The Barcelona Cescapade!- When Will It End?


It’s been well over two months now and Cesc Fabregas’ prolonged transfer saga with his boy-hood club, Barcelona continues to linger on. The Cescapade, as I like to call it, began a little over a month ago (somewhere in the mid of May, if I’m not mistaken) when the Arsenal captain spoke of his desire to move to Barcelona. He said,

“If I leave Arsenal, it is to play at Barca”

The first part of the sentence probably didn’t have as much of an impact on the Gooner Community as did the final 3 words: “Play at Barca”. Come to think of it, this is probably what ticked off Arsenal fans the most. (I don’t think they really ever forgave us for taking Henry a few seasons back). Anyway, this single sentence caused an uproar in North London and a day later Fabregas reiterated that he would like his future resolved before the World Cup began (that clearly hasn’t been done yet).

Fabregas looks on

Next Stop, Barcelona?

 Over the course of the next few weeks, the transfer saga began to take rollercoaster-esque rises that promised something of sorts to materialise, only to be followed by a 90 degree plummet back to ground zero (I did say it was a rollercoaster, didn’t I?). Fabregas even reportedly flew back to London, where he had an emotional face-to-face meeting with Arsene Wenger regarding his future at Arsenal. He mentioned his wish to leave The Gunners for Barcelona and even though Wenger tried to convince him to stay another season, he was adamant, saying that he had already made his decision. He did however say that he was in no rush to leave and only wanted his future sorted out before the World Cup Finals began in June, so that he could fully concentrate on the job at hand.

 Later on, as the saga progressed, various players came out with their own views. Xavi, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique as well as Carlos Vela proffessed they thought that Cesc would move to Barca. However, others such as Robert Pires and Alexander Hleb stated that Arsenal wouldn’t and shouldn’t allow their talismanic skipper to leave. Cesc’s dad even jumped in, saying that Arsenal should respect the will of his son and speedily complete the transfer.  

EmiratesCup

Want more than just the Emirates Cup, eh?

Then, on the 2nd of June Barcelona’s director general, Joan Oliver revealed “a serious offer” had been made to Arsenal to acquire Cesc’s services. Arsenal however, quickly rejected this bid and said they had no intention of selling one of their prized assets. This did not end the matter and rumours began to circulate that Fabregas was beginning to search for legal loopholes that may allow him to leave Arsenal. This included invoking the ‘Webster Ruling’ which stated that any player who signed a contract before the age of 28 could buy out the remaining years left on it- provided he had served a majority of the contract.

The Cescapade continued as Arsenal repeatedly rejected Barcelona offers for their captain; the Catalans too insisting that they wouldn’t pay a cent above what they could for the player and that it was a fair assessment.(We can be pretty stubborn too, eh?). Soon though, the petty squabbles between the two clubs had to take a back-seat as the World Cup began. Things remained relatively quiet on the transfer scene until late June, when Fabregas admitted to a Spanish Radio Station that Pep Guardiola, Barca’s coach, had been his idol ever since he had been a child. The Rumour Mills began to churn once more and more bogus headlines kept arising that the deal had already been completed.

These rumours began to die down once again however, as Fabregas stated that he was ‘proud to be a gunner’ as Spain claimed their first ever World Cup. Fabregas provided Andres Iniesta with an assist to score in the Final. It looked as things had finally reached an end as Fabregas swore his allegiance to the Gooner Community after achieving (arguably) what will be the pinnacle of his career. But then again, during Spain’s World Cup celebrations, something happened that shook the whole of North London. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words(a video must be worth something like a G-jillion words then, I guess). So take a look

 

What you just saw was nothing short of a mutiny of epic proportions, if you’re a gooner that is. Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol forced a Barca shirt on to Cesc Fabregas during the Spanish World Cup celebrations before Pepe Reina took him under him under his arm and proclaimed him to be,

“The future of Barcelona, the future of Spain!”

This has again put us at the start of a vicious, never ending cycle of rumours, gooner conspiracy theories and what not. The question is, when will it all end?

 -Zain R. Mian

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Henry To The Bulls- It had to come sometime


Logo-BullsThierry Henry completed the switch from Spanish giants FC Barcelona to the New York Red Bulls on Thursday. The Big Apple club confirmed on their website that the former Barca striker had signed a ‘multi-year’ deal with the club. The first thought that probably comes to mind is, well, it had to come sometime, eh?. After all, ‘Titi’ as they call him, suffered for game-time after his €24 million move to Barcelona and had been linked to the New York club for Quite some time now. He couldn’t compete with the likes of Bojan, Messi, Pedro and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for first team action and was often over-looked by Pep Guardiola when it came to the first team.

