Arsenal’s Patience Pays Off

For Arsenal, the last few years have been tough, the lack of any silverware since 2005 was becoming a rather troublesome monkey on their backs. Since the opening of their brand new, £390m stadium back in 2006, it was not until May of this spring, could they finally add to the list of honors that encompass the interior of the stadium. The trophy not only provides some much needed success, but it also symbolizes the change in dynamics for the North London club.

The Emirates Stadium was a huge project, £390m may not sound too much in current times, with the likes of Man City having vast sums of money invested into them. For Arsenal, they were going to have to pay off the loan without such help. This would have a significant effect of the way the club worked. During the barren years, Arsenal fans had to witness many oftheir star players and captains leave. Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy are just some of the names that have departed. Arsenal were operating on a tight financial structure, so they could not pay the sums of money that top stars around Europe were earning. The lack of any on field success would contribute even further to players looking elsewhere for glory. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had a very difficult job on his hand, to keep the club competitive, without being able to spend vast amounts on players that were much needed to improve the squad. The Club had a reasonable amount of money to spend, a few seasons of £40m-50m worth of transfers. But the club were not attracting star players, the marquee signings. the blockbusters, but rather,  they were players other teams were not entirely interested in. The last few years have been much more promising, with the repayment of the stadium loan almost complete. funds were now made available to towards the team,

The signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for a record fee of £42m last summer was astonishing in several ways. The club had never spent in the region of this before, it was a sign of their new found financial strength. Also this was not the shrewd signing of an upcoming player, or a cheap buy from overseas.  This was the arrival of one of the best midfielders in the world. Along with the FA Cup win, the club had also announced a huge sponsorship deal with Puma, dropping Nike after several years. With the debt almost paid off, combined with valuable sponsorship deals. Arsenal are now finally back as a big time player. Already, they have signed the much rated Alexis Sanchez, along with Mathieu Debuchy and Colombia keeper David Ospina this summer. The transfer window is still open for a few more weeks, and could see the addition of many more new faces. Which could help the club once more, go back to winning league titles on a regular basis. After several years of underwhelming signings, annual collapses during the season and having to see all their best players leave year after year. Things are finally looking bright, and this season may well be one of the most successful in the best part of 10 years.


Atletico Already Playing Catch Up

For almost 10 years, Spanish football was dominated by the Big 2, Real Madrid and Barcelona. But last season, Atletico Madrid sprung a huge upset, and managed to wrestle away the title from the duopoly. Diego Simone had put together a resilient team, which spent the  majority of the season in the top 2, powered by their talisman Diego Costa. Atletico won the league, on the last day, at Barcelona. They almost capped it off with a Champions League win, in which they were leading with only seconds to go, before succumbing in Extra Time to Real Madrid. Summer would be crucial for them, as Barcelona and Real would inevitably strengthen, and their own star players would have attracted admirers from other big clubs around Europe.

The summer window so far has not been too kind to the defending champions. Their fierce neighbours Real, have already splashed over £80m on just 2 players. Toni Kroos, whose future with Munich was uncertain for most of last season, confirmed he would be leaving fro Madrid after the World Cup triumph. If the addition of Kroos wasn’t enough, Madrid recently completed the transfer of James Rodriguez from Monaco. For a reported fee of £71m, which would make him the 4th highest transfer of all time. Rodriguez had a sensational World Cup, and won the Golden Boot. Monaco are not a team in any real need of money, but even they could not refuse such a large bid. Over in Catalonia, Barcelona were looking to recover from a rare trophy free season. They have made the marquee signing so far. Luis Suarez, who had a phenomenal season for Liverpool. Shelling out £75m for the striker. Who will now feature in an brutal attack consisting of Messi and Neymar! But Barcelona did make a sacrifice in order to land the striker, they sold the highly rated Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal. Cesc Fabregas has also departed, Ivan Rakitic, of Sevilla had an influential season in taking them to Europa league glory, has been signed to replace him.

