Argentina’s Big Three: Tevez, Higuain and Messi

April 7, 2010

As we approach the 60 day mark, it seems appropriate to appraise the team that has three forwards who are having unforgettable seasons. Argentina, led by iconic manager Diego Maradona, possess arguably the most fearsome attacking trio in the World Cup: Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, and Lionel Messi.

Carlos Tevez silences his critics

Carlos Tevez left Manchester United under controversy mostly due to his own feeling of being unwanted and under appreciated by Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson. A move to crosstown rivals Manchester City lost him his entire fan base of United fans, however he quickly has established himself as a legend for City as he is leading the team in scoring with over twenty goals, spearheading City’s Champions League chase. Tevez, who hails from the ruthlessly rough neighborhood of Fuerte Apache in Buenos Aires, has revitalized his career with dazzling displays for the City Blues and looks to take his club form into South Africa.

Forgotten man Higuain has had an unforgettable season

When Real Madrid signed Karim Benzema this past summer from Olympique Lyonnais for over 30 million Euros, few wondered what would happen to striker Gonzalo Higuain. Simply an afterthought to the big signings of last summer, Higuain dug in and produced a season that has been the utmost of surprises. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Benzema making all the headlines for simply putting on the Madrid uniform, Higuain has been the team’s most valuable player as he leads the club in scoring. Higuain has replaced Benzema as the team’s striker of the future, and will be hoping to keep up his strong play against Barcelona in ‘El Clasico’ this weekend to secure Madrid the La Liga title. Higuain’s renaissance this year has been huge for the struggling Argentina squad, as the striker has scored in every game that he has played for Maradona’s side. His ability to play up top and work well with his wingers make him a perfect target man to mesh with Tevez and Messi.

The undisputed best player on Earth

What more has to be said about Lionel Messi? The 22 year old Ballon d’Or winner absolutely demolished Arsenal in the Champions League with a 20 minute first half hat-trick which was followed up by an embarassing fourth goal in the 2nd half. Messi is a rare player who at such a young age, is destined to become the best ever. His touch on the ball, speed, intelligence, and arrogance allow him to try things on the pitch that few others even think about. Messi is leading La Liga in scoring and it seems destined that the World’s best player will light up the world cup this summer with his Argentine compatriots.

This trio in theory alone is devastating but with the form that each has been in for the past season taken into consideration, it looks as if nobody can look past Argentina this summer. Throw in the midfield monster Javier Macherano and the inspiration of Diego Maradona as head coach, and this team looks frightening. Some say Spain has the most lethal attack in the world but after this season, my money is on Argentina.

Something to think about:


World Cup Audio Preview

March 24, 2010

A brief overview of what to expect from the World Cup this summer including favorites for the Jules Rimet trophy, candidates for the Golden Boot, and a preview of the African teams.


African Teams Preview Part One

March 24, 2010

This summer will mark the first time that the FIFA World Cup will be played on African soil. In recent years, many African teams have improved their performances on the international stage. This summer, the African national teams will have more support and desire than ever as they compete in their home continent. Let’s take a look at the three teams from West Africa.

The Black Stars of Ghana

The Black Stars carry the pride of Kwame Nkrumah and Marcus Garvey in their team name and hope to make their spirits proud. Ghana, the first African nation to gain independence from colonization, is now one of the best teams in Africa. Led by Chelsea superstar midfielder Michael Essien, the Black Stars have a young team loaded with talent. With just the right amount of leaders and experience, the Black Stars have big names like Essien, Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari, and team captain Stephen Appiah, to lead up and coming players like Asamoah Gyan. Team chemistry, athleticism, and confidence will go a long way for Ghana this summer. Drawn into a very difficult group D with Germany, Austrailia and Serbia, Ghana will have to control the ball with their formidable midfield and capitalize on scoring opportunities to advance into the knockout rounds.

Didier Drogba of Côte d'Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana’s West African neighbors have the African team with the most name recognition. Most writers and critics consider star striker Didier Drogba as one of the top 5 strikers in the world.

