Category Archives: SOCCER

James-Rodriguez

James Rodriguez Moving to Real Madrid For $112 Million

James Rodriguez had a breakout performance at the World Cup, scoring six goals while leading Colombia to the quarterfinals. Just about everyone appreciated the cut of his jib. Real Madrid came up with the cash to buy him, for about $112 million. Some are reporting the deal to be worth as much as $124 million. The 23-year-old’s move comes a year after AS Monaco bought him for a paltry $62 million.

This was not a need buy for Real Madrid. They already have Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Isco fighting for time at roughly the same position. It’s more of a political one. Barcelona and Real Madrid are owned by members. Club presidents have to run for reelection. After Barcelona bought Luis Suarez, Real had to retort.

Rodriguez has a promising three and a half years of club football to his credit. But he’s not an established superstar and he has never played in a top level league, much less dominated one.

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Brazil ’14 World Cup Recap: The Highs, the Low’s, and Everything Inbetween

Was that the greatest World Cup of our lifetimes? The answer, unequivocally, has to be yes. Now let’s be fair, and note that after a spectacular Group Stage unequaled in World Cup History, the cup petered out a bit as the tournament was left with the top 16 teams to advance out of their respective groups, and each pulled back a bit to play more conservatively knowing one wrong step would mean expulsion from the tournament. The knockout stages included only 4 games with 3 or more goals scored, 25%, while 6 of the 16 matches included zero goals in regulation or 37.5% of the matches, this underlines how cautious strategic decision making was down the stretch, and considering this, the fact that this cup tied the record for the most goals ever scored underlines just how unpredictable the group stage was. By cups end we would see 37 goals scored in the final 10 minutes+stoppage time of the 64 games, more than half featured fireworks in the closing minutes, in addition to that extra time was also hugely competitive in the knockout stage with 8 goals combined being scored in the 8 knockout round games (half of the knockouts) that required extra time to determine a victor. Perhaps most thrilling of all, there were 14 stoppage time goals in this tournament in 64 games, or one goal in the final 3-4 minutes of every 4.5th game. Incredible. Without question the most thrilling cup ever, particularly in the group stage. What were the other high’s and lows of Brazil 2014?

The Competitiveness: 

Unlike World Cup 2014 which featured several teams that imploded on the world stage and/or played horrifically from start to finish, only Cameroon and Honduras looked out of their depth in Brazil, and only 6 of the 32 sides in the tournament were knocked out after two matches, meaning fully 81% of the sides of the tournament were still alive and fighting for a knockout round down the stretch, only Cameroon, Spain, Australia, England, Honduras, and Bosnia were out after matchday 2.

Additionally there were only ten  uncompetitive matches in total throughout the world cup, a true rarity for the competition. The Knockout rounds, as previously mentioned went to extra time in half the matches, and were decided by 1 goal or less (penalties) in 12 of 16 matches (with one being the irrelevant third place match).

Before the tournament, many had felt this was the most competitive collection of 32 teams ever selected for a World Cup, and it’s hard to argue with that analysis after the tournament, with only 2 sides stinking up the tournament, and both were predicted to be amongst the three worst before the tournament actually started (Cameroon, and Honduras).  We can only hope Russia in 2018 is just as competitive, it’s hard to imagine it will be considering the difficulties sides from Asia, and Africa have when playing in major tournaments on the European continent (perhaps the Russia factor could help the AFC?).

The top 10 moments: 

10. The Farce: 

The tournament opens with a spectacularly poor decision from the ref in the Brazil-Croatia match that gifts Brazil a victory. This poor Brazilian performance foreshadowed the struggles Brazil would have throughout the tournament, and the ref help and luck they’d need to get as far as they did.

9. The Battle of Fortaleza:

Memo Ochoa  came into the tournament as a relatively unpopular choice to backstop Mexico. He’d been inconsistent at best at keeper and been surpassed by Jose Corona before the tournament, but a poor performance by Corona in a friendly in the spring cost Corona the job. Ochoa used this fortuitous opportunity to put on a clinic of stunning proportions, shutting out Cameroon, then showcasing in the Battle of Fortaleza where he managed to stop 8 shots on goal and made what many consider the save of the tournament off a Neymar snap header to the near post.

