Category Archives: 2016 Copa America Centenario

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.

Advertisements

Lionel Messi – Ballon d’Or 2016 (Golden Ball 2016)

We are as few weeks away before the voting ends and there should be no doubt that Lionel Andres Messi from FC Barcelona should be the clear favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this year. Here are the numbers (remember that the trophy is judged based on a calendar year, from January 1st to the last day of voting):

Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona, Argentina)
Games – 51
Goals – 49
Assists – 29
Trophies – 3 (La Liga, Copa del Rey, Spanish SuperCup; 1 final – Copa America Centenario)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF, Portugal)
Games – 45
Goals – 41
Assists – 15
Trophies – 3 (UEFA Champions League, UEFA European Championship, UEFA SuperCup).

The difference is simply staggering. Ronaldo may have won the most prestigious trophies this year, but his performances have not been so great. He did not even feature more than 8 minutes in the final against France before being substituted in the 26th minute. His display vs. Atlético de Madrid in the Champions League final was almost invisible despite dispatching of the winning spot kick in the penalty shootout that occurred and he did not even feature in the UEFA SuperCup final won in the last minutes of the game vs. Sevilla FC.

Lionel Messi won the domestic double with his club, was clutch when the moment was needed. Elevated his game in La Copa America Centenario lost on penalties vs. Chili for the second year in a row (and we see currently see the difference when La Pulga plays for La Albiceleste and when he does not). Since the season has begun, despite missing a few games via injuries, he is simply untouchable with goals and assists in plenty. Messi is probably having his best beginning of a season ever.

France Football and FIFA have disassociated themselves, a few weeks ago, from the Ballon d’Or meaning that the French newspaper will dictate its previous formula once again. Will it be enough to see the Messi vs. Ronaldo saga end and another winner coming forward? We shall see. This year, Messi has been the best so far and deserves his sixth Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or.

Why Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo (and will always be)

After the aftermath the UEFA European Championship in which Portugal, an unlikely winner, clinched its first international professional trophy, there were several praises for Cristiano Ronaldo, the captain of the national squad. Some deserved, some not. At the end of the day, despite the win, football fans should not forget that Lionel Messi was involved in another continental competition, la Copa America Centenario, a little earlier this summer and led his country to the final against the defending champion and, despite started the competition and on the bench injured, managed to tear the competition apart (5 goals, 4 assists in 5 games, 3 games started). Argentina ultimately lost on penalty kicks against Chile, for the second year in a row.

If Gonzalo Higuain would have been able to do to Chile and Claudio Bravo what Eder has done to France and Hugo Lloris in the final, Argentina may have won its first senior trophy since 1993, Lionel Messi would finally win a professional trophy with La Albiceleste, and critics would not have been so harsh and cruel versus the Argentine superstar, five-time Ballon d’Or winner and on the receiving end of countless individual and collective honours during his career, which started officially in 2004.

While CR7 is older and started his career a few seasons before Leo Messi, there is no doubt in my mind that La Pulga is the better player. While the former is physical phenomenon, a great header of the ball, and goal-scoring machine (especially since joining La Liga Santander) and without a doubt one of the best player of the last 20 years, Messi can do pretty everything on a football pitch. The little man can score, assist, pass the ball, direct the play and play in numerous positions with efficiency. We have seen Messi play as a number 10, 9, 9 and a half, as a winger and even as a number six (versus Germany in 2010 was shocking to see). He is up there with the likes of Pelé, Diego Armando Maradona, Garrincha, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff. His simplification of the game and the fear that he strikes towards his opponents are simply baffling, while Ronaldo has often been absent during big games and Portugal’s victory in the final without their captain plus Real Madrid CF’s penalty kicks win against their local rivals, Atlético de Madrid, in the Champions League final with an absent and inefficient number 7 can testify furthermore of this fact.

The statistics, the silverware won and the impact on the pitch do not lie. Lionel Andres Messi is currently the best footballer on the planet and the question should be: where will he rank in the history of the game when his career will end.

And he should be the current favourite for the Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or 2016 if you look at statistics and honours won so far for the calendar year.

Messi vs. Ronaldo (FIFA Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or) – Week 24-26

Lionel Messi and Argentina reached the final of La Copa America Centenario versus Chile last Sunday and once again, lost on penalties. Which means that La Pulga is still in search of his first senior’s title with La Albiceleste. Messi compiled an impressive 5 goals and 4 assists in five games during the tournament (he was a substitute against Panama and Bolivia in the group stage).

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have reached the Quarterfinals of the Euro 2016 in their Round of 16 match against Croatia thanks to a late goal, in extra-time, by Ricardo Quaresma. CR7, so far, has had two goals in four games in the competition.

