Monthly Archives: July 2014

Why no World Cup doesn’t affect Messi’s legacy

Messi, he's pretty great.  Source: Telegraph

Messi, he’s pretty great. Source: Telegraph

There was one question asked constantly during this year’s World Cup, if Messi doesn’t win it can he be regarded in the same breath as players like Maradona and Pele? There are many experts believing that you can’t, that the very best have to win the biggest prize of them all to get that kind of lofty status but in this new footballing world we live in, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Let us get the facts out of the way first, Lionel Messi is a once-in-a-generation player in an era where we are lucky enough to have two of them. He’s a mesmerising footballer easily capable of winning games on his own at times, a unique talent that has shown time and time again just how good he is. He’s won the Ballon D’or four times, the European Golden Shoe for top scorer in all of Europe’s top leagues three times and although some would say undeservedly he also won the Golden Ball in Brazil.

And that’s just his personal accolades, he’s won six La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey’s, two Club World Cup Championships and the Champions League three times. There isn’t many who could compare to that at club level and even in international level, despite not winning anything with the senior side he’s still reached the finals of a World Cup and a Copa America which is still no mean feat.

Yeah, Di Stefano never played in a World Cup, he's still one of the best ever.  Source: periodistadigital.com

Yeah, Di Stefano never played in a World Cup, he’s still one of the best ever. Source: periodistadigital.com

There’s no doubting what he’s done in the game, there’s no doubt in how talented he is and how much he’s entertained us over the years yet still some can’t mention him with the greats. When you start doing something like this, you start eliminating other top class players. Was Euseibo not a great player? Was Di Stefano? Giggs? Best?

That’s the problem with these kinds of conversations, comparing greats with other greats in a different generation just shouldn’t be done. There’s different rules, different conditions and all sorts of other factors that come in to play while we should just be appreciating the wonderful footballers we’ve been lucky to see.

If he never wins a World Cup, Messi is still one of the all-time great footballers we will ever witness. He’s been above and beyond every single player currently playing at some point in his career, widely accepted as the greatest player on the planet and there should be no more argument about his legacy. If you start eliminating players because they were unfortunate to be born in a time where their international team-mates aren’t up to standard and there are more competitive teams than ever then it never, ever will become a fair argument.

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HeldTogetherByStaples’ World Cup XI and Awards

Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas

Keylor_Navas-Jamaicachiilkubad

Source: thehardtackle.com

Despite huge competition for Manuel Neuer, Navas deserves the recognition for what was a string of terrific performances by the 27-year-old. Continuing his magnificent form for Levante this past season, Navas was the lynch pin in his Costa Rica side’s surprising run to the quarter finals of the World Cup. He’s likely to get a big move this summer and it’s not surprising, he showed both his shot-stopping ability and his agility to get off his line in every single game.

 

Left Back: Ricardo Rodriguez

Source: Inside Spanish Football

Source: Inside Spanish Football

There hasn’t been too many great performances from left backs in this tournament but Ricardo Rodriguez showed his enormous quality in every game. He was instrumental in Switzerland’s win against Ecuador and in the round of 16 he was a brick wall that Argentina couldn’t find a way past. He will have plenty of suitors this summer but Wolfsburg will be hopeful they can keep the 21-year-old in Germany and the best might be yet to come from this Rodriguez.

 

Centre Back: Mats Hummels

Source: The Telegraph

Source: The Telegraph

A player that had a few injury worries coming into the tournament, Mats Hummels showed exactly why he’s regarded as one of the best defenders in the world. He didn’t make many mistakes, he was a real danger in the opponent’s box and was a key player in the German’s success. He’ll go back to Dortmund safe in the knowledge that he’s had a great tournament and they will hope he can continue that form back in the Bundesliga next season.

 

Centre Back: Ron Vlaar

Source: Dafabetsports.com

Source: Dafabetsports.com

Concrete Ron was almost unbeatable in this year’s World Cup and was the integral middle man in the Dutch team’s three man back line. He completely stopped world class footballers like Diego Costa and Lionel Messi, never looking suspect whilst challenging for every ball in the air and on the ground. He was sublime and Paul Lambert will hope that he can help inspire Aston Villa in the upcoming season but they might have to fight off some interest before the season starts.

