Know Your Enemy: Portugal left back Fabio Coentrao

March 28, 2014

“Fabio Coentrao was 13 when he joined his local club, Rio Ave. He soon developed as a quick and direct winger, a player with technical ability but also a certain rawness. He made his first-team debut at 16, and by 18 had established himself as a regular for his hometown club, then playing in the Portuguese second division, and earned the nickname the ‘Figo of the Caxinas.’ Rio Ave narrowly missed out on promotion that season but a decent run in the Portuguese Cup brought Coentrao to national attention, particularly when he scored with a 30-yard drive in a 2-1 defeat to Sporting, one of the three traditional giants of the Portuguese game.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Portugal’s Everlasting Striker Dilema

March 17, 2014

“The announcement that we are less than 100 days away from the start of the World Cup usually marks the beginning of endless heated discussions and arguments about team selection- who deserves to be on the plane and who is left in the departure lounge, doomed to wait another four years for the chance to realise their World Cup dream.” backpagefootball

Benfica remain major threat to Tottenham despite Nemanja Matic sale

March 12, 2014

Jorge Jesus
“Tottenham fans are not often grateful to Chelsea, particularly not where transfers are concerned, but on Thursday they can reflect that if Willian is not in their lineup, at least Nemanja Matic is not in Benfica’s. Or at least that’s the easy reading of it. Nobody would pretend that Matic is not a superb player or that he is not missed by Benfica, but the overall effect of selling him may have been beneficial.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

World Cup watch: Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ukraine crisis

March 10, 2014

Police Battle Protesters in Kiev as Crisis in Ukraine Deepens
“The World Cup in Brazil is only 95 days away, with the opening match between Brazil and Croatia taking place in Sao Paulo on 12 June. BBC Sport, with the help of European football expert Andy Brassell, is taking a weekly look at happenings from across the world of football and what impact they could have on the tournament in the summer.” BBC

Wednesday’s friendlies: What we learned

March 7, 2014

International talking points2
“The final international break of the season produced some interesting results, and perhaps more importantly, offered a few hints about how major contenders might play in Brazil. Here are four conclusions from the week’s matches…” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

Belenenses and the Curve

March 3, 2014

“When Miguel Rosa and Filipe Ferreira scored the two goals that enabled CFF Belenenses to beat Sporting Braga 2-1 in January, an audible sigh could be heard amongst the scattered faithful in Estádio do Restelo. Since a 2-0 win over Olhanense on 5th October last year, the dark blues had not tasted victory in the league. A real sense of drama and foreboding had begun to fall over the club that hauled itself so impressively back into the Portuguese top flight last season, after a brief three year spell in the wilderness of the Portuguese second tier, the sparsely populated and little followed Liga da Honra. That Alan brought Braga back into the game with a sumptuous goal worth taking a long and repeated look at only heightened the tension, but the home side held out for the much needed tonic of three points and a widening gap with the Superliga’s bottom two, Olhanense and Paços de Ferreira. Since then, the fires of passionate belief have once again been snuffed by defeat on Madeira against Nacional and a stultifying 0-0 draw with Académica de Coimbra.” In Bed With Maradona

Bale steps into Ronaldo’s spotlight

February 6, 2014

“From Gareth Bale’s off-field persona, you wouldn’t expect him to be a superstar. He’s shy, retiring, quiet and modest and, although his commercial activities have increased significantly to reflect his development into one of Europe’s most exciting players, he’s generally keen to evade the spotlight. In pure footballing terms, however, Bale is highly egotistical. Not in a rude, arrogant, spoilt-brat manner but in terms of his playing style. Many expected Bale to become a rampaging left-back, including the manager who made him a regular at Tottenham, Harry Redknapp.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

Benfica 2-0 Porto: good midfield pressure and quick attacking from the home side

January 17, 2014

“Benfica went top of the league with a controlled, confident victory at the Estadio da Luz. Jorge Jesus played his usual outfield players, although in goal Artur Moraes was unavailable so back-up Jan Oblak played instead. This was Nemanja Matic’s final game before his return to Chelsea. Paolo Fonseca played Carlos Eduardo at the head of his midfield trio, with Lucho Gonzalez deeper, and Josue and Steven Defour on the bench. Nicolas Otamendi was at centre-back, rather than Maicon. Benfica were clearly the better side throughout this contest, more organised without the ball and more purposeful in possession.” Zonal Marking

2014 Fifa World Cup: Gary Lineker’s guide to the eight seeds

December 7, 2013

“England have been drawn in Group D for the 2014 World Cup, meaning they will face seeded team Uruguay as well as Italy and Costa Rica. Hosts Brazil are in Group A, reigning world and European champions Spain are in Group B and three-time champions Germany are in Group G. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, speaking before the draw was made, takes a closer look at the eight seeded national teams…” BBC

