Europe, Footy thoughts

French minnows Luzenac too small for Ligue 2?

AP Luzenac, a small club from a tiny village with a population of just 650 in the Pyrenees, will find out on Thursday whether they will be allowed to play in Ligue 2. Or will their dreams be crushed because in fact they are just too small.

The club were competing at amateur level in regional French leagues until 2009. That was until when they gained promotion to the Championnat de France National – the country’s third tier league. Competitive football wasn’t the easiest of transitions for them – barely surviving relegation twice in a row along with financial pressures threatened to dissolve the club. Until wealthy businessman Jérôme Ducros lend a hand of support.

Ducros brought in former Man United and France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez as managing director. Barthez, from neighbouring village Lavelanet, like the rest of France, had taken a shine to Luzenac and accepted the role. The World Cup winner proved to be a shrewd operator, luring talented players which ultimately witnessed the club finishing in second.

The club are already by far the smallest club ever to play in the French third division, but their deserved status of being the same in the second division is under threat.

With promotion secured, Luzenac began preparing for the next step – the primary concern was finding somewhere suitable to play. Their own ground, the Stade Paul Fédou, has only one stand and 400 seats and worthy of only amateur football in France. This is why they played last season at a ground in nearby Foix – but that only has a capacity of 3,000, far fewer than is required to meet Ligue 2 standards.

Ducros, at the time of writing, was hatching a plan to bring Luzenac 80 km away to Toulouse for Ligue 2 football as well as luring in some top talent both on the pitch and the sidelines.

This Thursday, the club will make their voices heard for the last time when the case is heard by a Toulouse court whose verdict will be final. Should Luzenac lose, they will have to accept getting no reward for last season’s heroics and the future will look somewhat uncertain. Barthez and Ducros fear the club could go the way of AS Valence, who were repeatedly denied entry to Ligue 2 in 2004 and soon ceased to exist.

However if they win, Ligue 2 will have to be expanded to feature 21 teams rather than 20 next season and organisers will have to devise a new fixture list accordingly – just two days before the campaign kicks off. It will be the fairytale ending they are waiting for. You never know – they may even get Cristiano Ronaldo someday.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Mavericks, Superstars

What next for Ronaldinho?

Living legend Ronaldinho and Atlético Mineiro have parted company this week after agreeing to terminate the Brazilian playmaker’s contract with immediate effect.

A decade ago, Ronaldinho was one of the most talked about players on the planet, in the same way the football-loving public rave about Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronnie won the Libertadores Cup with Alético Mineiro – the first time he or the club lifted the continent’s most biggest club prize.

The Brazilian international wowed audiences for his magical displays for PSG, Barcelona and Milan, the three clubs he turned out for when widely considered to be at his peak. Ronaldinho done things with the ball most of us could only dream of.

His agent, who is also his brother, Roberto de Assis has stated that the former Ballon d’Or winner wishes to play until he is 42 (similar to compatriot and fellow genius Rivaldo) and that his new club will be revealed this week. 

It was suggested that Ronnie would be the ideal replacement for Juan Roman Riquelme, who left Boca Juniors for city rivals Argentinos Juniors. Though there is much speculation that some MLS teams are also interested with all eyes on New York City FC for any potential news.

Either way, Ronaldinho may be 34, but the man is a sheer genius. Yes, his partying lifestyle may have led to the decline of his brilliance, but he can still do things with a ball that you and I dream of. Lucky will be the club that lands ‘Dinho’s signature. 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Mavericks, Superstars

Five great players who are currently free agents (part 1)

We’re right in the thick of the summer transfer window and some big signings are taking place. But there’s some players, decent players too, that won’t cost a penny.

Samuel Eto’o
The Cameroon international may be reaching the final few seasons of his career, but he remains a world-class striker. The former Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker can still, at the age of 33, find the back of the net no problem and would be an ideal addition to many squads. At the time of writing ‘Arry Redknapp is lining up a move to bring the star to QPR.

Victor Valdes
The former Barcelona goalkeeper left the Camp Nou nineteen years after first joining the club’s academy at the age of 13. The Spanish international was originally supposed to sign for Monaco, but failed a medical having not fully recovered from an injury that left Valdes out for the second half of last season. The World Cup winner has previously said that he would be interested in a move to Italy or England.