While the Big 2 have dominated the news with their blockbuster signings, things have not been so good for Atletico. Diego Costa has left for Chelsea, his 27 goals were a vital part of the glory last season. He has been replaced by Mandzukic, a great striker, but unproven in Spain. Their keeper Thibaut Courtois has been recalled back to Chelsea after a wonderful season. Left Back Felipe Luiz has also joined the list of Atletico exits to Chelsea. Finally David Villa, has moved onto the MLS, after chipping in with 15 goals last term.

Its not been a good summer so far for Atletico, with the loss of several players, and major strengthening of their rivals., thought they still have time to do more business But this is a team that worked well together as a team, regardless of their perceived lack of superstars. On paper they did not match up to the Big 2 last year, but their work ethic and drive saw them overcome that. They could repeat the same feat this year, but they will most certainly start with a disadvantage.

When England Beat Spain!

It’s all quite on the football front over the summer, so I thought I would share another album, this time, when England beat World Champions (at the time!) Spain at Wembley! Its always nice to beat the reigning Champions..even if it was just a friendly!


World Cup 2014 : Germany Bring Down The Curtains

After 64 games, and one month of fun & drama, it was Germany who came out on top. Sealing their 4th World Title, at the expense of Argentina.

It has been a long time, over 20 years since either of these superpowers had won the biggest of all prizes. On form, Germany went in as the favorites. After the ruthless manner in which they dismantled Brazil in the previous round. Though Argentina would still be a threat, they had not conceded a single goal during the knock out phase, and were finally looking like a complete team.

If there were any doubts on Argentina being more tired after their semi final, they were quickly put to bed. Germany may have had the larger share of the possession early on, but Argentina looked lively on the break. It was Argentina who had the first clear chance to go in front. A tame header from Kroos played in Gonzalo Higuain clean through on goal. But he fluffed his chance horribly, not even managing to test the goalie and sending the ball wide. He soon thought he had made amends, putting away a great cross from Lavezzi, but the linesman’s flag denied him his moment. Germany did not have the best preparation, Sami Khedira having to pull out during the warm up, meaning Christoph Kramer was suddenly called into action, and suddenly having to start in the biggest game of his life. To his credit, he did well, but his time was cut short, a horrible clash with an Argentinian player left his dazed. Germany correctly chose not to take the risk, and replaced him with Andre Schürrle. Germany’s best effort of the half was from a corner late into added time. Höwedes crashing a header off the post. The half ended goalless, but it was an intriguing game so far.

Argentina replaced the lively Lavezzi with Sergio Aguero,  in search of a goal. Their early pressure almost paid off, as Lionel Messi was played in, and with the goal at his mercy, his shot went wide of the far post. A surprising miss when it looked like a goal was most certain. Argentina had now fluffed 2 good opportunities, and failed to test the keeper on both occasions. Germany eventually reasserted themselves and had most of the ball for the rest of the half, Toni Kroos had the best of their chances. The game went into Extra Time as neither team could find the break through. It was Argentina who wasted another glorius chance in in the first period of Extra Time. A poor German header found its way to Palacio, but his poor first touch and lobbed shot failed to threaten the goal, even if it was on target, it would have been cleared off the line by the rushing defender. Both team traded blows with no success, until 6 minutes from time. Gotze, who had come on as a sub, collected a pass from the industrious Schürrle. In one smooth motion, he controlled the ball and hit it on the volley from the edge of the 6 yard box and into the net. A fine goal, worthy of winning the World Cup. The two substitutes combined well, which would have pleased the manager.  Germany managed to hold on in the last few minutes, to win their 4th World Cup. For Argentina, they were made to pay for all their missed chances, they failed to register a single shot on goal. Brazil sighed in relief, as they would not have to witness their arch rivals win on their own turf. Argentina had done well to reach this far, but overall the Germans deserved it, they had been the best team throughout and had scored the most goals in the process. Not many can begrudge them this win.

On another note, the 3rd Place play-off was held on Saturday, and for Brazil, it capped of a horrendous week for Brazilian football. Inside 20 minutes, they were 2-0 down. Van Persie scoring early with a penalty, after Thiago Silva was lucky not to see red after pulling down Arjen Robben. Daley Blind scored the second, after after error from David Luiz, who has had a hapless few days. Brazil’s misery was capped off in the dying minutes, as Wijnaldum tucked home the 3rd. Brazil end the tournament having conceded 10 goals in 2 games. For Holland, they sign off on a high.

Before we leave the 2014 World Cup behind, The Golden Boot was won by Colombia’s James Rodriguez, with 6 goals (+ 2 assist), Muller finished  on 5, and Messi, Van Persie & Neymar all had an impressive showing with 4 goals.

So that’s it! Brazil 2014 will now be consigned to the record books,  its Russia’s turn in 4 years time. The European Championships will be in France in 2 year, something else to look forward too while we wait for the next global party! Our attention here will now move on to the English Premier League over the next few weeks, so we shall see you soon!


World Cup 2014 : The Best Moments

Every World Cup have their memorable moments, so lets have a quick look back at some of the great moments this edition has provided us.

Costa Rica & Their Magical Run

Group D contained 4 times winners Italy, 2 times winners Uruguay and 1 time winner England. The final nation were minnows Costa Rica. Not many would have predicted before the tournament that it would be the Central American nation that would be the last to leave Brazil! Costa Rica stunned Uruguay in their opening game, coming from behind to win. They then proved that was not a fluke by beating Italy in the next game to qualify. They even topped the group with a draw against England. A tie against Greece provided them with a reasonable shot at going through to the Quarter Finals for the first time. They once again upset the higher ranked nation and beat Greece on penalties. The mighty Holland stood in their way if they were to progress to the final 4. They eventually lost out on penalties, but the fact they managed to even take a team such as the Dutch all the way showed the great resilience which endured the nation to fans around the world.

Colombia Light Up Brazil

Colombia may have been ranked in the top 10, but not many would have been familiar with their team and their style of play. Many experts had tipped them to be one of the Dark Horses of the tournament, but with injury ruling out their star striker Radamel Falcao before the tournament, many wondered how this would effect the team. If anything, his absence allowed the other talented players to shine and take center stage. James Rodriguez was a player who has been shining for a while, but not known to many casual fans. Now, he was the Golden Boy in a team who were playing with great flair. Being supported by players such as Cuadrado, Guarin and Martinez. Colombia won all their games, leading to a Quarter Final showdown with Brazil. A tightly fought match with a physical Brazil side, but they just fell short. Though they crashed out at the 1/4 Finals, fans wont forget the great goals and dancing celebrations the South American nation provided!

Algeria Make History

In 2010, Algeria did not pull up many trees, they finished bottom, with 1 point, and scoring no goals in the process. Not many were expecting them to do much this time around either. They had not won a match at the finals since 1982, a record they would like to put to bed sooner rather than later! In their opener, Algeria were unlucky to lose to Belgium, leading most of the game, they lost after 2 late goals. But signs were there that this was a much better team than 4 years ago. This was shown in the following game, in which they blitzed a shell shocked South Korean team, scoring 3 in the opening half. They went on to win that game, and become the first African nation to score 4 at the finals. Algeria only required a draw against Russia, which they got. Algeria for the first time ever had made it through to the Last 16. They had Germany to face next, and had the 3 time winners on the ropes for parts of the game, spurning many chances to take the lead. In the end, the Germans just had enough quality to go through. But Algeria had done their nation proud, and gained many new fans across the world.

The Dutch Crush Spain

When the draw was made, Holland v Spain was probably the highlight of the Group Stages. A rematch of the 2010 final. Spain were looking to win their 4th consecutive international title, but they were in for a shocking few days. It looked business as usual for Spain, after a Xabi Alonso penalty gave Spain the lead. But just before half time, a wonderful Van Persie header got Holland back on level terms. The game was very much in the balance going into the second half. The following 45 minutes stunned fans watching all over the world. Spain simply imploded. Arjen Robben simply torn the Spanish apart, he soon put Holland in front, before Iker Casillas has a shocking few minutes. First he flapped at a free kick, allowing de Vrij to bundle home. Moments later, he attempted to control a pass, but a heavy touch lead to him losing possession to Van Persie, who put the ball into an open net. Robben capped off his fine game with the 5th goal. It was an astonishing game, simply due to the fact Spain were reigning champions, it didn’t get any better for them as they got dumped out the following game losing to Chile.

