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Serie A: The Napoli-Juventus title race is getting good

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Napoli 3-1 Sassuolo

Juventus went top of the table on Saturday, courtesy of two Gonzalo Higuain goals in a 2-0 victory over a struggling AC Milan side, just edging past Napoli on goal differential. On Sunday, Napoli responded with a 3-1 victory over 16th-place Sassuolo.

Brazilian midfielder Allan forced a turnover atop Sassuolo’s penalty area and slotted home with ease after 22 minutes, but the visitors hit back through Diego Falcinelli’s powerful header four minutes before halftime.

The scoreline would remain 1-1 for fewer than three full minutes, though, as Jose Callejon helped to bundle the ball over the goal line from a corner kick in the 44th minute. Nine minutes into the second half, Dries Mertens bagged his 10th goal of the season (third this week) to put the game to bed.

After 11 games played, Napoli top the league table on 31 points, three ahead of the six-time defending champs from Turin. The season’s first meeting between the two sides is scheduled for Dec. 1, at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo.

Benevento 1-5 Lazio

Juventus will actually finish the weekend in third place, level on points with Lazio but behind the capital club on head-to-head results. Simone Inzaghi’s side thrashed newly promoted Benevento on Sunday, after going 3-0 up inside the opening 25 minutes — Bastos, Ciro Immobile and Adam Marusic got the early goals, followed by a fourth from Marco Parolo to make it 4-1.

Sunday’s most notable scorer, however, bagged his goal inside the final five minutes to complete the scoring — former Valencia Fenerbahce Sporting CP Manchester United winger Nani, whom Portugal could very well heavily rely upon at next summer’s World Cup, scored his first goal for the club (and tallied the assist on Parolo’s goal) after coming on as a 71st-minute substitute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Crotone 2-1 Fiorentina
Sampdoria 4-1 Chievo
SPAL 1-0 Genoa
Udinese 2-1 Atalanta
Torino vs. Cagliari — in progress

EURO 2016 Roundtable: From Iceland to Portugal, moths to Three Lions

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It was about a month in duration, and some of the games felt just as long, but overall EURO 2016 gave us several storylines we’ll remember for a while.

[ MORE: NYC getting eight new public fields ]

Some of ProSoccerTalk’s writers bantered back and forth over the moments, and here’s what we said.


Late dramatic goals, Ronaldo’s moth, violence, even boredom… What will be your enduring image(s) of this tournament?

Joe Prince-Wright: “I think it will be Iceland’s players and fans celebrating together in Nice after they beat England. The Viking Clap is incredible and to witness that live gave me chills. Even as an Englishman you have to hold your hands up and congratulate Iceland. They got their tactics spot on and they inspired not only their tiny nation but millions around the globe.

“A close second was seeing Ronaldo cry on the pitch in the final as he went down injured. You feared it was another moment of misery for a superstar named Ronaldo in the Stade de France. Then his tears of joy at the end were even better.

“Overall, yes, there weren’t a whole bunch of goals and exciting moments we’ve seen in other tournaments but some of the tactical battles and the rise of 3-5-2, plus Leicester City style counter attacking (looking at you Iceland, Portugal, Poland and many others) was interesting to see.”
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Dimitri Payet of France celebrate his team's win with his child after his team's 2-1 win in the UEFA Euro 2016 Group A match between France and Romania at Stade de France on June 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Kyle Lynch: Dimitri Payet in tears after scoring a late winner for France against Romania in the opening match. In front of a home crowd, it was a special moment.”

Kyle Bonn: “For me, it has to be Payet’s late goal to start out the tournament, and Eder‘s late goal to end it. Story of the event.”

Nick Mendola: “Short-term, it’s hard for me to think it’ll be anything other than Ronaldo’s tears as he left the field. He cut a pretty sympathetic figure, and as the game went on and he returned to the bench we got a rare glimpse into why his teammates seem to swear by him despite his outward glow.

“And the moths! Landing right on Ronaldo’s eyes, as if it wanted to drink his magical tears and gain the ability to hit outrageous free kicks in the Premier League of Moths.

“Finally, Hungary and its sweatpants-wearing goalkeeper were a sight for sore eyes. Admittedly I have a bit of Hungarian blood running through me, but they finished ahead of Iceland, Portugal and Austria despite being given little chance to do anything.”


Which players impressed you the most?

Nick Mendola: “The Polish back line was a revelation, and most of the other players who impressed me were already close to household names. Nani and Aaron Ramsey were both influential, but Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern has to be considered the breakout player of the tournament.

“Also, cheers to Pepe. The vilified Portuguese defender showed us just how valuable he’s been to Real Madrid’s success as well. And Antoine Griezmann showed us that he’s legitimately elite.”

