Tag Archives: grosso

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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Euro 2008 Final: Spain v Germany – pre game

Some further musings with 18.5 hours to go…

Injuries seem to be have made Aragones a lucky man. It looks like Cesc is going to start. He has been forced to make the right decision and start Cesc Fabregas only due to the injury to Villa. Bad as it is to say it, Villa’s injury was a blessing in disguise for Spain who were able to win the game due to the strength in midfield that Cesc brings. Not only that, it looks like Ballack might miss the final due to a calf injury. As it usually is, sometimes its better to be lucky than good…

If Ballack’s injury keeps him out of the final, he will have never played in a major final for Germany. He missed the 2002 World Cup due to suspension, got knocked out of the 2006 World Cup Final in their semifinal overtime loss to Italy and now potentially Euro 2008 as well. May be just as well, because if he suffered through a repeat of 2002, it would be just too cruel. In 2002, when he played for Bayer Leverkusen, he lost the German Bundesliga in the last week and lost the Champions League Final to Real Madrid with a brilliant Zidane volley leaving him trophyless. That was followed by the defeat in Korea to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final. Fast forward to 2008 and the same thing could happen – Chelsea lose the Premier League title to Manchester United in the last week and then the Champions League Final by the width of a post. Ironically, the tournament Germany most deserved to win – when they were playing their best football – was the 2006 World Cup when Grosso and Del Piero’s last minute goals in overtime knocked them out of appearing in the final on home soil. I don’t foresee the Ballack curse changing tomorrow…

If Ballack is out, it might turn out alright for Germany. It might force Loew to have a three man defensive cordon to jam up the Spaniards. Frings, Hitzlsperger and Borowski or Rolfs to hold behind Schweinsteiger, Podolski and Klose. I personally think that Loew should use this setback to become more aggressive. Have Kuranyi join Klose up front and have Schweinsteiger, Frings and Hitzelsberger play behind the front three. Challenge the middle of the Spanish defense and it will cause Ramos to stay home more which will help slow down the Spanish attack. Keeping three in defensive midfield is going to result in death by a thousand cuts against the superior passing Spanish midfield…

The other side of Ballack being out – the height advantage is gone. Podolski, Hitzlsperger, Frings, Lahm, Klose (he can jump though) and Schweinsteiger aren’t that tall. So in midfield and at the offensive end, Germany is going to have to win the battle on the ground during regular play. That’s why dead ball situations are going to be even more critical…

Should Loew try another tactic and use Lahm at left wing and move Podolski up front to partner Klose? Lahm didn’t really played that well defensively against the quicker moving Turks – Sabri undressed him a couple of times. If you move Lahm up front and have the quartet of Podolski, Lahm, Klose and Schweinsteiger free to interchange and attack, it will give Spain problems. Have Frings and Hitzlsperger hold and bring in Jansen or Fritz at left back. Lahm can drop back and help defensively but will provide more drive down the left if he plays at left wing. Podolski and Klose should be playing up front together where their movement will cause issues for Puyol and Marchena thereby giving Klose more room for the high balls. Just a thought, Joachim…

Very glad to see that Domenech is supposedly going to be fired and replaced by the man I had picked as my choice – Didier Deschamps. Domenech is Aragones’ more arrogant twin – except he doesn’t have the luck to balance out his lack of ability…

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Spain v Italy – pre game prediction

No Pirlo. Much as I like Aquilani, he’s a different kind of player. Maybe the way to make up for Pirlo is to start the entire Roma midfield and have De Rossi and Perrotta along with Aquilani to support a threesome of Toni, Del Piero/Cassano (I prefer Del Piero in this game) and Camoranesi. That should give Italy enough bodies in midfield and a set of younger, more dynamic midfielders who have had a good season in Serie A. All this to say that that is the only way Italy are going to be able to beat Spain. Jam up the middle of the park, play Italian catenaccio football and hope for Toni to convert a header off a deadball situation. The weakness of the Spanish team is the center of defense where Marchena and Puyol (or Albiol if Puyol is still out injured) cannot match up with Toni. I give the Italians a 30% chance of winning – and given my predictive powers in the quarters, that would guarantee them a spot in the semi final.

Spain should just continue doing what they have been doing. Dominate ball possession and rely on Torres and Villa to score goals. Italy’s defense is uncharacteristically weak – Panucci (the usual right back) is the leader in the middle and plays with Chiellini, the lowest ranked central defender in the squad (Materazzi, Cannavaro and Barzagli are all injured). Grosso is good at left back, but more known for going forward, and Zambrotta has had an average tournament. Unfortunately, for Spain, they are backed up by Buffon. If I were Arragones, I would not start Xavi and Iniesta together. I would have Senna, Cesc, Xabi Alonso and Xavi to go with Torres and Villa up front. Drop Silva and Iniesta. Xabi and Senna are good holding midfielders and will counter the Italian midfield, while Cesc is a very tough two way player and will support them at the defensive end. Cesc, Xavi and Xabi are all great passers and you are going to need all of them so the Italians can’t focus on shutting Xavi down. Silva hasn’t done much in this tournament. If you are behind, then bring on Iniesta and Silva, but otherwise, go with this lineup.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Italy 1

It’s time for Torres to show the world what he has learned in England and impose himself physically on the Italian defense…

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Group C post game – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Form held and Holland and Italy are through. As I suspected, Buffon was tough to beat and his save off Benzema’s curler was world class. Coupet played great too with a couple of amazing fingertip saves – one off Grosso’s freekick that he put onto the post and another one off Toni that the ref didn’t catch. But Italy played the cards they were dealt with very well and did enough to see France off.