U.S. draws incredibly difficult group, but one filled with opportunity

December 7, 2013

“The U.S. had drawn Germany, Portugal and Ghana, the hardest opening-round group the Americans have ever faced in a World Cup. Germany, a three-time world champion, could easily win the tournament. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who may be about to win the Ballon d’Or as the world player of the year. And Ghana has been the destroyer of U.S. dreams at the last two World Cups, eliminating the Americans both times. Group G has easily the most difficult average FIFA ranking of any World Cup group: 11.25. Germany is No. 2, Portugal No. 5, the U.S. No. 14 and Ghana No. 24.” SI

USA’s 2014 World Cup group overflowing with history
“You wanted a World Cup group with some sumptuous storylines? You got one. The USA was drawn into a Group of Supreme Death with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, with Jurgen Klinsmann needing to gameplan for the likes of Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo while aiming to break the Ghana hex — just to reach the knockout stage. The amount of history that the USA has against its group opponents is staggering, too.” SI (Video)

Sweden 2-3 Portugal: Ibrahimovic 2-3 Ronaldo

November 22, 2013

“Cristiano Ronaldo produced an extraordinary performance to win this play-off almost single-handedly. Erik Hamren named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, which finished in a 1-0 Portugal victory. Paolo Bento’s side had one change – Hugo Almeida had made the difference in the first leg as a substitute, so replaced Helder Postiga upfront. It’s difficult to remember a contest that had been promoted so much beforehand as, essentially, an individual battle between two players. Football isn’t an individual sport, of course, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo lived up to the pre-match hype, and completely dominated their sides. Formation battle.” Zonal Marking – Michael Cox (Video)

Porto 3-1 Sporting: Porto more compact without the ball and more efficient with their attacking

October 30, 2013

“This was first against second in Portugal – champions Porto won, extending the gap to five points. Paulo Fonseca selected Silvestre Varela on the left, with Lica on the bench – otherwise, his side was as expected. Sporting coach Leonardo Jardim played Ivan Piris in an unfamiliar left-back role, in the absence of Jefferson Nascimento. Porto were the dominant force for the majority of this match, and deserved the victory.” Zonal Marking

Ronaldo-Ibrahimovic, Croatia-Iceland headline UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs

October 22, 2013

“Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović will command the spotlight they crave in next month’s European World Cup qualifying playoffs as Portugal and Sweden face off in the most intriguing of the four two-leg matchups. UEFA conducted the draw for the final phase of qualifying early Monday in Zurich. The big winner was Croatia, which will be heavily favored to defeat surprising Iceland. Portugal, the highest-ranked (14th) of the eight participating teams (all runners-up from the group phase), can breathe a sigh of relief that it avoided France. But Sweden is no slouch and gave powerhouse Germany all it could handle during group play. Monday’s draw ensures that at least one quality team, and one big-name player, will miss out on Brazil.” SI

World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games

October 15, 2013

“World Cup dreams will be realized, dashed or deferred on Tuesday as qualifying continues around the globe. On the home front, the U.S. booked passage to Brazil last month and then clinched first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. The only thing left to play for on Tuesday night in Panama is a seed next summer. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., chances are slim. The top seven sides in next month’s FIFA ranking (beside Brazil) will be anointed. According to ESPN statistican Paul Carr, the U.S. would have to defeat Panama while the Netherlands loses at Turkey, Switzerland loses to Slovenia, Poland ties or beats England, Ecuador ties or beats Chile and Uruguay misses out on qualifying altogether. Here’s a summary of what’s at stake elsewhere. Ties in group play are broken by goal differential in all games, goals scored in all games and then assorted head-to-head criteria.” SI

World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

October 12, 2013

“Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 to secure their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Striker Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Premier League rivals Chelsea, scored twice in the first half, with Niko Kranjcar grabbing a late consolation. Belgium were joined by Germany and Switzerland in qualifying for next year’s tournament. Germany defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-0, while Switzerland won 2-1 in Albania.” BBC

The biggest problems facing World Cup contenders

October 12, 2013

“The fascinating thing about international football is that managers must cope with a very definite group of players. Whereas at club level, weaknesses can be solved by signing new players, at international level it’s not unusual for a top-class side to completely lack quality in one particular position. Sometimes, this forces managers to formulate innovative new tactical ideas to compensate for that weakness – but often, it simply means the side has a weak link. With eight months to go until the World Cup, here’s a look at six big international sides who have an obvious problem position.” ESPN – Michael Cox

FC Porto: The World’s most efficient club?