Henry Red Bulls

Thus I don’t think it comes as much surprise that he moved to The NY Red Bulls. Personally I don’t think Henry will gain much from a move to the Bulls, besides time on the pitch, of course. He begs to differ however, saying that he’s not “going on a vacation” and that he “doesn’t like to lose”. Meh.

-Zain R. Mian

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Spain- Champions Of Europe, Champions Of The World!


Spain IconLast night was an unbelievable day in the history Spanish football as La Furia Roja pipped The Dutch through a 116th minute Andres Iniesta strike to become World Champions. Two years ago, the Spaniards beat Germany in the Final of Euro 2008 to become European Champions. This time, in 2010, they went one step further and were crowned the Champions Of The World. Yesterday’s final was amazing and if it wasn’t for San Andres, it could very well have been decided by penalties. He however was not the only Spanish light that burned brightly throughout South Africa 2010. Many others in the Spanish squad laboured hard to reach the Final and their triumph in the World Cup could not have been possible without a collective team effort. Some honourable mentions include:

Xavi Hernandez

Xavi ClapWell, he may not be as charismatic as David Villa, as fast as David Silva or even as robust as Carles Puyol, but there is no doubt who has been one of Spain’s most important players in securing this World Cup. With 570 passes made and a completion reach of 85%, there is no doubt that Xavi Hernandez was the engine responsible for running a ruthless Spanish footballing machine. Xavi played the World Cup with amazing efficiency and  was seen travelling both forward and backwards throughout the tournament. No wonder this exceptional player from the city of Terrassa is known as the “Lungs” of his club side, Barcelona.

 

David Villa Sanchez

VillaSlideThe newly acquired Barcelona striker played amazingly well at the Finals and bagged 5 goals and the Silver Boot award in the process. Villa was key for Spain’s progression out of the group stage and also in key knockout clashes as he netted the winning goals against both Portugal and Paraguay. The only complaint he can have from this World Cup Campaign is that he was unable to score in the final two (and arguably most important) fixtures and as a result also missed out on a chance to win the Golden Boot. All in all though, his World Cup adventure has been a success and has earned El Guaje a special place in the hearts of many Spaniards.

 

Carles Puyol

PuyolCelebrationThe “Caveman” as they call him for his unique hairstyle was exceptional in this years World Cup and was the back-bone of Spain’s rock-solid defense that conceded a meagre 2 goals throughout the tournament. The stocky defender was instrumental in stopping the opposition from scoring and his partnership with Gerard Pique at the back has worked wonders for Spain. A robust, strong willed defender, Puyol was always back marshaling the defensive line and also scored that crucial goal against Germany that sent the Spaniards into the final. Thus, there is no doubt Puyol has been extremely important for Spain’s 2010 World Cup campaign. Let’s just hope he’s still around in 2014.

 

 Sergio Ramos

Sergio RamosFinally a Madrid player gets a mention!. Sergio Ramos was one of Spain’s outstanding performers at the World Cup and undoubtedly the best Right-Back at the Finals. He used his speed and strength to good effect both when he moved forward to assist the attack and also as he rushed back to prevent the opposition from scoring. It has been a truly special campaign for Ramos as he was key to Spain conceding only 2 goals throughout their 7 matches at the finals. The Seville born defender has always been an integral part of the Real Madrid first team and with his great showing in this World Cup he has underlined his importance for the national team as well.

 

Iker Casillas

Iker CasillasSan Iker was in inspirational form throughout this World Cup and showed his worth in the Final as he blocked off two close range shots from Arjen Robben to keep Spain in the game. The full value of those crucial two saves was actually known in the 116th minute as Andres Iniesta scored to give Spain the lead, and later, the win. The Spanish skipper was always on top of his game throughout the Finals as he led his team by example. The only low point of Casillas’ campaign at the World Cup could be the game against Switzerland in which he was blamed for allowing the Swiss to score.

 

Andres Iniesta

IniestaLast, but certainly not the least, we have Andres Iniesta. Don Andres was a neccessary part of Spain’s midfield and attack as not only did he lay the foundations for Spanish attacks but also flooded forward with either David Villa, Pedro or Fernando Torres in search of a Spanish goal. He bagged two goals in the competition; one against the Hondurans and the second, all-important goal in the Final, against the Netherlands. Iniesta is a proven performer and without his presence in the squad there is little doubt that becoming World Champions would have been far more difficult for the Spanish.

