Huntelaar to be among the top scorers in the tournament.  Not so much!  He’s not moving Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) out of the lineup and the emerging Eljero Elia (Hamburg SV) makes it unlikely that Huntelaar can make an impact in this World Cup.  Maybe since the Netherlands are assured a place in round 2, coach Bert Van Marwijk might sit Van Persie against Cameroon to keep him from getting a second yellow card in the tournament.

Ghana – Australia (1-1)

Goals – Holman (AUS) 11’, Gyan (GHA) 25’ penalty

Red Card – Kewell (AUS) 24’

I’d like to thank Australia for showing up for this game.  I didn’t know how they’d respond after the drubbing they took from Germany.  Australia played well from minute one, scored early and were able to just enough to hold off Ghana while being a man down for over sixty minutes.  Australia are still alive, just barely, but that’s more than I  thought after the Germany game.

Harry Kewell (Galatasaray) was furious that referee Roberto Rosetti gave him a red card.  How dare he?  Seriously Harry, how do you expect the referee not to give you a red card when you’re standing on the goal line and the only thing keeping Ghana from tying the game is your arm.  Rosetti had no choice.  I read Kewell was still angry after the match.  Next time don’t block a shot destined for goal with your arm.

If I had to choose the best player in the tournament right now it would be Asamoah Gyan (Rennes).  He’s scored two goals and has been a monster up front.  He’s done a lot of work.

Player of the tournament, so far

Why can’t Sulley Muntari (Inter) get more minutes?

Cameroon – Denmark (1-2)

Goals – Eto’o (CMR) 10’, Bendtner (DEN) 33’, Rommedahl (DEN) 61’

Cameroon played extremely well and probably deserved at least a point but Denmark spoiled the party.  With this result, Cameroon are eliminated and the Netherlands are in round two.

Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen finally came to his senses and put forward Samuel Eto’o (Inter) in the center of the field where he belongs and not on the right wing.  Eto’o scores early and we’re left to wonder why he was playing out-of-place against Japan?

Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) started up front alongside Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal) to give Denmark a little added punch and it paid off.  I was actually surprised that Bendtner started this game, thinking he had aggravated his leg injury in the last game.  He limped off after being substituted against the Netherlands.  Daniel Agger (Liverpool) played well and was named Man of the Match.  I hardly noticed him in the last game against the Dutch.  Simon Kjaer (Palermo) will miss the final game of the group, a crucial match against Japan.  The Danish defender picked up his second yellow of the tournament at 87’.  Stupid!

Thanks for showing up this time

Cameroon controlled possession, had more shots on goal but actual goals are what matter.  Cameroon is the most talented African team in the World Cup but they just couldn’t get it done.  They’ll go home later in the week and Le Guen will probably be fired, rightfully so.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (4),  France (1), South Africa (1)

Group B:

Argentina (6), South Korea (3), Greece (3), Nigeria (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (4), USA (2), England (2), Algeria (1)

Group D:

Ghana (4), Germany (3), Serbia (3), Australia (1)

Group E:

Netherlands (6), Japan (3), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands advance, Cameroon eliminated

Group F:

Paraguay (1), Italy (1), New Zealand (1), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (3), Ivory Coast (1), Portugal (1), North Korea (0)

Group H

Chile (3), Switzerland (3), Spain (0), Honduras (0)

Monday’s games were all entertaining but the trend of sloppy play continues.  I know not everyone is Argentina but why are so many passes and crosses being missed?  Is it the ball or are the players just a bit off.  Maybe a little bit of both.  The ball seems to just fly off the players’ feet.  I have a strange feeling that we won’t see a brilliant spot kick that just curls into the goal anytime soon.  The ball is not coming down like it usually does.

The Netherlands – Denmark game was the marquee matchup on the day but most fans had to see how the defending champs, Italy, would fare against Paraguay.  Netherlands – Denmark didn’t disappoint and Italy needs a little work.  In other news, Japan didn’t do much but managed to beat Cameroon.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Denmark (2-0)

Goals – Agger (DEN) 46’ og, Kuyt (NED) 85’

I was surprised the Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk decided to go 4-5-1 and leave Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) on the bench.  But hey, he’s the coach and he can do whatever he wants.  The first 20’ of this game went back and forth and it was a bit sloppy.  Denmark was the (slightly) better team in the first half even though the Netherlands had most of the possession in the half.  Danes Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal) at 27’, Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax) at 36’ and Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg) at 36’ all had quality shots on goal but were unable to get it in the net.

