Italian international striker Mario Balotelli signed a new deal with French Ligue 1 outfit Nice on Sunday after spearheading their qualification for the Champions League in his first season. Continue reading “Italian international striker Mario Balotelli signed a new deal with French Ligue 1 outfit Nice on Sunday after spearheading their qualification for the Champions League in his first season.”
CARDIFF, Wales — Yes, it’s a dynasty. The first back-to-back European champions for 27 years. Three titles in four seasons. It may not feel like one in the way that Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona was or the Ajax sides of the early 1970s were, because there isn’t a domineering tactical style or a box office figure at the helm or even a blueprint to follow.
But that’s what it is.
Nine of the 14 Real Madrid players who dropped Juventus 4-1 to win the club’s 12th European Cup were there in 2013-14. So, too, was Zinedine Zidane, albeit as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti then. If there is a theme to this, it’s one of quality and simplicity, of great footballers working for and with each other, of egos being stowed for a common goal.
Juventus, meanwhile, limp away heartbroken for the seventh time in nine European Cup finals. But maybe this one hurts less. They conceded more goals in 90 minutes against Madrid than in 1,080 preceding minutes of Champions League action. They were outclassed by an opponent with another level and, perhaps even one after that. Game planning, hard work and scheme will get you only so far.
“In football, there are absolute values,” Juve boss Max Allegri said after the game. “And when those values emerge, if your opponent has more quality than you, then he’s better. There’s only so much you can do.”
An hour before kickoff in Cardiff, the team sheets revealed that hometown hero Gareth Bale, who had last played 41 days ago, was on the bench for Madrid. Zidane evidently doesn’t do sentimentality, not with a European Cup at stake.
That Pepe, Lucas Vazquez and James Rodriguez were in the stands was maybe not a surprise, but it did provide a forceful reminder of how polarized and top-heavy today’s super clubs really are. We’re talking about the hero of the Portugal team, who won the European Championship less than 11 months ago, a Spanish international who had appeared in seven of Real’s past eight games and the sixth-most-expensive player in history.
That’s how deep and stacked Real Madrid are.
The closed Millennium Stadium roof sealed in the din, both from the Black Eyed Peas’ prematch show and Andrea Bocelli’s rendition of the UEFA Champions League anthem (I can confirm the lyrics sound even more inane in Italian). When the fans were roused, the acoustics became both tinny and uneasy, at once both distant and close.
The game began as if on fast-forward, with none of the poking and prodding and getting-to-know-you we sometimes see in finals. Juventus‘ Gonzalo Higuain slithered into space, beat two opponents and fired from the edge of the box; Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas spilled, but recovered.
Real were coming to terms with what was, essentially, Juventus‘ asymmetrical formation. Andrea Barzagli was a center-back playing right-back, assigned to slow down Ronaldo’s runs and provide a meaty aerial challenge at the far post. That meant Dani Alves had the whole flank to himself against his Brazil teammate Marcelo.
On the opposite side, Alex Sandro and Mario Mandzukic were overloaded against Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal. With Isco dropping off to join Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in midfield, it felt at times as if Juve were happy to concede the middle of the park, knowing they could cause problems wide. But cover one base and the other is free.
Madrid’s trio of attacking midfielders — with only Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira to contain them — found opportunities. And, after 20 minutes, Kroos’ rumbling, left-to-center run culminated in the ball arriving at the feet of Ronaldo, who had wisely realized it was best if he steered clear of Barzagli. A layoff to Carvajal in the right-wing position was followed by a shimmy inside to find space and, having received a return pass, Gigi Buffon was beaten.
Juventus were unruffled. Seven minutes later, they equalized in the most spectacular fashion. After turning the screws in the final third, they trapped Madrid deep. And when the ball came to Higuain, he flicked it square to Mandzukic with his back to goal. The big man cushioned it on his chest and unleashed a long-range overhead kick with power and topspin to send it over Navas’ head and into the far corner.
But when Madrid came slingshotting out of the block in the second half, it was Juventus who crumbled, perhaps retreating and retrenching too far, perhaps simply blinded by what was on display.
Ronaldo failed to connect at the far post on a brilliant Marcelo intuition, but, moments later, Casemiro — of all people — unleashed a vicious right-footed wallop that deflected off the leaping Khedira and eluded Buffon. The hard-hatted Madrid midfield foot soldier was swallowed up in celebration by the very generals he serves so humbly.
