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Euro 2012 QF 3: Spain vs France pre match predictions

Prevailing logic says that France’s loss to Sweden and their ensuing internal arguments will result in the usual result – France getting summarily eliminated from a major tournament.  Normally I’d subscribe to that notion.  However, Spain hasn’t been special and France made lineup changes that didn’t work out, so look for Blance to go back to a more familiar lineup when the game kicks off tomorrow.  Spain should be slightly favored but a French upset, while not probable, would be only a mild surprise.  Spain be hoping this match doesn’t go to extra time – that will hurt them against the well rested Portugese.  France will be hoping for penalties.

Why France will win

  1. Menez and Cabaye will re-enter the lineup replacing Ben Arfa and possibly M’Vila or Diarra.  That will provide more offense for France, especially from Menez who was very lively against Ukraine in the group stage.  If he has a good game, it will force Jordi Alba to stay back and help even out the imbalance in midfield that any team playing Spain has to face.
  2. Ribery will dominate Arbeloa.  Puyol’s absence has moved Ramos to central defense from the right back slot and his replacement, Alvaro Arbeloa, is competent but slow.  Ribery has to have a big game for France to have a chance and he is likely to enjoy going against Arbeloa.  Just like Menez, if Ribery has a good game, it will force Silva to drop back to help on defense, thus evening numbers in midfield.
  3. Benzema has assisted on the majority of the French goals, but has yet to get on the scoresheet.  It bodes well for France as he goes against a familiar defense in his club teammates Arbeloa, Ramos and Casillas.  The Benz is due.
  4. Spain is not the usual Spain.  Puyol and Villa’s absence has hurt them at critical positions and Xavi is not playing at his normal high level.  Everything is just a little off for the Spaniards and there is unease about how well Ramos and Pique will perform together in the middle if they are put under real pressure.  Their dislike of each other is common knowledge and the last thing Spain needs at the knockout stage.

Why Spain will win

  1. France’s undefeated run is over, there is infighting and neither Ribery nor Benzema have scored at Euro 2012.  That is a not a great recipe for success at this stage.  Spain is seasoned, used to winning and the manner in which they ground out their World Cup win will help them as they get to the business end of this tournament.
  2. Mexes is suspended which probably means that Koscielny gets the start.  While Mexes didn’t cover himself with glory against Sweden, and Koscielny does have more pace and has played well against Messi and Barcelona the last few times they have met in the Champions League, starting at center back in a tournament for the first time in a quarterfinal match against the defending World and European champions is a daunting task for Koscielny.  He is prone to making errors and there is a high likelihood that happens again today.
  3. Spain’s midfield domination will result in France struggling to score.  Cabaye or M’Vila have to have huge games in order for Nasri, Ribery, Benzema and Menez to get enough touches to score.  That will be tough.  Add in the fact that France doesn’t really have aerial threats to score off of dead balls and it just means they will have to have a lot of luck to beat Spain.
  4. Iniesta.  And Cesc.  Iniesta has been in great form and Debuchy will struggle to stay with him.  Cesc continues to do what he has done so well for Barcelona this past season – score off of well timed late runs into space behind the defense.  That should be enough to Spain to win this match.

Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 France 0

Spain will score a goal in the second half and hold France off.  Iniesta or Cesc to score for Spain.

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Euro 2012 Pre-Quarterfinal predictions – Updated Winner

This is what I wrote pre-tournament:

The knockout rounds

QF 1: Russia vs Netherlands (Netherlands to advance)

QF 2: Germany vs Poland (Germany to advance)

QF 3: Spain vs England (Spain to advance)

QF 4: France vs Ireland (France to advance)

Yes, all top four seeds to go through. Pretty predictable – which means upsets are sure to come.

Spain beats Netherlands in SF1 and Germany beats France in SF2 with Germany beating Spain in the finals.