September 11, 2013

“FC Porto aren’t even the best-supported team in their own country, they only play in the second biggest city in Portugal, and yet their contemporary European presence alone has alluded teams with five times the population in the containing area, and many, many times the income. UEFA Champions League winners in 2004, they have been drawn over the years with Manchester United, FC Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, Arsenal, AC Milan, Internazionale and compatriots Benfica as tops seeds in the world’s primary football competition. This year FC Porto took their place in pot one of the UEFA Champions League group stage draw for the third time in the last three seasons. They’re regulars in the Champions League last sixteen and a staple of the European football scene.” Outside of the Boot

Make or break for World Cup hopefuls

September 5, 2013

“Scheduling pressure on international football from disgruntled clubs has one big positive for fans; the increasing presence of exciting and meaningful double-headers in the space of five days. This week’s raft of World Cup qualification doubles will go some way to deciding the line-up for Brazil next summer, with some new names on the brink of a first participation and some established ones facing the hour where it’s put up or shut up. Here are some of the major plot lines to look out for over the coming days.” ESPN (Video)

Hipsters take note: Shakhter Karagandy and Pacos de Ferreira

August 19, 2013

“The Champions League is no longer the hallowed turf for the heavyweight’s of Europe, with a number of lesser known clubs making their way up to the final thirty two, after coming through the play off rounds. This season, two clubs are on the verge of making history after reaching the so called pearly gates of footballing heaven, the play-off’s. Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan and Pacos de Ferreira of Portugal. While Karagandy have become the first team from Kazakhstan to ever take part in any European competition, discounting any appearances during the Soviet era, Pacos de Ferreira are no less of a surprise package from the Liga Sagres. The almost unknown Portuguese side have made their mark in Europe after staving off competition for qualification from former Portuguese underdogs, SC Braga, who themselves made it to the Champions League a few years ago, punching well above their weight.” Outside of the Boot

A potted history of Benfica

August 4, 2013

Benfica 2
“As incredible as Real Madrid’s five consecutive European Champions’ trophies were, it was inevitable that one day they would be toppled. In a seemingly relatively even playing field, Hamburg, inspired by Uwe Seeler looked well placed to step up, as did Barcelona with their skilful Hungarian imports. The side that stepped up a gear, however, were the leading club from the other Iberian capital, Lisbon.” World Soccer (Part 1)

“One of the great pioneer African players in European football was Larbi Ben Barek. The Maghrebi superstar was hugely successful in both France and Spain enjoying memorable spells with Marseille and Atlético Madrid among others. It’s worth noting that the introduction of African born players to Portuguese players pre-dates Eusebio by some time.” World Soccer (Part 2)

O Glorioso Benfica – Stolen From Africa

July 26, 2013

“As incredible as Real Madrid’s five consecutive European Champions’ trophies were, it was inevitable that one day they would be toppled. In a seemingly relatively even playing field, Hamburg, inspired by Uwe Seeler looked well placed to step up, as did Barcelona with their skilful Hungarian imports. The side that stepped up a gear, however, were the leading club from the other Iberian capital, Lisbon. Benfica were the second side from the Peninsula to make their mark on the European Cup, quickly establishing themselves on the international stage on the basis of their continental exploits in the 1960s. To this day the Portuguese side boast one of the highest memberships of any club in the world, and enjoy a huge national and international fanbase on the basis of their 1960s exploits.” In Bed With Maradona

Top 10 Young Football Managers

July 22, 2013

“Football, over the last couple of seasons, has been witnessing a ‘change of guard’. Players who we adored in their prime have retired, managers that headed some of the greatest sides in history have resigned. All this has given rise to the next generation of football personnel ranging from talented young footballers to talented young tacticians. In this piece we will be focusing on the Top 10 Young Football Managers, that could be at the helm of some of the biggest clubs in World Football, in the not-so-distant future.” Outside of the Boot – Part 1, Outside of the Boot – Part 2

Postiga sends Portugal top

June 9, 2013

“Helder Postiga’s goal was enough to propel Portugal to the top of their World Cup qualification group with a 1-0 win as Russia dropped the first points of their campaign. Russia had arrived in Portugal top of Group F with a 100% record after four games although the build-up to the game had been overshadowed by speculation over manager Fabio Capello’s future. For Portugal, the game was crucial as they lay third behind Russia and Israel with just three wins from six matches.” ESPN (Video)