Now for the rant. Yes, losing Ribery was very unlucky. And yes, it is a harsh rule that sees the last man off along with the granting of a penalty. Yes, it was an unlucky deflection of Henry’s foot on De Rossi’s wayward looking free kick. However, France lacked inspiration and I blame that on Domenech. You are the worst at picking a team that I have ever seen. Abidal in the center of defense? With Toni to deal with and Gallas not the tallest man either. Are you kidding me? Then you start Gouvou instead of Nasri. Then you bring on Nasri for Ribery and take him off when you are trailing 1-0. Are you crazy? There went the bit of creativity and drive you had in the middle of the park. You want to play with two holding midfielders still? OK. Take off Gouvou for Boumsong then. Now, for Boumsong. Is there a reason you chose him ahead of Mexes to play in central defense? Better you had Distin in the squad then that stiff.

One more pet peeve. I don’t like the last man rule when there is a penalty as well. It seems to me that that is doubly harsh. I think it’s absolutely right to send the last man off when he takes down an attacker outside the box. But the double whammy of going a man down and giving up a penalty is a bit much.

The Dutch and the Spanish have got to be nervous with the Italians now in the quarters. Having said that, I don’t know how the Italians are going to fare without Pirlo. The Dutch also look so good that I don’t think they should be overly concerned if they have to face the Italians. One thing we have to keep in mind is that this Italian team is a bit old and games every three days are going to take a toll by the time the semis roll around. Should be fun.

Players of the game – De Rossi (though Pirlo and Grosso were very good) for Italy and Henry for France.

Romania – nice try but you paid for missing the penalty against Italy and not scoring when you had good chances against Holland in the first half. Holland looks very good and it’s always good when Van Persie keeps scoring. He needs the confidence since he’s missed most of the regular season – and a fresh, confident Robin Van Persie is deadly.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1

Result: Italy 2 France 0

Scorers: Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

Pre-game prediction: Romania 1 Holland 1

Result: Romania 0 Holland 2

Scorers: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robin Van Persie (Holland)

Sweden v Russia. I can’t wait. This is going to one where I am cheering for Russia as that would set up an amazing game against Holland. Hiddink v Van Basten. Total football all around…

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Italy vs Romania – pre game prediction

Italy has to win.  Romania could be okay with a draw.  Regardless, Romania will play for a draw and hope to pull off a counter attack winner.  Straight to the point – Italy wins 1 to 0.

Donadoni, start Del Piero and Di Natale along with Toni up front.  Bench Camoranesi, though I think he’s a great player for a knockout game.  For the midfield, it should be Pirlo, Gattuso and De Rossi.  Bench Ambrosini.  And if you are feeling like being even more aggressive, which you should be since Romania is not going to put as much pressure in midfield, I’d start Aquilani in place of Gattuso.  De Rossi can play the holding midfield role.  Start Zambrotta at right back and Grosso at left back.  Chiellini and Barzagli in the middle. 

Romania – do what you did with France and hope you can get a goal off a dead ball.  Contra, Chivu, Rat and Tamas did a great job in the last game.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 1 Romania 0

Forza Italia…

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Netherlands vs Italy – post match.

Shocking. Surprising. Not that the Dutch beat the Italians. But surprising that they beat them without the Italians able to even put one past what was supposed to be a suspect defense. What is shocking – there hasn’t been a match yet where both teams have scored. I thought it would end with today’s matches, but what do I know.

Man of the match for the Dutch – the entire team. If I had to pick the cream of the crop, I would suggest Wesley Sneijder, Rafael Van der Vaart, Edwin Van der Sar, Dirk Kuyt (two assists), Orlando Engelaar (for a relative newcomer to the national team, he was a giant in breaking up the Italian attacks in front of his back four. He was also great at getting the ball forward through midfield) and my choice for the main man – Gio Van Bronckhorst. A headed goal and two assists. From the left back! That’s total football for you. For the Italians, Andrea Pirlo started getting more into the game in the second half and Fabio Grosso had a decent substitute appearance, but they had no player really step up.

So now, we hear that the offside goal by Ruud Van Nistelrooy wasn’t an offside goal since Panucci was in play even though he was off the pitch. Never heard the rule interpreted that way, but okay.

I am now 3 and 3 for the tournament, but my picks still seem to hold good in the Group of Death – France and the Netherlands. Now that Van Persie played (and Robben looked okay running down the sidelines to celebrate the goals), I guess I will have to stick with the Dutch to progress 🙂 ….

Pre-game prediction: Italy 1 Netherlands 1

Result: Italy 0 Netherlands 3

Scorers: Van Nistelrooy, Sneijder, Van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)

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