Germany & Ghana Serve Up A Treat

The group stages for the 2014 World Cup were simply put, filled with goals. far surpassing the number of goals that were scored in the group stages in South Africa. Where before, teams played defensively, looking not to lose. This time around, it was attacking football that was the order of the day. With teams like Chile and Colombia firing away. The goal crazy nature was summed up by one game, Germany v Ghana. This may not have stood out as a marquee fixture, and the first half was a drab encounter, with no goals being scored. But the second half was totally different. The game was played at a fast pace, with end to end action, it become a thrilling match to watch as a neutral. Germany took the lead early in the second half, before Ghana equalized soon after. Minutes later, Ghana had taken the lead, Gyan with the strike, and a big upset looked to be on the cards, the neutral fans in the crowd were getting behind the African nation. Ghana spurned a few good chances to further extend their lead. Germany punished them, when substitute Miroslav Klose scored, and in turn become the joint highest goalscorer in all World Cup history with the great Ronaldo. A frantic 10 minutes at the end had both teams with good chances to take all 3 points. But a draw was a fair result in a game no one probably deserved to lose.

Brazil Shredded

Probably the result of the tournament. Not for any Brazil fans, but for the rest of the world, they will remember this game for a long, long time! I wont go too much into this game, as it only happened a few days ago, and everyone it probably aware of the chaos that occurred! If one game was to display what this World Cup was about, it would be this.


World Cup 2014 : The Best Goals!

Well now that the tournament is coming to an end, its a nice time look back on the past 4 weeks. In no specific order, here are some of the best goals that have lit up Brazil!



Robin Van Persie (1-1, v Spain)
Holland v Spain was billed to be the game of the group stage, and it did not disappoint! With the Dutch annihilating a shell shocked Spain team in a 2nd half blitz. The highlight being the wonderful equalizer by Robin Van Persie. From a cross from the half way line, Van Persie, from the edge of the area connected with a diving head, and looped it over the stranded Casillas. The technique and timing of the strike was amazing, and probably the finest headed goal ever scored at the World Cup.



Tim Cahill (1-1. v Holland)
Australia were predicted to be the whipping boys of the group, but it was not the case. Australia were unlucky not to get anything from their match against Chile. The mighty Holland were next, and they gave them a big scare too. Tim Cahill equalized soon after Robben gave Holland the lead with a magnificent volley. With the ball coming in over his shoulder, from a tight angle, on his weaker side, he connected with a first time volley. Which crashed off the underside of the crossbar.If Van Persie had scored the best header ever, this was up their with the greatest of Volleys!



Jermaine Jones (1-1, v Portugal)
As with Australia, USA were given little hope in their group. But a win against Ghana gave them a great shout of qualifying. A win v Portugal would take them through. They looked on course when Jermaine Jones leveled the scores with a superb curling effort. After failing to clear a corner, Jones picked up the ball just outside the area, and bent in a wonderful effort from 25 yards, the goalie was rooted to the spot! A goal you would have expected to see from Portugal superstar Christiano Ronaldo.



James Rodriguez (4-1, v Japan)
The Colombian play maker was already setting the tournament on fire, but the 4th goal against Japan was a joy to watch. With the game moving into injury time, Colombia found themselves on the break, looking to end Japan’s poor tournament. Rodriguez through on goal, turned inside, and out, leaving the Japanese defender stumbling over in confusion, before finishing with a cute chipped finish over the keeper. The finesse and control displayed for the goal was world class, the composure to finish with such confidence was top drawer.



