Football – In 2017

Another year, another busy schedule for football in general, especially at the international level with the Africa Cup of Nations which occurs every two years and will take place in Gabon (from January 14 to February 5, 2017) and the FIFA Confederations Cup (in the summer) which features the winner of each continental cup and the World Cup. This year, the tournament will host:

Russia (2018 World Cup host country)
Germany
(2014 World Cup)
Portugal (2016 European Championship)
Chile (2015 Copa America)
Cameroon (2017 Africa Cup of Nations)
Mexico (2015 Gold Cup)
Australia (2015 Asian Cup)
New Zealand (2016 Oceania Football Confederation )

Eight teams, four groups and “a curse”. Yes, since its creation in 1991, no country which has won this tournament has been able to repeat the following year by raising the World Cup as champions. A little bit like the new format of Champions League introduced in 1992 where no club has been able to repeat as back-to-back winners. Will the country of Russia be where the “curse” is going to end? I doubt it, but we never know, the Chicago Cubs, baseball infamous team ended their so-called “Curse of the Goat) this year after 108 years of waiting by winning the Major League Baseball World Series, so there is hope.

At club level, the different leagues are still dominated, in most parts, by the usual suspects:
FC Bayern Munich is dominating, albeit not as easily as expected the German Bundesliga.
Juventus FC is still on top of Italian Serie A.
Paris Saint-Germain is third, after winning four consecutive French Ligue 1 titles.
Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona are respectively first and second of Spain’s LaLiga Santander.
And Chelsea FC has a strong lead in the Barclays Premier League in Britain.

The UEFA Champions League will be interesting as well. The round of 16 offers already mouthwatering encounters such as:

FC Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal FC
FC Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid CF vs. SSC Napoli
AS Monaco vs. Manchester City FC

Another great year of football ahead. Stay tuned.

Messi vs. Ronaldo – Week 50 & Final

Since the Ballon d’Or was attributed on December 12 to Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo, we are comparing both superstars of “The Beautiful Game” with their statistics for the calendar year 2016. Lionel Messi played for FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou against local rival RCD Espanyol de Barcelona, last week, and scored one goal with a 4-1 victory for the Catalan giants. The display was immense from the native of Rosario, Argentina.

On the other side of the planet, Real Madrid CF, thanks to their UEFA Champions League victory last season, was competing in the FIFA Club World Cup and no surprise, albeit some scares, won the tournament by beating Japanese side Kashima Antlers by the score of 4-2 in extra time, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring 3 goals in that game. Earlier that week, he scored one goal against Mexican side Club America to secure a spot in the final.

See you in 2017 for more Messi vs. Ronaldo statistics.

Here are the final numbers for 2016.

L. Messi 62 games 59 goals 32 assists 3 trophies won
– La Liga BBVA
– La Copa del Rey
– Spanish Supercup
C. Ronaldo 57 games 55 goals 17 assists 4 trophies won
– UEFA Champions League
– UEFA European Championship
– UEFA SuperCup
– FIFA Club World Cup
Total Messi 5 games Messi 4 goals Messi 15 assists Ronaldo 1 trophy

Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) France Football 2016 – The Case for Lionel Messi

Last week, Cristiano Ronaldo was crowned winner of the Ballon d’Or 2016 (the fourth of his career) ahead of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann. While I congratulate the Portuguese winger for his success, I do not agree with the decision and I would like either a reform of the trophy or simply put, a repeal of it. And there are several reasons why.

Earlier this year, France Football (a French football magazine whom created the trophy and distributed it for decades) and FIFA parted ways with the gala and the trophy, which meant full control of the criterias by the magazine and the hope that we would have more winners and more diversity. Well, it seems like France Football picked up exactly where FIFA left off and awarded the Ballon d’Or to a player who is very good, with great statistics, four trophies won, but ultimately was not the best player in 2016, in my opinion.

I even doubt that he was he second best, even third best (Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez could have been in front of him in 2016). I have ranked Lionel Andrès Messi first because of his complete performance (with club and country) from January 1st to the end date of the voting (November 27th). Goals, assists, chances created, trophies won and runner-up, Messi was, once again, in a league of his own.

While CR7 has been very good as mentioned, created his share of chances and won several important trophies during the year, he was also helped by his teammates while struggling to make an impression on the big stage (UEFA Champions League and European Championship finals) or being absent (UEFA SuperCup). Real Madrid CF won the Champions League final against Atlético Madrid FC on penalties where Ronaldo was invisible the whole game. He eventually dispatched of the winning penalty (only Juanfran from Atlético missed his during the penalty kicks).

Ronaldo didn’t have a great European Championship, missing several scoring chances, missing an important penalty versus Iceland if I recall with his country barely qualifying for the round of 16 in a group where they were largely favourites to win and featuring a mere twenty minutes in the final. His attitude during the whole tournament was unworthy of a “superstar” like him as well. The man of the tournament was French striker Antoine Griezmann.

Lionel Messi won the domestic double (LaLiga BBVA and the Spanish Cup). He was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Atlético de Madrid FC in the UEFA Champions League, but led Argentina to the Copa America Centenario final lost on penalties to Chile for the second year in a row. Messi, having a superb tournament, missed his penalty kick during the shootout session.

