Tuesday, 3 July 2012

My Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament

Every football fan in the world has gone through 3 weeks of entertainment mayhem with what we have witnessed what happened in Poland and Ukraine. UEFA EURO 2012 has now ended and will have to fill in the rest of our summers with something else to do than watch 16 teams kicking about a leathery spherical figure. 

We saw the surprising, the disappointing, and the inevitable. We saw how Netherlands and Russia bowed out of the tournament prematurely, with co-hosts Ukraine and Poland also just as disappointing. But we also saw how England managed to win a group they were predicted to finish bottom in, Italy beating pre-tournament favorites Germany in the semifinals, and how Denmark didn't become the whipping boys out of the 'Group of Death'.

But the inevitable events just had to happen. France fail to show up, Ireland going home with no points, and most importantly Spain defending their title with a 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the Final. We just knew those things were going to happen.

There were lots of players who showed what they were worth, but below are 11 players who stood out the most for me in every position. I will use a 4-2-3-1 formation since that formation was the most used by the teams this summer.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)

Saint Iker only conceded once throughout the tournament and he should be lauded for his impressive performance between the sticks. Spain's captain's inclusion was given a run for his money in this team by Italy's Gianluigi Buffon and England's Joe Hart, but Casillas was able to lead this side to 3 straight tournament victories and of course he played a big part of each of it.

Rightback: Glen Johnson (England)

To be honest, I was very skeptical of his inclusion after Kyle Walker injured himself and Micah Richards getting snubbed. His performances for Liverpool have declined but from all of the players in the England squad, he proved me wrong the most. He was far better in defending than I have ever seen him play ever. His inclusion above Portugal's Joao Pereira and Czech's Theodore Gebre Selassie in this team speaks volume on how I was surprised of how he performed.

Centreback: Sergio Ramos (Spain)

Cutting off his hair wasn't the only brilliant decision he made this summer. That chipped penalty in the semifinal shootout against Portugal silenced his critics since Real Madrid's Champions League semifinal exit. He did his defensive duties brilliantly despite being put of his normal right-back position for Spain.

Centreback: Mats Hummels (Germany)

Despite criticism early on his international career, his elegance in the center of Germany's defence helped the nation's cause. Pundits and fans alike were impressed by Hummels' performances even after a bad game against Italy where he was at fault in at least one of the goals conceded. Hope he bounces back from that semifinal outing.

Leftback: Jordi Alba (Spain)

Most analysts claimed this position were Spain's weak link for ages, but I myself certainly did not see that. I only managed to see him play a handful of times for Valencia and he wasn't that bad, but he certainly played way better for Spain and his move (back) to Barcelona doesn't look out of place. Due to Spain's formation of no strikers, everyone got a chance to attack and Alba took his in the final to score Spain's second of the game. I easily could have put either Germany's Phillipe Lahm or Portugal's Fabio Coentrao but Jordi here was something special. Barcelona next season would be frightening with him and Dani Alves bombing down the wings. *shivers*

Centremidfield: Andrea Pirlo (Italy)

During the Euro's, 70% of the male population would have experienced a man-crush towards Pirlo. At the age 33, his game is comparable to fine wine - becomes better with age. His assist for Di Natale in the opening match, his freak-kick scored against Croatia and a Panenka-esque penalty against England were only some of us men's reasons to fall for his skills. When someone gets mentioned in a dreamteam ahead of Xavi and Xabi Alonso, you know you've won loads of admirers.

Centremidfield: Sami Khedira (Germany)

I have never seen Sami Khedira play bad ever. In every game I've seen him play for Germany since the 2010 World Cup, he is always brilliant. It could be because he is one of the most consistent players in the tournament or because I rarely watch Real Madrid play. Either way, he definitely merits his inclusion in this team ahead of Steven Gerrard and his goal against Greece in the quarterfinals just sealed the deal.

Right Attacking Midfielder: Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Slightly cheating here on his position in this team because he didn't really play on the right for his country. Andres-Cesc-Silva switched places occasionally during the match so it was a bit hard to slot one of them in this team, but I decided to go with Iniesta for his pass for Cesc in the final that actually set up Silva. He was also named Player of the Tournament and deservedly so.

Centre Attacking Midfielder: Mesut Ozil (Germany)

Again, his inclusion was difficult due to challangers in the form of Cesc and Silva. The reason why I chose Ozil was for his vision in how he covered for Schweinsteiger's mediocre form in the knockout stages. 3 assists in the tournament added by a ruthless taken penalty against Italy in at the end of the game. He's only 23, I can't imagine how good he will be when he reaches his peak.