Lionel Messi (1-0, v Iran)
Iran had put on a great defensive display in keeping out the talented Argentina team, they had kept Messi and Co. quite for most of the game, and could have stole a famous win with some missed chances. Still, it appeared that Iran would hold on for a valiant point, but deep into Injury Time, it was that man Messi who unlocked the defense. Picking up the ball of the edge of the area, the tired Iranian defense made the mistake of letting Messi cut inside rather that force him out wide. He curled in a delightful finish into the far corner. It was a cruel blow for Iran who had done so well, but with a player like Messi, it only takes a second of loss concentration and he can punish you.


Colombia's Rodriguez scores a goal past Uruguay's Godin Pereira and Rios during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro

James Rodriguez (1-0, v Uruguay)
The last 16 tie between Uruguay and Colombia was not a great affair for the opening half hour, the Colombian attack was cancelled out by the strong Uruguay defense. It took a moment of pure magic to break the deadlock. It came from the star player of the tournament, James Rodriguez. Standing on the edge of the area, he controlled a pass on his chest, before turning and rifling home a powerful volley off the underside of the bar. A fantastic goal, the replays even showing he had a quick look to where the goal was before shooting. So no accusations of a fluke can be aimed at the goal! Along with Cahill, this will be a contender for the Goal of the World Cup for sure.



David Luiz (2-0, v Colombia)
The quarter finals between Brazil and Colombia promised to be a great match, with many predicting a Colombia upset. Brazil took the lead in the first half with Thiago Silva stumbling in the opener. The second half was all Colombia, but with their first shot on goal of the half, Brazil confirmed their semi final place. David Luiz, who is known to take a great free kick ever now and then. Had a set piece from 35 yards out. He struck it sweetly and struck in a powerful, dipping effort. A truly wonderful free kick, and one deserving to seal a place in the last 4.



Andre Schürrle (7-1, Brazil)
Among all the chaos and destruction Germany had inflicted on Brazil in the semi final match, its easy to forgot some of the goals that were scored. 8 in total! The best of the German 7 was the 7th from substitute Schürrle. With the game dead and buried, it was exhibition time for the Germans. This was summed up by the quality of the final strike. Bursting into the box after controlling a tricky reverse pass, he was fast running out off space to take a shot. With the ball on the rise, he struck a fierce volley, which cannoned off the crossbar and in. A fine goal, which was even applauded by the Brazil fans to their credit.


World Cup 2014 : A Case Of ‘After The Lord Mayor’s Show’

After the amazing scenes from the night before, this game would have to do a lot to even match the drama from the previous Semi Final.

Argentina started Benfica midfielder Enzo Perez to replace the injured Di Maria, who is now a doubt for the final, a big blow for Argentina. If Brazil’s crushing defeat wasn’t bad enough, it would rub salt into the wounds to see their arch rivals progress to the final. For Holland, they were looking to finally drop their ‘bridesmaid’ tag, which they have been carrying for many years due to their nature of always falling short. If Brazil showed how not to defend, these two nations most certainly could. Both teams played with the fear of losing, rather than the drive to win. The first half was virtually a non event in terms of goals, with defensive players shining. Especially Ron Vlaar and Javier Mascherano. Messi was marked out of the game, his only effort being a free kick hit straight at the keeper. Robben, who has been so effective all tournament was reduced to the periphery of the match, a half in which he only attempted a single pass. Van Persie who has been suffering from a stomach bug was evidently not at his best. Unsurprisingly, it was still goalless at half time.

