Posts Tagged ‘Sergio Ramos’

Master Tactician Alex Ferguson comes out of the Mestalla with a 1-0 win.

I grew up in an era of attacking football. Being a Real Madrid and La Liga supporter, I had the privilege of seeing Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, and Ronaldo playing together and picking teams apart with no mercy; while their relinquished defence saw the ball go into their net on a few occasions. They never seemed bothered when they let in goals. Their philosophy was one that read ‘We’ll just score more goals than you’.

That same era we witnessed the ‘Super Depor’ team which had Juan Carlos Valeron, Djalminha, Mauro Silva, and Diego Tristan. It was a team that beat Milan 4-0 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League to play another entertaining La Liga team at the time, Valencia. That era was the most dominant that La Liga has ever been in Europe and one that was pleasing to the eye. It seemed like ‘Joga Bonito’ had stamped out ‘negative football’ for good.

Football goes through phases. The era of flair and gung-ho offence is dormant for the time being. In the past year, we’ve seen defensive football emerge from it’s slumber (it was actually always there, but not everyone used it, and it wasn’t always successful).

Last season we thought Barca was unstoppable. And then we realized that the only way to beat them was to pressure them high and keep the defensive shell compact. That’s exactly what happened the two times they were conquered last season. Rubin Kazan did it in the Camp Nou in the group stages of the Champions League (ironically, they held Barca to a 1-1 draw today in similar fashion), and then Jose Mourinho came to the Camp ‘Mou’ and played some of the most unattractive yet efficient games of football I have seen to knock Barca out of the Champions League.

One month later, Vicente Del Bosque and Spain started their quest for their 1st ever World Cup trophy. La Seleccion this year is virtually Barca 2.0. It’s literally FC Barcelona plus Casillas, Ramos, Alonso, and Capdevila. The amazing thing is that Del Bosque took this team and totally changed it from the style of play that Pep Guardiola has Barca playing. He dropped Torres, and inserted a second DM -Xabi Alonso- to accompany Sergio Busquets. A simple switch that completely changes the system. Spain went from being an attacking team, to one that builds and solidifies at the back while trying to snatch a goal somewhere and then killing the game off with their possession.

Needless to say, La Roja went on to win the World Cup with a team that focused more on defensive stability than attack. This was evident as they won their last 4 games of the tournament by 1-0.

Mourinho - Impressive at the back

Jose Mourinho has Real Madrid playing more defense than they’re used to, but it seems to be working. Last night Mourinho decided to play with three defensive midfielders – Lass, Alonso, Khedira – against 17th placed Ligue 1 side Auxerre. A formation that is unheard of in Real Madrid. Mourinho’s philosophy is one that emphasizes defensive organization. To his defence -no pun intended-, Real Madrid has been playing the best defence I have ever seen them play, and although they aren’t scoring as much, I’m sure the goals will come eventually. They have to. Especially when you have Higuain, Benzema, Cristiano, Ozil, Di Maria, Pedro Leon, and Canales in attack.

My only criticism of Mourinho thus far is his obsession with playing Karim Benzema at the right wing position. It’s a position that destines Benzema to failure. He’s most lethal when he’s closest to goal, and at that position he occupies valuable space that Di Maria and Ozil could be filling. I’m sure Eto’o understands Benzema’s frustration with his comment today after his hat-trick and Inter’s 4-0 win over Werder Bremen:

“I’m happy to win as a striker after winning as a defender last season,”

And finally, a surprising ending happened at the Mestalla today as Manchester United grabbed a 1-0 win over Valencia. After literally attacking Manu for 80 minutes and coming close to scoring on several occasions, they found themselves losing the match after Manchester finally broke out of their defensive shell late to score the only goal of the game. If there ever was a ‘perfect game’, Sir Alex came pretty close today. He had United lined up fantastic defensively and Valencia found it hard to penetrate the great partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic. The more Valencia pushed, the more Manchester absorbed, and just when it looked like Valencia might score, Ferguson came up with two genius substitutions bringing on youngsters Javier Fernandez and Federico Macheda. The later was the architect who set-up Fernandez for the winning goal. It was a lovely move that can be seen here.

So what is the answer? Is a defensive approach more efficacious than an attacking approach? There is no clear answer. What’s evident is that football goes through phases and different coaches are successful with different tactics. That’s the beautiful thing about football, every team plays differently and some of the most beautiful matches can come from two teams who have completely contrasting styles of play.

Defensive football = Attacking football.

Ramos and co. didn't really try. But it was enough.

