Monday, June 2, 2014

World Cup Predicted Lineups: Germany

In this installment of my World Cup lineups series is Germany. Die Mannschaft are considered one of the favorites, and many predict them to overtake Spain as the new powerhouse in world football. Germany have almost always performed well in World Cups, finishing in the top three in the last four World Cups. They finished as runners-up in 2002 falling to Brazil. Germany have been placed in one of the toughest groups in the tournament. They were drawn to face Portugal, Ghana and the United States. I found Germany's lineup quite difficult to predict, especially considering the question of where Joachim Löw will play captain Philipp Lahm. Lahm is capable of playing as a fullback on either side, and also has played as a defensive midfielder since the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Bayern.

Here is a summary of Germany's matches in the buildup to the World Cup from ESPN FC.

Die Mannschaft will most likely lineup in the popular 4-2-3-1 formation.

GK: Manuel Neuer - F.C. Bayern München
  • As automatic as starting spots come, Manuel Neuer will be the goalkeeper for the Germany National Team. Barring an injury, you can expect to see Neuer in the net every game, as he has earned the title of the best goalkeeper in the world. At 6'4, Neuer is no small target in goal, and his long arms and legs make it a tough task to get the ball past him. His reflexes are tremendous, and he seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Neuer will look to prove why he was voted into the FIFPro World XI for the year 2013.
RB: Jérôme Boateng - F.C. Bayern München
  • Also able to be deployed anywhere along the back line, Boateng's position will be a bit tricky, and will depend on the use of Philipp Lahm. I believe he will be played at right back, and will do it well. The German half of the Boateng brothers, Jérôme is a very strong player, who also brings some pace to the back four. He is more defensive-minded, but can join the attack up the wings and swing crosses in. One thing I am sure of, is that whoever tries to pass Germany's back four will have a hard time trying to beat this tank.
CB: Mats Hummels - Borussia Dortmund
  • A highly sought-after transfer target, Hummels has proven himself to be one of the best centre backs in the world. Only 25 years of age, Hummels will likely be a mainstay in the heart of German defense for a long time to come. He has missed time this season with both a heal and an ankle injury, but returned strong, and played very well in Borussia Dortmund's loss to Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final.
CB: Per Mertesacker - Arsenal F.C.

  • The 6'7 German Giant, Mertesacker is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career. He has formed a formidable partnership with France's Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the Arsenal defense. Mertesacker is only 3 appearances away from earning 100 caps for Die Mannschaft, and I expect those three to come in the group stage against Portugal, Ghana and the United States. Mertesacker is a strong tackler, who is more than capable of winning an aerial challenge. Mertesacker is on the slower side, and his lack of pace can hurt him if he is caught out of position.
LB: Philipp Lahm (c) - F.C. Bayern München
  • Another German player in the FIFPro World XI, Philipp Lahm has been one of the best and most consistent defenders in the world for a couple years now. Able to play on either side of the back four, and also in a holding midfield role, I believe that the captain will be playing left back in Brazil. Leading Bayern Munich to their second consecutive Bundesliga title in record time, Lahm is a motivational leader, who plays his part on the pitch. I fully expect Lahm to put in a lot of great performances as Germany try to go far in the tournament.

