Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Remember the FIFA '06 Videos?

This morning I heard a song that reminded me of some awesome unlockable video clips within FIFA '06 for Xbox. Being that I am on vacation this week, I decided to devote time to dig up all the vids and post them for all to enjoy:



Top Ten Goals

A Barthez moment, Ligue 1 Ronaldinho scampering, and Becks from midfield. My favorite: Yeboah and his wonderful control.

Premier League Highlights

Remember Ruud?!

Italian Serie A Highlights

Oh Roma. Even a video game showed how pathetic you can be.

French Ligue 1 Highlights

French football = delightful dancing and finishing.

German Bundesliga Highlights

More delightful dancing infused with some heated arguments.

Man these videos bring me back. I would say my favorite League Highlight is the French Ligue 1. Stunning stuff going on over there in the mid 00s. Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Told You! Told You!

Well, I was right. I didn't flat out predict that Real Madrid would beat Barcelona, but I alluded to it in my last post describing the three exciting non-league Clasicos over the coming weeks.

The evidence was clear: Jose Mourinho outwitted Pep Guardiola. The Madrid gaffer infused Pepe in a central midfield role higher up the field to cancel out the movements of Xavi. Pepe did the job on Xavi, which stunted Barca's passing game early on, and created a proactive approach for Madrid to deal with the crafty Catalan midfield: pressure them up high when they receive the ball.

The plan also called for balls to be played down the wings to expose Barca's wing-backs and swing in crosses. Cristiano Ronaldo was incorporated as the squads main striker and he did what any good striker does: nodded home when called upon.

All in all, Mourinho's tactic of neutralizing the midfield and banging balls down the flanks paid dividends. Hell, he even let Barca come at Madrid in the second half, as Zonal Marking highlights in a much more comprehensive look at the game.

In the next two Champions League Classicos we will truly see what Pep Guardiola is made of as a coach. Mourinho's got the drop on him now, but can Pep respond with some wily tactics of his own? We'll see.

Oh and I had to add this:

It's been over a decade since Madrid won the Copa del Rey...and now the trophy is smashed to bits thanks to Sergio Ramos and the team bus.

Real Madrid - 2011 Copa del Rey Winners

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Matches 3, 4, and 5

Two Clasicos per year is the standard. Three, a gift. Four and you're wondering if the planets have aligned. But five?! WOW. Usually the two Clasicos pitting Real Madrid against Barcelona are the feature of the La Liga season, but this year, they take a back seat to the next three matches.

The additional three Clasicos this year will establish bragging rights for quite some time. Nothing resonates more than raising your league's domestic cup in the face of your foe and/or  knocking your enemy out of the Champions League. Real Madrid and Barcelona: sh*t just got real.

Copa del Rey Final
Today, 3:30pm EST

Champions League Semifinal - Leg 1
April 27th, 2:45pm EST, Bernabeu

Champions League Semifinal - Leg 2
May 3rd, 2:45pm EST, Camp Nou

Feast your eyes on these three matches, friends, because they will most likely be the best we see all year.

Predictions: Are you crazy?! Who can predict these games? The only thing I will say in lieu of a prediction is that I believe Jose Mourinho is a better coach than Pep Guardiola. Guardiola is pretty good, but I think Mourinho pips him tactically. And the more Mou sees of a team, the higher his team's chances are of winning. That's logical.

Enjoy these football delights!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Inter: From Riches to Rags

By now, you know about Inter's monumental failure in the Champions League. The holders got smashed by Bundesliga side Schalke 7-3 on aggregate, losing both games in route to their huge embarrassing failure (that's right: I quoted Tommy Boy).

I, for one, am shocked. I picked Inter to win this tie since they were coming off the heels of a gritty performance against Munich and a hot streak that saw them climb to second in the Serie A. all fell apart. What happened? Inter Coach Leonardo blames fatigue...Good one! How about bad tactics? Bad defense? Bad form? Bad everything. Raul's left foot alone could have defeated Inter in this tie. Reasons behind the collapse:

Milito and Eto'o wonder what could have been - in horrible kits
It was clear after the Derby della Madonnina that Leonardo was a bit naive. It was made even clearer after two legs with Schalke. Both Massimiliano Allegri and Schalke Coach Ralf Rangnick figured out the key to defeating Leonardo's Inter: asphyxiating the midfield and running with pace at a weak defense.

Inter's dominating midfield turned hard work into goals last season under Jose Mourinho, often working their way up the field and inevitably allowing Wesley Sneijder to pull the final strings. This year, Sneijder has been in a more advanced role. This has urged opposing teams to isolate Sneijder, effectively cutting off Inter's attack. Rather than controlling the ball in the midfield, the Dutchman has relied on his teammates to give him the ball farther up the field, which has not happened of late and created a mess of Inter's attacking fluidity.

