The Best 15 Footballers of the Year 2015 (3-1)

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The Deadly Trio! M S and N

This is the concluding part of our countdown of the 15 best players of the year 2015. Just in case you’ve missed the first three articles, catch them here, here and here.

3. Neymar

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Neymar the Golden Boy

“He is my heir, he has the opportunity to break all those records”.
    
When Ronaldinho Gaucho gives a glowing endorsement about you like this one above, know you are the real deal. The special one. The chosen one. The only one. I’m running out of superlatives to describe this young lad. At 23, Neymar is a World Champion with Barcelona, a UEFA Champions League as well as a UEFA Super Cup winner. Add to that his La Liga and Copa titles and you’d see reason with this chap. A full-fledged member of an attacking triumvirate that has scored a staggering 134 goals in 2015. They were in part (which means 90%) the reason FC Barcelona have come this far this year. His ability to put off-field issues behind him and concentrate on his football is not just a sign of greatness but that he is.
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In a year that has seen him go from the highs of carrying the almighty Barca on his back along with Messi and Suarez, being the poster boy for Brazil, a team that looks like a bunch of Sunday league players without him, to the trough of tax cases and controversy about his move to the Catalan club, Neymar has done too much not to be the best. He is the diamond in the rough that is being polished, You only need pay attention to his sizzling skills, one in particular so dazzling that it was adopted in a Nigerian musician’s dance video. If he doesn’t win this year… The crowned prince of football is definitely going to rule for years to come especially with his current environment. No wonder there are rife rumours that Mr Florentino wants to use ‘his current transfer controversy’ to lure him to the Bernabeu…  But for now… Fans be happy… Defenders… Be afraid, Be really afraid… MSN are coming to a pitch near you…

2. Luis Suarez

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Luis Suarez

£77m and 15months later, Luisito is a World Champion. He appeared to have reached his trough in June 2014, He had repeated his vampirism.. A third bite and a chunk of Giorgio Chiellini’s arms the recipe. His first appearance after his four month was the much revered El Clasico, He started, with the eyes of the watching world on him, many waiting to see him fumble, He escaped unscathed as he displayed a sign of an understanding with his teammates with the assist for Neymar’s goal. Fast forward by 2months and he had started to emerge from the shadows. His 43 appearances in all competitions yielded 25goals and 21assists, a ratio of 1:1 in terms of goals & assists per game. The highlight of his Champions League return was the double header against PSG in the Quarter finals when he took David Luiz to the cleaners and apparently justified Mourinho’s statement of Luiz being a ticking time bomb. His winning strike against Real Madrid in the Clasico was the final nail in the Galaticos coffin that ultimately crowned Barca champions while his goal in the final all but sealed victory at a point when Juventus were growing into the game.
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His impact seemingly has doubled this season no thanks to his contributions in Messi and Neymar’s absence. While he indeed has witnessed it all for Barca this year,  from the 5 trophies won to theof the 4-0 and 4-1 defeats to Athletic and Celta, Suarez’s quality has shone through. His head as a part of the three-headed monster, that is the MSN, has struck effectively and precisely, 150 goals among 3players is no joke and if this trident are to stay together for much longer, it is only bad news for defences because of their ability to make up for one another’s failings, a quality that Suarez has flawlessly exhibited (his understanding with his strike partners) with many having feared for his selfish attitude. His strikes in the Clasico this season and his 5 goals at the Club World Cup only tell a part of the story of a man who in 2016 all things been equal could be the heir apparent to Lionel Messi’s inevitable Balon D’Or.

1. Lionel Messi

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Leo the Legend

He’s 28years, he’s won the Ballon d’or four times, 500 appearances, 425goals, 32 hatricks, defences know him as “messi-less”… everytime you try to describe the Argentine, you come up short. What he has accomplished needn’t be repeated, it’s no secret, we all know it, he’s been the best, arguably of all time. In 2015, he’s been phenomenal, no one comes close, his game, the way he plays.. is an art and like wine, it has gotten better with age.

Do you remember that solo run against A. Bilbao? That Copa del Rey final? How about the Champions League? Boateng will not for Leo in a jiffy. The best player in a horrifying attack (the MSN Gang) and despite his obvious talents, he dazzles with every performance. How do you describe winning every competition he’s play in? If that’s not best in the world, I don’t know what is.

There you have it. The best 15 players of the year 2015. What do you think? Do you think there’s that one player we forgot to include in our list? Share your views with us in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers to a fantastic 2016 from all of us at ForTheGoals! (@Rotimi Tosin @kopainzy) 😉

Kindly follow me on twitter @rotdav to catch up with other interesting football articles and to talk more and more football.

An Analysis of Nigerian Football in 2015

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What a year!

As young chaps, we all dreaded our exams (well to a certain extent). I did for one reason: the fear of failure. I never for once finished outside of the top 2 right from my nursery up until my final year in primary school. That was the year my fears swallowed me. It was the first term to be precise. My mom was no place near me to monitor me. I flopped big time, finishing 10th. That report sheet sent cold shivers through my spine. My uncle didn’t help issues either. My Christmas was another case entirely. My annual Christmas cloth? It never arrived; I didn’t wear any new outfit to church or to our Christmas carol. That rage spurred me. I’d finish first the following term for one reason, and the wheels had gone off before I desired a change.

