Monthly Archives: June 2014

Has football lost the art of defending?

Is Kompany one of a dying breed?  Source: dafabetsports.com

Is Kompany one of a dying breed? Source: dafabetsports.com

With the group stages of the World Cup now over and the gushiness of how outstanding the tournament has been finally gets a rest day it’s a good time to look into a point made on the BBC during punditry of one of the games. As everyone has been loving the amount of goals being scored so far, has the art of defending diminishing in the modern game?

Before we have a look into it, let’s not take away from the incredible attacking displays and mind-sets of plenty of the teams in the World Cup so far. It’s been refreshing that teams at every level have tried to win games and it’s even better that it’s working because it has certainly helped create one of the greatest football tournaments in recent memory.

However, the amount of poor defending so far has been pretty alarming. There are three teams that have managed to only concede once and the list may surprise you, Mexico, Costa Rica and Belgium. In fact, 18 of the 32 participating teams conceded four or more over the course of three games which when you look at it like that is pretty outstanding.

One full back who has shown his frailties is Dani Alves.  Source: The Mirror

One full back who has shown his frailties is Dani Alves. Source: The Mirror

The point that was made by Martin Keown and Phil Neville is that teams are looking for defenders more comfortable with the ball at their feet and that’s true, there is a tendency to overlook a player’s defensive frailties when he can be good on the ball. They also pointed out that there aren’t many players like Vincent Kompany which is again true, many defenders in these teams have that commanding presence, positional awareness and ball skills as the Belgium captain.

The issue should be pretty clear when teams play, they have a tendency to start centre backs that are good footballers first and foremost and while that shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing,  the fact that they aren’t defenders first is worrying. In the faster game of today, a player with an awareness to react to a game is vital and that should take priority over avoiding the old lump up field, a player’s mind is much more difficult to mould.

Full back play has also completely changed, almost to the point where some are essentially extra wingers. The very best young left and right backs coming through are capable at both ends, which is good to see as the longevity of the forward-thinking wing back seems to be a lot shorter and have much more shortcomings than if you can find, or teach, someone to be good for both sides of the game.

There might not be many more players that had everything like Carles Puyol.  Source: sportzwiki.com

There might not be many more players that had everything like Carles Puyol. Source: sportzwiki.com

There have been some positives, Kompany is a good example and players like Mahmado Sakho have performed well but there’s been a few good team performances on the defensive end. Both Iran and Bosnia played almost perfectly against Lionel Messi, closing him down at the right times and applying the right pressure to get a tackle in and get the ball back. Most of the best displays defensively have been from taking the attacker out the game by cutting the supply and that’s helped shield some average defenders.

Overall, if we want to see more excellent defenders in the future we need to focus the coaching at what they are weakest at early. Are they good at getting forward? Teach them how to successfully get back and why it’s worthwhile to the team. Are they good on the ball from the back? Teach them in how they should use their brain to be in the right position to react quickly to danger. As always, the most gifted will have all the right attributes, like all the great defenders do, but at the same time teams should be trying to improve their players every day. If they do, you’ll have a greater depth both at club and international level that, in turn, might even make the attackers step up to the next level.

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An early exit: Where did it go wrong for England in Brazil 2014?

It's always worth using this picture for Hodgson, who will remain in charge.  Source: Daily Star

It’s always worth using this picture for Hodgson, who will remain in charge. Source: Daily Star

So after two games England are eliminated from the World Cup. Some have overreacted to the news and some have been too understated but there is no denying that it’s disappointing despite the supposed “low expectations” put on the squad.

 

So where did it all go wrong?

Admittedly England faced two good international sides that they couldn’t quite beat who ultimately lost to a plucky Costa Rice team that’s not only knocked them out but will knock out one of Uruguay and Italy too. In the Italy game England showed promise but lacked in key areas, they allowed Andrea Pirlo to dictate and poor defending combined with a lack of creativity led to their downfall.

The issue was they didn’t learn from the first game and improve, in fact they seemed to take a step back. The team looked more nervous than before in a must-win game, they created even fewer chances other than set pieces and their defending for the Uruguayan goals was simply inexcusable.

However, overall in the tournament the team weren’t as bad as people want to make out, the issue was the team were average and never played at a higher level. The defence was average but was supposed to be supplemented by an exciting attack but they didn’t create, no support from an anonymous midfield and they couldn’t take all their chances when they did come.