As a result of losing the battle in the middle of the park, Inter has not controlled play with their usual dominance. With control going to the opposer, the treble winners have allowed teams to run at their weak defense.

Andrea Ranocchia is young, talented, but not quite there yet. Christian Chivu is horrible. He's slow, dirty, gets sent off far too much, and wears a dumb hat. Lucio is not on form at the moment, since he has been injured and missed time in recent weeks. Maicon, as we all know, is a far better going forward than he is defending. Javier Zanetti is wonderful, but caught between the role of a midfielder and defender. He often tries to aid the congested midfield and moreover command his wing, since the team has not had a midfielder present along the lines for quite some time.

I can't fault Leonardo on this one. The defense has been a mess because of lingering injuries to Lucio and the loss of Walter Samuel - who is set to return and take part in the year-end failure. This has led to a back four that changes on a weekly basis and has not bonded as a defensive unit. Plus Chivu is just horrible!

At the time I was reluctant to admit it (since I was set on believing Inter would go through to the UCL Semis), but the loss to Milan was devastating for the players. It was demoralizing and exhausting. The team fielded their best squad three days before the crucial clash with Schalke because they had to - because it was the Milan derby. The game was brutal and the aftermath shocking. After a blip of good form which was sparked by the hiring of Leonardo, Inter were brought right back down to earth by their bitter rivals.

Look at this guy! Ageless! Raul has spurred Schalke on, netting five goals in Champions League play and having a hand in countless others. Hell, I even saw him tracking back on defense when Schalke was winning the first leg 4-1. Raul is synonymous with class. I am officially routing for this underdog story of a player and team for the rest of the tournament.

Raul celebrating with the faithful
As a Roma fan, I was joyous after seeing Inter collapse. As a blogger, I was ecstatic since I knew I could write about it!

From treble winner to trophy-less - that's my prediction, anyhow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Forza Roma - The Blog

Sensible Soccer loves sensible blogging, which is why I would like to present a new blog covering AS Roma:

Visit Forza Roma for news and insights on the Giallorossi and hopefully epic pictures like the above. Oh and SEMPRE FORZA ROMA.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carlo Zampa - In Case You've Never Heard a Passionate Commentator

All my years watching Roma have resulted in a parallel love with Romanista commentator Carlo Zampa. His screams when Roma scores; his sadness when they concede; are the best. Feast your eyes and ears on Totti's winner the other day, as commentated by Zampa:

Classic Zampa. If you thought that was great, check out Scudetto day, 2001:

Talk about passione. We need more MLS announcers like this. I'll hand it to John Harkes though - he was clearly too choked up to talk when Landon Donovan sent team USA through to the knockouts in the past World Cup. That's a start!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Must Sees

Hello mis amis,
This week I have viewed some things that you must see:

Incredible back-flip penalty

Lionel Messi's Facebook page: 
Nearly 7 million followers in a mere three days

Barca fans wear creepy Mourinho masks to Shakhtar match
"It's like something out of an Aphex Twin video." Hilarious from Dirty Tackle

Brazilian prospect Neymar scores a great goal, gets sent off...
...for putting a mask of his own face on. Vanity?

Inter's Stankovic scores a stunning volley from 45 yards

Thierry Henry's Sky Special about life 
Aligned nicely by The Shin Guardian

Philippe Mexes confirms he will leave Roma after seven glorious years
And we mourn:
Mourning Rugantino
Mouring Rugantino Part II
Naturally, I bought a Mexes jersey at the beginning of the season.

The story of the floating village football team in Thailand

Monday, April 4, 2011

Champs League Q-Finals: High-Time For a Hero, No Time For Mistakes

It is nitty-gritty time in the UEFA Champions League. At this stage, minor gaffes and blunders could cost a team the chance to vie for the final. As we approach the crucial quarter-final matches of the tournament this week, I thought I would remind you of who's playing who, and lend my expert opinion on who will win:

Inter Milan vs. Schalke 04
Inter comes into the first leg of this match after being demolished by Milan in the Derby della Madonnina. Though morale might be low, the form of the holders is still on the rise. They have clawed their way back towards the top of the Serie A table, after a dismal start to the season, and will be ready as ever for a reaction against Schalke.

Schalke on the other hand, have been spotty all year round. They currently lie in 11th place and have recently fired their coach, which is strange for a UCL quarter-finalist. That said, they've been brilliant in Champions League play. Raul has been a real leader on the pitch and contributions from crafty Peruvian Jeffrey Farfan have created a beacon of hope for the struggling Bundesliga side.

