Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gyan looks to shine at the ACN

All eyes will be on Asamoah Gyan at the upcoming African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in January as he attempts to help Ghana go one better than their second place finish two years ago.

The Ghanaian striker was voted African player of the year in 2010 and was one of the players to make the biggest impact on the World Cup in South Africa as he helped his side become only the third African country to make the quarter-finals of the tournament.

Gyan caused controversial earlier this season when he left the Premier League to join Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates on loan from his parent club Sunderland, with a view to make the move permanent when the January transfer window opens. People looking at the best African Cup of Nations odds should remember this.

Steve Bruce signed the striker from Rennes for £13 in August 2010 where he scored 10 goals in his debut season for Sunderland, however, he was swayed by a move to the Al-Ain where he is reportedly on a contract worth £200,000 a week.

The 26-year old has scored 27 times for his country in 54 appearances. One of his latest goals was at Wembley against England in a friendly to earn the Black Stars a draw against Fabio Capello's side.

Didier Drogba is undoubtedly one of the biggest names at this year's tournament once again. Ivory Coast will expect a big performance from their leading talisman and skipper when the African Cup of Nations gets underway in January. The Ivorian has not been in the best form for his club side Chelsea, however, he is still considered very influential for the Elephants where he is their all-time leading goalscorer.

Barcelona’s exciting matchup against AC Milan deservedly makes the Spanish giants winners of Group H

The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League has been an enthralling competition so far.

Out of all the groups in the group qualification phase, Group H contains 2 of the best teams in the European competition: Italian giants AC Milan and the current Champions League trophy holders Barcelona.

The other teams confined in Group H are as follows: Gambrinus liga outfit FC Viktoria Plzen, and Belarusian Premier League team FC BATE Borisov. The first matchup between Barcelona and Milan ended in a 2-2 draw with the Spanish side playing at home. People looking at the Champions League promotions should remember this.

It was an extraordinary affair and the excitement lasted even until the final seconds as Brazilian international Thiago Silva headed in a goal in the 2nd minute of stoppage time ensuring that all important draw at the Camp Nou. The second matchup between the 2 sides ended in a 2-3 victory to Barcelona at the San Siro with goals from: Milan’s Mark van Bommel in the 14th minute (o.g.), Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 20th minute, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the 31st minute, Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng in the 54th minute, and a goal from Barcelona’s Xavi in the 63rd minute. Those who bet on Champions League winner should bear this in mind.

Although the Spanish outfit remained in control for most of the match, the Italian’s certainly had their chances. This article must come down to the question – Who will succeed to the latest stage of the European Cup out of group winners Barcelona and the qualified AC Milan? – My thoughts are that Barcelona are the most likely to win the prestigious tournament.

Their eclectic team includes some of the best players in the world and will cause difficulties for any up and coming opposition. AC Milan are another potential candidate for claiming the most prestigious title; although the most likely outcome for the Italian side would be a place in the Semi-Final.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ivory Coast favourite for ACN

Ivory Coast are the heavy favourites going into the African Cup of Nations in 2012 in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.

The Elephants will be able to call upon on the service of a number of high profile European players such as the Toure brothers, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Didier Drogba.

It was a disappointing World Cup campaign for Ivory Coast in South Africa last year. They finished third in their group behind Brazil and Portugal despite only losing one game in the competition. Those following the latest African Cup of Nations betting should remember this.

Their record in the African Cup of Nations is fairly moderate; as they have won the tournament just once and that came in 1992. They were runners-up though in 2006 when they were defeated in the final by Egypt.

In 2010 the Elephants were beaten in the quarter-finals by Algeria 3-2 after extra-time in a memorable encounter.

Ghana are likely to be fancied by many going in the tournament this year. Asamoah Gyan has been the star of African football in the past 12 months and will be expected to be one of the leading goal scorers at the competition.

Household names such as Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and John Mensah will all make up their squad alongside some exciting home-based players that Serbian coach Goran Stevanovic is expected name next month.
Tunisia will be hoping for the same success they had in the African Cup of Nations in 2004 when they won the event. Since then they have had two quarter-final appearances, although they did fail to make it past the group stages last time around.  They lost all three of their games against Cameroon, Gabon and Zambia in a disappointing campaign.

Fergie backs Rio ahead of Palace

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has backed his experienced centre-back Rio Ferdinand to keep playing an important role at the club head of their Carling Cup clash on Tuesday.