 

This might have been Steven Gerrard's last World Cup.  Source: The Telegraph

This might have been Steven Gerrard’s last World Cup. Source: The Telegraph

 

Who’s to blame?

It’s a combination of them all having to take the brunt of it this time, as mentioned above the players could have given a better account of themselves but it also falls on Roy Hodgson’s head that he never got the side ticking. The central duo of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson played nothing like they have done for Liverpool which partly falls on them but that also comes from the direction of the manager who couldn’t get the best out of them.

He also decided early on to play Wayne Rooney, the player with the most pressure on his shoulders, out of position and not show him the faith that he needed. It was a mistake, Italy were rubbing their hands and his head wasn’t fully in the game having not being given the confidence by the manager to play where he influences the game the best. This was a fatal mistake, it’s something other players would have picked up and if Hodgson is to continue he needs to resurrect that. Granted that might be a little touchy from Rooney but management is all about dealing with personalities like this and he failed to do so.

Tactically he didn’t quite make the grade either. The “adventure” some have clinged onto never quite materialised, he played the right players but put them in a still conservative style as to attempt to avoid defeat rather than win. Without the support of a rushing central midfielder which Henderson can do, stilted the attacking flair and whilst Gerrard is excused as a defensive midfielder at Liverpool because of their attack, he was exposed so emitting players like Gareth Barry should be seen as a mistake too.

Sterling will be part of the future, it'll hopefully be brighter.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling will be part of the future, it’ll hopefully be brighter. Source: Sky Sports

 

So where can they go from here?

Some players will be moved on now for youth and the key for the team now is to re-tool and build during the qualifying rounds so that when they come to Euro 2016 in France they are experienced in the system. The defence should be the starting point, like all great teams defending is key and giving the young players like Luke Shaw and Phil Jones a chance will give England the opportunity to build a strong, young back line.

Then the midfield needs to be fixed ideal-wise, there might be a change in personnel but the issue is getting them to play cohesively that helps both the defence and the offence. Then we need to trust in the forwards we have to push us to the limit. Rooney and Sturridge as the figureheads then wide options in Sterling, Lalana, Welbeck, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlin giving us plenty of options before picking the ideal pair.Some other youngsters will come into the fold like Ross Barkley who could play as the more attacking centre midfielder and the prospect that players like him improving is exciting.

What needs to be taken is that the international scene has improved dramatically over the past few years and England need to improve with the times. They were never too far off in the games we’ve played and despite the anger there are positives to take, now they need to keep evolving and we can do well come the European Championships.

Hodgson needs to show he believes in Rooney

Rooney didn't have the best game but he needs to see Roy put faith in him.  Source: The Guardian

Rooney didn’t have the best game but he needs to see Roy put faith in him. Source: The Guardian

After another Wayne Rooney performance that left us with more questions than answers, part of the blame has to be on Roy Hodgson who can’t seem to get the best out of his most gifted player. Knowing the qualities the Manchester United forward possesses, why did he think that playing him out wide would get the best out of him?

Many said that England had picked an adventurous side and they had but at the same time they kept it with caution putting Danny Welbeck in and (at least in Hodgson’s mind) playing Rooney out wide who he felt was better tracking back. He was wrong, it’s a misconception that he enjoys going backwards because of his occasional passionate runs to help the defence and playing him there hindered him from playing where he wanted to play. It still seemed odd that Raheem Sterling, who played excellently in the middle and out wide, wasn’t trusted to play on the wing in a position he’s much more accustomed to than Rooney.

He couldn’t quite work out how to stop Antonio Candreva, which was an excellent tactic by Cesare Prandelli, mainly because he wanted to be forward enough to contribute to any counter-attacking football. It should be said that when you’re given a task to do you should stick to it but it’s also understandable that Rooney knows where he affects the game the best and should be allowed to play in that area when he can be so deadly.

Hodgson can't now be ignorant to calls for Rooney to play through the middle.  Source: Daily Star

Hodgson can’t now be ignorant to calls for Rooney to play through the middle. Source: Daily Star

Surely in a must-win game against Uruguay on Thursday, Roy Hodgson has to allow Rooney to play through the middle from the start at least. He’s one of the only players not just in our squad but in world football who can produce a piece of magic that can change a game and he needs to show faith in a player that can do things like that.

Look at the faith other managers have shown in their big players. Robin Van Persie, Karim Benzema, Neymar and even Lionel Messi had question marks before the tournament but their bosses showed faith in them and they’ve been rewarded with goals. Wayne now needs that reassuring pat, play him where he wants and tell him you have faith in him to go out there and produce.