 

There are some worries in the Spanish National camp as the reigning European champions don’t look as focused as they did last summer. ‘La Furia Roja’ struggled to beat non-World Cup dwellers Saudi Arabia 3-2 in Innsbruck, Austria  on Saturday.

The Saudi’s surprisingly went up 1-0 in the 16th minute as Osama Hawsawi headed in a corner that Spanish keeper Iker Casillas failed to punch clear. 14 minutes later, Barcelona striker David Villa scored to level the match. At the half, the Saudi’s looked more impressive than the Spanish.

After the half-time break, Spain came out with more sloppy play; and although Xabi Alonso gave Spain the lead in the 57th minute with a precise shot from outside the box, Saudi Arabia leveled the match in the 73rd minute with a freak goal which deflected off of Al Namare and past the helpless Casillas. The game ended with substitute Llorente heading in a Xabi Alonso corner in virtually the last kick of the game to give Spain the 3-2 win.

It’s clear that Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque needs to have his team more focused when the World Cup comes around. Although this Spanish team is much deeper and better on paper than the one that won the Euro (inclusions of Pique, Valdes, Pedro, Llorente and Navas are fantastic) they do not look as sharp. Former Euro winning coach Luis Aragones formed an organized cohesive unit which we haven’t really seen under 2-time Champions League winner Del Bosque. The ‘moustache’ as they call him, is still awaiting the return of 2 of his key players in Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres from injury.

International Friendly results and highlights organized for viewing for your pleasure:

Spain 3-2 Saudi Arabia

Ireland 3-0 Algeria

Slovakia 1-1 Cameroon

Serbia 0-1 New Zealand

Sweden 4-2 Bosnia Herzegovina

Ukraine 3-2 Romania

Hungary 0-3 Germany

USA 2-1 Turkey

England 2-1 Japan

Belarus 1-0 Korea Republic

Paraguay 2-2 Ivory Coast

Gambia 1-5 Mexico

Nigeria 1-1 Colombia

Tunisia 1-1 France

Chile 1-0 Northern Ireland

Other Results:

Norway 2-1 Montenegro

Moldova 2-3 UAE

Poland 0-0 Finland

Iceland 4-0 Andorra

Azerbaijan 1-3 Rep. of Macedonia

Venezuela 1-1 Canada

Milito: Quite in form these days.

 

 Diego Milito with two moments of brilliance to steal the show and lead Inter Milan to their first Champions League trophy since 1965. 

Let’s be honest. Nothing against these two European giants, but these were not the two best teams in Club World football. Regardless, Inter Milan deserved it. And yes; you can take that as a contradictory statement if you like. 

It was one of the most unnatractive finals a neutral eye has witnessed in years. Bayern’s only threat came from Arjen Robben (who by the way, would be one of the best players of his generation if he didn’t have health issues), and one man isn’t enough to get past the best defence in the World. Maybe Inter’s style was not the prettiest to watch, but we have to give credit to them for several reasons. 

Mourinho has made Inter Milan the most organized team in World football. There is no doubt about it. I truly can not remember the last time I was able to see such alignment, unity, and defensive perfection in a team. In my opinion, this is the best defence the World has seen since Italy’s Euro 2000 team which had Cannavaro, Nesta, and Maldini. But the bewildering thing about this team, is that Mourinho didn’t have 3 World Cup legends in their prime at his disposal. Having said that, he took World Class players and made them more. He made them champions. He took Wesley Sneijder, who couldn’t even control a damn football at Real Madrid, look like a World Class organizer who created a beautiful transition from midfield to attack. And just to be sure, if anything ever got past the back line, Julio Cesar (probably the best goalkeeper on Earth right now), would miraculously save anything that might have gotten through. 

Javier Zanetti: Legend

 

  It was hard to see the majestic Estadio Santiago Bernabeu flooded with red, black, and blue yesterday. But if there’s one man I can allow to lift a trophy in that Temple, it’s Javier Zanetti. He is a true legend of the game. One of the best right backs of all time, and a class act both on and off the pitch. He deserved it. It’s an absolute shame that Diego Maradona is crazy enough not to not take Zanetti, Cambiasso, and Samuel (and then take Heinze). Ridiculous really. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he dropped Milito after his brilliant performance last night. 

A shame for Inter and it’s fans though that they will not be the same team next year. The architect: Mourinho, will be a Real Madrid coach next season (more on that in a sec), and he will probably take Maicon with him and Sergio Ramos will be moved to a CB. But Congrats to Internazionale.. Enjoy the moment! 

