Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Confederations Cup 2013: Team Guide (Group A)

The Confederations Cup will kick-off with hosts Brazil taking on 2011 Asian Cup winners, Japan. The tournament will run for just over two weeks, concluding at the world-famous Maracana on June 30th.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Confederations Cup, it is a warm-up tournament for the World Cup effectively. The winners of various continental tournaments will take part. The eight sides participating in it are Brazil (hosts), Spain (2010 World Cup & Euro 2012 winner), Mexico (Gold Cup winner), Japan (Asian Cup winner), Tahiti (OFC Nations Cup winner), Uruguay (2011 Copa America winner), Nigeria (African Cup of Nations winner) and Italy (Euro 2012 runners-up).

 

Brazil

FIFA world ranking: 22nd

Manager: Felipe Scolari

Host nation Brazil will be aiming to win their third consecutive Confederations Cup after triumphs in 2005 & 2009. However, the lack of competitive games will hurt the team. “Spain are way ahead…the fact that we’re only playing friendlies doesn’t help” admits Lucas Moura. Despite falling down the world rankings – now at an all-time low position – Brazil will be hoping to put on a display for their fanatic supporters and the watching world.

Is Neymar set to shine at the Confederations Cup?

Key players:

While a majority of football fans around the world are familiar with Neymar, he is yet to justify the hype surrounding him on a ‘major stage’, or so they claim. At 21 years old, he has already found the back of the net a total of 20 times in 33 appearances for his country. However, a majority of the goals scored were against below par opponents in international friendlies. The Confederations Cup is the perfect stage for Neymar to silence the doubters before playing his football in Europe for Barcelona after the €57 million euro deal.

Arguably one of the worlds best defenders, Thiago Silva is a key figure in the Brazilian team. After a frustrating start to the season with PSG due to niggling injuries, he recovered well to help the star-studded French outfit lift the league title for the first time since 1994. At the age of 28, Silva is one of the more experienced players that features in the Brazil side. It will be down to him to organise the back line to ensure they do not leak any unnecessary goals.

Japan

FIFA world ranking: 32nd

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni

Japan became the first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. The Confederations Cup will offer a real test for the Asian side who will most definitely welcome the challenge. Former Milan, Inter and Lazio coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, has failed to find a clinical finisher for the national team which has led to a reliance on the talented midfield. A total of 14 of the Japanese squad play their football in Europe, a majority of which are contracted to German clubs so they are used to playing at a top-level. If the manager can finally strike a balance between attack and defence then Japan could cause an upset or two this month.

Key players:

Shinji Kagawa is possibly the most famous name on the team sheet. He is also the most creative player in the Japanese squad, who has the ability to stretch the opposition and leave defenders falling out of position. His first season in the Premier League was shortened with an injury but he still managed to score six goals in 20 games for the league champions. He will be out to impress new United manager, David Moyes with a string of good performances at the Confederations Cup.

Can Japan upset the odds?

Another player that will cause opposition problems, is midfielder Keisuke Honda.  The attacking midfielder caught the eyes of many with his performances for Japan at the 2010 World Cup, where they were narrowly defeated by Paraguay in the last 16. Considered a deal ball specialist who can slot into a second striker position if need be.  Honda will be a threat to opposing goalkeepers if granted the opportunity. He is out of contract at the end of the season, so there will be plenty of clubs keeping an eye on him.

The beautiful game no more, as modern football has sold its soul.

25th of May 1967, Jock Stein’s Celtic side just defeated Inter Milan to lift the European Cup for the first time in the clubs history.  An achievement made even more credible by the fact the ‘Lisbon Lions’ starting eleven were all born within 30 miles of the clubs ground.  This is unimaginable in today’s footballing world plagued with corruption and billionaire foreign investors.  Football was never a perfect game but it was beautiful, played and viewed by honest-hardworking people.  This is now lost.

Recently the Premier League sold the live rights to BT and Sky for £3.018 billion for three seasons, a figure which will probably further increase when the contract has expired. The amount of money being invested into the English game is becoming farcical and in truth, is killing off the charm of football.  However, England is far from the only country targeted by billionaires seeking a new club to guide to success – or in so many cases, send them into financial ruins.

Paris Saint Germain (PSG) were bought by a Qatari businessman looking to flounder some money in football – money that he will more than likely never see again – and for what?  PSG are a relatively new club in footballing terms, formed in 1970 but it is only now that Parisian side are making a real name for themselves in global football, despite previously winning multiple titles in France.  The fans seem pleased with the good times, naturally, but it is the other teams in France who are forced to sell their best players –that they produce year-in-year-out that suffer.