The current odds have Spain and Germany more or less even at around 3/1, with the Netherlands around 6/1, France at 10/1 and England and Italy at about 15/1.  The dark horse in this tournament is the Netherlands (if you can call them a dark horse as the third best team), while my upset pick is Portugal (which at 20/1 is “well worth a flutter” as the Brits put it).  The Player of Euro 2012 will be Mesut Ozil.

Now that we know what’s happened, I had only 4 out of 8 quarter finalists correct and only two positions correct i.e. that Spain and Germany would win their groups.  Of all of the upsets, I would say the Czech Republic winning Group A is the biggest and at this stage I feel like other than the Czech Republic and Greece, any of the other six teams can win Euro 2012.  While Germany has won all 3 games and Spain has won 2 and drawn 1, neither has shown that they are runaway winners.  With a chance to step up and display their class before the knockout rounds, both teams were potentially on course to get knocked out of the tournament with 10 minutes to go in their last match.  Not championship confirming credentials.  That said, they are both on course and still my picks to get to the final and Germany is still the tournament favorite in my book.

The UPDATED knockout rounds

QF 1: Czech Republic vs Portugal (Portugal to advance)

QF 2: Germany vs Greece (Germany to advance)

QF 3: Spain vs France (Spain to advance)

QF 4: England vs Italy (Italy to advance)

Any of the eight teams can win their quarterfinal match.  It’s that close.  However, I think the only one that isn’t a stone cold lock in my book is England vs Italy with the Italians probably slightly favored in this encounter.

Spain beats England in SF1 and Germany beats Portugal in SF2 with Germany beating Spain in the finals.

That said, don’t be surprised if Portugal wins this tournament and England gets to the finals.  Portugal was my upset pick pre tournament and as long as Pepe and Bruno Alves don’t pick up two yellow cards before the final, they can absolutely beat Germany and get to the finals where they can get past Spain, England or France.  The one team they will struggle against may be Italy.  The Player of Euro 2012 so far has been… no one.  Pilar, Pepe, Mario Gomez, Karagounis, Iniesta, Benzema, Gerrard and Pirlo have all been huge for their teams, but this is the time for the big guns to step up. I think an odds on bet now would suggest a Real Madrid player will be the player of the tournament with Ozil, Ronaldo and Benzema all going to have to be huge for their teams to win Euro 2012.  I still like Ozil to be this Euros’ Xavi – though if Ozil does his job for Germany, it will be Mario Gomez in a landslide as top goal scorer and player of the tournament.


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Euro 2012 Matches 23 and 24: Sweden vs France, England vs Ukraine pre-game predictions

When favorites win, predictions usually seem to be on.  That’s what has happened the last two days.  Will tomorrow be any different?

Sweden is supposedly going to be playing a lot of second string players now that they have been eliminated from the tournament.  If Ibrahimovic doesn’t play, it will obviously be a big boost for France.  Sometimes, when reserve players play – and these aren’t scrubs but full internationals – and they aren’t under any pressure to get a result, the underdog usually does well.  However, with France knowing that a loss could eliminate them from the tournament if the other game ends in a draw, they will go all out to win.   Add to that the benefit of not having to play Spain in the next round if France wins this match by enough of a margin – though it’s not entirely clear whether you would want to play Italy or Spain in a knockout match at this stage – and that’s enough for me to predict a France win.  Stone cold lock.

Pre-game prediction: France 2 Sweden 0

Benzema and Ribery to score for France.

The England game could go either way.  What does Roy do now?  Draw and England are through.  But, you are playing the host country who have to win to go through with Shevchenko possibly out… or possibly in for a glorious finish.  What if you sit back and give up a late goal – can you come back?  I believe he will choose the safe path.  Start Welbeck up front with Rooney in the slot.  Young on the left, Gerrard on the right and Milner and Parker at holding midfield.  I wouldn’t start Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott initially.  They are to come on for Young and Milner depending on what the score is in the second half.  The interesting thing will be to see how Rooney and Gerrard play.  My feeling is you should let Rooney have a free role in the slot and have Gerrard drop more centrally between Parker and Milner.  It would be a modified Christmas tree that let’s Roy see if the Manchester United trio can do the business at the goal end of the tree.

