Thursday, 7 June 2012

Can Italy "Fix" The Euro

Manager:   Cesare Prandelli
Captain:  Gianluigi Buffon
Star Player:  Mario Balotelli
Bio: Italy were really really poor in the 2010 World cup. They went out at the group stage and didn’t have a hard group. They were beaten Slovakia and Failed to beat New Zealand and Paraguay drawing both 1-1.

They have recovered since and they have hired Prandelli who has previously managed Fiorentina and Roma and has a good track record. Italy managed to go 9 games unbeaten but then lost to Ireland in a friendly. They Qualified only conceding 2 goals and whitewashed the group and made it with ease. They did it by playing Cassano playing behind Rossi and Pazzini to much success. The problem is Rossi and Pazzini are not in the squad for the Euro. In fact Gilardino didn’t make it either so a total of 98 caps missing in the forward line only.

As normal Italy are going to a major tournament with a match fixing scandal hanging over their heads. Domenico Criscito has had to pull out of the squad as he has been linked to the scandal. Im not going to talk about this as I don’t know to much about it. Its goes hand in hand nowadays. But Criscito would have been the starting Left Back for Italy. Instead they will play Angelo Ogbonna (Italy will field 2 black players. Not saying it’s a bad thing at all but unusual).  Ogbonna is a Left back who plays for his football for Torino. He is not a bad player but he is not as good Criscito so he will be a loss.

This Italy side on features 3 players not playing in Italy. Balotelli, Thiago Motta, Salvatore Sirigu. But it does feature Fabio Borini who played for Chelsea and Swansea and Alessandro Diamanti who West Ham fans will remember. Don’t expect either players to start. I would expect them to attempt to continue playing Cassano behind 2 strikers likely to be Balotelli and Giovinco who have a total of 16 caps and 1 goal. The Midfield will feature De Rossi and Pirlo and Marchisio.

I watched the 3-0 defeat to Russia and as this is the ONLY warm up game Italy played they will have to be judged by that performance. It could have gone either way in the first half and until Russia scored Italy may well have been the better team but as soon as Russia scored Italy offered nothing. They didn’t show a fight to win the game and ended up giving away another 2 cheap goals and lost 3-0. They seem Reluctant to play Di Natale despite him being Serie A top scorer over the last 4 years. The 34 year old seems to have been blamed for the 2010 failure and that’s harsh because none of them turned up.

Italy are one of the Tournaments favourites but not in my eyes. I would say England have a better team than Italy in fact I think they will struggle to beat Ireland or Croatia let alone Spain. The Reputation of Italy is higher than the ability of this current team. This is not a bad team but they will not win the Tournament   

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Luck of the Irish

Manager:   Giovanni Trapattoni
Captain:  Robbie Keane
Star Player:  Robbie Keane
Bio: Ireland are the only team in the Euro who haven't included a single player in their own league. Thats my interesting fact. Its been 24 years since Ireland have competed in the European Championships so they are going to party hard this year. Ireland haven't been to a international tournament since the 2002 world cup where they got to the round of 16 before being knocked out by Spain on pens. 

This Ireland team is good but not great. With players like Keane, McGeady,  Dunne and Given they have some good players. The only problem with them is they are all passed their  prime years. Keane is 31 and playing in LA, i think he may rethink that decision after the Euro as he showed for Villa this season during a Loan spell that he has a lot to offer a Premier League club. Given is 36 but is still blooming good. I think he is one of the best in the world still and 26 isnt that bad for a goalkeeper. Dunne is 32 but looks about 40. I dont think he has long left. He hasnt had the best of seasons at Villa but nobody at Villa had a good season. McGeady is only 26 but with a record of 49 games 2 goals he has disappointed at international level. its a record that Heskey would be ashamed of. 