To start the second half, Dane Simon Poulsen (AZ Alkmaar) wanted to head away a cross out of the box but instead headed into the back of teammate Daniel Agger (Liverpool) which went into the Denmark goal.  1-0, just like that.  It looked bad.  Looks like Poulsen wanted to flick it away but it caught him by surprise and it hit off the side of his head.  Actually, this is probably the first and last time I really noticed Agger.  Not good.

Oops!!!

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) had a few chances for the Netherlands but he doesn’t like to shoot until the moment is just right.  Too bad the defenders moved when it was.  Van Persie is lucky he didn’t get his second yellow at 60’ when he kept playing and shot after the referee blew the whistle for offsides.  He blamed the vuvuzela’s but I think he’s just a punk.

A limping Bendtner was replaced at 61’ by Mikkel Beckmann (Randers).  Bendtner is coming off an injury and he didn’t look too good coming off.  Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV) came on for  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid) at 67’ and immediately caused trouble for the Danish defense.  Elia is fast and has tons of moves.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) closed the scoring at 85’ when Elias’ shot bounced off the post and right on to his foot.  Tap in.  Game over.

The Netherlands were miles better in the second half and Denmark never recovered from the own goal.  I expected Denmark to lose this game but they should do better against Japan and Cameroon.  Both these teams still go through.  Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) was on the bench nursing an injury to his leg.  I’m not sure when/if he’ll return.

Japan – Cameroon (1-0)

Goal – Honda (JPN) 39′

Japan is not the team it used to be and looking at their players it looked as if they’d be lucky to get a point.  Thanks Cameroon, you just made Japan’s World Cup.  I wonder if Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen (retread) has ever seen Samuel Eto’o (Inter) play before this game.  If he had, he would never have put him on the right wing let alone keep him there for the whole game.  Explain to me how one of the best goal scorers in the world isn’t playing in the center of the field and why is he crossing into the box instead of being on the end of those crosses?

This guy isn't a winger, he scores goals...lots of them

Cameroon controlled the play, had more time of possession, more corner kicks, and more than double the shots, and lost.  Why was Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F Marinos) on the bench when clearly he’s one of the best midfielders on this team?  Heck, let’s throw Asia in there as well.  After Japan scored in the first half they looked like they didn’t need or didn’t want to score again.  Whenever Cameroon had the ball, there were ten Japanese players behind it.

At 82′ Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg) had a nice shot that Cameroon keeper Hamidou Souleymanou (Kayserispor) had to work to save.  The rebound went to Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse) but his shot hit the post.  There’s been a lot of post shots this World Cup already.  At 85′ Stephane Mbia (Marseille) hit a rocket that beat the keeper but clanged off the post.  Unlucky.

Japan will be happy with the result because this might be the only one they get.  Cameroon will be wondering how they let this slip away.  They needed this because the Dutch and the Danes will be much harder to handle.

Italy – Paraguay (1-1)

Goals – Alcazar (PAR) 39′, De Rossi (ITA) 63′

Italy are the reigning World Cup champs but they started the game like any other Italian teams, slowly.  Paraguay literally had one shot on goal and made the most of it.  Paraguay was better in the first half but Italy remembered how to play in the second and had the South Americans on their heels for the last forty-five minutes.  The Italian lineup was not impressive and neither was their bench.  Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) was on the bench but injured so he wasn’t gonna see any action anyway.  This has to be one of the weakest Italian teams in a long time.

The game was very chippy with a lot of whistled.  Surprisingly, there weren’t many yellows.  The first 20’s were very sloppy but the pitch was wet so I’ll cut both teams a little slack.  Unsurprisingly, Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) was not a factor in this game.  He can’t play on the big stage, ask AC Milan fans.  I would go with Fabio Qauagliarella (Napoli) or Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) in the next game but that’s just me.