An issue similar to mine seems set to plague the current Nigerian Football Federation cabinet. A good start but then with reservations. While we celebrate the successes in Nigerian football this year, we seemingly aren’t supposed to rest on our laurels just yet, and like the proverbial report card in the hands of child, here is mine, as a teacher’s assessment, of the Glass house over the past year (Each section is scored over 100):

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Osimhen Victor

ON THE PITCH: Was it Victor Osimehn’s ten goals at the U17 World Cup in Chile or Oghenekaro Etebo’s solo run in the final of the U23 Nations Cup in Dakar, that pleased you the most? It’s a sound indication of how good our teams put up a show on the pitch. The year hadn’t looked bright with many still reeling in our failure to qualify for the AFCON as well as Emmanuel Amuneke’s U17 team’s implosion at the U17 Nations Cup. It changed with Manu Garba’s charges winning the U20 Nations Cup before crumbling like a pack of cards in New Zealand, and the Super Falcons ‘putting up a show’ in Canada. Fast-forward to the end of the year and we were in dreamland with the Flamingoes and Falconets completing routine jobs of qualifying for their respective World Cups sandwiched in between, the Falcons’ failure to qualify for the Olympics and the aforementioned success of the Dream team in dire circumstances as well as that of the Eaglets against all odds. Who would forget Enyimba’s title win? Or Akwa United’s epic Federations Cup final success.  Which moment did you cherish the most?
VERDICT: 68

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Kingsley Sokari of Enyimba against Etebo Oghenekaro of Warri Wolves. Image Credits: LMC.org

THE NIGERIAN PREMIER FOOTBALL LEAGUE: ‘They said this day would never come’. There I sat, proud of a first game played at night in Nigerian football. It was just cool, and the atmosphere was good (where I watched it). It was dreams come true. A game under floodlights… but wait. “Why can’t we have more of this?,” I asked myself. Then I remembered: it’s the Nigerian Professional Football League, where late games are a taboo. Despite the on-field successes, the question still begs to be answered of why we can’t do better. A calendar which is just as symbolic as that of a certain Nigerian university isn’t something to be proud of. The 2014-15 season kicked off in 2015, the 15-16 season will begin in 2016 just about the same time as the commencement of the preliminary round of the 2016 CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup which all but leads us to that missing part of the league. While organisation was at its best this past season, the LMC need not rejoice yet, there is still work to be done. The calendar needs to be set right, the idea of two conferences won’t be bad with the teams split into two conferences of ten teams and a playoff tournament just like the MLS to ensure a quick end to the season and ensure a realignment with the European season which is being followed. And it’s not just that. One would only look further up north and see how players of a certain club had to sleep outside the government house in harsh harmattan conditions because they weren’t getting paid. It leaves a scar on the game and the LMC might be needing to enforce rules, rules like ABSA enforced in South Africa to ensure the Premier Soccer League has become a league worthy of watching. Clubs need to understand that the welfare of their players are paramount in whatever they do, however what do you expect, when a club cannot possibly produce TV friendly jerseys. It is true, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but there were huge strides and big calls made to ensure Rome is what it is today. The LMC chairman, Alh. Shehu Dikko complained about how the fans are not in the stadiums, but in sincerity, they refuse to look at how they have failed to draw the fans to the stadium. The league needs branding, and until that step is taken, the fans won’t come. Its quite amazing that despite Nike being our national team kit sponsors, we can’t get them to supply us Match balls, referee kits et al. The pitch may be TV friendly, what about the stands? The terraces? Must all games on Saturday and Sunday necessarily kick off at 4pm? Is there not supposed to be a schedule? A Friday night kick-off at 6pm won’t hurt, neither will 3pm,5:30 & 7:45pm kick-offs on Saturday or 12noon kick-offs on Sundays. We need to have match times, well-structured, and floodlights in all stadiums so as to have more mid-week games that people can catch up too, a 4pm mid-week match is a joke with a lot of people still in traffic on their way back from work. There is still a lot to be done and the administrative trips to the UK had better be implemented in the coming season. Save that, 2015 was fair….
VERDICT: 55

THE NFF: Amaju Pinnick was the new beginning I’d rooted for during the NFF elections; his charm and demeanour, add to that his youthful look, made him the perfect candidate on my path, and a major upgrade on the outgone Aminu Maigari board. Things have changed on the pitch quite alright. However, it is off it that the challenges lay. A certain Chris Giwa lurks in the shadows while there are huge question marks over how the deal with Nike went down giving Adidas opted against renewing the kit contract. The jerseys are yet to be available a year after its unveiling and so do the questions arise. The decision to owe Samson Siasia his wages but pay Sunday Oliseh his in advance plus a car as well as the fact that the Dream Team allegedly took only ONE jersey to Senegal for the U23 tourney is worrying. His unveiling of the 2016 budget was crowned with his statement of majority of the funds coming from the Federal Government. But can part of the NFF’s budget not be sponsored by other companies other than the company called the Federal Government of Nigeria? The NFF is an institution that shouldn’t just rely on government funds. It is issues as such that make player strikes and protests inevitable as well failure to pay a coach. Achange of approach in 2016 maybe?
VERDICT: 50

Nigerian football may have changed levels in 2015, but its happened in time past, that in taking a step forward, we often take the proverbial two steps backwards, one mustn’t always hit the trough before surging towards another crest, we aren’t sound waves…

Follow Tosin on twitter @teetunez

The Best 15 Footballers of 2015 (7-4)

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Go Figure

We continue counting down the list of players that shattered records this year, whose performances eclipsed that of their counterparts in the calendar year 2015. In case you missed the previous lists, catch up here and here

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Dare To Zlatan: Swedish General, Prince of Paris

“So long as they can enjoy playing on the bench” would be Zlatans response if asked if he needs to take the back seat  in the PSG set up.