The Premier League title holders take on Crystal Palace at Old Trafford following a tough week for the club, which saw them held to two draws at the Theatre of Dreams.

United had to settle for a point in the Champions League with a 2-2 draw with Benfica, followed by a 1-1 stalemate with Newcastle United on the weekend in controversial circumstances. People placing a Carling Cup bet should remember this.

It was that man Ferdinand in the centre of the attention after his seemingly well timed tackle was given as a penalty for the Magpies, which was then duly slotted home by striker Demba Ba to give the Red Devils just a point on Saturday.

United and Ferdinand will be looking to put that behind them when they host Palace on Tuesday and despite his age, Ferguson believes his defender still has a key role at the club. Those looking at the odds Carling Cup need to bear this in mind.

He said: "Rio's been a great player for us and it's important to explain his present position.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with that (age), absolutely not. I have no issues at all with Rio, he can play for another couple of years quite easily.

"He's a big figure in our dressing room, so that will continue. I have no thoughts of letting him go."

Palace will be heading to Old Trafford looking to cause another upset to give Ferguson more to think about after a frustrating week for the Scotsman.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blatter Apologises, but Declines to Step Down

Earlier this week, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, caused a stir in the football world, by intimating that racial abuse on the pitch could be fixed in the same way as a foul or a shove; with a simple handshake. Blatter's comments suggested a naivety – or even an outright ignorance to the effects of racism – that prompted calls for his resignation.

The 'race row' currently boiling in football's cauldron concerns a Premier League match at the end of October, in which Chelsea player, John Terry, is alleged to have levelled a racist slur at QPR defender,Anton Ferdinand. Terry denied the allegations, but he admitted to asking Ferdinand if he thought he had been abused, albeit by using racially-sensitive language. Anyone following the best football betting will have been shocked.

In the ensuing weeks, Sepp Blatter, while claiming that he was committed to expunging racism from football, said that there might be "a word or a gesture" that was offensive to minorities, but that racism as a wider issue did not exist in the sport. "I would deny it. There is no racism."

Blatter, who is well known for his gaffes, including his suggestion that women footballers should wear tighter uniforms, was pilloried in the wake of his comments. England midfielder, David Beckham, said that Blatter's opinions were "appalling", and "not very good" for the game as a whole.

Returning to the present; Blatter has responded to calls for his resignation by refusing to step down.

The 75-year-old said that it would be more appropriate for him to face the problem, rather than offloading it to a successor. "I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations", Blatter said, noting that he "couldn't envisage" the damage caused by his earlier comments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Speed: I would not get into this Wales team

I think it is fair to say that Welsh football is on a high right now. True they are set to spend yet another summer watching a Live Football  tournament from afar, but four wins from their past five games suggests manager Gary Speed’s work is bearing fruit and with the side an average age of 24, pointing to a successful long-term future.

Their latest victory – a 4-1 trouncing of Norway – is another sign that Speed has a young a talented nucleus of a side at his disposal and one that can put up a real good fight in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

In Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen there is a creative hub worthy of the biggest stage, so talented in fact that Speed,  Wales’ most capped outfield player, thinks he wouldn’t get into the current side.

"I'm serious. I don't think I would have got in that team," said Speed, "All the way through it is quality.”

He isn’t talking just about the young player’s either, 32-year-old Craig Bellamy has had a new lease of life at Liverpool this season and an equally fine revival at international level, contributing to their dramatic upturn in football scores.

A player who often divides many due to his outspoken on-field persona, his quality cannot be denied and his international captain Ramsey is all too aware of that.

"Whenever someone moves to a new club they are going to be excited by that and the season ahead,” said the Arsenal man. “I think he has that spark in him again. He was a threat all game getting down that wing. He is still a massive player for us and we hope to keep him for a long time."

"There is a new buzz playing for Wales," Ramsey added. "I think everyone can see how promising this team looks."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can Spain win Euro 2012?

Spain are the bookies' favourite to claim the Euro 2012 title held in Poland and Ukraine but do they deserve to be in this position?

They are undoubtedly the best team in the world and have a respectable history in terms of awards. The Spanish last claimed the European title back in the Euro 2008 where they beat the German powerhouses 1-0 after a goal from the unstoppable Fernando Torres in the 33rd minute. The latest Euro 2012 odds show they are set to do it again.