Don't expect too much from Gilardino in big games

Giorgio Chiellini’s (Juventus) stupid foul on Nelson Valdez (Borussia Dortmund) at 37′ led to Paraguay’s goal.  Antolin Alcaraz (Club Brugge) headed in the free kick and it was 1-0.  To make matters worse, Italy’s keeper, Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) injured his back in the first half and had to be replaced by Federico Marchetti (Cagliari) to start the second half.  Buffon says he’ll be back for the next game but we’ll see.

Italy dominated the second half and Paraguay was lucky they only scored one goal.  Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) replaced Claudio Marchiso (Juventus) and immediately brought a spark to this team.  I expect Camoranesi to start the next game.  At 63′ Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma) knocked in a  goal from a corner and the Italians were saved from embarrassment.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

South Africa (1), Mexico (1), Uruguay (1), France (1)

Group B:

South Korea (3), Argentina (3), Nigeria (0), Greece (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (3), USA (1), England (1), Algeria (0)

Group D:

Germany (3), Ghana (3), Serbia (0), Australia (0)

Group E:

Netherlands (3), Japan (3), Cameroon (0), Denmark (0)

Group F:

Paraguay (1), Italy (1), New Zealand and Slovakia have not played

The World Cup is finally here and I’m here to get you up to speed on what’s gonna happen in South Africa.  Remember to come back after every matchday to get my thoughts on what’s going on in the World Cup.

I don’t think there’s much excitement from the other contributors at Reverse Oreo Sports but my excitement level is at near Wrestlemania levels.  As I stated in my preview to this preview, I haven’t missed a minute of the World Cup since 1994.  I watched a ton of games between 1982 and 1990 but they didn’t always have every game on or I would have been all over them too.  I’m already planning my sleep schedule around these games because living in Korea means we’ll have games starting at 8:30 pm and the latest game starting at 3:30 am.

There are so many great players in this World Cup but it seems to me that there are not that many great teams.  Before writing this post I was all over England and germany doing well in the tournament but looking at the groups and the games more closely, I’ve had a change of heart.  I want England to win but I just don’t think they can.  Fabio Capello might be able to get more out of England than any other coach but it may not be enough.  Italy shouldn’t do well but somehow they’ll manage.  So many storylines and that’s what makes the World Cup so great.

World Cup 2010 in South Africa should be interesting.  The venue makes it even more interesting.  Will there be problems?  I hope not.  Africa deserved to finally host this prestigious tournament and South Africa was probably the best choice.  I’m sure there will be minor glitches but there always are, except at Germany 2006 because the Germans know how to get things done.

I grew up watching Italy because the family is from there so they will always be my team but this team is annoying the hell out of me.  For the past eight years this team has been so whiney and annoying that it’s been hard for me to root for them but I always do and always will.  I’m looking forward to the new generation of Italian stars.  Maybe they’ll be more tolerable than this one.

Let me drop some knowledge on you.

Group A (France, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay):

France

As we all know, France shouldn’t be in this World Cup but they are and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t make it out of this group.  They’re stacked but this team won’t go too far.  Hugo Lloris (Lyon) is one of the top keepers in the world so he should be solid.  On of my favorite players, Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), is on this team but the player to watch might be midfielder Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux).  He was with AC Milan for a bit but they let him loose (too soon).  Everyone wants him and he should be moving on to bigger and better things later this summer.

Mexico

My sleeper team in this World Cup is Mexico.  I have them making some noise in this tournament.  They’re a young team with a surprising amount of European based players.  It’s probably the most European based players Mexico has ever had going into any World Cup.  Giovani Dos Santos (Galatasaray) should be the star and he can make things happen.  I saw Mexico beat Italy last week in a friendly and Mexico just looked faster, quicker and had more energy than the Italians.

Giovani Dos Santos will make some noise

South Africa

South Africa are the hosts but that might be all they have going for them.  No host nation has ever failed to make it out of the first round.  This might be the year it happens.  Steven Pienaar (Everton) is the brightest star on this team but the rest of the squad is so-so.  There are sixteen South African League based players and I don’t think that’s a good thing.  Anyway, thanks for hosting.