Prediction: Inter will win this tie...their record against German opposition has been tremendous. But please note, I have been wrong about every prediction involving Schalke this season.

Real Madrid vs. Tottenham Hotspur
The Spurs run through Europe is subject to a major obstacle in Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid. Tottenham gaffer Harry Redknapp has guided his side through some difficult challenges thus far, but a quarter-final date with Madrid is the toughest yet.

Each team has a few notables missing: Karim Benzema for the Merengues (Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo are in the squad but doubtful) and Steven Pienaar for Tottenham (William Gallas is in the squad but doubtful). Welshman Gareth Bale most likely will feature and it appears that Gonzalo Higuain is back from a long injury layoff.

Prediction: Real Madrid will take the tie...Tottenham has ridden luck for far too long in such a high-caliber competition.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Two English powerhouses square off in what should be an entertaining quarter-final. Chelsea continue to falter in Premier League play while Manchester United remain on course to lift the title. At this moment, I do not think Chelsea has the form to overcome a sturdy side in United. Perhaps Fernando Torres will choose this vital moment to bag his first goal for the Blues?

Prediction: Manchester United will run away with this one...Chelsea are under-performing in the EPL and will most likely carry their poor form with them to the tournament.

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Barcelona
Prediction: No description necessary - Barcelona will dominate this tie and waltz into the semi-finals. Shakhtar got lucky with their draw against dreadful AS Roma, but that luck has run out. This one was over at the drawing.

Well, what do you think?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friendlies In General - USMNT In Particular

Some say friendlies are a waste of time. I say people who say that have not really thought about national team setups other than their own. That's just selfish.

Friendlies are crucial for countries like the United States who do not have huge competitions every two years like European teams do. Each training camp is an opportunity to realign the squad and introduce prospects. Without friendlies, teams like the USMNT would end up mashed together rather than refined. I'll admit, sometimes the timing of these matches is bad, but friendlies in general, are not.

Allow me to sum up the USMNT's two friendlies this past week in three words (each):

USA 1 - Argentina 1
Hard fought draw
USA 0 - Paraguay 1
Experimental kick around

We didn't win a match, but we certainly learned a few things:

Juan Agudelo is...

...our striker of the future? Many news sources and bloggers are trying in earnest not to label the 18-year old striker as our savior just yet, but their bursting hope shines through with each keystroke. FSC reported since Brian Mcbride retired from international soccer (*tear), the United States has started 74 different strikers. I'm not sure I believe Eric Wynalda's ridiculous stat, but the fact remains - the USMNT needs a reliable regular up-top.

Is Juan the answer? We can't say he is just yet, but he did strike again for his country last Saturday, preserving a vital draw with powerhouse Argentina. This is the kid's second goal in three appearances for the red, white, and blue.

Defensive hopefuls
Since the careers of Carlos Bocanegra, Jay Demerit, Steve Cherundolo, and Oguchi Oneywu are beginning to sunset, new players are being introduced into the fray. My biggest defensive takeaway from these two friendlies is that we may have reason to celebrate two hopeful wing-backs in Timothy Chandler and Eric Lichaj. Both in their early 20s, Chandler and Lichaj swooped into the lineup and barreled down the wings with ferocity and speed. They defended relatively well and seemed to be up to the international pace of the game, most likely since they both play in European clubs at high levels. I love Cherundolo, but am pumped about seeing these two scamper down the wings in the future.

Another person I am excited about is Tim Ream. His start against Paraguay proves he should be a regular in camp. He marked well and seemed calm and collected on the ball. His one hiccup could be the lone goal scored by Paraguay, but overall, his first start with the rest of the regulars was positive.

Man-machine Jermaine Jones

Man...machine. Man Machine MAchine MAChine MACHine MACHIne MACHINe MACHINE. Channeling a Kraftwerk song seems appropriate for Jones, a German-American, and effective man-machine in the midfield. His start against Argentina was not very successful, but that could be said of many midfielders having to mark Lionel Messi. Against Paraguay, we saw what I hope to see in the future - Jones and Bradley acting as a solid anchor in the midfield. They worked quite well with each other. And goodness gracious, Jones is strong in a tackle. Some advice for Bob Bradley though: why not rest your son and give Maurice Edu a crack with Jones? See how that goes?


Though Dempsey was lethargic against Argentina, we saw the true Deuce against Paraguay. He was cunning, powerful, and willing to take anyone on. The progression he has made over this past year has been tremendous, and if he can keep bringing the intensity he has in the Premier League to the national team, we are in for success.

Well, it's been fun seeing the USMNT back in action. It brings me back to what could have been in South Africa (*a few tears). I look forward to our date with Spain in June and urge any of my friends who are reading this to buy tickets and invite me.