World Cup awards: Rodriguez, Neuer, Pogba, Colombia all honored

7 Comments

Just after the final whistle was blown at the Maracana Stadium to bring the 2014 World Cup to a close on Sunday, FIFA began to dish out the awards.

Lionel Messi grabbed the Golden Ball award for the best player in the tournament (many would suggest that he didn’t deserve it…) and soccer’s world governing body also gave out the awards for the top scorer, goalkeeper, young player and a fair play gong.

Colombian star James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals and two assists in five games, Germany’s victorious ‘keeper Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove award as the best goalkeeper following four clean sheets, plus Frenchman Paul Pogba picked up the Young Player of the tournament award for some superb displays.

There was also special praise for Colombia who were handed the FIFA Fair Player award.

FIFA published the following statement on their website on Sunday. Congrats to all the winners.

Golden Boot: James Rodriguez (Colombia) – 6 goals, 2 assists
Colombia’s No10 made an instant impact at Brazil 2014, setting up Los Cafeteros’s opening two goals and scoring in the last minute in their 3-0 win over Greece, earning the Budweiser Man of the Match Award in the process. He picked up the same accolade in the next match, a 2-1 win over Côte d’Ivoire, having provided an assist for Juan Fernando Quintero and found the target once more. The Monaco man was at it again in the final group game against Japan, entering the fray as a second-half substitute, yet making time to create two goals for Jackson Martinez and score himself. Rodriguez then made history when he scored twice in the 2-0 win over Uruguay, ensuring Colombia qualified for the quarter-finals of a FIFA World Cup for the first time. There he tasted defeat for the first time against Brazil, but converted a consolatory penalty and earned a standing ovation from the crowd in Fortaleza for his efforts.

Silver Boot: Thomas Muller (5 goals, 3 assists)
Bronze Boot: Neymar (4 goals, 1 assist)

Golden Glove: Manuel Neuer (Germany) 

After winning the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup with Bayern Munich, the 28-year-old now has the adidas Golden Glove to add to his growing collection. The Germany No1 was in fine form for the Nationalmannschaft during Brazil 2014, conceding just four goals in seven games and impressing FIFA’s Technical Study Group with his shot-stopping ability, his commanding presence and his ability to start attacks from his own penalty area. Indeed, he has been dubbed a ‘sweeper-keeper’ by sections of the media for his performances at this World Cup, featuring plenty of evidence of his desire to come off his line and play accurate passes when under pressure.

Young Player Award: Paul Pogba (France) 

The France midfielder was considered to be the pick of the players born after 1 January 1993 at this World Cup. The Juventus midfielder played in all five of Les Bleus’ games, having an impact in the 5-2 win over Switzerland by creating a goal for Karim Benzema and then scoring in the 2-0 win over Nigeria, in which he was named as the Budweiser Man of the Match. In winning this award, he becomes only the second player to be named as the Golden Ball winner at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the senior equivalent in successive tournaments, following in the footsteps of Robert Prosinecki.

FIFA Fair Play Award: Colombia 

The Group C winners who reached the quarter-finals were given this award, not only for collecting just five yellow cards in their five matches at Brazil 2014, but for scoring highly in the criteria set by FIFA’s Technical Study Group, which includes positive play, respect towards the opponent and match officials, as well as the behavior of their team officials and supporters.

Messi explains actions that warranted 4-match ban

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
Leave a comment

Lionel Messi is set to miss four Argentina matches for something we arguably see every week on TV.

That doesn’t make it okay, but is anyone else scratching their head at the suspension handed down to the world’s best player for verbal abuse of an official?

[ MORE: Barca defends Messi ]

Messi, 29, shouted an obscenity at the linesman in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile, and was both banned and served the first match of his ban on Tuesday, as Argentina was beaten 2-0 in Bolivia.

Messi explained his actions Wednesday with the following:

“My expressions were never directed to the referee, they were said to the air,” Messi told La Nacion.

That’s pretty ridiculous, yeah? But I can’t help but feel the four matches are a bit harsh. Hardly a high-level match goes by without seeing a player clearly being derisive toward an offical, and usually lipreading proves it wasn’t G-rated.

Again, I have no problem for setting a standard, as abuse of officials is unnecessary (and even those of us who are serially offenders know it).

But if confederations and leagues want to get serious about cutting it out, this can’t be a one-off suspension; End the group upbraiding of referees during games, the wild gesticulations, so on and so forth.

Bradley Wright-Phillips gets new deal; Nephew called up to England U-16

Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been a big 24 hours for the Wright-Phillips family.

Bradley Wright-Phillips signed a new Designated Player deal with the New York Red Bulls, while his nephew has been called up the England U-16 national team.

D’Margio Wright-Phillips is the son of Shawn Wright-Phillips, the former RBNY player currently plying his trade with Phoenix Rising of the USL.

[ WATCH: Schweinsteiger asked if Chicago can win World Cup ]

Of course that will only serve to grow the pride of Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who adopted Bradley and Shaun.

