Monthly Archives: June 2013

Confederations Cup: Semi-Final Beef (Part 2)

Part 1 about Uruguay urinating on newspapers and upsetting Brazil can be found here.

So Confederations Cup audiences have gobbled away their two veg in the form of the exciting group stages, and that leaves us with the meat of the tournament; the semi-finals.

More specifically, the beef.

Last night we saw Brazil exorcise some demons against Uruguay and triumph with a 2-1 win to book their inevitable place in the final, which gives us one half of the Brazil vs Spain final which the whole world and his cat predicted.

I predict great pain in my future…

Spain will square off against Italy tonight for their chance to complete the prediction, and things don’t look pretty for the boys in blue.

It may have escaped your attention, but Spain are the best team in the world right now, and certainly in the top three ever (at least statistically), and while Italy are a great side to mere mortals like us, Spain have been using them as whipping boys for a while now.

In fact Spain have only lost once to Italy in their last eight meetings, having won three and even beaten them on penalties. Of course if Italy thought that being dumped out of the Euro 2008 quarter-finals by a Fabregas penalty was bad they were in for an even more unpleasant experience last year when they were deconstructed 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final by the Spaniards.

Spain are even picking on their youth, beating the Italy U-21’s 4-2 in the U-21 Euro 2013 final a few weeks ago.

So the match up is one-sided, and that’s only the Spanish half of it. Italy are now without current top scorer Mario Balotelli and the metronomical Andrea Pirlo may not be fit either. Add this to the fact that Gli Azzurri’s  normally inspiring defence is suddenly leaking (eight goals in the Cup so far), and things do not look good for the Italian hopes.

…well most things don’t look good.

And they aren’t. I can’t see any way for Spain not to win with their football and deep squad of world-class players. They will probably smash Italy once again, then go and trounce Brazil in the final. But before you give up on this one-sided contest consider what we have here.

We’ve got all the equipment to start a rivalry. Think of it like a camp fire:

The kindling and straw at the bottom is your standard inter-player rivalries, people who play against each other at domestic level and the fact that they’re both European. Now you add some bigger bits of wood on. these are the recent defeats of Italy: a twig for the U-21’s, a branch for the 2008 penalties, and big block for 2012 final. Everything’s in place – all we need is the spark – an Italian win, and there’ll be fire.

Italy win and this rivalry will burst into the modern era, perhaps dominating in Europe. If Italy throw a few debatable tackles tonight, grab a contestable goal, and knock overwhelming favourites Spain out (thus denying them of the only trophy they haven’t won) the future match-ups between the two will be great.

So tonight, assuming your neutral, you’re not cheering for an upset, you’re cheering for the spark.

 

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Confederations Cup: Semi-Final Beef (Part 1)

So Confederations Cup audiences have gobbled away their two veg in the form of the exciting group stages, and that leaves us with the meat of the tournament; the semi-finals.

More specifically, the beef.

It may have escaped your attention but Brazil and Uruguay are not best friends. Now, I wouldn’t say they hate each other but their professional rivalry is as strong as any match up. They meet each other constantly: two of the biggest players in the continental cup, the Copa America, they also meet twice in qualification for every World Cup, and that’s where the rivalry began.

Ahh old World Cup posters… like chocolate for the eyes

See in 1950 Brazil were hosting the World Cup which was a bit different back then. After four sets of four teams competing the group stage came a final group stage consisting of the four winners of their respective groups, whoever topped that final round-robin group would be crowned the winners, no final.

The final four teams were Brazil, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay. The Brazilians absolutely mutilated the Europeans in their first two games, scoring 13 goals. Uruguay beat Sweden and drew with Spain. The end result was Brazil on 4 points (a win was only 2 points back then) and Uruguay on 3. Brazil would play Uruguay for the World Cup title, needing only a draw to win.

The whole of Brazil was pumped for the final. While they crushed their opposition, Uruguay had only beaten Sweden 3-2 in the final minutes, and had to come from behind to draw with Spain.

