Everyone knows the best player in the world is also pretty diminutive. Everyone also knows that second best player in the world is an absolute specimen of human and a bit taller. The great part about this information is that soccer has no definitions of height specifically of linked to world-class footballers. That’s why anyone can play and anyone can be successful. So I pitch this out to you… which team would you choose if you had to take only players over six feet tall or only those under 5′ 8?” The decision would be tough but I can tell you this, I would pay an incredible sum of money to watch this game go down.
So, we all know Zlatan is good for 80-100 talking points for every game that he participates in. Here is a quick snap from his Euro Qualifier vs Austria. Too bad Sweden could not find a result. If anything, this look is enough to scare the babies out of some pregnant women all over the world. That, or the crying/diving of Ashley Young has finally found a reason to stop. Take a look and enjoy.
FootGolf: A New Sport Explored In 19 Questions
OFIS Architects Develops Incredibly Cool Looking And Astounding Cellular Borisov Arena In Belarus
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Backheel Pass
Nicklas Bendtner Accused Of Drunkenly ‘Rubbing Himself On A Taxi’
Congratulations to Cristiano Ronaldo on winning the 2013 Ballon d’Or over Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery. A strong case could be made for Franck Ribery winning the award, and there will be conspiracy theorists who point to the extension of voting till after the Portugal/Sweden World cup qualifying games as the reason Cristiano pulled off the victory. However, with 69 goals in 59 games, 14 of which were during Champions League play (a new record), Cristiano Ronaldo fully deserves this award. See below for other awards that were given out:
FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year: Nadine Angerer
FIFA Men’s Football Coach of the Year: Jupp Heynckes
FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year: Silvia Neid
FIFA Presidential Award: Jacque Rogge
FIFA Fair Play Award: Afghanistan Football Federation
FIFA Puskas Award: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden v England
Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur: Pele
FIFA/FIFPro World XI:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich
Defender: Philipp Lahm – Bayern Munich
Defender: Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
Defender: Thiago Silva – PSG
Defender: Dani Alves – FC Barcelona
Midfielder: Andres Iniesta – FC Barcelona
Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez – FC Barcelona
Midfielder: Franck Ribery – Bayern Munich
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrd
Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – PSG
Forward: Lionel Messi – FC Barcelona
Today marks the beginning of the European World Cup Qualifying Playoffs. There are four two game series going on, three of which are Croatia vs. Iceland, Greece vs. Romania, and France vs. Ukraine. However, most soccer fans outside those counties will be transfixed on the two-game playoff between Sweden and Portugal. In this game two of the world’s best soccer players, and current favorites to win the Ballon d’Or, will attempt to lead their team to victory. For Zlatan Ibrahimovic this is probably his last chance to make a World Cup. He is 32 and most player’s skills, especially strikers, begin to steadily decrease after 30. Although, Zlatan is having one of the best seasons of his career, there are many who rightly believe that this is the swan song of his career. Aging players typically tend to make up for their decreasing pace by using their veteran experience and guile to add another dimension to their game and make themselves less reliant on speed. A great example of a veteran player changing his game to compensate for his aging body is Kobe Bryant who has continued to play at a high level long after his athleticism began to wane. There’s a great chance Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays in the next European Cup but there’s little hope he gets to play another World cup. Andriy Shevchenko may have scored a couple of goals when he was 36 for Ukraine in the 2012 Euro Cup, but anyone watching the game knew that although his nose for goal was ever-present, his body could not keep up with what he wanted to do. At the end of the day, Ibrahimovic wants to highlight his already spectacular year, and overall international career, with a trip to the World Cup. It is just unfortunate that he is running into…
Cristiano Ronaldo has had mixed results in his international career. Although he has always played his heart out for his country, he has not always been as effective as he has been for his club. Many speculate that this is because of the enormous pressure he has on himself to perform. Cristiano is no stranger to pressure, he has performed admirably in domestic and european finals. He is always one of, if not the, top goalscorer in every league and competition he plays in. However, at every team he plays for, despite being the best player on the team, he is surrounded by tremendous talent. Although Portugal is a great team, their attacking ability relies almost solely on Cristiano Ronaldo. When he is ineffective, the Portugal attack is profligate. Helder Postiga and Nani are decent players, but not the type of players who can carry a team. Thus, Cristiano Ronaldo seems to try “too hard” when he plays for Portugal. He tries to do too many things and thinks too hard about carrying his team to victory. The Ronaldo that is so effective for his club is much more freewheeling and less pressured. It did not help that Portugal’s old coach played him as a lone striker which negated most of the reason Ronaldo is effective, which is when he cuts in from the wing. However, this coach seems to understand Cristiano much better and by giving him the armband he has created a leader on his team who had once been accused of playing only for himself.
In order for either team to win, both men know that they must be the ones who carry their team to victory. That is not to say they have to be the game-winning goal-scorers. They could both score zero goals, although that is not ideal, as long as they are capable of creating chances for their teammates by drawing defenders to them and away from their teammates. Both players are having career seasons and both know that not qualifying for the World Cup will put a huge damper on their season. If both players play up to their current club form then this game has the potential to be one of the best soccer games of the year. It’s too bad Ballon d’Or votes will have already been cast though as this game would be a perfect decider to see who is better between the two.
Cavani’s transfer to PSG has raised a lot of eyebrows. The surprise is not from the fact that he garnered the largest transfer fee in French history or that PSG was the team to give it to him but because of the team he went to. PSG played last year in a 4-3-3 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the lead striker and main focal point of their attack. The strategy worked well with Zlatan scoring thirty goals and led the Ligue 1 in scoring. However, Zlatan is notorious for being three things, two of which earn him a lot of vitriol from football fans, he is a great striker, incredibly selfish, and has gained a reputation as a mercenary. If he feels his position as center of the PSG universe is being threatened he could try and force his way out or force Cavani to play out of position. Neither of which are desirable outcomes if PSG is looking to bolster its attacking prowess.