The details:

BWP has signed a new multi-year deal with the Red Bulls which brings the 70-goal man into Designated Player status.

“I’d like to thank Denis, Jesse, and everyone at the club for the opportunity to continue wearing this shirt and playing in front of the best fans in MLS,” said Wright-Phillips. “I am very proud of what has been accomplished in my time here, but my sole focus is on trying to win MLS Cup.”

As for D’Margio, he’s in Manchester City’s academy and obviously taking the right steps toward making it three generations in the Premier League. Both Shaun and Bradley spent time in City’s academy.

VIDEO: Schweinsteiger asked if Chicago Fire can win World Cup

chicagofire.com
Leave a comment

Big press conferences bring unusual media members out of the woodwork, and this can be pretty embarrassing when it comes to sports.

I remember a few years ago in Buffalo, when the NHL’s Sabres had not resigned Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. A TV newsman, not known for his sports coverage, asked the general manager what they would say to fans who bought Drury and Briere jerseys.

The awkward reply: “Sorry?”

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

There was no exception when the Chicago Fire unveiled Bastian Schweinsteiger on Wednesday. The World Cup winning midfielder faced the press and was asked if his arrival would help Chicago win the World Cup.

You read that right. Here’s the video, even as the communications man jumped in to try and save the reporter by suggesting he meant the FIFA Club World Cup.

Woof. The media overseas are having a field day with this one, but it doesn’t have anything to do with American soccer fans, perhaps even sports media. I’d be stunned if the reporter spent a ton of time around the game.

But man, oh man.

Celtic’s dominance under Rodgers reaching new levels

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

They’re unbeaten in 29 games, winning 27 of them. They hold a 25-point lead. They’re about to clinch a sixth straight league title this weekend and it’s still not even April.

Celtic’s players have taken their supremacy of Scottish soccer to a new level this season, putting the storied club from Glasgow in the conversation when discussing the most dominant sides in Europe’s domestic leagues in the 21st century.

Celtic will be the Scottish champion again as early as Friday if its closest rival, Aberdeen, loses to Dundee. If Aberdeen wins, Celtic will take an unassailable lead in the Scottish Premiership by beating Hearts on Sunday.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

There’s been a sense of inevitability about the whole thing since the turn of the year, by which time Celtic had jumped into a 19-point lead. It’s long stopped being called a “title race” in Scotland, more a procession.

Meanwhile, the team coached by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers won the Scottish League Cup in late November and is also through to the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.

With Celtic’s unbeaten run across three domestic competitions currently at 36 games, this might be the most dominant season by any club in the history of Scotland’s top flight.

A glance around Europe shows a few other examples of title monopolies.

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) and BATE Borisov (Belarus) are currently on a streak of 11 domestic leagues titles in a row since 2006. Olympiakos is on course for a seventh straight Greek league title, which would be its 12th in the last 13 years, and Sheriff Tiraspol has won the Moldovan league every year except one since 2000. Basel leads the Swiss league by 17 points and is about to seal a ninth title in 10 years.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

In these lesser-profile leagues, teams can dominate because of the cash they receive from participating in UEFA competitions, which often allow them to outspend their domestic rivals.

Last week, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, attending a conference in Lisbon, spoke of the threats to European soccer in the coming years, including the “decrease in competitive balance within European club competitions and secondary effects affecting domestic competitions.”

There are examples of lopsided championships in Europe’s big leagues, too: Juventus is closing on an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title in Italy and on course for a third straight Serie A-Coppa Italia double; Bayern Munich is on course for a fifth straight Bundesliga title in Germany, which included winning one championship after 27 matches of a 34-round league; Lyon won the French league title seven times in succession from 2002; and Ajax won four straight titles in the Netherlands from 2011-14.

Scotland is widely regarded as a backwater in European soccer these days, mainly because of the uncompetitive nature of its league and an increasing lack of exposure and coverage outside Britain.

What didn’t help was Rangers – Celtic’s fierce crosstown rival and winner of a record 54 league titles – getting demoted to the fourth tier of the Scottish game in 2012 because of financial irregularities.

This is Rangers’ first season back in the Premiership, but it hasn’t been able to challenge Celtic and currently sits 33 points behind in third place. There used to be constant talk of the two “Old Firm” clubs crossing the border to join the English league but that has cooled.

“I want to win (the league) by 50 points,” Rodgers, who is in his first season at Celtic, said last month.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

In any other league, that would be a preposterous comment, but perhaps no longer in Scotland.

The season started so embarrassingly for Celtic and Rodgers, a 1-0 loss to Gibraltarian part-timer Lincoln Red Imps in a Champions League qualifier in July described by some pundits as the club’s worst defeat in its 130-year history.

Now, they are about to lift the league title with eight matches to spare and potentially in the month of March for the second time in four years.

“We want to continue winning, continue the run that we’re on,” Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon said, “and make sure we do that for as long as we can.”

AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and James Ellingworth in Moscow, and Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey in Berlin, Daniella Matar in Milan, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

Steve Douglas is at http://www.twitter.com/sdouglas80