Uruguay

I want to like Uruguay but they might not have enough to get themselves to the second round.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) and Luis Suarez (Ajax) should give teams fits but the midfield is where they might not stack up.  I hope Palermo’s Edinson Cavani gets a chance to show his stuff but most likely England is in his future.

Group winner:  Mexico

Runner-up:  France

Group B (Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece):

Argentina

How does a team as stacked as Argentina limp into the World Cup?  Somehow Diego Maradona is a big help and a huge hinderance to this team.  Hopefully he can keep it together through the tournament without hitting or shooting anyone.  The Inter duo of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso are huge omissions but let’s not forget that the greatest player in the world is on this team.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) should OWN this World Cup.  If he struggles, so does Argentina.  If Diego Milito (Inter) is his strike partner, they should be unstoppable.  Will Carlos Tevez (Man City, for now) get the nod over Milito?  Tough choices for El Pibe de Oro.  By the way, Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) and Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) are also forwards on this team.  That’s a nice problem to have.

The king of the (soccer) world

Nigeria

This team should do well but will they?  Playing on African soil doesn’t hurt.  Nigeria has a lot of good players but not great ones and that’s what will keep them down.  Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) is key for this team.

Korea Republic (the good one)

South Korea has a ton of talent but most of it is in the midfield.  Park Ji Sung (Manchester United), Lee Chung Yong (Bolton), and Kim Sung Yeung (Celtic) will control the game for the Reds but who’s gonna put the ball in the net?  Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) is on the big stage playing in France but he only had eight goals in twenty appearances in Ligue 1.  An aging Ahn Jung Hwan (Dalian Shide) is on this team but it may only be for sentimental purposes.  Lee Seung Yeoul (FC Seoul) probably be the player to pick up the slack.

Greece

Sure Greece won Euro 2004 but what have you done lately?  This team doesn’t scare me one bit.  Georgios Samaras (Celtic) and Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) are probably the best players on this team.  I would tell you about more players but I don’t want to type all those a’s, o’s, i’s, u’s, s’s and t’s.

Group winner:  Argentina

Runner-up:  South Korea

Group C (Algeria, England, Slovenia, USA):

Algeria

At first I thought this team was France II but, looking at their roster, I was wrong.  Algerian players are all over Europe, not just France.  They play in nine different European leagues.  Algeria was good enough to beat African powerhouses Egypt to make it to the World Cup but not good enough to make it out of the first round in South Africa.

England

This England team is very good but it will only go as far as their goalkeeping will take them and that’s the problem.  David James (Portsmouth) is shaky, Joe Hart (Birmingham City) is young and Robert Green (West Ham) is new.  If Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) continues his hot form, this team will be fun to watch.

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) is out but that’s not the biggest loss to this team, Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United) is.  Hargreaves was by far the best player for England in Germany 2006.  He could play anywhere and came up huge when the team needed him.  Sadly, he hasn’t played much in the last 19 months due to an injury.  Versatile players are gold to a team.

You will be missed Owen Hargreaves

Slovenia

This team usually does not play good defensively but Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble) will be their rock on defense and it should improve.  This is a very young team.  I don’t know why but this team will make some waves in this group.  I’m a sucker for teams that have players whose last names end in ic.  Maybe that’s why I also like Serbia in this tournament.  Samir Handanovic (Udinese) is a proven keeper in Serie A and that could be the difference between them finishing second or third.

USA

As much as I’m not a fan of USA Soccer, this team has talent.  Not just mediocre MLS talent but talent with real European experience.  I hope they’re not expecting too much from Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), seeing as how he missed the entire Serie A season due to an injury.  Plus, he just wasn’t that good when he was healthy anyway.  Is Jozy Altidore (Hull City) the answer?  He didn’t do much in England this year.  I’m sure the big fish in a small pond, Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) will get a lot of face time.  Whatever!

One of the reasons why I like the World Cup is because it’s the time every four years when the US pretends to care about soccer and vow to take it to the next level in the hearts of all Americans.  Not so much.  They forget that four years ago the level of interest was exactly the same, no more, no less.