Georgios Samaras
The Greek international has been something of a fans favourite at Celtic Park for the past number of seasons. Still only 29, Samaras, who scored in the World Cup against Ivory Coast, helped Greece reach the final 16 of the tournament. Having previously tuned out for Man City and Heerenveen, he would be likely to be snapped up by a decent team thought it’s rumoured that Ronny Deila is open to re-signing Samaras for the Bhoys.

Guillermo Ochoa
I first came across the Mexican ‘keeper when he turned out for Club America some years ago and featured him in my ‘Ones To Watch’ section some four years ago. Last month the entire world witnessed Ochoa turn out some phenomenal performances in the World Cup. Ochoa recently played for Ajaccio in Ligue 1, and judging by how he performed recently, he shouldn’t have any trouble finding a new club. Lucky the club that can land his signature.

Nicklas Bendtner
The Danish international has something of a bad-boy image, but is still a very decent forward and is fantastic in the air. Bendtner’s nine years at Arsenal is now at an end, but has enjoyed loan spells at Birmingham and Sunderland as well as a disappointing time at Juventus where he failed to score a single goal in Serie A. Regardless, still at the age of just 26, Bendtner has a lot to offer any club. And I do mean a lot! (So long as he keeps his head down that is.)

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footballers' mad moments, Superstars

Luis Suarez: not the first gifted bad-boy at Barcelona

The words “flawed genius” is thrown about a lot. In the case of Luis Suarez, this certainly seems to be justified. His performances for Liverpool last year alone stunned audiences and, let’s be honest, his fellow professionals.

Barcelona’s President Josep Maria Bartomeu, director of football Andoni Zubizarreta and new manager Luis Enrique know exactly what the Uruguayan is like – both good and bad. His arrival at the club is one without an official presentation and also a ban that won’t see him turn out for the Catalans until well into October. 

458743731-486497

He is a player very reminiscent of Hristo Stoitchkov, who was  part of Johan Cruyff‘s ‘Dream Team’, and helped Barcelona to one of the most successful eras of the club in the early 1990′s.

Playing in El Clásico in 1990, the referee was concerned about Stoitchkov’s aggression against the Madrid players. The referee said to Cruyff to “tell the bull to cool down or I will send him to the cattle-pen,” and Stoichkov duly responded by stamping on the referee’s foot. That moment of madness led to a two-month ban.

The Bulgarian was remembered for his moments of genius on the pitch, but his place in Catalan folklore is assured by his frequent anti-Madrid statements such as  “I will always hate Madrid. There’s just something about them that gets up my nose. Speaking about them makes me want to vomit. I would rather the ground opened up and swallowed me than accept a job with them”.

Luis Suarez has had way more than his fair share of moments of madness already. Some say he’s a genius with a ball, which he is, while others say there’s something not quite right to make him lash out at opponents, which is also true.

But all Barça fans think that he could well do something outrageous again. They know that Suarez has the capabilities to be a game changer and a match winner. Barcelona are getting an incredible talent. If he bites an opponent yet again, he’ll face huge sanctions. If he scores the winner in the Bernebéu, he’ll earn his place in Barça folklore. 

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

Footy thoughts

Some cracking (& not so cracking) jerseys of 2014/15

Club football is now in pre-season and some of football’s finest (and not so finest kits) will be on display on a fooball pitches and our TV screens soon. Here’s a round-up of just some what’s on offer:

Bayern have gone for the red and blue stripes this year. Presumably to make Pep feel more comfortable.
Bayern 14-15 Home Kit (1)

Ashley Cole and AS Roma will be wearing this classic look jersey.
AS Roma 14-15 Home Kit (1)

Barcelona have gone for the classic 70′s thick stripes.
FC Barcelona 14-15 Home Kit (1)

 

Puma’s super slims jerseys is what Arsenal will be in next season.
Arsenal-14-15-Home-Kit

Inter Milan will be in this classy looking one.
Nike-Inter-14-15-Home-Kit (1)

Real Madrid simple design is a beaut.
Real Madrid 14-15 Home Kit (1)