Ajax fans protest vs Man City

Rumoured by The Telegraph, PSG are one of the elite clubs backing the proposed Dream Gulf League (DGL), a club competition that is to be held in Qatar and neighbouring countries on a bi-yearly basis.  The competition is backed by the Qatari royal family who aim to set-up the tournament in the summer of 2015.  The DGL is to be ran during the summer in order to prove the doubters wrong – who believe it to be too hot in Qatar to host the 2020 World Cup – by hosting games in air-conditioned stadiums. The tournament is set to rival other competitions such as Uefa competitions and the Club World Cup.  Surely though clubs will not want to partake in a quite meaningless tournament in the Gulf regions over the prestige of winning a European Cup.  Sadly nowadays, most clubs are attracted to where the money appears.  It is rumoured that Sheikhs are prepared to off £175 million to each invitational club, a very appealing proposition once the Financial Fair Play rule comes into effect. Unlikely, but if this were to happen, it would be disastrous for the world game.

Clubs are viewed as pawns by these businesspersons and the fans voices fall on deaf ears.  The investors are the ones with the money, so they are the ones with the power (or so they see it).  In order for football to reclaim some pride, something has to happen

Michael Owen Digs a Hole

Michael Owen took to Twitter this morning to rubbish reports that he has dived in the past to win a penalty.

Owen said he was “let down” by the British media and even went as far as saying that headlines like ‘Owen: I dived to win a penalty’ were a disgrace. Which would be true if it weren’t for the fact that the night before Owen did admit to simulating a fall after minimum contact that led to a penalty, which would fit, in most peoples definition, of diving or at the very least conning the ref.

“I’ve earned penalties in 2 World Cups both against Argentina where I was touched yet could have stayed up if I had tried” Owen tweeted last night. So according to Owen he could have stayed on his feet but didn’t, yet he is still struggling to understand why most people see this as diving/simulating.

When you think of divers within the game Michael Owen’s name rarely comes to the forefront of many peoples mind. Most think of Luis Suarez, Ashley Young or Sergio Busquets, but his comments may have changed that fact. He also needs to realise that after admitting he could have stayed on his feet on occasions that most football fans will see him going down as trying to convince the ref to award a penalty, when he should be more focused on trying to stay up and score a goal.

Michael Owen’s defence to going down when touched is something pulled by many forwards, that he simply wanted to aid the ref, but Michael needs to understand that that is not his job and by doing so a referee has every right to wave an appeal away as diving is something that officials are desperate to stamp out of the game.

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Football player finds grenade on the pitch and comes close to losing his hand.

We’re used to seeing bottles, coins and the occasional pigs head get thrown onto the pitch but in Iran a live grenade was fired from the crowd. The player picks it up, not knowing what it is and well the rest just has to be viewed for yourself. The link to the video is below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPVLJzeZ9i8&feature=player_embedded

Premier League Preview: Focus on Chelsea

With two months to go last season, Chelsea where set for their worst campaign since Abramavich took over. But Abramavich made his best managerial appointment in his six years at the club when he brought in Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea where set to exit the Champions League and where losing ground on any chance of a top 4 spot.

But we all know how it ended for Chelsea, with their Blue Angel sat on the crossbar in Stamford Bridge when Messi and Co came round and in the Allianz Arena the Blue Angel took his spot on the crossbar again and Chelsea were crowned the Champions of Europe. Well that’s how Ruud Gullit will remember it.

But Chelsea, league wise anyway, still have a huge 25 points to overcome before they can challenger for the title again. Chelsea are also rebuilding their squad at the moment and to challenge for the league whilst in a transition period takes a big effort from the squad and with competition for the league at its highest level for some years it will be nearly impossible task for Di Matteo’s men to achieve.

Chelsea’s defence also needs some improving or at least David Luiz and Gary Cahill to improve. Luiz has always been a liability to Chelsea and the stupid mistakes he makes on a regular basics need to be removed from his game. Gary Cahill also needs improvement but I would be more confident that he will improve this season. John Terry as always will be key and if Cahill partners him all season Chelsea should maintain a solid defence but if Terry is missing a Luiz and Cahill partnership may cause problems throughout the season.

Chelsea have spent their money on young talents this summer with three excellent signings, not including, Eden Hazard’s brother Thorghan. The three signings they made were Marko Marin, Eden Hazard, and Brazilian playmaker Oscar. All young prospects with a lot of potential, but all will need time to develop as footballers and will need time to adjust to the fast pace of the Premier League before we see them at their best.

So how much of the 25 points will Chelsea win back this season? Without putting an exact number on it my guess would be around 10-15 points which would be an impressive achievement to make up but sadly not enough for them to make a significant challenge for the league. I do believe that Chelsea are on the right road to overcome the massive deficit and in a couple of seasons’ time they will be out right favorites for the league. But for the time being I think that their fans and Roman Abramavich should be patience. I do believe though that Chelsea will make an appearance in Wembley and would tip their ‘second’ team to win the Carling Cup and reach the semi final of the FA Cup at least.

Final Prediction; I reckon they will finish in the top 4 this year which may disappoint most Chelsea fans but considering how rich the competition will be this year come May it could be seen as an acceptable achievement.

