Thursday, 7 June 2012

Euro 2012 - Top 5 Young Players.

Euro 2012
Young players to watch:

With Europe’s best teams on show in Poland & Ukraine, here’s a rundown of the top 5 young players (Under 23) featuring in this years European Championships.

1) Ivan Perisic - Age 23, Croatia
The chances of Perisic featuring in more than 3 games this summer are slim but don’t miss a chance to watch this young midfielder take on Europe’s best. Top scorer in Belgium’s Pro League for Club Brugge and later signed in 2011 by German champions Borussia Dortmund, Perisic has enjoyed a flying start to life in the Bundesliga notching up 9 goals in 40 appearances this season. One only needs to watch the wonderful volley he scored against Arsenal in this years Champions League to see what the fuss is about. Often used from the bench by Croatian coach Slaven Bilic in qualifying, when called upon he has delivered the goods. A jewel in an ageing Croatian side, expect big things in ’Polkraine’ and the future from this talented left footer.

2) Yann M’vila - Age 21, France
Despite being the tender age of 21, M’vila has notched up 18 caps for his national team displaying performances which have seen him likened to the great Patrick Viera. Strong, level headed and an unforgiving tackler, Yann has progressed to become one of Europe’s hottest young prospects. With a phenomenal ability to read and direct play aswell as create chances for Ribery, Benzema & Co, England will have to be on their toes when the two sides meet in Group D. As you would imagine, Arsene Wenger is a keen admirer and expect a good performance at Euro 2012 to seal his move from French side Rennes to one of Europe’s elite.

3) Alan Dzagoev - Age 21, CSKA Moscow
Since winning the Russian Young Player of the Year award in 2008-09, Dzagoev has developed into one of the best and most sought after playmakers in European football. Despite only scoring 6 goals in 48 appearances over the course of the 2011-12 season for CSKA, Dzagoev has been the top scorer in Russia’s successful qualifying campaign. A deadly link between midfield and attack, expect Dzagoev to dazzle should Russia advance from Group A as widely expected.

4) Cristian Eriksen - Age 21, Ajax
No top young player list would be complete without Ajax’s phenomenally talented starlet Cristian Eriksen. Blessed with an extraordinary ability to read the game of football and a radar-like passing ability, the hopes of Denmark’s campaign rest solely on this 21 year olds shoulders. A sure starter for Denmark, Eriksen is likely to be played just behind Sunderland striker Nikolas Bendtner with two wingers supporting him in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Probably the pick of the bunch in this article, do not miss a minute this lad plays in, he really is that good.

5) Mario Gotze - Age 19, Germany
To not include a German player in this list would be, quite frankly ridiculous such is the array of talent they have to offer. Gotze beat a group of 6 top class German youngsters to make the final cut and its not surprising to see why. The 19 year old star of Borussia Dortmund’s league and cup double winning side has taken the world by storm over the past 18 months taking home the award for European U-21 player of the year in the process. Not only a goal scorer, 7 in an injury hit season for Dortmund, Gotze possesses a messi-like dribbling talent which strikes fear into even the most experienced European defenders.  Despite not being expected to gain a starting berth such is the strength of the German national team, expect Gotze to play a regular subsitiute role throughout the campaign, a chance he will not slip him by. Remember the name.

Honourable mentions:
Andre Schuurle, Germany
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, England
James McClean, Republic of Ireland
Kevin Strootman, Netherlands
Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece

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Euro 2012 - England Preview

 After a commendable qualifying campaign in which England finished first in Group G, six points ahead of closest rivals Montenegro, scoring 17 goals in the process, write England off at your peril! With less pressure on the team than in recent international competitions, and on the back of recent victories against Spain, Sweden, Norway and Belgium, could Roy Hodgson’s England launch an attack on the coveted Henri Delaunay trophy?
Last five Matches: (W) Belgium 1-0, (W) Norway 1-0, (L) Netherlands 3-2, (W) Sweden 1-0, (W) Spain 1-0
Fifa World Ranking: 6
Nickname: Three Lions
Manager: Roy Hodgson – with 18 previous coaching jobs on his CV, the 64-year-old brings a wealth of experience to an England team that lacked togetherness much under Italian coach Fabio Capello. Never before has Hodgson managed a country as much in the spotlight as England, but to his credit, taking Switzerland to the knockout stages in 1994 was no mean feat. However, Hodgson was not all fans first-choice for the role, and needs a solid performance in Poland and Ukraine to silence the many doubters who wanted Tottenham Hotspur coach Harry Redknapp to take the reins. This is Roy’s biggest task yet, and he will need to call upon that vast wealth of experience if England is to progress.
Key Players:
  • Joe Hart, Manchester City, goalkeeper – so many times has England been let down by goalkeeping errors that Hart’s rise through the ranks is a breath of fresh air. Exceptional performances in Manchester City’s title-winning team have ensured Hart is first name on the team-sheet. A ‘keeper with fantastic shot stopping ability, and an exceptionally cool head for his age
  • Steven Gerrard (c), Liverpool, midfielder – experienced and level-headed, Gerrard is a player most supporters would include in the England team. Radar-like passing precision and an eye for goal, Gerrard remains the key man in England’s midfield although there are question marks over the player’s fitness
  • Wayne Rooney, Manchester United, forward – no mention of ‘key men’ can be made without including ‘Wazza’ despite the striker being ruled out for England’s first two games due to suspension. The United striker is vital if England is the progress in the tournament, with Rooney’s  genius on and off the ball set for the big stage after a few week’s  rest.
United Interest: United youngster Danny Welbeck is set to lead the line for England. After a promising full season at Old Trafford, in which Welbeck bagged nine goals, the striker scored a ‘Messi-like’ chip against Belgium in a recent friendly to leave the forward full of confidence and ready to test himself against Europe’s best.
Random Fact: Stewart Downing’s father, also called Stewart, predicted his son would create 20 Andy Carroll goals in the past season. In reality, Downing to Carroll assists totalled zero. Downing to anybody assists also totalled zero for that matter!
Defining Euro moment: the penalty misses against arch rivals Germany in the semi-final at Euro 96 cost England a place in the Wembley final.
Betting: 14/1

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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

And So It Begins...

Like millions of other football fans around the world, I was hoping Lille star Eden Hazard would choose my club and end the saga of uncertainty regarding his future.
However, after a "chat" with Roman Abramovich, Monsieur Hazard decided to head to Chelsea, announcing his decision on social networking site Twitter.
The reasons for said move are even more intriguing. According to Hazard, it was strictly due to his promise of game time and the fact that Chelsea had a better "strategy" whatever that means.  Dont get me wrong, Chelsea are a great football club with some world class players but how he can expect to play every game in such a demanding league is beyond me. Only goalkeepers and the odd defender can handle the pressure of 50+ games a season but from what we have heard from Eden himself so far, he can do anything. The price tag of £32 Million was actually less than I was expecting but he has put himself in a very difficult position with his continued big headed comments on various media stations. There is no doubting his talent, he clearly is a phenomenal player for his age but unless he is nothing short of sensational in the Premier League he will quickly find pundits and opposing fans on  his back in no time. Something which he may struggle with considering his tender age.
However, if he does take to the Premier League like a duck to water, Chelsea could have a new Cristiano Ronaldo on their books. A thought which genuinely scares the hell out of me. Combine that with Marko Marin, Fernando Torres and a potential arrival of Hulk, Chelsea could have a pretty formidable attacking line up next season.

Maybe I am a little bit jealous but much like Fernando Torres, a hefty transfer fee commands some pretty spectacular performances. Your move, Monsieur Hazard.

On a brighter note, as always I wake and immediately check the morning's football news. Not because I'm expecting something incredible but because I simply cannot. It did not disappoint. Manchester United have agreed a fee for Borussia Dortmund's Japanese international Shinji Kagawa. Not exactly surprising considering the merry go round of rumours over the past few weeks, but intriguing nonetheless.
I'm not about to sit here and tell you all how much I have followed the Bundesliga as that would be a lie but for the last few weeks I have been finding out as much as possible about Kagawa and what he will bring to a United midfield that has lacked so much this year. With help from the Beeb.

The findings are promising. With youth on his side, Kagawa has a wonderful array of passing skills and an eye for goal. To be perfectly honest, that was all I needed to hear. I cannot thank Paul Scholes enough for his contribution to United over the past 2 decades but a breath of fresh air was certainly needed. In his 31 games this season Kagawa has scored 13 goals and helped Dortmund to a league and cup double. Impressive statistics in an ever improving Bundesliga.

If he can settle in quickly and remember to bring his "footballing brain" with him, United could have a real gem of a player. Only time will tell. Best of luck Shinji.

Anyway, despite there being another 3 months of transfer merry go rounds, it certainly has started off in considerable style.
Long may it continue.

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