Central defense was a worry for the Germans as they landed at Euro 2012. The concern was mostly about Per Mertesacker, the highly experienced 27-year-old who missed three months of Arsenal’s season after a February ankle injury.
He was slow to recover afterward, which left the German central defense in the hands of Bayern Munich’s Holger Badstuber, 22, and Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels, 23, neither of whom had could match Mertesacker’s international chops at center back. (The Arsenal man has 81 caps for Germany, twice the number for the other two combined.)
Badstuber has been fine so far at Euro 2012, but Hummels has been an absolute revelation, surely justifying Joachim Low’s choice to hold Mertesacker in reserve.
Some might even say Hummels (pictured above, on the left), the co-backbone of Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga champion defense, has been the top tournament’s top player so far. I find that a compelling argument, especially after marveling at the young center backs’s standout performance right away in Germany 1-0 win over Portugal.
According to The Guardian’s combined ratings (as submitted by readers), Hummels has, in fact, been best of the Euro beasts so far. The top five players according to Guardian readers:
- Mats Hummels (Germany) 7.93 average reader rating
- Andrés Iniesta (Spain) 7.67
- Daniel Agger (Denmark) 7.50
- Manuel Neuer (Germany) 7.47
- T – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) 7.40
- T – Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) 7.40
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.
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]
No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]
Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday