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Manchester United and the WWE go hand in hand

Sunday night I decided to tune into the WWE Royal Rumble for nostalgic purposes. Growing up I was a big wrestling fan, but now I prefer to watch the Road to WrestleMania, because WrestleMania is equivalent to a Champions League final. The Pay Per View overall was quite poor and the main event saw The Rock defeat CM Punk in his first match in 9 months. May I remind you that CM Punk held the title for 434 days, and the manner in which he lost the title was an absolute farce.

Moving forward, what caught my eye was the traditional, “30 Man over the Top Rope” Royal Rumble match. This is where I realized the WWE and The Barclays Premier League have a lot in common. I mean the final five men in the match were predictable and there were only two possible winners, Ryback or John Cena. These two were the only men in the match who had a chance of main eventing WrestleMania, as the other wrestlers are substandard to them.  It’s similar to our modern day Premier League that from opening day had only two legitimate title contenders in Manchester United and Manchester City.

The Premier League is the most watched soccer league in the world with arguably the largest fan base. The league gets more popular as time passes with the help of TV deals and an influx of foreign talent choosing to play their trade in England.

I mean the Premier League has to be the best league in the world right?

When was the last time you saw a title race go down to the final whistle?

Who won the 2012 Champions League in Munich?

The BPL has to be the best considering the “white Pele” plays there opposed to leagues that consists of two horse races or a league like the Serie A, in which Juventus is a class above the rest – hyperbole.

When you think of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, history and trophies come to mind. United is the most successful team in the Premier League era winning 12 Premier League titles, including a treble winning season in 1999.

Last season they conceded the title to their noisy neighbours on the final day of the season via goal difference. A 94th minute Sergio Aguero winner had denied United from claiming their 20th league title. It was a trophyless season, which saw them crash out of the group stage of the Champions league and get played off the park by Atletico Bilbao in the Europa League.

In any sport, the aim is to get better and fix the flaws that you possess. When you’re a team like Manchester United, a trophyless season is unacceptable. United, like many Premier League teams, had various issues to address over the summer if they wanted to be legitimate contenders not only domestically but also in Europe.

But on Friday August 17th 2012, they showed their domestic title aspirations as they acquired Robin Van Persie for £24m from Arsenal. Many questioned the signing, as Ferguson ignored two key areas he needed to address. However, we’re half way through the campaign and as the days go by it looks like Ferguson made the right decision.

Van Persie has netted 22 times this season and is arguably the reason why United, with a game in hand, are four points clear at the top of the Premier League. The Dutch striker scored 36 goals last season for Arsenal is also a key factor in United’s FA Cup and Champions League run.

United have made their best start to a season since the three point rule was introduced, obtaining 55 points from 66 in the opening 22 games.  It’s a remarkable stat and if they were to continue picking up 2.5 points a game they would match the 95-point record set by Chelsea in 2004-2005.

Theoretically to win a soccer match you need to outscore your opponent, which is what United are doing. Although they have major weaknesses, their luxury in attack has covered up their flaws.

Javier Hernandez, Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck have scored approximately 62% of United’s goals in all competitions and 60% of their goals in the Premier League. Also, with Patrice Evra and Jonny Evans having their best goal scoring seasons, United have scored a league high 57 goals.

Despite their fantastic start to the season, if United reclaim the Premier League title, they’ll do so with the worst defensive record in the last decade. The most goals conceded by a champion over the last decade were 37(Manchester United 2010-2011) and United have already allowed 30.

This season United has given up several goals from set pieces, and have been exposed when teams take the game to them. In fullbacks Rafael and Patrice Evra, they have great options going forward but defensively they’re good, but not reliable. David De Gea has had a few shaky moments this season; he’s a great shot stopper that lacks a physical presence but will only get better with experience. In terms of centre backs Evans and Rio Ferdinand have been efficient, and are at their best when United sit deeper. With Chris Smalling and Phil Jones they have young English talent that have potential to be top Premier League defenders in the future. Lastly captain Nemanja Vidic is a massive boost when in the line up, but there are concerns in whether he’ll ever recover his best form.

In the midfield you have deep lying players in Michael Carrick (whose been fantastic this season) and Paul Scholes who like to control the tempo of the game, but also struggle when pressure is applied to them. In Anderson and Darren Fletcher you have runners who provide energy in the midfield but both struggle to stay fit. Then you have Tom Cleverley, who is by far United’s most technical midfielder. Cleverley is a very versatile midfielder that tends to play higher up the pitch and is direct when United have possession.