At 34, Zlatan isn’t slowing down and the karate king of football isn’t “taking a bow”… at least not very soon. The Enigma whose nose is legend ‘blows away’ defences at will not just with goals (38 for club and country) but also with assists (15), he is still offers a lot to his teams.

At 6’5, Zlatan still ‘stands tall’ amongst the best in the game, sending an entire nation into retirement in the European qualifiers. He’s the only player alive that can say:

“…at the Euros in 2016, the French crowd will cheer for me more than they will for the French National Team.”

Like a boss

Zlatan isn’t tired yet and earns his place at number 7.

6. Thomas Muller

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Muller: Bayern's not-so-secret machine of war

It was the definition of a job well done, But its the RekordMeister and the football pitch is their playground, Turning a masterclass was the perfect tonic and response to the shambles of their first leg loss, To celebrate it; one man did it distinctly, He grabbed a megaphone, ran over to the fans and noised them up. It was a memorable moment, one that would last in memory of the fans that stayed behind that night. It defined an era, the institution that Thomas Muller had become at Bayern on a night he had become Germany’s all time Champions League top scorer.. Only at 25. Gerd Muller must have being envious. That night encapsulated what Muller stood for and his performances in the year. If 2014 was the tip of the Icebag, 2015 was the Big Bang! The year he finally matured into the leader he is.  Who would forget that night? Or the way he rallied his teammates in the second leg of their 3-5 loss to Barca, or his virtuoso assist for Lewandowski in their final CL game of 2015, even his angled strike against Arsenal in that 5-1 thrashing..  His records of being the fastest German to reach 50CL wins? Or his 150Bundesliga victories?

His efficiency in finding the net with
his chances on goal has dramatically improved so as his overall link-up play. His 20goals and 5assists midway through this current season is 1short of his total tally of 21goals last season even though his assists tally is dwarfed  by the 18 he had. However, don’t be fooled, He is more than just a finisher, He is an all-round footballer, a sign of what is to come in football. He is the RAUMDEUTER: Space-investigator. Still only 25, it’s a sign he is yet to reach his peak…

5. Robert Lewandowski

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5-Star Goalscorer.

What do you call a performance that has one of the world best coaches on his feet with a smile, and his hands celebrating a moment he just witnessed alongside the crowd?

Ans: Polish

Who holds the world records for;
1. Fastest Bundesliga Hatrick?
2. Fastest Four goals in the Bundesliga?
3. Fastest five goals in a bundesliga Match?
4. Most goals scored by a substitute in the bundesliga?

Ans: Robert Lewandowski

Pep Guardiola was quoted saying:

“I can’t really understand it. Five goals. Neither as a coach nor as a player did I ever experience something like this and I can’t really explain it.”

Since achieving these records, Robert has continued to find the back of the net, scoring 14 goals and counting in the Bundesliga this season, helping his team to an eight point lead ahead of Borrusia Dortmund, while his five goals in the Champions League have secured qualification for the knockout stages of the competition. 

With the national team he equalled former Northern Ireland striker David Healy’s 13-goal record for a single European Championship qualifying campaign. 45 goals for club and country is only dwarfed by world bests Ronaldo and Messi. He’s been the best centre forward this year and can be said to be Bundesligas’ biggest excitement this year.

From being stopped from transferring to Blackburn by volcanic ash to be playing at a level of one of the world’s bests, Lewandowski is favoured by the football gods, he’s had a great year!

4. Cristiano Ronaldo

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High Flier

Words are not just enough to describe how phenomenal and prolific he has been in 2015 and hitherto. Though ,he is at the peak of his amazing and mind-blowing career, that does not stop him from churning out his outstanding performances, game in game out.

With little or nothing to prove again, the Funchal born superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro, indeed had a dramatic year even without a silverware. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a total of 55 goals for club and county ,short of his tally of 61 of last year.

In remarkable fashion, he has found the net 23 times this season alone: with 12 league goals and 11 in the Champions League. He also became the first player to score 11 goals in the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League and he is the current top scorer of the competition. Out his goals this season,10 goals came from his right foot, 3 from his left, 4 headed goals, 1 spotkick and 5 free kicks.

Well, there is little or no doubt, he is of the greatest footballers that has ever graced the game of football,so if he says he is the best in his head, – with 235 goals in 215 games for Real Madrid – his record echoes the message: Best in the world!

The Best 15 Footballers of 2015 (11-8)

We’re counting down the list of players that amazed the world of football the most this 20!5. In case you missed the first part, you can catch up here

11. Arturo Vidal

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Vidal: A box of energy

His eyes swollen, apparently tearful. He was left explaining his silly act of drink-driving during a tournament where he was the poster-boy, He was the symbol of the nation, and he had somewhat entangled himself in trouble, after lifting hearts with masterful performances in their first two games of the tournament. He was expecting to be punished. But the ANFP went soft, the fans forgave him, and he repaid their faith in full. He was the beacon as they won their first ever international title in front of their own fans after a peach performance in the final. He was named Man of the Match and was only included in the Team of the Tournament.