In his return to Europe, him and FC Barcelona lifted the Spanish SuperCup versus Sevilla FC, adding a third domestic trophy to his cabinet for the year. His statistics were excellent through the year as you can regularly see in my blog. He outscored, “outassisted” by 16 assists, Cristiano Ronaldo. He created more chances and showed (as usual) more team spirit and more engagement than the Portuguese international.

All this leads me to ask…what is the Ballon d’Or’s purpose? Do we reward the best player of the calendar year? Of the season? Is it a popularity contest? Do we simply attribute the trophy based on winning the FIFA World Cup, Champions League and/or the European Championship despite not being the best player of the tournament or even the team (Nani, Pepe, a Champions League winner as well this year, Ricardo Quaresma, Rui Patricio and others were excellent and clutch during the tournament for La Seleção and let’s not forget Lille player Eder who put the nail in the coffin to clinch the title)?

Last, but not least, it may not be a good idea to hand out a trophy right in the middle of a season. After all, trophies are given at the end generally.

Messi vs. Ronaldo (Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or France Football) – Week 49

The Ballon d’Or France Football will be awarded tomorrow in annual gala by football magazine France Football who re-gained the rights to the trophy thanks to their disassociation with FIFA earlier this year. The three favourites, not finalists, for the trophy are FC Barcelona/Argentina player Lionel Messi (the holder and record five-time winner), Real Madrid CF/Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo (three-time winner and favourite to win it this year) and Atlético de Madrid FC/French international striker Antoine Griezmann (first-time finalist).

Here are the updated statistics between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo including this weekend’s action which saw La Pulga increase his goal tally by two goals in a win at Osasuna (3-0), while the Portuguese winger was rested by Zinedine Zidane against Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña in a last-minute victory by Los Merengues/Blancos.

L. Messi 61 games 58 goals 32 assists 3 trophies won
– La Liga BBVA
– La Copa del Rey
– Spanish Supercup
C. Ronaldo 55 games 51 goals 17 assists 3 trophies won
– UEFA Champions League
– UEFA European Championship
– UEFA SuperCup
Total Messi 6 games Messi 7 goals Messi 15 assists Tie

The Ballon d’Or France Football will need to be reformed in order to gain more credibility, in my opinion. Lionel Messi should win tomorrow based on many factors that point in his favour, but Cristiano Ronaldo will lift the trophy. And that is the problem with the current format with or without FIFA involved.

Stay tuned…

2016-17 Champions League Group Stage – Wrap-Up

We have the sixteen teams that will face-off next February for the round of 16.

Winner of each group:
Arsenal FC (England)
AS Monaco (France)
Atlético de Madrid FC (Spain)
Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
FC Barcelona (Spain)
Juventus FC (Italy)
Leicester City FC (England)
SSC Napoli (Italy)

Second of each group:

Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
Benfica (Portugal)
FC Bayern Munich (Germany)
FC Porto (Portugal)
Manchester City FC (England)
Paris Saint-Germain FC (France)
Real Madrid CF (Spain)
Sevilla FC (Spain)

Four teams from Spain.
Three teams from England and Germany.
Two teams from France, Italy and Portugal.
Sixteen teams in total.

The draw for the next round will take place this week after the UEFA Europa League games. Until then, Real Madrid CF will play the FIFA Club World Cup thanks to their success against Atlético de Madrid FC in the UEFA Champions League last May.

Will Real Madrid CF finally break the curse and become the first club to win back-to-back titles? Can FC Barcelona or FC Bayern Munich win their sixth Champions League title? Or will we have a brand new champion? Can Leicester City FC even do it? The answer in May 2017.

Stay tuned…

Messi vs. Ronaldo (Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or) – Week 48

El Clásico is behind us and both teams could not come up as victorious.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring for FC Barcelona while Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid CF captain, scored at the end of the match. Final result: 1-1.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were kept off the scoresheet. While the voting for the next France Football Ballon d’Or/Golden Ball winner has ended officially on November 27th, 2016, we will still keep the calendar year statistics going until the end.

Both superstars’ statistics until today are the following for 2016:

L. Messi 59 games 55 goals 32 assists 3 trophies won
– La Liga BBVA
– La Copa del Rey
– Spanish Supercup
C. Ronaldo 54 games 51 goals 17 assists 3 trophies won
– UEFA Champions League
– UEFA European Championship
– UEFA SuperCup
Total Messi 5 games Messi 4 goals Messi 15 assists Tie

 

El Clásico – FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid CF

Here we go again.

Another El Clásico. Another battle between the two giants of Spanish football. The winners of the last three Champions League will square off for the first time this season with Los Blancos currently holding a six-point lead at the top of la Liga Santander vs. their Catalan arch-rivals. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are available for the match, it does not get any better than this.

While Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona are currently first and second of the Spanish league, it is difficult to say that they have really dominated, this season. We have seen both teams struggle against several opponents and drop some points, especially Los Blaugranas who can not let Zinedine Zidane‘s team get away with the three points today.

Last year, FC Barcelona won at the Santiago Bernabeu, in Madrid, 4-0 in a complete demolition. At the Camp Nou in Barcelona, it was Real Madrid CF who obtained the last word by winning 2-1. At the end, FC Barcelona went on to win the Spanish league and the Spanish Cup while Real Madrid CF lifted the Champions League trophy for the 11th time in their history.

Andrés Iniesta, for the Catalans, will be back in action for this match while the Welsh international, Gareth Bale, is sidelined with an injury for Madrid.

My prediction: FC Barcelona takes it 2-1 and gets closer to their rivals at the top of the table.