Pre-game prediction: England 1 Ukraine 1

England could easily score three again, but I think it will be Gerrard for England and Yarmolenko for Ukraine.

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Euro 2012 Match 15: Ukraine vs France pre-game predictions

Ukraine is not going to surprise France.  Shevchenko is not going to surprise Mexes.  Yarmolenko is not going to surprise Evra.  Blokhin is not going to surprise Blanc.  France hasn’t lost in 22 games.  This will not be the first loss.  I also don’t  believe they can be comfortable with a draw as that would put too much pressure on their last game against Sweden.

This is going to be a more open game and France will have more space than they did against England.  I respect Ukraine’s front three and Tymoshchuk did a great job in the holding midfield position.  However, Ribery and Nasri will be too much for the Ukrainian defense.  I would like to see Blanc be more aggressive and putting Ben Arfa in the starting lineup.

Pre-match prediction: Ukraine 1 France 2

Benzema and Ribery will score for France and Yarmolenko to reduce the margin for Ukraine.

 

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Euro 2012 Match 7: England vs France pre-game predictions

No Lampard, no Beckham and no Zidane.  Will this matchup live up to the one in Euro 2004 when Lampard scored first, Becks missed a penalty that would have put the match beyond doubt and then England were defeated courtesy of a late double by Zidane?  I doubt it.  France comes into the tournament on a long unbeaten streak, but they haven’t hit the heights in the lead in to Euro 2012 and England seems incapable of scoring more than one goal in any match with the lineup and tactics Hodgson is employing.

Why England will win

  1. Hodgson has instilled his traditional game plan of being solid defensively with two banks of four and speed utilized to break on the counter and grab a goal against the run of play.  It’s pragmatic and he certainly has the speed in the lineup.
  2. England’s injuries, new coach and absence of talismanic Rooney has reduced expectations and the accompanying pressure that has seemed to paralyze past England squads.  Not much is expected of this England squad and that could be the key to unlocking the potential of the squad – with a lot of luck.
  3. England finally has a top goalkeeper in Joe Hart.  It’s been ten years since David Seaman played in goal (and if you don’t consider him a top keeper, you have to go back to 1983 for Ray Clemence).  Since then the “Golden Generation” has had to play with the likes of Scott Carson, Rob Green, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Paul Robinson, David James and Richard Wright in goal.
  4. They have game changers in the speedy Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  If Welbeck is fit, his partnership with Young will be dangerous.
  5. Group stage games aren’t decided on penalties.

Why France will win

  1. England’s injuries mean that there is no real continuity in defense.  It is tough to play a coordinated defensive strategy that Hodgson’s system requires when you haven’t had enough time to familiarize yourself with it given Roy’s recent hiring and you have had to change the central defenders following Rio’s withdrawal and Cahill’s injury.
  2. Rooney is not playing, Welbeck is just returning from an ankle injury and Defoe has just suffered a personal tragedy.  England has no depth to spare at the moment.
  3. France has game changers across the park in Ribery, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa and Giroud.
  4. Blanc is a great coach and has the team mindful of their duty to perform at a higher level after their disastrous outing at the World Cup.  They are solid defensively, have a long unbeaten streak and the only question mark is the potential absence of Yann M’Vila.

Pre-match prediction: France 1 England 1

I wonder if England can score in this match.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the only way they get one is on a dead ball.  Ashely Young delivers great corners and free kicks.  Terry or Lescott to score for England and Benzema to get one for France.  A draw would be a great result for England who can get through as long as they don’t lose this match.

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The Crystal Ball for the upcoming season

This is what I sent to one of my buddies on June 5 as a first look at the CH12 crystal ball:

Ronaldo to Madrid by end of month.
Ibra to Barca.
Ribery stays at Bayern or winds up in EPL at Chelsea or Manchester – either City or United
Eto’o to City or Inter
Indians or Kuwaitis own Liverpool before season starts.