The manner in which Vidal evolved in 2015 was crucial both for the man and the team, right from his ‘New’ Advanced role at Juventus through to his more withdrawn role at Bayern. His consistent performances birthed 8 goals in 39 appearances (the league and Champions league) which resulted in a fourth straight Scudetti and a Champions League Silver medal as well as a Coppa Italia title. The stats speak in his favour just as much. His knack for important goals which put the mind of the fans at rest were a common feature of his game this year. One only need look at the Champions League quarter-final win against Monaco and the opening game of the Copa. If 2014 was the year Arturo Vidal showed promise, He definitely lived up to it in 2015.

10. Mesut Ozil

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The All-Seeing Mesut

In football terms, the German international can be said to be more Spanish than German. Get it? Indulge me… let me Ozil (assist) you. His game isn’t about intensity, work rate or the machine-like efficiency associated with Germans. In fact if German footballers are likened to Mercedes-Benz, he’d be a Porsche or a Lamborghini, such is the finesse and class his game exudes (now if you don’t get it, you just can’t).

If you thought he had the world’s attention while at Madrid, now the whole universe watches in awe. Highest number of assists this season in the top 5 leagues in Europe, arguably the best playmaker in the game right now. The 15/16 season is only half-way through but he has already assisted twice as many goals as the next player on the list (Kevin de Bruyne, 8 assists). What more can be said

2015 has been Ozil’s best year yet and he’s still gathering plaudits with his constant ‘eye popping’ performances. Ozil is football’s illuminati, utilising the all-seeing eyes for passing accuracy and assists. Little wonder Cristiano Ronaldo was furious he was sold.

Earlier this year, according to Opta, Ozil had the best minutes per assist rate in the Premier League history! And that was last season. In the game against Bournemouth this season, Mesut Ozil created nine goalscoring chances, the most by a player in a single Premier League game this season.

In this same year, in the game against Man. City, he made his 14th and 15th assists of the season in the 16th game of the season; the fastest any player has ever managed in the EPL history.

9. Paul Pogba

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Well done Paul. Clap for yourself

He is not the best goal-scoring machine in the Old Lady’s arsenal but whenever he scores, his goals made headlines.

His 15 Serie A starts this 15/16 Serie A season is a testament to his indispensability at Juventus. In this same season, no player has won possession in the final third more times than Octopus Paul in the Serie A. He is power and combativeness combined.

While his team was beaten in the Champions League final and denied a treble by Barcelona, he was named in the ten-man shortlist for the UEFA Best Player in Europe award, which he later finished 10th.

In a year where some players did not win any club trophies, he won 3. Not bad Paul, not bad.

8. Alexis Sanchez

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Alexis the Terror

The Golden boy with the golden touch. You only need to see him play the piano to judge his football skills; he is just as exquisite, his fingers striking each chord like his foot striking the ball into the net.

If his arrival at Arsenal was mired by his inability to deliver on the big stage for Barcelona as some had called it, he has not only proven them wrong, he has just as much put them to shame. His goals were just as important as he himself, and even though his 2015 didn’t start too well, he was celebrating two titles in the space of a month as he played a massive role in Arsenal’s FA Cup win before leading the charge along with Edu Vargas and Arturo Vidal for Chile at the Copa America, his goals crucial in the groups and his assist for the winner in the semis. He returned to club action to lift the Community shield with the Gunners after which he embarked on a scoring run of 9 goals in 6 games for club and country.

He has shown no signs of stopping. He was rewarded with the 2015 Fans Premier League Player of the Year and you only need to ask his Arsenal team mates and they’d explain his ever burning desire to be the best… Balon d’Or consideration maybe? You have another 12months Alexis…

Can wait for the rest? Continue here and here

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The Best 15 Footballers of 2015 (15-12)

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#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering...

The year 2015 brought along with it a bucket-load of surprises for football fans. From new names grabbing headlines, the usual suspects staying ahead of the game, record breakers and players who won trophies en masse, it has been a year to remember.

Of all that has happened – Leicester, Chelsea, Watford’s record summer signings, Juventus, Enyimba, the Messi-less Barcelona, that Lewa’s 5 goals in 9 minutes, that Messi dribble that finished Boateng’s career, Di Maria, van Gaal, Aguero’s 5 goals in 21 minutes, Vardy’s 11 in 11, Pep’s 2-3-5 formation, the Paris drama that made the German National Football Team spend the night in the dressing room, Florenzi’s goal against Barca, Osimhen and the Golden Eaglets, Jose Mourinho’s classic post-match comments and more – we at ForTheGoals have selected 15 players whose performances this year surpassed that of their counterparts… by miles! Here’s our countdown:

15. Carlos Tevez

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Who else can win twi trophies in two continents in one calendar year? You guessed right!

If there’s a list of footballers that can play the game and don’t mind where they play the beautiful game, Carlos ‘Carlitos’ Tevez would be atop it .

In 2015, Carlitos rounded off the season with Juventus, winning a domestic double and reaching the Champions League finals. He then left for Boca Juniors, the club where it all started, to win another domestic double, grabbing the footballing record for being the first player to win doubles at two clubs in a calender year along the way.

With 29 goals for both clubs this calender year, he sure has wounded a lot of defenses and left loads of scars. His goal scoring heroics no doubt will shame captain Rooney. Carlitos has been one of the best doing it in full glare of the footballing world and some of its hidden parts.