Is it a risk? At this point it probably is. He should have done this in the first game because there would be more time to change it but now his hand should be forced and he has to do it. Should he leave him out wide again and England fail, his head will definitely be on the chopping block. Should Rooney fail when given his opportunity then the criticism will be warranted but he’s also just as likely to silence every critic in one fell swoop.

It’s do or die time now for England and Roy Hodgson has to inspire Rooney to help drive this team to qualification. Other teams fear him, give him that fire and he will deliver like he has at club level time and time again. Wayne said he wanted to enjoy this World Cup, it’s time to show our faith in him to produce on the grandest stage of them all.

Argentina: A big favourite destined to fail?

Messi, now national captain, has to deliver after an iffy season at Barcelona.  Source: The Telegraph

Messi, now national captain, has to deliver after an iffy season at Barcelona. Source: The Telegraph

When people began to predict the winners of this year’s World Cup, there were only four teams that came up with any frequency. The hosts Brazil, the holders Spain, the young pretenders Germany and the South American outfit Argentina. However, looking at the strengths of these teams and the teams that win tournaments like this, Argentina don’t have the depth to take them all the way.

It’s silly to overlook the talent they do have in the squad, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuain are all quality players and that’s even before you talk about one of the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi. They can all turn a game on its head and possessing that amount is always an advantage, especially as head coach Alejandro Sabella brought them back to top form during qualifying.

But once you start looking deeper than that, the cracks start to show. For starters, not all of those players will start (it’ll most likely be Lavezzi to miss out) and after that you begin to see weakness. They aren’t as strong in the middle of the park, Javier Mascherano looks past his peak, Fernando Gago had to go back to his homeland to regain any form and only Enzo Perez looks like he’s hitting any form.

Can anyone ever fully trust Martin Demichelis?  Source: The Telegraph

Can anyone ever fully trust Martin Demichelis? Source: The Telegraph

It only seems to get poorer, only Ezequiel Garay and Pablo Zabeleta look like good defenders despite Martin Demichelis’ good final half of the season and they still haven’t got a natural left-back. Then there’s the goalkeepers, comprising of Sergio Romero who played very little this season at Moncao, Agustin Orion who has very little international experience at 32 and Mariano Andujar who finished last with Catania in Serie A.

It’s a very hit and miss squad, you expect that kind of firepower to score goals but at the same time, that defence could be quite porous and against the wrong opposition they could unravel. They’ve been handed a favourable draw which only got better with the Netherlands win against Spain so they should still go far but they should worry about the possibility of someone like the Swiss who will defend well because if they can’t get through they are vulnerable at the other end.

The argument that no non-South American team has won a World Cup on their soil is a little dated, the last was 34 years ago and even then the final came down to extra time. They should still be seen as a side capable of winning but they are also a side primed for capitulating under the pressure. Whichever way it should go, if they fail or they are led by their hero Messi to glory, it certainly won’t be boring to watch Argentina in the World Cup.

England need to be exciting if they want to progress

There doesn't seem to be much pressure on Hodgson but some bad performances will see it mount quickly.  Source: Daily Star

There doesn’t seem to be much pressure on Hodgson but some bad performances will see it mount quickly. Source: Daily Star

Back in the European Championships in 2012, you could understand why Roy Hodgson went for the slightly cautious approach especially against Italy. He was new to the players, there wasn’t enough time to implement his ideas and that was seen as the best way to get anything from the tournament. However, two years later England need to show adventure if they want to progress and even it means failure it will give the fans more hope for the future.

Like many have already pointed out, England will start with a 4-2-3-1 formation which is the right move so long as they play with plenty of attacking intent. Using a similar system to Liverpool, they should interchange that front quartet to keep defenders on their toes and allow them to play with the freedom that will create opportunities. Two solid, hard-working central midfielders will be a great foil to that, with one willing to join in and it will mean that the team will never risk too much at any stage.

In terms of personnel they should go for the players in form and that would present the most danger to other teams, which should mean the choice of Raheem Sterling over Danny Welbeck. He’s been impressive this season for Liverpool, fits slightly better in the formation and his pace will worry the opposition but make no mistakes, Welbeck is a good option to bring on if things aren’t going well.