CDM: Bastian Schweinsteiger - F.C. Bayern München
  • Experienced, versatile, quick, smart and confident. What more could you ask for? Schweinsteiger has been a rock in central midfield for both club and country, and can do whatever you ask him to. He is as all-around gifted as a player can be. He can tackle and read the game brilliantly from a defensive point of view. He can dribble to create chances, hit the decisive pass and can also rip a shot from distance. There is no doubt in my mind that this Bavarian will be the heart of this German team, as he has been for a while now.
CDM: Sami Khedira - Real Madrid C.F.
  • The Real Madrid man missed most of this season for Los Blancos with a torn ACL suffered in November on international duty. He made his return towards the end of the season, and was thrown almost directly into the Champions League Final. In just his second game back from his injury, Khedira was forced to play with Xabi Alonso suspended for the final. Khedira is mostly a defensive-minded midfielder, and works tirelessly in helping Germany's back four. Strong on the ball, he is also a good passer and can help build attacks from the back.
RM: Thomas Müller - F.C. Bayern München
  • Only 24 years of age, and already one of the best midfielders in the world, Thomas Müller is a lock for Brazil, barring any injuries. Another original Bavarian, Müller is a regular starter for both the national team and Bayern. He is a very strong and physical player who also has some pace about him. He is a regular goal threat, having won the Golden Boot from the 2010 World Cup with five goals in the tournament, tying with Diego Forlán, Wesley Sneijder and David Villa, edging them out on assists.
CAM: Mesut Özil - Arsenal F.C.
  • Coming off of what was probably his least impressive season in a while, Mesut will be looking to get back in form for the World Cup. After his club record transfer to Arsenal from Real Madrid, Özil started the season off in fine form, but slowly dropped off, and lost his starting spot. He had a solid end to the season, and has already been linked with other top clubs like Barcelona. A skillful dribbler, Özil is most known for his playmaking abilities, which I believe are comparable to the likes of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. I expect this star to shine bright in Brazil during the summer.
LM: Marco Reus - Borussia Dortmund
  • An all-around attacking threat, Marco Reus combines natural skill and ability with a passion that is second to none. At only 25 years of age, the Dortmund youth product has been arguably Germany's best player for the last couple years. He has it all; pace, skill, vision and a shot that could take a keeper's hand off of his wrist. Oh, and did I mention he is a lethal free kick taker? It is no wonder why he has been linked with the likes of Manchester United, and almost any team in the world would benefit from having him in their squad. One of my favorite players in the world, Reus is a symbol of class both on and off the pitch, and is capable of dropping millions of jaws every time he touches the ball.

ST: Miroslav Klose - S.S. Lazio
  • At 35 years of age, Klose is by far Die Mannschaft's oldest player, and will likely be one of the oldest players in the tournament. One of only two true forwards in Joachim Löw's 23-man roster, Klose is only one goal away from Ronaldo's all-time World Cup goalscoring record, and will look to break the record in Ronaldo's home country. Klose is the only surviving member of Germany's 2002 World Cup Final defeat to Brazil. The German legend has already stated that this will be his last World Cup, saying that he wanted one more chance to win it with Germany. A true aerial threat, Klose's leaping ability is one of the main reasons he is Germany's joint all-time leading scorer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

World Cup Predicted Lineups: France

Up next in my series of predicted lineups is France. Les Bleus will be looking to overcome an extremely disappointing performance in 2010 in South Africa, where they failed to even make it out of their group. Amongst a mutiny of the players against manager Raymond Domenech, manager Didier Deschamps will try and keep the squad in good spirits, as they attempt to relive their glory from 1998. They have been drawn in a group with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. France should make it out with relative ease.

Here is a look at France's road to the World Cup from ESPN FC.

France will likely lineup in a 4-3-3 formation, and will try and use their very talented midfield to create opportunities and help out the defense.

GK: Hugo Lloris (c) - Tottenham Hotspur F.C.

