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Euro 2012 QF 4: England vs Italy pre-match predictions

Pirlo vs Gerrard.  Whoever plays better comes away with the win.

Why England will win

  1. If Roy Hodgson plays Carroll with Rooney, Italy will have a tough time keeping him from scoring.  Chiellini is out and so they might have to go back to a back three.  Do you really think Barzagli or De Rossi can match up with Carroll in the center of the box?  If Carroll gets service from Milner, Gerrard, Walcott or Ashley Young (if he’s healthy enough to play), it will be a long day for Italy.
  2. It just feels like this is England’s time.  They have played defensive against France, offensive against Sweden and lucky against Ukraine.  Rooney’s back and he scored even though he didn’t have a particularly good game.  Welbeck and Walcott had wonder goals.  They have speed on the wings.  The loss of Cahill, Barry and Lampard hasn’t hurt them yet.  Low expectations.  All of this points to England getting the breaks it needs.
  3. With Lampard out, there is no question how Gerrard needs to play.  And how he’s playing.  His crossing, attitude and effort have been perfect.  All he needs is to score on a free kick or penalty and his confidence will be sky high.  He will impose himself physically on Italy’s midfield and that’s why England will win.
  4. Hodgson’s knows how to prepare this team to play against an Italian team.  He coached Inter Milan in Serie A and knows how to insert a pragmatic game plan.

Why Italy will win

  1. Gianluigi Buffon.  World Cup 2006.  All Italy ever needed to do was get to penalties and they knew Buffon would win it for them.  It worked against Australia and then against France in the finals.  If this gets to penalty kicks – and that is a very real possibility here – are you going to bet on England (the team that never seems to win on penalty kicks backstopped by Hart, the youngest goalkeeper left standing in the tournament) or Buffon with Pirlo and De Rossi still there for the successful penalty kick takers in 2006?
  2. They know how to win these types of knockout games.  They’ve done it so many times before.
  3. Cassano and Di Natale have been lively.  But Mario Balotelli could be the game changer.  He obviously knows how to go against Lescott and Hart from practicing with them daily at Manchester City.  This could be his shining moment for Italy.  He is one of the most talented players there is and the game seems effortless to him.
  4. The pressure is going to start to build for England and now they are going to have to take the game to the other team, something they haven’t had to do this this tournament.  It’s more like the usual England, but not the role England has had to play at Euro 2012.

Pre-game prediction: England 2 Italy 1

It’s going to be hard to score two goals against Buffon.  So the 2 for England may be in the form of the “goal” you get when you win on penalties.  I would bet on Carroll, Terry or Lescott to score aerially against Italy off a dead ball.  Marchisio will finally come good and score on Sunday.  I know I said Buffon is tough to beat in penalty kicks, but Spain did it and so can England.  It’s time.

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Euro 2012 Match 16: England vs Sweden pre-game predictions

Wazza’s hair transplant looks very awkward now that he has buzzed the sides.  That’s all I need to say about the lead-in to the game.  That and the fact that Ibra looks like I’d imagine Atilla would look like if he was a Samurai.

Why England will win

  1. Sweden lacks the pace, especially on defense, to keep up with the England counter attack.  Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Welbeck will be too quick for the Swedes, especially Melberg and Granqvist.
  2. As result of the reserve goalie’s butt on YouTube, Ibrahimovic’s blasting of his teammates and the starting lineup, and the giving up of a lead to two goals from one of the oldest players to ever score two goals in a major international tournament, Sweden does not have the best mindset going into this game.
  3. Terry and Lescott can frustrate Ibrahimovic up front.  Ibra typically does not like playing against big defenders on EPL teams and the England lineup with its defensive setup should be even more difficult for the big Swede.  Elmander could help him if he is inserted in the starting lineup, but I just don’t see him making much difference.  England is well aware of him from his time at Bolton.
  4. Hodgson’s tactics are perfect against an aggressive Sweden who has to win this match if they are to hold out hope of qualifying for the next stage.

Why Sweden will win

  1. Scott Parker may not be able to play, or if he does, his Achilles problem will hinder his effort.  Gerrard didn’t have a great game.  Is there anyone left in England’s midfield who can adequately clog up the middle – and please don’t say Jordan Henderson can do that job?
  2. England didn’t really generate any meaningful chances against France apart from the open net miss by Milner and the goal Lescott scored.  They will have to do better against Sweden if they hope to take anything away from this game.  Sweden will score against England and they are big enough to withstand dead ball situations when England will look to have Terry and Lescott try to nick one.
  3. Ibrahimovic will back up his anger and bluster and supreme self confidence now that he has put his team and managers on blast.  There will be no “cowards” or lack of effort from Sweden.

Pre-game prediction: England 1 Sweden 1

England will accept getting a point and leaving it up to Rooney in the last game to take them to the next round with a win over Ukraine.  That said, a bonus for winning the group is not having to probably play Spain in the next round.  Much easier to deal with Italy or Croatia.  Anyway, we get ahead of ourselves.  Welbeck or Gerrard (penalty) to score for England and Sebastian Larsson to score for Sweden on a free kick.