PSV have returned to their traditional stripes.
PSV 14-15 Home Kit (1)

West Ham’s vintage feel is a nice one.
West_Ham-United-14-15-Home-Kit (1)

Borussia Dortmund fans will stick out a mile away with this one.
Borussia-Dortmund-14-15-Home-Kit-Authentic

Marseille will be wearing this classic for Le Classique.
Olympique Marseille 14-15 Home Kit (2)

Man United’s new sponsor sticks out like a bit of an eyesore on this one
Manchester-United-14-15-Home-Kit (2)

Wolfsburg’s new kit looks like a flag you’d see at Celtic Park
VfL-Wolfsburg-14-15-Home-Kit

AC Milan have gone for this rather bizarre style.
Milan 14-15 Home Kit

 

These are just some of the designs for the big clubs that stuck out, but I know I’m missing some out there that are either a) gorgeous or b) frighteningly hideous. Please, dear readers, send on the best and worst jerseys for the upcoming season via Twitter or Facebook.

Football's greatest moments, Internationals, Superstars

The good, bad and the ugly of the 2014 World Cup

I was gutted for Lionel Messi. I really was. I wanted the little genius to become a world champion, like the player he is so often compared to, Diego Maradona. But it wasn’t to be. The right team won and pretty much everyone agrees on that.

Mario Götze’s 113th minute goal proved to be too much for an Argentina side that just couldn’t match them. Earlier in the game, Gonzalo Higuain’s goal on the half hour mark was correctly ruled offside, but Argentina never looked as threatening after that. Even Messi made a few rare mistakes. More than a few in fact. But Germany – deserved winners.

phillylahm

 

Let’s have a look back at some of the competition’s highlights.

The good:
The best match of the tournament for me was Germany’s 1-7 thrashing of Brazil. I am not sure if Brazil were simply poor without Thiago Silva and Neymar, or whether Germany were just too damn good. Perhaps a bit of both.

04306223_2-487699

James Rodríguez’s goal was simply stunning and I nearly fell out of my chair in awe. The last time that happened was also from a goal that was scored in a World Cup and also scored by a person named Rodriguez. Tim Cahill’s goal must be mentioned also – wow!

The competition also made some players stand out and some of the big clubs will be very interested in players such as Guillermo Ochoa, Daley Blind or Mats Hummels.

The bad:
Aside from being a brilliant tournament, there was definitely one or two games that were slightly dull. The Netherlands v Argentina was one that stuck out. All those amazing players on display yet it was 0-0 after 90 minutes.

The third-place play-off is possibly the most meaningless game in the history of the sport. Can we scrap that for the 2018 tournament? It depressing watching all 22 men looking tired and unhappy after a match at this level in such a prestigious competition.

2014-06-13T195721Z_01_TIM230_RTRIDSP_3_SOCCER-WORLD-M03-ESP-NED-13-06-2014-23-06-24-5

Spain. What happened? Tiki-taka, thrilling football, superstar players? The former world champions died a very public death in the competition. Sad to see.

There was something unnerving about watching thousands of people climb the staircase into the Maracana stadium in Rio. Mainly because it shaking so much I am surprised it didn’t collapse.

The ugly:
Luis Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini. Not his first time and again very pointless. But I’ll be talking about the Uruguayan in depth in an upcoming blog post.

1297575696918_ORIGINAL

My World Cup XI:

(4-2-3-1)
G.Ochoa

Lahm, Hummels, Vlaar, Blind

Schweinsteiger, Mascherano

Robben, J.Rodriguez, Neymar

Müller

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Internationals

What a World Cup: And then there were two

Now we are down to the very last of it – the final of the 2014 World Cup. And what a competition it has been: the sheer quality of football from certain players, the bravery from certain teams, the glory of mind-blowing goals, the controversy, the glory, the unpredictability. Good heavens, can we get rid of league football and just have nine World Cups instead?

Last Tuesday witnessed the unpredictable: Brazil were beaten – no, completely outplayed and destroyed – by Germany by 7-1. Yes, seven!

