Category Archives: Soccer

Soccer Roundup (9/16/2012): The Weekly Boot

Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com. Graham Zusi (pictured above) was one of the key contributors in the victory over Jamaica this past Tuesday.

By Ben Liebing

When ESPN’s British commentator Ian Darke hailed the U.S. Men’s team by saying their first half play “was verging on brilliant,” I knew that I wasn’t just a blindly elated fan.

This week, on September 11th itself, the men’s soccer team took the field in Columbus, Ohio to play their second World Cup qualifying match in as many weeks. Having lost to Jamaica in Kingston (for the first time ever), just the week before, there was a lot of that “must win” talk circling the TV waves during the usual pre-game formalities.

I was skeptical. Every fan that pays much attention to U.S. soccer learns to live with a certain level of anxiety. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Brazil in a final or the island dot called Barbados in a qualifier – for every match in recent memory, you’re just never sure what kind of American team is going to show up. Sometimes they’re great, other times they look like a junior high team trying to keep up with the varsity boys in practice. Continue reading

Soccer Roundup (9/9/2012): The Weekly Boot

Photo courtesy of goal.blogs.nytimes.com. Dempsey (left) and Messi (right). Two greats, together in pursuit.

By Ben Liebing

Let’s start with the little man, Lionel Messi:

It’s only fair that we start with the best, and end with the rest. Having been the butt of criticism over the past several years that he performs miraculously with his club team, but bombs while playing for his own country, Lionel Messi did just a bit to quiet the naysayers down.

This weekend, while playing a World Cup qualifier against rival South American country Paraguay, the “little man” from Argentina netted yet another feat of footballing genius. By now commonly regarded as the best player in the world, and by some (Argentinians, and myself) regarded as the best player of all time, Messi this weekend showed the international community once again what all the hype is about. Continue reading

Soccer Roundup (9/2/2012): The Weekly Boot

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured above) as usual played an instrumental role in leading Real Madrid to victory at the Supercopa.

By Ben Liebing

Ben Liebing is a Cincinnati native with a passion for the world, and the world’s sport. While living overseas, the infectious soccer culture that infects the planet outside of America got a hold of his fanhood. He was exposed to the “beautiful game” and hasn’t looked back. When Ben says “football,” he means soccer…by which he means football. But you get it.

This week in the world of the sport that most of the world refers to as football (a ballgame actually played with feet, not hands and conical pigskins), but which Americans term SOCCER…

THE SPANISH SUPERCUP:

Much to my dismay, Real Madrid walked away with the cup after getting the better of  FC Barcelona in the 2nd leg of the aggregate match, which was at the Bernebau in Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo was in fine form – especially as he scored early by taking a long ball at midfield, flicking it forward over his head with his heel, and grounding one past Victor Valdez, the keeper for Barça. It was one of those plays you see only from the very best in the world; and from them, maybe only a handful of times per season. Well done CR7. Continue reading

Three-peat is sweet

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Abby Wambach (left) and Hope Solo (right) were two of the key cogs for Team USA as they defeated Japan for Olympic gold yesterday.

By Josh Kramer

It had been 389 days since Japan shocked the United States in penalty kicks at the World Cup.  The bitter taste of the heartbreaking loss stayed with Wambach, Morgan, Solo, and the rest of the USA National Team up until the final whistle of yesterday’s outstanding gold medal match.  On July 17, 2011 in Frankfurt, the United States women suffered the most painful defeat in team history.  Redemption was on the mind of every Team USA player. Continue reading

Deschamps the natural choice to lead France

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Didier Deschamps (pictured above) be able to restore order with French soccer?

By Nick Craddock

The French football team has found itself in what is becoming a familiar predicament: In shambles following a major tournament.

Enter former national team hero, Didier Deschamps, introduced as the manager of France over the weekend to salvage the national side from the guillotine of the soccer world’s critics and naysayers. The only man capable of doing so.