Fabio Capello’s Russia show Portugal the benefits of a strict regime

June 6, 2013

“Managers react to leaving the England job in a number of ways. Glenn Hoddle resumed a club career. Kevin Keegan seemed to give up on football management altogether. Sven-Goran Eriksson became a preposterous playboy, linked with such increasingly outré schemes that it always comes as something of a start to remember he once made IFK Gothenburg one of the leading forces in Europe. Steve McClaren took himself off inter-railing round medium-sized clubs in the Netherlands and Germany. And Fabio Capello set his not inconsiderable jaw at the world, put a not inconsiderate pay cheque in his pocket and set about making Russia at last live up to its potential.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Benfica Review – A Bittersweet Season

May 29, 2013

“For all the religious anecdotes (inappropriate or otherwise) one could make about Jorge Jesus, Benfica’s coach, one thing is certain. He would be the first person wishing he could work a miracle or two given the last few weeks for his club. In the space of 5 days, Benfica, fresh off an incredible unbeaten streak domestically (their last defeat coming over a year ago on the 9 April 2012 to local rivals Sporting) suddenly saw the incredible foundations of a promising season crushed with back to back defeats to Porto and Chelsea in domestic and European competition. Any Benfiquistas seeing trebles in their eyes came straight back to Earth with a devastating halt.” Outside of the Boot

Chelsea 2-1 Benfica: Chelsea outplayed in the first half, but improve after the break

May 16, 2013

“Chelsea won the Europa League thanks to Branislav Ivanovic’s stoppage time header. From the side that lost to Porto at the weekend, Jorge Jesus left out Lima and Ola John, bringing back Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo to the starting line-up. Lorenzo Malgarejo replaced for the suspended Maxi Pereira, with Andre Almeida switching flanks. Rafael Benitez was without Eden Hazard, so used Ramires in a wide position, with Frank Lampard and David Luiz in the centre of midfield. Benfica were better in terms of pressing and passing, outplaying Chelsea for long periods – but they wasted some excellent first-half opportunities.” Zonal Marking

Porto 2-1 Benfica: late Kelvin winner puts Porto on the verge of the title

May 14, 2013

“A draw would have kept Benfica at the top – but a dramatic goal from substitute Kelvin means Porto go into the final day as favourites for the title. Vitor Pereira used his expected starting XI, although midfielders Joao Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez often played the other way around to their normal format. Jorge Jesus used Andre Almeida instead of Lorenzo Malgarejo at left-back, while Ola John returned with Oscar Cardozo on the bench. This was a very scrappy game with relatively little technical quality or tactical surprises.” Zonal Marking

Braga 1-2 Benfica: Lima stars on his return

January 28, 2013

“Benfica produced a fine away performance to preserve their unbeaten Liga Sagres record. Jose Peseiro was forced to use an inexperienced centre-back combination of Vincent Sasso and Max Haas. The rest of his side was roughly as expected. Jorge Jesus was without Oscar Cardozo and Ezequiel Garay. Lima started alone upfront, while Ola John was selected on the left of midfield. Braga weren’t outclassed and had some decent moments, but intelligent attacking play and swift counter-attacking meant Benfica deserved their victory.” Zonal Marking

Old habits die hard for Capello

October 14, 2012

“When Fabio Capello was unveiled as Russia manager in July, one of the most astute questions put to him by the press was from an Englishman, BBC Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford. Since the 66-year-old Capello quit the England job because of political interference — from the FA, which meddled in his choice of captain — why, Sandford mused, did Capello take a job in Russia, a country where personal autonomy is never guaranteed? (Especially if you’re a football manager earning a reported $12.5 million per year.)” ESPN

Russia, England under scrutiny as World Cup qualifying resumes

October 12, 2012

Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery, quarterfinal match
“1. Capello faces crunch match against Portugal. It’s far too early to call it a crisis, but for all the money that Russian football has lavished on players and coaches this summer, there has been precious little return — yet. The country’s two Champions League representatives, Zenit St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow, are both pointless after two group games (despite Zenit spending €80 million on Hulk and Axel Witsel and Spartak playing Celtic at home), and now attention turns to the national team, World Cup hosts in 2018.” SI

Benfica 0-2 Barcelona: Sanchez and Fabregas exploit the space between Pereira and Jardel

October 5, 2012

“Barcelona constantly attacked into an inside-left position in their comfortable victory over Benfica. Jorge Jesus chose 4-1-4-1ish system with Nemanja Matic sitting deep in midfield and Bruno Rodrigo having most license to get forward. Oscar Cardozo wasn’t fit, so Lima started alone upfront. Tito Vilanova brought back Carles Puyol into defence, while Cesc Fabregas played in Andres Iniesta’s left-centre midfield position. That turned out to be a crucial part of Barca’s gameplan – Fabregas stormed forward to turn Barcelona’s front three into a front four and overwhelmed the Benfica defence.” Zonal Marking

