Archive for the ‘argentina’ Category

Eduardo Salvio: The Next Big Thing?

January 27, 2009

While Arsenal courts Zenith for Andrei Arshavin, Real Madrid begs and pleads for Cristiano Ronaldo, and other clubs are going after the hottest players in the game, there is still a wave of scary talent coming forward from the youth ranks. One in particular is 18 year-old Argentine wunderkind Eduardo Salvio who has already scored 4 goals in 14 appearances for Lanús, including putting two past Boca Juniors. He is also working his way up through Argentina’s highly competitive youth system, recently shining in the South American U-20 championship. Just three days ago, he led his Argentine team to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Peru, scoring the winning goal.

“I can play anywhere, inside or outside, but it does not frighten me to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper,” said a confident Salvio to Gazzetto. “My mirror player plays in another position, and he is Juan Román Riquelme.”

Salvio is a combination of fast, clever, and very technical and with his diminutive 5’5” frame, nothing but trouble for defenders once he has the ball at his feet. He is already being hailed as the next Lionel Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi (who are both mentioned as the next Maradona) in the great tradition of Argentine supporting strikers such as Carlos Tevez, Messi, Javier Saviola, and others.

Now, teams like Roma, AC Milan, Inter, Napoli, Fiorentina, Juventus, CSKA Moscow, Genoa, Sevilla, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Villarreal and Atlético Madrid are hot on his trail.

So, it is no surprise that in today’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, we see that Juve’s management are making their move by sending chief scout Renzo Castagnini to Argentina to work out a deal before another club gets there first. They’ll be hard pressed to trump Napoli, which has always been a second home for Argentine players on the continent, including Maradona, Lavezzi, German Denis, and others. That said, Juve’s deeper pockets would probably carry the day.

According to Gazzetto, to seal the deal Juventus is ready to ante up with at least €8.5 million and plans to finance it through the sale of forward Vincenzo Iaquinta to an interested Russian club Zenit St Petersburg (which also indicates they are resigned to losing Arshavin).

But any deal may not happen until summer since Lanús president Alejandro Marón, has a stated policy that the club’s youth players must play a full season before any transfers are allowed.

Meanwhile, Juventus has reportedly approached Chelsea to discuss a loan deal for French winger Florent Malouda. Malouda has not fared well since the arrival of Chelsea boss Felipe Scolari but his old Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri, now at Juventus, thinks he can help the team challenge Inter for the Scuddetto.

Ronaldo Named 2008 FIFA World Player of The Year

January 12, 2009

Tonight at Zurich’s Opernhaus, Portugal and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo was named the FIFA World Player of the Year, beating out Argentina and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Brazil and AC Milan’s Kaka (the 2007 winner), Spain and Liverpool’s Fernando Torres, and Spain and Barcelona’s Xavi (Euro 2008’s Best Player).

As he presented the award, Pele remarked that at last year’s ceremony when he handed the award to Kaka, he turned and shook Ronaldo’s hand, telling him “next year I’ll be handing it to you.”

An emotionally charged Ronaldo dedicated the award to his family, his friends, teammates, and all those involved in his career.

Perhaps FIFA was tipping its hand before it made the announcement, having the Zurich Opera perform scenes from Handel’s Rinaldo just minutes prior to the final award presentation.

The World’s Female Player of the Year was also named; Brazil’s Marta, winning for the third year in a row.

The winners of the FIFA Best Player Awards are selected by votes from the captains of all 208 member federations’ national teams.

The winners of the 2008 FIFA Fair Play Award were Armenia and Turkey, who overcame years of enmity to play each other three times in 2008, including a September World Cup qualifier attended by both heads of state. These matches set the stage for both sides to begin a reconciliation process which continues to grow.

The FIFA Presidential Award went to the US Women’s National Team for their contributions to the popularity and growth of the women’s game around the world (not to mention their overflowing trophy case). Heather O’Reilly accepted the award on behalf of the team.

Lavezzi: Not Going Anywhere

December 2, 2008

Napoli’s Argentine wunderkind Ezequiel Lavezzi is a man in demand these days. The spark he brought to newly promoted Napoli last year kept them in the upper half of the table and this year, along with fellow countryman German Denis and a host of others, has Napoli up to fourth place in Serie A.

“El Pocho” is often compared to Argentina legend (and current national coach) Diego Maradona but he has a style all his own. Lavezzi has blazing speed and technique but his uncanny abilty to change speed and direction (on or off the ball) makes him a danger to any defense. The list of defenders he has faked out of their jock strap this year alone is long and distinguished.

Almost on cue, deep pocketed Chelsea has taken a shine to the Napoli ace but last night he told the Italian press he is not interested. “I am happy at Napoli,” he said. “I like the city of Naples and the team so I’ll stay here – it’s better than going to England.” Not the kind of thing feedback Permiership clubs are used to receiving.

But now Inter president Massimo Moratti is talking about trying to pry him loose from Napoli, a club which can always use the money but one which also values pride and loyalty above all. They’ve been eyeing him along with Chelsea’s Didier Drogba but that deal is looking less likely so their focus is now on Lavezzi. Regardless of Napoli’s statements that he is not for sale, we can expect to see lots of leaks from Inter to the Gazetta Dello Sport with outlandishly high offers for Lavezzi, all in an attempt to put pressure on the Napoli board.

Given his huge impact on the team, his cult hero status in the city, and the throngs of fans who show up every night at Castel Volturno just to get a look at El Pocho, its hard to think of any offer high enough to convince the club to sell.

Happy Birthday Diego!

October 30, 2008

Perhaps it is fitting that on Diego Maradona’s 48th birthday, his old club Napoli (which he led to two Serie A titles) is currently second in the Italian top flight, only behind Udinese on goal differential. At the same time the Argentina legend, who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title, has also been named the new national team coach.

He remains beloved in this city by the sea where the locals will tell you that he, not Pele’, is the greatest player of all. Whether the once great player is up to the task of guiding his team to glory at the 2010 World Cup remains to be seen, given his colorful and turbulent past off the pitch.

Franz Beckenbauer, who has been succesful as both player and coach seems skeptical, telling “Maybe this comes in time for Maradona so he can find a break from his turbulent lifestyle. Managing the team is completely different to playing in it. You have to be more responsible. The lifestyle is also important but Maradona’s life hasn’t really been tranquil by any means over the years. In any case I am happy for him and I am looking forward to meeting him when he comes here to see Di Michelis.”

Perhaps Fiorentina’s Alberto Gilardino was just giving a salute to Maradona last weekend when he did his best “Hand of God” imitation against Palermo. The goal counted but later led to a two-game suspension. Watch it here:

Of course Maradona’s original version to beat England’s Peter Shilton in Mexico City at the 1986 World Cup counted and led not to a suspension, but to a championship:

Still, one thing Maradona will command from the players immediately is respect, given his long list of accomplishments and his enduring touch on the ball (even at 48). The question is whether he can manage the side through qualification and to take Argentina to where they feel they rightfully belong (given their quality and pedigree); the World Cup final match.

Howard’s Heroic Hands Hold Of Argentina for 0-0 Draw

June 10, 2008

What a difference a week makes! The US Soccer team showed well this weekend after two sub-par performances against England and Spain the previous week.

Sunday Tim Howard put in one of the best performances by a US goalkeeper since Kasey Keller’s 1998 effort against Brazil or Brad Friedel’s run in the 2002 World Cup. His stunning seven saves against Argentina in a 0-0 international result this week have taken him from the ranks of the aspiring to the those of the arrived.

And what about Heath Pearce? He was everywhere the Argentines did not want him while his touch and work rate seem to be just what the team needs. He looks like a completely different player since coming under the tutelage of Frank Pagelsdorf at Hansa Rostock. Coach, I think you’ve found your left back.

There were some other fine performamces from Landon Donovan (who had too much responsibility to carry) and right back Steve Cherundolo for his great job marking Maxi Lopez and Leo Messi (this guy never gets a week off eh?). DaMarcus Beasley looks like he his finding his stride again after his long injury layoff – it was fun to see Messi fouling him in frustration after losing a challenge (and not wanting “Jitterbug” to get away). Others, such as Clint Dempey and Oguchi Oneywu looked effective but tired after their long European seasons.

USA Soccer Team…Still Rebuilding

June 8, 2008

OK, so the US men managed to earn back a bit of respect in a 1-0 losing effort to Spain but huge holes remain if the team hopes to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, let alone get out of the first round.

It was nice to see coach Bob Bradley rolling the dice and giving the start to Freddy Adu who managed to be the only player to give the Spanish any problems up front. Eddie Johnson proved again that he is not a finisher while the rest of the team looked pretty average (save for a decent defensive effort by Carlos Bocanegra) and they still lack in depth in all positions except at goalkeeper. Sure, the presence of Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and pulling McBride out of retirement would have helped but this still only shows that the US men’s team is a deep as a soapdish. The USA without Donovan is too often like AS Roma without Francesco Totti – the others seem lost without one dominant player consistently calling for the ball. Also, the lack of an instinctive, predatory striker means our opponents can mark just a bit softer in the middle and keep their defensive shape much easier.

The technically superior Spanish side never really appeared troubled by their visitors as they played a conservative style to keep possession, prevent injuries, and test a few combinations before their first Euro 2008 match. Xavi’s sublime run through the lead-footed US defense to score the winning goal was not just a testament to the Barcelona star’s skills, but to how unorganized the US defense really is (and how much we miss players like Eddie Pope).

Despite the lofty goals of Project 2010 and the various efforts to produce larger numbers of quality players, it seems that the best we can hope for now is to restock the level and depth of quality we had over the past 10 years because increasing quality or depth appears to be a bridge too far. Maybe its because the US Soccer Federation (USSF) reached its goals, only to find that the rest of the world had moved on. Maybe its because American players, after years of coming up through highly structured programs, have had their killer instinct coached out of them – something you would never say about our basketball players. And maybe (just maybe) it is because the seeds the USSF planted won’t bear fruit until 2014 or 2018. Such long-term projects are always at risk of failing to reach expectations but I’d rather have the USSF aiming for such high goals rather than aiming for mediocrity and succeeding.

Regardless of how today’s match against Argentina goes, I’ve got to give the USSF credit for scheduling matches against such tough opponents (England, Spain, and Argentina) so the players and coaches can see how much work remains.