 

 There we have it. These players were crucial in Spain’s current World Cup Campaign and without them victory was unimaginable. Hopefully most(if not all!) will be around in 2014 as Spain defend their World Cup Crown in Brazil. For now though…

Congratulations to Spain- Champions Of Europe, Champions Of The World!

Spain Champions

-Zain R. Mian

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Road To The Final: Spain


Spain LogoAfter that amazing victory against Germany, The Red Fury have secured the second spot in the World Cup Final, against The Netherlands. Spain didn’t have as amazing a run as did the Oranje but there is still no doubt that they fully deserved their place in the Final. After a wobbly Group Stage, The Spanish finally found their footing in the Round Of 16 where they eliminated Portugal. The Paraguayans and Germans met with the same fate as the Portugese and the Spaniards bulldozed their way to the final, David Villa being the key to their success. This is their story.

Spain were always favourites to challenge for the Cup (along with other exceptional teams such as Brazil and England).It did not however, get off to the best of starts as the Spanish were defeated in their opening match; at the hands of Switzerland. The match held level for the whole of the first half, but then on 52 minutes a goal mouth scuffle ensued as Eren Derdiyok slipped into the box; Casillas pounced on the forward and took him down. The ball fizzed past both of them howver and bounced in front of the goal mouth. Pique tried to block it but was beaten to the ball by Gelson Fernandes who poked it home. Spain were never able to regain the lead and the Swiss earned a 1-0 win.
 
This victory became one of the great shocks of South Africa 2010 and left Spain bottom of Group H, along with Honduras. The Spanish were now in dire straits and required two wins from their next two group games to qualify for the Knockout phase of the World Cup. They were to face Honduras and Chile and anything less than 6 points could have seen the favourites eliminated at the Group stage. The Hondurans didn’t prove to be much competition for La Furia Roja though and were sent packing after two goals from David Villa sealed their fate. Chile were expected to be a trickier proposition however but they too failed to live up to their expectation and a David Villa strike from close to the half-line coupled with an Andres Iniesta goal ensured the Spanish would claim victory over the Chileans and the Spanish would progress to the next round top of their group.
 
Progression to the knockout stages though, brought with it new challenges for the Spaniards as they came up against Portugal. The Portugese proved to be a major hurdle for Spain and they found it difficult to crack their defense. That is of course till in form David Villa showed up. Andres Iniesta slid a through ball into the box which was immediately pounced on by Villa who slotted home on the second attempt after first hitting the keeper. The goal proved to be enough of an advantage and the Spanish held on for a historic victory over the Portugese. Next up, Paraguay.
 
The Paraguayans weren’t expected to provide too much resistance against the Spanish. They however did the just the opposite and held La Furia Roja at bay for a long period of time in the match, before David Villa (who else?, really.) struck with 7 minutes of normal time to play. Needless to say, Spain weren’t going to give up an advantage with such a small amount of time left on the clock and with little pressure being exerted on them near the end, they comfortably made it into the semi-finals. Here however, came what was probably the greatest test of the Spaniards up till then. Germany.
 
Touted by many to be the game of the tournament, Germany vs Spain was expected to be an amazing fixture. And it delivered. Spain played well throughout the match and completely monopolized possession (around 67%!). They deprived Germany of  any time on the ball and prevented the Germans from playing their style of football. The defense stood firm and did not allow the opposition to take too many shots on goal. Even though Spain kept possession for long periods in the match, they failed to do anything constructive with it and as a result the first half finished level. This soon changed in the second half as the Spanish decided to take the match to the Germans. They launched wave after wave of attacks but the German backline stood firm, denying the Spaniards time and time again. Finally on 73 minutes, Carles Puyol jumped high above the German defense and headed home. Spain took a one-nil lead and never looked back. The Germans tried relentlessly to grab a goal back but the Spaniards refused to relinquish their lead. 17 minutes later, the referee blew the final whistle and Spain booked their spot in the final…

A couple of days from now, the Spanish will take on The Dutch in what promises to be an exceptional final; A fitting end to South Arfica 2010.

-Zain R. Mian

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Road To The Final: The Netherlands


Dutch LogoThe World Cup Final has been decided at last! On Sunday, June the 11th, The Netherlands will take on Spain in what promises to be a thrilling encounter to decide who takes home the World Cup. On their way to the final, the Oranje powered their way past many teams, including Brazil, Uruguay and Slovakia. This is the Dutch Road To The Final.

As soon as the World Cup started, the Oranje showed the world they were very much in it to win it.Starting off with a 2-0 win over Denmark, the Dutch showed no signs of slowing down and followed up their first triumph with a second, a 1-0 win over Japan. Cameroon were next in line for the Dutch as they looked to make it three straight wins from their first three matches at the World Cup.
 
