Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Barcelona Continues To Dominate Real Madrid

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is determined to keep fighting on and take it to Barcelona despite his team being down 2-1 heading into their Spanish Copa del Rey second leg clash. Mourinho has tried all kinds of tactics, intimidation, dirty tactics, ref-baiting, but nothing has seemed to work. It seems as if Barcelona gets the better of Real Madrid every single time, no matter what the circumstances are. Athletically Real Madrid boasts some of the greatest footballers on the planet, with players such as Ronaldo, Kaka, and many others, while everyone knows about Barcelona's talent, having talents such as Lionel Messi, or Xavi, but from a technical standpoint it seems as if Barcelona has much more team chemistry, and much more flow to their attack than Barcelona. Perhaps, their talented players compliment each other better, or maybe Messi is really that good at making everyone else around that much better, whatever the case may be, it seems as if Real Madrid cannot beat Barcelona. Jose Mourinho insists his club is just as good, if not better than Barcelona, arguing that Barcelona gets the better treatment from the referees, and that Barcelona puts much more emphasis on their matches. However, all of these are excuses, and if Mourinho truly believes his club is better they better start showing it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Liverpool's Downfall

In a world that bombards us with constant media updates, blogs, streaming news, and a litany of memes, it’s hard to remember things that occurred a week ago, let alone a year. So it’s easy for forget the glory days of Liverpool, only about a decade ago, when they were the kings of English soccer.
It was in 2001 that Liverpool won the League Cup, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Cup, completing the elusive “Treble.” In 2004/05, Liverpool won the Champions League, and during that wonderful span of five years—maybe the only point in history—and even up until 2007, the city of Liverpool was perhaps more famous for its football club than the “Fab Five,” and instead of some Beatles hit, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was the only song locals cared about.
The Reds were known for their distinctively English style of play: rough, technical, and stingy. They tackled hard, were scrappy, and always left opponents with more than a few black and blue bruises to remember them by.
So what happened? Liverpool’s top four status was virtually assured until the team suddenly took a nose dive during the 2009/10 season. There are two theories to the club’s downfall.
The first theory is that poor ownership and financial mismanagement ruined the club. The American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks took over the club in 2007, and foreign ownership was the first sign that the club was already losing some of its signature English identity. To this day, many supporters blame American stewardship as the main reason for Liverpool’s demise.
But in 08/09, Liverpool actually had its highest point total in the Premier League (86), and just barely got edged out for the title by Manchester United (90). Much of the success was due to the stellar play of newcomer Fernando Torres, and suddenly, Liverpool looked like a team heading in the right direction.
But Liverpool’s tactics were slowly changing, and Torres exemplified the new fast-paced, aggressive, and progressive new look that strayed away from Liverpool’s traditional defensive, stingy, and tough English style of football. This new attacking mindset is the second theory of why the team has struggled.
Things quickly started to collapse The ownership changed, and Fenway Sports Group—a distinctly American Investment group, the same group that owns the Boston Red Sox—took over. Suddenly, the Reds were turning into the Red-White-and-Blues. To make matters even worse, Lebron James, who at the time was known as a cocky, arrogant, NBA loser, made a high-profile investment in the club.
Even before the Fenway group takeover, Liverpool looked like a team struggling to find its persona. Torres’ production slipped, he got injured, and Liverpool were dropping points and falling down the table.
In the 2009/10 season, the Reds ended up in 7th place (63 points), and after the 10/11 campaign they finished 6th but with 5 fewer points (58). Instead of shifting strategies, the new American owners continued to reinforce their offensive firepower, signing Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
This current season started out great, with Suarez seeming to score at will. Unfortunately, Suarez had a penchant for diving, and his “soft” style of playing seemed to infect the entire squad. Liverpool had come full circle. Once a tough English club that prided itself for being unbreakable, the club was suddenly flopping all over the field.
Then Suarez racially abused Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, and Liverpool’s reputation went from bad to worse. Not only did the club refuse to aggressively investigate the allegations, but they outwardly continued to support Suarez, even after the FA disciplinary committee issued a stern eight game ban.
The racism row turned into a media frenzy, and Liverpool’s front office blundered through the ordeal, refusing to publicly discipline Suarez, denied Evra’s claims, and even allowed fellow teammates to wear t-shirts supporting Suarez despite strong evidence that Suarez did use racist slogans. Somehow, Liverpool failed to comprehend the seriousness of the situation and continued to deny any wrongdoing. Instead of doing damage control, the team’s image took a major hit, and Suarez’s ban hurts their chances of making this year’s top four.
As it stands right now, Liverpool can no longer be considered a powerhouse team in the Premier League. In many ways, Manchester City’s ascension has reworked the top of the table and essentially kicked out Liverpool from being considered elite. The two Manchester sides, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal are now the “Big Clubs” of the Premier League, and it’s looking as if Liverpool’s current 7th spot might be their new long term spot within the league table not only for this season, but for years to come.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Remembering The Great Luis Figo of Portugal