8. The Redemption of Colombia and the birth of James Rodriguez

Twenty years after the heartbreak of USA ’94, and the murder of Andres Escobar, Colombia returned to the World Cup for only the second time (they had performed poorly in 1998 as well), and already had been forced to endure the loss of superstar forward Radamel Falcao. Despite the loss of Falcao, Colombia entered the tournament bound and determined to do so in style, and samba’d their way past Greece in their opener, beat Ivory Coast in their round of 16 clinching second match, destroyed Japan in a group finale they didn’t need, and destroyed a Chupacabra-less Uruguay thanks to yet another wonder goal from James Rodriguez.

7. The Death of a Dream

Few noted it at the time, but when Ivory Coast gave up a crushing stoppage time penalty in their group stage finale against Greece, handing over a desperately desired first time ticket to the World Cup’s knockout rounds, it was the end of an era for African football. Ivory Coast had announced it’s presence with a Civil War defying World Cup qualification in 2005, and with a team featuring some of the best attacking and defensive talent in the world, it was expected that Ivory Coast would have a stunning, fairy tale run atop the stage in Africa in the ensuing decade but that wasn’t to be. Despite the wealth of talent (Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Wilfried Bony to name a few), Ivory Coast would fail to collect a single Cup of Nations trophy in five attempts, and would crash and burn in the group stage of three consecutive World Cup tournaments. While in 2014, failure wasn’t entirely a surprise as the team was aging, a failure to collect any hardware in Africa, or a knockout round advancement at the World Cup between 2006-2013 was less forgivable, especially considering Ghana had advanced out of groups of death in 2 out of 3 tries, and had consistently performed well at the Cup of Nations, even if they didn’t collect a single cup either.

It’s a tragedy for the worlds game that Ivory Coast couldn’t get past the defensive minded Portugal and Greek teams that ousted them in 2010 and 2014, as they almost certainly would have provided the world with quite a show, even in defeat, and certainly more entertainment than Portugal or Greece provided in their stultifying crash outs in the previous two world cups but at the end of the day, Ivory Coast has no one to blame but themselves. Ghana, Costa Rica, and the United States and Chile showed Ivory Coast exactly how to handle difficult draws in 2006, 2010 and 2014, in upsetting heavy favorites, but at the end of the day, Ivory Coast was never quite able to perform up to their talent level, and crashed out, just as they had begun their rise to power, disappointing the world with a feeble performance in the biggest tournament of their lives.

6. Costa Rica shocks the world, and then shocks them again, and again, again and again…

For those paying attention, I had predicted before the tournament that Costa Rica would shock the world. The difference, however, and it is a big one, is that I predicted they would shock the world in one match, possibly 2, not in five. Costa Rica had a strong history in the world cup in recent decades having played exceptionally well in 1990 and in 2002 (if not 2006), and they had a proven track record at the Copa America, having advanced to the knockouts in their 2 fully trained for participations (they were rushed in as a replacement for Japan in 2011 after the nuclear disaster, but that performance was a disaster), but I would never have predicted that they’d throttle Uruguay (admittedly a side without Suarez, largely toothless), dismantle Italy (totally dominant in a match where they were denied a clear penalty), snuff out England, beat Greece despite playing down a man, and force the best Dutch generation since the 1974-1978 sides to penalties.

Costa Rica’s core is quite young as well, particularly their very best players, and as a result, they should be back in Russia in four years time. Their performance will largely hinge on their ability to play in the tournament while fully healthy as they lack depth (a problem you can have with a population of only 3 million).

5. The Chupacabra strikes again

Honestly, I have no idea what to say about Luis Suarez’ attempt to drink the blood of noted scum bag Giorgio Chiellini, other than that his explanation is nearly as insane as the attack itself (to paraphrase ‘his shoulder attacked my defenseless mouth and teeth’).

4. USA, USA, USA

If you had told any US fan that five players would suffer severe hamstring injuries, that Altidore would be lost after just 20 minutes, that Aron Johannson would need ankle surgery, that Chris “Why did we take him over Landon Donovan and Terrence Boyd again” Wondolowski  would blow a key sitter, or that we’d give up a goal in the 94th minute of a match against Portugal, the the US would still come within one poorly timed slip of forcing penalties in the Round of 16 after having climbed out of the Group of Death I would have told you you were insane. But that’s just what happened, the US managed to pull off a last minute victory against Ghana despite multiple serious injuries, shocked Portugal (and then their crushed fans), nearly drew Germany despite being outplayed, and advanced to the knockouts pushing Belgium to the near breaking point in a spectacular Round of 16 match where Tim Howard set a goal keeping record. All done despite a mass of injuries, and this supposedly being a between generations side with too many players past their prime, and too many pre-prime.

