Tag: Lionel Messi
Not many fans saw this one coming. At least not before the tournament kicked in two weeks ago. Brazil and Argentina are now officially out of the tournament. They were the two favorite teams to win it all. Now, despite having two of the most sought after players in the continent, that is Lionel Messi for Argentina and Neymar for Brazil, the two teams were an utter disappointment, and their early exit only leaves us wondering if it is time for Brazil to get their act together before they host the next World Cup and for Argentina to stop living off their past glories. It’s been a long time since Mexico 1986.
Brazil and Argentina have been two forces to reckon with in the past. Not only in South America, but their players are exported every year to professional leagues in Europe where they compete among the best players in the world. But when it comes to penalty kicks, there is plenty to do learn still for these multimillion-dollar squads.
The semifinals will pit Uruguay against Peru and Paraguay against Venezuela, which advanced to the semifinals for the first time in its history by beating Chile 2-1. This is certainly an unexpected outcome. Venezuela is perhaps the biggest surprise. Consider for a moment that with what Barcelona paid for Lionel Messi, you could buy Venezuela’s national team, player by player including the bench, 10 times. But then again, it seems to be an endless story of disappointment for the Argentinean and the Brazilian team.
The Copa America 2011 hosted by Argentina will bring out a new South American champion for the first time in at least 16 years. Uruguay won the 1995 tournament at home, and since then Brazil won four titles and Colombia one—at home in 2001.
Let’s start with Brazil. The defending champion outplayed Paraguay from the start but was not able to capitalize on its scoring opportunities, thanks mostly to a great performance by goalkeeper Justo Villar. The talented 34 year-old keeper currently plays in Argentina for Estudiantes de la Plata. Shooting Penalties wasn’t the Brazilian team stronghold and Justo Villar was going to make them suffer at the end. After 120 minutes of game, Brazil and Paraguay went on to the Penalty Kicks. Villar stopped defender Thiago Silva’s shot in the shootout and Elano, Andre Santos and Fred would eventually miss their shots for Brazil, giving the Paraguayans a 2-0 victory.
Argentina’s exit also was nothing short of an utter disappointment. Let’s not forget that Argentina was playing at home, and had Lionel Messi as their creative player. The squad was working in overdrive as it was trying to end a drought of 18 years without major titles. But the Uruguayans got on their way. Not only had to go on with 10 players for a little under 40 minutes of game time, but they kept on defending cleverly and taking every chance to rapidly move their lines forward for with dangerous counterattacks. Uruguay is now on track for its record breaking 15th title as it seems to be the strongest team to advance into the semifinals. But then again, this particular Copa America has been fairly cruel to the favorites.
Jose Mourinho’s name has for a while now been associated with success. A quick look into his professional coaching career will do nothing but prove that no matter where he goes, it seems that success obediently follows. So far this season, the talented Portuguese Manager has worked his way into Real Madrid, one of Spain’s and Europe’s most coveted positions in the sporting world. But with his track of success and championships, comes always a very big load of expectations and responsibilities. Mourinho is known for his charismatic and passionate style. But after thirty minutes of play time in this season’s first Spanish Derby, there was little to be seen from Mourinho.
Yes, it has been a while since Real Madrid won a game against Barcelona. Almost four years now since Real Madrid’s last road victory at the Camp Nou stadium. Sure enough, die-hard madridistas still remember the two goals by Raul and van Nistelroy on Real’s 2-0 win against Barça on October 2006. And yet, since the beginning of the game, it was quite evident that Real Madrid was in for a ride they wouldn’t forget in a very long time. By the time the referee had finished the game, Barcelona had scored 5 goals and had bullied the white team throughout the entire game. Not Benzema or di María or Cristiano Ronaldo had anything to offer against a team so powerful, so well synchronized, so dialed in perfection, that not even money can buy.
Because money can buy a big group of names and a can cut a deal for a big reunion of superstars. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it can buy you a team worthy of a championship. Just ask the Miami Heat if money is always synonym of success in the professional sports world. To really put things into perspective, you need to consider that Real Madrid’s starting eleven cost 44.8 million dollars a year. That’s more then three times what it costs to bring in Barcelona’s ensemble.
What’s they key for Barcelona’s success? The significant monetary investment that the club has made in its youth academy La Masia. As a matter of fact, only four of the 14 players that played during this game, that is Dani Alves, Eric Abidal, Seydou Keita and David Villa, did not spent many hours in the youth academy, perfecting the close-passing game that has not only been Barça’s signature style but also the key to its most recent success.
And then there was Xavi Hernandez. The 30-year-old Spaniard has been absolutely brilliant in his performances in the Clasico. He has been razor sharp in 3 of his last four games against Real Madrid. In may of 2009, Xavi had 4 assists in Barça’s 6-2 win at the Camp Nou. Then, last year, he was key in the play-making of the two goals that gave Barcelona a 2-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu. He is a brilliant playmakes that has had no trouble when performing on the international stage. He currently holds the record for most passes completed on a single World Cup at 599 passes.
On the 5-0 win on Monday, Xavi completed 110 passes, the highest number in any game in La Liga so far this season. And yes, he scored the first goal in the crusching of their archrival Real Madrid on Monday. Bottom line: It pays off to invest in the future.
Even for a UEFA Champions League semifinal, this game surpassed the expectations. Barcelona went all out. The team was dominant, it’s passing ability was as smooth as ever, yet Inter’s defense just proved impenetrable.
Inter Milan’s mastermind Jose Mourinho made a last minute substitution in the starting XI. He started defender Christian Chivu instead of striker Goran Pandev. This decision alone fired up the controversy. Mourinho could only have made this change if he Pandev had got injured in the preliminaries. It’s hard to say if the striker was injured or not, but bringing in an extra defender surly worked out for Inter Milan’s best interest in the long-run.
28 minutes into the game, Inter lost Thiago Motta for a hand-off on Sergio Busquets. After theb Belgian referee Frank de Bleeckere showed him the red card, he man-handled Busquets before leaving the pitch. This action only aggravates the already tense atmosphere.
The Nou Camp was packed with over 95.000 fans who kept chanting all game long. In the field, Inter’s stoic defense made their best effort to keep Barcelona’s key players under control. Sure enough, all Barcelona’s offensive lineup had a chance to score. Xavi Alonso had two separate chances from short distances, but he was hard-pressed by close-by defenders. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had another good shot but the ball was blocked by Walter Samuel.
The best efforts came from Lionel Messi. The fast and agile Argentinean kept trying to attack from different distances. One of his shots was just barely tipped wide by goalkeepers Julio Cesar. Not much action came from Inter Milan. The team stayed in the back trying to defend their 3-1 lead in the first leg.
In the second half, and with little over 6 minutes left in regulation time, Gerard Pique, picked up a perfect pass from Xavi. He made an impeccable swivel and shot to his right, making the only goal of the match. For the first time in the match, Barcelona and its fans had the feeling that they might just be able to pull it off.
And they were pretty darn close. Bojan Krkic came close when he scored from inside Inter’s penalty area. But the referee had given a hand-ball against Yaya Toure in the play buildup. And that was it. The game ended shortly after.
Now Mourinho and the Inter Milan are going to have to face Louis Van Gaal and the Bayern Munich, next month in the Final game at Real Madrid’s legendary stadium Santiago Bernabeu. Sportsbook industry leader BetIAS.com will offer live lines, and final game props bets for this great match.