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Aaron Ramsey of Wales celebrates after scoring his goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Russia and Wales at Stadium Municipal on June 20, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Kyle Lynch: “Aaron Ramsey was one of the best players in the tournament, and his suspension in the semifinal really hurt Wales. I was also impressed by Luka Modric and the Croatian side, who were unfortunate to get bounced so early.”

Kyle Bonn: Dimitri Payet was the best player there. Iceland’s teamwork was stunning. Aaron Ramsey was the unsung hero.”

Joe Prince-Wright: Graziano Pelle had a great tournament for Italy and that obviously sealed his big move to China. Aaron Ramsey was superb for Wales and he was their star man. Antoine Griezmann’s finishing was sublime and his movement electric. Leonardo Bonucci was a stud for Italy in defense. Plus, Pepe was a beast for Portugal. If he wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have been anywhere near winning the tournament.”


Which players failed to live up to expectations?

Joe Prince-Wright: “Maybe a little harsh but Robert Lewandowski didn’t really get going. He scored against Portugal but he seemed to be snatching at chances. Obviously Wayne Rooney underperformed once again but Harry Kane was the real disappointment for England. He looked jaded and lacking in confidence which is worrying for Tottenham’s fans. Like most of those young England players, you don’t know how a shock exit like that could scar them mentally.”

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Wayne Rooney (L) and Harry Kane (R) of England are seen on the bench prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Slovakia and England at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on June 20, 2016 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “For a while, it was going to be Ronaldo, but we see how that turned out. Thomas Muller was ‘off’ the whole tournament.”

Kyle Lynch: “After Harry Kane’s season at Tottenham, he was very poor for England. You also have to mention Thomas Muller, who never got off the mark for Germany.”
Kyle Bonn: “Had to be Paul Pogba. The kid is a wonder at his best, but he’s failed to come out strong on multiple big stages now, and its becoming worrysome. To be fair, the expectations are practically unattainable, but he’s still struggling where he should be shining. Harry Kane was also a serious disappointment, and Thomas Muller disappeared into thin air.”

What’s your take on Iceland’s surge?

Kyle Bonn: “Iceland’s organization cannot be exaggated. It was superb. The ultimate showing of teamwork. I was blown away. I hope they continue to be effective as a unit. Both Sigurdssons were standouts.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 03: Iceland players and staffs pose for photographs in front of their supporters after the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between France and Iceland at Stade de France on July 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “The Leicester City comparisons are inevitable, and it’s almost a shame the two underdog stories came so close together. It’s funny how quickly the viral Hungary clap turned into the Iceland clap.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “As I mentioned before, they stunned the world. I spoke with Iceland’s fans in Nice and they were very confident they would beat England and maybe we underestimated them. They got past Holland, Czech Republic and Turkey in qualifying and have been on the up for a while. Still, they had the whole package with the fans, the players and the belief.”

Kyle Lynch: “Iceland were impressive in qualifying and showed confidence on the big stage. Following Leicester’s run in the Premier League, Iceland was a great story and they could be in line for a World Cup appearance.”


What’s your take on England’s stumbles?

Nick Mendola: “Expected (although not to Iceland). The side was missing a playmaker, and asking Harry Kane to take corner kicks was a silly risk that backfired. No one’s going to want to hear this, but England’s best choice would’ve been to play a more defensive formation and let Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy destroy teams on the rush.”

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Wayne Rooney of England (2nd R) walks toward Dele Alli (3rd L) to console after the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Kyle Bonn: “They played the opposite of Iceland, parts greater than the whole. Very disappointing. At no point did they look like they belonged on the big stage.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “Sigh. I’ll pass… Seriously though, it never gets easier. The expectations haven’t even been as high as they were in the past and it seemed too much for the players to handle.

“They had the youngest team at EURO 2016 and dominated all four games they played in but only managed to find the finishing touch against Wales, in stoppage time. The most worrying thing was in the game against Iceland they looked panicked. They were feeling the pressure and you could see it, plus captain and talisman Rooney had his worst ever game for England at a time when they needed him most. It’s time for fresh faces and another rebuild under the new manager, whoever that is. I’d go for Sam Allardyce to mix things up a little.”

How high does Portugal’s win lift Cristiano Ronaldo’s reputation all-time?

Joe Prince-Wright: “He was already going to go down as one of the best of all time but this lifts him into the soccer pantheon of greats alongside Maradona and Pele. He may not have scored buckets of goals but he was an inspiration for that team on and off the pitch. Portugal’s players wanted to do it for Ronaldo so much after he came off injured. His place in history will be assured when his career is done. Over to you Lione… Oh wait. He retired. Checkmate Ronaldo.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal holds the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after his team's 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “Into another stratosphere. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with his dogged play when Portugal went down. He’s still a step back from Messi in creativity and inimitability, but there’s no doubt he’s, at worst, 1B for his generation.”