4. Robben: Hero or SuperFlopper

After a tournament which featured double digit assaults on the poor anguished Arjen Robben, it’s difficult to tell whether his flop against Mexico was a heroic attempt to defeat Mexico, or a cowardly cheat of the once much maligned, but now darling of many American Soccer fans. Robben is a stunningly talented soccer player, and yes refs remain god awful, even at the elite level, but do you really have to throw your arms out, and how in agony like the famed “death of a Spaniard” soldier in that famed Robert Capa Spanish Civil War photo every freaking time your fouled, and even when you’re not fouled?

3. The Rise of the Rest of the world

Since 2002 we’ve seen a slowly evolving changing of the guard in soccer, and the performance of several sides in Brazil began to etch these changes into stone. Quite simply, the rest of the world is beginning to catch up with the perennial powers of Europe and South America, and while the true cream continues to remain Supreme w/the temporary exception crash outs (Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil and Argentina), it has become increasingly clear that the strength and power of once dormant regions in North, Central, and South America, Africa, and even the disappointing Asia has arrived or is clearly in the process of arriving. Mexico finished off it’s seventh consecutive successful trip out of group stage to firmly announce that if not a top side in the world, they were certainly one of the best fifteen or sixteen sides in the world, while the United States advanced to the knockouts for a third time in four trips, and played their 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th consecutive highly competitive matches (they haven’t been blown out since getting torn apart by the Czech’s in their World Cup 2006 opener), Costa Rica shocked the world, and South America, which has grown from a region that was largely Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and ‘everybody else,’ now had featured a fourth and fifth side that played elite soccer throughout the tournament in Chile, and Colombia who played superior soccer to Brazil and Argentina. Moving East you find Africa advancing two sides to the knockout rounds for the first time ever in surprise side Algeria (who I nailed as a surprise team), and Nigeria, who parlayed some poor ref decisions into a trip to the knockouts. In addition Ghana proved to be the only team in the entire tournament to outplay Germany (another prediction of mine), and Ivory Coast, if not successful, did have a solid tournament. Asia had a total debacle but considering that South Korea, and Australia entered the tournament in rebuild stage, it wasn’t terribly surprising. What was, for conservative soccer fans, was the second consecutive World Cup in which more than half of the European participants in the cup crashed out in the group stage. Considering that Europe consistently advanced at least 70-80% of their entrants virtually every single tournament until 2002, this proved once and for all that if the rest of the world hadn’t quite figured out how to play up to the level of Germany, or the Dutch, the rest of the world had more than figured out how to play with Italy, Spain, England, Croatia, Bosnia, Russia and Portugal. Europe is on notice, and to hold serve, Europe will need to continue to dominate and hold serve at home, something they’ve done consistently, but it looks like 2018 will be different, at least in terms of Mexico, the US, Ghana, Nigeria and Algeria.

2. Reborn Delayed

Perhaps the four true rising powers capable of shocking the world in Brazil and Russia include three sides that crashed out in the quarters, and one that crashed out in the Round of 16. In Europe, Chile and Colombia were two of the four most impressive sides in the entire tournament, both ended up crashing out to Brazil+Neymar, but both sides looked better, and more complete, as teams than Brazil, particularly Chile, and one can only imagine how much more Brazil would have struggled if they’d been without Neymar, as Colombia was without Falcao in their classico. In 2018 Colombia and Chile will feature stars entering and just beginning to exit their primes, if they can handle a cup held in the cold confines of Russia, they could shock the world.

In Europe France and Belgium, after disappointing their fans for the vast bulk of the past twelve years, announced their incipient arrival with successful group stage victories and trips to the knockout rounds after defeating Nigeria and the US in the round of 16. Both sides are exceptionally young, and aren’t quite ready to dominate the world stage, but you’d be hard pressed to find any sides in the world capable of beating either of them today not named Germany, Chile, Colombia or Messi. If you can get your hands on World Cup 2018 futures, laying some money down on France or Belgium or Colombia or Chile wouldn’t be so unwise, especially if you put a nice chunk on Germany first, as those are four of the eight most likely participants in the quarterfinals in four years time.

