Posts Tagged ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’

Report: Ferguson lifts lid on Beckham, Rooney, England

“LONDON — Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson launched his new autobiography on Tuesday, lifting the lid on his relationships with stars including David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney.”

My AFP report on the launch of Alex Ferguson’s forthright new autobiography can be found here.

Report: Ronaldo sends United out of Champions League

“MANCHESTER — Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid controversially came from behind to win 2-1 at Manchester United on Tuesday and reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report on Manchester United’s contentious defeat by Real Madrid can be read here. You can also read a reaction piece: Dumbstruck United get Mourinho’s sympathy.

Reaction: Robben points to Dutch feuding after Euro exit

“KHARKIV, Ukraine — The Netherlands’ players hinted that their Euro 2012 campaign had been undermined by changing-room disunity after their participation in the tournament ended with a 2-1 loss to Portugal.”

My AFP reaction piece on Holland’s Euro 2012 exit can be read here. You can also read my match report here.

From last week: my match report on France’s 2-0 defeat of Ukraine and accompanying reaction piece.

Pitchside Europe: European Team of the Season

“Zlatan Ibrahimović enjoyed his most prolific season to date with Milan, Bayern Munich’s Mario Gómez plundered goals with remarkable consistency, and Falcao shot Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory, but Huntelaar outscored them all. The Dutchman’s sparkling partnership with Raúl fired Schalke to Champions League qualification and with 29 goals, he trailed only Messi, Ronaldo and Robin van Persie in the running for the European Golden Shoe.”

Pitchside Europe signed off for the 2011-2012 campaign by selecting a team of the season from players plying their trade outside the English Premier League. You can see the team (and then vent your spleen about my preposterous selections) here.

Pitchside Europe: Why do Messi and Ronaldo score so many goals?

“Last season they both scored 53 goals for their respective clubs. Since Ronaldo joined Madrid in 2009, he has scored 126 goals in 127 games. Over the same period, Messi has scored 150 goals in 151 games. The diminishing goals-per-game ratio at the World Cup — an established barometer for long-term football trends — proves that the sport is becoming more defensive, and yet Messi and Ronaldo are scoring at a faster rate by the season. So what’s the secret?”

My latest Pitchside Eurosport blog for Eurosport, on why Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are able to score goals at such a strikingly anachronistic rate, can be read here.

Pitchside Europe: European team of the season so far

“With Europe’s major leagues closing down for the winter break, Pitchside Europe selects a team of players who have distinguished themselves in the season to date.”

My final Pitchside Europe blog of the year 2011 looks at the stand-out players from the first half of the 2011-12 season in Europe’s major leagues. You can read it here.

Pitchside Europe: Does Higuaín cramp Ronaldo’s style?

“The statistics over the last two seasons add weight to the theory that Ronaldo is more inclined to adopt the role of a creator – and suppress his own goalscoring instincts – when Higuaín is in the team. Since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, Ronaldo has started 39 league games alongside Higuaín, scoring 40 goals at a rate of 1.03 per game. Over the same period, Ronaldo’s goals-per-game ratio when he starts alongside Benzema is slightly higher, at 1.125. The assist figures tell a similar story. With Benzema next to him at kick-off, Ronaldo produces an average of 0.25 assists per match. Alongside Higuaín, that figure climbs to 0.41.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport can be read here.

The 2010-2011 Season: Five tactical observations

Despite being prefaced by a World Cup that was characterised by stodgy, unadventurous football and which produced the lowest goals-per-game ratio (2.27) since the notoriously defensive 1990 tournament (2.21), the 2010-11 European football season was generally a positive one for teams that sought to keep the ball on the deck and play an expansive game. Football Further examines some of the tactical trends that have emerged in the continent’s major leagues over the last 10 months.

1. Keepers with good feet
The recent retirement of Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar has drawn attention to the value of goalkeepers who can set attacking moves in motion by distributing the ball in an intelligent and enterprising fashion. In a masterful piece for the Financial Times last week, David Winner explained how van der Sar’s coach at Ajax, Louis van Gaal, made a priority of developing his ability with the ball: “Van Gaal… had something more sophisticated in mind: to turn van der Sar into the first ‘sweeper-keeper’, the pivot of his new, high-speed ‘circulation football’ (which became, among other things, the precursor to the current Barcelona style).”

With teams better organised defensively than ever before and attacking players more and more adept at pressing opposition defenders, a goalkeeper who passes the ball well can be a priceless commodity. Victor Valdés provided a superb recent example in the second leg of Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid. With the score 0-0 early in the second half, Valdés used a goal-kick to play a one-two with Gerard Piqué – positioned near the right-hand corner flag – that lured Real’s attacking players up the pitch. Upon receiving the return ball from Piqué, Valdés curled a risky but perfectly executed first-time pass to Dani Alves on the right flank, taking five opposition players out of the game and setting up a counter-attack. Seconds later the ball was in the net, and Barca were on the brink of the final.

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Tactics: Ballon d’Or running shows strikers on the slide

The list of nominees for the first ever FIFA Ballon d’Or award is unsurprisingly dominated by attacking players, but the latest odds show that it is creative midfielders and multi-faceted forwards, rather than out-and-out strikers, who continue to enjoy top billing in the glamour stakes.

Of the five favourites to win the award, only one - Diego Forlán – is a striker, and his goal-getting counterparts Didier Drogba, Miroslav Klose and Asamoah Gyan can all be found towards the longer end of the betting. It confirms a growing trend. In the last five years in which the Ballon d’Or has been awarded, Thierry Henry (third in 2006) and Fernando Torres (third in 2008) are the only classic strikers to have made it onto the podium.

The contrast with the previous five years is telling. Between 2000 and 2005, strikers Michael Owen (2001), Ronaldo (2002) and Andriy Shevchenko (2004) all won the award, with Shevchenko finishing third in 2000, Raúl coming runner-up to Owen in 2001 and Henry taking second place behind attacking midfielder Pavel Nedvěd in 2003.

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Tactics: Fluid Real dance to Mesut Özil’s rhythm

As the latest batch of world-class international players joined the assembly line at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu over the summer, speculation quickly turned to how José Mourinho would attempt to shape his talent-packed Real Madrid squad into a cohesive team. Two games into the La Liga campaign, his strategy is gradually beginning to emerge.

The diagram below, a screenshot from ESPN Soccernet, shows the average positions of Real’s players during the 1-0 victory at home to Osasuna on Saturday*:

The average positions of Real Madrid's players in their 1-0 win at home to Osasuna on September 11 (starting players circled); ESPN Soccernet

[Squad numbers: 1. Iker Casillas; 4. Sergio Ramos, 3. Pepe, 2. Ricardo Carvalho, 12. Marcelo; 24. Sami Khedira, 14. Xabi Alonso; 9. Karim Benzema, 23. Mesut Özil, 20. Gonzalo Higuaín, 7. Cristiano Ronaldo; Substitutes: 11. Esteban Granero, 21. Pedro León]

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European Team of the Season 2009-10

Hot on the heels of the Goals of the Season, we move on to the Football Further European Team of the Season. As in any decent dream team this side is strongly, perhaps even foolishly, oriented towards attack.

Formation: 4-2-3-1-ish

Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (Lyon)
Lyon have not had a great season by their recent standards – despite reaching the last four of the Champions League for the first time in their history – but Lloris’s performances in both Ligue 1 and Europe have elevated him to the position of Europe’s best up-and-coming goalkeeper. He was the difference between the sides in Lyon’s Champions League quarter-final win over Bordeaux thanks to some stunning reaction saves and a move to a top-rank European club cannot be far away.

Right-back: Maicon (Inter)
The world’s best full-back has added spectacular goals to his trade and continues to be one of Inter’s most potent attacking weapons. His juggle-and-volley goal against Juventus will live long in the memory but his strike in the 3-2 win at Udinese, when he started a move inside his own half and finished it with a crashing volley off the crossbar, was every bit as delicious.

Centre-back: Gerard Piqué (Barcelona)
Has developed into probably the finest ball-playing centre-back on the continent. The awareness and sangfroid he showed to spin Inter goalkeeper Julio César and finish into an empty net in the dying minutes of Barca’s Champions League semi-final defeat to Inter was worthy of the world’s top strikers.

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