Brazil-Germany-records

The ridiculously brilliant Thomas Müller opened the scoring after eleven minutes, followed by another four before I had even blinked. Five-nil at half-time was followed up by André Schürrle’s two second-half goals making it seven before Oscar’s last minute consolation pulled one back for Brazil. Far too little, way too late. Brazil haven’t been this humiliated since, well, ever!

Wednesday was the other semi-final between The Netherlands and Argentina which wasn’t the most exciting of games to watch, but for me the Argentines looked like the only team truly keen to win it. And they just about did.

After 120 minutes, the Dutch had to look to Jasper Cillessen as their keeper for the shoot-out as LVG had used up all his substitutes so was unable to bring on Tim Krul, who was the hero Costa Rica in the quarter-finals.

7D56F8CC-71CF-4712-A6A2-3E156EFD7C17_cx0_cy2_cw0_mw1024_s_n

But it wasn’t to be as Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved Ron Vlaar’s and Wesley Sneijder’s penalties, and it was former-Liverpool winger Maxi Rodriguez who scored the penalty to put Argentina into the final.

The final in Rio on Sunday will be Lionel Messi’s greatest test at international level, and the opportunity to silence critics who forever compare him to the great Diego Maradona by lifting the World Cup as captain of Argentina – just as El Diego did in the peak of his career in 1986.

But Messi & co. will be facing an extremely organised and tough Germany side and, if I’m honest, a Germany side who could cause Argentina severe problems. Maybe not beating them 7-1 as they did against Brazil, but certainly enough problems to score early, outplay and dishearten the Argentine defence. The South Americans will have to play better than they did all tournament in my opinion.

The Argentine press have been giving FIFA stick about how Germany have had an extra day’s rest and to prepare, but are still heavily relying on Messi to deliver the goods. Germany, who are the bookies’ favourites, are already planning their homecoming by announcing a parade at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Argentina could spoil the party. Literally. 

The third place play-off is on Saturday at 9pm as Brazil face The Netherlands at the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia. The final between Germany and Argentina kicks off 24 hours later in the Maracanã.

P.S. – If you fancy watching the match with the blog, Whelans of Wexford Street in Dublin are throwing a little shindig in their main room with the match being shown on a large screen, some cheap drinks on offer and even a short DJ set from yours truly. Check out the poster below and do come down from 8pm – it’s free in.

worldcupwhelans

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

Footy thoughts, Superstars

Alfredo di Stéfano R.I.P.

Football today lost of the true greats in the history of the game following the news of the death of Alfredo di Stéfano, aged 88. The former player and manager, nicknamed “Saeta rubia” (“blond arrow”), is very often listed as one of the greats alongside names such as Pelé, Maradona and Cruyff. 

Di Stefano, twice a Ballon d’or winner, will be remembered for his sheer brilliance on the pitch as well as his performances which helped his beloved Real Madrid win five consecutive European Cup trophies.

Arguably the greatest player in Real Madrid’s history, his memory won’t be forgotten by the footballing world.

Here was the reaction on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ManUtd/status/486175007345618944

Rest in peace, Señor.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

 

Internationals

World Cup semi-finals: Then there were four…

Football fans’ mouths are watering worldwide as two very tasty World Cup semi-final fixtures are set to be played. The last four will see Brazil take on Germany tomorrow night at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, while on Wednesday The Netherlands face Argentina in the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.

Brazil overcame Colombia in Fortaleza in the quarter-finals. Many, myself included, were doubtful if they would. Colombia have been playing some excellent football led by 22-year old superstar James Rodríguez. Two goals from defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz put the hosts ahead before Rodríguez’s 80th minute goal pulled one back for Colombia but it wasn’t enough.

Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Colombia

Germany squeezed into the semis after their 1-0 victory against France. The goal came within the opening quarter of an hour as Mats Hummels’ header shot past Hugo Lloris from (future Real Madrid player according to the Spanish press) Tony Kroos’ free kick. Didier Deschamps’ men failure to produce an equaliser meant that they were eliminated disappointingly early, while Germany reach a record fourth straight World Cup semi-final. 

germany france

Argentina deservedly went though to the semis following the 1-0 victory over Belgium in the Brazilian capital Brasília. It’s the South American nation’s first time to reach a semi-final since finishing runner up at Italia ’90. Belgium didn’t have the wit to overpower Argentina who could have scored more than the one goal. 

messiarg

The Netherlands just about made their way into the semis, following a dramatic penalty shoot-out against everybody’s second favourite World Cup team Costa Rica. After a goalless 120 minutes in the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Louis van Gaal made the gamble of bringing on goalkeeper Tim Krul in place of Jasper Cillessen. It was a gamble that paid off as Newcastle ‘keeper Krul saved penalties from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to put the Dutch through. Cue every newspaper praising both van Gaal and Costa Rica, even if it was a Krul way to be eliminated from the World Cup.

krullvg

This festival of football is in my opinion without a doubt the finest World Cup from memory. It has had so much memorable moments from the good, the bad, and the ugly – but we’ll talk about that next week.

Now we are down to the last four. Imagine if we got a Brazil v Argentina or Netherlands v Germany final. Two historic and geographical rivalries. These really are tasty fixtures coming up.

This week it is:

Tuesday
Brazil
21:00
Germany
Wednesday
Netherlands
21:00
Argentina
All times are Irish times.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Internationals

And then there were eight…

I must say, and I know I’m not alone in saying this, but the standard of football and the entertainment value in the matches during this World Cup is, from my memory, the best one yet.

I’ll start off with James Rodriguez‘s smashing goal against Uruguay last Saturday is not the firm favourite for goal of the tournament (sorry, RVP). And what a talent the Colombian is. Just don’t expect him to move anywhere after the tournament – Monaco only signed him last summer – for €45 million. Forty-five million!

Speaking of players moving, you can be guaranteed that Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will easily find a new club having run out his contract with French side Ajaccio. His performances in the tournament have been frankly unbelievable. (You remember Guillermo from this blog back in 2010, right?)

Another player on the move is the most talked about player in it – and not for the right reasons. Yes, Luis Suarez seems to be likely on his way to Catalonia to join giants Barcelona from Liverpool. The Uruguayan was, as you know, banned for four months for biting into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini‘s shoulder last week but Suarez apologised publicly 24 hours after dismissing the incident as malicious.

The apology is widely reported as being at Barça’s insistence for the transfer to go ahead which seems likely as being the case. The deal could mean that Chilean superstar Alexis Sánchez could be on his way to Anfield as part-exchange. Which, believe me, is a serious addition for Liverpool. (In fact, when Alexis was at Udinese, I wrote on this blog: “Lucky the club will be that signs Alexis Sánchez“)

But back to the World Cup itself…now there are just eight teams left:

Brazil, who haven’t been amazing this tournament except Neymar, will face Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday. It will be one tasty fixture. As will be the day’s other fixture - France v Germany. Can the French upset the mighty German team who many pick as favourites to make it to the final? Don’t write off Les Bleus just yet.

Salvador will play host to an interesting fixture in The Netherlands versus everyone’s new second favourite team, Costa Rica. The Dutch are still a powerhouse in international football, but aren’t without their flaws as the Mexicans exposed last Sunday. In fact, the Dutch were lucky to get through. What Costa Rica lack in technical skill, make up for in heart. And that can win games this far into a tournament. The pressure is on The Netherlands, not Costa Rica. And both managers will know that.

Finally the other quarter final is Argentina v Belgium. It’ll be an interesting tie, and Argentina will be favourites. But I’m not so sure. They seemed weak at the back at times and their superstar player Leo Messi made a few mistakes that had previously been unseen at club level. But they’ve got some ridiculous amount of talent. Even their bench is made up of superstars. Belgium, on the other hand, are hungry for success. They can be pushed in a corner and put under pressure, as the USA showed last night against them. This one, I predict, might go to extra time and possibly beyond.

So to recap:

Quarter-finals
(Friday)
France
17:00
Germany
Brazil
21:00
Colombia
(Saturday)
Argentina
17:00
Belgium
Netherlands
21:00
Costa Rica
All times are in Ireland Time
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Internationals

Cristiano crashes out as the World Cup second round begins

That’s the group stages out of the way and players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Mandžukić, Andrés Iniesta, Yaya Touré, Andrea Pirlo and Wayne Rooney all waved goodbye to Brazilian shores as they were eliminated from the World Cup.