1. Germany: A dozen years in the making

Between World Cup 1998, and Euro 2004 Germany entered and exited it’s one and only decline since 1950. During this time period Germany’s results against European teams+the kings of CONMEBOL in major tournaments were like so:

1. Germany 2 Yugoslavia 2: Draw

2. Germany 0 Croatia 3: Loss

3. Germany 1 Romania 1: Draw

4. Germany 0 England 1: Loss

5. Germany 0 Portugal 3: Loss

6. Germany 1 Ireland 1: Draw

7. Germany 0 Brazil 2: Loss

8. Germany 1 Netherlands 1: Draw

9. Germany 0 Latvia 0: Draw

10. Germany 1 Czech Republic 2: Loss

A record of 0-5-5 in 10 matches.

Germany began the process of restructuring their development programs both on a club level, as well as at the international level based loosely on the French model that was so famed after their back to back victories at WC ’98 and Euro ’00, and then accelerated the program at the senior level when Klinsy took over in 2004. The results in these five tournaments (just one more tournament than their down period 1998-2004) speak for themselves: after earning zero wins, five losses, and five draws in ten matches against UEFA sides, and Brazil, Germany has 17 wins, 0 draws and 6 losses against Europe+Brazil+Argentina since it hosted World Cup 2006 in major tournaments. Incredible.

The scary part is that this German side is largely young, and their kids are just as impressive as their veterans, and having dominated the Champions League in recent years with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund repeatedly making runs to the semi-finals, and the Final, it’s hard to imagine their era of dominance is ready to come to an end, perhaps it is only just beginning.

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ESPN’s 2014 World Cup Version of One Shining Moment Will Give You Goosebumps [Video]

The 2014 World Cup is over, as Germany continues to celebrate its golden age. Either that’s a time to rejoice if you’re a soccer hater or time for sadness, if you love the month-long spectacle every four years.

ESPN signed off with its final World Cup broadcast until at least 2026 – at the earliest – with this terrific montage from the last month in Brazil that hits on just about everything noteworthy that happened during the 2014 World Cup. All things being equal, ESPN did a tremendous job over the last month, lifting the bar for both soccer fans and sports coverage in general. It will be missed four years from now when Fox takes the baton for Russia and then Qatar.

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Mario Götze Goal Wins 2014 World Cup For Gemany

Mario Götze scored in the 113th minute, with a beautiful control and finish. Germany won its fourth World Cup. Argentina had chances. But it’s hard to argue the best team in the match and the tournament did not win.

After 90 scoreless minutes of regular time failed to produce a winner, Gotze produced an impressive finish from Andre Schurrle’s cross to end Argentina’s stout resistance.

With the win, Germany became the first European side to win the World Cup in the Americas and pulled even with Italy for the second-most titles all-time, one behind Brazil’s record five. Die Mannschaft had not lifted the trophy since 1990, when West Germany defeated Argentina in the final.

Having finally won silverware following semi-final exits at Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup, Germany’s golden generation—led by young stars like Gotze, Schurrle, Neuer, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil—will now fancy themselves to gain further glory at Euro 2016 in France.

For Argentina and Lionel Messi, it’s a missed opportunity to match the 1986 title-winning side, led so famously by Diego Maradona. Widely hailed as the best player of his generation, Messi still has not won the World Cup, but he will likely have another chance in four years’ time in Russia.

 

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2014 World Cup Final: Germany Vs Argentina

With Brazil and Netherlands having broken their hearts in the semi-finals we are now left with only two contenders for World Cup Champion, the architects of classic and infamous back to back World Cup Finals in 1986, and 1990: Germany vs Argentina.

Much like the Argentina-Netherlands semi-final, it is quite reasonable to be concerned that this Final could prove to bet yet another stultifying match featuring Argentina. While Germany has thrilled in encounters against Portugal, Ghana, and Brazil, Argentina has bored most viewers to sleep with tediously defensive efforts while looking for some divine spark from Messi, who indeed found said spark against Bosnia, against Iran, and against the Swiss. With Angel Di Maria injured, and Sergio Aguero trying to find his form after having dealt with injury issues for six months, the Argentines simply have been unable to consistently produce quality in the attacking third in all of their matches, and take Messi out of the equation and it’s doubtful Argentina would have even emerged from the group stage at all.