Samuel Eto’s Indomitable Lions tried all they could to resist wave after wave of oncoming attacks from The Netherlands.  They could only hold out so long however and the Dutch finally broke through on 36 minutes as Robin Van Persie slotted home after a through ball from slit the Cameroonian defense apart. Cameroon soon leveled the match through an Eto’o penalty but the Dutch re-established control late in the second half after a stunning shot from Arjen Robben struck the post and fell into the path of Klass Van Huntelaar. He made no mistake and shot the ball home. The Dutch held on for the win and this victory ensured first place qualification from their group. Not only this, but it also sent out a message to potential opponents that The Dutch were no push overs-a message that a certain Brazilian side would soon learn.
 
After collecting the maximum 9 points from 3 games, the Dutch entered the Round Of 16; Here they found themselves locking horns against Slovakia- who qualified second from Group F. The match proved to be relatively simple for the Dutch though and they comfortably won it 2-1, the sole Slovakian goal coming from a penalty in the dying minutes. It was after this match though, that the Netherlands came up against what proved to be their sternest test till then- Brazil!. The Samba Boys from Brazil were undoubtedly favourites going into the World Cup and they maintained exceptional form throughout the tournament, not losing a single match. That was soon to change however as they came up against The Netherlands in the Quarter- Finals stage in what promised to be a scintillating affair. And It was just that.
 
 As soon as the match kicked off, the Brazilians jumped into fifth gear and launched several attacks on the Dutch goal. Their relentless pressure soon took its toll and they took the lead in the 10th minute as Robinho coolly slid the ball into the waiting net after receiving a delightful through ball from Kaka. The Dutch seemed to be deflated by the Brazilian goal and were reduced to taking only a few shots from distance in the first half. The Brazilians meanwhile, kept up the attack but were unable to score through a combination of bad luck and some last-ditch defending from the Dutch. But the situation changed as the second half began. The Dutch slowly began to build up a few attacks and finally leveled the score on 53′ minutes as a free-kick from Wesley Sneijder found its way into the back of the net due to some confusion between Felipe Melo and the goalkeeper, Julio Cesar. Brazil were awestruck and after this goal, they failed to recover their previous domination of the match. The Dutch successfully capitalized on this and Sneijder struck again on 68′ minutes to give The Netherlands the lead. They then defended well and held on for the win. The referee soon blew his whistle and the result was set in stone, Brazil were out!.
 
Compared to this roller coaster of a match, the semi-final was relatively easy for the Oranje. Uruguay are indeed a good team. Just not as good as the Dutch. This showed in their semi-final clash as even though the Uruguayans leveled the game with a spectacular goal from Diego Forlan and even exerted pressure on the opposition in the latter stages of the match, the Dutch never looked under much pressure in the game. They eventually won 3-2. This completed their journey to the Final.

In a few days time, the Dutch will take on The Red Fury that is Spain in what promises to be an exhillerating World Cup Final and a fitting end to South Africa 2010.

-Zain R. Mian

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World Cup 2010: The Quarter Finals


2010

 Alright, so it’s been almost a fortnight since my last post: WTFrance?!. But hey, better late then never, right?. 

So far this FIFA World Cup has been a rollercoaster of upsets, comedical goal-keeping errors and footballing scandals mixed in with some amazing playmaking and unbelievable goals (Maicon or David Villa ,anyone?). With the Quarter Finals kicking off today, it looks as if we are heading for an exciting climax to South Africa 2010. Brazil, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands and Argentina are all still in contention for the World Cup and I think I’m stating the obvious when I say that the Final will be nothing short of spectacular!. Brazil vs Spain, Argentina vs The Netherlands and even Brazil (Netherlands now!) vs Argentina are all possible final match-ups and each one promises a World Class viewing experience fitting a World Cup Final. 

The first quarter final to be played today is a mouth-watering clash between The Oranje of the Netherlands and the Samba Boys from Brazil. Expect the unexpected as the five-time World Champions lock horns with a country which is possibly the best never to win a World Cup. The team who wins this match will probably form one half of the Final to take place on June 11 as both are clear favourites going into the next match, whether it is Uruguay they face, or Ghana. 

My Prediction:  Netherlands 2 Brazil 2  (3-2 Netherlands after E.T.)

Actual Result:  Netherlands 2 Brazil 1  (pretty close, eh?)

Uruguay take on Ghana next as they look to confirm their semi-finals berth in the World Cup. Even though Uruguay are without doubt a good footballing side and are expected to progress, they will face stiff competition from the Ghanians who are the last African nation remaining in “Africa’s World Cup”. Given the immense expectation resting on the shoulders of the Ghanians, it will be interesting to see how this match turns out. However, it may prove to be a “dead rubber” fixture as both teams are underdogs to reach the final, even if they progress to the semifinals. 

My Prediction: Uruguay 1 Ghana 2  

Actual Result: Uruguay 1 Ghana 1 (Uruguay progress on penalties)

  

The 2010 World Cup Fixtures 

 Next up, we have the second set of matches as Argentina face Germany and the Spanish Armada take on Paraguay.

Argentina vs Germany will surely be an interesting affair and either way, a heavy-weight is going to be sent home packing. Will Messi and Co. be able to tame the young Germans who have should superb spirit and form as they breezed through their group stage and Round Of 16 Matches. Argentina however were no slouch either and they too passed all of their early fixtures with relative ease; First beating Nigeria 1-0, followed by a 4-1 whupping of North Korea and then rounding it all off with a 2-0 victory over Greece to secure their passage into the Round Of 16, where they disposed of Mexico (3-1). This promises to be an exhillirating affair as both teams will go into the match all guns blazing and with both teams possessing an equally effective offense and attack, you can be sure this is going to be one amazing semi-final.

My Prediction: Argentina 2 Germany 0

WTFrance?!- The French Journey at South Africa 2010.


It has been a catastrophic World Cup campaign for the French Squad and as they teeter on the brink of elimination, the question arises: What the F*#k has happened?!

Les Blues arrived at the World Cup a couple of weeks ago with something to prove to the world. They wanted to make it clear that their qualification had not been a fluke (which of course it was!) and that they were indeed capable of lifting the World Cup (which of course they’re not!). Needless to say, both of their goals are as yet unfulfilled and barring an impressive display against South Africa coupled with a sizeable defeat of Uruguay or Mexico at the hands of the other, it is likely that France will be sent packing.

Their entire World Cup campaign has been a complete disaster and it is flabbergasting to see such unprofessionalism from a national squad, especially considering it is full to the brim with star players who get paid by the millions as they ply their trade for some of the world’s biggest and richest European Clubs. I mean what the hell was Nicholas Anelka thinking when he called his coach a “dirty S.O.B.“? You don’t do that, not at this level at least. You just don’t. Not that what he said was wrong. Domenech has not been the best coach France has had, if you know what I mean. What type of coach chooses to propose to his girlfriend after his team has just been knocked out of the European Championships? Not a good one I must say.

The French barely scraped through the qualifying stages and needed an underhanded (pun intended) move from Theirry Henry in their play-off match against Ireland to secure their entry into South Africa 2010. Over the years Domenech has proved himself to be the worst person to coach France. Recent events have proven he does not have an ounce authority within the squad nor does he command the respect of his players. Why just yesterday Domenech held a press conference alone and stated that he wasn’t sure who he was going to name in his first eleven for todays match against South Africa as some of the squad did not want to play.

 Is this really how weak a coach he has become? A coach like Capello or even Dunga wouldn’t stand for such a mutiny from their own players. But then again, they dont’ have to deal with such problems as they have both the respect and admiration from their respective dressing rooms. Raymond Domenech however, does not. Regardless of what has happened, he is not the only one to blame. The French players have to take some responsibility themselves. Even with Anelka’s outburst and eventual expulsion from the squad they should not have taken such drastic measures as to refuse to train all together. It is indeed(as Domenech himself puts it) “unspeakably stupid”.

The players should understand that the weight of expectation of an entire nation rests upon their shoulders and they should at least have the decency to obey their coach (even if his actions are questionable) and carry on. Their captain Patrice Evra, for instance, should have been at the coach’s side yesterday as he delivered the press conference. FIFA are reportedly to launch an investigation into his absence and this is only going to add to the unwanted hullabaloo surrounding the French camp. 

 But what is done is done and sadly the past cannot be altered. All the French can do now is perform well in their final match against the hosts, South Africa and hope for some sort of result from the Mexico vs Uruguay game. This seems unlikely however as both teams know that even a goal-less draw will be enough to see them both through to the next round and as result I think neither will risk going for the win as they could be caught out on the counter and thus could be sent home if France beat South Africa by a certain amount of goals.

In conclusion, if France don’t get their act together by 4:00 PM (CAT ) today, it will be as Didier Drogba once so aptly said:

“It’s a disgrace, a F*#KING DISGRACE!”

 
 

Drogba Disgrace

Well said, mate. Well said.

 -Zain R. Mian

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