Watch out for James McClean. The 23 year old Sunderland winger has been a star for them this season. O'Neil has been really impressed by him and gave him a chance. He was brilliant but will he play. Well i wouldnt expect him to start as i think they will go McGeady and Duff on the wings and McClean coming off the bench. Its a shame that none of these 3 play centre mid because they lack Centre mid talent. Gibson, Andrews, Whelan and Paul Green will fight it out to play centre mid and there is not a lot of difference between them. 

at 73 years old they have the oldest coach in Trapattoni but he brings with him a wealth of experience at both club level and international level. I think this will be a real benefit to Ireland. 

The Group Ireland are in they can finish anywhere from 2nd to 4th. I dont think they have enough to beat Spain but certainly can beat Italy and the game against Croatia in game 1 will be vital. Unlike Croatia I dont see Ireland getting passed the Quarter finals. In truth i think Ireland will finish last in this Group. I think they can beat Italy at the moment but i dont think they will. I would love to see Ireland do well because they are always good entertainment in Tournaments like this. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Croatia For The Final?

Manager:   Slaven Bilic
Captain:  Darijo Srna
Star Player:  Luka Modric
Bio: Croatia are the forgotten team in the Euro if you ask me. This team has more than enough about them to get to a Semi final or even the final at a push. Not the strongest team at the back but pretty good in midfield and up front. if your questioning this then you may change your mind after the list of players im about to tell you. 

this team features Luka Modric who Spurs rate at £50m and is one of the stars of the Premier League. Nikica Jelavic who was brilliant at Rangers and Everton this season. Eduardo the former Arsenal striker who was fantastic before his leg snapped in 2 like a twig, since leaving for Shakhtar Donestk he has found a little more form and has started playing games a bit more. Darijo Srna is a brilliant right winger who can also play right back when needed he has 91 caps and 19 goals and i bet most of them would have been free-kicks. Their back line does include Vedran Corluka who used to play for Man City and Spurs and now plays his football at Leverkusen, he can play anywhere in the back 4 so is really useful. Niko Kranjcar is a winger for them and Spurs, he hasn't had the best of seasons but is a class act and when he moves this summer expect a revival in his game.

However Ivica Olic of Bayern Munich is out due to injury. This will be a big loss as he is a key player for them. They are also without Miaden Petric who scored a Goal against England that Scott Carson and effectively stopped England going to Euro 2008.  The only other big loss is Ivan Klasnic of Bolton who will now be looking to move away from Bolton. He is a good player who may have had an impact off the bench. 

I am not stupid i don't think they will do anything of note against Spain but they are capable of beating both Ireland and a Poor Italy team. Meaning they would get 2nd place in the group and a match against England, France, Ukraine or Sweden. I think with a good performance they can reach the Semi Finals. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

Spanish Eyes (on Europe)

Manager:   Vincent Del Bosque
Captain:  Iker Casillas
Star Player:  Xavi, no Iniesta, no wait Fabregas, no wait Silva, no wait Pique, no um not sure
Bio: A few blogs ago I said that I feel its Germany’s time to Win the Euro this year. I stick with that but for me the biggest challengers are Spain. Spain have a massive chance of winning this year as well as the last 2 tournaments. Spain have no weakness. They have no Villa or Puyol but they are still class in all areas. In Goal they will play Captain Casillas but if he was to get injured they would play Barcelona Keeper Valdes or Liverpools Reina. Not bad huh? Defence isn’t unbelievable but is very good. Pique is coming off a pretty bad season by his standards and no Puyol means that Real Madrids Raul Albiol or  Sergio Ramos will come in to partner Pique. Jordi Alba is ace at left back and should be the player who fills the gap they have had there in the past.

The strikers are top class. No Villa means Llorente, Torres and Negredo will fight over the 1 striker role they play with the likes of Pedro, Navas, Carzola,  Silva and Mata supporting them from more wider areas drifting in to the centre. The likes of Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas and Iniesta taking the 2 centre midfield places. This squad is incredible. They are rightly the best team in the world but not only that their 2nd team would be number 2 in the world. The depth is quite incredible.