On Napoli, Cavani played more of a central striking position while on Uruguay that position is occupied by Luis Suarez, and a lot of blame for his poor performances on the national team has been blamed on this very fact. Although to be fair, there have been many great players who have not performed at the level they are expected to on their national team because they have so little time to mesh with their teammates on their national team when compared to the time they have to mesh with their club teammates. Despite this caveat it is interesting to note how Cavani has consistently under-performed when put out wide. Zlatan never plays wide due to his style of play and body-type. If you look at PSG’s success last year it is hard to argue that Zlatan was the reason for their failure in the Champions League. Therefore, can PSG really make the case to play Zlatan out of position or change the formation that he thrived in without angering the fans and, more importantly, Zlatan himself?
Zlatan moving position seems unlikely but PSG would be foolish to not try everything to make sure their record-signing as effective as possible during his PSG career. Therefore, this is where the questions arise. Obviously, every effort must be made by a team like PSG to get one of the best strikers in the world but by signing Cavani they put two world-class strikers on the same team who have a proven track record of being unable to thrive out of position. So the real question is, can Laurent Blanc devise a formation that utilizes both strikers in a way that will get the most of their potential? Or will this signing hasten Zlatan Ibrahimvic’s exit from PSG?
There are a lot of possible formations that could be utilized. One of which is a 4-4-2 with Zlatan playing behind Cavani and a little bit to the left or right. In this scenario Cavani would be the point man and could lay off balls to Ibrahimovic who can run at defenders with some space. This is assuming Ibrahimovic will play as effectively without the service provided by two wingers. There’s also Ezequiel Lavezzi to worry about, assuming Cavani’s arrival doesn’t lead to him seeking a transfer to elsewhere, because his talent lies on the wing and having to consistently track back will hurt his effectiveness on the offense, same with Lucas Moura. Not to mention this leaves Javier Pastore as the odd man out as both wide midfield positions would be occupied by Lavezzi and Moura. PSG now has a wealth of offensive talent but a lot of offensive talent can be a bigger problem than it looks on paper because each talented player wants to play. However,too many offensive minded players can lead to weaker defense. This is because offensive players are notoriously bad at tracking back and playing defense which can overwhelm the PSG defense forcing PSG to have to outscore their opponents in way too many games to counteract their defense being constantly under fire.
Each and every formation will have its ups and downs, especially with this over-abundance of talent and a dearth of offensive positions within most formations. At the end of the day it is whether these two highly played players, and the rest of their talented offensive cast, can adapt their playing styles in order to compromise for the good of the team. Although, as the past has shown highly-paid players are usually not the ones most willing to compromise. If PSG wants to challenge in the Champions League then Laurent Blanc and company better make sure they do. However, it is entirely possible, and likely, that one of these players will have to leave in order to make room for Cavani and if Cavani does not mesh with Ibrahimovic then he could be worth a lot less tactically then the record transfer fee PSG paid for him. The only positive is that Cavani and Lavezzi have shown that they play well together after their time playing together on Napoli. Thus at the end of the day PSG’s success relies on whether Ibrahimovic and Cavani, two fantastic world-class strikers, can play at their best when sharing the spotlight.
Group D is an interesting one to say the least. Ukraine, France, Sweden and England make up a somewhat strong group that is marred by injuries.
The Ukraine is behind on their Euro 2012 preparations. This does not exclude their own home squad. The Ukraine has not won a game since October of 2011. They lost to France and Sweden during their warm-up games for this tournament. That being said, a host country can never be counted out. (Just look at Greece) Still, the quality in the team is few and far between. If Andriy Shevchenko finds his form of old, maybe, just maybe Ukraine can sneak a draw in. I don’t expect to win a game during this tournament, even with the support of their home fans.
Sweden enters this tournament in good form, winning every game they have played in 2012. The competition might not have been overly competitive but wins against Croatia and Serbia cannot be discounted. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a boss. He is unstoppable when he wants to play. He attracts enough attention to give other forwards such as my personal favorite, Markus Rosenberg, a chance to make something happen. How reliable are the role players on the Sweden side in the clutch moments? I don’t think they are and Zlatan has been known to disappear in big games so I do not expect must noise from the Swedes. An all too injured England side could provide a way into the knockout rounds.
France is the odds on favorite in this group. They have had an excellent and undefeated 2012 highlighted by a win over Germany, in Germany. This was a tune up but still gives France confidence going into the tournament, something they really needed after the World Cup bust up that was as embarrassing as it was damaging for the country’s national side. France is the most well rounded team in this group and has the most depth. I expect them to get out easily and make a run to the finals. Benzema, Nasri, young gun Ben Arfa and an experienced back line are more than enough to make it happen.
England is in trouble. Injuries are unpredictable but that timing of England’s current woes could not have been worse. That combined with the John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Roy Hodgson riff is enough controversy to cause major problems for this team. Rooney is out for the first two games so it will be up to young Danny Welbeck to provide the scoring. This situation is the perfect set up for an England team with no pressure or reservations to make an unexpected run for the title. Is it likely? No. But, England still has some talent and given that the group stage should be a breeze, England could hold solid and find ways to advance further into the tournament.
I expect France to win the group outright and England to sneak out in second. England needs to get a little bit lucky but if they can find a way to organize an inexperienced back line and find goals without Wayne Rooney running the show, they will grab two wins and move on. I expect little to no resistance from the Ukraine. Sweden is a potential dark horse here but I don’t see them making it out.
GIVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS! EXTRACT YOUR BRAIN!