Below is a list of how the groups finished.

 

#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Brazil
3
2
1
0
7
2
5
7
2
 Mexico
3
2
1
0
4
1
3
7
3
 Croatia
3
1
0
2
6
6
0
3
4
 Cameroon
3
0
0
3
1
9
-8
0
Group B
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Netherlands
3
3
0
0
10
3
7
9
2
 Chile
3
2
0
1
5
3
2
6
3
 Spain
3
1
0
2
4
7
-3
3
4
 Australia
3
0
0
3
3
9
-6
0
Group C
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Colombia
3
3
0
0
9
2
7
9
2
 Greece
3
1
1
1
2
4
-2
4
3
 Ivory C.
3
1
0
2
4
5
-1
3
4
 Japan
3
0
1
2
2
6
-4
1
Group D
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Costa Rica
3
2
1
0
4
1
3
7
2
 Uruguay
3
2
0
1
4
4
0
6
3
 Italy
3
1
0
2
2
3
-1
3
4
 England
3
0
1
2
2
4
-2
1
Group E
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 France
3
2
1
0
8
2
6
7
2
 Switzerland
3
2
0
1
7
6
1
6
3
 Ecuador
3
1
1
1
3
3
0
4
4
 Honduras
3
0
0
3
1
8
-7
0
Group F
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Argentina
3
3
0
0
6
3
3
9
2
 Nigeria
3
1
1
1
3
3
0
4
3
 Bosnia &Herz
3
1
0
2
4
4
0
3
4
 Iran
3
0
1
2
1
4
-3
1
Group G
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Germany
3
2
1
0
7
2
5
7
2
 U.S.A.
3
1
1
1
4
4
0
4
3
 Portugal
3
1
1
1
4
7
-3
4
4
 Ghana
3
0
1
2
4
6
-2
1
Group H
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Belgium
3
3
0
0
4
1
3
9
2
 Algeria
3
1
1
1
6
5
1
4
3
 Russia
3
0
2
1
2
3
-1
2
4
 S.Korea
3
0
1
2
3
6
-3
1

There was no football on Friday (yes, I was sweating), but the 2nd round continues tonight in Belo Horizonte as Brazil take on Chile.

The second round in full is:

Brazil v Chile

Colombia v Uruguay

Netherlands v Mexico

Costa Rica v Greece

France v Nigeria

Germany v Algeria

Argentina v Switzerland

Belgium v USA

Roll on 5pm Saturday.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Internationals, Mavericks

Suarez four month ban the final straw for Liverpool?

Bad news for both Uruguay and Liverpool as FIFA have banned Uruguay’s Luis Suarez from all “football-related activities” for four months for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, ruling the star player out for the rest of the World Cup as well as the start of the domestic season.

It if of course the third time Suarez has bitten an opponent. Once is too many.

 

Social media understandably exploded following the incident on Tuesday. People were calling for a lifetime ban, others were calling for an international ban. Suarez, who had the support of all the Liverpool players, staff and indeed fans following previous incidents, will now miss nine Premier League matches and three crucial Champions League games.

Liverpool can feel hard done by. Essentially they are suffering for his actions while on international duty. But ultimately it is Suarez let the club and himself down.

So what are Liverpool’s options?

They can stand by him and keep one of the world’s greatest players. Or cash in on what some might see as something of a liability as well as a genius.

Suarez has a market value of around €80 million. But he is so often the difference between winning and losing for Liverpool and played an enormous role in the club’s impressive winning streak towards the end of last season.

According to Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague that both Real Madrid and Barcelona, as of this morning, knowing a punishment was imminent, still want the Uruguayan striker.

Luis Suarez

Liverpool would obviously need a replacement for Suarez. So a cash-plus-player deal would be tempting for Brendan Rodgers with Barcelona rumoured to be willing to offer €45 million plus Chilean star Alexis Sanchez.

Whatever the outcome, Suarez is still a supremely talented player. But he needs to take a look in the mirror and ask himself why he does these things.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

Internationals

Could hosts Brazil fall at the next hurdle?