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Manchester United should sell Nani and buy Gareth Bale

Bale apparently wants out of Tottenham following Redknapp’s firing and Spurs unable to make the Champions League next season – http://www.metro.co.uk/sport/football/902089-gareth-bales-spurs-future-in-doubt-as-agent-admits-problem-over-euro-loss#ixzz1xmctmUeX.

Bale can’t go to Real Madrid where Di Maria just re-signed and Ronaldo is the left wing.  Barca are going to sign Jordi Alba at left back so there is no other place in the squad for him.  Bayern Munich have Robben and Ribery.  The only other places could be Milan and Inter, but Inter doesn’t have Champions League football next season and Milan probably doesn’t have the funds.  Chelsea probably doesn’t buy him after buying Eden Hazard.  That would leave maybe Manchester City, PSG and maybe Arsenal.  Doubt he wants to go to PSG and Arsenal probably doesn’t pay up with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the books.

Juventus apparently wants Nani.

Why doesn’t United sell Nani and buy Gareth Bale?  It would be a like for like winger signing except that Bale plays on the left – that would make Valencia the starter on the right wing and Ashley Young can play either wing or in the slot.  It would the Welsh Wing Wizard part 2.  Bale would get Champions League football and wind up where he should have gone in the first place.  And Nani looks like he needs a fresh start and probably isn’t an automatic selection for United’s starting XI.

Sign him up Fergie.

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World Cup 2010: Pre-Cup prediction on who will win

No time to really sort this out.  There are less than 8 hours to go to kickoff.  And the crystal ball is looking murky.  So, lets do the whys and why nots for the favorites IMO.  I will update this after the first round, but let me not shy away from it right now.

Brazil:  They win because they are solid in the defensive half of the field and have depth.  Julio Cesar, 2 great right backs (they should play Dani Alves at left back just to get him on the field as he will be behind Maicon at right back),  Lucio, Juan and Luisao to play the middle, Melo at holding and Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano up front.  Also, they are the only ones who have won outside of their continent (apart from Argentina in Mexico which sort of doesn’t count as a really different continent) – in fact, they have won in North America (1994), Europe (1958) and Asia (2002).  Seems to make sense that they should win in Africa.  They won’t win because there is magic missing up front.  Efficiency is great, but you need some magic.  Kaka has not been fit all season.  Hard to get there at the World Cup.  Plus, its a hard road through Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea to start the tournament.  They should win the group but that’s a work out unlike for Spain and England.

Spain:  They win because they have the most talented passers and total football team.  Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi – what a foursome of passers in midfield.  Then you have Silva, Pedro and Jesus Navas (the biggest key for Spain after Torres IMO because the Achilles heel for Spain is a lack of real speed) on the wings (though Iniesta could play down the left as well).  Finally, Iker in goal and Torres and Villa up front.  That’s a squad.  Why they don’t win – I don’t think their defense is good enough.  I know I identified it as an issue in the Euros and they made me eat my words (though I did pick them to win pre tournament), but I just don’t get comfort in Capdevilla at left back and Ramos goes AWOL every so often at right back.  Also, Cesc, Iniesta and Torres are coming off injuries that caused them to miss the end of the season and Xavi is carrying a calf injury according to Pep Guardiola.  Also, the USA showed how you beat Spain.  Send them to the wings and overpower the strikers when they are forced to cross the ball – press Xavi at the same time.  Navas’ speed on the wing helps and Torres seems to be coming along.  They also have a relatively easy group to work Cesc, Torres and Iniesta back into playing shape before the knockout round.  However, I am still uneasy.  A big miss is going to be Marcos Senna at holding mid.  So, I want to say Spain but I just hesitate.

Argentina:  They win because they probably have one of the best forward pools in the history of the World Cup.  Messi and Higuain led La Liga in scoring, Tevez was near the top in the EPL as was Milito.  And then there is Aguero and Di Maria.  Did I mention Messi?!  Decent first round group to warm up with.  Mascherano at holding is solid.  And I’ve always liked Veron’s touch though he is a bit slow.  Wish Diego had brought Zanetti and Cambiasso.  That’s a big mistake.  They don’t win because their defense is too slow and old.  Heinze, DiMichelis and Samuel are just not up to snuff.  And Brazil and Inter showed you how to stop Messi.  And then you have the craziness of Maradona.

Holland: The win because Robben and Sneijder are two of the five most in form players in the world (I’d put Messi, Ronaldo and Milito in that bracket as well) at the end of the club season.  Then there’s Robin van Persie who is fresh after missing most of the season.  Rafael vdv is in decent form as well.  Kuyt provides work rate and balance up front.  They don’t win because their defense and keeping is not up to snuff.  And they tend to run out of steam as tournaments progress.

England: They win because they are the second best team from top to bottom in terms of depth (after Brazil).  They have Rooney and great veterans in the spine of the team – James, Terry (too bad Rio’s out, but King and Upson are good), Gerrard, Lampard.  They have speed on the wings (Fabio should have included Walcott instead of SWP).  Great coach.  They haven’t lost a World Cup game in a while if you exclude penalty kick knockouts.  They don’t win because too much depends on Rooney, Glen Johnson is a terrible defensive right back and the holding midfielder position isn’t settled.  Also, the weight of expectations will become very heavy the further we get in the tournament.