  • Spurs have had a disappointing season this year, and are fighting for the last spot in Europe for next season. Lloris has had an average season, which is below the standards of a goalkeeper of his quality. He suffered a head injury in November after colliding with Romelu Lukaku, but remained in the game, which resulted in heavy criticism from FIFA and FIFPro. He will look to continue his strong international form in Brazil.
RB: Mathieu Debuchy - Newcastle United F.C.
  • Debuchy has had a good season for the Magpies, after joining in January of 2013. He provides strong defensive skill with the ability to join the attack on the wing. He works tirelessly and can always be expected to give it his all for the full 90 minutes. He looks to have earned his spot in the starting XI, beating out the more experienced incumbent, Bacary Sagna.
CB: Laurent Koscielny - Arsenal F.C.
  • Laurent Koscielny has performed very well this season, and his partnership with Per Mertesacker in the center of Arsenal's defense was a key part of why the Gunners lead the Premier League for much of the season. He is an very good defender technically, and he is more than capable of winning an aerial challenge. He has been one of the most consistent players in the BPL this season, and should be one of the first choices in defense for Deschamps.
CB: Raphaël Varane - Real Madrid C.F.
  • After a very impressive performance for Real Madrid last campaign, Varane was replaced in the starting lineup by Pepe. He has struggled for playing time as he suffered a knee injury early in the season, and has featured sparingly since returning. Varane is still very young, and he will be looking to gain World Cup experience, as I am sure he will feature in many more for Les Bleus.
LB: Patrice Evra - Manchester United F.C.
  • The veteran left-back looks to be on his way out of Old Trafford, as Manchester United's new manager will look to clear out room to bring in new players. Evra has not had his best season, but he brings experience to the back line, and has put in some very good performances. I believe Evra will beat out Gaël Clichy and Lucas Digne for the starting spot.
CM: Blaise Matuidi - Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
  • Matuidi has been a rock in the center of PSG's midfield with his high workrates and ability to read the game defensively. He is a master at dispossessing opponents by both intercepting and tackling. He is no slacker in attack, and scored a superb goal for France against the Netherlands.
CM: Yohan Cabaye - Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
  • The midfielder has not played as much since his January transfer to PSG, but he is the type of player who you know what you will get out of every time he plays. He can create plays out of the midfield, and also has a terrific long shot, as you can see below.

CM: Paul Pogba - Juventus F.C.

  • The Manchester United youth product continues to prove that the Red Devils should have never let him go. The 21-year old was the captain of the France side that won the Under-20 World Cup in 2013, and he combines all aspects of midfield play. He is strong on the ball and very good at finding teammates to play the ball to. He can force opponents off the ball with ease, and has also been known to strike the ball from distance.
RW: Mathieu Valbuena - Olympique de Marseille
  • Valbuena has had a another very good season for Marseille, which has gone relatively unnoticed by most. With the Ligue 1 not as strong as some of the other leagues, Valbuena has not gotten the attention he deserves, other than from Didier Deschamps. Normally playing as a number 10 for Marseille, Valbuena is equally adept at playing on the right side of a front 3. He is a very skillful dribbler, and his vision can trouble almost any defence.
ST: Karim Benzema - Real Madrid C.F.
  • Benzema has not had his best season for Los Blancos, and still sits fifth in the La Liga scoring table. He has a very good combination of strength and pace, and his footballing brain seems to always have him in the right place at the right time. He is a clinical finisher with either foot, as well as with his head. He has been the regular starter for Les Bleus for some years now, and I believe he will hold off Olivier Giroud for the starting spot.
LW: Franch Ribéry - F.C. Bayern München
  • Ribéry has had another strong season for Bayern, having clinched the Bundesliga in record time this year. He is the most experienced player in contention for the World Cup, and he is almost guaranteed this spot come June. Other than Bayern's Champions League exit to Real Madrid, Ribéry has been a consistent performer, and one of the world's best playmakers. All these traits are why he finished third in the voting for the Ballon D'Or.

  • I believe that Éric Abidal should have a spot in the World Cup roster for Les Bleus. He has performed well for Monaco this season following his Barcelona exit, and would bring  much experience to the defensive squad. He hasn't been called up since November 2013, but he should be on that plane to Brazil

Monday, April 28, 2014

World Cup Predicted Lineups: England

Here in the series, I will predict England's starting XI for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Three Lions will be facing a tough test just to make it out of the group stage, drawn with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. I believe they will win their group, followed by Uruguay. The Premier League has had a very good season, and I think that will help the players reach a new level.

Here's a quick peek at England's road to the World Cup from ESPN FC

England will probably lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and will look to use the wings to attack opponents.

GK: Joe Hart - Manchester City F.C.

  • Hart had a troubling start to the season, making a couple costly errors. Notably, he failed in an attempt to clear the ball, leading to Fernando Torres scoring an injury time winner earlier in the season, as you can see below. However, after a short spell on the bench, he regained his form, and retained his spot as England's number 1. With no real competition to the starting spot, Hart can look forward to showcasing himself in Brazil.

RB: Glenn Johnson - Liverpool F.C.