What United lack in their midfield is a physical presence – a box-to-box midfielder. United struggle to take control of games and against sides that possess highly technical and physical players in the midfield, they lose control of the game and get overrun. Juventus has Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal, Barcelona has Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, Real Madrid can rely on Khedira, Alonso and Modric, and Bayern Munich has Martinez, Schweinsteiger , Kroos and Gustavo at their disposal. There’s a gulf in class in the midfield between world football’s elite and England best and that is quite alarming.

The question most will ask is with defensive frailties at the back and the lack of a dominant box-box midfielder, how are United still at the top of the Premier League?

Well that’s down to the decline of quality teams in the Premier League over the last two seasons. The Premier League is filled with many inferior sides when matched up to the clubs from Manchester, which explains why they succeed despite possessing major blemishes. Neither side has a tactical identity, but they have an abundance of attacking players, and a few world-class players. Their ability to outscore several inferior sides is the answer domestically, but has been their downfall in Europe.

The WWE has gone from the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertaker, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit, The Rock, and Kurt Angle to John Cena, CM Punk and Sheamus. Once upon a time Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal were elite European sides that also made the Premier League competitive. Now there’s a distinct gulf in class between the two clubs from Manchester and the rest of the so-called top Premier League sides, as there is with the top stars in the WWE.

Since the recent decline in the Premier League, Manchester United has made it past the Champions League semi-finals once, in which they were outclassed by Barcelona at Wembley. That year they faced Marseille, Chelsea and Schalke 04 to make it to the finals, teams that are good, but not great. The year prior they were knocked out by Bayern Munich and last season they failed to get out of the group stage, and were played off the park by Atletico Bilbao in the Europa League. It’s not only Manchester United, but the other top English sides have failed to make a mark in Europe, other than Chelsea’s fortuitous Champions League victory last season. Prior to that they were knocked out of the round of 16 by Inter Milan, the quarterfinals by Manchester United, and the group stage this season.

Frankly, one can argue that United’s success this season isn’t due to how good they’ve been but is simply an indictment on the league as a whole. But it leaves us to ask one question, why hasn’t Ferguson attempted to fix these issues? It looked like he was keen on doing so after being humiliated at Wembley, but it’s possible he felt his side would be able to bounce back from that.

Half way through last season Paul Scholes came out of retirement as a short-term option to bandage the issue. He did a great job, but United falling short to City has made Fergie determined to reclaim the Premier League title, and has once again overshadowed the problem. The signing of Robin Van Persie was the answer to his problem, and thus far it’s been a success domestically. With a Champions League tie against Real Madrid looming, we’ll get to see how United fare against an elite side.

The WWE in general has a handful of elite stars and through watching the Royal Rumble Sunday night, I’ve come to a conclusion that like the WWE, The Premier League and Manchester United have suffered a major decline in terms of quality.

Nevertheless, in terms of points total, this can be the greatest Manchester United side in the Premier League era.

With some saying, we’ve yet to see the best from United this season, it’s possible that this might be as good as they get. Its time to accept what United are, and what the Premier League has become.

United is not an elite side and The Premier League is not the best league in the world.

Furthermore, United is a good side that has possibly created a new cliché in modern day football.

That being, offense wins championships, in the Premier League.

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @ TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in EPL

 

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Arsene Wenger : Time for Change

Arsene Wenger, who is also known to fans as Le Professeur is about to embark on his 17th consecutive season as Arsenal manager which is a tremendous achievement. Along with being idolized worldwide, he is also regarded as one of the best managers in Arsenal and Premier League history.

Wenger has been a revelation for Arsenal over the last 16 years, winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. Wenger was also the first manager born outside of England to win a cup double in 1997-98 and then 2001-02, go a whole Premier League season undefeated in which his team was labelled as the Invincible’s, and guide Arsenal to their first Champions League finals appearance in 2006.

They’ve been in the top four for the past 13 years and have reached the knockout round of the Champions League 11 years running, which makes it hard to believe that a man with such a resume could be the catalyst to the slow demise of Arsenal Football Club.

Now here’s a question, what do Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have in common? If you’re stumped I’ll answer this for you; they all left Arsenal in their prime to pursue trophies during the Arsene Wenger era. There are others such as Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor & Matthieu Flamini who also left and won trophies, but they slightly differ from the four men named above.