 

Right Back: Philipp Lahm

 

Source: faz.net

Source: faz.net

One of the very best players in the world, whilst Philipp Lahm started the World Cup in midfield he showed just why he’s regarded as the best full back playing today. He was strong both in attack and defence, providing the German side with great width and leadership that was instrumental in their victory. It’s strange to think that Lahm hasn’t got much more to prove in the game but that won’t stop him, could he be a contender for the Ballon D’or next year? I wouldn’t bet against him.

 

Centre Mid: Arturo Vidal

Source: Sky Sports

Source: Sky Sports

Chile were as good as everyone secretly expected to be and they were personified by the excellent Arturo Vidal. Arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world right now, the Juventus man took a stranglehold in every game he was involved in and his warrior spirit helped him get over a few injuries to play a big part in Chile’s very good tournament. He’s still wanted by other big clubs around Europe but he will be hungry to win more silverware in Italy should no suitors make their interest concrete.

 

Centre Mid: Javier Mascherano

Source: mensjournal.com

Source: mensjournal.com

Despite having been a centre back for the past few seasons in Barcelona, Javier Mascherano proved yet again why he’s one of the best defensive midfielders in the modern game. He was superb, adding protection to a suspect back line that really grew in confidence thanks to the security that Mascherano gave them. He might have given out a few tough tackles but he really performed when his team needed him most, his tackle on Arjen Robben was easily the best challenge of the tournament.

 

Centre Attacking Mid: James Rodriguez

Source: cricketcounty.com

Source: cricketcounty.com

A star was born in Brazil, some already knew his qualities after his season with Monaco but James Rodriguez exploded on the world scene in 2014 and should have been rewarded with the Golden Ball. Scoring six and adding two assists, James helped a Falcao-less Columbia still have a terrific tournament because of his sublime talents both on and off the ball. He barely lost the ball, there were alarm bells for defenders every time he touched the ball and he scored an outrageous goal that will live long in the memory.

 

Winger: Arjen Robben

Source: ESPN

Source: ESPN

Some people a few years ago felt that Arjen Robben was on the decline, they couldn’t have been more wrong. He was a constant danger throughout the tournament, demanding the ball so that he could scare defenders with his still frightening pace even at the age of 31. He was certainly a contender for the best player of the tournament and a few more goals would have given James a run for his money, Robben proved his world class ability yet again on the biggest stage.

 

Winger: Lionel Messi

Source: Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

Undoubtedly the best of a generation and will go down as one of the greats with or without the World Cup, Messi produced moments of real magic exactly when Argentina needed them. Four excellent finishes in the group stages helped a slow starting side through what was an easy group and despite not scoring during the knockout rounds, his driving runs and unbelievable passing ability drove them forward. For most, he wasn’t quite the best player of the tournament but he proved that if you allow him an inch of space, he will punish you.

 

Striker: Thomas Muller

Source: ESPN

Source: ESPN

It’s surprising that so many are still reluctant to admit what should be a well known fact, Thomas Muller is a world class footballer up there with the best. Hard-working, clever and clinical, Muller was a constant threat and early on looked to drive Germany forward as the rest of the squad grew in confidence. At 24, he has a real chance to absolutely smash Klose’s World Cup goals record and there might not be a player more deserving than the young Munich man.

 

 

Player of the Tournament: James Rodriguez

The stand-out star, he has a huge future ahead of him and we will all look forward to him delighting us with his ability again and again and again.

 

Young Player of the Tournament: Memphis Depay

Would have been James had someone stepped up in the Final but Depay was a real impact player for the Dutch. Also has a big future, showed no fear and has a bright future in the Netherland’s set-up.

FIFA needs to alter major championship refereeing

This was pretty bad, but there have been plenty of them in this year's tournament.  Soucre: Independent

This was pretty bad, but there have been plenty of them in this year’s tournament. Soucre: Independent

Complaining about the referee is commonplace within football circles, for both right and wrong reasons. It’s a big job to fill, they have to make the right decisions on one viewing and if they fail they are vilified, it’s a job that many don’t envy. They do take a lot of flak, with an alarming amount of it for the wrong reasons, but the way that some games have been refereed in this World Cup we have to question the standards that FIFA live by.

In what has been an excellent World Cup, we have seen some truly horrific decisions by referees. There are plenty of examples, the Fred dive that led to a Brazil penalty in the opening game, the two offside decisions in the next game, the amount of not given penalties and the Brazil/Columbia game that got out-of-hand too quickly. The sheer amount for such a quality tournament is pretty staggering and whilst there has been some good displays by referees, the majority have been below the standard necessary for the biggest sporting event in the world.