The second half was slightly more open, but that wasn’t saying much. Higuain had the best chance for Argentina, Perez put in a lovely cross from the right, with the Napoli strikers effort just hitting the side netting, Nigel De Jong had an excellent game, he sat on Messi for the duration of his time on the field, and stifled the Argentina play-maker out of the game. There would always be one chance to win it, and it fell to Robben late on. Clean through on goal, it seemed certain he would fire Holland into the final, but a heavy touch allowed Mascherano who was having an amazing game, to get in the tackle. As Extra Time went on, Argentina had probably the best of the chances, with Palacio and Rodriguez both having good chances but fired right at the keeper. It was no surprise that the game went onto penalties, it was truly a mundane game. After the whirlwind of a match the night before. This match would always find it tough to live up to expectation, and this was most certainly the case. Messi did not have a single touch of the ball inside the Dutch area, which summed up the nature of the game. If the attacking was poor, you have to give credit for the work the defensive members of the teams put in. One note of interest was that due to Holland making all 3 changes, Van Gaal could not replace keeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul as he did in the last game. How would this effect the Dutch goalkeeper, knowing he was pretty much not trusted to take part in the previous shootout.

Eyebrows were raised when Ron Vlaar stepped up for the first kick, he may have had an outstanding game, but his is not one of Hollands regular spot kick takers. This was shown, as his kick was saved down low by Romero. Messi put away his kick to give Argentina an early lead. Robben and Garay followed suit with their kicks. The pressure was on Holland after missing their opening kick, and the pressure told, as Sneijder had his effort well saved. With Aguero scoring his, it was effectively 2 match points to Argentina. Dirk Kuyt scored to keep Holland in it, but it was Maxi Rodriguez who sealed their fate. His powerful shot may very well have been saved, but Cillessen’s wrists were not strong enough to keep the ball out. The keeper did not look confident in any of the kicks, and maybe being dropped last time around had hit his confidence. Van Gaal did reveal post match that he would have thrown on Krul again if he had substitutes left. So it was heartbreak again for the Dutch, who once again played well, but have not got the big prize. Germany await for victors Argentina, the Germans were in a brutal mood against Brazil. Argentina will have to play much better if they are to hope to lift the trophy on the soil of their long term rivals.

Before the Final though, it will be the match no semi finalist wants to play, the 3rd place play off between Brazil and Holland on Saturday. Brazil may take this game more seriously out of the two, as they look to make some amends for their horror show.


The Nightmare In Belo Horizonte

Ever since 2007, when Brazil were confirmed as the hosts of the 2014 World Cup, the nation were believing in a World Cup win on home soil. But in the space of 6 brutal minutes in Belo Horizonte, that dream was destroyed, simply put, this was a massacre on the biggest of stages.

Even before the match started, Brazil seemed very emotional, with David Luiz lifting up a Neymar shirt during the anthems. A tad dramatic for a player who was just injured. This probably wasn’t the wisest of moves, and made Germany sense a weakness in the team. After a bright opening few minutes for Brazil, it soon become sour, it didn’t take long for the Germans to open the scoring. From a corner, Thomas Muller was left inexplicably free, and had the simple job of putting the ball into the net. The defending was woeful, and Brazil were punished. Not a great start, but if Brazil regrouped, they could get back into the game. In the space of 6 minutes, the game was over. Miroslav Klose, who has been looking for that one goal to finally become the all out leading goalscorer in World Cup history finally got his moment. Fernandinho failed to cut out a pass, and withing seconds, Germany were in, Klose had his initial shot saved, but put away the rebound. He now took the record away from Ronaldo, which just added to the Brazilian misery of the night. Minutes later, Lahm put in a cross from the right, which evaded all the defenders and found its way to Toni Kroos, who rifled in a powerful shot for the 3rd. It was Kroos right from the kick off who disposed Fernandinho, played a quick 1-2 with Khedira, to slot home his second goal, and the fourth for Germany. The stadium, and nation were stunned, and it got even worse. David Luiz came charging out from defense and failed to get the ball, the gap left behind was exposed swiftly, with Ozil playing in Khedira for a simple finish. An outstanding first half for Germany, no team has ever conceded 5 by half time in a Semi Final. If this was a boxing match, the referee would have called it. Unfortunately for Brazil, they would have to suffer another 45 minutes.