14. Pierre Aubameyang

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Record breaker: P. Aubameyang

Where did he come from? That’s a mohawk? Oh! He’s scored! 27goals in 26 appearances this season! If he were some captain in Manchester you’ll hear “he scores when he wants” everytime he scores. The very elusive Aubameyang has caught the world’s attention with his exploits in Germany.

Having previously played for 14 clubs (his speed must have helped him move from each club so quickly), the 26 year old Gabonese looks like he has found a settlement for his trade and he’s building a dynasty.

He’s had an explosive 2015, scoring more goals in the top 5 leagues for club and country than anyone bar the MSN gang, CR7 and Ibrahimovic. His 42 goals this year has helped Dortmund mount a challenge on the Bundesliga – as ironic as it may sound – and helped Gabon qualify for the group phase of African World Cup qualifiers.

He’s has the world’s attention… He’s had a great year.

13. Antoine Griezmann

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Antoine: The REAL A. Madrid striker

Maybe all top players see hair styles as some sort of inspiration, we’ll never know, some just haven’t just decided on their hair colour… *steps in Griezmann*. French man, multicoloured hair and match winner. He scores so many match winners his nickname should be “3 points”.

Carving a niche for himself in a league where most of the world’s top players converge, Griezmann has managed to grab the spotlight for himself from time to time.

He features for his consistency and knack for goal scoring, you have to be consistent to be reckoned with in a league containing most of the world’s galacticos, even making the la liga team of the season for 14/15.

His 2015 wasn’t amazing but it was close.

12. Claudio Bravo

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What a year!: Bravo in action for Chile

What else can be said about a goalie that won the UEFA Champions League, the La Liga title, the Copa America, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup… all in one year?

Claudio Andrés Bravo had a 2015 that most goalkeepers in the world would be envious of. For every competition he participated in, he won a trophy. After winning the UEFA Champions League and La Liga, he went home and led Chile to their first major international honour as they conquered the Copa America. He played every minute of the tourney, saved a penalty in the final against Argentina and was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament; and all this was after he was named the goalkeeper in the La Liga 2014/2015 Team of the Season. He capped it off with the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup. I didn’t mention his goalkeeping skills right? Well, his trophies speak volumes for him.

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This Week’s Definition of the EPL’s Big Five

In a Premier League Matchday that had a lot of 90+ mins goals, with some teams getting ripped apart by the Foxes and more, here’s a review of the performances of the league’s Big Five:

Oliver Giroud: A Gunner that can't stop blazing

Oliver Giroud: A Gunner that can’t stop blazing


– Arsenal: Taking Advantage Sticking Around the Top
Before the game, it was sure who was going to win this tie. But after scoring 2 first half goals against Aston Villa, it was even clearer where the three points were headed. Arsenal, made sure ‘this kind of three points’ did not slip through their fingers as you never know the grain of rice that’ll tip the scale come May 2016. Their win sent them to the top – for a while – which is some sort of morale booster for their title ambitions – to be sitting atop the pile, smiling down on the remaining 19, even if it is for only a couple of hours.

Ironically unironic: These days you need to 'scroll down' to see Chelsea on the log table.

Ironically unironic: These days you need to ‘scroll down’ to see Chelsea on the log table.


– Chelsea: Drowning in the Deep Blue
The irony seems to have lost its effect on football fans. The irony that last season’s champs can be competing for a ‘parking space in the relegation zone’ is no longer an irony. It’s like the troublesome cousin that has unavoidably come to stay. It has become a Premier League 2015/2016 season fact. So when they played against the best team of the league, Leicester City, I expected them to lose. I mean, this days, everybody expects Chelsea to lose right? The only argument is: By how much?

And so Leicester City, and Mahrez and Vardy and Ranieri condemned Mourinho to his 9th defeat of the season; a season that’s not even 18-games old. It seems all out of José’s hands. There’s already a blending-in of colours with the Blues drowning in the league’s Deep Blue Sea.

Never say die: The Normal One is making Liverpool contend again.

Never say die: The Normal One is making Liverpool contend again.


-Liverpool: Point Snatchers, Party Spoilers!
I think Liverpool fans should get used to this kind of descriptions now that Klopp is the Head-Ni**a-in-Charge. Liverpool scored the first of the game but conceded two via corner-kicks (a weak spot maybe?). The second goal was conceded in the 73rd minute. It took a while but a certain Origi heeded the clarion call of his master and blasted the ball into West Brom’s onion bag. This was in the 96th minute! You wonder how “pained” – like my Nigerian folks would say – Tony Pulis must have been. They must have wanted all three points against the Reds but instead got only one and Liverpool got the other. The third? To the ref maybe?

Back to winning ways: The Citizens left it late at the Etihad stadium

Back to winning ways: The Citizens left it late at the Etihad stadium


-Manchester City: Back to Winning Ways
Man. City needed to at least garner 3 points against the in-trouble Swans after their “usual” catastrophic away display against Stoke City. Who better to pick 3 points off than a manager-less club?