Expectations were higher than a weather balloon; a victory carnival was organised, fans held signs proclaiming Brazil to be the winners, and perhaps most disrespectfully of all, newspapers like O mundo printed a front page picturing Brazil with the headline ‘These are the world champions‘. They really went for it, a victory song was composed and medals were minted in what has to be the most blatant disregard for foreshadowing in sport.

…until 2011

Meanwhile Uruguay were preparing psychologically. Obdulio Varela, Uruguay’s captain bought as many copies of the newspaper as he could and laid them on the bathroom flood. He then instructed his fellow players to make like an opportunist at a free vegetable giveaway and take a leak.

Allegedly, Uruguay’s coach told them their only hope would come from a stalwart defence against the rampant Brazil which Varela disagreed with. When the coach left the room, Varela performed a dream motivation speech straight from the movies saying “Juancito [the coach] is a good man, but today, he is wrong. If we play defensively against Brazil, our fate will be no different from Spain or Sweden“. He intended to fight fire with fire, to ignore the intimidation and to win the World Cup.

As the video says, the game was called the Maracanazo which means ‘Maracana Blow’, a term which is still used today to describe any big Brazilian upset be it country or club.

Obviously Brazil have gone on to surpass Uruguay’s World Cup triumphs, and although La Celeste became the record winners of the Copa America with their most recent win, the two teams are no longer considered equal (not that they ever were by Brazilian press). However, every time the blue shirts come back to the country, Brazil’s pride still stings from that defeat in 1950.

They currently sit on 70 international games over 97 years, Brazil have 32 wins and Uruguay have 19. Brazil once again have the pride and expectation of their nation on them, and Uruguay, once again are the underdogs no one should underestimate.

 

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8 Players To Watch in The 2013 Confederations Cup

*If you’re one of the people wondering what the Confed Cup is then you need to take a look at yesterday’s article right here.

One from each team; players that are going to make your eyes bulge and your trousers blink in amazement…

Fred: Brazillian Poacher

Although a commentator shouting his name has about as much gusto as cold rice pudding, Fred is a talented forward. Forget your wishy-washy Neymars and Oscars (though the latter was very impressive for Chelsea), Fred is a genuine poaching talent with a knack of scoring from almost any chance.

His only problem comes when you take him out of Brazil, as his time in Lyon shows, but that won’t be a problem at the Confed Cup.

Honourable Mention: David Luiz – Central Defender

Sideshow Bob isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he fits the bill of a Brazillian CB perfectly: spending most of his time in midfield and liable to get a goal. Immense when thinks first, and makes a fantastic hair partnership with Dante at the back.

Andrea Pirlo: Italian Maestro 

How could it be anyone else? While Balotelli and El Shaarawy go through mood swings, Pirlo remains a constant. Making the women swoon with his looks and the men swoon with his play, l’architetto is a delight to watch. Capable of getting out of trouble with flair or intelligence he very rarely puts a foot wrong. Can hit a mean set piece too.

Honourable Mention: Daniele De Rossi – Midfielder/Sweeper

Another solid mainstay of the Italian side, De Rossi provides the bread under Pirlo’s butter with hard tackling and a tactical reading of the game that only an Italian could posses.

Keisuke Honda: Japanese Dynamo 

A criminally under-rated player that has avoided the serious European leagues for too long, Honda is to Japan what Gerrard is to Liverpool (and sometimes England). A driving force from midfield capable of switching from lying deep creating chances to playing as a second striker in seconds.

He’s a capable dribbler and has a great technical ability from free kicks, both in terms of crossing and shooting. He can provide the spark that Japan often need.

Honourable Mention: Yuto Nagatomo – Wing-back

While there are no Inter players in Italy’s team there is one in Japan’s. Nagatomo is a flying fall back who can also ignite the game if Japan’s passing game stagnates.

