Netherlands v Germany - Group B: UEFA EURO 2012

Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Germany 2, Netherlands 1

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Man of the Match: Dirk Kuyt was one touch away from a chance at an equalizer, but 23 yards from goal, he made the mistake of giving Bastian Schweinsteiger a finally stab at the ball. The 90th minute look was the Netherlands’ venture toward goal, making it apropos Schweinsteiger was allowed to snuff it out.

It takes a special performance to take a Man of the Match from somebody who scored twice, but culminating with his tackle on Huntelaar, Schweinsteiger gave it. His two assists were perfect if unspectacular – playing direct, 10-12 yard passes to Mario Gomez – but his awareness stood out. He not only knew where Gomez was, but he knew to get it to him with one touch.

After Germany had their two goal lead, he teamed with Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil to keep the game under German control. The Netherlands may have had more of the ball, but Germany’s midfield was dictating the game. At the end, Schweinsteiger was the man winning back possession, allowing to bleed out the clock.

NBC Sports: Gomez scores 2 to give Germany 2-1 win over Dutch

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The match was practically cliché. Germany imposes themselves in these types of matches, they say. Today, the Germans showed why. The execution on their two goals was simple, targeted and clinical:
    • Simple: The first goal saw basic passes go from Mats Hummels to Thomas Muller to Schweinsteiger to Mario Gomez. The second was Manuel Neuer to Gomez to Mesut Ozil to Schweinsteiger and back to Gomez. Each sequence was a long pass played back and then middle before finding the striker between defenders. None of the passes were anything you or I couldn’t execute.
    • Targeted: The Netherlands’ left side of defense was a problem. Germany was ruthless about going after it. Both goals were built though that side.
    • Clinical: Mario Gomez’s finishing was very great. The touch he took to turn onto the first goal was more graceful than we’ve come to expect from the Bayern target man, with the second goal barely nestling inside Maarten Stekelenburg’s right post.
  • The easy with which the Germans took apart the Dutch was in part Bert van Marwijk’s doing. There was no pressure in Germany’s half, so Mats Hummels had no trouble picking out Thomas Müller in the build up to the first goal. In the second half, Hummels was at one time allowed to dribble through the Dutch defense and force a save from Stekelenburg.
  • The Dutch had their plan, too. They seemed intent on targeting Jerome Boateng, with many of their attempts to connect with Robin van Persie going into the left channel or wider. Their goal came from that side, though it was Mats Hummels, losing van Persie as the striker turned in, that was culpable.
  • It was another mixed day for van Persie, His finish on the goal was great, but a blown chance in the sixth minute got his day off to a bad start. After redirecting that a chipped over the defense directly to Manuel Neuer, van Persie seemed to rush some chances. In the second half, with Klass-Jan Huntelaar on, he looked better, but this has still been a trying tournament for a man of whom so much was expected.
  • The Ozil-Sami Khedira-Schweinsteiger trio dominated play when they wanted, calmly absorbed pressure when they didn’t. The Netherlands’ starting midfield duo, Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, were AWOL. Each goal was the type you try to guard against by playing an extra man in front of the defense. “These two will prevent those easy passes from being played through our line.” Turns out, they won’t.
  • How can a team aspiring to win this tournament come into the competition with that left side of defense? Jetro Willems, the 18-year-old from PSV with barely a season’s experience at club level, is starting for the Dutch, while Joris Mathijsen, in today for Ron Vlaar, is coming off a terrible season at Malaga. Willems is an injury replacement, but there are really no better left backs in the Netherlands? One year as an 18-year-old in the Dutch league said “we should be comfortable with him for six games in Europe’s biggest national tournament”?
  • Smart pundits noted this might be a problem, but not me. I assumed that the defense wouldn’t be much worse than the team that made the finals in South Africa. Clearly, I was wrong. And now, I’m bitter.
  • Arjen Robben had a difficult first half, but in the second, but he and Wesley Sneijder started to have an impact from wide positions. That’s why it was so curious that, with his last substitution, Bert van Marwijk elected to take Robben off for Dirk Kuyt. It’s not like the Dutch needed a goal or anything, right?
  • Robben must have felt the same way, because instead of going to meet Kuyt to complete a traditional substitution, he stepped off the pitch at the far side and slowly walked around to the Dutch bench, applauding to the supporters periodically as he strolled. When he got to the bench, he ripped off his kit and sat outside the dugout.
  • To me, the craziest thing about this day is the Dutch not only still have a chance to advance, but it’s not a remote one. Thanks to Portugal’s third goal, the Netherlands are still alive, and if they post a lopsided result in the third group game (two-or-more goal victory), they will get through, provided Germany beats Denmark.
  • That’s obviously not a given. Germany wins the group with a draw, though a loss opens the door to them finishing third. There have been so many times we’ve seen this scenario end in a draw, but it goes without saying that anything can happen.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Conte: My Chelsea will never play for a draw, home or away