The second half was an improvement on the disaster of the opening half, Germany may have eased off, but Brazil were out to salvage some sort of pride. But Manuel Neuer was in no mood to give up his clean sheet so easily, even at 5-0 up. Paulinho had a good chance to pull a goal back, but a double save from Neuer kept him out. Soon Oscar had a great chance, but fired right at the keeper. Which pretty much summed up a gloomy night for the Brazilians. If the neutrals watching feared Germany would stop playing in the second half, it was not the case. Andre Schürrle on a sub, tucked home from close range for goal number 6. He then sealed the German display with a wonderful finish from a tight angle off the crossbar. A sublime goal, which even the Brazilians in the crowd applauded. For Brazil, there was no joy on the field, their forwards once again had a anonymous game, Fred was removed to the sound off boos raining from the stands, Hulk who was removed at half time failed to score all tournament. Many critics were not convinced by David Luiz, and he did not show much composure for a player who has just signed for PSG for a record £50m. Jose Mourinho must surely feel smug pulling off that deal. Brazil did manage to get a goal, Oscar, who bar Neymar has been their best player burst free in injury time, and scored smallest of consolation goals.

The final whistle bought down the curtains on a horror show for the home fans. It was a display the home crowd did not deserve to witness, but to their credit, most stayed for the entire game. Brazil may not have had their star player Neymar, and captain Thiago Silva to anchor the defense. But there was no excuse for their mass failings all over the pitch. There will now be a huge inquiry into the state of the game in Brazil. For Luiz Felipe Scolari, the highs of winning the tournament in 2002 seems an awful long time ago, and he will surely resign in the post mortem. Germany will now be the favorites after such a dismantling, they did not waste much energy in the second half, and will be in good shape against whoever they face on Sunday for the biggest prize of them all.


World Cup Day 2014 – Day 24 : Los Ticos Finally Fall

Not since Italia ’90 have Argentina appeared in the semi finals, a frankly underwhelming record for one of the superpowers of world football. They would be looking to end that long run against a Belgium team who would book only their second ever semi final place with a win. Argentina have been relying mainly on the genius of Lionel Messi for the majority of the tournament, and many were waiting for the rest of their multi-talented team to step up to the plate. It didn’t take too long, Gonzalo Higuain, who has yet to register this tournament sprung to life in the opening 10 minutes. Messi carried the ball in midfield past 2 players and played the pass to Di Maria. His attempted play in the bombarding right back Zabaleta was deflected away into the path of Higuain. Who instinctively rifled in an exquisite half volley from just inside the area into the far corner. The keeper had barely moved, but it was a great piece of improvisation from the Napoli hit-man. Belgium seemed to be following a similar pattern to how the French played the day before, a team of such attacking quality seemed very subdued. They were also having lots of trouble trying to contain Messi, with multiple players trying to tackle him on various occasions in the first half. Higuain was having a great game, and almost scored twice in the second half.The second of the chances was a great run from half way, with a cheeky nutmeg on Kompany on route, but crashed the shot off the bar. Hazard, who has had a poor tournament was having another quite game, and it wasn’t surprising to see him get replaced. It was only in the last 10-15 minutes did it look like Belgium would get back on level terms. Fellaini had a chance when his header flew wide of the goal. Lukaku was also bought on to provide some power and strength, but as Belgium pressed for the winner, Argentina almost doubled their lead. Messi was played through on goal, a goal seemed inevitable but a good save from Courtois kept the Europeans hopes alive briefly. Argentina never looked to be in too much trouble, and looked like they could have stepped it up if required. They finally end their barren run and move into the semi finals. For Belgium, their much lauded ‘Golden Generation’ seemed to suffer the fate of England’s Golden Generation, falling at the quarter finals.

