Tag Archives: Neymar Jr.

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…

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.

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.

El Clasico 2016 – FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid CF Aftermath

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Neymar Jr vs. Gareth Bale.
Luis Suarez vs. Karim Benzema.
Zinedine Zidane vs. Luis Enrique.

We could go on and on about the match-ups and the rivalry between so many players, managers, leaders that characterizes each El Clasico.

At the end of the day, it was Los Blancos who came out on top winning at the Camp Now by the score of 2-1 despite being a man down thanks to a second yellow card awarded to Sergio Ramos (who else) for a foul from behind on Luis Suarez.

FC Barcelona will surely be disappointed with the outcome of this result. They were undefeated in all competitions for the past 39 matches and are still in contention to win another treble this year. With Atlético Madrid winning earlier yesterday 5-1, the gap between the Catalan giants and the two biggest Madrid-based clubs is slowly shrinking to six and seven points respectively, although Los Blaugranas have the face-to-face advantage versus both teams (2-1 and 1-0 against Atlético; 4-0; 1-2 vs. Real Madrid).

It is still expected to see Barcelona win La Liga title, but for the Real Madrid and especially Zinedine Zidane, it will be a big boost to have won a first Clasico and away. Replacing the unpopular Rafael Benitez and trying to get the club back on track was not going to be an easy task and with the reputation of Real Madrid not hesitating to sacrifice a manager (for the right or wrong reasons), it was a risk for the former French maestro to take, with so little experience.

So far, we have to admit that, as usual, the Marseille-born former football legend is having success and there is no doubt that he can continue on with Real Madrid CF and maybe somewhere along the line, take over the French national squad and bring a FIFA World Cup back to his country, the one that he should have probably won in 2006 if it was not for the unfortunate incident against Italy. We have to wait and see.

Zinedine Zidane entraineur

Stay tuned…

Copa America Centenario 2016 – Argentina, Brazil, Chile or ?

La Copa America will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year and the United States of America has been chosen as the host country for this special event. The format of the competition has changed since 2007 from an every two year event to a more “normal” four year.

Last year, Chile, the host country, won its first continental title, on penalty kicks, against the Argentina of Lionel Messi, which failed, for a second year in row (after the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Germany) to win a final. This time around and not having to wait another four years, the squad led by Gerardo “Tata” Martino will hope to finally bring a professional trophy home, a first since la Copa America triumph in 1993.

It will not be easy. Several other countries want a piece of this silverware and this time around, 16 teams will be involved in the competition (Argentina • Bolivia • Brazil • Chile • Colombia • Costa Rica • Ecuador • Haiti • Jamaica • Mexico • Panama • Paraguay • Peru • Uruguay • United States • Venezuela).

  • Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica are in as CONCACAF Regional Cup Winners.
  • Haiti and Panama have been invited to join the competition as the two playoff winner and highest finishers of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
  • The United States of America is the host country, as mentioned above.

Brazil seeks revenge, redemption, return to glory. The past few years have very difficult for la Seleção. Despite winning the Confederations’ Cup the past three occasions (2005, 2009 and 2013), it has had difficulties winning bigger tournaments since the 2007 Copa America vs. Argentina.

  • Defeats in Olympic tournaments, despite boasting names such as Ronaldinho in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (China) and Neymar Jr. in London 2012 have been a little surprising and very disappointing.
  • FIFA World Cups have also been difficult experiences since its triumph in 2002 led by “El Fenomeno” Ronaldo. Defeats in quarter-finals vs. France in 2006 and the Netherlands in 2010 were difficult to swallow. This was nothing compared to the historical 7-1 annihilation at the hands of future champions Germany, at home, in 2014.
  • In Copa Americas, elimination in 2011 and 2015 against the same team, Paraguay, and in the same fashion, penalty kicks, have been a disaster as well for the supporters. Neymar Jr., the current captain of the team, wants to play in both competition this summer (Copa America and Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro). FC Barcelona will have to agree to it before he can try to win both titles, which will be highly unlikely.

Uruguay, which holds the record for the most title wins with 15 Copa America trophies, has seen the return of Luis Suarez pay dividends already with his game-tying goal against Brazil in a recent FIFA World Cup Qualification match. Edinson Cavani (Paris-SG) has also been in good form the past few games. Can La Celeste win a record 16th Copa America? We shall see.

Chile, the current title holder, Colombia, an always dangerous opponent and the United States, the tournament host, are teams not to be taken lightly this year.

Who will raise this year’s Copa America Centenario? My prediction goes with La Albiceleste of Lionel Messi, who will grab a rare trophy missing in his already extra large cabinet.

La Albiceleste

Stay tuned…

FIFA Ballon d’Or 2016 – The Race Is On

Already, the race for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2016 (starting January 01st) is heating up. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar Jr., Cristiano Ronaldo are currently the favourites to win the big trophy.

So far and while most of the football world is on international duty, we can take a look at individual and collective statistical for each one of them and create a prediction on who might win the big prize next January (in bold, the best statistic for each category).

Lionel Messi is the current title holder – 22 games. 25 goals. 10 assists.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 17 games. 17 goals. 6 assists.

Luis Suarez – 20 games. 18 goals. 12 assists.

Neymar Jr. – 19 games. 11 goals. 6 assists.

Robert Lewandowski – 15 games. 13 goals. 1 assist.

FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich are currently on course for a treble winning season meanwhile Real Madrid is ten points behind the Catalan giants at the top of Spanish league, was disqualified from the Spanish Cup for fielding a suspended player, but are still alive in the C.L.

It will be interesting to see until the votes by the 209 managers and captains of their national team and a selected journalists from each country are counted sometime in November, but if everything goes according to the current statistics and trophies to be won, Lionel Messi should collect his unprecedented sixth Ballon d’Or next January.

Stay tuned…