The only thing that tells me that they might not win it is because Germany are about as strong and no team has ever won the Euro then the World Cup and then retained the Euro in the history of Football. If it was ever going to happen its now.

Let me tell you things about the players you may not know. LLorente is a very large striker who is mainly used as a Target man. He is like a good Andy Carroll. Negredo at Almeria. He was sold to them by Real Madrid. They had a clause in the contract that said they could buy him back for 5 million euros a snip for a player who had scored in ever other game from Almeria. They swiftly sold him on without ever playing him to Sevilla for 15 million Euros and he has a 1 in 3 record for Sevilla. The lad that I think is going to be a world class player within 2 years is Javi Martinez. The Bilbao player can play either Centre Midfield or Centre Back. He can play both roles equally as well but his fairly short so may have to play Centre Mid in international football. This guys is very good with the ball at his feet and his vision is brilliant.

In short Spain will take some beating and there are only a few teams that could beat them but they did lose at the world cup to Switzerland so I guess they are beatable. ENGLAND BEAT THEM 1-0 THIS SEASON!!!! I know that was then but it could be again. Its coming HOME!!!!

Good luck Ireland, Italy and Croatia because you need to try and stop the force that is Spain and I don’t think they will. Spain will top this group. They would go on and play the team finishing 2nd in the England, France, Sweden and Ukraine group. Cant see any of them beating Spain (except England……well theres hope).

Friday, 1 June 2012

3 Lions On The Shirt

Manager:   Roy Hodgson
Captain:  Steven Gerrard
Star Player:  Wayne Rooney
Bio: Im English. Im a big fan of the English national team. Listening to 3 lions by the Lighting Seeds makes the hairs on my whole body stand up and makes me believe that England CAN WIN ANYTHING!!! I don’t care that Fabio Capello Ditched in the job because John Terry was stripped of being captain because of the racism case. I don’t care that Lampard is out and Rooney is suspended for the France and Sweden games. I don’t even care that the likes of Henderson and Downing didn’t warrant their inclusion in the squad in many people’s eyes. England CAN win Euro 2012 because they are a good side. Nothing more than that. Living in England all my life I have never known such negativity around the England Squad. 2 years ago everybody thought we were going to win the world cup. Losing 4-2 (not a mistake it was 4-2) to Germany 2 years ago has made a lot of England fans forget that we are a top team in the world game.

Fabio Capello lost 2 competitive games as England Manager. So far Roy Hodgson has a 100% record as manager of England. I know the World cup was a disappointment and the less said about 2008 the better (for those who don’t know a Wolly with a Brolly cost us a chance to even go to Euro 2008). But WHY NOT? Do England have no chance? Lets look at the teams who are meant to be better than England.
Germany beat England the last time they met in 2010 but that was 2 years ago and if Lampards Goal counted the whole game would have looked a lot different. I saw Spain throw everything at England about a year back and come up with nothing but a 1-0 defeat (ok they were unlucky but credit should go to England they defended like Romans). Holland played England a few months back. They went 2-0 up and looked in control and all of a sudden it was 2-2 and they had to destroy Hunterlaar and Smallings faces to change the result back in Hollands favour (a moral victory). France could well be a shambles. Portugal may not even make it out of the group and if they do then it revenge time for 2004 and 2006. I put England next. I Believe with all my being that England are better than Italy and all the other teams in the Euro.