  • The experienced right back has been the starter for Liverpool for the entire season. Although players like Nathaniel Clyne have played better this season, it is unlikely that Roy Hodgson will give an international debut on the world's biggest stage. Johnson is capable in defense, and can also add some width when attacking.
CB: Phil Jagielka - Everton F.C.
  • The Everton captain has been a key part in what has been a terrific season for the Toffees under new manager Roberto Martinez. The Blue half of Merseyside is fighting for Champions League football, and has troubled many of the big teams this season. Jagielka is a solid, consistent defender, who will surely ease some of the pressure off of Joe Hart.
CB: Gary Cahill - Chelsea F.C.
  • Cahill has had a spectacular season for Chelsea, earning himself a spot in the 2013-14 PFA Team of the Year. His partnership with John Terry have given Chelsea the best defensive record in the Premier League, conceding only 26 goals thus far. Cahill can also provide an aerial threat on set pieces, and has chipped in with a couple of goals this season.
LB: Leighton Baines - Everton F.C.
  • Baines has had another strong season for Everton, helping them to what will probably be their highest league finish since 2005. He is very strong defensively, and is a force to be reckoned with flying down the wing. He is one of the best crossers of the ball, and is also a very adept set-piece specialist. Baines should be the starter, with his predecessor, Ashley Cole, playing very little football this season.
CM: Steven Gerrard (c) - Liverpool F.C.
  • Captain of both Liverpool and the national team, Gerrard will be looking to motivate his team to success. Gerrard can help maintain possession in the midfield, and can also make the decisive pass to create a goalscoring opportunity. Stevie G. is also more than capable of unleashing a shot from distance, as many football fans know.
CM: Michael Carrick - Manchester United F.C.
  • With a severe shortage of defensive midfielders, Michael Carrick is my dark horse for a place in the starting XI. With Jack Wilshere suffering a long-term injury, the youngster may not be fully fit for the World Cup. Carrick is a better defender than many of the other options, namely Ross Barkley, Frank Lampard and Tom Cleverley. Carrick reads the game very well both defensively and in possession. He has never had a long run in the national team, but could make his case in Brazil.
RM: Adam Lallana - Southampton F.C.
  • Having a great season for the Saints, Lallana earned himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year. Less of a goalscorer than a provider, Lallana will be a change from the traditionally very fast wingers that England normally use. He will look to link up the midfield and attack, using his vision to find the true goalscorers that England possess.
LM: Danny Welbeck - Manchester United F.C.
  • Danny Welbeck has played sparingly this season, but he is a player with few doubts. His scoring is shaky, but with Welbeck in the lineup, you know that he will run for days, and can help cover for England's attacking fullbacks. He has some skill when it comes to dribbling, and can use his 6'1 inch frame to get on balls in the air.
CAM/ST: Wayne Rooney - Manchester United F.C.
  • Usually the first name on the team-sheet, Wayne Rooney has been England's most consistent player for a while now. Like Welbeck, Rooney is an engine who won't stop running until well after he hears the whistle. Rooney combines excellent vision and playmaking abilities, with an eye and a talent for goals. He can strike from distance, and can also get in a very good position to score. He can play as an out-and-out striker or he can sit behind the striker and create for his teammates. Rooney will also combine with Leighton Baines to create trouble for opponents from set-pieces.

ST: Daniel Sturridge - Liverpool F.C.
  • Almost an easy choice for the Three Lions, Sturridge has been scoring goals for fun since his transfer to Liverpool from Chelsea in January of 2013. He currently sits second in the Premier League in goals, and has also been named to the PFA Team of the Year for this season. Sturridge is a clinical finisher with a knack of being in the right place at the right time. He is also a skillful dribbler who can create an opportunity for himself. England fans will surely be hoping to see his goal celebration many times this summer.