HULL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts to his team scoring during the Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KCOM Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte knows what he’s doing — he’s playing the game made popular the world over by his predecessor and Sunday opponent, Jose Mourinho, and so many others who went before him.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Where other managers shy away from the controversy and the spotlight brought upon themselves by the psychological warfare waged by so many of the giants of the managerial profession, Conte has embraced the added attention he’ll now face when Chelsea host Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via

While Mourinho hasn’t been quiet in the build-up to his return to Stamford Bridge — how could he, given the considerable demand for comment? — he has mostly kept the cheap shots to himself and attempted to treat the affair like any other. Of course, it’s not that for him; for the Chelsea fans; for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who made the decision to fire Mourinho 10 months ago; and now, for Conte, who’s suddenly thrust onto the other side of the battlefield ahead of Mourinho’s grudge match — quotes from

“No, I think it is always right to play for a win. I try to transfer these thoughts to my players always. If you play at home or away, it must be the same.

“You must start the game with only one target: to win. Not to play for a draw. I don’t like this. It is not football. I don’t like this.”

“I think it is important to win, but for me also, it is important to win in the right way. Because, sometimes, it happened to me. I won in the past with other clubs, but I wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“When you win is important, but it is important to also play good football, to play with a good intensity, to show always the will to win, the passion. For me, that’s important.”

The obvious inference here is that Mourinho’s teams have always been set out to play in a defensive manner — often times aiming for, or, at the very least, achieving 0-0 draws — something the Portuguese did earlier this week, away to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Conte didn’t ask to be the anti-Mourinho when he was named Chelsea’s new boss — not directly so, at least — but it comes as part of the territory when taking over from a mountain of a manager like Mourinho. Cool as ever, Conte is relishing his new role.

Introducing Zabivaka, Russia’s 2018 World Cup mascot

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: Official Mascot Wolf was chosen as Official Mascot of FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia and Nazario Ronaldo during 'Vecherniy Urgant' (Evening Urgant) TV show on Channel 1 at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) Russia has chosen a cocky wolf wearing sporty goggles as the mascot for the 2018 football World Cup.

The wolf was chosen in online voting over two other mascot candidates — a cat and a tiger wearing a space suit.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

The announcement was made early Saturday at the end of an hour-long broadcast on state Channel One television. More than 1 million Russians voted in the contest, according to the broadcast.

World Cup matches are to take place in 11 cities in June and July 2018. The venues are in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Wolf, the winer of FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia Official Mascot, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vitaly Mutko, TV host Ivan Urgant and Nazario Ronaldo attend at 'Vecherniy (Evening) Urgant' TV show on Channel 1 during at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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Aguero looking vulnerable as Man City evolves under Guardiola

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City shows dejection after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at Etihad Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester City’s spine of goalkeeper Joe Hart, center back Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and striker Sergio Aguero has anchored the team since 2011 in the most decorated period in its history.

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One by one, it is being dismantled by Pep Guardiola.

Hart has been sent out on loan to Italy.

The injury-hampered Kompany no longer appears first choice.

Toure has been ostracized.

And the seemingly unthinkable is happening: Aguero is coming under pressure for his place.

Aguero started on the bench for the English Premier League game against Everton on Saturday after playing two matches for Argentina during the international break. More surprisingly, he stayed among the substitutes for the Champions League match at Barcelona on Wednesday, when Guardiola preferred to play midfielder Kevin De Bruyne up front.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Aguero has been untouchable, a guaranteed starter since joining from Atletico Madrid in July 2011. Suddenly, possibly the most popular player among City fans – and a scorer of 102 league goals in his first five seasons at the club – is vulnerable and seemingly dispensable, even if he is likely to regain his place for the Premier League match against Southampton on Sunday.