Tito Vilanova sticks to just tweaking Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona plan
“From the first day, the message was clear: keep calm and carry on. On 27 April, Pep Guardiola, appeared in the press room at the Camp Nou to announce that he was leaving at the end of the season. Sat among the journalists were a handful of Barcelona players but Lionel Messi was not one of them. He later said that he just couldn’t be there: the emotion was too great. Barcelona’s most successful coach was leaving, the man who symbolised the club better than anyone else, ever.” Guardian

Porto 1-0 PSG: Porto dominate with more width

October 5, 2012

“PSG remained narrow while Porto played with plenty of width – and the home side’s two wingers were the key attacking players. Vitor Pereira chose his expected line-up in the usual 4-3-3 system. Carlo Ancelotti left out Javier Pastore, preferring Jeremy Menez and Nene. At the back he brought in Mamadou Sakho. Porto played superior football throughout the match, and although PSG had a few chances on the break, Pereira’s side were fully deserving of the three points.” Zonal Marking

Carlo Ancelotti should sharpen his tactics
“For a double European Cup winner, a title winner in two major leagues, and one of the most celebrated coaches of his era, it’s surprisingly difficult to work out whether Carlo Ancelotti has any tactical nous. Wednesday night was a great example. Ancelotti’s Paris Saint-Germain club traveled to Porto and produced a poor performance completely lacking in creativity, width or ambition. PSG lost 1-0 after a late James Rodriguez goal, but the score line could have been 3-0 or 4-0 and not flattered the Portuguese champions, who had 20 shots to PSG’s eight, six on target to PSG’s two. It was a 1-0 thrashing.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The Best Football Shirts of Euro 2012

July 7, 2012

“Spain reigned supreme on the pitch, but which nation stole the sartorial show? Euro 2012 was a tame tourney for football kits when compared to some of the shock shirts of years past, but still had its fair share of gems which we will see again soon when World Cup 2014 qualifying begins this fall. And remember, all these shirts and more, including new Premier League releases for 2012-13, are available through” EPL Talk

Devaluing the Euros

July 5, 2012

“After just over three weeks of football, the world’s second biggest football tournament has played out in front of our eyes in Poland and Ukraine. Sixteen of Europe’s best teams have competed in thirty nine games to determine who would win the Henri Delaunay and join the likes of France, Holland, Denmark, West Germany, Greece and Spain in being crowned the champions of European Football. A few weeks before the tournament the bookies suggested that you should look no further than 2008 champions Spain for the winner of the tournament and when Iker Casillas elbowed Platini out of the way to lift the trophy they proved that class and form were both well judged.” The Ball is Round

Internal strife forces Blanc, Van Marwijk to pay ultimate price

July 5, 2012

“The end of a major tournament often brings a rash of coaching changes. Euro 2012 has been no different. Some, like Franciszek Smuda (Poland), Dick Advocaat (Russia) and Slaven Bilic (Croatia) already were at the end of their contracts — but Laurent Blanc and Bert van Marwijk, who coached France and Holland, respectively, were two surprise coaching casualties following Euro 2012.” SI

ZM’s team of Euro 2012

July 5, 2012

Iker Casillas, Spain
“Iker Casillas, Spain. This wasn’t a tournament of particularly fine individual goalkeeping displays, but the best two goalkeepers of the tournament – and of the century – met as captains in the final. Until the, there was nothing to separate Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, but after Casillas made a fine save from Di Natale and prompted Spain’s second goal with a good ball out to Alba, he must get the nod. …” Zonal Marking

The Reducer: Euro 2012 Final Retro Diary

July 2, 2012

“When it was over, when Fernando Torres was wearing a look on his face that said, ‘Holy shit! I won the Golden Boot!?’ I didn’t want them to leave. I didn’t want it to be over. It had been a month, but it felt like it was just beginning. Some countries wait generations to win a major football tournament. Spain, for instance, waited 44 years. Then the right generation came along. On Sunday, Spain defeated a valiant, gassed Italy, 4-0, in Kiev, to win Euro 2012. They have now won two consecutive European championships and are the World Cup holders. They are the first team to ever successfully defend their European Championship. Spain’s victory on Sunday marked the third time they won the Euros. The only other country to pull off that feat is West Germany. In terms of accomplishments, this Spanish side can only be compared to the Brazil team, led by a young Pele, that won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962, or the early ’70s West Germany team that won the Euros in 1972, the World Cup in ’74, and placed as runners-up to Czechoslovakia in Euro ’76.” Grantland (Video)