  • There are quite a few players who are looking to return from injury to make the squad for the World Cup.
    • Jack Wilshere: The often-injured youngster was a key part in Arsenal's long run at the top of the Premier League. It is no coincidence that the Gunner's dropoff happened almost simultaneously with Jack Wilshere's injury. Wilshere is enjoying his best season for Arsenal, and will surely fight for a place not only in the squad, but in the starting XI.
    • Theo Walcott: Another long-term injury from Arsenal, Walcott will be looking to overcome both his exclusion from the 2010 World Cup and his injury in Brazil. Walcott is a regular for the Three Lions and can provide more experience on the wing than either Adam Lallana or Danny Welbeck can offer. Walcott has blistering pace, and can create trouble for almost any fullback.
    • Ashley Young: Returning from a hand injury, the winger made his return on April 26, in Ryan Giggs managerial debut. Young has struggled for games with United this season, but has usually been a good performer for the national team. He is a skillful dribbler and is versatile enough to play on either wing. He can cross the ball well, which can trouble defenders and goalkeepers alike.
What do you think of my prediction? Who will represent The Three Lions in Brazil this summer? Drop me a comment and let me know. Also, follow me on Twitter for more information.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

World Cup Predicted Lineups: Spain

Next in my series of predicted lineups for the World Cup is the defending champions, Spain. La Furia Roja come in as the only team ever to win three consecutive major tournaments. They did so in winning the 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They will be looking to extend that to four tournaments and join Italy and Brazil as the only nations to win consecutive World Cups. They are considered one of the favorites, and I believe they will certainly prove why they are a top team in this edition.

Here is a look at Spain's road to the World Cup via ESPN FC.

Spain should lineup in their traditional 4-3-3 formation, and will look to use their tiki-taka, quick passing style to dominate games.

GK: Iker Casillas (c) - Real Madrid C.F.

  • Saint Iker, as he is known in spain, will most likely be the number 1 for Spain, and will also captain the squad. Having played sparingly for Real Madrid this season, with Carlo Ancelotti following José Mourinho's selection of Diego López as the regular La Liga keeper, Casillas remains Vicente Del Bosque's top choice in goal. Casillas has shined when he has played, mainly in Real Madrid's Copa Del Rey triumph and in their active Champions League run.

RB: Juanfran - Atlético Madrid
  • In what is one of Spain's weakest positions, Juanfran has excelled for this year's domestic and Champions League surprise package, the Mattress Makers of Atlético Madrid. He is an integral part of one of the best back four's in the world, and looks to cement his spot in Spain's starting XI. His only real competition comes from Chelsea's César Azpilicueta who has had a great season in his own right, but has mainly featured at left back.
CB: Gerard Piqué - F.C. Barcelona
  • The easy choice for both club and country, Piqué has suffered from a couple of injuries this year, but should be fit for the World Cup. If he is healthy, he should be a lock at centre back with his terrific tackling ability and ability to play the ball from the back.
CB: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid C.F.
  • Another easy choice, Ramos has performed well enough to earn himself a spot in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. He is a hard-nosed central defender, who is very strong in the air and dispossessing opponents. Sergio Ramos is, however, often at risk of getting sent off. His 19 La Liga red cards is an all-time record, and his combative style could lead to Spain playing with 10 sometimes.
LB: Jordi Alba - F.C. Barcelona
  • In what is probably Spain's answer to Dani Alves, Jordi Alba is a lightning quick fullback who loves to push forward and join the attack. He does also do his job in defense, and can frustrate opposing attackers with his quickness. 
CDM: Sergio Busquets - F.C. Barcelona
  • Probably one of the most underrated players in the world, Sergio Busquets has had another very good, yet quiet season. He is an integral part of Barcelona's dominant midfield and is essential in maintaining possession. He makes few mistakes, barring his performances at centre back this season.
CM: Xavi - F.C. Barcelona
  • One of the greatest playmakers of his generation, and maybe all-time, El Maestro is excellent at maintaining possession, and equally adept at finding the cutting pass to tear apart defenses. He has vision like no one else, and will most likely be responsible for many of Spain's set-piece responsibilities.
CM: Cesc Fàbregas - F.C. Barcelona
  • Another member of the strong Barcelona contingent, Cesc Fàbregas is only 26, yet still has loads of experience with the national team. Fàbregas has had a strong season for the Blaugrana, and currently sits second in La Liga in assists, one behind Atlético Madrid's Koke.
RW: Pedro - F.C. Barcelona
  • A winger with terrific acceleration and dribbling ability, Pedro is an omnipresent goal threat. He is capable of playing almost anywhere along the front line, but is probably most comfortable on the right wing. Extremely ambidextrous, Pedrito is capable of cutting in on either foot and having a shot at goal.
ST: Diego Costa - Atlético Madrid
  • Second in the race for the Pichichi, awarded to La Liga's top scorer, Diego Costa refused a call up to the Brazilian National Team to play for Spain. He is something Spain has been lacking recently, a true number 9. Costa is a strong force who can bring some directness to Spain's normally passive attacking style. He can head the ball, and hold up play from the front. He did not impress in his debut for La Roja, but I believe he will be able to develop the chemistry needed to become a regular in Spain's XI.