Drogba, a teammate of Ghana’s Michael Essien at Chelsea, is tall, muscular, fast, and has incredible shooting ability in both legs. His only negative is his tendency to dive and play-act fouls, something that he hasn’t grown out of as his career has progressed. Alongside Drogba is Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou, a versatile forward who has great talent but is inconsistent. The Elephants have a strong midfield trio of Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, and Didier Zokora, all who play for clubs that compete in the UEFA Champions League. In defense, the Ivorians have Yaya Toure’s older brother, Kolo, a strong centre back who will anchor the defense. The talent certainly is there for the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire but it all remains to be seen how they will put it together this summer. The squad recently fired their head coach after a disappointing performance in the African Cup of Nations. They are rumored to be close to reaching a deal with Sven Goran-Eriksson, the famous Swedish coach who took England to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European championship. Eriksson will have his work out for him if he takes the post because the Elephants are in the “group of death” with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea. This is considered by experts the most competitive group in the tournament. They have a chance to make the knockout rounds; they just need to play their best soccer.

Super Eagle Obafemi Martins

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are a team that can be described in one word: inconsistent. The team has a lot of raw talent in players like Obafemi Martins of Wolfsburg FC, Yakubu of Everton FC, and John Obi Mikel of Chelsea.

The big names however have not translated into cohesion and team ability. The strike partnership that could exist between Martins and Yakubu has historically underperformed. The blame can be put on the players but in this case it seems to be more of inadequate managing by the coaching staff that is unable to inspire and motivate the players. Nigeria is another team that has a tough group with Argentina, Greece and South Korea. The Super Eagles have some players that can change a game in the blink of an eye but they will need more team chemistry and tactics to get of the group stage instead of relying on natural talent.

Some international fans were asked who they felt was the strongest African team.

Jai, a London, England based student said, “You would automatically think Ivory Coast will do well. But seeing as how they have the toughest group (including Brazil, and Portugal) you have to think realistically. So unfortunately, the torch has to be passed down to Ghana. They have a relatively easy group stage (with the only main threat being Germany). Both Muntari and Essien have been playing top club football for a while now and they need to be role models for the rest of the squad.”

Avery, a Liverpool supporter living in Hawaii believes Cote d’Ivoire are the best African team.

“(Cote d’Ivoire) have the strongest African team right now with Drogba, Kalou, the Toure’s,and Eboue. All are class players. Drogba is close to top form at the moment, and if he continues, his form he will be a force to be reckoned with in South Africa.”

Both Jai and Avery make solid points that outline the top European club players from Ghana and Ivory Coast being their key to victory. Both teams will be making some noise this summer. Time will tell  who makes the biggest impact.

Part Two will feature Cameroon, South Africa, and Algeria!


The Majestic Golden Boot

March 17, 2010

Miroslav Klose. Ronaldo. Davor Suker. If these names don’t ring any bells, do not be worried, because the last three winners of the FIFA World Cup Golden Boot have been mostly surprising, sans Ronaldo. In 1998, the Turkish forward Suker was the shocking winner, followed by a dominating eight goal tournament by Ronaldo en route to the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, and lastly Miroslav Klose’s solid performance in Germany in 2006. The Golden Boot is overshadowed by the World Cup winners and rightfully so but it still is a prestigious honor.

In the 2010 World Cup this summer in South Africa, there are several leading candidates for the Golden Boot and as the past has shown, predicting the eventual winner is a difficult task. Here are the favorites:

England's Rooney has been unstoppable this season

The England renaissance that has been orchestrated by manager Fabio Capello has much more to do with Wayne Rooney’s development into a world class striker than anything else. Rooney completely dominated in World Cup qualifiers scoring nine times en route to a near perfect record for the Three Lions. After missing out in the European Championships in 2008, England are relishing the opportunity to unleash Rooney on the world’s best, and anyone trying to predict a Golden Boot winner will think twice before looking past England’s number 10.

Spain's lethal striker David Villa

After Spain’s dominating performance at the 2008 European championships which saw David Villa win the award for top scorer, few would be wrong to bet against Villa to carry his impressive goal scoring record into South Africa. As one of the top scorers in Spain’s La Liga for club team Valencia, Villa has shown that he can score against the to clubs in Spain even when playing for a lower quality team. Often the subject of transfer rumors, Villa has stayed with Valencia and continued to bag goals season after season, and his performance in South Africa will be one that many are excited for.

FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi

Argentina’s hopes at the World Cup this summer are largely squared on the small shoulders of their superstar winger, Lionel Messi. Drawing comparisons to the legendary Diego Maradona, Messi has accomplished a lot in his short career and at the age of 22, he will be competing in his second World Cup, and hopes to make a bigger impact this time. Argentina has been inconsistent as of late, but the talent on their team is unquestioned, especially when Messi is playing in the team. As a player who can turn a match on it’s heels at any moment, Messi will be hoping to set the tournament alight this summer, and at this point has to be the overwhelming favorite as tournament top scorer.

Notably absent from this short list is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. The reason being is Ronaldo’s poor scoring record for his country as of late, which leads fans to believe that he isn’t in the same role in the Portuguese team that he is for Real Madrid. Time will tell whether Ronaldo can recapture his club form in the Portugal jersey, but if he finds his scoring touch this summer, he will surely be up their with the favorites for the Golden Boot.


Manhattan’s Top Soccer Bars: Nevada Smiths

March 17, 2010

New York City contains one of the most diverse ethnic populations in the world living in a dense urban environment alongside each other. This is part of the allure of New York, and one can experience the ethnic diversity of the soccer population by attending one of the many sports bars in the city. Coming in unanimously at number one is the legendary Nevada Smiths.

Nevada Smiths

1) Nevada Smith’s 74th Third Avenue between 11th and 12th streets, near Union Square 14th Street MTA Station

With over 100 live matches per week thousands of Football Fans streaming through the doors many from far away places drawn to the location through TV print media or Internet reports. It is as Britain’s leading Football publication Four Four Two put it “in a league of it’s own”. Raw and passionate and with it’s unique dedication to Football unequalled in the Continental US.

The enthusiastic crowd inside Nevadas

A legendary night spot, Nevada Smiths continues to draw the crowds. While famous world wide for its football, the Bar is an East Village and indeed New York City legend, drawing customers from all over the Tri-State area. Before the East Village became the trendy neighborhood that it now is, Nevada Smiths was serving fine beers and cocktails. So whether you are coming for the top notch football coverage or the great nightlife you will find it all at Nevada Smiths. (Source: http://www.nevadasmiths.net )

Donal Neligen, an Aston Villa and Ireland supporter said, “Nevada’s comes first no other comes close simply cause no other bar caters to so many different supporters groups.”

Donal is exactly on point with this statement. Nevada Smiths does a tremendous job in making fans from all different teams and leagues feel comfortable at their bar. It plays over 100 matches a week and will offer fans of every team an experience that they can enjoy.


End of an Era? David Beckham’s Career in Doubt

March 17, 2010

In the dying moments of Sunday’s Serie A match between A.C Milan and Chievo Verona, David Beckham’s quest to play in the World Cup was shattered. Beckham, who has famously played nearly year round for the L.A Galaxy in the MLS and A.C Milan in the Serie A, stepped awkwardly backwards onto his left heel and completely tore his Achilles tendon. The magnitude of the injury is huge, and the recovery period is said to be six months at least, almost certainly ruling Beckham out for the World Cup in June.

David Beckham

A massive outpouring of support has been offered to Beckham who was visibly distressed on the field and was reportedly ‘destroyed’ in the dressing room afterwards. As most involved in the soccer world know, the 34-year old midfielder plays for Milan during the MLS off-season in order to continually be picked for the England national team. England manager Fabio Capello only selects players that are fit and healthy, therefore Beckham needs to play almost year-round to keep his England chances alive.

Arguably the world’s most recognizable player, Beckham has an enormous fan base and this certainly is a sad time for those who hoped to see the Englishmen play this summer. Here, in the United States, the MLS and L.A Galaxy officials must be under considerable stress over Beckham’s current state due to his status as poster boy for the American league. An unquestioned talent on the field, Beckham also brings his international celebrity to the MLS which in turn attracts fans to games and he significantly increases merchandise sales. His absence from the forthcoming MLS season will be missed greatly. Fans in New York City had a heartfelt response to Beckham’s injury as most respect what he’s done as a player and for the game.

