Monthly Archives: June 2016
- June 29, 2016
29th June 2016. By Ryan Baldi.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, according to wide-spread media reports, is on the verge of a headline-grabbing switch to Manchester United. The Borussia Dortmund playmaker has one year remaining on his contract with the Bundesliga club and, via his agent Mino Raiola, has agitated for his "dream move" to the 20-time champions of England.
For those who are not avid viewers of German football, the 59-cap Armenian international may be somewhat of an unknown quantity.
But if Mkhitaryan does indeed make the switch to the Theatre of Dreams, he will soon become a household name albeit one that many will struggle to pronounce and fewer still will be able to spell.
Mkhitaryan joined Dortmund from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 for €27.5 million a club record fee. During his three year stay in Donetsk, Mkhitaryan had marked himself out as one the most gifted creative midfielders in Europe; he'd guided Shakhtar to domestic title wins in each of his three
- June 27, 2016
27th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.Â
For almost a year now, Gerard Pique has been a heavily derided figure by many fans of the Spanish national team, with a section of supporters dedicating themselves to incessantly booing, jeering and whistling at him. This is, of course, due to their belief that the Barcelona stopper holds anti-Real Madrid and pro-Catalan independence views.
Pique's outstanding performances against the Czech Republic and Turkey to start the tournament, with the highpoint being the dramatic late winner he scored against the Czechs, had, however, helped unite the fans and managed to stem the negative treatment directed towards him.
When speaking prior to Spain's final group game with Croatia, Pique noted how pleased he was the situation had improved, saying: "I take that very happily. It is better to be applauded than whistled. The only way to turn the situation around is my performance on the pitch.
"I had the good fortune to score
- June 24, 2016
24th June 2016. By Ryan Baldi.
He's not a shouter; he doesn't scream at his colleagues like Roy Keane used to. He's not a gesticulator; he doesn't point and orchestrate his team's positioning as the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and John Terry do. But AndrÃ©s Iniesta is a leader.
That might come across as an obvious statement, considering that Iniesta is captain of FC Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in the world. But the 32-year-old midfielder's leadership style is less than obvious it is subtle, yet ever-present.
It would be an over-simplification to suggest that Iniesta merely leads by example, his influence on those around him stretches far beyond monkey-see-monkey-do. The BarÃ§a midfielder carries an aura which demands deference; he might as well be wearing his vast collection of medals around his neck every time he walks out onto the pitch.
Yet he's unassuming shy, even. He doesn't bang his own drum loudly; he doesn't need to.
The first signs
- June 22, 2016
22nd June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
After making a real impression off the bench in Switzerland's opening two fixtures, against Albania and Romania, Switzerland coach, Vladimir Petkovic, rightly rewarded Breel Embolo with a start against France.
Replacing Haris Seferovic, who was underwhelming in those aforementioned matches, the 19-year-old sensation put in an admirable shift against the experienced, battle hardened French backline. While France's two centre-backs, Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny, did their utmost to make life as difficult as possible for him, Embolo stuck to his task manfully and enjoyed plenty of promising moments himself.
Testing himself against such elite players undoubtedly served as a brilliant yet challenging learning experience for Embolo. "It wasn't easy against the French defence," he said.
"But we're at the top level of European football here. It will do me good. I'm 19 and I don't hide."
While this was by no means a perfect
- June 20, 2016
20th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Heading into England's monumental contest with Wales, much of the talk centred around whether the Three Lions could stop Gareth Bale.
Having scored or assisted 10 of the 13 goals scored by the Welsh in qualifying, England definitely needed to pay close attention to the Real Madrid star if they were to give themselves the best chance of winning. Keeping the most expensive player in history quiet is, however, something that's obviously easier said than done.
Thankfully for England, though, courtesy in large part to their one and only holding midfielder, Eric Dier, they did a fantastic job of limiting Bale's impact.
Dier followed on beautifully from his man of the match performance against Russia by putting in an utterly composed and assured shift from his post at the base of Roy Hodgson's midfield in their stirring 2-1 win.
Whenever Bale ventured into his designated area of operation, Dier would be on hand to track
- June 17, 2016
17th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Ahead of Argentina's mouthwatering Copa America opener with Chile, their manager, Gerardo Martino, was confronted with a crunch decision as to who should replace the injured Lionel Messi.