Premier League Preview: Focus on Arsenal

Another transfer window and another captain wanting to leave, also with the added frustration of Barcelona sniffing around your midfield (again). Yes, the transfer window is never a quiet place when Arsenal are involved. Robin Van Persie with a year left on his contract looks set to be heading to Manchester United and Alex Song an unsung hero at Arsenal might be tempted to head out of the Emirates to join up with former captain Cesc Fabergas at Barcelona.

But this transfer window wasn’t all doom and gloom for Arsenal as Wenger didn’t want to make the same mistake as last year and got his deals done early. This summer saw Arsenal making what can only be described as the best signings of the summer with Lukas Podolski, Oliver Giroud, and Santi Carzorla. Arsenal finished 19 points off the two Manchester clubs and Wenger would have been planning to overturn that deficit with Robin Van Persie in the squad and it would be hard to argue that a happy Robin Van Persie with these three signings couldn’t challenge for the Premiership next year. Alas this does not seem to be the case and even if Van Persie is kept and sees out the final year of his Arsenal contract it would be difficult to say whether he’d still be giving 100% commitment to the club.

Arsenal fans can also start to get optimistic about the fitness of Jack Wilshere who missed the entire campaign last season due to injury. With a return date semi-set for October and baring any more setbacks he will be a great boost for Arsenal to have Wilshere back arriving into the busy Christmas period. He was always the ‘what if’ for Arsenal fans last season. Would he be worth 19 points, definitely not. But he certainly is worth the hype around him and if he and other key players, especially those at the back stay fit, the huge 19 points between Arsenal and the top spot seems to feel a bit smaller.

Realistically what can Arsenal fans expect?

Unfortunately for Arsenal fans Robin Van Persie seems content on leaving and Barcelona don’t seem to be giving up in their pursuit of Alex Song any time soon so there could be bad news for Arsenal before there is good news.

But, if the new signings gel well and, as ever, the younger lads come of age this could be a very good season for Arsenal, as previously stated, out of all the Premier League sides Arsenal have by far spent the wisest in the transfer window. Compared to Man City who have only signed Jack Rodwell, Manchester United who have only signed Kagawa plus a teenager from Crew (Powell), and Chelsea who have spent a lot of money but it’s all gone on potential and haven’t really signed any player of distinguished merit yet.

Overall prediction; 3rd, So how is that better than last season? Well it isn’t but I think Arsenal will be one of the main challengers for the league this season and expect them to run a good race however; I just don’t think, especially with Van Persie on the way out, they will stick it out in the last months of the League and will fade out of the picture come the start of May. Wenger will be desperate for a trophy this year and will be looking for strong challenges in the FA Cup and Champions League.

Football at the Olympics: Who Cares?

Last Saturday, I found myself at Wembley Stadium watching a highly entertaining game between Mexico and Senegal. Despite it being a six goal thriller and an almost full Wembley, I couldn’t help but ask myself  “Does the Olympics really care about football?”. Over 81,000 spectators at the match would suggest that people do care but then again a lot of people I talked to (Some of them football fans) didn’t even realise that football was in fact an Olympic sport.

Olympic football made its first appearance in 1900 at the games in Paris, a total of 30 years before the World Cup (Although international sides didn’t really make an appearance until 1908) . It has appeared in every Olympics since, apart from the 1932 Los Angeles games where it was dropped to try and promote American Football.

It seems to me that a vast majority of non-football fans almost look down on Football in the Olympics and feel that it should be done away with due to the fact that it features professional footballers who “make millions a year”. The same could be said for Tennis, Basketball and eventually Golf which will feature at the next Olympics. In my opinion that is no reason to want to get rid of the sport which has been in the Olympics for so long.

Then again the hardcore football fan doesn’t seem to care too much for Olympic football either, seeing it as more an inconvenience than anything as they eagerly await the new football season to start. It seems to me that they would rather see their player take part in pre-season with his club than try to get an Olympic medal for his country.

From my experience the people going to the games weren’t the usual crowd who would be attending football matches across Britain. It was definitely a more relaxed family atmosphere and I have to admit it felt strange at first but soon enough I started to really enjoy myself as a neutral. Something I don’t get the pleasure of doing too often but it’s not something I want to get used to either.

A talented Brazilian side.

One country that is really going for gold this Summer is Brazil, who arguably have one of the most talented and star-studded squads. With the likes of Neymar, Pato, Hulk, Thiago Silva and Marcelo in the team it was hard to bet against them. The Brazilians have never won gold at the Olympics and it has now almost became an obsession for them, especially since their rivals Argentina are the current holders. One country that definitely cares about Olympic football.

They will face Mexico in the final on Saturday, a side who has fewer stars than Brazil but is packed with young talented footballers.

Being Irish I obviously couldn’t get emotionally attached to any team at this Summers Olympics but I enjoyed the football on display nonetheless. For me, it is a chance to see the next group of players coming through the ranks for each country and potentially witness a star being born on the world stage.

Leave your opinions in the comments below.