So they got off to a flying start with a 26th-minute goal and put their noses in front. But for Joe Hart, they’d have suffered another loss. Then, at last, another “usual” happened (Note: No Man. City game this season is complete without them conceding at least a goal. The ones in which they’ve kept clean sheets are incomplete games and will be replayed in the nearest future with them finally conceding). Gomis finally scored against Hart in the 90th minute. 1 – 1. But the Citizens being the team that they are, especially when they’re playing at the Etihad Stadium, had other ideas and they scored again… in the 92nd minute! Drama! Yet again, Man. City have made the most of a “simple” Premier League game. Well, the Premier League in that sentence makes “simple” very hard.

Well well well...: Uncle Louis and the Old Trafford hardknock life

Well well well…: Uncle Louis and the Old Trafford hardknock life


-Manchester United: Louis van Gaal
No definition could be better fitting than this! Take it to the bank. The Dutch gaffer is making Man. Utd seem worse than the Moyes days (no offense Moyes). Meet any Man. Utd fan – a real one – and they’ll kick Uncle Louis’ ass and send him packing the moment they get a chance. Just like Zlatan said, van Gaal is driving this Red Ferrari like a Fiat!

Again, the Red Devils lost, to Bournemouth this time. They’re now winless in 5 games and the only one to blame is the man at the helm of affaira. Not Rooney, not Martial but Louis Van Gaal. He’s doing a terrible job. The interesting part of the story is: He knows that his team is poor but he’s TOO RIGID to become FLEXIBLE enough to adopt other ideas than can move the team forward and make it better than the kind of team it is now: a team that is scared of scoring goals.

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An Analysis of the Euro 2016 Draws

The Groups: France '16 is upon us!

The Groups: France ’16 is upon us!


The tension and suspense is over. The home nations no need worry: England and Wales will play each other. I bemoaned why UEFA didn’t place all four home nations in different pots though. Why they didn’t even toy with the possibilities of having all four in one group. That meant; more publicity, more fans, more press, all covered by the ‘Home Nations’ and less money to spend for the hosts. All it would have cost us was one group of boring football. That fans won’t mind. But its just a suggestion aye?

Now, that we know the groups and the teams that belong there, from the relative ease of the host’s group to the dangers that lay in wait in Groups D & E to the relative calm of Group F, How did the draws fare in our minds?

Beau Jeu: Match ball for the tournament

Beau Jeu: Match ball for the tournament


1.UEFA WILL ALWAYS WIN
Michel Platini’s absence from the draws might have taken a little shine off the draws, but then, the draws may have played out exactly how the European football governing body envisioned it. A ‘Group of Death’ or two, given the competitive nature of football and a relatively easy route for the hosts to the final… Or so it seems. Monsieur Platini may have missed the draws, but his imprints didn’t. Exactly how Michel thought it?

2. FRANCE MUST WIN THEIR GROUP
Put aside the rankings of their group rivals, France have landed themselves a very easy group, the easiest any host nation could have wished for. Poland had a rejuvenated Greek team and Czech Rep in 2012, teams not to be cast aside, Ukraine had France & England; Switzerland had Turkey,Czech and Portugal, Austria had Germany & Croatia; Portugal had Spain & Greece. France have?

Their last meeting with Switzerland ended 5-2 (that world cup game in Brazil), they beat Albania twice in ‘Qualifying group I’ and have a decent record against Romania. If they win Group A, they face any of the best 3rd place sides, a 2nd place finish would see them face a 2nd place side in a group C that have the co-hosts of Euro 2012 & Germany. They have no excuses: With the fans behind them and the ‘luck of the draws’, Les Bleus must finish top.

3. THE CZECHS ARE CURSED…
I call it, the Curse of the Euros. The Czech Republic for the past three Euros have dreaded the draws, for one reason: They know its another nightmare. 2004 saw them grouped with Germany, the Netherlands & Latvia and they stunningly won the group, it could have been their year… we all know the story. 2008 was more cruel. After the disappointment of the World Cup, hoping to bounce back, they got Switzerland, Portugal & Turkey, After pipping the co-hosts on opening day & only just losing to Portugal, they lost to Turkey in their last game in extra time after both sides finished tied for points and goal difference. 2012 brought a little bit more optimism. Poland, Greece and Russia were the opponents and they rode their luck to the last 8.

This year’s draw does not do them any favour. Spain are the best side in Europe on current form (the stats support this), Croatia are the tourney’s dark horses and Turkey boast Arda Turan, Hakan Calhanoglu, Nuri Sahin & the most experienced coach at this Euros in Fatih Terim(who would be coaching them for a 3rd tourney). Beat that boys! In the words of a friend… #Pray4CzechRep

Prediction: Winner of the Belgium vs Italy game will top the group

Prediction: Winner of the Belgium vs Italy game will top the group


4. ITALY MUST START WELL…
I thought to myself when I saw this: This isn’t good for Catenaccio. Just when Italy seemed to be getting their groove, they have been (are being) sent a harsh reminder… A cruel one that they’ll start their group against Belgium and they will play Ireland(The Stoke City of Int’l football) again and Sweden! Oh! Sweden! Euro 2004.. Anybody?

Gli Azzuri have lived on past glories enough! The glory days of Maldini, Totti, Costacurta, Baresi, Baggio, Nesta, Rossi, Mr Lippi, Mr Sacchi are long gone. The Serie A in itself is in decline and one only have to look to know how far behind Italian football is. Milan, Juventus and Inter are no longer dominant forces in Europe. It was all summed up when Roma only advanced from their UCL group with just 6pts – partially because Leverkusen played Barcelona. Its sad when the 2nd best team is humiliated 1-7. The Bel Paese need to recover lost glories and not revel in them. The Brazil 2014 disaster should be forgotten, and all eyes should be on the future. The personnel are finally coming of age: Candreva, Marchisio, Romagnoli, Chiellini  et al. It could be too early for Donnaruma but they’ve got Marchetti at Lazio. Buffon should stick around for one more tournament and the ever improving Insigne. Conte knows this. He did it with Juventus. If anyone is that one man that can solve their issues.. Its him, but he has to do it fast, effectively and in a short time.