Barely three minutes passed before the TKO. Modric, the Energizer Bunny, beat Alex Sandro at the byline and crossed for Ronaldo, who lost Bonucci at the near post and turned it past Buffon. It was his 12th goal of this Champions League season, and it also reopened that existential debate about his goal scoring.
What’s better? His finishing or his ability to teleport into unguarded space? Suffice to say that, in a game in which Madrid needed a center-forward — not because Karim Benzema was subpar, but because he was busy dragging Juve’s defence into places they did not want to be — that’s exactly what he turned into: one of those poachers who doesn’t appear often but materializes when it counts most.
“What are you going to do?” Allegri said of Ronaldo. “He looks like he’s napping all game, and then he pops up and destroys you.”
Call it Cristiano 2.0.
Allegri looked to the options on his bench and threw on what he could muster: the warrior Claudio Marchisio, the quicksilver Juan Cuadrado and, ahem, the holding midfielder Mario Lemina. When all your attacking options are in your starting XI, this is what you have left in reserve. Allegri looked like the kid who had spent his money on candy on the way to school. It was now lunchtime and he was famished.
Effectively, the game was over. There was only enough time for Bale to make his cameo appearance, for Sergio Ramos to throw himself to the ground and get Cuadrado sent off after a limp shove and for substitute Marco Asensio to score a fourth, set up by the immense Marcelo.
A word on Ramos: Gestures like this may be a side effect of a win-at-all-costs mentality, and referee Felix Brych and his crew ought to have handled it better. But when you’re 3-1 up with seven minutes to go, is this what you want to be doing?
Questions for another time. Real Madrid had won in the most emphatic way. And deservedly so. When you have more quality and that quality has means to an end — making the whole bigger than the sum of its parts, rather than celebrating the individual — you will usually win.
Juventus can reflect on the deflection for the second Madrid goal — “Pjanic’s shot gets deflected away and Casemiro’s shot gets deflected towards the goal … that’s football,” Allegri said — and the lapse that turned a tight 1-1 encounter into a knockout in the space of 180 seconds. On another night, in another place, maybe things end differently.
But only if they muster two halves of quality football. And that is something the purple-shirted dragons of Madrid stopped them from doing after the break, when they breathed enough fire to light up 12 galaxies, one for each European Cup soon to be displayed in the bowels of the Bernabeu.
Congrats As Manchester United Beats Ajax 2 – 0, Wins Europa + Qualifies For Champions League Continue reading “Congrats As Manchester United Beats Ajax 2 – 0, Wins Europa + Qualifies For Champions League”
Arsene Wenger insists that failing to qualify for the Champions League will not affect the club’s ability to negotiate new deals with their best players or sign high-profile names. Arsenal are set to resume contract talks with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez at the end of the season, with discussions put on hold earlier this year in order to focus on the race for a top-four finish. The Gunners lie sixth, six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.
Arsenal were previously in a position where Champions League income played a big role in their financial situation but Wenger has made it clear that is no longer the case.
“Not really because we are in a strong financial position,” the Frenchman said at a news conference when asked if the potential lack of Champions League football could hurt them when it comes to contract talks and transfers.
“The weight of a Champions League place is less big than it was years ago.
“Financially, negotiations wise it will not have a huge impact.
“Maybe it can impact your reputation if in a longer spell you are not in there. But at the moment we are not in that mode.
“Still for us it is important because we want to play at the top level.”
Imagine looking like your own revered hero who would it be? and what would you love to do
Iranian student Reza Parastesh looks so much like his sporting hero Lionel Messi that it almost landed him in jail for disrupting public order this week.
So many people came out to take selfies with Parastesh in the western city of Hamedan over the weekend that police rushed him into a station and Continue reading “MESSI’S DOUBLE ARRESTED FOR BREAKING THE PEACE”
All who participated in the 1st edition of the Venatus Football competition could attest to the fact that it was fun. The competition saw football giants from Texas Football Club wining the competition It is in this regards that the president of the Venatus football association Mr Okeoghene Johnson has decided to bring together football lovinig fans once again to the football fiesta, as at the time ossaioviesuccess.com Continue reading “VENATUS COMPETITION SET TO BEGIN 2ND EDITION”
President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has won a seat on the Executive Committee of the Confederation Of African Football (CAF).