So the first one happened – much to my dismay as a United fan. 

It seems like #2 and #4 are about to happen with a swap between Ibra and Eto’o

#3 is looks like its going to be Ribery staying at Bayern or going to Chelsea as Real won’t have the money once they buy Xabi.

That leaves the last one.  Don’t think that’s going to happen.

4 out of 5 is not bad, but was relatively easy.  The things I didn’t see coming – you couldn’t have made me believe that Terry would even be contemplating joining City; Michael Owen joining United; Juve would have the best transfer season in terms of addressing almost all their squad needs while maintaining the base continuity (more on this in a second); Real buying Benzema on top of Kaka and Ronaldo; Newcastle still not sold; Liverpool potentially losing their midfield core.

Further predictions right now:

Regardless of what United says, I think they will buy one big name player before the transfer season closes.  It will happen once the Ibra, Eto’o and Ribery moves are done.  Don’t quite know who else might be left, but I have to believe they are going to bring in someone like Ashley Young or a striker from the Bundesliga or Brazil.

Can’t see David Villa, David Silva and Mata all staying put at Valencia – I think Silva’s gone.  If I had to put my money on the Liga’s best young players to go after, they are Mata, Negredo, Capel and then Silva.  Love Lopez, the goalie from Villareal, too.

Adebayor will fold and sign for the money at City.  Forlan is going to wind up in the EPL.

Juve will win Serie A.  They have had hands down the best transfer season.  Diego at playmaker, with Melo now joining Momo Sissoko to provide the cover in midfield with the other four from Diego, Amauri, Trez (who will probably be gone), Giovinco, Del Piero, Iaquinta and Camoranesi.  If they get Grosso at left back, they are complete.  Chiellini and Cannavaro (yes, he’s a bit suspect but will probably do better in Italy that at Real as he has Momo and Felipe in front of him as opposed to Lass at Real) with Zambrotta at right back.  And of course, Buffon in goal.  That is as solid a squad as you are going to get.  They are my second favorite to win the Champions League as of today.

Ibra will be better for Barca than Eto’o.  He is big, can hold the ball up better and has a better long range shot than Eto’o.  And he is way craftier.  Watch him blossom on a squad where he isn’t the man.

IF Rooney doesn’t get hurt and IF he doesn’t get frustrated like he used to, he will be the best player in the world next season.  Hands down.

Ronaldo will do well in La Liga.  But not as well as people think.  And Real will not win either the Liga or Champions League.  Count on it.  They are better in the back with Albiol and Pepe, and Xabi is the key to the team being able to create from midfield, but Pellegrini’s teams are built on more grit than this team has.  Frankly, they have no chance if they don’t sign Xabi or a strong central midfielder.  Look at the success of Pellegrini’s teams – Riquelme and Senna/Cazorla were keys.  You have to have that and Sneijder is not it.

More later…

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Barcelona vs Lyon: pre game prediction

This one I felt contrarian about after the first leg.  Common sense and normal analysis now say that Barca should win relatively easily.  They are at home, have the away goal, have gotten back to winning with last weekend’s La Liga win, increased their lead to six points thus taking some pressure off the squad and have Messi.  However, a big reason they are favored is that Benzema is a doubt.  On the other side, Lyon have the always dangerous Juninho (his first leg goal was probably one of the top 3 free kicks I have ever seen  given where it was taken from), nothing to lose and a shaky Barca defense now that Puyol is out.  That’s the one major chink in the armor.

Key: If Lyon can score first, they have a shot.  However, no Benzema is a problem.  I just don’t know if they will have the gas to keep Barca out for 90 minutes on that big pitch at the Camp Nou.  Plus, Iniesta is back.  I also think Eto’o is due to score.

Surprise match winner: Keita or Gerard Pique.

Prediction: Barca 3 Lyon 1 (if Benzema plays, Lyon in an upset on away goals after holding Barca 2-2).

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