Group winner:  England

Runner-up:  Slovenia

Group D (Australia, Germany, Ghana, Serbia):

Australia

Australia has a lot of players you may have heard of but none that really scare you.  Tim Cahill (Everton) is their biggest weapon but he’s struggling to be fit for the opener against Germany.  Don’t expect too much from this team.

Germany

Germany is a machine when it comes to big time competitions.  Michael Ballack (Chelsea) is out but I’m sure this team will be just fine.  Expect big things from Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne) and Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich).

Bastian will be Germany's BMOC

Ghana

Because of their quickness and pace, Ghana did a lot of damage in the 2006 World Cup but this team might not be as good as that one.  The loss of Michael Essien (Chelsea) is a big one.  Sulley Muntari (Inter) and Stephen Appiah (Bologna) will have to carry the load.  Another African team that won’t go far.

Serbia

Serbia, formally known as Serbia and Monetenegro, formally known as Yugoslavia, are very talented.  Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio). Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea), Dejan Stankovic (Inter) and Nikola Zigic (Valencia) are all big stars in Europe and they can get this team out of the first round.  The only problem I see is that they have a retread in Radomir Antic at the helm.

Group winner:  Germany

Runner-up:  Serbia

Group E (Cameroon, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands)

Cameroon

You never know which Cameroon team will show up to the big games.  This team is very young.  Even Samuel Eto’o (Inter)  is only 28 years old.  Cameroon might do better in another group but Denmark and the Netherlands are better.

Denmark

This team should have a pretty good defense with the likes of Christian Poulsen (Juventus), Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Simon Kjaer (Palermo) and Per Kroldrup (Fiorentina).  That’s formidable.  Forward Nicklas Bendtner (Liverpool) likes like he’ll be back from a groin injury in time for the opener.  Not too many people are talking up Denmark but this is a solid team.

Japan

Most likely a down tournament for Japan.  Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F Marinos) are the stars but there is little else to be excited about.  They were beaten at home 2-0 by South Korea in a friendly in late May.

Netherlands

This team is filled with talent but the injury to Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) casts a big shadow over the team.  He’s surely out of the opener with Denmark.  I think they might be able to do without him for the opening round of this weak group.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Nigel De Jong (Manchester City) can pick up the slack until round two.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) and Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) should be lethal up front.  Huntelaar is my pick to be among the top scorers in the tournament.

I can see this guy scoring a lot of goals

Group winner:  Netherlands

Runner-up:  Denmark

Group F (Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia)

Italy

How Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria) and Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo) didn’t make this team is beyond me but coach Lippi has his “guys” and who are we to change his mind?  There has to be a reason why Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) is on this team.  It just can’t be the fact that he plays for Juventus.

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) looks like he’ll be ready for the opener but he might still sit out just to be safe.  He suffered a groin injury in a friendly against Mexico last week.  He’s key.  This team is an older team and don’t expect them to repeat.  They’ll get lucky like they always do and go far but no more magic.

New Zealand

This team should be happy to be here.  If Australia stays in the Oceania region then the Kiwi’s are just watching this tournament on television.  New Zealand is probably one of the worst teams in the World Cup.  There are quite a few local players on this team and that’s not good (see South Africa).  Plus, there are two players who aren’t even attached to a league team anywhere.  How does that happen?  Not much to say.

Paraguay

Looks like a solid team and hopefully Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City) can knock off some the rust and make a difference for this team.  Paraguay likes to grind out games and they’re not big on scoring in the World Cup.  Let’s hope they can be more interesting this year.  They’re lucky to be in this weak group.

Slovakia

As far as I can tell, Marek Hamsik (Napoli) and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) are the best players on this team and everyone else is “good”.  Not good enough for this World Cup but this is a really young team.  Watch out for the Czech Republic’s less popular sister at Brazil 2014.

It's too soon for Hamsik but at Brazil 2014, watch out for Slovakia

Group winner:  Italy

Runner-up:  Paraguay

Group G (Brazil, Ivory Coast, Korea DPR, Portugal)

Brazil

No Ronaldinho, no problem.  Brazil is just Brazil.  They got younger and are just as good as ever.  Kaka (Real Madrid) is the key and it doesn’t matter who’s playing alongside him because they’re all good.  They’ll probably coast in the last game of round one because it won’t mean much.  Champs?