Left Attacking Midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

I had this position reserved specially for him. His appointment of being made captain may raise a few eyebrows and his hairstyle changes may confuse a few stylists as well. But he did carry the team to semifinals albeit not on his own. Scoring twice in an important match against Netherlands showed the critics who said he couldn't perform during the big games were wrong. Even though he only manage to score 3 goals, he was Portugal's main goalscoring threat and he did it well considering Portugal doesn't have a well developed striker in their ranks.

Striker: Mario Balotelli (Italy)

What? No Torres? Yeah, No Fernando in this team. Sure he got the Golden Boot (which he totally deserved by the way), but all his goals came in 4-0 thrashings of Ireland and Italy. And with Spain usually not playing a striker should put his place in this team into huge consideration

Mario Balotelli also only scored 3 goals but all of his goals were worldclass and looked consistent throughout the tournament. A no-look volley against Ireland, a bullet header from close range against Germany, and a top corner finish also against Deutschland displayed he was the best. Mario Gomez didn't cut it in this team, he was good in 2 games and then came back into his normal international form. I could just wonder if only Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden and Nicklas Bendtner's Denmark got through the group stages...

SOOOOOOOOOO this was my team. Thanks for reading. I now you may have other opinions but this is my blog, so I'll write what I want.

Monday, 14 May 2012

My Barclays Premier League Awards 2011-2012

What an end to this season. We all thought City would finally win it at the beginning of the season, but not in the conditions we've just witnessed last night! Manchester City has won their 3rd title, and despite their exceeding spending, boy do they deserve it. It was a rare occasion as well at the Etihad, where both sides were celebrating. QPR managed to stay up despite losing, so there were 2 parties in Manchester. From the time I started following football and BPL specifically, this has been the best season ever if you count for drama.

This post is to give out mentions to people who deserved the recognition.Last year, PFA and FWA gave undeserving players the nod of "Footballer of the Year", and this year both awards went to the deserving Robin van Persie. Barclays gave their version of the award to an even more deserving Vincent Kompany. But there are other players who have stand out and also deserves recognition for their efforts this season, so here are "MY" notable mentions:

Player of the Year: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Manager of the Year: Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)

Young Player of the Year: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Best Transfer Signings:
5. Mikel Arteta (Everton to Arsenal) £10M
4. Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid to ManCity) £38M
3. Yohan Cabaye (Lille to Newcastle) £6.5M
2. Demba Ba (West Ham to Newcastle) £0
1. Papiss Cisse (Freiburg to Newcastle) £9.5M

Worst Transfer Signings:
5. Jordan Henderson (Sunderland to Liverpool) £16M
4. Romelu Lukaku (Anderlecht to Chelsea) £18M
3. Roger Johnson (Birmingham to Wolves) £7M
2. Charles N'Zogbia (Wigan to Aston Villa) £9M
1. Stewart Downing (Aston Villa to Liverpool) £20M

Best Loan Signings:
5. Ben Foster (Birmingham from West Brom)
4. Kyle Naughton (Norwich from Tottenham)
3. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea from Hoffenheim)
2. Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland from Arsenal)
1. Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham from ManCity)

Worst Loan Signings:
5. Federico Macheda (QPR from ManUtd)
4. Royston Drenthe (Everton from Real Madrid)
3. Jermaine Jenas (Aston Villa from Tottenham)
2. Wayne Bridge (Sunderland from ManCity)
1. Anthony Modeste (Blackburn from Bordeaux)

PFA Team of the Year:
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Defenders: Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle), Leighton Baines (Everton)
Midfielders: David Silva, Yaya Toure (both Manchester City), Scott Parker, Gareth Bale (both Tottenham)
Strikers: Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

My Non-PFA Team of the Year:
Goalkeeper: Tim Krul (Newcastle)
Defenders: Micah Richards (Manchester City), Jonny Evans (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Jose Enrique (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Alex Song (Arsenal), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Clint Dempsey (Fulham)
Strikers: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham)

Top Goalscorer: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) - 30

Most Assists: David Silva (Manchester City) - 15

Champions: Manchester City
Relegated: Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Champions League Qualifiers: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur
Europa League Qualifiers: Newcastle, Chelsea (FA Cup Winners), Liverpool (Carling Cup Winners)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

30 Players Who (Might & Certainly) Miss Their Nations Euro2012 Campaign.

16 teams have qualified. 368 players would be called up to the show case. With that number in mind, there would be a host of names that could miss the big showcase itself. Remember how many big names missed the last World Cup? Theo Walcott, Javier Zanetti, Ronaldinho, Nani, Mario Balotelli, and these are just a few of them. These players missed out either on injury, fallout with the manager, or just simply because the manager thought "he wasn't good enough" and the fact that the nations of the players I mentioned above performed miserably, the manager might just made a mistake. This Euro though, we expect more or less the same amount of surprising exclusions. And below I have listed 30 players who might miss their countries call-ups despite - in the writers mind - are more than good enough to be called up.

