Netherlands v Argentina: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Top 10 midfielders from the 2014 World Cup

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Picking up where we left off with the forwards, here are PST’s 10 best midfielders from the 2014 World Cup (in alphabetical order):

[ MORE from our 2014 World Cup review ]

Juan Cuadrado, Colombia – At club-level, Cuadrado’s wide play often flatters to deceive, his clearly prodigious talent productive in flashes for Fiorentina. For three or four games in Brazil, however, Cuadrado put it all together, recording one goal and four assists. The 26-year-old was the best attacker player at this year’s World Cup.

Kevin de Bruyne, Belgium – An inconsistent but promising group stage gave way to a decisive performance in the Round of 16 against the U.S., with a goal and assist highlighting the role de Bruyne played in Belgium’s ever-dangerous counter. With a goal and two assists, de Bruyne helped pick up where some of his more famous teammates left off.

Ángel Di María, Argentina – Di María’s absence was keenly felt in Argentina’s final, where the Albiceleste failed to offer the extra attacker that could have made some of Lionel Messi’s work pay off. Before the final game, however, Di María was that guy, combining his typical high energy game with an attacking sense that left him in position to score the winner against Switzerland in the Round of 16 .

Héctor Herrera, Mexico – Had Mexico held on against the Netherlands, Herrera would have been celebrated as one of the tournament’s breakout stars, with the spotlight of the tournament final eight settling on the 24-year-old as one of the main reasons for El Tri’s success. Of course, Mexico didn’t make it that far, but that shouldn’t diminish what we saw from Herrera, whose single assist understates the value he brought to the team’s three-man middle.

Jermaine Jones, United States – Jones is normally one of the most scrutinized members of the U.S. national team, but in Brazil, he never gave those doubts a chance to surface. Seemingly leveraging the experience he’s garnered in Germany and the Champions League, Jones rose to the occasion for the U.S., providing vital solidity for a midfield that was asked to spend much of its time focusing on positioning over possession. With Jozy Altidore injured, Jones picked his spots to surge forward and provide an outlet out of the back, and with this second half goal against Portugal, the German-born American provided one of the best finishes of the tournament:

Toni Kroos, Germany – Kroos’s two goals and three assists would be impressive in their own right, but the 24-year-old also completed 89.9 percent of his passes. The key man linking Germany’s deep midfield with its forwards, Kroos may have been the most important in a series of vital cogs.

Javier Mascherano, Argentina (pictured) – The competition’s best defensive midfielder earned consideration for player of the tournament, a just reward for protecting a defense that only allowed three goals in seven games. Though he plays mostly as a defender with Barcelona, the former Liverpool destroyer reminded the world that he’s still one of the game’s best anchors in midfield.

Paul Pogba, France – Voted the tournament’s best young player, Pogba combined with Blaise Matuidi to lock down France’s midfield, a hold only Germany managed to solve. Scoring once and setting up another, the 21-year-old Juventus star showed why he is one of the most covered young players in the world, on track to be a regular in Les Bleus midfield for a decade to come.

James Rodríguez, Colombia – Arguably the tournament’s best player, Rodríguez gets grouped with the midfielders even though he did all of his damage going forward. Scoring at least once in each of his team’s games, James eventually claimed the tournament’s Golden Boot, even though he played two fewer games than the likes of Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben, and Lionel Messi.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany – Not completely healthy at the beginning of the tournament, Schweinsteiger’s improvement as the tournament progressed allow Joachim Löw to move Philipp Lahm back to fullback, a change that helped balance the eventual champions. In Lahm’s place, Schweinsteiger offered a more robust option in the middle, one that liberated Kroos and Sami Khedira in Germany’s historic route of Brazil.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

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

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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:

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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)
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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.