These three world-class talents and Nasri were at some point the face of Arsenal Football Club, but decided to move to another club that had title ambitions. The life of a modern day footballer is short and although some of the exits were ugly in the case of Nasri & Cole, you have to understand these players play to win trophies, not to be loyal to us fans.

Here we are in 2012, and another world-class player in his prime wants out. Robin van Persie turns 29 this summer, and during is eight year spell at Arsenal has ONLY won ONE FA Cup. The striker has found it difficult staying fit for a whole season throughout his whole career, but this year was different.

Van Persie’s ability to stay fit allowed him to transform into a world class striker last season, in which he scored 30 Premier League goals in 38 games and 37 goals in 48 games in all competitions. He won Arsenal countless games this season through his individual brilliance, and was an integral piece to the Arsenal attack where majority of the buildup would go through him. Without Van Persie this season it’s fair to say Arsenal might’ve not qualified for the Champions League.

It looks like it might be another heart breaking summer for Arsenal fans as they’ll start another season possibly losing another star player due to their lack of title ambition. Over the years Arsenal has slowly become a selling club, and are slowly falling behind the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

“I can understand why some players might be frustrated and thinking of leaving, they want to win things and we haven’t done that for six years,” stated Arsenal winger Theo Walcott in a previous interview.

With these names leaving the club it’s only time before the Wilshere’s, Vermaelen’s, Song’s and Koscielny’s follow in the same footsteps. This leaves one to ask, maybe it’s time for Arsenal football club to go in another direction and part ways with Wenger.

It seems evident that modern day football has passed Wenger by, and he’s not the master tactician many thought he was, but is it fair to say that Wenger should be held responsible for Arsenal’s downfall in recent years? With the likes of Rafa Benitez, Juande Ramos, Sven Eriksson, Felipe Luiz Scolari and even the “special” Jose Mourinho being sacked during Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager. Is it possible that his exit has been long overdue?

His teams in the past have been known for playing the most attractive football in the country but have lacked that cutting edge and were always looking for the perfect goal. Wenger’s team lined up in a fluid 4-4-2 formation during his glory years that saw his wing backs in Lauren and Ashley Cole surge forward and provide natural width, while his wingers were more direct and took on defenders at ease. His CM duo in Petit-Vieira and Gilberto-Vieira were hardworking, defensively superb and very athletic which decreased the defensive duties of the four men in front of them.

Wenger’s 4-4-2 that he inherited came to an end permanently during the 2005 FA Cup Final against Manchester United when he worried his midfield would be far to open against superior sides. As the years passed he lost key players that were essential to his system such as Patrick Vieira, Gilberto, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp which is why he stuck with a 4-5-1.

Wenger’s 4-5-1 is supposed to see the midfielders interchanging positions to link up with the lone striker and draw defenders out of position. This formation suited Arsenal and it led them to their first Champions League final in the clubs history. Wenger’s sides intend on holding a bulk of possession which is why this formation suited his team. It allowed them to add an extra body in midfield when they play teams that are superior or far more physical.

They became more stable defensively and were able to dictate games as teams had to deal with that extra midfielder they didn’t have prior. Over the years we’ve seen many variations of this formation. During Cesc Fabregas’ rise to becoming a world-class player the team was built around him in a 4-3-3 that at times was a 4-2-3-1, in which he excelled in an advanced role behind the CF.

The departure of Fabregas and Nasri saw the emergence of Van Persie as Arsenal reverted to a 4-5-1 that looked like a rigid and disjointed 4-3-3 when going forward. This left Van Persie up front alone with about a 20 yard distance from the five man midfield attempting to support him. Arsenal tend to be quite predictable when attacking and they seem to struggle to break teams down as the opposing teams feel confident sitting deep and countering on the break.

Most teams field a physical, yet crowded midfield to startle and disrupt the free flowing football that Arsenal try to express. It’s easy for teams to play Arsenal now because their 4-3-3 is at times robotic and static. There are a lot of factors that separate Arsenal from being at an elite level as Barcelona and one main factor is their movement off the ball.

Barcelona players have the technical ability and are instilled with the tactical prowess to interchange positions and are always moving, compared to Arsenal in which their positions seemed fixed. Over the years, Arsenal’s movement off the ball has become very stagnant and predictable, which is why teams allow them to pass the ball freely until they reach the final third because they believe Arsenal don’t possess the creativity to break them down.