Ivory Coast

Before the tournament everyone tries to figure out which African team will go the furthest.  How about none of them?  They all don’t make it out of round one.  This is the best African team in the tournament but not the best African team out there.  Egypt would have done well had they been able to beat Algeria in the one-off game to get into the World Cup.  Too bad Didier Drogba (Chelsea) will be limited because of an elbow injury sustained during a friendly against Japan.  As Drogba goes, so does the team.

Korea DPR (the bad one)

Don’t know much about this team except that they only have three players who ply their trade abroad.  The rest of the players come from the PRK League and I have a feeling that league isn’t one of the strongest in Asia.  They had a ton of trouble with Nigeria in a friendly last week.  I’ll be surprised if they score a goal.  On a side note, I heard that the North Korea games will be shown in the DPRK only if they win.  Looks like North Koreans won’t get the chance to see World Cup soccer.

Win or don't come home

Portugal

If Portugal can take time away from diving to actually play good soccer, they will have no trouble in this group.  The Brazil-Portugal match-up will be one of the marquee games of this tournament.  Too bad it’s the last game in the group and won’t mean much.  Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) will own the center of the midfield and Nani (Manchester United) should be causing trouble over on the right side.  Defensively they’re solid.

Group winner:  Brazil

Runner-up:  Portugal

Group H (Chile, Honduras, Spain, Switzerland)

Chile

Chile will make it out of this group because they’re better than Honduras and Switzerland but not much further than that.  Mark Gonzalez (CSKA Moscow) and Humberto Suazo (Zaragoza) will team up at forward and should be able to punish everyone except Spain.

Mark Gonzalez should be enough to get Chile over

Honduras

Honduras has some quality players.  Wilson Palacios (Tottenham), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), David Suazo (Genoa), and Victor Bernardez (Anderlecht) have made it in Europe but I’m not sold on the rest.

Spain

Remember when Spain was supposed to go into World Cups and European Cups and be great, only to fade early?  I do.  Am I supposed to forget about that since they won Euro 2008?  Looking at this team, maybe I can.  Will Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal, for now) be fit?  That’s huge.  David Villa (Barcelona) and Fernando Torres (Liverpool) should score lots of goals.  This team goes far.

Switzerland

Switzerland has a collection of good but not great players.  No one really excites me enough to choose Switzerland over Chile.

Group winner:  Spain

Runner-up:  Chile

Round 2 (Round of 16):

1A v 2B – Mexico v Korea – Winner:  Mexico

1C v 2D – England v Serbia – Winner:  England

1D v 2C – Germany v Slovenia – Winner:  Germany

1B v 2A – Argentina v France – Winner:  Argentina

1E v 2F – Netherlands v Paraguay – Winner:  Netherlands

1G v 2H – Brazil v Chile – Winner:  Brazil

1F v 2E – Italy v Denmark – Winner:  Italy

1H v 2G – Spain v Portugal – Winner:  Spain

Quarterfinal:

Netherlands v Brazil – Winner:  Brazil

Mexico v England – Winner:  England

Argentina v Germany – Winner:  Germany

Italy v Spain – Winner:  Spain

Semifinal:

England v Brazil – Winner:  Brazil

Brazil will be too fast for England.

Germany v Spain – Winner:  Spain

Germany will want to try and slow this game down but they might not be able to stop Spain

Final

Brazil v Spain

If this final happens it will be one of the best finals ever.

Champion

Brazil

This team is just too stacked to not win the World Cup.

Top Scorers:

Lionel Messi

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

David Villa

World Cup MVP:

Kaka

I didn’t mention them but I hope the referees don’t ruin this World Cup.  Be consistent and don’t try to be an important part of the game.  If you go through a game without noticing the referee, that’s a good referee.  Unfortunately, Olegario Benquerenca of Portugal is one of the referees in the tournament.  I mentioned him in February and said he shouldn’t get another big game after his performance in the AC Milan – Manchester United Champions League, round of 16, first leg match.  Somehow, he’s in South Africa.  Roberto Rosetti of Italy is also in the World Cup.  Why?  Is this the best Italy can produce?