When asked if Aguero was being phased out, Guardiola said on Friday the player’s future was at City.

“When Sergio decides to leave Manchester City, it will be his decision,” Guardiola said. Then, echoing comments he made about Hart in August before allowing him to leave, Guardiola added: “I appreciate him (as) a football player. I appreciate (as) a man what he did here.”

It’s not just the recent selection decisions that hint at a sense of unease between Guardiola and Aguero.

Guardiola has said publicly on at least two occasions this season that he wants more from Aguero than just goals, just like he wanted more from Hart than simply making saves. After Aguero’s hat trick in the Champions League win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, Guardiola said: “I cannot teach him (about his talent in the penalty box) but he has to know that behind, the rest of the team wants to help him and that is what I want to convince him.”

While on international duty with Argentina this month, Aguero was quoted as telling Argentine media that Guardiola “is very picky about everything, (and) it’s good.

“The good thing is that I’m getting used to him and automatically going straight into pressing the centre backs.”

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL preview — Mourinho back at the Bridge; City-Saints ]

Aguero, who is contracted to City until 2020, has 11 goals in 10 appearances this season, and 19 in his last 20 dating to last season. There are few better, attainable strikers around and it will be intriguing to see how the situation pans out, especially with Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus due to arrive in December to provide competition up front.

Guardiola said on Friday he had no regrets about his decision to drop Aguero for the Barcelona game, which City lost 4-0 after having goalkeeper Claudio Bravo red-carded. That made it four games without a win for Guardiola, and a failure to beat Southampton would equal the longest streak without a victory in his coaching career.

In an answer that lasted more than 6 1/2 minutes on Friday, he defended his tactics at Camp Nou and praised the personality of his young players like John Stones and De Bruyne.

Guardiola repeated he will not change his style.

“I think about that, yes,” he said. “But after that, the solution is not better than what I believe. So I cannot. Do you know why as well? Because in seven years (at Barcelona and Bayern Munich), I won 21 titles. … So it’s three titles per year playing in that way.

“No, no, I’m not going to change. First, it’s going to happen that (if) it’s not going well in the future, next season isn’t going well in that way, I will go home.”

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Messi wins it late for Barca; AC Milan shock Juve

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 22:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his team mates as Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez reacts on the pitch after being hit by objects thrown from the seats after scoring his team's third from the penalty spot during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Mestalla stadium on October 22, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Valencia 2-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez led Barcelona back from 2-1 down to take all three points at the Mestalla Stadium and reclaim the top spot in La Liga. There’s lots to unpack here, beginning with the nasty tackle that’ll keep Andres Iniesta (knee ligament damage) out of action for up to two months. Then there was the controversial fashion in which Messi gave Barca an early lead.

Valencia hit back twice before Suarez drew the visitors level again, and Messi converted from the penalty spot in the 93rd minute to seal the victory, at which point Neymar was hit by a bottle thrown onto the field by someone in the stands. In the end, Barca are back on top, until Real Madrid are allowed to have their say on Sunday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 3-3 Eibar
Real Sociedad 3-0 Alaves
Granada 0-0 Sporting Gijon

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Celta Vigo vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid — 10:15 a.m. ET
Malaga vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Villarreal vs. Las Palmas — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

AC Milan 1-0 Juventus

The kids are (a whole lot more than) alright at AC Milan. 18-year-old midfielder Manuel Locatelli unleashed a stunning strike in the 65th minute, as Milan shocked the world by upsetting the five-time (and six-time, presumably) defending champions, Juventus, at the San Siro. Then it was 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s turn to play his part, in the form of a stunning save to deny Sami Khedira an equalizer with the last kick of the game.

Juve remain top of the Serie A table, but it’s Milan who now sit second, just two points behind them.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 2-1 Genoa

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Udinese vs. Pescara — 6:30 a.m. ET
Torino vs. Lazio — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari vs. Fiorentina — 9 a.m. ET
Crotone vs. Napoli — 9 a.m. ET
Empoli vs. Chievo — 9 a.m. ET
Bologna vs. Sassuoo — 12 p.m. ET
Roma vs. Palermo — 2:45 p.m. ET