Lionel Messi is the best player on the best team in the world. People might argue that Ronaldo (not the fat one) is better than Messi, but if you take a look at their respective teams Barcelona is the better team than Real Madrid, although the gap is much closer than it has been. Anyways, I […]
It’s time for my EURO 2012 semifinal predictions. Going 4 for 4 with my quarterfinal picks after my miserable group stage showing made me feel a lot better about myself.
Let’s keep this streak going!
The Battle of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is trying to be the first to win three consecutive major titles while Portugal is trying to win their first major football title.
Both teams came through in 1-0 victories against opposition who weren’t up to the challenge. I don’t see that being the case in this match.
Portugal is playing like people have expected them to for years, one of the best teams in the world. Like every other team in the world against Spain, Portugal will be playing counterattacking football in this match. A key point to watch throughout this match is how deep are the Portuguese going to defend (the deeper the line the more difficult it’ll be for them to advance).
Unlike any other team during this era of Spanish dominance, Portugal actually defeated Spain handily in their last meeting (4-0 win in Lisbon in 2011 which was Spain’s worst loss in over 40 years).
Of course this was a friendly, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.
Portugal sports another edge that very few teams have against Spain, they have the best player on the pitch in Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo and the Spanish team are well acquainted with one another with Ronaldo being a dominant force for Real Madrid in La Liga.
It has been reported that Spain will man mark Ronaldo throughout the match, something that is quite common for Ronaldo to face; however, Spain is a different animal.
If Spain is allowed to dominate possession in their attacking third as they almost always do, I just don’t see Portugal beating them. There is just too much experience for the Portuguese to overcome here. Ronaldo needs to score for Portugal to win, there are just more options at Spain’s disposal.
Spain 1 Portugal 0 (The typical Spanish scoreline)
Spain 19/20, Draw 23/10, Portugal 7/2
A match between two sides who make a living in this stage of international competitions.
This time is somewhat different though which Germany being a dominant side who was widely tabbed at being on of the favorites of this competition while due to the match fixing scandal in Italy there was talk before the tournament that Italy might withdraw from the competition.
Germany has been very good so far in this tournament, but they still haven’t reached their peak. If Italy was more efficient in front of goal in this tournament they very well might be favorites in this match.
Both of these sides are much more free-flowing than they’ve been in the past. Germany has more overall talent in their squad, but Italy is more dependable in the back. For a team that has won a nation’s record 15 straight competitive internationals, Germany does allow an awful lot of goals (somehow they allowed two to Greece in the quarterfinals).
If these Germans are misfiring in front of goal this will give Italy the opportunity they need to defeat them. The Germans will not keep a clean sheet in this match.
I don’t see the Italians scoring more than once, but the Germans are very capable of scoring 3 or 4 if they are efficient in front of goal.
I am very interested to see what the German starting XI will look like tomorrow (whether Ruus or Klose will get the start tomorrow after their solid quarterfinal showings)
I think these Germans are on a mission and will get to another major final.
Germany 2 Italy 1
Germany 10/11, Draw 12/5, Italy 7/2
It’s time for my EURO 2012 quarterfinal predictions. After looking at my pre-tournament predictions, I don’t know what to think after the group stage. Going 3 for 8 picking teams to advance to the quarterfinals is simply awful.
Time to make amends!
Portugal v. Czech Republic
This is a matchup between a Group of Death survivor against a Group of Life survivor. I think death has the advantage here.
Portugal was the second best team in their immensely difficult group while the Czechs won their much weaker group. Portugal is getting stronger as the tournament is progressing while the Czechs have been labeled as one of the weaker teams in the tournament and their captain is injured. However, the Czechs have also made significant progress in this tournament after their 4-1 loss in their opener.
The team which the Czechs faced in this tournament which is most like the Portuguese is Russia. The Czechs were thoroughly destroyed by Russia, this could be an ominous sign for the Czechs.
Ronaldo finally scored which could be a start of good things to come for Portugal. Portugal will dominate the proceedings in this match.
If Portugal puts away their chances they will advance. I believe that they will and will advance to their third semifinal in their last four EURO appearances.
Portugal 2 Czech Republic 0
Portugal 4/5, Czech Republic 4/1, Draw 5/2
Germany vs. Greece
This is a matchup between the weakest team left in the tournament, Greece, against a pre-tournament favorite, Germany.
The Group of Life survivor, Greece, is fortunate to be in the knockout stage. However, they escaped with a victory against Russia so all power to them.
The winner of the Group of Death, Germany, won all of their group stage matches but haven’t reached their top stride yet.
The Germans are by far the better side here and will dominate proceedings throughout this match. I see the Greeks having 10 people behind the ball for long periods of time in this match.
This match will come down to whether the Germans will be able to put away their chances. The Germans will of course put away enough of their chances, they are German which synonymous in football with ruthless and efficient.
Germany 3 Greece 1
Germany 4/11, Greece 9/1, Draw 15/4
Spain vs. France
This is the first heavyweight fight of the knockout stage with the defending EURO and World Cup champions facing off against the last side to knock them out of a major international tournament (2006 World Cup).