Enjoy the World Cup.  I know I will.

Looks like the trophy will be headed to Brazil. Hopefully no one steals it, again

Yesterday, one of The Blasian’s (remember him?) favorite teams, Inter Milan took on Chelsea at Giuseppe Meazza in the Champions League Round of 16 clash.  Inter won 2-1 and look good, not great, going into the return match in three weeks time.  Before I go into the actual game let me tell you about these two teams.

Last week my favorite team, AC Milan took on a team I really, really like, Manchester United.  Inter and Chelsea are the opposite of that.  They both make my Top 5 most hated soccer/football/futbol/calcio teams.  Both teams are probably tied for third on that list.  Let’s take a quick look at what that list look likes:

Top 5 Most Hated Soccer Teams
1.  Juventus (Italy)
2.  Manchester City (England)
T3. Inter Milan (Italy)
T3. Chelsea (England)
5.  Roma (Italy)

Even though Inter and Chelsea are on this list I have to admit that I do like some of the players on these teams whereas I hate everything about Juventus and Man City.  Juventus and Man City have no redeeming qualities and there is not one player, coach or member of management I like on either of those teams.

Sure Inter has won a few scudettos lately they but they haven’t won the Champion’s League/European Cup in my lifetime and this makes me very happy.  The Blaisian (who dat?) can say whatever he wants about Inter but you can have all the league championships you want but you’re nothing until you win in Europe.  Plus, don’t think winning one puts you in the same sentence as AC Milan.  Same goes for you Chelsea.  Try to win in Europe before you think you’re on par with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

I’m sad that AC Milan or Manchester United will be out after the Round of 16 but at the same time seeing Inter or Chelsea out makes it a little better.  The one thing that scares me is that Inter or Chelsea will go through to the final and beat AC Milan or Manchester United. That would be my ultimate nightmare.  Although, if it were reversed and AC Milan or Manchester United beat one of those two teams it would make winning the title even sweeter.  AC Milan has one quite a few Champions League/European Cup titles but the one I savor and remember the most is when we beat Juventus in the 2003 final in Manchester.  It was like winning two titles at once.  The Blasian (where are you?) would be unbearable if Inter won the Champions League.

The game:

To be honest, this game wasn’t that exciting.  I thought Chelsea worked hard and deserved better.  I wonder what the referee was thinking on the play where Kalou got taken down right in front of the goal?  Eto’o was disappointing.  Ivanovic (Chelsea) and Sneijder (Inter) had great games for their respective teams.  Maybe the game played too much like a chess match because both coaches knew the other team as well as anyone.  Chelsea better hope that Cech is able to play in the return because Hilario looks terrible.  The guy looked frightened when he came in to the game and can’t execute a goal kick to save his life.

Inter will go into Stamford Bridge with a slight advantage.  That away goal by Chelsea is big.  Chelsea can go through with a 1-0 win but if Inter scores then Chelsea will need to win by two.  Even though I hate both teams, I would love to see Inter crash out first.  Not just because The Blasian (I think he still writes for this blog) likes them but because they are and always will be second class citizens in Milan.

I don’t know if I should say this but I don’t like Mario Balotelli.  Please Blasian (come back soon), don’t rip me because he’s your guy.  It has nothing to do about his skin color.  I have no idea why the Italian fans have a problem with his ethnicity because on the field he’s all Italian.  What does that mean?  He’s such a whiner and goes down in a heap with minimal contact.  How has he not played for Italy yet?  He’d fit right in.

Italy, don't boo Super Mario because he's black, boo him because he dives and whines

Now that all of the games in the first leg are complete, lets take a quick look at the other games and what might happen in the return.

AC Milan – Manchester United (2-3), Manchester go home looking real good.  Three away goals are huge and I have trouble believing that Milan can score two, let alone win by two.  Then again, if Ferguson decides to play Neville on the right then Milan could probably do whatever they want (see Everton).

Bayern Munich – Fiorentina (2-1), Bayern got the benefit of a non-call from the referee and the linesman.  Klose was offsides not once, but twice on the play.  Sure, Fiorentina got an away goal but I think Bayern will find a way to get this done.  Don’t forget that Bayern went to Torino and beat Juventus 4-1 to knock them out of the tournament.

