Thursday, April 22, 2010

CA Banfield vs. Deportivo Cuenca

Nacional vs Monarcas Morelia

Mario Balotelli Fallout

The future is (or was) quite bright for Mario Balotelli, but immaturity and arrogance might make the young Italian, a bust.

The Italian U-21 superstar has had an ambiguous presence since moving into the Italian spotlight. His promotion and subsequent brillance in the Primavera U-20 at age 16 was able to catch the eye of the Inter chairman, Moratti. In his 1st two starts for Inter he scored consecutive brace's, with the latter brace coming against Juventus. Thus, the legend of Super Mario was born.

With the legend growing so did his head. Lack of work ethic both on and off the field would lead to less playing time for the talented kid. When the self-proclaimed Chosen One entered the fray, there was only so much room for two massive egos.

Already at the onset of the '09-10 season he was already on a tight leash, and was expected to pick up his effort. He never quite got the message, which Mourinho reiterated his laziness, "Nothing has changed, neither Balotelli's way of training nor his attitude."

Clearly, his gesture Tuesday after the triumphant victory over Barcelona was sending a message to Inter Milan. During excitement of a great victory, Balotelli promptly walked off the pitch hearing boo's and jeers from the crowd, in which he then slammed his jersey down in disgust. Good ol' Materazzi claimed to have a physical altercation with the teenager outside the locker room, according to ex- Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Balotelli's actions have sent a clear message to Inter, he wants out. Not only does he want out, but he might go to their cross town rivals, AC Milan. Mourinho believes in Super Mario's talent and skill set but he is not worried about any departure," His brother (and agent) has made it clear that Mario wants to go out on loan but I will wait until the end of the transfer window after which he will understand that he has to stay. Maybe then he will change his attitude and return to the first team fold."

Balotelli is young, arrogant, brash, and without discipline. It is unlikely that a coach will be able to control him on the field, however if a coach is able to have him focus on training, and let him loose on the pitch he might make for a spectacular young prospect.

I find it ironic that Balotelli would refuse to play for his native land, and choose to wait for his citizenship in Italy. Italian fans spew racist chants constantly and ensure him that he is not welcomed and certainly not an Italian. I believe its very possible the young, fragile mind of Balotelli has made him defensive towards any outside influence and thus a hard player to coach.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Watch the World Cup!

With less than eighty days till the World Cup 2010 in South Africa the anticipation builds to see how the nations will fare this time around. The World Cup can be quite an overwhelming experience, especially to a casual fan, however when you concentrate on the most exciting aspects of the World Cup, it becomes easy to follow. In 2006, there was 64 matches with an average of 93 million worldwide viewers per match, and over 1 billion viewers in the '06 Cup Final between Italy and France; Soccer is more than just a sport, its life. I have compiled a top 10 list in order to help consolidate your thoughts and expectations for World Cup 2010!

1) Messi. To call Lionel Andrés Messi the best player in the world would not him justice. A player of a life time, his mesmerizing skill and tantalizing footwork would make even the most reluctant American a fan of soccer. Messi's uncanny ability to dodge and weave the opposition's defense is certainly unmatched in today's soccer world. The MESSiah is unpredictable, yet sublime every time he takes a step on the pitch. Argentina's ability to compete in the 2010 World Cup rests solely on the back of little Lionel. If never intended on watching the World Cup, I would strongly recommend that you give Messi 15 minutes of your time, and he will make a fan out of you! Messi is coming off his best year in '09, in which he won the FIFA World Player of the Year, however he is having an even more remarkable season leading the Spanish La Liga with the most goals (25) and the most assists (10), compiling 8 goals in the last 3 games. The Messi show is a runaway train, there is no stopping him. Messi has been the runner-up to world players of the year for two years in a row prior to last year's unprecedented Barcelona run at 6 different trophies, that made him a shoe-in. The image of the small forward cutting in from the flank and slaloming through an impossible number of defenders on his way to goal is a truly remarkable display of talent. When the Argentinian has the ball at his feet there is an air of expectation and apprehension that no current footballers, and no amount of statistics, can invoke. Simply put, Messi is magic, brilliant, and nearly God-Like sent from the heavens: the MESSIah.

2) Ronaldo and Rooney. Now with David Beckham out of the World Cup after he sustained a torn Achilles during an AC Milan match, Cristiano Ronaldo holds the title as the biggest celebrity in this year's World Cup. Ronaldo stands out on the pitch with his elusive step-overs, blazing speed, and his remarkable dance-like maneuvers. There is no mistaking Ronaldo when he's on the pitch, hes style is impeccable, and he will surely stand out for a rather weak Portugal squad. It is no coincidence that he cost Real Madrid a record breaking 132M Euro to acquire his services from Manchester United. Easily one of the most popular players in the world, its easy to see how he can be such a fan favorite, not to mention the millions of women fans that have fallen in love with him over his young football career. On the other hand, there is an interesting contrast with Rooney, in which these two superstars share an interesting history together. Rooney is proclaimed the Wonder kid of English Football. He made his professional football debut with Everton at age 16, and transferred to his current club Manchester United at age 17. Rooney and Ronaldo have always shared the limelight with one another, however this season with Rooney as the #1 option he did not disappoint. With 32 goals in all competitions, Rooney is on a blistering tear. Rooney is the complete package, he has an unlimited supply of endurance with the ability to play any position across the front three. His compact and powerful built gives him an advantage over much of the competition. Over the course of this season he is showed the ability to finish as well produce in the air.