Regarding Mourinho.. He doesn’t hold back in press conferences does he? What a guy. Check out 9:45: 

Although many neutrals might not have enjoyed what was supposed to be the biggest spectacle in World football, I can assure you that Cules and Madridistas around the World were experiencing near heart attacks. For weeks up to the build up to El Clasico, friends had been talking trash to me, emphasizing the point that Barcelona would not only win this game, but absolutely dominate it and predictions like 3-0 were constantly thrown at me. I simply laughed it off. I knew that Barcelona are not the same team they were a year ago, and I also had faith that Madrid would elevate their game. Real Madrid are not Inter Milan. They were not going to bend over pathetically so Barca could.. Well you know.

From the opening kick-off my heart was in my stomach. I was happy with Pellegrini’s starting eleven. I felt the decision to drop Benzema to stick in Marcelo was wise to keep Dani Alves in check. Madrid started off fantastically and had several chances to take the lead. The most notable chance came when Kaka left two defenders for dead, and served it on a platter for Cristiano Ronaldo who missed a criminal chance. But the start was encouraging. The game continued with Madrid having several great chances going astray and most of them due to brilliant individual defending from Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes. Of course, both teams had chances in the second half too, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on as a sub to score one of Barca’s few chances. The intentions of this post was  not to recap the game itself so much, but to take a look at the long-term implications of this match.

The Cons:

Although Pellegrini’s starting line-ups have been sound and reasonable this season, it’s his decisions after half-time which have been highly questionable. I won’t touch on his past decisions, but today there were some choices that did not make much sense. Marcelo has been playing fantastic ever since Pellegrini rightfully converted him to a left winger. But today he was our weakest link. Instead of taking off Arbeloa (who played well on the defensive end) for Raul and pushing Marcelo back to LB, I feel that Marcelo should have been subbed for Drenthe who has an incredible amount of pace and flair and would have caused the Barca defence even more problems. We all love the captain and his records, but we already had two strikers with Pipita and Benzema. There was no need for a third.

My other main concern is the lack of quality in the set pieces that are taken. We have players like Pepe, Cristiano and Ramos who are monsters in the air; but Xabi Alonso’s set-pieces have been woeful this season. We haven’t had a consistent set piece specialist since David Beckham and I am worried. Esteban Granero has proven he’s a good dead ball player, but he hasn’t had significant minutes this season.

— But fear not my Madridista brothers. The positives far outweigh the negatives. —

The Pros:

Real Madrid can hold their heads up high. The long-term implications of this game are vast and fruitful. A game that Barca was supposed to dominate, ended up being a game where Real Madrid were the better team and were unlucky to lose. Real Madrid still has the season in their hands. They are finally hitting their stride and will only get better. Although the result of this game could’ve been better, I am positive that as a club, we will gain confidence from this match. Two players really stood out for me today: Kaka and Sergio Ramos. Both players had their best games of the season thus far. Sergio Ramos was a rock at the back, and fantastic going forward. While Kaka tormented the Barca defence on several occasions and looked like he always wanted to be involved. I absolutely can’t wait until Cristiano, Kaka, Benzema, and Higuain hit their stride. It’s going to be orgasmic to watch.

Barcelona have been a shadow of their former selves this season. They’ve only had a couple of truly impressive games, and their last game against Inter really had much to do with Inter’s awful organization and tactics. I don’t like knocking on champions, but the fact that a woeful team like Inter can be champions of Italy is a shame for football. I am confident that Madrid will keep improving and hitting their stride while Barca still have work to do. The league is still in our hands. One more Clasico in the Bernabeu.

iiiiiiii HALA MADRID !!!!!!!

Emanuel Adebayorhas lost any respect that anyone has had left for him after his childish and juvenile antics against Arsenal on the weekend. First he kicked Van Persie in the face while VP was down on the ground, and then he scored a goal, and celebrated by running 90 yards across the pitch to the Arsenal section to provoke the fans of his former club:

An amateur records a better view of the Arsenal fans going nuts and throwing stuff at him:

Before his goal, where he kicks Van Persie while he’s down:

Meanwhile, Real Madrid continue to look unstoppable.

Real Madrid have started the season off 2-0. They have been playing without Ramos and Pepe. And they also started the game against Espanyol without Lassana, Raul and Ronaldo. On top of that, they are not even at 50% of the capabilities, this team has barely gelled yet – and despite of all this, they look absolutely scary going up front. Each time they have the ball it looks like they are about to score. One of my favorite things about Real Madrid right now is Esteban Granero. He came from the youth system, and was loaned out to Getafe for a couple years and bought back this year. He is an absolutely cracking player. He can attack, defend, hustles, pass, score and takes magnificent set-pieces. He just could be the next Andres Iniesta (you heard it here first). Kaka has also hit his stride and looks like he’s back to being one of the World’s best players. Real Madrid’s demolition in Catalunya against Espanyol in their new stadium:

David Silva

First of all, I am going to apologize to all my fans for not being around in the past couple of weeks. Believe it or not I have somewhat of a busy life. However, summer is over – which means school is starting – which means you will see more blog entries from me – which means I have excellent priorities.