5. WE ARE IN FOR A SWELL TIME! BECAUSE… THE DIE IS CAST!
The draws are over, the countdown has begun. Only a little over 200days to Euro 2016 and it does look promising. Good groups, good game-schedules (at least for me) and Fantastic hosts. From the certainly overhyped but ‘boring’ England-Wales to the less talked about but ‘interesting’ Iceland-Hungary, it promises to be the best, serving us good football. The new format in itself is a blessing in disguise, especially given that only 8 sides would go home after the Group phase. Expectations are high. This is what club football won’t give you! From now till the training camps open till the squads are announced.. The die is cast brethren!

Now That the Champions League Group Stage is Over, Let the REAL Champions League Begin!

The final round of the Champions League Group Stage is always the icing on the cake (at this stage). Yes teams like Real Madrid and Bayern and Barcelona and Zenit and co were already uncatchable at this point but teams like Arsenal needed to play their way out of the ‘conditions’ they played themselves into, Man. City wanted to top their UCL group for the first time and Man. Utd were still trying to qualify out of their group.

UCL: The Boys have been sorted from the Men

UCL: The Boys have been sorted from the Men

Football is still painfully unpredictable but now that the boys have been sorted from the men what can we expect from the teams that progressed (and those that did not) after their performances in the final round of the UCL?

My way or the highway: High-handed meister

My way or the highway: High-handed meister


– Obviously, LVG is the Problem!
For a team that scores like as if they’re afraid the goals will finish, it’s to their own advantage that they’re now out of ‘Europe’s Premier League’. Why? Well, they wouldn’t have gone far anyways even if they did – even with football being as unpredictable as it is – so why bother?

And now, they have crazy coach van Gaal to thank for qualifying them for the craziest competition in the world I know: the Europa League.

Man. Utd failed to show up in this season’s UCL, despite having the 3rd highest ball-possession in this season (behind Barcelona and Bayern Munich according to SkySportsNews). And who’s to blame? You’re wrong, it’s not Rooney’s fault. It’s van Gaal’s. This is what you get when, as a coach, you focus too much on the defensive aspect of the game. This is what you get when you make life hard for the ‘magicians’ in your team with the way you set the team up. And when you play on the ‘big stage’ without flexibilty, you get broken easily.

Expectations: Man. Utd’s Europa League qualification is TOTALLY bad for them. With teams like B. Dortmund, Sevilla and the ‘random ones’, they don’t stand a chance there. The stress of playing on Thursdays will obviously take its toll on whatever plans they may have to take over in the English Premier League. Well done Louis!

Man. City: Big time scorers, freelance conceders

Man. City: Big time scorers, freelance conceders


– Man. City’s Goal-scoring Prowress is Legendary… so is their Goal-conceding Power!
England’s ‘Scariest Team’ finally topped a Champions League group after the Group Stages thanks to a last-ten-minutes sterling performance and a Sevilla win over Juventus and Pellegrini’s celebrations on the touch-line spelt out how important the feat was. They wanted to ‘avoid the big boys’, go as far as possible in the Champions League and thereby impress themselves as a powerhouse in European Football which is what the club owners have wanted so badly!

But as they progress in the competition, their major problem persists: their defense can’t stop conceding goals! It’s like they love it. As good as Otamendi and Mangala are, City just can’t help letting the goals in! If the Citizens will score four in a game, they must concede two. Now, the irony is: Even if they get the ‘easy teams’ as is the reward for topping your group, what about the defensive issues? What will happen to a team that gets an easy opposition, concedes two in the first half and can’t recover from the deficit? Then the 2nd leg becomes a uphill climb and they’re knocked out again! Well, it’s football and, the reverse could always happen: They could win both legs by large margins.

Expectations: Again, Man. City have qualified for the Knockout stages of the Champions League. The team is naturally unpredictable. Every player on that team is a potential goalscorer – asides Hart and Willy of course – which makes them a hard opposition for any team going forward but their love for conceding goals will set them back. Furthermore, I’m sure they’re not expecting to get to the final of the competition so…

– C. Ronaldo’s 11 goals in 6 UCL  games
Ronaldo became the first player to hit double digits as per goals in the UEFA Champions League beating Luiz Adriano’s record of 9 goals. Thanks to clubs like Malmo, the Portugese was able to achieve this feat just like we can credit Bayer Leverkusen for letting Messi bang in five back then. CR7 could have gotten more which is a testament to what he is capable of and what football fans can expect as the competition moves to its closing stages.

Expectations: Madrid is just Madrid that has all that a team requires to win a trophy – you can say trophies. So, whatever the case, they should make it to the semi-finals, at least. C. Ronaldo will definitely add more goals and should end this campaign the highest goal scorer. By the way, I don’t think Benitez has what it takes to get to the final.

– Now Sevilla Can go and Win the Europa League… again!
They finished 3rd on the table after the group stages and qualified for the Europa League. Now you know why they were motivated to run past Juve and get that qualification.