The Honorable Mentions:
Eljero Elia (Netherlands)
Elia made his dream move last summer to Juventus from HSV but has since only played in 2 SerieA matches. For all his promise shown in South Africa 2010, he will almost definitely miss the whole competition.

Sebastian Kehl (Germany)
Being Dortmund's skipper in their rise to prominence might not be enough to see himself getting back into International recognition. Germany is already packed in midfield

Mattia Cassani (Italy)
Once being thought to be a definite inclusion, but now seeing his form dip after his move from Palermo to Fiorentina sees Ignazio Abate and Christian Maggio getting the nod.

Artur Boruc (Poland)
One of the best goallies in SerieA, but hasnt got a call-up for the host nation for a while now. With Tyton and Szczceszzcsszsczszszny being more trusted, it will be harsh on Boruc.

Leon Best (Rep. Ireland)
He's certainly no George, but he's not half bad. Besides, when else can you get a Best in an International tournament?

Without further a do, lets start the countdown, shall we?
#30 Mladen Petric (Croatia)

Ooh he's a handful in every FM edition there ever is. His skills are actually pretty good for a striker. He's 31 and he isn't really that prolific while Croatia has been producing good striker lately in Nikica Jelavic, Mario Mandzukic, and Nikola Kalinic. But Petric still might squeeze in anyway. Why did he get a nod in our countrown? I just didn't want it to be all Germany/Spain/France/England/Holland list. I wanted variety, so here he is.

#29 Pablo Osvaldo (Italy)

Argentina at birth, Italy by choice. He'd make it big with either country, but he only has a slight possibility to be in Euro's. He has impressed for Azzuri, and his Roma form is something to be proud of, but with the wealth of attacking talent of a nation who are famous for their defence, it will need a miracle for Prandelli to call him over Balotelli.

#28 Jack Wilshere (England)

Despite the overrated British media, Jack is actually that good for a 20 year-old wonderkid. Sadly, he hasn't healed from his latest injury and hasn't played a single minute this season. He might be fit for the Euro's but is he really worth sacrificing? Remember, minimal match practice. Whoever takesover from Capello *cough-Redknapp-cough* will need to seriously think twice before calling him up.

#27 Lassana Diarra (France)

Real Madrid player. Surely just by stating that you'd think he's a definite call-up, right? Well I don't see Jose Callejon getting a Spain call-up in the near future so that's rebutted. He has been in and out of the team and form, has gotten injured way too often, and an emergence of Yann M'Vila is another factor of him might not go to Poland-Ukraine in the summer. Pity really.

#26 Raul Albiol (Spain)

Another Real Madrid player on the list. Spain may not have that many centrehalves as good as Puyol and Pique at this current time, but Busquets and Javi Martinez can cover in really well in there. I mean Albiol has been rarely played by Mourinho, he might not be given a call-up just be playing too little. Saddens me really someone with great talent like his warming Bernabeu benches in games.

#25 Danny (Portugal)

Obviously 3rd choice winger behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, but he rupture his knee. His injury has coincided with the second coming of Ricardo Quaresma as well. Zenit's wingman probably will curse his luck now.

#24 Stefan Keissling (Germany)

He's been leading the Leverkusen attack for a couple of years now and has scored a lot of goals. This season his tally has dried up a little though but it doesnt mean he's ineffective. But how can any striker beat Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez? Unless your name is Lionel Messi, it's difficult. Plus, Cacau is ahead of him in Joachim Low's pecking order and with the talent Germany has, he could miss out as well.

#23 Fabio Quagliarella (Juventus)

He's so underrated it's unbelievable. He hasn't got a fair chance for Juventus this season but that is also due to Matri's & Vucinic's form added with Simone Pepe's workrate. It's unfair really but he's a decent goalscorer. I would love to see him lead Italy's front line, but that could be unlikely.

#22 Ivan Klasnic (Croatia)

Clearly is Bolton's best striker but Owen Coyle likes to put David N'gog instead. Klasnic is Bolton's topscorer this season but N'gog is still starting ahead of him. This may not help his cause for a Croatia squad berth, similar to Pertic's case but having a slight smaller chance than him.