What to Expect: 

Argentina will attempt to play a relatively high line again against Germany, attempting to kill the match through possession and the denial of the ball to the German side. They will defend in numbers to protect against the lethality of German counter-attacks, a strategy that was successful against the Dutch in the semi-finals, and the Dutch employ a somewhat similar brand of attacking soccer, and talent, as the Germans.

Germany will work to free up opportunities for a litany of attacking players, and hope to grab an early goal off a set piece/corner, or a well worked piece of Ozil magic (something largely missing from this Cup as Ozil has struggled a great deal) finished by Thomas Muller.

What the Viewers Want:

Germany to score first, and early. If Germany scores first it should open up the game substantially, particularly if they score early. Falling behind to Germany isn’t a catastrophic issue, as Germany’s back four has size, but is largely unathletic, and lacks top end pace, teams with technical and fast paced players can exploit these weaknesses as Ghana and Algeria showed over the past three weeks. In order to have a game worth watching, and not so cagey, we’ll need Argentina to have to fight back to get into the game, forcing themselves to open up themselves to German Counter-attacks as they attempt to search out an equalizer. This is how it could end up exciting.

If Germany can’t find an early goal, it will be a tactical game in which Germany seeks to blunt any ability of Messi to find the ball and possess it in a threatening position, while Argentina repeatedly marshall’s German attacks to the wings where they’re less threatening, and marks tightly in the box to shut down chances for aerial attempts on goal.

What to watch for: 

A game featuring many of the very best players in the world today. Several of Germany’s starters won, or won runner up status at the Champions League Final in 2013 or 2014 in Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Bastien Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, and Mats Hummels to name a few. Marco Reus would have been here if not for an injury suffered in a friendly a week before the opening of the tournament, and he is perhaps, Germany’s best, or second best player today, underlining just how lethal this side is.

On Argentina, you will have the opportunity to watch one of the best defensive midfielders in the world in Javier Mascherano, attempting to blunt German attacks, while Argentina’s attacking triumvirate of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, and the worlds greatest player, the diminutive Lionel Messi attempt to break down Germany’s sizable, but breakable defense.

Prediction:

Germany 2-1

If Germany scores first, I suspect the scoreline will be something of this nature, otherwise it could have the feel of a PK win, or a 1-0 Argentina win, however Germany is flat out a better side today, and only Lionel Messi’s talents house the potential for an Argentine victory to my mind, that or a defensive shut down of the German attack the likes of what they accomplished against the Netherlands last Wednesday. We shall see, but I am of the belief that Germany will pull this off. 2-1.

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Luis Suarez Leaving Liverpool for Barcelona

Luis Suarez is on his way from Liverpool to Barcelona, the English club confirmed Friday. The official transfer fee hasn’t been confirmed. Sky has it in the region of $125 million. All that needs to be finished is a medical examination, via the Guardian. Suarez will sign a five-year contract with the Spanish club.

The Reds confirmed the news with a statement on their official website:

Liverpool FC confirms that Luis Suarez will be leaving the club after a transfer agreement was reached with FC Barcelona. The player now has permission to complete the usual formalities, which will then conclude the transfer.

We would like to thank Luis for his contribution and the role he played in helping bring Champions League football back to Anfield.

Everyone at Liverpool Football Club wishes Luis and his family well for the future.

Suarez also released a statement via Liverpool’s website, expressing his reasons for leaving. Notably, he revealed the Reds did everything to try to convince him to stay:

It is with a heavy heart that I leave Liverpool for a new life and new challenges in Spain. Both me and my family have fallen in love with this club and with the city.

But most of all I have fallen in love with the incredible fans. You have always supported me and we, as a family, will never forget it, we will always be Liverpool supporters.

I hope you can all understand why I have made this decision. This club did all they could to get me to stay, but playing and living in Spain, where my wife’s family live, is a lifelong dream and ambition. I believe now the timing is right.

FIFA upheld Suarez’s four-month ban for his bite on Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup last month in Brazil. Suarez missed the start of the 2013-14 season with Liverpool for a bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in May 2013. Last season Suarez scored or assisted on 43 of Liverpool’s 101 league goals, helping the Reds to a second-place finish and a return to the Champions League.

At Barcelona it will be fascinating to watch how Suarez, once his ban is over, mixes with Lionel Messi and Neymar. That lineup sounds like something out of a video game, frankly.

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