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Football Lover

Ballon d’or/Golden Ball 2017 – Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo (Week 23)

The season 2016-17 is officially over with Real Madrid CF lifting the Champions League trophy for a second year in a row.  Cristiano Ronaldo added to his yearly tally with two goals during this final and leapfrogged Lionel Messi as the best scorer of this season’s edition of the Champions League with 12 goals.

Both players were also on international duty last week with Ronaldo scoring a brace to lead Portugal to a 3-0 win versus Latvia in UEFA World Cup qualifier while Messi was kept off the score-sheet during a friendly match won by Argentina versus arch-rivals Brazil in Melbourne, Australia.

After 23 weeks into 2017, the statistics between the two giants of football look like this and Ronaldo is coming back:

Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo
Games 34 30
Goals 32 31
Assists 8 7
Trophies 2
(Copa del Rey, European Golden Shoe)
2
(La Liga Santander, UEFA Champions League)

Real Madrid CF – 2016-17 Champions League Winners

Congratulations on Real Madrid CF for winning this year’s trophy and their unprecedented 12th title.  This final was never really in doubt for Los Merengues and manager Zinedine Zidane has a lot of credit to take for this victory and for clinching La Liga title that preceded this triumph.

Even though Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace and is now in pole position to win a fifth Ballon d’Or, let’s remember that the appointment of “Zizou” as the manager of Real Madrid CF in January 2016 has changed a lot of things.  At the time, under Rafael Benitez, Los Blancos, despite not having a bad record, lost a few games such a 4-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabeu against arch-rivals, FC Barcelona.

President Fiorentino Perez, never shy of “pulling the trigger” when it comes time to making a manager’s change, decided to give the keys to the man who was coaching Real Madrid B team at the time.  The results since that then have been nothing short but spectacular.  Los Blancos made a run to win La Liga title up until the end of the last season, only to witness FC Barcelona win at the end.  They’ve also reached the Champions League final and beat Atlético de Madrid on penalty kicks for their 11th Champions League triumph.  This season, they’ve won La Liga (for the first time since 2012, under José Mourinho) and became the first team ever to repeat as Champions League winners.  A double.

Can Real Madrid achieve the same amount of success next and for years to come?  We shall see.  Until today, with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, it has been all business for La Casa Blanca.

Stay tuned…

FIFA World Cup 2018 – Who Will Win It?

One year away.  We are one year away from the beginning of the most popular competition in the world of sports, the FIFA World Cup.  It seems like yesterday witnessing Germany beat Brazil 7-1 at the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, in 2014 in front of their home fans.  This match shook the world.

It also seemed like a recent memory looking at Lionel Messi, after Argentina lost in extra-time to those same Germans 1-0, dejected after accepting the Golden Ball award for the best player of the competition.

Qualifications are still underway and we still may be surprised if some teams can qualify or not for this World Cup, which will host for first time 48 countries instead of 32.

Argentina, for example, is currently in big trouble, being fifth in the standings and with Lionel Messi still has to serve three of a four match ban imposed by FIFA (La Pulga and Argentina Futbol Association have appealed the decision and will meet with FIFA during the summer to reduce the suspension).

European nations have won the World Cup three times in a row now starting with Italy in 2006.  Spain followed in 2010 and Germany in 2014.  In the history of the game, it would generally be one European country followed by one South America side.  After all, Brazil has five stars on their shirt, Argentina and Uruguay 2 each, making it 9 Word Cups in total.

My money is on a South American country to win it all next summer and despite the fact that Brazil has been the first country to earn its ticket to the big dance along with already qualified Russia, my prediction is the following:

Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, raises its third World Cup and the FC Barcelona genius cements his status as probably the best player to ever grace a football pitch.

Stay tuned…

2016-17 Champions League Final – Real Madrid CF vs. Juventus FC

Ahh, the Champions League final!

An event difficult to miss, especially when two giants of European, if not, World football collide for the most prestigious prize in club football, the UEFA Champions League.  Both clubs have been impressive leading up to the final.

Juventus FC on pace for their first possible triple (having already secured Serie A and la Coppa d’Italia) have eliminated FC Porto, FC Barcelona and AS Monaco FC en route to Cardiff, Wales.  Real Madrid CF has had to deal with SSC Napoli in the Round of 16, then FC Bayern Munich and derby rivals Atlético Madrid.

For Los Blancos, it will be a chance to make history as being the first club to win back-to-back Champions League titles since the introduction of this format in 1992.  For reasons difficult to explain, no team has ever been able to repeat as champions.  As for I Bianconeri, it will be a chance to finally lift the trophy after failing to win it in 2003 vs. AC Milan and 2015 vs. FC Barcelona.  We have to go back in 1996 and their success on penalty kicks versus titleholders Ajax Amsterdam to witness The Old Lady winning the title.

It is a 50/50 final.  Despite the tremendous amount of talent and money Real Madrid has at its diposal, la Juve has been able to inject more funds and more quality players to their side in the past few years.  The recent additions of Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Miralem Pjanic, Dani Alves, Mario Mandzukic etc. have made this team more dangerous than ever.  And after beating Real Madrid, two years ago, to reach the final of this same competition, the confidence level will be high for the Italians.

Prediction – Juventus FC ends its 21 year drought and complete their treble by winning 2-1.

Ballon d’Or/Golden Ball 2017 – Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo

The season has come to an end in the Spanish League and Real Madrid CF have won the championship in front of their arch-nemesis FC Barcelona.  Los Blancos held a three point advantage and were able to hold on to it until the very last game of the season.

Furthermore, Real Madrid will play, for the second year in a row, the final of the Champions League, against Juventus FC this time.  Since the introduction to the Champions League format in 1992, no club has been able to repeat as champions.  History is not on Los Merengues side on this one.

Meanwhile in Barcelona, Los Blaugranas have won the Spanish Cup (la Copa del Rey) by beating Alaves 3-1 thanks to goals from Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Paco Alcacer.  It provided the near perfect farewell to manager Luis Enrique who will leave the club this summer.  His replacement is supposed to be officially named soon and the current manager of Athletic Bilbao is the favourite to take on the job.

As for individual statistics and awards, Lionel Messi has won the European Golden Shoe for this season.  Cristiano Ronaldo is very far away in the standings.  It is the fourth time (equaling the record of the Portuguese international) that La Pulga has won this award.  Luis Suarez was the winner last season.

As for the Ballon d’Or/Golden Ball France Football is concerned, here is a look at the statistics and trophies won by Messi and Ronaldo so far from January 1st to May 28th, 2017 (in bold, the player with the advantage):

Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo
Games 33 28
Goals 32 27
Assists 8 6
Trophies 2
(Copa del Rey, European Golden Shoe)
1
(La Liga)

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