France looked to be the favorite in Group D until they collapsed in the second half against Sweden in their final match. Spain definitely hasn’t played their best up to this point in the tournament, but still finished at the top of a pretty difficult group which included Italy and Croatia.
If France isn’t at their best, Spain will win simple as that. France’s back four looked shaky in their first true test against Sweden plus Philippe Mexes will be missing out due to picking up his second yellow card against Sweden.
Spain in this match, as always, will dominate possession. If Spain is able to finish their chances, they will go through. However, they are missing their best finisher in David Villa and Fernando Torres is not in the best form at the moment, so it isn’t a given that Spain will go through
Karim Benzema needs to play like a number 9 in this match and stay up front. If he continuously drops into the midfield, something he does regularly, France will struggle to keep possession against the Spain.
France will perform better against Spain than they did against Sweden, but it won’t be enough. Spain as they’ve done the past two major tournaments will do enough to reach their third consecutive major semifinal.
Spain 1 France 0
Spain 17/20, France 15/4, Draw 12/5
England vs. Italy
This is the most intriguing of all the quarterfinals for me. The English performed admirably without Wayne Rooney in their first two matches, but then were disappointing in their 1-0 win against Ukraine. The Italians performed very well in their opening two matches against Spain and Croatia and finished with a very Italian performance in their final match to progress to the knockout stages.
Both teams are quite capable of scoring a goal and sitting on a 1-0 lead. This is why the first goal, if there is one, is key in this match. Whoever scores first in this match will advance.
I really don’t know which way to go here, I see these sides as being evenly matched. Since I have to pick though, I think Italy deserve the nod due to their past successes.
Italy 2 England 1 (a.e.t)
Italy 17/10, England 15/8, Draw 21/10
Article written by Michael Cox (Zonalmarking.net)
Before Alessandro Nesta‘s slide tackle had ended, he had raised his arm in apology. Lionel Messi had been hurtling toward the Milan goal from an inside-right position, and Nesta, returning from injury, couldn’t keep up. He only had one option — to bring down Messi.
It was the second time in the match he had deliberately fouled the world’s best player — in the same position on the edge of the box. Nesta’s raised arm in the second instance was surely not a pre-emptive appeal against a booking (it was the most blatant card you’ll ever see) but a genuine apology that he’d been forced into chopping down an opponent in such a cynical fashion. Nesta knew the card was coming — indeed, he happily took it rather than let Messi get past him.
No one would characterize Nesta as brutal defender. Like many Italian center backs, he can be crafty with giving away fouls, but he is more stylish, more composed than his contemporaries such as Marco Materazzi or Fabio Cannavaro. In a way, it was sad to see Nesta forced into the foul — at Camp Nou earlier in the season, he stopped Messi with one of the best tackles you’ll see all season. But in choosing to foul, Nesta was profiting from the situation.
Little instances like this are extremely frustrating. Wednesday’s Champions League first-leg quarterfinal was a superb game of football, featuring great technical quality in midfield. Only some poor finishing meant it finished goalless. But a key feature of the game was the way both sides were able to break up opposition attacks with “clever” fouls, controlling the tempo of the game and preventing quick counterattacks.
There’s nothing new in this type of tactical fouling, of course, but in recent years it’s become particularly obvious. Pace has become a key part of modern football, and the speed of the game is higher than ever before. Attacks can switch from one end of the pitch to the other at a quite astonishing swiftness, and since so many recent European champions have relied upon counterattacking (most obviously Porto in 2004, Manchester United in 2008 and Inter in 2010), attacking quickly through the center of the pitch is of paramount importance.
The problem is that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. In a lot of cases, the offending player knows he will pick up a card and is happy to collect it to prevent the opposition breaking quickly. His side can get back into a good defensive position, and the attacking side has been robbed of a potentially crucial situation. By committing a foul, the defensive side is better off. Why should it be rewarded for committing a foul?
Jose Mourinho has been particularly vocal about the problem with tactical fouling. “It’s a foul they don’t punish enough here in England,” he said during his Chelsea days, in Gianluca Vialli’s “The Italian Job.” “It’s the foul whose only objective is to kill the attacking situation. It’s purely tactical. I remember facing Everton, who had Thomas Gravesen and Lee Carsley. It was tactical fouling, over and over, for 90 minutes.”
In fact, Mourinho has even complained about Milan doing it. “Milan have a lot of experience, and they know how to control the tempo, commit a tactical foul,” he said when his Inter side was defeated in the derby in 2008.
But Mourinho is a clever strategist rather than a beacon of footballing morals, and he has exploited the lack of punishment in these situations as much as anyone. In the Clasicos since he took over at Real Madrid, such situations have been a key part of his game plan — they stop Barca’s attacks and allow Real to get men behind the ball. Since the start of 2010-11, the most booked player in Clasicos is not Pepe or Sergio Ramos butXabi Alonso. The midfielder clearly isn’t a dirty player, but he’s been forced into fouls to prevent being exposed. Like Nesta, he always knows what his punishment will be.