#21 John Guidetti (Sweden)

18 league goals in the Eredivisie this season for Feyenoord, I'm surprised ManCity left him out on loan. City could actually do with a striker like him. Despite his exploits in Holland, Sweden actually has a wealth of talent up front in Ola Toivonen, Tobias Hysen, Johan Elmander, Marcus Berg, and some guy who I cant remember his name. Zlatko Ibra... something near that I guess.

#20 Jose Enrique (Spain)

Might probably be the most consistent left-back in the Premier League this season, it would still be a surprise if Del Bosque still won't give him a go for Spain. I predict Furia Roja to fill up the squad with more midfielders  than usual which would mean less space for defenders. Even if Del Bosque were to call a backup left-back, it is likely Malaga's Nacho Monreal to get the nod ahead of Enrique.

#19 Christian Trasch (Germany)

Despite his comical surname, he's anything but rubbish. He has that classy side of him which enables him to be versatile in either as a full back or a centremidfielder. His versatility may come to his advantage, but Wolfsburg's form this season isn't that great and he might miss out on that alone.

#18 Ryan Babel (Netherlands)

These days, Babel is more known for his tweets than his performances on the field. But give credit to him, he's playing regularly for Hoffenheim now. All of us fans would want him to get called-up so he can tweet about it, but fans wouldn't be too devastated if he missed Van Marwijk's list, because based on form itself, he hasn't reached his early Liverpool career heights.

#17  Rio Ferdinand (England)

He's finally getting away from the treatment table and getting in form for ManUtd, but England's defence has been mix-and-match with a bunch of other defenders that even Rio might miss out. Terry, Cahill, Lescott, King, even teammate Phil Jones and Chris Smalling is in a better chance to get to Poland-Ukraine this summer. He's still a great defender, but I'm not sure if the England manager would want to call him up.

#16 Jose Bosingwa (Portugal)

Not automatic first choice right-back for Chelsea nor for Portugal, but he is more than a useful addition in both teams. Sadly, he had a fallout and bust-up with Portugal manager Paulo Bento leading him to not answer to further any call-up if the manager was Bento. It's not like Portugal needs him though, but he definitely has talent.

#15 Per Mertesacker (Germany)

His arrival at Emirates has steadied the leaky and panicky Arsenal defense and has already achieved 79 caps for his country, and he's only 27!! He's currently injured but its said that he will be fit enough for the finals in June. Truth is though, he might not even make the cut, mostly because of the emergence of younger and more mobile defenders (Hummels, Badstuber, Howedes, Boateng et al). Mertesacker has been accused by critics and fans to be slower than a turtle and a snail race. They couldn't be more true, but his vision is incredible and definitely a sad exclusion if he were to be excluded.

#14 Either Bender (Lars/Sven) (Germany)

Their twins. Twins usually count as one. And to say that they are similar players is an understatement. Sven won the Bundesliga with Dortmund last season as a key player, but Lars with Leverkusen finished 2nd with him being just as indispensable for his club. Both has already debuted for their country, but yet to partner each other.
Why did I put both on the #14 slot? Because most likely only 1 of the Benders would make the squad. They are both talented and equally great, but with only 23 slots in the final squad plus the additional talent Deutschland have in midfield, there might be even a possibility of BOTH Benders missing it. Both of them getting a call-up would be a better story than the Boateng brothers story in South Africa, so I would like to see Sven and Lars in Poland-Ukraine.

#13 Christian Abbiati (Italy)

If he wasn't injured that often - or if Dida never existed, he would definitely be first choice backup to Buffon. Abbiati is a great goalkeeper and is keeping World Cup winner Marco Amelia on the bench for Milan. You tell me he isn't that good? Did you NOT see his double save against Arsenal? I bet he has done better saves than that in SerieA. What a waste Prandelli not giving him another chance of tournament experience.

#12 Rene Adler (Germany)

I feel bad for this guy. He rarely gets injured, but when he does he loses his place to someone younger but similarly skilled. He was going to be Germany's #1 in South Africa but he decided to go into surgery for a rib injury and lost his place to Manuel Neuer. Neuer now is dubbed "Best goalkeeper in the world currently" which I highly doubt. At the beginning of this season, Adler was injured again - this time for a knee injury. Like his earlier injury, now his place is taken by young promising 19-y.o. Bernd Leno signed on loan fromStuttgart. Adler is back from injury, but Leno's form has hindered his comeback. With the emergence of other goalkeepers as well, he's going to miss Euro2012 as well. Bad Luck is DEFINITELY an understatement for Adler's situation.