LW: Andrés Iniesta - F.C. Barcelona
  • For me, La Illusionista is the best midfielder in the game today. He is equally adept at playing on the wing due his ability to dribble past defenders with ease, and his incredible vision. He is a spectacular playmaker, but can also get himself on the score sheet. His goal in the 2010 Final, which you can see below, will go down in footballing history.

  • There are a number of players currently on the fringes of a spot in the squad, and they will surely be awaiting a phone call from Del Bosque.
    • Fernando Llorente: The Lion King has had a very good season with Juventus, and may have earned his first call-up since 2013. He is a very big striker, that is dominant in the air. I do not believe he will make the squad due to the lack of a need for many strikers. 
    • Fernando Torres: El Niño has had a slightly better season this year for Chelsea, but I do not believe he has done enough to earn a call-up for the World Cup.
    • Juan Mata: Mata has played very well since his record move from Chelsea to Manchester United, and does have some experience in representing Spain. He is best in a central attacking midfield role, however he can also play on the right wing. I do not believe he will be called up since Spain have no shortage of talented midfielders, and that spot may be used to provide some defensive cover.
    • David Villa: Last but not least, we have Spain's all-time leading scorer. Villa was not selected for Spain's friendly against Italy in March, and his for La Roja may be coming to a close. I have him making the cut into the final 23-man roster, partly due to his versatility, as he can play as a striker or on the left wing.

Who do you think will be starting for Spain come June? Do you think Spain have a chance to defend their title? Leave a comment with your opinion, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

World Cup Predicted Lineups: Brazil

So I have decided to start a series of posts where I post my predicted starting XI's for the World Cup this summer. I will also include the clubs that the players are with, as well as a short explanation for each player. In some cases, I will also include other notes that I think are worth a mention.

I will be starting with the host nation and one of the favorites, Brazil. A Seleção will be under massive pressure playing at home, and I do not believe they will disappoint. Their squad has a terrific balance of experienced players, and younger players that have shined.

Here is a link to ESPN FC's summary of Brazil's buildup to the World Cup.

I believe Brazil will lineup in a formation that is a mixture of a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1, with two more holding center midfielders and an attacking central midfielder.

GK: Júlio César - Toronto F.C. (On loan from Queen's Park Rangers)
  • César is the clear choice in goal, with loads of experience to his name. There is no real competition for this spot, with Jefferson of Botafogo as the second-choice having no competitive experience for Brazil.
RB: Dani Alves - F.C. Barcelona
  • Alves is arguably the best right back in the world, and should be a shoe-in for the starting XI. Although Maicon has had a good season for Roma, and Rafinha has been playing for Bayern Munich, neither have the ability and excitement that Dani can provide.