Right on.

World Cup Qualifying

The World Cup and the finalists are finally taking shape. This week was host to some outrageous events. Starting in Tbilisi, Georgia hosted Italy looking for their first win. Pretty tough task when you have to play against the defending World Champions (admittedly though it’s a much weaker Italian side than before, but their consistent luck makes them a threat against anyone). Now we’ve all have heard about the calciopoli scandal, but is it too much to say that Kahka Kaladze was offered some kind of expensive automobile to purposely lose the game? Italy won the match 2-0 from two outrageous own goals by Kaladze:

Portugal – All but out.

For a team that was a favorite to win the World Cup, failure to qualify didn’t even cross anyone’s mind. That dream of even being considered a favorite is all but shattered now. Portugal now lies fourth place in their group behind Denmark, Hungary, and Sweden. Carlos Quieroz seems to have completely lost the plot. Portugal’s starting line-up against Denmark consisted of: Pepe, Raul Meireles, Tiago, Deco, Simao, and Cristiano Ronaldo. I know Portugal has lacked a good striker for years, but this team doesn’t even have one in the line-up! Add to the fact that Pepe most certainly should not be played as DM (as great as he is).

KAKA

I’ve always been one of his biggest fans even when he was in Milan; and now that he’s a Madridista I think I might just be in love him. For me, this guy is easily the smoothest and most elegant player in the World right now (I still believe Messi is the best player in the World.. But Kaka is just a joy to watch). Kaka has always been awesome for Brazil and fantastic against Argentina. The World Cup Qualifyer against Argentina this week showed that he hasn’t slowed down one bit, he was running past players and setting people up and completely overshadowed Mascherano and Messi. Maradona needs to get Argentina sorted out – and quick. Argentinians don’t like to lose 3-1 at home against their biggest rivals. Highlights (and check out Kaka’s incredible pass for Brazil’s last goal):

David Silva y La Furia Roja

David Silva is on fire right now and definitely one of the most in-form players in the World. The guy is so underrated it’s not even remotely funny. Silva and David Villa made up for 4 of Spain’s 5 goals against Belgium. I still can’t believe how much Valencia have struggled having those two in their team. Spain is a machine right now, they look absolutely unstoppable. The scary thing is that Iniesta and Ramos are still injured and did not play this game. Just sit back and enjoy the kings of Europe doin’ their thang:

Pipita - FTW!
Pipita – FTW!

 You can’t say enough about Gonzalo Higuain. His passion and determination has won the hearts of Madridista’s all around the World. Once again, in the midst of a horrible Real Madrid performance today, he took the team into his own hands and scored two goals (one of them in injury time to win the game).

It’s very strange being a Real Madrid fan; week in and week out I experience an emotional rollercoaster. This is easily an era of one of the worst Real Madrid teams I have ever seen. Yet, we are still back to back champions and sit second behind a record breaking Barcelona team. Despite how bad Real Madrid have been, they’ve been winning non stop. Today’s game summed up the season pretty well: Bad performance, heroics from Casillas, individual brilliance, game won. I must say, this was easily the most exciting game of the season that Real Madrid has played in. The game was pretty much lost when Albin put Getafe 2-1 up (horrible defending) with 6 minutes to go. Guti’s brilliant free-kick in the 86th minute tied the game, but the celebrations were short lived when Pepe was given a straight red card for fouling a player in the box and kicking him while he was down. However, Casillas saved the penalty (awful panenka attempt from Casquero) which brought a massive roar around the Bernabeu. Higuain’s second goal in injury time was the icing on the cake to bury Getafe (and pr0bably alot of Barca hearts).

This pic pretty much sums up the game; Pepe running out of the locker room after being red carded to celebrate, Casillas running from his net to celebrate and Cannavaro off the bench. You can see how much this game meant to them:

Some more pics from the game:

Match Highlights (You won’t want to miss it):

 

Frustrating game for all Merengues
Frustrating game for all Merengues

It’s been 6 years now. We’ve been cursed at the round of 16 stage in the Champions League. For some reason, I thought this would be the year we would break the curse; but Liverpool Keep Reading..