Lyon – Real Madrid (1-0), Lyon shocked Madrid but an ever healthier Ronaldo should make the difference at the Bernabeu.  I can’t muster up any excitement for Lyon because Jean-Alain Boumsong is one of their defenders.  Rangers, Newcastle and Juventus fans know what I’m talking about.

CSKA Moscow – Sevilla (1-1), a good showing by Sevilla in frigid Moscow puts them in the driver’s seat going back to Sanchez Pizjuan.

Stuttgart – Barcelona (1-1), the defending champs were frustrated by the German side and the return should be interesting.  Don’t put Barcelona in the next round quite yet but playing at the Camp Nou should help.

Porto – Arsenal (2-1), Arsenal looked terrible in this one.  Who knew that Almunia, as bad as he can be, is the best Arsenal can do in goal?  That being said, Arsenal rights the ship and advances at the Emirates.

Olympiakos – Bordeaux (0-1), the French leaders look good going back home.  Bordeaux have lost only once at home this season in Ligue 1

This Sunday the Inter – AC Milan Derby will take place.  It’s week two of return matches and both teams are fighting for the top spot in Serie A.  The first meeting of the season was won by Inter 4-0.  AC Milan was the “home” team that day.  Inter was clearly the better team that day.  They started the season like a machine and that’s why they’re still top of the table.  AC Milan was still trying to find it’s identity and had struggled through the preseason.  Now, Leonardo’s boys are red hot and, with a reborn Ronaldinho, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the league. 

Gattuso will be on the case. Watch your ankles Inter.

Both lineups will see some pretty big changes from the first meeting.  AC Milan will have six changes while Inter will have six changes.  The changes for AC Milan will see a returning, vintage Dida and Beckham back for his second stint in Milan.  Youngsters like Abate and Antonini have shown great form for AC Milan and I don’t miss Oddo or Jankulovski.  These kids are going to be great one day.  Sure Pato is out but that’s not the biggest loss for Milan, it’s Nesta.  Yes, that Nesta.  I am a huge AC Milan fan but I have not liked Nesta since he’s gotten there.  He’s either been hurt or really bad.  Lately, he’s been classic Nesta.  The Nesta that was at Lazio.  

Inter’s biggest loss will be Eto’o, who is playing in the African Nations Cup.  Cameroon just qualified for the second round.  Mourinho is probably pissed.  Recently aquired Pandev will take the place of Eto’o.  Why did Lazio let this guy go?  They’ll regret it.  You don’t think Lazio, who is just above relegation, could use a guy like Pandev?

August 23, 2009 

AC Milan – Storari, Zambrotta, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Jankulovski, Gattuso, Pirlo, Flamini, Ronaldinho, Borriello, Pato 

Inter – Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu, Zanetti, Stankovic, Motta, Sneijder, Milito, Eto’o 

Probable Lineups – January 24, 2010 

Inter – Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Santon, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Sneijder, Milito, Balotelli, Pandev 

AC Milan – Dida, Abate, Kaladze, Thiago Silva, Antonini, Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Beckham, Ronaldinho, Borriello 

  

This game has a tie written all over it but I hope not.  Both teams are one and two in scoring and tied for first in defense.  AC Milan needs this game.  If they can win this game, they would be three points behind with one game to make up.  Beckham needs to do something in this game.  I saw him last week and he didn’t really add anything.  He was hardly going forward.  He nearly always passed backwards or sideways.  I know AC Milan has Antonini making runs up the right side but why not use Beckham?  

Ronaldinho will be the key to this game.  He’s found his touch.  Looks like someone wants to go to the World Cup in South Africa.  He’s running, passing and driving defenders crazy.  This is the Ronaldinho that was lighting it up for Barcelona.  We could’ve used him last year but at least he’s turned it around.  Remember Rivaldo?  That guy just couldn’t get it done and now he’s in Uzbekistan playing for Bunyodkor.  I saw Rivaldo play against the Pohang Steelers (K-League) in the Asian Champions League and he still looked like he didn’t care. What a waste. 

How's things in Uzbekistan?

Forza Milan!!!