Spain sheds ‘boring’ charges in Euro 2012 final, with Italy’s help
“Everything in football is relative. How one team plays is necessarily conditioned by how the opponent plays. When Spain was accused of being boring, the response was always that it was very hard for it not to be when opponents packed men behind the ball. Italy didn’t, and Spain showed just how unboring it could be, its 4-0 win the largest margin of victory in a European Championship or World Cup final. Spain’s game plan, essentially, was a game of chicken — and it never blinked first. When opponents sat deep against it — and in the past two tournaments only Chile and Italy have not — Spain held the ball.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: Perfect Spain justify Vicente del Bosque’s beliefs
“Playing without a defined striker remains a relatively novel concept but Vicente del Bosque was actually returning to Plan A. After unsuccessful attempts to incorporate a proper No9 into his side Del Bosque reverted to his initial system of six midfielders and Spain became the first side to win the European Championship by using the same XI in their opening game and the final.” Guardian – Michael Cox

Friedrich Nietschze Reflects Upon the European Championships
“We are honored at Futfanatico to welcome Friedrich Nietschze as a visiting scholar, classical philologist, philosopher, and soccer analyst. The German intellectual heavyweight took a break from his grueling publish or perish schedule to answer pressing questions on the European Championships, the gay science, post-nihilist studies, and the final between Italy and Spain. His answers will probably confuse (but may amuse) you.” futfanatico

Spain earns the big prize, but here are my Euro 2012 tourney awards
“Spain ended two debates once and for all with its master-class performance in a sensational 4-0 Euro 2012 final victory against Italy: No, it is not boring to play with six midfielders and no clear center-forward; and yes, it deserves to be called one of the greatest teams of all time after becoming the first side to win three major international tournaments in succession.” SI

Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Bento, And The Optimal Penalty Shootout Order

June 30, 2012

“Cesc Fabregas breathed deep, took a long run-up, and slammed his penalty kick in off Rui Patricio’s right-hand post. Spain are through to the Euro 2012 final, and Portugal are out. Nine kicks were taken in the shootout; none were taken by Cristiano Ronaldo.” SD Nation (Video)

Spain 0-0 Portugal: Portugal upset Spain’s rhythm but fail to record a shot on target

June 28, 2012

“Spain defeated Portugal on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Vicente del Bosque surprisingly named Alvaro Negredo as his lone striker, meaning Cesc Fabregas dropped to the bench. The rest of the side was as expected. Paulo Bento was forced to change his striker, with Helder Postiga injured. As already announced, Hugo Almeida replaced him. A difficult game to summarise – Portugal pressed well in midfield, broke up Spain’s passing and restricted the number of opportunities del Bosque’s side had. However, they lacked a goal threat of their own, and then Spain were the better side in extra time.” Zonal Marking

Euro 2012: The Semi-Finals – Spain 0-0 Portugal (Spain Win 4-2 On Penalty Kicks
“So it was all about Cristiano Ronaldo doing nothing. And I pilloried BBC commentators for fawning over him even while he was doing nothing, when they’d actually spotted the defining moment of Portugal’s tournament. ‘Look at Ronaldo, just waiting for his opportunity’ said Steve Wilson, midway through the stultifying second half against Spain. An hour later, he was still waiting, as Cesc Fabregas’s scuffed spot-kick snuck in off a post, where Bruno Alves’s thunderously well-struck effort moments earlier had cannoned back off the crossbar.” twohundredpercent

Three thoughts: Spain advances in PKs as Ronaldo misses his moment
“Here are three thoughts on Spain’s 4-2 shootout victory (0-0 after extra time) over Portugal in the Euro 2012 semifinals … 1. Spain is deservedly one step closer to a historic achievement. No team has ever won three major international tournaments in a row, and now Spain is a mere 90 minutes from doing just that. The fact that it will have done so with three different sides, playing three different styles, makes the potential achievement all the more remarkable.” SI

Euro 2012 paper review: Spain unites to hail finalists’ shining stars
“So Spain are just one win away from becoming the first nation to win three consecutive international tournaments. Little wonder, then, that the Spanish press are in buoyant, expectant mood following Wednesday night’s Euro 2012 semi-final victory over Portugal in Donetsk.” Guardian

Was Portugal the better team?
“At the 2010 World Cup, Spain matched up with Portugal in the Round of 16. The 1-0 scoreline did not tell the story of the game. Portugal’s lackluster performance saw it outclassed and humiliated, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s only contribution of note was to spit at a cameraman as he left the field. Two years and two days later, in Donetsk, Portugal was eliminated by its neighbor again. Only this time, its organized and defiant performance suggested how much progress it has made in that time. Over the course of 120 minutes, the Portuguese refused to back down, created chances and for long periods of the first half had a nervy Spain confused and unable to impose its natural passing rhythm.” ESPN (Video)