Lets look at the squad. It’s a really good mixture of young inexperienced player and some stalemates. For the likes of Gerrard, Terry, Ashley Cole, Defoe and Parker  this should be their last chance. It would be a crime for these lads not to even make a major international final together. The likes of Carroll, Henderson, Jones, Ox (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), Danny Welbeck and Jack Butland are going through their first taste of a tournament. I suspect it may not be the last. Joe Hart is one of the world very best goalkeepers. Cahill and Terry played well together for Chelsea and Lescott and Jagielka were fantastic together for Everton and all have done well for England. Cole is the best left back maybe EVER in the world (I don’t like him but I bum him as a player). Walcott is rapid. There are cheaters in Africa who watch him running and think “what the hell is that blurry person shaped thing?” im a big fan of Phil Jones and If I was Roy Hodgson I would be playing him at right back but I think Johnson will get the nod. Wayne Rooney (yeah that’s all im saying about Wayne Rooney in this piece). 

The Formation is quite confusing. Hodgson has stated that he will play 2 up front so that suggest 4-4-2. I don’t think this works. I dont really think that international football works with 4-4-2. I think 4-3-3 is a much better formation in international football. I think Walcott and Young would benefit from having that formation an 3 men in midfield you would have been able to call up Carrick and have him partner Parker and Gerrard. As it stands England wont be doing that but instead will be putting Young up front (well behind the striker) and Gerrard and Parker in the centre probably with Milner and Downing on the wide areas. Not that fussed with that.

Ive said it to anybody that will listen but England wont score that many at Euro 2012. they are not blessed with an epic forward like of Holland or France but they have the best defence in the Euro and all that comes with that. Nobody is going to overrun England. They may get beaten but I think back to one of my favourite saying “a offence wins you matches but a defence wins you medals” in every sport you defence is everything. You “build from the back”. With a brilliant Defence it gives your attackers freedom to go forward without worrying.

I am aware that I have gone on a bit of a rant here but it riles me that people in England have lost faith in the National side. It may be a good thing. The Pressure Rooney was on was under clearly affected his performance at the World Cup. Maybe if he wasn’t banned for the first 2 games People might be more positive but I have faith in all 23 players. The 2 players getting the most grief are Downing and Henderson but whilst they wear the 3 lions on their chest I will support them. If you reading this in Germany or the USA I hope you enjoy watching England. If your reading this because you an England fan and I have brought you on board even 1% more then ive done my job.

Ill leave you with this. I saw my Friend, the other day, he said he saw, the white Pele, so I asked, “who is he?” he goes by the name “WAYNE ROONEY”, WAYNE ROONEY, WAYNE ROONEY, HE GOES BY THE NAME OF WAYNE ROONEY.

Viva le France

Manager:  Laurent Blanc
Captain:  Hugo Lloris
Star Player: Franck Ribery (for her Pleasure)  
Bio: 2 years ago in South Africa the French Football team were the joke of world football. Evra and his boys were Banned for up to 6 games after a dispute after a row between the then manager Raymond Domenech and Nicholas Anelka during half time of the defeat to the Mexicans (including a fairly unknown Hernandez). They went out at the group stage after being beaten by South Africa 2-1 and Domench, Anelka and Henry were no more. Few survived but the ring leader of the “boycott” Patrice Evra remains as back up to Clichy who has made himself comfortable at left back.

Former Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter centre back Laurent Blanc signed on to try and organise the zoo that was the national side in 2010. since then the French have been a force. No more joke at the French expense. THEY ARE BACK. Or are they? In 2006 they looked rubbish and got to the final. In 2010 they look balanced and it went to pot. Blanc was promised a new contract if he got the French to the Euro and not the French FA wont give him one so he thinks he is leaving after this Tournament.

They team itself looks as good as any in world football. They could beat any team in the world but in the same breath it wouldn’t shock me to see them lose to someone like Latvia (not picking on Latvia). With the likes of Benzema, Ribery, Nasri, Mexes, Malouda, Clichy, Evra, Lloris and M’vila (who may be injured judging by last nights game). The French are the ultimate disappointment in world football. Since 1998 they have either been the best or the biggest disappointment. Since the retirement of Zidane they have been floppy. 4 years ago they were knocked out of the group stage (they were in tough group but still) after back to back defeats to Holland (4-1) and Italy (2-0). They finished bottom and were rated the 2nd worst team in Austria and Switzerland. In South Africa 2010 they went out Group stage and were ranked 29th best team out of 32 teams.