His naive approach in the transfer market has also seen his rivals surpass them in the table. Wenger has always relied on the likes of his youth players rather than splashing the cash in the market. The problem with this is teams such as Manchester City and Chelsea have gotten better over the past decade due to the amount of money invested in their squads. Arsenal have slowly turned from being title contenders to fighting for European spots.

Whether it’s Theo Walcott, Denilson, or Per Mertesacker, this team is filled with players who didn’t live up to their transfer price, high expectations and are simply not good enough to take Arsenal to the top of English or European football.

The excuse “they’re still young” and “they’ll eventually mature” has been overused over the last eight years and some of these players have been living off these labels throughout their entire career. To be fair Wenger has done well bringing in the right players, but he’s failed to get the best out of these players by playing them out of position. Wenger has also failed to take the club as a whole to the next level. That’s the problem.

Tactically he’s stalled players development and you can make a firm argument that he’s ruined a few careers along the way. The likes of Nasri, Arshavin, and Walcott are players that like to penetrate through the middle of the pitch, and excel as a free number 10 or deep-lying role in the midfield.

It leaves one to believe Wenger buys players that he likes rather than ones that would fit his system. The wingers in Wenger’s system are made to stay wide and hug the touch-line as a natural winger such as Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale do. Which leaves us to ask why did Wenger prefer to purchase these players and stick them on the flank rather than actually buy natural wingers?

These players that have played on the wing over the years aren’t natural wingers and if stuck on the wing would prefer to play as an inverted winger; the problem is this has caused these players to be caught out of position numerous times and cause little to no threat going forward in big games.

Over the years we’ve seen his top players leave the club, but he has failed to find players of their class to fill their void. To make matters worse, he still implements them into the same system regardless if they fit or not. This leads to a drop in quality but also pushes the progression of the team back.

A prime example is Mikel Arteta who joined Arsenal last summer in what most will call an “emergency buy” to replace Cesc Fabregas. Arteta operates deeper in the midfield, whereas Fabregas prefers to be in an advanced role closer to the striker, which is a key reason why Van Persie saw a lack of quality service compared to recent seasons.

Another example is Alex Song, the Arsenal holding midfielder has to fill the boots of Petit, Vieira, Gilberto and Flamini. These were commanding midfielders that possessed tactical discipline, and also held the midfield together. Song, like many Arsenal players are good footballers and he built a great partnership with Arteta this season. Going forward in attack he has excelled, notably setting up Van Persie numerous times this season, but his defensive duties has been one of his few flaws.

Against the elite in England and Europe he tends to lose possession easily when pressure is applied and he tends to be caught out of position often. Players are able to drop in the hole far too easily which allows the opposition to cause a threat in their final third. The likes of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have exposed his defensive flaws this season.

Arsenals frailties at the back are still the same, they’ve been poor when defending set pieces and have failed to find a legitimate replacement for Jens Lehmann. The fitness of Vermelean and Sagna has been a blow, but due to these injuries we’ve seen the rise of Laurent Koscielny this season.

Unfortunately, the rest of the defenders in the side have proved they’re not good enough and that is down to Wenger’s training and his ability to find class defenders. A solid defensive unit is what leads teams to titles, we see this in Mourinho, Guardiola and most recently Conte’s Juventus team this year. Arsenal’s defence has weakened over the years and there is only one man who you can be held responsible for this.

Now the real question is who do you blame for this era of mediocrity? Most of the blame is rightfully put on Wenger, but have you ever thought the fans can also be held for the slow demise of Arsenal FC. The club is financially stable and from a business stand point they’re successful, but this is a football club that should be filled with supporters that desire and demand silverware.

Some might feel it’s unfair to attack the fans as they don’t play the game, but they have a part to play as well. Arsenal used to be a legitimate title contender, but in the last decade they seem to be playing to qualify for Champions League football. Their fans seem content with this, which is an absolute shame.

Managers in today’s game are fired for finishing second, some even for claiming a league title, but Wenger has always found a way to keep his job. In the last eight seasons, apart from finishing third twice, Arsenal have finished fourth six times in the past eight years.

At any other club Wenger would’ve lost his job, but Arsenal fans have kept faith in a man who once possessed a team that struck fear in the hearts of teams around England. If Arsenal fans are content with third or fourth place every year and a Champions League spot then one can understand the situation, but this is a club that demands silverware and if these fans really cared about this club they would be demanding change.