First, they didn’t know what ‘Gladbach would do in England, so they had to win. Secondly, they wanted to be back in their ‘comfort zone’, a zone where they’ve been practically unplayable in years! Winning the Europa League last season qualified them automatically for the Champions League (which, I think, wasn’t exactly what they wanted). So they tried to get the necessary number of points they could so they could go back to where they were coming from; back to where they ruled like kings.

Expectations: They know the terrains of the EL very very well. Their presence and history in the competition will scare the sh** out of the other teams (no matter how big the team is). So no matter what, they should make it to the final and win it… again!

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Karma is a ***** and other things You Should Know About the Premier League this Weekend

It’s amazing how the Premier League can spring surprises (as often as this happens, it still amazes me) especially on those weekends when U look at the list of fixtures and you don’t see any “exciting fixtures”.

That was the case – at least for me – this past weekend. Arsenal vs Sunderland? “Comfy win for Arsenal” was my response. Chelsea against Bournemouth? I thought in my mind, “Finally! Chelsea can gather 3 points from a game in their quest to survive relegation.” I went on and on about the other games too. I made my own predictions: “Man. City should win, even if they’re away, Newcastle’s dead already, another Vardy goal, West Ham should kill another giant.” But the Premier League had other ideas.

Here’s 5 things I learnt this weekend:

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The Premier League is STILL as Random as ****…
… and that’s where they have an edge over the other leagues in the world. Not the over-priced and over-hyped players. No, not the spending power. It’s the unpredictability of that league. When the other ‘big boys’ are playing in their leagues, you can be sure they’ll have a party, bang in the goals and brush their opponents aside (except for this weird weekend that had Bayern Munich and Barcelona fail to win). Well, the Premier League doesn’t work that way. The way the league functions? Stoke City have to beat Man. City, in-trouble Newcastle have to surprisingly outscore in-form Liverpool and winless-in-eight Bournemouth have to get full 3 points against Chelsea… at the bridge! Romantic right?

My way or the highway: High-handed meister

My way or the highway: High-handed meister Louis


– van Gaal is Doing More Harm than Good…
… and the Man. Utd fans that watched the game against West Ham agree totally with me! You can call them ‘The New Boring Team’ of the League and you won’t be exactly wrong. They score like they’re afraid the goals will finish and their defending speaks a lot of ‘zero goals against’. Games are won by scoring goals and keeping your opponents out in the cold right? Well, the second part was well done, as has been for a while now by the Red Devils. But these devils can’t even scare their opponents by scoring against them! And LVG is not helping by snuffing life out of the ‘really good’ kids in the team (you know them). Martial came with good prospects yes. But, a young lad can only be a young lad: Shine blazingly in a couple of games and the wear out. Uncle Louis knows what’s wrong with his team but the Dutchman is too stiff and we all know how things that refuse to be flexible end up. Well at least nobody can blame Rooney for their woes up front this time.

– Claudio Ranieri and his Blue Band…
… are marching on! They put three past poor Swansea via one man, – not Jamie Vardy this time – are sitting on top of the league table and are still claiming all they’re aiming for now is 40 points (somewhat of a pointer to not relegating). Hilarious right? Well, maybe that’s what’s kept them so motivated. When running from a lion, you don’t stop until the lion is tired right? So just maybe Leicester is so motivated to not get relegated they’re running as fast as they can; speeding past the Swans in their weekend game!

P.S: I also think that the tact was: “Continue feeding him till he gets 11, he breaks the record, and normalcy can return (that is other players can start scoring). And on the 12th Matchday, Mahrez scored a hattrick and You-Know-Who was not on the scorers sheet… #Leicester

The Exchange of the Year?

The Exchange of the Year?


– It has to be One of these Two: Mourinho or Yokohama Tyres
Well, any team that ‘The Only One’ becomes its gaffer will ultimately be compared to a bus someday; that one day when Mou will feel like ‘parking the bus’. So, maybe it wasn’t totally surprising when the name on the Chelsea jersey was changed to something related to tyres this season; same season Chelsea have gone from ‘the Feared Ones’ to ‘the team every club can’t wait to play against! Now, Chelsea is somewhere ‘around’ the relegation zone especially after the – shocking or not so shocking loss – to Bournemouth and it all seems out of Jose’s hands. He seems helpless. Chelsea can’t stop losing. For a team like the Blues – and please permit my superstitious beliefs – the only reason I can think of for such a terrible season is, someone somewhere has done something bad and karma is simply being the nicest b***h we all know her to be. Or maybe Samsung is still mad at Chelsea for choosing ‘tyres’ over them!

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– Man. City Should Not Win the League…
… and before you charge me court, I’ve got reasons to back up my suggestion. Yes, it’s a suggestion. That the Scariest Team in the League ‘should’ not win the league is a wild call but,
– How can a team that has kept up the trend of losing three points whenever they play away from the Etihad Stadium rack up enough points to end the season log leaders?
– How can a team that ‘malfunctions’ without Aguero, that has a ‘malfunctioning Yaya Toure and a ‘confused’ ‘not-match-fit’ Delph even end up being the champs by the end of the season?
– How can a team that is CONSTANTLY waiting upon news from Bayern Munich even move forward and win the league?
Welcome back Silva. No offence to you de Bruyne but I think Man. City should not.win the league this season.

#Dazzall

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