Sterling should start but regardless, he should make an impact for England.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling should start but regardless, he should make an impact for England. Source: Sky Sports

Jordan Henderson should also start on form and the way he plays over Jack Wilshire who ended the season a little poorly. Whilst Wilshire is probably the better passer, that role is already allocated to Steven Gerrard and Henderson is good enough in more areas of his game to justify selection.

The only worry for the squad is that should Gerrard pick up an injury or struggle with the rush of games as there isn’t a ready-made replacement in the squad. That was shown the most in the game against Ecuador, neither Wilshire nor Frank Lampard showed that they can play as that reserved midfielder and if the captain was to pick up a knock or a suspension, the omissions of Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick will look more suspect.

Adventure is needed because England need to win and win early to get through this sticky group. Should they show that and succeed, they will cause teams problems throughout the knockout stage and no one will really want to play them. It’s much riskier to play safe because should they fail that way, the ire of the fans will descend and Hodgson’s head will be on the block.

E3: The hype machine that never quite meets expectation

A new Crackdown is pretty exciting but there wasn't too many surprises this year.  Source: Microsoft

A new Crackdown is pretty exciting but there wasn’t too many surprises this year. Source: Microsoft

As the dust begins to settle from one of the biggest gaming expos in the world, we can now begin to pick at the pieces to see what was actually announced. This year there was more hype surrounding the event than the past few years combined, with new consoles on the market people were desperate to see what the next few years had in store but despite good efforts, it never quite met those high expectations.

Microsoft arguably came out with the most surprising stuff, no-one had predicted a new Crackdown which was welcome and there were some nice showings from Sunset Overdrive and the Halo Collection. There were some other little highlights but they never had that one extra knockout punch that got everyone off their seats and if they had that cracking new IP announcement they’d have knocked it out of the park.

I personally loved this, more of this please.  Source: digitaltrends.com

I personally loved this, more of this please. Source: digitaltrends.com

Sony on the other hand came out with less big hitters to just confirm what we already knew. Uncharted was nice to see, showing actual Lycanthropes in The Order: 1886 added much more excitement to the game and the new From Software game BloodBorne could be very interesting. Again, small little bits like Little Big Planet 3 and Grim Fandango (which I can’t wait for) were good additions but they never had that killer blow and they really tailed off any momentum with the dull speech about PlayStation TV.

The Nintendo Direct was a little low key, there were some nice surprises like Star Fox but they didn’t release anything else that wasn’t at least partly expected. Ubisoft pretty much showed off everything they have already revealed and whilst they looked exciting, their big Rainbow Six surprise never quite hit the heights of the Watch Dogs reveal.

Trailers should be taken as representations, especially after Watch Dog's downgrade.  Source: stealthybox.com

Trailers should be taken as representations, especially after Watch Dog’s downgrade. Source: stealthybox.com

There’s also a note to take from all we’ve seen, especially with games nowhere near close to release that they could be completely different once they actually hit the market. With Watch Dogs relatively obvious graphical downgrade as an example, we shouldn’t get too hyped about something we aren’t certain about.

E3 saw some nice highs this year but yet again the hype was much bigger than anything that actually happened. It’s not the be-all and end-all that it used to be, Gamescon in Germany is arguably just as important and even then, publishers prefer to announce games on their terms across the internet now rather than wait for one big conference.

It’s a shame that something like this could be a thing of the past in the not so distant future but whilst it’s here, people will keep tuning in. There will always be something for everyone, there will always be a few nice surprises but the hype machine ensures that despite any kind of out-there reveal the show in its entirety will never quite meet the unrealistic expectations of gamers.

Why Ross Barkley should not be starting for England

Barkle is a future star but Brazil is too soon.  Source: The Telegraph

Barkle is a future star but Brazil is too soon. Source: The Telegraph

England go into this World Cup in Brazil without too much expectation but fans are begging for a bit more excitement to give them hope for the future. This has led to strong calls for young Evertonian Ross Barkley to start, and he might do, but that could be a mistake that sees the Three Lions not make it out the group stages.

In the three friendlies leading up to the World Cup, he’s been praised for his attacking intent and the verve many feel England are crying out for. When he gets the ball people await what he’ll do with it, he has the talent to go on a mazing run, take a shot from distance or give it to a team-mate in space to finish it off. He shows in flashes the real talent he possesses and many pin their hopes on these glimpses as a sign that he should start simply because he’s adventurous.