Giovani dos Santos: Mexican Trickster 

Those who haven’t followed dos Santos’ career since he disappeared from English soil without a whimper will wonder what all the fuss is about, but he went on to have a good season for a bad team in Mallorca, and put him in an El Tricolor shirt and he’s a much better player than the Prem remembers.

He’s a delicate speedy player with quick feet who has a delicate a precise finish when he wants to. Can combine quickly with Chicharito to dangerous effect.

Honourable Mention: Andres Guardado – Winger

Guardado is mainly about the assists, and with Hernandez up front, the supply line is vitally important. He relies more on space than pace in his position, has a good cross, and a very tidy volley given the opportunity.

Sunday Mba – Nigerian Opportunist 

Nigeria are unfortunate to be without Victor Moses for the tournament, and with John Obi Mikel stepping up with a goal once every three blue moons, players more unknown to the European fans are going to have to step up.

Mba is a midfielder who stepped up in the African Cup of Nations; scoring in the quarter-final before bagging a stunning Le Tissier-esque goal to win the final. Who knows, if he can grab some more big goals in the Confed Cup, some big teams might come looking…

Honourable Mention: Ahmed Musa – Winger/Forward

A still uncultured 20 year old who relies on lightning pace to more forward from either out wide or up front, Musa’s speed could always cause something to happen. Nigeria will be hoping he can find his finishing too.

Xavi: Spanish Perfectionist 

Whoever I wrote would seem an obvious choice as Spain’s team is full of world-class players so I went with one of the most enjoyable of them all. Xavi dominates the midfield like an adult in a U-10’s game. Head on a swivel and capable of beating two players if there aren’t options. He is a true god of possessional midfield.

Despite his relaxed demeanour and cool attitude, he is a winner. And he’s won everything… bar the Confed Cup. As ever, he will be the beating heart behind Spain’s game as he looks to complete his, and Spain’s, trophy cabinet.

Honourable Mention: The Rest of Them – Everywhere

Spain’s team hasn’t weakened at all since their previous tournament wins, and despite still not having the striker problem tied down, they do have a variety of options and all the possession in the world to try them out. As hard to beat as ever.

Marama Vahirua: Tahitian Unknown 

I’m not going to lie to you, I know an incredibly small amount about the tiny South Pacific Island. But I do know they’re going to struggle and will probably be crippled in their second game against Spain. However, everyone will be cheering them on to at least score a goal – and that responsibility will fall on Tahiti’s only real professional player, Vahirua.

Vahirua is contracted in France for Nancy as a striker and even recorded six caps for the French U-21 team. The 138th ranked team will be playing a defensive style of football (as if they’ll get a choice against Spain) looking to frustrate the opposition and take their minimal chances. But anything can happen in football and finger’s crossed they come away proud.

Honourable Mention: Nicolas Vallar – Central Defender

The Tahiti captain once played for Montpellier B and will need to draw on all his experience to keep his defence tight and spirits high.

Diego Forlan: Uruguayan Talisman 

The four Diegos (Lugano, Godin, Perez, and Forlan) form the spine of La Celeste’s team – with the seemingly immortal Forlan the most important. Like many veteran international players he has a locker full of abilities: passing range, vision, energy, shooting, set pieces, and a driving, inspiring attitude.

Joining Forlan up front will be Liverpool’s in demand Suarez and Napoli’s in demand Cavani, and when the three combine they can be lethal. Forlan often plays the provider for the other two but the real magic for Uruguay happens when he gets in on the action himself. Uruguay will be looking for a breather from a tough WC qualifying and Forlan will have one eye on the trophy.

Honourable Mention: Diego Godin – Central Defender

Godin has spent most of his Uruguayan career in the shadow of fellow centre-back Lugano but has started to shine more since his move to Athletico Madrid. Equally dedicated and strong in the air as Lugano but with a bit more pace, Godin will be important to the Sky Blues.

Bring on the tournament!

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