Luis Figo was a charismatic player who played with a charm that was rarely seen in other players. There was something magnetic about the way Figo played, and the way he captured people's attention. Although, he was not the best, or most talented player ever, he could perhaps, hold the recognition of being the most magnetic. Figo's biggest contributions came to the Spanish League. He was one of the few players who played for both Barcelona, and Real Madrid, and was adored by both fans. Although, Luis Figo never achieved international success while playing for his native Portugal, he is still regarded as a national hero. He came at a time when Portugese football was probably in its heyday, with the likes of Rui Costa, and Joao Pinto, along with Luis Figo, unfortunately, never won any kind of international trophy. He did though, earn over 100 appearances for Portugal, and treated the world to some fantastic goals. Figo ended his career with Inter at the age of 36, leaving on a high note by winning his 4th consecutive Scudetto at Inter. In his playing career, he was named Portugese footballer of the year, an astonishing 6 straight times, and was named Fifa player of the year once. He also won 4 Spanish League titles, 2 with Barca, and 2 with Real Madrid, and a Champions League title with the latter club. Luis Figo was a charismatic talent, and remembering his presence alone brings back so many memories.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ballon d'Or Preview: Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi


Ronaldo is having a magnificent year, and he leads all goal scorers in La Liga with 20 (three more than Messi). Over the last few years, Ronaldo has routinely been considered second best to Messi simply because Barcelona had defeated Real in almost every competition, but the tables are slowly starting to turn, and with Real becoming increasingly competitive, Ronaldo’s stock has also risen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Looking Ahead To Euro 2012

Looking ahead to Euro 2012 there are many teams which have a decent shot of winning it all, but only three, so far have emerged as the frontrunners. Spain, Germany, and Netherlands have emerged as the early favorites to win it all. Looking first at Spain, winners of the last two major international tournaments, Euro 2008, and the 2010 World Cup, they go into Euro 2012 as the unquestioned odds on favorite to win it all. They had an excellent qualifying campaign, and have extreme depth and talent in all areas of the game. They are led by international superstars Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, and Sergio Ramos. And even though, David Villa recently broke his leg, Spain is still considered the favorite to win it all. Germany is the wildcard, because although, they have gained some steam in the last few years, and had a perfect qualifying campaign, it remains to be seen if they can be counted on. They are still relatively young, led by the dominant striker Miroslav Klose. Another team that has a chance to win it all is the Netherlands, if they can perhaps erase the stigma of their disgraceful performance in the 2010 World Cup final against Spain . Judging by their qualifying tournament which saw them score 37 goals in 10 games, it looks like they have erased that memory. However, the Netherlands are also a bit of a mystery. It is looking like more and more of a Spain repeat.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Football vs. Football: Differences in Fan Intrusions

In the realm of professional soccer games, there is a constant observance of the two sports, football and soccer. Seemingly, these two games repeatedly are seen as total opposites of each other. One played with feet, one with hands. One demands constant replays and call reviews, while one cherishes the controversial decisions in the heat of the moment. Both sports, to me, are very entertaining. Another difference that has appeared in recent weeks is how they deal with fan interference.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Should The LA Galaxy Sign David Beckham Again?

After months of speculation, it appears David Beckham will sign with the L.A. Galaxy and turn down a chance to play elsewhere. Beckham had a few options, such as returning home to England, and finishing his career in his backyard, or playing for Paris Saint-German, a club which wanted him badly. Unfortunately, it appears as he will re-sign with the Galaxy. Although, nothing has been officially announced yet, it appears he will re-sign with the Galaxy, because there are simply no other options for him. Beckham, 36 joined the Galaxy in 2007, after a stint in Real Madrid to a huge contract. The Galaxy signed him to a 5 year, 32.5 million dollar contract, and after 2 disappointing seasons, helped lead the club to two MLS cup appearances, highlighted by them winning the 2011 edition. He has also improved home and road attendance, helped improve Galaxy jersey sales, and slightly raised the value of MLS soccer. However, ultimately his presence in the U.S. has failed to live up to the massive expectations placed upon him. A part of that is the fact that Beckham is simply not a top level player anymore, which is why big clubs shied away from signing him. Although his marketing presence is still large globally, he is on-field performance is no longer on par with the top players. It remains to be seen how much Galaxy are looking to play him this time around, although it seems like it would be far less than the first time around. Either way, we will probably be seeing Beckham in a Galaxy shirt for a few more years.