Joe Brogan, a High School teacher in Manhattan said, “It’s sad that Becks will miss what will be his last World Cup. He’s been a top player and hope he makes a full recovery. England has a deep squad though so they probably won’t miss his skill too much; the depth of his experience though means they will definitely be lacking in that department.”

Philip, a Newcastle and England fan added, “I feel sorry for the big lad Beckham. For all the digs he gets from
the media for being all Hollywood and pining for fame, he really does put the hard yards in during the season and you never hear of him out on the town unless he has a day off. As for the world cup, its a shame. Although he may have not played a whole lot, his experience and impact off the bench would have been helpful. However, we have James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Ashley young and so on, so all is not lost.”

It’s clear that many fans appreciate Beckham as both a person and footballer, and feel genuine sympathy for his injury.

Here is Beckham’s best, possibly for the last time.


Premier Class: Landon Donovan

March 10, 2010

Landon Donovan and Tim Cahill

Landon Donovan celebrates Tim Cahill's goal

Landon Donovan is the most recognizable American soccer player of his generation, similar to David Beckham’s status in England. Donovan burst onto the world scene with his performances for the U.S national team at the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, and followed that up with strong showings at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and more recently, the Confederations Cup this past summer. With incredible speed, technical ability, and shooting ability in both legs, Donovan is most known for playing for Major League Soccer’ L.A Galaxy rather than a more competitive European league. This is certainly a peculiar choice for someone of Donovan’s talent, and his recent two-month loan deal to Everton in the English Premier League has shown everyone that he possesses the ability to be a star in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.

So why does Landon Donovan play in the MLS? He may be asking himself the same question right now because the midfielder who once accused L.A Galaxy teammate David Beckham of not being committed to their team, is now doing the exact same thing that Beckham did when he extended his loan spell at A.C Milan last year. Donovan has asked permission from the L.A Galaxy front office and head coach to have his loan deal at Everton extended until mid-April. Donovan seems to have realized that the English Premier League competition marginally better than the MLS.

Donovan has stated that playing in the league in two short months has helped him improve as a player.
“It’s absolutely improved me. It’s impossible not to. I have learnt a lot technically, tactically, how to keep myself motivated. It absolutely puts me in a stronger position for the World Cup. But the biggest thing is having the confidence I can play against anybody and not fear anyone.”

His acceptance by the Everton fans has had a profound impact on how he feels about the team as a whole. After Everton hammered Hull City 5-1, a game that Donovan came off the bench to score once and assist on another, he was greeted by a raucous ovation from the Goodison Park faithful who desperately want him to stay at Everton. An American player beloved by hundreds of thousands of British fans is a seldom seen occurrence, but for Donovan, it’s reality.

Landon Donovan and David Beckham

Beckham's loan spell at A.C Milan gave Donovan the inspiration to try a loan move of his own at Everton

Many people may be asking themselves why Donovan plays a full season for the MLS and then uses his off-season to play in another foreign league? The answer is simple and Donovan was given the inspiration to do so by his L.A Galaxy teammate David Beckham. With the World Cup this summer, the top MLS players who play for their country need to stay in shape for the tournament that starts in June, and in Beckham’s case, this means a loan-spell at A.C Milan in order to be picked by England manager Fabio Capello for the English World Cup squad. Donovan is a different case because he would be picked for the U.S team regardless of whether he was playing or not. Donovan chose to take a loan move to Everton to stay in shape and play at the highest possible level of competition to prepare himself for the World Cup. Being America’s best player, Donovan needs to be at his best to give the U.S team any shot at making into the knockout rounds, and playing with a higher quality team improves his ability as a player.

Donovan’s dedication to the MLS’ growth as a league is admirable but the reality is that soccer is one sport that the United States does not have a world-class league for. The best players domestically play elsewhere, except in Landon Donovan’s case, however he may be carefully reconsidering sometime soon.