Tag Archives: Spain

Olympic Men’s Basketball: Medal Round Preview

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will LeBron James (pictured above) lead Team USA to gold? Our very own Nick Craddock weighs in.

By Nick Craddock

The preliminary round of the London 2012 edition of the men’s basketball competition concluded Monday and we’ve learned (or merely confirmed) that the United States, which is escaping the group stage unscathed, is still the team to beat for the gold medal.

After the United States, the question of which team poses the biggest threat to the heavy favorites remains unclear. While the aforementioned question does not yield a definitive answer, what is clear heading into the medal round, which begins Wednesday, is that a handful of teams from the chasing pack can challenge LeBron James and Co. on a great day for American opponents or a bad day for the Americans when it comes to their own execution.

In a single-elimination format, anything could happen for these teams still vying for Olympic success: Continue reading

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Olympic potpourri: Half way to the London 2012 finish line

Image courtesy of olympic.org. Over a week of London 2012 is in the books.

By Nick Craddock

The London 2012 Olympics are already in their second weekend and with the Games at their midpoint, here are some pressing questions you might be asking yourself.

1. Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian ever?

Of all the questions posited here, this one is clearly a rhetorical question with absolutely no debate whatsoever. Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever. Period. With 22 medals, 18 of them gold, Phelps has dominated the pool across a variety of stroke disciplines and distances.

Frankly, to think that Phelps winning four gold medals and two silver medals at a single Olympics can be considered a relatively so-so performance given his previous accomplishments, speaks volumes as to how accustomed we’ve become to his near perfection in the water.

A week ago, Phelps seemed out of sorts after a disappointing 400-meter individual medley race, but ever since he set the record for the most medals won by an Olympian midweek, his grin has seemed to grow larger each day and, more importantly, enjoying himself and his races.

Enjoy the well-deserved rest, Mr. Phelps. Your career will certainly be remembered as the best the Olympics has seen to date. 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

Food for Thought 6-3-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Johnny Cueto (pictured above) is the biggest snub this year in terms of the MLB All-Star Game.

By Josh Kramer

The “smartest” man ever to step foot on a baseball diamond strikes again.  This time, he is playing for keeps.  Despite being retired, Tony LaRussa is still going after his bitter rival, the Cincinnati Reds.  Now I am not naive enough to think that snubs don’t happen every year in regards to the All-Star Game rosters.  Due to a flawed selection system, this is inevitable.  But it is very atypical to see a particular “city” get snubbed like this. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 7-2-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Tiger Woods (pictured above) leapfrogged Jack Nicklaus with PGA Tour win number 74 yesterday.

By Josh Kramer

Spain took their place among the elite teams in soccer history this weekend after taking home a third consecutive major title.  Wimbledon has had a March Madness type of feel with Venus Williams exiting in Round 1 and Rafael Nadal going down in Round 2.  Brad Keselowski was the king of the Kentucky Speedway.  And the “Dwight Howard Soap Opera” has opened up Season 2.  Last week was a great one, but this week will be jam-packed in its own right.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  Kentucky Speedway got it right this year.  Brad Keselowski was a happy man on Saturday night as he moved into 10th in the Sprint Cup Standings.  Now the NASCAAR crew heads to Daytona to see who can take home the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona.  David Ragan came out victorious last year at this event, while the current leader of the Spring Cup Standings, Matt Kenseth, finished second.

4.  Tiger Woods is back in the building.  Or at least in the win column.  Woods has leapfrogged Jack Nicklaus in terms of PGA Tour wins and now ranks second all time at 74.  I am not going to get carried away though.  He is still out in the “Woods” in my eyes and the Tiger we once knew will never return.  Next stop, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for the Greenbrier Classic. 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