The most glaring deficiencies of the refereeing were shown in the Quarter Finals, where only the Argentina/Belgium game came without any real incident. In the first game, the linesman got the majority of decisions wrong including offside’s and fouls that were committed in front of them and not given. In the Brazil/Columbia game, the referee failed to control a feisty affair which led to the eventual injury to Neymar and in the Holland/Costa Rica game, a few penalty shouts were not given that should have been.

A sight no-one wanted to see, and it's come from bad officiating.  Source: theworldgame.sbs.com.au

A sight no-one wanted to see, and it’s come from bad officiating. Source: theworldgame.sbs.com.au

One contributing factor to this might not just be the standards of the referees, that could be a little difficult to call into question, but the quotas put out by FIFA that tell referees what they should be looking out for. With their minds focused on a certain area, they aren’t given the freedom to simply manage a football game like they should, instead they make sure they eliminate certain aspects and lose focus on just keeping a game from being officiated efficiently.

After this tournament, FIFA need to have a serious think on how they both select officials and what they tell them before a tournament begins. They should look to getting rid of simply having one referee per nation, whilst it might seem unfair we need simply the best referees available so that the amount of mistakes are reduced. They also need to allow officials to simply manage a game how it plays, if it’s a strong affair allow it to play out until it begins to get scrappy or endanger players then come down stronger to cut it out.

One of the biggest shames in this is that because of poor officiating, one of the most talented players in the tournament will play no further part. That’s something that should never happen, it’s a symbol to the distinctly average displays from officials and while there has been bright spots, the advantage played for the Swiss’ goal against Ecuador was very good, it’s not been good enough overall. Hopefully it doesn’t continue because a mistake in the final few games could overshadow one of the greatest World Cups in living memory.

World Cup: Germany needs to find that winning formula

Andre Schurrle could be the key that unlocks the door for Germany.  Source: Telegraph

Andre Schurrle could be the key that unlocks the door for Germany. Source: Telegraph

If the World Cup was played on paper, the Germans would have to be the favourites to beat everyone. Even with players like Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, Lars and Sven Bender on the injury list, the Germans have so much strength in depth that they should be striking fear into every team in the tournament. So why haven’t they quite hit the heights they should have so far?

The easiest thing to point to is the injury to Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus just before the tournament that has seen Joachim Low change the way the Germans play in an attacking sense. Reus, a very direct forward that would have played out on the left, has been replaced by Mario Gotze, much more of a traditional number 10 rather than going for a like-for-like change.

It worked excellently against Portugal, not so well against Ghana so it was changed with Podolski starting against USA but it wasn’t as effective as before. It was a conundrum for Low, who reverted back the original line-up against Algeria and again, they struggled until they switched it back again by bringing Andre Schurrle on who eventually turned the game for them.

This leaves Low with a decision to make again, which would be the best to work against France? Neither system has worked particularly well against team who have defended deep, although they did create a lot more with Schurrle in the Algeria game, but that isn’t the game they are expecting. Sticking with Andre Schurrle in Reus’ role might be the best way forward in the Quarter Finals, create more chances and test relatively untested French back line.

Despite scoring, Ozil has been poor. He could be the one to make way this time.  Source: bleacherreport

Despite scoring, Ozil has been poor. He could be the one to make way this time. Source: bleacherreport

That’s not to say that’s their only problem heading into the game, their defence has been nothing short of shaky against teams willing to attack them. The system of playing four centre backs across the line has not worked, the idea seems to be to deal with more agile players who will struggle in front of them but they keep getting caught out in behind.

Fullbacks are a big part of the modern game and for Germany not to utilise them seems very odd. Not only does it mean promising left-back Eric Durm is left out but it means Low carries on the obsession of turning the best right-back in the world into a very good midfielder. Playing Lahm in his best position offers a spot to have Khedira and Schweinsteiger in the same middle three, which shouldn’t be seen as a last resort.

It’s not going to be easy against the French, far from it they have been the most consistent side in the tournament and with some of the squad coming down with flu, the Germans have a lot to contend with. But they also have the quality in their squad to perform and many will be expecting them to improve.

Should they find a system that works right, find some consistency and manage to beat a strong French team, they could still go all the way. The team is more than good enough, it’s more about them getting everything else right so that they can perform like they should be performing. If they can’t adjust they may be flying home soon rather than later.