The 2012 FIFA Ballon D’or will be awarded early next year, and of the 20 candidates up for this year’s prize, one name stands out. Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi is the outstanding candidate for the coveted prize and with good reason. Throughout 2012, he has scored a massive 82 goals in all competitions, just six away from breaking the record set by legendary Germany striker Gerd Muller. Messi is the overwhelming favourite to win the prize, but who are his rivals, and can they stop him?
One of the other two major candidates for the Ballon D’or is Barca teammate Andres Iniesta. The inventive attacking midfielder has helped Messi immensely throughout his career, supplying him with endless assists against many of their opponents, but one thing Iniesta has in his favour is international success. While Messi hasn’t quite delivered with Argentina, Iniesta has enjoyed unparalleled success with Spain, playing a key role in winning and retaining the European Championships and, most impressively of all, the World Cup.
The third candidate to make it through the 20-man shortlist is Messi’s greatest rival to date, Real Madrid’s polarising Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has a record that stands up against that of Messi, and unlike the diminutive Argentine, has a La Liga winners’ medal to show for his efforts in the past year. However, what may count against him is that Real’s title defence has stuttered, and that he has underperformed since September. This may count against him when the award is given out.
The odds with Ladbrokes Sport of Messi picking up the trophy for the fourth time in succession are pretty short, but it’s hard not to bet against him, even if he hasn’t won as much as Iniesta or Ronaldo in the past 12 months. Should the award go to one of the other two, it would be a huge shock.
Until this week, when people mentioned Spain and Italy in the same sentence, many would be referring to the financial crisis that has plagued Europe for the past several years. But now that’s changed as these two soccer power will meet up in the final of the Euro 2012 tournament on Sunday in Kiev at 2:30 PM.
Many were predicting a Germany/Spain final, but Italy stunned the Germans on Thursday behind two goals by Mario Balotelli. Germany was a big favorite but I pointed out Balotelli as one of the factors that could lead to a victory by the Italian side, and those same factors now apply against Spain. Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo have been spectacular for Italy, but the entire team seems to be coming together. They dominated most of the match against Germany and unleashed a powerful counter-attack strategy with aggressive sprints and long balls that stunned the Germans.
Spain and Italy have won the last two World Cups and Spain is the defending Euro champion. But this is a very different Italian team from the one that one the World Cup back in 2006, and it’s also different from the squad that had a a disappointing finish in 2010. So Spain was a favorite at the beginning of the tournament, but now many are starting to pile on the Italian bandwagon as Spain hasn’t been dominant and the Italians seem to be playing their best football.
Still, Italy will be the underdog again on Sunday, but this should be a great game.
Most of the experts think that Germany can easily handle the Italian side in tomorrow’s Euro 2012 semifinal and one can hardly blame them given what we’ve seen from Germany so far. As usual, the Germans are living up to their pre-tournament billing with dominating performances in their first four games. In the quarterfinals, Germany easily handle Greece in a 4-2 victory.
Italy, on the other hand, has played well with a more aggressive style. But even though they thoroughly outplayed England, they had to close the game with a penalty shootout in order to seal the win after a scoreless tie in regulation.
While Italy is a traditional power, few are giving them much of a chance against a Germany team that many assumed would face Spain in the final.
There are several factors, however, that could help the Italians pull off the upset.
First, this is a typical Italian team with plenty of talent. The Italians know how to win big games as Germany found out in the 2006 World Cup, And while this Italian team isn’t nearly as good as the 2006 champions, it is very deep with quality players.
Next is the Pirlo factor. Andrea Pirlo is one of the best midfielders in the world and he completely dominated against England. He also had one of the craftiest penalty kicks in recent memory to help the Italians win that match.
And finally, we have the Balotelli factor. Mario Balotelli Barwuah is a total wild card with amazing talent despite his volatile personality. If he gets hot and has a good game, Italy can beat anyone.
This is a matchup of two soccer titans so check it out on Thursday.
With the Euro tournament about to start, soccer fans around the world are naturally excited. But unfortunately we have yet another story of racist chants aimed at black players, this time in Poland.
Concerns over potential racism from fans at Euro 2012 came to the forefront Thursday when black players for the Netherlands heard monkey chants at an open training session, one day before the tournament opens.
According to a report in British newspaper The Guardian, hundreds of the 25,000 people in attendance in Krakow, Poland, targeted players Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel with monkey noises and loud jeers.
The Dutch were training in Krakow before leaving to face Denmark in their Group B opener on Saturday at Kharkiv, Ukraine. After hearing the chants, the players moved their drills to the other side of the stadium.
“It is a real disgrace especially after getting back from Auschwitz that you are confronted with this,” Dutch captain Mark van Bommel told The Guardian. “We will take it up with UEFA and if it happens at a match we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field.”
The first time a friend told me about monkey chants at games in England I couldn’t believe my ears. As Americans we’ve had to listen to Europeans lecture us about the racial turmoil in American history, as if they were somehow superior. This from a continent where ethnic conflict led to the deaths of millions over the centuries.
Based on this story, the problem with soccer fans and racism has not gone away. UEFA initially denied what happened, which makes things even worse. If they don’t take a hard line on this, they risk staining the entire tournament and European soccer in general.
They need to stop it and shame those who are responsible.
I’m just a casual soccer fan, and I usually wait until the World Cup every four years to really get into the sport. That said, I’m glad I made some time today to check out Manchester City versus Queens Park Rangers today for the Premiership title. Man City hasn’t won in 44 years, and they needed a win today to grab the title from Manchester United.
What I saw was a stunning comeback, as Man City, trailing 2-1 going into stoppage time at the end of the match, managed to score two stunning goals in the final five minutes to win the game and claim the title.
The finish to the game was just incredible. Check out the highlights on SportsCenter if you didn’t catch the game.