Kyle Lynch: “I think his legacy is already set as one of the all-time greats, but winning a trophy with your national team always gives you that little edge. Even though he wasn’t at his best at the tournament, Portugal was still his team and he will be remembered for giving his country a European Championship.”
Kyle Bonn: “It’s huge. The role he plays on that team is that of a player/coach. He has something Messi may never achieve, and he was vital to achieving it.”

Which team or person lost the most from EURO 2016?

Nick Mendola: “As a team: England. As a player? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sweden was far too focused on their star, and for once the striker couldn’t deliver much.”

Kyle Bonn: “Biggest loser has to be Roy Hodgson. I know him well from his Fulham days, and he has always played a more defensive, organized style, and it works for an underdog – like Fulham in their Europa League run. This tournament made it clear to me he still has not learned to play as the better team, which is what brought him down at Liverpool. It’s a massive flaw in his managerial skills.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “Austria team wise. They were woeful and should’ve done much better but so many silly errors. Player wise, maybe Anthony Martial? He had such a promising season with Manchester United but was barely used and looked a shadow of the player we saw in England.”


What’s your take on the fan violence? Is it a cultural thing? Over-amplified by ever-present social media? Something that will always exist?

Joe Prince-Wright: “Unfortunately it was a perfect storm for the most extreme violence we saw in Marseille. Hot weather. Huge crowds. England. Russia. Two countries with hooligan elements in a city which didn’t forget what happened when the English last came to town in 1998.

“It was horrendous and there’s no place for it. For me, I think it’s thrown up some huge question marks about Russia 2018. Especially given the facts that gangs of organized hooligans flew all the way from Russia to partake in that. Unfortunately it’s difficult to stop all the violence around the game but even in the stadium there were policing issues, flares and fireworks thrown around and people running on the pitch. That has to get better.”

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: An England fan is arrested after clashing with police ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Nick Mendola: “What kills me is how often it was discussed leading up to the tournament, and nothing could be done to stop it. Not a great time for our sport.”

Kyle Lynch: “The presence of social media definitely made this tournament’s problems more prevalent, but I think it’s something that’s hard to handle. If a team was actually suspended from a major tournament, then changes might come.”
Kyle Bonn: “Fan violence is a massive problem to me, but the bigger issue is stadium security. France should be ashamed of how much they let happen with lazy security. Fireworks flat out shouldn’t make it into stadiums, and they seriously dropped the ball.”

How would the United States men’s national team have fared in the tournament?

Nick Mendola: “Jurgen Klinsmann would’ve played this the same way Hungary, Iceland, and Ireland did, but it depends on their group. Given the absurdly easy path to the knockout rounds, I see them there and maybe winning a game.”

Kyle Lynch: “With the new format, a lot of teams were able to sit back and not risk much while still advancing to the knockout rounds. The U.S. could be able to get out of their group, and a decent draw could have seen a possible quarterfinal appearance.”
Kyle Bonn: “Like they do in most major tournaments, they would have sneaked out of the group, then lost a close game to a better opponent early in the knockout stage.”

Joe Prince-Wright: “May have ground a few results out and then went out in the quarters. Probably would’ve finished third in a group a la Portugal. Minus the run to winning the trophy…”


Which player from the tournament would you like to realistically see playing for a North American club?

Nick Mendola: Sebastian Larsson from Sweden. He’d be able to turn around an attack the way Sacha Kljestan did for the New York Red Bulls.”

LEIRIA, PORTUGAL - MARCH 29: Portuguese forward Nani during the match between Portugal and Belgium Friendly International at Estadio Municipal de Leiria on March 29, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Joe Prince-Wright: “Bearing in mind I’m all for seeing younger DPs in MLS, someone in their prime who would be a real draw in MLS, plus realistic to join, is Nani. Obviously he’s just signed for Valencia but looking at how much he’s moved around recently, maybe MLS makes a move for him next summer? He’d still be under 30 if they did. Pace, power, tricks and sublime crosses and long range shots, when he’s on his game not many can stop him.”

Kyle Bonn: “I think Ragnar Sigurdsson would become one of the better defenders in MLS. That is, if he doesn’t get snatched up by a European side first.”

Mark Hughes looking to bring Nani to Stoke City

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Mark Hughes‘ Stoke revolution continues as the Potters’ boss is interested in bringing Nani to the Britannia.

The former Manchester United winger has been in fine form at the EUROs with Portugal, helping lead the team to their second straight semifinal at the tournament.