The last quarter final on paper looked to be a free pass for the Dutch. Costa Rica have done incredibly well to get to this stage, but surely Holland will be too far a step? The game though followed a similar pattern of Costa Rica’s previous games. They played with great tactical discipline. They were not drawn out by the Dutch attack, and they held their shape throughout the half. Holland saw plenty of the possession, but seemingly could not break down the resistance. The Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas was having another great display, keeping out Van Persie and Sneijder in the first half. The Dutch looked just like how they did against Mexico, their possession was not leading to any goals. The second half was a similar affair, but the last quarter of the match was all Dutch pressure. Sneijder hit the post with a free kick. Van Persie missed a sitter from close range, failing to make contact with the ball, and then had a shot cleared off the line. Costa Rica held on for extra time, and both teams had their chance to win it. Urena’s mazy run almost ended with a goal, and Sneijder again hit the woodwork, this time the ball crashing off the crossbar after a dipping shot from long range. With seconds of extra time left, Van Gaal made a big tactical call, withdrawing goalkeeper Cillessen with Tim Krul. In anticipation of the upcoming shootout. It was a move that worked wonders. Costa Rica progressed in the last round via a shoot out, but they could not repeat the feat, Tim Krul saving penalties from both Ruiz and Urena. Van Gaal rewarded for his substitution, for Costa Rica, their fairy tale run comes to an end, but they have done ever so well to even get this far.


World Cup 2014 – Day 23: Brazil Pay The Price For Glory

After a few days of rest, It was time to get the balling rolling again. Time for the quarter finals!

It was an all European affair for the first game of the day. Germany were looking to book their 4th consecutive semi final place.The French have already surpassed their horrid 2010 campaign, and were looking for an unlikely appearance in the final four. Germany had started off the better, with France not having much of the possession, and it was the Germans who took an early lead. 10 minutes into the game, a free kick was curled into the box, Mats Hummels easily shook off the attention of Varane and headed the ball past Lloris off the underside of the crossbar. A deserved lead, but France would hopefully wake up now, after their timid opening minutes. They did improve, but Germany were comfortable in holding them at bay. Though Valbuena had his shot wonderfully saved by Neuer.

The second half had all the impetus on France to do the attacking, they had to come out and put pressure on the German defense. It came to no avail, France created the odd chance, but nothing to concern the opponent. It wasn’t until the 71st minute when they made their first change, bringing on Koscielny, not the most attacking of options. Germany could have sealed the win on a few occasions, Andre Schürrle missing both chances to kill the game off. France threw on Remy and Giroud late on, but it was all too late. Germany held on, and never really looked in trouble, they move on to the semi final. For France, after their cavalier approach in the group stages, it was disappointing to see them crash out without all guns blazing.

The attention soon shifted to an all South American tussle for the evening match. Hosts Brazil took on the flying Colombians, who have won every game so far. This would by far, be the biggest test for a stuttering Brazil side, who just about scraped past Chile in the last round. The match was a spicy encounter, with fouls going in everywhere, Brazil committing 54 fouls in the game, the most in the tournament so far. Brazil identified James Rodriguez as the main threat, and did all they could to shake him up. It was rejoice for the home nation as Brazil took an early lead, Thiago Silva arriving at the far post to knee the ball in. But it was slack marking from Colombia which allowed the Brazil captain to sneak past. Brazil enjoyed a good period in which they could have extended their lead. Colombia were just not at the races.

Colombia turned it up in the second half, as they looked to get themselves back in the game, and had a goal disallowed for a marginally offside decision. Thiago Silva picked up a stupid yellow card for shoving the keeper, which will now mean he will miss the semi final, a big blow for Brazil. With their first shot on goal of the second half, Brazil doubled their lead. David Luiz with a devastating free kick for 40 yards into the top corner, a magnificent strike, and one of the best goals of the tournament so far! It was harsh on Colombia, but it was 2 set pieces that undid them. They found themselves back in the game with 10 minutes to go, Bacca taken out by Julio Cesar in the box, Rodriguez calmly slotted the penalty away, his 6th goal of the show. This set up a wonderful tense final few minutes, but Brazil held on, their dream is still alive. Colombia have shown great character and skill, and will for sure be one of the nations to look out for in the coming years. Post match, it was revealed that Neymar, who was taken off on a stretcher, had fractured a vertebra. Which will keep him out the rest of the tournament. Brutal news for Brazil, they may now be in the final 4, but they will have to do it without their star asset, and will now put huge pressure on Brazil’s misfiring forwards to step up.