Wenger appeared a genius when he was Manchester United’s only competition for the Premier League, however as time passed players began to leave, those players weren’t properly replaced and the new players are less imposing. Whether its financial reasons or a change in the club philosophy, Arsenal has slowly become a legitimate contender for Champions League spots, whereas Manchester City and Chelsea have surpassed them and rivals Newcastle and Tottenham are fairly close.

It’s quite scary for Arsenal fans that in an eight year span their team has taken massive steps backwards. It’s fair to say that majority of the blame should be put on Wenger. A manager’s job is to find the right mix of players, implement a winning system that fits his team well, be able to adjust to different tactics, motivate his players, have his players believe in his philosophy and get the best out of them.

During this era, he has failed to meet these requirements and it leaves one to believe that it’s certainly time for change. It doesn’t matter if Wenger is fired or he steps down, but the Arsenal board need to address this issue immediately. He can certainly take up a role behind the scenes or higher up in management but the longer he stays as manager the worst it can get for Arsenal.

What’s certain is that Wenger has endured his highs and lows during his tenure, but is it possible that he’s the cancer in the progression of Arsenal Football Club? As memorable and historic as his recent successes have been, you have to ask yourself one question, is Arsene Wenger still capable of taking Arsenal Football Club to an elite level ?

Tyrrell Meertins

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in EPL

 

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Spain 0-0 Portugal (4-2)

Match in a sentence

On a night where Spain looked to have met their match in a tactically superb Portuguese side, they yet again come out victorious in a thrilling penalty shootout that now sees them one win away from defending their European title and making history.