#11 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England)

Like Wilshere, he's so young. But unlike Wilshere, he's played brilliantly this season. He has made all those overrated talented English wingers look slow and boring. The Ox - as he is now known as - has been on everyone's fans' lips. They all say the same things, "he needs to go to Euro". A factor going against him though is that England has lots of great wingers, AOC might have to be sacrificed for another tournament.
England's current winger case
#10 Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal)

Alongside Pepe, he has formed a rock solid partnership at Real Madrid. But for Portugal, he has had a bust-up similar to Bosingwa. He said he has retired from international football because of Paulo Bento, but hasn't ruled out a comeback if the manager went to be different. His presence will be sorely missed though, but he has abled deputies in the form of Bruno Alves and Rolando.

#09 Ibrahim Affelay (Netherlands)

He might only be back-up at Barcelona and he's not guaranteed a starting berth for Holland, but his talents are there for everyone to enjoy. He has been injured for a while now and rumor has it that he might not be fit for the Euros. That is just a bummer for someone like Affelay.

#08 Pedro Rodriguez (Spain)

Second Barcelona player in succession, this inclusion might raise eyebrows for his position on this list. He's an important player for Barcelona and is notably the less glorified of the forwards that started the Champions League final. His scoring record is not something to joke about, but with Spain having the wealth of midfielders and strikers at their disposal, its hard to include a 23-man squad with Pedro in it.

#07 Micah Richards (England)

England basically have 3 awesome fullbacks in their pool of talent. Of course you can only bring 2 of them to Poland-Ukraine, and odds are that Richards is the one going to be left behind. That is such a travesty though, he is the best performing right-back in the Premier League and this is currently his best season to date. Kyle Walker though has been impressing for Spurs while Glen Johnson has always been in contention. 3 bloody worldclass right backs? Even Germany or Holland don't have that!

#06 Yoann Gourcuff (France)

There is no doubting Gourcuff is one of the more talented players of his generation if France, but his move from Bordeaux to Lyon last season is becoming more of an expensive flop. It kills the fans to see that he isn't anywhere near the form he showed back at Lorient and Bordeaux, he even lost his place in the starting line-up. France could do without him too though, Nasri, Valbuena, M'Vila, even Amalfitano or Marvin Martin is considered above him now for Euros.

#05 Antonio Cassano (Italy)

Prandelli's golden boy ever since his appontment in 2010, Cassano is currently recovering from a minor heart surgery and racing against time to be fit again for Euros. Even if he doesn't get fit in time, Prandelli will bring Cassano anyway as a guest of honor. He'll be beside Prandelli, as a player or not. Would be better for entertainment purposes for him to play, right?

#04 Fernando Torres (Spain)

Oooooh boy, where do I start? He scored Spain's winner in the Euro 2008 final and had injury problems after that. His extreme dip in form after his 50M pound move to Chelsea has been well documented by every sports media outlet, it seems wrong for me to add criticism now. His form is so bad, once a certain starter for his country, he may now not be called up. Many fans wouldn't be surprised if he missed out, but many fans would be sad. After all he was a hero back in Austria-Switzerland, but Soldado, Llorente and Negredo are in a vain of form it is impossible to leave them out for some expensive flop, right?

#03 Antonio Di Natale (Italy)

He may be 34 already, but he is the most prolific Italian striker in SerieA for a long while now. Yes, he had a bad Euro 2008, but he has played waaaaaaaaaaay better after that. Its something of a mystery really why Cesare Prandelli keeps overlooking Di Natale for the likes of Fabio Borini, Alberto Gilardino, Alessandro Matri, even Pablo Osvaldo. Di Natale should get his last chance of International glory and Di Natale is absolutely brilliant. 105 goals in his last 155 league games? You can not tell me that is something special. If he was playing for Barcelona that would be fine, but he's playing for friggin Udinese! God give him another chance.

#02 David Villa (Spain)

David Villa destroyed his knee whilst playing for Barca in the Club World Cup in the beginning of this year. Spain's record goalscorer was Euro2008's top scorer and an important component of both Barcelona and Spain's plans. It is too close to call if he would recover in time with Del Bosque having his fingers crossed all the time.

#01 Eric Abidal (France)
No. This blog is not Barcelona-biased. it just happened to be 2 Barcelona players on top of the list.

He recovered from a liver tumor surgery last year and played marvelously in the Champions League final. It looked like he was fully recovered but shocking news appeared as he announced to the world that he would undergo a liver transplant caused by complications he had from the previous surgery. This is sad news as all notable football figures thought he was over his liver problems to continue his career and represent France once again. Animo Abidal!

Did I miss a couple of names in this list? Anthony Reveillere? Aaron Lennon? Or maybe Jesus Navaz? I know i must left someone out. But for now - up until March 2012 - this is the list of the best possible Euro axes.