“Mourinho’s side had gone out with a game plan he used to great effect at Chelsea: constant tactical fouling,” former referee Graham Poll said after one of these meetings. “I find it outrageous that deliberate fouls in neutral areas of the pitch … are seen as acceptable.”
But let’s not pretend this is some kind of Real Madrid versus Barcelona or Mourinho versus Pep Guardiola debate, because Barcelona does the same. Seydou Keita did it by bringing down Massimo Ambrosini Wednesday after he’d been dispossessed. Often, Barca does it in a much more subtle way — it fouls as soon as it has lost the ball, stopping a counterattack before its origins have even become obvious. Back in the Supercup win over Real Madrid,Alexis Sanchez was its most prolific fouler. In this season’s Champions League, Messi has committed the joint-most fouls among Barcelona players, along with Dani Alves.
But it’s not a problem with these two clubs, or in Spain — it happens over Europe, and beyond. ESPN freelance writer Tim Vickery has touched on the issue in South America. “Just over a decade ago, some in the coaching fraternity were convinced that part of the secret of victory was to commit more fouls than the opposition,” he wrote in his BBC blog earlier this year. “Indeed, it was argued, a foul is not exactly against the rules. Rather, it is something dealt with by the laws — a resource of the game rather than an offence.”
Even if you accept that definition, it’s clear that the laws are not dealing with it well enough. A yellow card is often not a fitting punishment in these situations, because it’s not acting as a deterrent. It’s difficult to know what the solution is — sin-bins (aka the orange card) have been suggested to make the penalty more severe, but this is an alien concept in football. Red cards would generally be too severe.
But referees must be stricter on deliberate fouls. There should never be an instance in which a player deliberately infringes an opponent and receives no punishment — this means that every shirt pull, push or intentional trip should be a yellow card, even if in a completely nonthreatening area of the pitch. Miroslav Klose felt harshly dismissed when he was shown a red card against Serbia in the 2010 World Cup after two relatively innocuous trips when Germany lost possession, but this was fantastic to see. Germany was the counterattacking master at that tournament, and as Mourinho has demonstrated, those who play on the counterattack know the value of stopping the opposition from doing so.
As mentioned earlier, the laws of football are gloriously simple and barely change from decade to decade. But rules must adapt to the nature of the game, and at the moment the balance is in favor of those who want to foul, rather than those who want to play.
This was a pretty easy one to pick. The Lakers and the Celtics have 16 and 17 titles respectively which represents 33 of the 65 NBA championships. The Lakers and the Celtics rivalry started with the 1959 NBA Finals with the Celtics winning the NBA title in a four game sweep. In the postseason the Lakers and Celtics has faced off in 12 series (all in the finals) which the Celtics winning 9 out of the 12; however the Lakers have won three of the past four.
These two franchises are the two most storied in the NBA having more hall of famers than any other franchise. Great Celtics who have had their number retired include: Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, Tommy Heinson. K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, and many others; a total of 33 people who have ties with the Celtics are in the Basketball Hall of Fame, more than any other team. Great Lakers who have had their number retied include: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Jerry West, and James Worth; a total of 23 people who have ties with the Lakers are in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
I have to admit I am very biased here. I am a die hard Yankee fan. The Yankees are the most successful baseball team in terms of World Series titles BY FAR. The Yankees and the Red Sox have had a rivalry ever since Babe Ruth was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees which started the legendary “Curse of the Bambino.” The Red Sox between 1918 to 2004, a total of 86 years, the Sox did not win a single World Series title while the Yankees won 26. However, it all changed in 2004 when the Red Sox became the baseball only team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit and win the series. This lead the Red Sox to winning the 2o04 title and the 2007 title. Over the past 15 years the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry has become the center of baseball with both team being penennial World Series contenders.
In the regular season the Yankees have won 1,132 games to the Red Sox 954. In the postseason they’ve only faced off in three series (all the ALCS) with the Yankees winning two of the three series. Both teams have had many players who are currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Yankees have 16 people who have their number retired including: Billy Martin, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Roger Maris, Thurman Munson, Whitey Ford, Don Mattingly, Elston Howard, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Casey Stengel, and Jackie Robinson. The Red Sox have ten numbers retired including: Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, and Jackie Robinson.
1980-1989: San Francisco 49ers/New York Giants
I don’t feel like going any further…
This was an easy pick. These are currently the two best club teams in the world. Both are based in Spain. There are the #1 and #2 earning clubs in the world. There players and fans have an intense dislike/hatred towards one another which stems from regional ties. The rivalry intensified following the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. El Clasico’ is the game which all football fans clamor are eager to see because of the immense talent of the players on the pitch, the intensity of the game, and the bragging rights.
I am not going to list all of the great players for these squads because that’d take way too long.
|Head to Head Matches|
|Copa del Rey||14||10||6|
|Spanish Super Cup||3||5||2|
|UEFA Champions Leagues||2||3||3|
|Copa del Rey||25||18|
|Supercopa De Espana||10||8|
|Other Domestic Titles||5||2|
|European Cup/UEFA Champions League||4||9|
|UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League||0||2|
|UEFA Cup Winners Cup||4||0|
|UEFA Super Cup||4||1|
|FIFA Club World Cup||2||0|