Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Sad Demise of Russia in Euro Cup 2012

    When many fans, experts, and journalists looked at Group A of the Euro 2012 tournament which included, Greece, Czech Republic, and Poland, they were quick to appoint Russia as the class of that group. Unfortunately, as we all found out, Russia's old demons resurfaced to the front. Unlike, years past there was actually some optimism heading into the tournament, not only because Russia had a new coach, Dick Advocaat, but also because this team was looked as an actual contender, according to some. Unfortunately, Russia did make it past the group stages, losing the final match to a pedestrian Greece team 1-0. It wasn't the fact that Russia had bowed out of the tournament, but it was the way they lost. They simply showed no heart, or the desire needed to win. They had an air of cockiness, and childish behavior that left a bitter taste in the hearts of many die-hard fans, and former players even. A prime example, was how right after their loss to Greece, and subsequent exit from the tournament many players simply left through the tunnel, rather than staying on the field, and thanking their many for their support. Now the questions begin with many asking what went wrong? Most point the finger at Advocaat. The attacks are not only aimed at his tactical decisions, but also his decision to which players to include, and more importantly not include on the final squad for the tournament. Some players from the 2008 Euro team that reached the semi-finals were not included, and that drew major criticism. However, perhaps the biggest criticism of Advocaat was his strange attitude that he displayed after the exit, when he said that he was pretty happy with his team's performance, and that he was satisfied with his work. Unfortunately, many others were not. Either way, Advocaat is out, as he has signed a one year deal to coach PSV Eindhoven in his native Netherlands. Let's just hope Russia can get it's hopes going in the right direction with the World Cup in 2018 on the horizon.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Who was the better Brazilian scorer? Ronaldo or Romario

When remembering Brazilian soccer legends, there are many names that come to mind, but perhaps the most memorable, of recent times, with all due respect to other greats such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Romario are the ones that people remember most. Maybe it's the fact that both Romario and Ronaldo transcended the sport with their play, or the fact that each won a world cup with Brazil in their primes. Whatever it is, both Romario and Ronaldo will forever be remembered to fans of the sport, but what makes them special is that casual fans, who don't really follow the sport as much will also remember them.  The question is who was the better player? Who brought more to the table? Who accomplished more on the international stage? This question is very hard to answer, but let's take a look. Let's start with Romario, since he came first. Romario was superb, he almost single-handedly saved Brazil from the embarrassment of being left out of the 1994 World Cup during the qualifying stages in South America, and then went on to lead the team to the ultimate glory by winning the tournament in the United States. An extremely cerebral player, Romario was the master inside the penalty box. He was one of the first of the "Wayne Rooney types," in that he was great at being able to go around three or four defenders and mysteriously find a way to score. During the 1990-1994 stretch run, Romario and Roberto Baggio squared off against who was the better player, and the thing that sealed Romario as the better player was probably his run during the 1994 World Cup. Romario was probably considered graceful, precise, and really an artist of his craft. He always looked like he wasn't trying, in fact he'd barely run or move that fast at all, but he was extremely crafty and he always found a way to move around defenders. He had a magnetic ability to make the ball come to him, effortlessly. Baggio, Hristo Stoichkov, and Zidane are players that come to mind that had a similar cerebral-like quality that Romario also possessed. Ronaldo was probably the exact opposite, he came forward, and came with aggression. He redefined the center-forward position, by combining muscle-power with a gentle grace in a balanced attack. Ronaldo was probably more in the Cristiano Ronaldo mold, an attacking player that has the ability combine both power with beauty. Ronaldo changed the game, because before him there was never a player that moved in such a way. That style of play of doing crossovers and stepovers was invented by Ronaldo. Unlike Romario, who waited for the ball in the penalty box, Ronaldo would simply take it all himself, dribbling past opponents, and either making a fancy move to score or make an assist. Ronaldo won three World Player of the Year awards, two World Cup victories, and perhaps could of had a third in 1998, and is the top World Cup goalscorer of all time, so just basing it by the facts, it appears Ronaldo is the winner. Looking further, Ronaldo truly changed the game with not only his play, but his personality, as well. Ronaldo played every game it seemed like it was a pick-up game.

USA Crashes Back to Earth in Brazil Beating

People were beginning to presume that the USA Men’s National soccer team was turning a corner.  After a 1-0 victory over world-power Italy in February and a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland earlier this week, things were looking extremely bright for the usually average USA team.  But then they played Brazil and reality sunk in. 
In the early moments of the match, the commentators began discussing the possibility that USA was finally emerging on the world stage as serious contenders and that a victory would further cement the claim.  Seemingly the whole team listened in, or at least was thinking such thoughts as USA looked overly confident heading into the match.
Instead of a coming out party, the friendly turned into a pathetic beating.  Brazil’s lineup featuring true world class stars like Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Hulk, and Neymar played a fair amount of “Yoga Bonita” and easily defeated America 4-1. 
The first goal was slightly unfortunate as an Oguchi Onyewu handball gave the Brazilians a penalty kick.  It was a harsh call as the ball was kicked straight into the defender’s arm, but his arm was slightly out and could possibly have blocked a goal.  With the goal, America caved in fear.  Brazil never gave them much of the ball and then added a second off of a horribly defended corner kick to double the lead. 
There were some bright spots for the American team, however.  Michael Bradley played a smart pass that led to a Hercules Gomez goal on the stroke of half time to incite hopes of a comeback.  For the early phases of the second half, the team played well and may have equalized.
But Jurgen Klinsman said it himself during an interview as the players came out for the second half.  If Brazil scored early in the second half, that momentum would disappear, and that is exactly what happened.  The third goal was trademark Brazilian skill when America had pushed too far up the field and sealed the deal.
Clint Dempsey was brought on as a late substitute and America actually looked a much more dangerous side.  He is clearly our best player and provided that crucial link between defense and forwards.  His efforts produced a few good chances but the USA was unlucky not to score.  When Pato added the fourth for Brazil right at then end, it just stung even more.
So where does America go from here?  Well, now is actually the real test.  The matches against Brazil, Italy, and Scotland were all friendlies and thus meaningless.  There will be another friendly against Canada where hopefully they can restore some pride, and then are two all important 2014 World Cup qualifying matches, first against Antigua and Barbuda and followed by Guatemala.  America will be looking to get their winning mentality back for those two matches in order to qualify for the World Cup where we can be beat again by another great team.