However, there are downsides to his game at its current stage that would hinder England in the group stages where it will be very difficult. Too often he loses the ball or makes the wrong decision which leads to conceding possession which could be very costly against the stronger teams in the tournament. The cost wasn’t so great when losing it to the Ecuadorian midfield but when you gift Andrea Pirlo the ball or allow the Uruguayans to get Suarez involved more regularly with a player out of position, you put your team at great risk that could have been avoided.

Hodgson is the man with the decision, should he get it wrong it could cost him the job.  Source: The Guardian

Hodgson is the man with the decision, should he get it wrong it could cost him the job. Source: The Guardian

That’s also not suggesting where he would play in the side. His ideal position is as a central attacking midfielder and that role is kind-of filled by Wayne Rooney, one of the only players that strikes fear in the opponents and there shouldn’t be a question of leaving him out. They need width so they shouldn’t really play him out wide and playing him deeper alongside Steven Gerrard would be a mistake, he’s too adventurous and would leave the defence exposed.

There’s also an argument to be made that he’s not ready for international tournament football as he hasn’t got enough experience. He played a good amount of the season for Everton but he didn’t play every single game consistently and that’s a worry, if his manager doesn’t quite fully trust him then why can the national team?

He is still growing and comparing him to other youngsters leaves something to be desired. Max Meyer, two years his junior, might not see a minute for Germany this year but has played as many games as Barkley for Schalke and having broken into the side, he played almost every game. He’s also played nine times in Europe and that’s really helped him develop into an exciting talent, yet he’s not even going to the World Cup.

Germany's examples of Gotze, Draxler and now Meyer is how we should help Barkley grow.  Source: dfb.de

Germany’s examples of Gotze, Draxler and now Meyer is how we should help Barkley grow.  Source: dfb.de

In that lies the question, why are England fans looking so optimistically at a talented youngster who still clearly needs to grow? Is there that much desperation that we should put someone out there with much more limited experience just because he could turn around and be a world beater?

For Roy Hodgson, it’s a real catch 22. Should the team lose without Barkley on the field, there will be the blame for not playing him and his head could be on the chopping block. If he does and they lose, it’s his fault for taking too much of a risk on a player who wasn’t quite ready for the sudden step up. Winning would obviously quell any argument but if you were to throw Barkley into the fire he might get burnt and if that becomes a hindrance on his development it would be that much worse.

There is no denying that Ross Barkley could become a world class footballer and it still feels unusual to me to not back a young player but we have to be realistic. He’s still learning his craft, another full season at Everton with more game time and Europa League football will see him improve to the point where the national team have to play him. Unfortunately for Ross, this World Cup has probably come a year too soon for him to have an impact from the start that fans would hope for.

Young players to watch in the World Cup

Who will shine in this year's World Cup?  Source: wikipedia.org

Who will shine in this year’s World Cup? Source: wikipedia.org

The World Cup is an incredible footballing spectacle, the eyes of the entire world will be on the competition and it’s the perfect opportunity for some young talent to emerge by showing their quality on the biggest footballing stage. Here’s a quick look at some of the best young talent that haven’t quite made their name on the world stage just yet and could earn some big money moves during the transfer window.

 

Josip Drmic – Switzerland

384716_heroa

Source: goal.com

Having already earned his summer move, with Bayer Leverkusen signing him from Nuremburg for just €6m, Drmic can focus solely on leading the line for Switzerland in Group E. He has been in fantastic form, scoring 17 goals in the Bundesliga despite playing in a team that seemed destined for relegation all season long.

He’s a very clever player, loving to play on the edge of defenders and giving them the run-around throughout the game. Then when he’s in behind, he’s a clinical finisher and his cutting edge will be key to any success for the Swiss in Brazil. Leverkusen have already got a bargain and many other club may rue not going in early for him should he fire on all cylinders in the World Cup.

 

Vincent Aboubakar – Cameroon

Vincent-Aboubakar-2-472x340

Source: africatopsports.com

The opponents of Cameroon this summer may focus on their ageing hero Samuel Eto’o but if they have done their research, it’s Vincent Aboubakar they should be worried about. The Lorient striker has had a fantastic season in France, finishing on a 16-goal tally only beaten by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He’s another little menace, playing on the shoulder of the centre-back and possessing both pace and power to his advantage. When he’s through, he rarely misses and someone like that could be valuable to Cameroon in a difficult group where they could spring a surprise. If teams think about Eto’o too much, Aboubakar might become their worst nightmare.