[ MORE: Man City sign Zinchenko ]

After a solid campaign in which he scored 12 goals for Fenerbahce in the Turkish Super Lig last season, the club’s president said Nani would be sold to Spanish side Valencia this summer.

However, with a deal yet to be made, Stoke assistant manager Mark Bowen has said that the Potters could be in line to make a move for the 29-year-old former Champions League winner.

I know there is an interest there. Valencia are a big club but it is the draw of the Premier League.

He is player that Mark [Hughes] admires a lot and he has had a very good tournament. Without giving too much away, there is an interest there and let’s see what happens.

In my opinion, he left the Premier League far too early. He had his time at Manchester United and had been a big player for them and he seemed to drift away rather than step into another club in the Premier League.

With his buyout clause at Fenerbahce just over $9 million, Stoke could surely offer a higher fee than Valencia as well as better wages should Nani want to return to the Premier League.

[ REPORT: Blaise Matuidi in England ahead of possible move to Manchester United ]

Mark Hughes has revitalized Stoke since taking charge of the club in 2013, changing their style of play while leading the team to three consecutive ninth-place finishes. Historically known as a hard-nosed, old-school football club, Hughes has signed skill players in the likes of Bojan, Marko Arnautovic, and Xherdan Shaqiri to turn Stoke into a club on the rise in the Premier League.

Hungary wins Group F, and Ronaldo drags Portugal through after thriller

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Cristiano Ronaldo almost single-handedly dragged Portugal into the knockout rounds with two goals and an assist as Hungary lost a trio of leads in a 3-3 draw that still handed them Group F at EURO 2016 on Wednesday.

Balazs Dzsudzsak scored a pair of deflected goals for Hungary, and Zoltan Gera also scored as they clinched a date with the runner up of Group E.

Nani scored Portugal’s only goal, his second of the tournament, and Portugal finished third in the group. Up next is Croatia, in a game which could be just as high scoring.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s absurd back heel ]

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group F match between Hungary and Portugal at Stade des Lumieres on June 22, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Gera hammered a low rope through the legs of a defender and into the bottom right corner as Hungary seized the lead in the 19th minute.

Free kicks came for Portugal from dangerous spots, but Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly did well to marshall the defense or make the stop like when he flew low and left to slap a hard, low Ronaldo offering away.

Nani equalized for Portugal just before halftime, as the ex-Mancheter United man got on the end of a through ball from fellow ex-Red Devil playmaker Ronaldo to beat Kiraly and make it 1-1.

[ USMNT: Gulati cares about third place game ]

Balazs Dzsudzsak put Hungary back in front with a deflected free kick in the 47th minute, but Ronaldo answered back with a gorgeous cheeky backheel to make it 2-2.

Dzsudzsak hit another deflected shot home within moments, but there was Ronaldo again. The Real Madrid star stroked home a solid finish to make it 3-3 with just under a half hour to play.

Iceland’s Bjarnason nabs equalizer, GK Halldorsson helps hold Portugal

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Nani and Birkir Bjarnason traded goals, and Iceland snatched a point from controlling Portugal in both teams EURO 2016 opener on Tuesday.

The 1-1 decision slips both sides behind Hungary and ahead of Austria after one round of games.

Up next: Portugal vs. Austria and Iceland vs. Hungary on Saturday.

[ MORE: Hungary 2-0 Austria ]

The first strong chance came for Iceland, and was foiled by Rui Patricio. The keeper twice denied Gylfi Sigurdsson in succession.

His Icelandic counterpart was an absolute star. Hannes Thór Halldórsson made a quick leg save when Nani used his head to power a Cristiano Ronaldo cross on goal in the 21st minute.

Portugal then held the game by the leash, and it was not a surprise when Nani pushed home Andre Gomes’ cross after a half-hour of play to give the side a 1-0 lead.

[ MORE: Latest EURO 2016 news

Halldorsson (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Iceland equalized with the clock hitting 50:00, as Bjarnason was left open at the far post by Vierinha and belted a shot behind Patricio. 1-1.

The better of the play still belonged to Portugal as the match hit the hour mark, and Halldórsson was called on to make a diving save on Gomes.

The chances kept coming to Ronaldo and company, and Halldorsson stopped the Real Madrid’s man header in the 85th minute to keep things 1-1.

Patricio had to parry and collect a chance a minute later, as Iceland’s defense-first effort hadn’t stalled their desire to be sharp on the counter.

Stoppage time saw Ricardo Quaresma with an in-tight free kick, but Iceland cleared it with the first defender. Ronaldo then got a free kick that was blocked by the wall via hand, and he’d get one more chance from 10 yards closer.

Ronaldo from 25 yards? Wall again.