Pinnick won the election which held at the CAF 39th Ordinary General Assembly at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on Thursday, March 16.
The Delta State born football administrator defeated long-standing member Anjorin Moucharafou who is also the head of Benin Republic Football Federation.
Pinnick got 32 votes to Moucharafou's 17 to become the West Zone B representative at the CAF Executive Committee.
Pinnick will serve from 2017-2021 for his first term.
It was a perfect day for Pinnick whose candidate for CAF presidency Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar had won the election beating veteran leader Issa Hayatou.
It was a tough couple of weeks for the former Chairman of the Delta State Football Association (DFA) who fell out with the Nigerian Government and the Sports Ministry.
The fallout was as a result of his backing of Ahmad over Cameroon's Hayatou.
The Federal Government through the Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung warned Pinnick that working against Hayatou was against the foreign policy of Nigeria as Cameroon, the home country of Hayatou as an 'ally' to Nigeria.
The NFF boss (far right pictured with Yemi Osinbajo and Solomon Dalung) fell out with the Federal Government and the Sports Ministry over his choice to back Ahmad Ahmad for CAF presidency (NAN)
Born in 1973, Pinnick was elected as boss of the NFF in September 2014; his tenure as NFF boss expires in 2018.
Before becoming the president of the NFF, Pinnick served as Delta State Sports Commission chairman and Delta FA boss.
Amaju Pinnick Wins CAF Executive Committee Seat:
It was an landslide triumph for the Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick at the just closed 39th CAF General Assembly as he vanquished Beninoise partner Anjorin Moucharafou to win the CAF official Executive Committee west zone B seat
The Nigerian football overseer pulled 32 votes to edge his rival who had 17 at the decisions on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
Ajorin Moucharafou had before pledged not to lose to the former Delta state FA manager in the race, yet things betrayed him as he was stunned with a landslide votes.
Pinnick (Western Africa Zone B) joins Danny Jordaan (South Africa and Southern African zone), Musa Bility (Liberia and Western Africa Zone A), Suleiman Waberi (Djibouti and Central/East African Zone) and Faozi Lekjaa (Morocco and Northern African Zone) as members who have been chosen into the CAF Executive Committee from 2017 to 2021.
Few international matches between the last ranking and this meant that teams were likely to retain positions from last month. In the latest FIFA Rankings released on Thursday,
Africa power house, Nigeria, retained positions in Africa and World which are 7th and 41st respectively. The ten best teams in the world retained their positions while in Africa, Egypt moved three places to become the 20th best team in the world as against 23rd from the last rankings.
Other movers were Senegal who also moved three places from 31st to 28th, Cameroon moved from 33rd to 32nd, Burkina Faso from 38th to 36th making them the fourth best team in Africa and Ghana from 45th to 43rd. Algeria that was the best team in Africa not too long ago and among the favorites to win the AFCON title now occupy the 11th position in Africa and 50th in the world.
The next rankings comes up April 6th 2017.
Below is a complete list of the 10 best teams in Africa and the World
1. Egypt -20th in world
2. Senegal -28th in world
3. Cameroon -32nd in world
4. Burkina Faso -36th in world
5. Tunisia -37th in world
6. Congo DR -38th in world
7. Nigeria -41st in world
8. Ghana -43rd in world
9. Côte d’Ivoire -47th in world
10. Morocco -49th in world
Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/03/fifa-rankings-nigeria-retains-position-africa-world/
Chelsea star Victor Moses is now the highest paid Nigerian player plying his trade in Europe with weekly earnings of £110,000.
Super Eagles stars John Mikel Obi and Odion Ighalo earn much higher than Moses but are currently playing in China which is not in Europe.
Mikel Obi earns £140, 000 per week at Tianjin TEDA while Ighalo reportedly gets around £200, 000 at Changchun Yatai all in China.
Brown Ideye who just recently signed for Tianjin TEDA earns above £100, 000.
Before Moses’ new contract, Kelechi Iheanacho was the highest paid Nigerian in Europe with £85,000 per week.
Moses was earning £50,000 per week before his new contract which was a reward for his good form for Chelsea so far this season.
Turkey-based stars Ogenyi Onazi and Emmanuel Emenike who plays for Trabzonspor and Fenerbahce respectively are high on the list.
Premier League players Ahmed Musa and Wilfred Ndidi also feature high on the list.