3) African Sleepers. Host teams always seem to fare well in the World Cup. South Korea co hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002, and South Korea was able to defeat top side Portugal to make the improbable move on to the second round. They then defeated soccer giants Italy, but they would end up losing to the 2002 World Cup winners, Brazil in the semis. So, which African team stands the best chance to make a run at the improbable? This year I give the nod to Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Ghana is full of talent who play professionally all over Europe, lead by Michael Essien of Chelsea and new comer Muntari from Inter Milan. A defensive-minded team, that will have to hold off Germany, Australia, and Serbia in order to move on to the quarter finals. Ghana was the runner up to African Cup of Nations in 2010 to Egypt, and I would not be surprised to see them in the Semi's. Ivory Coast however is the most talented African Nation. With players like Kalou, Drogba, Toure's, Eboue and Kone the Ivory Coast is not short on talent. One huge obstacle, same group as Portugal and Brazil. I believe that Portugal is rather weak this World Cup and seem vulnerable enough for the Ivory Coast to take advantage, if they will have any chance. Can the Ivory Coast harness their talent and ability to make it far in the World Cup? It will be exciting to see!

4) Excitement. As obvious as this sounds, there is nothing like the World Cup. The pride of each nation being represented on the world stage is quite the spectacle. The energetic and devout crowds cheering on their side in which the extraordinary noise level never seems to cease. The sounds of horns and whistles throughout the game, the national anthems sung as fans put their arms around one another as to say that this experience is much more than just a sport. The atmosphere, even through the TV screen, is contagious. Its the unexpected that will keep you bound to your seat.

5) Prospective Talent. For those soccer virgins, I understand its difficult to get excited about some new prospect from a 'minor' nation that will end up going to some big club in the summer, but with a keen eye this can be the most exciting part of the tournament. Frank Riberry certainly made a huge splash in Germany '06, and he now plays for the German giants Bayern Munich and carries a whopping 150 million euro price tag in order to pry him away from Bayern. Who will it be this year? Here are some general points to look for when evaluating talent.
Ultimately, you want to look for a player that is pushing the pace of the game, someone that is light on their toes and has the ability to score at any point; A player that is not hesitant about his skill set or ability, and has a fearless attitude. Any type of attributes that puts him head and shoulders above the rest, like speed, dribbling ability, and vision. Statistics are not going to show you necessarily which players are having their coming out party. HAVING THE MENTALITY OF A SOCCER FANATIC THAT VIEWS MORE THAN JUST THE SCOREBOARD BUT ALSO THE TALENT LEVEL, is when you will truly appreciate the value that soccer has to offer, especially the WC.

6) Spain. Coming off their impressive Euro '08 championship, Spain is the top team coming into this years World Cup. Passing through the qualifying stage flawlessly, basically a dream team of superstars will represent Spain this year. Starting with arguably the best goalie in the world, Saint Iker this team is stacked from top to bottom. With possibly the best central defense duo of any nation, Puyol and Pique will support a truly formidable defense. Andres Iniesta and possibly David Silva on the mid field flanks, and either Xavi, Fábregas, and Xabi Alonso will easily give England a run for best mid field players. The forwards will be anchored by two superstars Torres and Villa. Spain is sporting a hell of a team. I believe Brazil and Spain will steal the show this World Cup. Spain can easily put up 3 goals a game, and I would expect to see them in the finals. Spain's style is entertaining, you will not want to miss a minute of their games!

7) Potential Top Goal Scorers.In order to consolidate who will have the best chance of winning the Golden Boot Award I have compiled a list of players that will most likely be in the running (list in no particular order).

A) Lionel Messi, Argentina
B) David Villa, Spain
C) Drogba, Ivory Coast
D) Wayne Rooney, England
E) C. Ronaldo, Portugal
F) Luis Fabiano, Brazil
G) Fernando Torres, Spain
H) Carlos Tevez, Argentina
I) Arjen Robben, Netherlands
J) Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina
K) Diego Martín Forlán, Uruguay
L) Luis Suárez, Uruguay
M) Alexander Frei, Switzerland

I will outline these players in more depth in my upcoming blog on potential Golden Boot and Golden Ball winners.

8) Sleepers. By far my favorite aspect of the World Cup are the small nations that upset the bigger nations. Every World Cup has at least one. This keeps you on your toes anticipating the major upsets. Other than the hosts that I already outlined as possible sleeper teams, there are some other teams that are worth discussing, but of course the point of a sleeper team is that you don't foresee it happening!

1) Paraguay- They played outstanding in the qualifying stage, and they have a team of young and talented players that form a well-balanced team. Roque Santa Cruz, Salvador Cabañas, and José Salcedo are among three top talents that will shine in the World Cup 2010.
2) Chile- Came out of nowhere to claim the 2nd spot in the qualification round; they have the ability to not only upset a powerhouse nation, but possibly make it to the semi's! Very well coached, Chile has the structure and discipline to do some damage in 2010.

9) Brazil. One word, Samba. Brazil are always carries the class of the tournament, and expect them to be there in the long run. With the resurgence of Ronaldinho, I expect to see some real samba all over the pitch. Robinho I expect to hit the world stage with a bang, and watch out for Vagner Love or Nilmar at the Striker position to score a late winner here or there. Analyzing Brazil could take 1000's of words to give them any justice, therefore just mark your schedule to watch some really good entertainment.

10) Hooligans. How can you write about a World Cup and not include Hooligans. The constant singing, the abrasive heckling, and the quasi-riot that will occur at nearly every game is surely something to keep your eyes out for. Just make sure to keep in touch with the World Cup headlines, and I assure you, the hooligans will not disappoint!

Inter vs Barca

Sunday, April 18, 2010