These are the only real favorites in my opinion.  A dark horse is Portugal, but with Nani out, their chances dropped significantly.  Never count out Germany (but Ballack is a big miss and they seem a big young) or Italy (this is one of the worst teams they have fielded though) or one of the African countries.  I would have put Ivory Coast as the top African team, but even if Drogba plays (as it seems to indicate in the latest news), its hard to have a brand new coach and expect to win the World Cup.

Two big factors and then I’ll make my pre Cup prediction.

The ball: with the movement in the ball, free kicks and corners are going to be very important.  That makes Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Sneijder, Lampard and Xavi very dangerous.  It could be the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

History: No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe.  Argentina and Brazil have won outside of their  continent.  Yes, it is winter in South Africa so the heat is not going to be as big a factor as it has been for tournaments outside of Europe in the past.

My pick: Brazil if they win their group.  Holland if Brazil doesn’t win their group.

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Barca v Arsenal – CL 2nd Leg

Barca wins.  That’s the easy part.  Except, I have a feeling this is not a foregone conclusion.  Here’s why its obvious:

1.  Arsenal’s personnel issues: No Cesc or Arshavin to attack and no Song or Gallas to defend.  That leaves Campbell at the center of defense playing his second game in three days.

2. Barca is playing at the Nou Camp

3. Barca has better depth to deal with its missing personnel:  Assume Messi starts.  Barca then has to pick two from Henry, Krkic, Iniesta (if he’s fit) and Pedro.  No problems really there.  Yes, Pique and Puyol are missing.  But they beat United with Puyol at right back and Yaya in the center with Pique and Sylvinho playing left back!  So,in the center and Abidal or Maxwell at left back.  You could also move Abidal to the middle and use Maxwell at left.  Shouldn’t be an issue.  Then you can play Sergio, Keita and maybe even Rafa Marquez as the defensive midfielders around Xavi.

That said, Arsenal have nothing to lose, are used to playing on a big field and have skillful players to make it happen.  The key is to keep it close.  If they can get to the half only 2-1 down, they have a great shot.  Rosicky, Denilson, Eboue, Walcott, Nasri behind Bendtner is pretty decent.  Eduardo off the bench if they need another goal late.  They have a shot.  However, lots have to go their way.  Absolutely can happen.  If Messi is kept quiet again, Barca will lose – you heard that here.

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Man United v Arsenal – Further pre game thoughts

Part of the reason Arsenal struggled in the first leg and the main reason Messi was a no show in the Chelsea game was that the pitch was waterlogged and heavy.  That took away Arsenal’s team speed and slowed their movement.   If it rains or the pitch is heavy, Arsenal have no chance.

Walcott has to get in the game else it’s going to be tough for Van Persie and Adebayor to get space.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, should Arsenal start 2 strikers, Van Persie drops in the hole to give support to the midfield and help Cesc with a number mismatch should United play 3 in midfield like they did in the first leg.

Ronaldo has to be the man today.  He didn’t massacre Santon as he should have, nor did he do the same to Gibbs in the first leg.  It’s time he taught these young left backs why he is the best in the world.  If Silvestre doesn’t start in the middle, look for Ronaldo to drift in time and again to test Djorou or Song – whoever will start in the center with Toure.

Wonder if Eboue starts.

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Man Utd v Arsenal: Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg – Pregame

I have a hard time believing Man United doesn’t go through.  It absolutely can happen, but hard to see.  It’s not that the Gunners can’t score a couple of goals nor that they can’t win.  They have done that this season.  However, no way does that defense keep Man United from scoring at least one goal.  It’s been a long time since Arsenal has kept United off the scoreboard.  And it’s hard to see it starting tomorrow.

So if United score one, Arsenal need three scores to win.  Hard to see that.  The only shot Arsenal has is if they score first and score the first one early.   The longer it goes, the more they will come forward and the easier it will be for them to be caught by United on the break.

Issues for United: Rooney played 90 minutes on Saturday and is on a yellow.  Will he melt down late in the game or if he gets a yellow which means he knows he will be out of the final.  I feel as if Sir Alex purposely played him 90 minutes on Saturday as he is not going to allow Rooney to play the full 90 on Tuesday in order to save him for the final assuming that United is up going into the last 25 minutes.  The other issue is that Evra may have an ankle knock and is also on a yellow.  I have to think that Walcott is going to get one of them on a yellow during the game.  Which means – Rooney needs to play in the middle and Park plays on the left with Berbatov and Tevez potentially on the bench.   Tough to see that happening but you never know.

Issues for Arsenal:  They are screwed if Silvestre is fit enought to play and screwed if he is unfit to play.  If they play to win from the start, they will play Robin Van Persie up front with Adebayor along with Fabregas, Walcott and Nasri in midfield.  Which means only one holding midfielder.  Bad news against the  United break.  If they play it conservative like the first leg, they will not be able to deal with the United midfield and defense.

Prediction: Man United 2 Arsenal 2

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