Here are the stats from January 01st to June 28th, 2016 between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (including all competitions from club to country):

L. Messi 39 games 34 goals 23 assists 2 trophies won
C. Ronaldo 32 games 31 goals 10 assists 1 trophy won
Total Messi 7 games Messi 3 goals Messi 13 assists Messi 1 trophy

Stay tuned….

2016 Copa America Centenario Final – Messi vs. Sanchez II

The best two teams of this year’s competition will square off, this Sunday, for a chance to win either a 15th Copa America for Argentina or a second trophy in a row for Chile. Both squads have been breathtaking and have dismantled teams along the way.

Argentina and Chile met, earlier in the tournament, which saw La Albiceleste without Messi winning 2-1 in the group stage. Let’s remember that this will be a rematch of last year’s Copa America final between the two countries won by La Roja, on home soil, via penalty kicks after a scoreless draw.

Argentina’s road to the final:

1st game – Argentina 2 – 1 Chile

2nd game – Argentina 5 – 0 Panama

3rd game – Argentine 3-0 Bolivia

Quarter-finals Argentina 4 – 1 Venezuela

Semifinals United States 0 – 4 Argentina

Chile’s path to the final:

1st game – Chile 1 – 2 Argentina

2nd game – Chile 2 – 1 Bolivia

3rd game – Chile 4 – 2 Panama

Quarter-finals Chile 7-0 Mexico

Semifinals Chile 2-0 Colombia

Prediction

Argentina takes its revenge and wins la Copa America Centenario, its 15th and ties Uruguay.

Messi avec l'Argentine

Lionel Messi and la Copa América

The Argentine captain will feature in his fourth Copa America, this month. So far, the results are the following:

  • 2007 – Loss in the final versus Brazil 3-0, in Venezuela.
  • 2011 – Argentina hosted the tournament, but was eliminated by eventual winners, Uruguay, on penalties after a 1-1 draw and 5-4 loss on penalties.
  • 2015 – Loss in the final against Chile, in Santiago again on penalties (0-0, 4-1 a.e.t.). Messi was voted as the tournament M.V.P. but declined to accept the award at the podium after the loss.
  • 2016 – ??

This year, the tournament is back to celebrate its 100th anniversary and it may be a blessing in disguise for the native of Rosario. In normal times, the next Copa America would have taken in Brazil in 2019 and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Brazilians will be a different team than the one who showed up for “their World Cup“, which ended in a nightmare as we all know.

Furthermore, the Brazilian talisman Neymar Jr., who will play in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this year, will probably add several more trophies to an already jam-packed cabinet and a Copa America and a World Cup are on his list.

Time for La Pulga to win these two, before the Brazilian takes over.

Stay tuned…

2016 Copa America Centenario – Time for Messi and Argentina to raise the trophy

Argentina, this is your moment. After years, even decades of frustration, this competition, which celebrates its 100 years and will be played in the United States for the first time ever, is the moment for Lionel Messi and his group to finally bring some silverware back home. And there are several reasons why we believe they can do so:

  1. The team itself is jam-packed with world-class talent. Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Higuain, Pastore. Lamela, Rojo, Otamendi, Mascherano, etc. Enough said.
  2. Brazil, their biggest and regular threat, will be without their talisman and captain Neymar Jr., who will feature in the 2016 Summer Olympics Games instead, in Rio de Janeiro this August. Furthermore, football fans can sense that La Seleção is still trying to search itself after the 7-1 loss at home, two years ago, and after its second consecutive elimination at la Copa America, last year, versus  the same opponent and in the same fashion (penalty kicks), Paraguay.
  3. Uruguay will challenge for the title, but without the “Pichichi” (La Liga BBVA<s top scorer) and European Golden Shoe winner, Luis Suarez, and it should hurt them a lot since the native of Salto has been on fire for about one year and half now, after a slow start with FC Barcelona.
  4. Chile is the defending champion and a good side with tons of heart. This year, not playing at home, compounded with the resignation of their former manager, Jorge Sampaoli, last January, will definitely make them more vulnerable and less likely to repeat from their success of last year.
  5. Colombia. A Talented team with talented players, but just not having enough to win it all, it seems. They do know how to play and irritate Brazil in recent years, but their elimination on penalties against Argentina, last year, and the fact that they have not won a competition since la Copa America 2001, without Argentina a with a lackluster Brazil, played on home soil, demonstrates that Colombia will most likely not be crowned champions again this year.

Others selections such as Mexico, with Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado will not be easy to deal with. Paraguay, who have been second and fourth respectively of the last two Copa Americas, can do some damage. Ecuador has been a force to be reckon with in the CONMEBOL qualifications for the 2018 FIFA World Cup especially with a win in Argentina. The United States of America play at home and could very well be the surprise of this competition. We doubt though that it will be enough to raise the trophy since it lacks the quality to match the likes of Argentina and Brazil in particular.

Prediction ? Argentina wins its first senior’s title since 1993 and ties Uruguay for the most Copa America triumphs with 15.

Stay tuned.