CB: Thiago Silva (c) - Paris Saint-Germain
  • Considered by many to be the best defender in the world, Thiago Silva will likely captain the Canaries in the World Cup. Silva has had another terrific season for PSG en route to his second consecutive Ligue 1 title.
CB: David Luiz - Chelsea F.C.
  • And here we have the enigma of David Luiz. He is not a regular starter for Chelsea, and when he does play, it is often as a central midfielder. With José Mourinho preferring the centre back pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill, Luiz has struggled for time. He has, however, been Luiz Felipe Scolari's choice to partner Thiago Silva. Luiz has impressed in his performances for Brazil, including a terrific performance in last summer's Confederations Cup Final against Spain.
LB: Marcelo - Real Madrid C.F.
  • Marcelo is the regular choice at left back, but has only recently returned to training with Real Madrid due to an injury. If Marcelo is unable to perform, another player based in Madrid may replace him, with Felipe Luís having played very well this season with Atlético Madrid.
CDM: Luis Gustavo - VfL Wolfsburg
  • Gustavo was a regular in defensive midfield for Brazil during their Confederations Cup triumph last year. Gustavo can read the game well from a defensive point-of-view and knows how to tackle well, and he would provide good cover sitting in front of the back four.
CDM: Paulinho - Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
  • Paulinho partnered Gustavo in midfield during the Confederations Cup, and performed well enough to secure a then club-record transfer to Tottenham. He is a box-to-box midfielder who will put in work going forward, and does very well in clogging up passing lanes defensively.
RW: Hulk - F.C. Zenit Saint Petersburg
  • Hulk is an obvious choice for Brazil, as he is a terrific blend of power and finesse operating on the right flank. He can beat you on the dribble, and can also fire in a rocket from long range. Don't believe me? Check out the video below.


CAM: Oscar - Chelsea F.C.
  • Oscar has had another great season for Chelsea, and has solidified himself as a top-class scorer and provider. He's put in some very good performances for the national team, and will probably be the starting number 10 for Brazil, sitting behind the main striker.
LW: Neymar - F.C. Barcelona
  • Neymar has had a very good debut season in Europe with Barcelona, but he will miss the remainder of the season for the Catalans. Coming off of a foot injury suffered in the Copa Del Rey Final loss to Real Madrid, Neymar will be trying to get back to the flashy style of play he is used to. Many have noticed that this season Neymar was restricted in his flair.

ST: Fred - Fluminense F.C.
  • Fred will be the only outfield player for Brazil not applying his trade in Europe. He was the hero of the Confederations Cup last year, but suffered a long-term injury afterwards, from which his is currently playing his way back to form and fitness. The striker position is the weakest part of Brazil's game. Fred is unlikely to live up to the hype of previous Brazil number 9's, such as Romario, Pelé and the all-time leading goalscorer in the World Cup, Ronaldo. Fred can still play a key part in holding up play, and connecting with the superstars on either side of him.

  • I believe that it would be a huge mistake for Luiz Felipe Scolari to exclude Ronaldinho from the squad. Although he is quite older than most of the players in the team, he can provide off the field leadership, and is quite possibly the epitome of Brazilian football. He has had a great performance playing for Atlético Mineiro, and is the holder of the South American Footballer of the Year Award. He is an icon of football in Brazil, and would surely bring back some of the atmosphere of the World Cup winning squad of 2002.

Who do you think should be included or excluded from the starting XI or the squad in general? Let me know in the comments section, and remember to follow me on Twitter 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Breaking Down the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League Semifinal Matchups

We're down to the last four teams in the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, and they are four of the best. The four remaining teams are Real Madrid, Chelsea, Atlético Madrid and defending champions Bayern Munich. Bayern have already won the Bundesliga title, as Chelsea, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are all involved in title fights. The Blues of Chelsea sit second in the Premier League. Atlético Madrid lead second place Real by 3 points as they sit numbers one and two in La Liga.

They were paired up as follows: Real Madrid will face Bayern Munich and Atlético will face Chelsea.

Here I will break down these matchups, and say what I think will be some of the key battles in the ties.

Real Madrid - Bayern Munich
Leg 1: Madrid - April 23 - Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
Leg 2: Munich - April 29 - Allianz Arena

Defending champions Bayern Munich will face a real test, as they take on the most successful team in the competition's history, Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to make his return for Los Blancos after missing two weeks and a Clásico with a hamstring injury. He will go up against arguably the best defender in the world on his left side, facing Munich and Germany captain Philip Lahm. Arjen Robben is facing his old club, and he will likely match up against another player making a return from injury, Marcelo. Both teams have incredible pace and play counterattacking styles. Between them, they have five of the best outside midfielders in the world and two Ballon D'Or finalists.