Deschamps, captain of France’s 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 championship-winning teams, was the natural choice — the only choice — to lead France back to respectability following another disappointing major tournament, this time at Euro 2012. As a result, Deschamps’ former national teammate Laurent Blanc took the fall for the team’s poor performance and stepped down as the France manager. Continue reading

Euro 2012 Final Showdown: Spain and Italy

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Mario Balotelli (pictured above) stole the show in the semifinals. Will he put on another big time performance against Spain?

By Nick Craddock

Spain or Italy has won each of the last three major tournaments (2006 World Cup, 2008 European Championship, 2010 World Cup) and either Spain or Italy will have its named etched onto the European Championship trophy after today’s title game.

Coincidentally, fate seems to have brought both teams to the cusp of a championship yet again.

Much like the 2006 World Cup, the Italian national team entered this tournament amidst a gambling probe into the top flight of Italian soccer, where all but three players on the national team play their trade during the course of the season.

Rather than succumbing to the pressure of the media scrutiny and the off-field distractions, the Italians, much like the 2006 Italian squad, have come together to play a solid team game and to manage a surprise or two (Remember, it was host Germany which the Italians defeated in the World Cup semifinals in 2006 and a heavily-favored German team which the Italians beat to advance to this final).

This Italian team’s version of Mario and Luigi is not exactly identical to the mustached, overall-wearing Italian brothers who morph by eating mushrooms with faces, but, weird mushroom diet aside, striker Mario Balotelli and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon are responsible for forming what has been a prolific one-two punch.

Just ask the Germans. Continue reading

Euro 2012 Semifinal Previews: Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy, oh my!

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Fernando Torres (pictured above) lead Spain to huge victory over a Portugal team led by the great Cristiano Ronaldo?

By Nick Craddock

Andrea Pirlo and company ripped the collective heart out of the English people on Sunday in the most dramatic of the quarterfinal wins, advancing via penalty kicks. As such, the Euro 2012 semifinals, slated for today and tomorrow, are now set and continental Europe’s collective fervor and excitement will surely drown the sound of the few remaining whimpers from English fans.

The semifinalists are four nations with strong football pedigrees, which should not only result in more evenly contested matchups, but also a higher quality of play thought to be absent at times in this tournament from teams more than capable of performing at higher levels. (*cough* England *cough* France *cough* Netherlands *cough*).

Here is what you should look for going ahead:

Spain v. Portugal

The first semifinal is the battle of the Iberian Peninsula and these two teams showcase a bevy of highly technical and gifted players.

Cristiano Ronaldo, usually a player who has drifted in and out of form for the national side has been dynamite for Portugal at this tournament, particularly in the last two games, where he alone outshot the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, netting himself the winning goal in the process, after bagging a brace against the Dutch in the final group game prior to that. In contrast, Spain has relied on offense by committee at this tournament with five different players hitting the back of the net. More impressive is that Spain’s offense didn’t slow down after opting for the atypical 4-6-0 formation in its 2-0 quarterfinal win over France.

Whether Spain will again field a starting XI without a listed striker will likely not be revealed until game time, but Spain’s most gifted natural scorer, Fernando Torres, is one of the few players on the planet, if playing at the level he was accustomed to during his prime (which was not so long ago), capable of matching, or at a minimum, challenging the brilliance Ronaldo could provide for his team.

That being said, Ronaldo might be the best individual talent on the field, but Spain has proven time and time again over the last four years that it is the most talented team.

Players to Watch: As noted above, Ronaldo controls the fate of Portugal more than any other player on his team. As he goes, so do the Portuguese. Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech was able to weather the flurry of Ronaldo’s attacks for a little more than an hour to keep the Czech Republic alive against Portugal in the quarterfinals, so it will be incumbent upon Iker Casillas, the Spanish captain and goalkeeper, to prove his worth when actually facing more than two shots, like in Spain’s last game, and to allow his team to work its magic in front of him.

Prediction: Spain wins 2-1 (ET). Expect the team to trump the individual yet again, as Spain should move on for a chance at an unprecedented third consecutive major championship. Continue reading