This team isn’t bad they have only included 3 strikers Menez (who plays mainly on the wing), Benzema and Giroud (the Montpellier striker has been in really good form this season to earn his call up). Bearing in mind the players they have left at home (Gameiro, Cisse, Gomis, Saha and Remy) this tells me that they are going 1 up front with maybe 3 in behind with the like of Nasri, Malouda, Ribery, Ben Afra and Martin supporting Benzema with 2 holding players Matuidi, M’vila (if fit), Diarra or Cabaye. Arsenals Sanga is a big loss to them and they have to put a inexpreianced Debuchy or Reveillere in his place at right back. And expect Rami and Mexes to start at Centre back even though Koscielny hit form for Arsenal at the end of the season.

The French on paper should win this group at a canter. England should be the only tough game in the group for them and I would expect a France win or Draw unless the France from the world cup turns up. If that team turns up and they don’t play as a team they will more than likely end up out at the group stage. Ukraine and Sweden shouldn’t be able to stop them nor should they be able to score. I would expect them to win 3 or 0 in both those games if they really wanted to. As an England fan I hope that they crumble because that would really help England get as far as they should. As a football fan I hope the French struggles are over because when they were on top they had some of the best players of all time. Blanc, Barthez, Henry, Trezeguet, Thuram, Viera, Petit and the king of European football Zidane are no more but is it the class of 2012 to lead the French in to a new age of superstar. Only time will tell.

Swedish Euro Mafia

Manager:  Erik Hamren
Captain:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Star Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Bio: Yesterday I spoke about the Ukraine and how all their players play in the Ukraine well Sweden only have 3 players in their squad who play in Sweden (Hysen, Svensson and Hansson). They haven’t all flocked to the nearest big league either they are all over the blooming place. Italy, England, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Holland and even Saudi Arabia. The other thing I have picked up from their squad is they don’t have a single player under the age of 24.

Anyway about the team. They are heavely based around Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Milan star is a marvel in terms of abilty but sometimes lacks in attitude sometimes. Good player and should have a good tournament. The players you may know of as well are Johan Elmander (former Bolton forward who now plays for Galatasaray), Sunderland’s Seb Larsson, Blackburn’s Martin Olsson and Jonas Olsson of West Brom. If you’re a fan of Lyon in France you will know the name Kim Kallstrom but if you are not Kim will run the midfield for Sweden.  Rasmus Elm is meant to be on the verge of a major transfer to a large premier league club like Manchester United or Liverpool (guess we will see if this euro is the stepping stone he needs). Olof Mellberg is still playing at the age of 34 in Greece since his move from Aston Villa. He should still start in this team as they lack a centre back who can out play him even in his twilight years.

The one to watch is Ola Toivonen. The PSV winger/Striker has been highly rated for a few years now and could again be using this competition to put himself in the shop window for a major European club to go get him. His record of 35 goals in 76 games for PSV is impressive and he took the mantel of top scorer last season.

Sweden have a chance of a quarter or even Semi final spot. They seem to have a Curse over England as they met quite a lot over the last few years and England only beat them once and that was less than a year ago. You never know what France team is going to turn up to a competition and I don’t expect the Ukraine to do anything so there is no reason why they cant top this group with a touch of luck. My heart tells me England will win the group with Sweden coming through second but my heart is pretty dumb so I listen to my head and my head tells me that France will top the group with either England or Sweden will come 2nd. The game on the 15th June 2012 is the biggest in this group. If both England and Sweden go into this game with a win, the winner would get top spot. i hope that England can beat Sweden because im an England fan but I think it’s the game that matters the most. If England lose to France they would need to beat Sweden to stand any chance of going though. But as far as im concerned Sweden have a real chance of making the quarter finals.