Player to Watch: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Coming off of possibly his best performance for Real Madrid against Barcelona, Gareth Bale will play a huge part in Real Madrid's attack. He can play on either wing, giving the fullbacks misery, or can attack down the middle, to exploit the inconsistent partnership of Jérôme Boateng and Dante.

Prediction: Bayern Munich advance on aggregate 5-3.

Atlético Madrid - Chelsea
Leg 1: Madrid - April 22 - Estadio Vicente Calderón
Leg 2: London - April 30 - Stamford Bridge

This year's surprise package comes from the other side of Madrid. Atlético Madrid have not only impressed in their Champions League run, but also sit on top of La Liga. Diego Simeone's men look to be solid in every position, and have one of the best attacking partnerships in Europe, with David Villa and Diego Costa. Costa is currently second in the race for the Pichichi, and has the strength and intelligence to worry any defender. Chelsea are coming off of a very disappointing loss to bottom-of-the-table Sunderland that has all but killed off their chances for the Premier League title. Eden Hazard, who was just named as a candidate for both the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year Awards, is doubtful for the first leg with a calf injury suffered against PSG. Fernando Torres will face the club where he made his name, and Tiago will also face the side where he spent one year, with much less success. Probably the biggest story is whether or not goalkeeping sensation Thibaut Courtois will be able to represent Atlético, as he is only on loan from Chelsea.

Player to Watch: Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid)
Costa has been a revelation for Los Rojiblancos, earning himself a spot in the Spanish National Team and competing for the title of leading scorer in La Liga. He is coming off a shin injury, but did score in Atlético's 2-0 victory over Elche on Friday.

Prediction: Atlético Madrid move on 2-1 on aggregate.

Who do you think will face of in the final in Lisbon? Let me know in the comments section. And for breaking news and information, be sure to follow me on twitter right here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6 International Friendlies

In this post, I will be discussing some of the international friendlies that took place yesterday.

South Africa 0-5 Brazil
Goals: Oscar (9') Neymar (40', 45', 90') Fernandinho (78')

In Johannesburg, Bafana Bafana were thoroughly dismantled by A Seleção. The Brazilians showed why they are the favorites for the World Cup to be held at their home. They were lead by a hat-trick from Neymar, who looked to be in splendid form. Both teams put out first choice starting XI's, with the strength of Brazil proving too much to handle for South Africa.

Ukraine 2-0 USA
Goals: Yarmolenko (11') Dević (66')

This match was maybe more publicized for reasons other than football. The Ukraine is currently involved in an international conflict with Russia, centered over Crimea, so the match was moved to Cyprus for security reasons. Also, the referee of this match, Leontios Trattou, made headlines after his car was bombed on Friday, causing all matches in the Cypriot first division to be suspended. The Yanks pushed out a brand-new back four, and they looked like it. The group of Geoff Cameron, Oguchi Onyewu, John Brooks and Edgar Castillo were very poor, especially in marking runs made from the midfield. Jürgen Klinsmann's post match press conference can be seen here.

Spain 1-0 Italy
Goals: Pedro (62')

This main storyline behind this match was the Spain debut for Brazilian-born Diego Costa. Costa had a quiet game, and did not do much to cement a starting spot for himself ahead of the World Cup. He seemed very hesitant before making any move for the ball, and did not show himself as the strong, battling force that he has shown himself to be in La Liga. Good performanes were put in by Jordi Alba, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva and Pedro. Pedro's goal, which slipped under Gigi Buffon, was enough to give La Furia Roja the win over the Azzurri.

Germany 1-0 Chile
Goals: Götze (16')

Mario Götze's first half goal was enough to seal a victory for the German National Team, who are already one of the favorites for the World Cup, against a very strong and underrated Chile team, who will have their work cut out for them trying to make it out of their group of Spain, the Netherlands and Australia. The goal came on the back-end of some brilliant team play, and showed why Die Mannschaft is tipped to be the next football dynasty. The goal can be seen below.

What did you make of yesterday's results? Let me know in the comments section. And for breaking news and information, be sure to follow me on twitter right here.