His answer didn't require much thought, however, with Martino making the easy choice of selecting gifted Benfica star Nicolas Gaitan to fill in for the Barcelona magician.
"I don't expect him to do anything like Leo," Martino explained.
"I want him to be himself more than ever because he has a very good condition, and he can do it. He is fast, he passes the ball very well, he dribbles very well. He's a very complete player."
Martino's words made perfect sense, for it's impossible to replace the inordinately talented Messi, so to let Gaitan play his own game was clearly the right decision. And it suitably paid off, as the 28-year-old put in a brilliant shift, without the expectations of replicating arguably the world's finest player
- June 15, 2016
15th June 2016. By Ryan Baldi.
Brazilian full-back Dani Alves will leave FC Barcelona this summer to join Juventus. After eight years at the Camp Nou, Alves will depart with the respect and appreciation of BarÃ§a fans. But do they, and indeed the wider footballing audience, really appreciate Alves for what he truly is, and has been? Alves should be recognised as the greatest full-back of the last two decades.
The 2003 FIFA under-20 World Cup was held in the United Arab Emirates during winter. While England with a side that included James Milner, Steven Taylor and Michael Chopra -- finished bottom of their group without scoring a single goal, many of the established football nations fielded strong squads, packed with potential future stars.
AndrÃ©s Iniesta turned out for Spain, along with future AtlÃ©tico Madrid stars Juanfran and Gabi. There was River Plate striker Fernando Cavenaghi top-scoring for Argentina, with Javier Mascherano anchoring the midfield. Robert
- June 13, 2016
13th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Mexico's multifaceted midfield dynamo, Hector Herrera, went into his side's colossal Copa America opener against Uruguay with rumours rife about his future at club level.
If reports are to be believed, Liverpool, Napoli and Valencia have all recently shown a keen interest in FC Porto's prized asset, who the Dragoes value at a cool €20m million, with Liverpool apparently just ceding Napoli in the race for his signature.
Judging on his exceptional performance in Mexico's entrancing victory over La Celeste, Herrera was clearly unaffected by all the talk surrounding him. Instead, he just went about his work in customarily tireless and robust fashion, in a performance where his technical gifts and goalscoring capacity also shone through brightly.
Herrera got off to a flying start, with his surging run from deep and subsequent pressure on Alvaro Pereira providing the catalyst for the Uruguayan stalwart to head Andres Guardado's
- June 10, 2016
10th June 2016. By Ryan Baldi.
In the build-up to a major international tournament, the impact of injuries is often felt, when it comes to squad preparation. This summer's European Championship in France has been no different, with high-profile names such as Germany's Marco Reus and Ilkay GÃ¼ndo?an, and France's RaphaÃ«l Varane and Lassana Diarra, all ruled out through injury.
And over the years, England too have been hampered by some of their top men being hurt. In 2002 the Three Lions lost Gary Neville to injury, while his Manchester United colleague David Beckham faced a race against time to overcome a fractured metatarsal. At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Wayne Rooney's recovery from his own metatarsal break meant that he wasn't able to play from the start of a match until England's third group game against Sweden.
The same injury had put paid to Rooney's breakout Euro 2004 campaign, exiting the quarter-final tie against Portugal early after having had his foot
- June 08, 2016
8th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann,
While winning the Champions League with Real Madrid did go some way to papering over the cracks of James Rodriguez's torrid second season at the club, it did, however, provide the perfect segue for him to enter the Copa America on something resembling a high.
As one of Colombia's undisputed stars in their quest to take out the 100th edition of the tournament, it was overwhelmingly positive for Los Cafeteros that he put in a shift full of upside to kickoff the campaign.
Playing in his favoured no10 position, a luxury he was rarely afforded at Madrid due to their tactical setup predominantly excluding a playmaker, he was afforded the ideal platform to show off his superlative skillset. And although James wasn't at his all conquering best like he was at the 2014 World Cup, there was plenty of encouragement to be drawn from his side's 2-0 win over the USA.
Aside from his exquisite ball control and crisp passing, the most influential