The European Cup and the New Europe

June 26, 2012

“During international football competitions like the European Cup, eleven players briefly become their country, for a time, on the pitch. A nation is a difficult thing to grasp: unpalpable, mythic, flighty. Historians might labor away to define the precise contours of a country’s culture and institutions, and even sometimes attempt to delineate it’s soul, while political leaders try mightily (and persistently fail) to stand as representatives of it’s ideals. But in a way there is nothing quite so tactile, so real, as the way a team represents a nation: during their time on the pitch, they have in their hands a small sliver of the country’s destiny. And in those miraculous and memorable moments when individual trajectories intersect with a national sporting victory, sometimes biographies and histories seem briefly to meld. At such moments, the players who inhabit the crossroads of sporting and national history –Maradona in 1986, Zidane in 1998 — become icons, even saints.” Soccer Politics

Euro 2012 Semifinal Preview

June 26, 2012

“The four semifinalists of Euro 2012 are the four best teams in the tournament, the four that deserve to be here and the four that all played positive, attacking soccer against opponents that (in one way or another) all tried to park the bus in the quarterfinals. How often does that happen in a major tournament? Very rarely. So let’s hear it for Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal, a final four that couldn’t be finer. And let’s hear it for the sport itself, which too often rewards teams that play anti-soccer in the tournaments that matter most.” SI

Breaking down Euro 2012 semifinals

June 26, 2012

“What a tournament so far, right? As Chris Ryan noted in his quarterfinal review on Grantland, we’ve been lucky in that the more limited, defensive sides in the final eight are heading home and now we’re left with arguably the best four teams from the 16-team field. No luck, no chance — just quality and skill.” ESPN (Video)

ANALYSIS: Does Cristiano Ronaldo do it in the big games?

June 26, 2012

“In his own mind he’s the best player in the world, while in the minds of others he isn’t even in the top 10. No matter which way you look at it, Cristiano Ronaldo divides opinion. After a season in which the one-time World Player of the Year won La Liga for the first time since joining Real Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo was criticised intensely after Portugal’s first two games at Euro 2012. Never mind the 60 goals in all competitions in 2011/12, a few admittedly simple missed chances against Germany and Denmark had the public on the 27-year-old’s back once again.” Just Football

Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary: June 26, Kiev

June 26, 2012

“England are out and the inquest begins. Though the initial angst over penalties was inevitable, the long-term discussion needs to go deeper. The question should not be why do England keep losing on penalties, but why do England keep ending up in so many penalty shoot-outs. The simple fact is that England were not good enough to beat Italy over 120 minutes. Indeed, they were a very poor second. For Italy, you can substitute Portugal in 2004, Argentina in 1998 and Germany in 1996.” World Soccer

Euro 2012 Quarterfinals Preview

June 22, 2012

“…Greece vs. Germany. How They Got Here: Greece, despite all their history (the last couple of tournaments, not the battle of Sparta and Athens), have been pretty entertaining throughout Euro 2012. Or at least they’ve been involved in entertaining matches. They are an example of what happens if you just keep playing (Russia might want to write this down). After drawing with Poland and losing to the Czech Republic, they looked down. But in their third and final match, a goal from 35-year-old captain Giorgos Karagounis put them up on Russia, and saw the Greeks through to the quarters.” Grantland (Video)

Portugal 1-0 Czech Republic: Ronaldo a constant threat and eventually gets the winner

June 22, 2012

“Cristiano Ronaldo was a greater goalscoring threat than the Czech side put together, as Portugal narrowly won a game that should have been safe much earlier. Paulo Bento named an unchanged side again – he’s played this XI in Portugal’s last six competitive games, four at the Euros, two in the play-offs against Bosnia. Michael Bilek was without Tomas Rosicky again, and used Vladimir Darida rather than Daniel Kolar in Rosicky’s attacking midfield role. This was a one-sided game, with Portugal superior all over the pitch.” Zonal Marking

Ronaldo shining on international stage
“He played on the left. He played on the right. He sometimes played as a center forward. He powered Portugal into Euro 2012’s semifinals. Sixteen years ago this Saturday at Euro ’96, Czech Karel Poborsky’s unique lob sunk a Portuguese team about which so much had been expected since winning the World Youth Championships in 1991. Euro 2004 saw both teams felled by the same blunt sword when the Czechs lost to Greece in the semis. In turn, Portugal lost in that tournament’s final, a night when Cristiano Ronaldo shed teenage tears in front of a largely unsympathetic world.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: Ronaldo plays the star in victory over Czech Republic
“Three thoughts after Portugal’s 1-0 victory against the Czech Republic sent the Portuguese to the semifinals of Euro 2012: • Cristiano Ronaldo is a fantastic player. We knew this already, of course, but Ronaldo was terrific in three different positions against the Czechs: as a winger, as a No. 10 and as a center-forward. He loomed over the game like a colossus in the way that few players in the history of soccer are able to do, considering there are 11 players on each team.” SI

