FBL-WC2014-RUS-POR

Offshore Drilling, Europe: at Russia 1, Portugal 0

Leave a comment

Man of the Match: With an early goal allowing Russia to play a very controlled match, the hosts were a series of above average if unspectacular performances. Still, there was one performance that should be particularly heartening to Russia supporters. Although Sergei Ignashevich may only have been slightly better than his teammates, the veteran defender showed a glimpse of a second life under Fabio Capello.

Ignashevich has always been a quality player, but under previous regimes he was often left exposed, the 33-year-old often found lacking after having his speed tested. Today, Russia’s organization left the veteran CSKA defender with clean up duty, his clearances (often aerial) helping to preserve the host’s control of the day.

Is it too simplistic to draw a line between Ignashevich and John Terry? They both veteran defenders who serve as cornerstones for teams Capello’s inherited, and in each case, their only flaw was deteriorating foot speed. Terry proved effective for England. Can Ignashevich be a similar, prolonged linchpin with Russia?

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It was a big win for Russia, if not necessarily an upset. Beating Portugal at home would have been expected when the draw came out, but for a team under a new regime, the result was a proof of concept.
  • That concept: A less free-wheeling Russia. Capello played a 4-2-3-1 (versus Portugal’s typical 4-3-3) that, consistent with the coach’s philosophies, was more opportunistic than persuasive.
  • Under Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat, Russia had been a team that often controlled the ball (consistent with those coaches’ philosophies), but in their first big game under Fabio Capello, the Russians proved capable of playing with out it.
  • That’s bigger news than it sounds. Before Capello, you’d expect Russia to eventually break down when they weren’t controlling the game. Even when they dominated the ball, there where still mistake prone (as evidenced in Euro 2012 and their playoff against Slovenia in 2010 World Cup qualifying). Early on, Capello’s solved that problem.
  • Of course, the early goal helped. A great, swift movement in the sixth minute saw play move from Viktor Fayzulin to Roman Shirokov, the Zenit midfielder hitting Aleksandr Kerzakhov with a through ball that put his club teammate on goal. Rui Patricio made an early dive right, leaving his net open for the match’s only goal.
  • Perhaps predictably (given 84 minutes to chase an equalizer), Portugal went on to dominate possession. With Russia’s defense preventing the Seleccao from establishing any fluidity, Portugal was only able to get five shots on Igor Akinfeev despite holding 66 percent of the Opta possession.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s mood was the barometer. When his team is executing, he’s quieted by his determined. When his side becomes disjointed and can’t connect, that determination creates a mask of confusion, anger and betrayal, a look that was plastered on Ronaldo’s face at the Luzhniki.
  • Ronaldo’s standout moment came with the ball 40 yards away. On the left wing, he tried to make a far post run but took only a step before colliding with Russia right back Aleksandr Anyukov. Despite being three inches taller and (likely) 15-20 pounds heavier, Ronaldo went down in pain, rolling around as if his nose had been broken. You can imagine Anyukov’s confusion.
  • Once his simulation was done, Ronaldo looked up at the referee, flashed a forehead full of black rubber pellets, and implicitly asked why his lovely performance couldn’t draw a whistle, let alone a card.
  • The win keeps Russia perfect at the top of Group F: 3-0-0. They’ve yet to allow a goal, and with few challenges among the packet’s four other teams, Russia should maintain control of the group through their June trip to Lisbon.
  • For Portugal, the pressure is on not to drop points . If they do, Fabio Capello’s squad can almost guarantee a trip to Brazil with a draw at the Estadio da Luz, with Portugal again left to navigate the playoff round.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

meninblazers
Leave a comment

In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]

European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.