Monday, July 29, 2013

EXTRA EXTRA...The US wins the Gold Cup!!! Hohummm

So the US mens national soccer team won their 5th Gold Cup title yesterday, defeating surprise finalist Panama, 1-0. When is the ticker tape parade? Cover of the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Time? Okay Okay, I am being a tad harsh. Yes I am a total Euro-snob when it comes to football. I always giggle when I hear the World Cup being called the European Cup, but with Argentina and Brazil. Of course I am also not as football ignorant as I just came across. The international game has benefit with the rise of African nations, such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon to name a few. As well as the rise of Asian powers such as South Korea, Japan and Australia. And, the game has benefited from seeing the richest country in the world - the United States - start to put a solid side out for World Cups and other international matches. We should also start seeing nations such as Iraq making more noise in international venues. All this is good for the international game. But back to the Gold Cup.

Reason why I am saying that it has become clear that nations like the United States and Mexico have outgrown the Gold Cup. And really have outgrown the CONCACAF. That is my real ramble. I have written about this before, but after this Gold Cup finals it only reinforces my thinking about the US and Mexico being part of the Gold Cup. I realize that you play the conference you are in. But look to the example of Australia, who realized they had outgrown the Oceania region and moved into Asia. Australia was finding some success in football, getting to World Cups and having aspirations of getting beyond the group stages. However, the nation recognized that only in getting a more challenging region could they grow as a team that could do better at the World Cup.

Could the US and Mexico benefit from changing regions...say join CONEMBOL region.
Think about the celebration after beating Brazil!
Okay okay, I know what fans of the US and Mexico will say...why head to tough region when they are quasi guaranteed a spot at the World Cup by staying with CONCACAF! I mean seriously...the top three nations make it and the fourth plays the first place team from Oceania! But think about the following, how much better for the overall US and Mexican teams being forced to play high pressure games against Brazil or Argentina...going to Uruguay would be better than a match in Jamaica! I know that the US plays some intense games like away to Guatemala, but not sure that is as intense as away to the South American nations. Granted the US and Mexico would not longer be guaranteed a spot at the World Cup, but cutting their teeth on these matches would better in the long run. Of course FIFA would have to redistribute the qualifying spots between CONEMBOL and CONCACAF.

Finally, imagine the benefit for the US and Mexico to play regularly in the Copa America rather than the Gold Cup! Having to play tournaments with the likes of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile etc rather than Panama and Costa Rica will be a much greater challenge.

I know you have to play the regional tournaments you find yourself in and a title is a title...crap if Les Bleus could win a trophy on a regular basis I would be happy! Well we did win the U20 World Cup!! But for the United States and Mexico to real grow as national teams they need to test themselves with a real qualifying campaign. It will probably never happen...but something that would be great to see. Think about the excitement of hosting Brazil in Columbus for a World Cup qualifier, or seeing Messi and Argentina coming to New York for a qualifier!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Say it ain's so Arsene...Arsenal bid on Suarez.

With the rumored move on Real Madrid striker Higuain sputtering along, the latest rumor is that Arsene and the Gunners are looking at Luis Suarez from Liverpool. Ugh. There is no questioning the Uruguay striker talent, but it is all his other baggage that Wenger doesn't need. Everything from being a racist to a cannibal are labels that Suarez's actions have bestowed on himself.

The mad biter

Wenger and Arsenal need to stay far away from this cancer. While the player's talent should power his club to challenge for trophies, his baggage become too much of an albatross. If you have a player on your roster that is a risk of getting a 10+ game suspension at any time, how can you stomach spending a large sum of cash to acquire that player and then have to deal with the constant headache that player provides? Not worth it.

Come on Wenger, get Higuain in here and let Suarez leave England.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Brazil win the Confederations Cup...oh well

The Confederations Cup, yes it is a sanctioned FIFA tournament and yes you actually get a real trophy if you win it (Les Bleus have won it twice!). However what does it really mean...a whole bunch of nothing. It has become an opportunity for the following year's World Cup host to get a dry run for hosting a tournament. For that it makes a lot of sense. Otherwise it is really just a glorified series of friendly matches. This version was no different, so let us not make too much of the "dismantling" of Spain by host Brazil.

The game ended with a 3-0 beating of the Spaniards by the Brazilians. There are voices that are already saying Brazil is back, they are the odds on favorites to win the World Cup...yaddy yaddy yadda. Let us pump the brakes on the win last night. There are some things to take away from the game:

  • Spain can be rattled if pressed high on the pitch. Okay easier said than done. Brazil demonstrated what can happen if Spain is not given the space and time to work their short pass game. Of course Brazil almost got burned a few times, notably when Luiz had to save on the line after Pedro sprang up on the right side on one of the few Spanish break outs. Brazil forced Spain very deep into their end of the pitch, at times seeing the play having to be initiated by the feet of Spanish keeper Casillas. The Brazilian out side backs also jumped the play at every occasion. Clearly not every team in the world can do this to Spain, but Brazil demonstrated that if you have the ability, muscle and speed you can press Spain. Again, easier said than done.
  • Spain needs a striker....Can we finally agree that Torres seems to be done...or at least is a shadow of the striker he was for Athletico and Liverpool? Playing a false 9 would not have done any good either. Spain needs to figure out who can be a true #9 a player, like a Drogba, who when you are being pressed can receive the ball, hold it against defensive pressure and allow your team to reorganize. A striker who can also find ways to create space and goals on his own. I heard a great discussion this morning equating this to Barcelona (the club most similar to the Spain style) and how Barca, when it trouble, can just turn to Messi and he will find a way. Spain lost out on Messi, but they have some options. Could an inform Villa be the option? Or maybe Llorente? I would vote for the Juventus bound striker - big man who can hold the ball up and can be a "fox in the box." Sometimes you need to win the games ugly.
  • Don't get too over confident in Brazil. Brazil won. Brazil rolled out a very entertaining line up, putting out there Neymar, Fred, Hulk and Oscar...add to that the "striker" Alves who plays right back and even Luiz who sometimes fancies himself as Zico and you have the potentially for a very attacking minded squad. But can that survive when the games really count? Add to this the perfect storm for Brazil. Playing at home in front of 100,000 fans after Spain had to get through an extra time match against Italy etc etc. Brazil will not play a competitive match again until the World Cup kicks off. I am not convinced that defensively the Brazilians can hold up when the pressure really mounts. Much will be asked of their defensive midfielders and center well as goalkeeper (remember he is the one who played for QPR). Brazil put 3 past the defending World Cup and European Cup champions, good for them. But a year is a long time...don't forget that 4 years ago in the Confed Cup in South Africa, Spain lost in the semi finals to the US and Brazil won the title...need I remind you who has won two real titles since then?
It was a nice little tournament, but one that comes at the end of a long season for the players. The big nations involved - Spain, Uruguay, Brazil, Italy, Nigeria and Mexico all have things they can build on and work on. But none should read too much into this dry run, good or bad.