Euro 2012: Cristiano Ronaldo happy to lead and let team-mates follow
“Cristiano Ronaldo is emerging as the player of this tournament, or at least the striker other teams have to find a way to stop, yet it does Portugal a disservice to depict them as a one-man team. Even if by his recent standards this was a quiet, unflashy, almost workmanlike performance from the Portuguese captain, he still hit a post at both ends and scored his third goal of the competition just when his side needed it. The Czechs could not keep him out for 90 minutes, though the only goal was a team goal, with Ronaldo merely supplying the emphatic finish.” Guardian

Germany, Spain still favorites as Euro 2012 quarterfinals begin

June 20, 2012

“A new tournament starts in Euro 2012 on Thursday with the first of four quarterfinals, a showdown between Portugal and the Czech Republic here at the National Stadium. After a breathless run of 24 games in 12 days, Wednesday was the tournament’s first off-day, which gives us a chance to do a new set of power rankings and preview each quarterfinal.” SI

Gavin Hamilton Euro 2012 diary, June 20, Warsaw

June 20, 2012

“The longer England stay in this tournament, the luckier they get. Last night’s win over Ukraine – the first time England have beaten the hosts at a tournament – included a huge dose of luck, with the match officials refusing to award Ukraine a goal after Marko Devic’s shot was cleared from behind the line by John Terry. However, England demonstrated a spirit and sense of togetherness that was lacking in South Africa.” World Soccer

Portugal 2-1 Holland: van Marwijk makes changes, but Holland crash out with zero points

June 18, 2012

“Portugal suffered an early setback, but played better football and fully deserved their win. Paulo Bento kept the same starting XI for the third game in a row. Bert van Marwijk made three changes. In defence, Ron Vlaar replaced Johnny Heitinga in a straight swap. It was further forward where he made significant alterations – Rafael van der Vaart came in for Mark van Bommel in order to add some creativity to the midfield, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar started upfront, meaning Robin van Persie played just behind a and Wesley Sneijder went to the left, the system Holland used at the end of the Germany match. There was a huge contrast in styles here – Holland were a bunch of individuals without any cohesive structure, while Portugal were disciplined, organised and clear with their attacking intentions.” Zonal Marking

Ronaldo answers critics in victory
“The mark of a great player is responding in the face of criticism. An irritated and annoyed Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t hit a barn door against Denmark on Wednesday, but the Ronaldo who vies with Lionel Messi for the tag of best player in the world showed up Sunday in Portugal’s pivotal Group of Death clash with the Netherlands.” ESPN (Video)

Three thoughts: Ronaldo finds form in Portugal’s win over Netherlands
“Here are my three thoughts on Portugal’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Group B… 1. The Dutch midfield: Finally Bert van Marwijk gave the Dutch public what it wanted, dropped Mark van Bommel and played a holding pair of Nigel De Jong and Rafael van der Vaart. And finally we saw just why Van Marwijk has been so reluctant to go into games without his two dogs of war. It all started extremely well for the Dutch, Van der Vaart showing the positive side of his game as he ran on to an Arjen Robben pass and whipped a finish around Rui Patricio. That showed the advantage of playing him: not only would Van Bommel probably not have been able to produce such an instant, accurate finish, but he wouldn’t even have been that high up the pitch. The two halves of the broken team from the first two matches were suddenly linked. That gave the Dutch a flow and a rhythm but it also left it with a desperately soft center.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: Holland are sent home by Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo
“After all the speculation about the tortured arithmetic that might decide this group, the sums were simple. Germany and Portugal advance. Hope had arrived for Holland in the shape of Rafael van der Vaart’s opening goal, but Cristiano Ronaldo first equalised and then struck the winner in the second half to send his side into a quarter-final meeting with the Czech Republic.” Guardian

The Reducer: Orange Crushed

June 16, 2012

“Game of the Week: Germany 2, Holland 1. When the final whistle blew on this Group of B (B is for Death) match, one image in particular kept running through my head. There was Arjen Robben and his crinkled, baby Benjamin Button face, dickishly taking the long way around to the Dutch bench after being substituted for in the 83rd minute. He didn’t try to hype up his teammates, he didn’t shake hands with his sub, Dirk Kuyt, or give a quick man-shake to his manager. Nope, instead he tore off his jersey, parading past the famously passionate, good-traveling Holland fans, looking like a kid who’d just been Tasered while sucking on a lime.” Grantland


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