During the 2008 tournament, held in Switzerland, David Villa – one of Spain's star players – won the Golden Boot award by claiming a total of 4 goals throughout the tournament. The UEFA player of the tournament was given to no other than the awe-inspiring Xavi.

In Spain's last international match versus Scotland, current manager – Vincente del Bosque – fielded a 4-3-3 formation. The man between the sticks was Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Valdes put on a good performance, but I still feel Real Madrid's stopper Iker Casillas as Spain's number one. In right back was Madrid full back Sergio Ramos.

In my eyes, not many players in the Spanish side would be able to match the talents of Ramos in the right back position. Valencia's Jordi Alba adopted the role of left back.

Normally I would prefer Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa, but as Spain were dominant favourites, del Bosque opted to go for Valencia's youngster. In the centre back roles, Barcelona's Gerard Pique, and Carlos Puyol controlled the first third of the pitch.

Directing the midfield in the centre of the pitch was Xavi, veering towards the right side was Barcelona's Sergio Busquets, and to the left was Malaga's Santi Cazorla. Manchester City's David Silva, Barcelona's Pedro, and David Villa led the Spanish attack.

The result against Scotland ended in a 3-1 victory to the Spanish side with David Silva scoring 2, David Villa scoring 1, and Scotland's David Goodwillie scoring the consolation. With such a strong team, Spain are highly likely to succeed in Euro 2012.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Capello keeps Terry but also eyes youth

England manager Fabio Capello chose to keep John Terry in his squad for friendlies against Spain and Sweden but also had one eye on the future.

Chelsea skipper Terry is currently the subject of a police investigation of allegedly racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry strongly denied the allegations and Capello insisted he should not be punished for a crime he hasn’t even been convicted of.

"We had a meeting with the FA on Friday," said Capello. "We spoke to John Terry. I think he is innocent until proved guilty."

Despite Terry’s inclusion Capello has revealed he intends to play a number of young players against World and European Champions Spain at Wembley on Saturday.

Kyle Walker has been in squad before but is expected to make his debut, while Daniel Sturridge and Jack Rodwell are called-up for the first time.

Chelsea forward Sturridge has been in fine form this calendar year, building on a impressive loan spell with Bolton Wanderers before a carrying a profitable pre-season into matches for the Blues.

He's an interesting player and a player who scores goals," said Capello. "I've seen him play right wing, left and centreforward. He has improved a lot."

Everton midfielder Rodwell meanwhile has benefitted from playing Live Football  regularly in the Toffees starting line-up and is set to add a senior England cap to his collection earned at Under-21 and youth levels.

There is no place for Wayne Rooney, with Capello looking at other options as he prepares to cope without the Manchester United striker for the first three games of the Euro 2012 campaign thanks to his red card against Montenegro last month.

Manchester City’s in-form full-back Micah Richards isn’t included either. The defender just doesn’t seem to be in favour with Capello and with have to Watch Football Live on TV like the rest of us. Liverpool defender Glenn Johnson – never the most convincing at international level - has been called-up 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mancini aware of Villarreal test

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has warned his players that they will be in for a tough test against Villarreal on Wednesday.

City travel to Spain with their hopes of qualification still intact after Sergio Aguero’s late, late leveller against the same opposition two weeks ago.

However, they have yet to win in the competition this season after drawing at home to Napoli in their opening game and then losing 2-0 away at Bayern Munch – a match remembered more for Carlos Tevez’s apparent refusal to warm-up (or play – depending on your point of view).

The club know that three points in this encounter are vital if they are to defy the football betting and make the knock-out stages in what is their first appearance in this format of the competition.

Villarreal - who finished third last year - are struggling in La Liga this season. Their manager Juan Carlos Garrido is under severe pressure and their star play Guiseppe Rossi out for six months with a knee injury.

The Champions League odds suggest City and their expensively assembled all star line-up will come out on top, but Mancini is not taking anything for granted.

"That goal [Sergio Aguero's late winner] was really important. It is not easy to play against Villarreal,” said the Italian.

"They are a good team, used to playing in the Champions League. Also, when they played against us in Manchester, they did very well.

"Many top teams have played at El Madrigal and had big problems. The supporters are very close to the teams, and Villarreal when they play at home are a strong team."