Observations

  • Both teams opted to go with their usual 4-3-3 and they also both made one change up top.Portugal inserted Hugo Almeida in for the injured Helder Postiga. Vincent Del Bosque surprised many as he selected Alvaro Negredo to lead the line (This saw Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and Cesc Fabregas on the bench.)
  • Negredo on his day can hold up the ball well, link with the midfield, provide pace, power, an aerial threat, drift into the channels, and also has an eye for goals. Unfortunately for him, tonight wasn’t his night. He looked absolutely lost during his 56 minute appearance, and many were left questioning what exactly Del Bosque expected of him. To be fair, the Spanish midfield didn’t provide him with much support or service anyways.
  • Portugal throughout the game showed no fear and pressed the Spanish rather high and kept their defensive line high as well, as they were trying to leave the Spanish with virtually no space to play in. Paulo Bento’s tactics were spot on and this unsettled Spain, and left them making many mistakes that they aren’t used too. For the first half they targeted Alvaro Arbeloa who pushed high up the pitch and tried to unleash Ronaldo in 1v1’s with his Madrid teammate but not much came from it. During the second half Arbeloa was cautious of his positioning and was less adventurous. Ronaldo and Nani switched sides to try to create a spark but nothing came from it.
  • Although,Portugal was playing so well in handling the tiki-taka style, it has to be said that they lacked thrust in the final third, as they finished the game with 0 shots on target. Their best player on the night apart from Pepe who again was fantastic was Joao Moutinho. He performed his defensive duties in the midfield to perfection and utilized the space provided on the right hand side to try to add some creativity into the game.
  • In all honesty it wasn’t a good game of football (unless you were a Spanish or Portuguese fan). It had that Clasico feeling to it as the game progressed, with the tension growing and the amount of cards that were being handed out, I was surprised that no player was sent off.
  • Ronaldo on the night was decent, but he was a shade of the man we saw against Holland & the Czech Republic. Aside from shading the wrong side of the post in the first half, Ronnie failed to connect with his several free kick attempts in the second half, and also failed to capitalize in what was Portugal’s best opportunity to win the game (to be fair Raul Meireles pass was awful).
  • To touch on Ronaldo quickly, I don’t think there is a player in the world right now who can make a dead ball swerve and dip like he does, but when will teams that he plays for go about a different option on set pieces. I felt there were times Portugal would benefit more if they sent in a dangerous ball to the back post for their players to attack. The Spanish players aren’t the tallest and Portugal does have an aerial advantage over them, so it boggles me why they never go about a “Plan B” when presented with these opportunities. Many should also check Ronaldo’s goal/shot ratio on free kicks, and that should say it all.
  • As for Spain, I thought Iniesta & Silva did well, but Spain’s off the ball movement was poor, there were no diagonal runs or runs to begin with. They defended conservatively rather then high up the field as usual, they had a more compact shape and yet again kept another clean sheet in a knockout game.
  • In Extra Time as Portuguese legs began to tire, we saw a bit more of what the Spanish game is all about. Spain did revert back to the false nine in the second half bringing on Fabregas. While doing so they injected the width they dearly lack by bringing on Pedro and Jesus Navas (Alba their only player who can stretch the game had a fantastic outing).Spain’s game became more direct and these wingers looked bright. Rui Patricio though, made two fine stops from close range to keep the game deadlocked and saw it go into a penalty shootout.
  • It was the second shootout of the tournament, and was far more unpredictable than the Italy-England one (England can’t take penalties now can they, let’s be honest with ourselves they had no chance). It started off with that unpredictability as Xabi Alonso’s shot was saved by Patricio. We also saw Joao Moutinho have his shot saved, and Bruno Alves hit the bar. Up stepped Cesc Fabregas, the man who scoredSpain’s final penalty to defeat Italy in the Quarter Finals in 2008. He made no mistake as he calmly slotted his kick past Patricio and sent Spain to Euro 2012 finals where they have a chance to defend their title against Germany or Spain.
  • Many will question Paulo Bento for his selection on the five shooters that apparently had Cristiano Ronaldo shooting fifth.
  • Portugal’s terrific run at Euro 2012 has come to an end. To many they overachieved, but I had this team in the semifinals and they proved me right again. We learned a lot about this team and Paulo Bento who put in a tactical master class today but unfortunately was on the wrong side of the shootout. This Portuguese side made Spain look so ordinary and plain and that should not be forgotten. They stuck to their plan, they believed not only in them selves but in their system and manager that they could go toe to toe with arguably the best national side to ever play and they were spot kicks away from achieving this. This could also be the spark that ignites many teams to find an answer for this tiki-taka style that has yet to be defeated. The Portuguese might have lost the battle today but for the long-term this could be the start of a ship waiting to be sunk by many who want to see Spain/Barcelona fail. My hats go off to them and I expect to see them continue this progress en route to the World Cup 2014 where they will be contenders to lift the trophy in Brazil.
  • Spain head into the finals without conceding a goal in their last nine knockout round games in major tournaments which stems back to their quarter-final game with Italy at Euro 2008. What’s worrying for this team is that Del Bosque still doesn’t know what his best XI is. It seems like they will go with false nine and if they do David Silva must be sacrificed. They need a winger to open up space in the midfield, and there are times when they just seem to narrow going forward. You can argue the Portuguese legs were tired, but Spain had 48 hours less rest and when Navas and Pedro came on Spain were at their best and looked very much like Barcelona for once. It will be interesting to see how Del Bosque approaches the finals knowing that a win will put this Spanish team in a class above the rest, but if they are to go with the false nine it must be Navas or Pedro over Silva.
  • Spain find a way again and are now the first team since West Germany in 1975 to make it to 3 consecutive major tournament finals. Somewhat like Del Bosque’s side in 2010, they weren’t always the best team on the day but they were efficient. They deserve the plaudits because they made it to a European final against a nearly perfect Portuguese team playing nowhere near their best. Let’s remember that they are without Puyol & David Villa, two instrumental figures in this side. They now are win away from possibly cementing themselves as the best national side to ever play the game, as they would be the first team to win three consecutive major competitions. That is absolutely outstanding. You also have to credit Del Bosque who has been able to build hunger in this team who have won it all, and for the last four years have been merely enemies in this Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry. These players haven’t got much rest in those years playing close to 70 games a year, but haven’t lost the hunger to win and that is the mark of true champions.
  • Cesc Fabregas, who is now 25, has failed to earn a permanent starting spot in this Spanish XI over the last four years. It would be tough for any midfielder to start over Xavi & Iniesta, and he surely would gain a place in any other XI in the world. Fabregas never complains and always goes out on the field and does his job, and arguably he is a key component in this side’s success due to his versatility. He scored the shootout winner against Italy in the 2008 quarter finals, played in that same final against Germany and was magnificent, he came on as sub in the 2010 final and assisted Andres Iniesta’s winner, and now his penalty has sent Spain off to another final in a major tournament. He deserves the recognition I give him because to be on the bench for so long in your international career which is a short one, and to have the class to put all the disappointment behind him and step up for his country when called upon his truly fitting. Cesc Fabregas should be a role model too many playing the game and has earned my respect. (Michael Carrick and Micah Richards can learn a thing or two from this man).

Three Stars

  1. Sergio Ramos
  2. Joao Moutinho
  3. Jordi Alba

Honourable mentions to Pepe, Pique and Fabio Coentrao

Tyrrell Meertins

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Match Recaps

 

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