That’s a good question. They played fantastic tonight and Neymar, the superstar youngster and poster-boy of the Seleção, was in fine form with a double against Cameroon. 

They have an advantage with the home support no question. But Brazil, who started the tournament as the bookies’ favourites, haven’t impressed me enough to believe that they are a World Cup winning team.

Brazil now face Chile on 28th June in Belo Horizonte and Luiz “Big Phil” Scolari will be more than aware of Chile’s performances. Despite losing 2-0 at the hands of The Netherlands (who I am tipping to win the tournament dare I say it), Jorge Sampaoli’s men have been extremely organized and can be a very dangerous opposition for the Brazilians.

But it’s a tasty fixture for the neutral fan.

Tomorrow’s games are:

Group D
Costa Rica
17:00
England
Group D
Italy
17:00
Uruguay
Group C
Greece
21:00
Côte d’Ivoire
Group C
Japan
21:00
Colombia

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Internationals

So how is everyone enjoying the World Cup so far?

It hasn’t exactly gone to plan has it, this World Cup? It seems like nobody has read the script. But it sure is, at least in my view as a neutral, an incredible tournament. I mean, did Costa Rica really beat Uruguay? It appears that they in fact did. Did the Netherlands put five past current holders Spain? They most definitely did. Did Cristiano Ronaldo, the current World player of the year, really appear almost anonymous in Portugal’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany? Why, yes he did.

It’s been quite the World Cup so far. Pressure is mounting. Tensions (as a poor ball boy discovered at the hands of Joe Hart) are building. Watching it at home has been nothing but a treat.

The current holders Spain are out. OK, I’ll admit it, I did not see that coming. Don’t pretend you did because you didn’t. La Roja’s back-to-back defeats at the hands of Chile and the Netherlands proved fatal. Tiki-taka RIP.

But what went wrong for the Spanish?

Was it tactics? Team selection? A little bit of both in my view. To begin with, Iker Casillas, who spent much of last season as Real Madrid’s second choice ‘keeper, was starting because of Del Bosque’s loyalty towards his 2010 World Cup-winning captain. And Fernando Torres was there on reputation, but I assume Del Bosque hasn’t been to Stamford Bridge for the past twelve months.

But, for the neutral, this makes compelling viewing.

Hosts Brazil have been incredibly underwhelming, haven’t they? In most bookmakers, they were the favourites, and Neymar was the favourite to become the top goalscorer. But judging by their first two games, they aren’t blowing everyone’s minds. Yes, they may qualify. A draw or a win against Cameroon next Monday will see them through to the next round. But then they face either Chile or the Netherlands – two of the most impressive teams in the competition.

England face Uruguay tonight. It’s a must-win game for both teams as they both tasted defeat in their opening games – England to Italy and Uruguay, amazingly, to Costa Rica. It was Roy Keane who said on ITV that England will “struggle” in the competition (and right beside England captain Steven Gerrard). He’s not wrong. Though Uruguay were a shadow of themselves the other night, but with star player Luis Suarez likely to start, it could be the kick the team needs.

Interesting times on football’s biggest stage.

Tonight’s games are:

Group C
Colombia
17:00
Côte d’Ivoire
Group D
Uruguay
20:00
England
Group C
Japan
23:00
Greece

Let Rob Smith know what you think of the World Cup so far on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Internationals, Superstars

World Cup heroes #8: Pelé

I hope you enjoyed the profiles of World Cup heroes I have been blogging daily for the past week. With the day that’s in it, I finish up with a Brazilian and one of the greatest ever players of the sport, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known to you or me simply as Pelé

He famously burst onto the scene at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where he was the star of the tournament at the tender age of 17 and scored no less than two of the goals in the final. Injury prevented him from competing in nearly all of the 1962 competition, but with Garrincha leading the troops, Pelé, who was then rated as the best player in the world, earned his second World Cup winners medal.

Injury again kept the striker out for almost all of the 1966 tournament, but it was the 1970 World Cup, where Pelé led what is known was one of the greatest teams of all time, to World Cup triumph. Even his near misses are as glorious as his actual goals and assists. Watch below.

Anyway, the 2014 World Cup is starting. Shall we…?

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)