 

Serge Aurier – Ivory Coast

Source: Sky Sports

Source: Sky Sports

The Ivorian right-back could get a big move to a big European club this summer and he’ll show exactly why he should during the World Cup. He’s been voted into numerous Ligue 1 Team of the Year’s as he’s been sensational for Toulouse and has shown on numerous occasions that he’s ready for the step-up.

An incredibly mature 21-year-old who has even captained his club on occasion this season, he has the ability both as a modern attacking full-back and is much more accomplished defensively than other world class players. A move to Arsenal makes a lot of sense, he’s similar to Bacary Sagna with even possibly a higher ceiling but should they miss out, another team will be getting an impressive young defender.

 

Son Heung-Min – South Korea

Source: bundesliga.com

Source: bundesliga.com

Hamburg which earned a move to Bayer Leverkusen he’s now settled into his role at his new club and will look to fire South Korea into the knockout stages. Able to play out wide as an inside forward and as a lone striker, Son’s versatility along the front line will give the Koreans plenty of options to move players around the 20-year-old.

His speed combined with his quick feet gives defenders headaches, especially as he tends to play very direct and dribble past players. He also has a wonderful right foot that can strike from anywhere and he’ll regularly cut in from the left to unleash a venomous strike. South Korea will need him to play at his best should they want to advance through a tight Group C but many will feel he has the ability to produce the goods for the team.

 

Mateo Kovacic – Croatia

Source: ESPN

Source: ESPN

Despite the fact that Inter managers can’t quite work out where to play him, Mateo Kovacic will be part of an exciting Croatian midfield of himself, Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. That’s excellent company and it’ll only help improve the 20-year-old who could be the most versatile of them all.

Able to play as a central midfielder, attacking midfielder, out wide or in a deeper creative role, Kovacic will likely be moving with the other two who are both in incredible form. His dribbling ability can be a wonder to behold and he may be used in addition to Rakitic to drive the team forward as Modric sits in a creative role. He might not be quite as key as others to his team but he certainly has the talent to change the game and should he add to the other already world class players around him, Croatia could be an incredibly dangerous team to face in Brazil.

 

William Carvalho – Portugal

Source: goolasha.com

Source: goolasha.com

The Angola-born Portuguese international has attracted a lot of attention over the last season and for good reason, he’s a talented defensive midfielder at a time where there seems to be less of them around. A regular in a resurgent Sporting Lisbon squad who despite their financial constraints finished in second above Porto, Carvalho was a key player who impressed enough to earn a place not only in the countries squad but in the first eleven.

Tall, strong and with a bit of pace, he uses his positional awareness to be in the right place at the right time to break down attacks and has the awareness and composure to start a counter for his team. He’s a real asset to this Portuguese side, giving players like Joao Moutinho more room to create while he does the dirty work, he should be looking at a big move after the tournament.

 

Jordy Clasie – The Netherlands

Source: pesstatsdatabase.com

Source: pesstatsdatabase.com

Now more likely to be given more time on the pitch with Rafael van der Vaart injured, Jordy Clasie is one of an assortment of young, dutch talent coming through the ranks. He’s had an excellent season for Feeyenoord, who were unlucky to be beaten to the Eredivisie title by Ajax, and now he looks to help an unfancied Holland side go far in the World Cup.

Whilst diminutive in size at just 5”6, he’s a feisty player that can run for hours on end in an attempt either to win the ball back or to get his team playing at the other end. He’s also very creative, adding to players like Wesley Snejder and Arjen Robben so the Dutch may spring a surprise or two, as could Clasie if given the chance by Louis van Gaal.

 

Ricardo Rodriguez – Switzerland

Source: Inside Spanish Football

Source: Inside Spanish Football

 

Possibly one of the most accomplished young full-backs in world football, it’s a little odd a move hasn’t already happened for Ricardo Rodriguez. He’s been a massive part of what was a much improved season for Wolfsburg and he could yet be convinced to stay, they’ve become much more ambitious and with a few more additions could be a real threat in Europe.

He excels going back and forwards, has a wicked left foot that serves him well to the point that he’s become somewhat of a set-piece specialist. He also takes penalties which is an odd asset for a left-back to have but certainly a welcome one, he will be very important to Switzerland’s chances of going far this year. Should he impress the big teams may start circling around Wolfsburg but they will want to hold strong, they know just how good this 21-year-old is already and feel they might have a superstar in years to come.