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The Ronaldinho Snub - Brazil Leaves Ronaldinho off World Cup Roster

I realize I'm a little late on responding to this, but it still is worth a post. Brazil, like most World Cup teams, announced their final roster the other week. Not included in the final roster was once greatest player in the world, Ronaldinho. Brazil's head coach, Dunga (no last name of course), basically said that he selected his squad based upon their past performances together and believed that this squad had the best chance to win. Makes sense.

But Ronaldinho's absence from the final roster has caused quite the discussion and criticism. A lot of reporters and other analysts are criticizing the coach for omitting Ronaldinho. World Cup organizer Danny Jordaan criticized Dunga for the omission and said that "some coaches are "blinded" by a sense of power." And that "Ronaldinho is a "soccer genius" who had talents "enjoyed by few in the game, both past and present." He said that Dunga "should have selected the midfielder "as a matter of course."

Which brings up an interesting point. How much should a player be favored because of his name? And how much would it have really mattered to bring Ronaldinho? He's not going to be one of the starting 11. At best he would be a sub and maybe get in for a game or two. I find it hard to believe that he isn't as good as any other sub. Or that he isn't as good as the #23 person (the final spot) on Brazil's roster. So if he is likely as good as Brazil's worst player, why not bring him? Hasn't he earned it? Wouldn't his reputation and name alone be good for the game and for the cup?

But maybe that is the point Dunga is trying to make. He's not here to honor the past. He's here to win. No one made the team because they are dating the coach's daughter or some booster paid a lot of money to get them on the team. No one is on the team because of their name or their club team. They are on because he believes they are flat out the best 23 players Brazil has to offer. I think that message will be a bigger boost to the team than anything else he could have done. Knowing that their coach is so committed to winning that he is willing to do whatever is needed to win, even if it means leaving off the fabled Ronaldinho and taking criticism for it. It has to be inspiring to the players and let them know that Brazil is in it to win it and that anything less will be a disappointment.

I understand it, but I'm still bummed about it. Nike released their amazing World Cup ad this last week. Ronaldinho is of course featured in it. I say of course because Nike, like most of the world, probably thought Ronaldinho would make the Brazil squad. Nike probably also needed to get the most recognizable faces in soccer to sell to the world. Ronaldinho is one of those faces. He was the face of the game in the 2006 World Cup. He also left his cleats in Brazil and forgot how to play soccer for a month and went MIA. Still though, it's amazing that its only been four short years since he was king of the soccer world and he won't even be part of the team this year.

Frankly, I feel somewhat robbed of the Ronaldinho era. I feel like it should have lasted longer. Jordaan is right. Ronaldinho is a soccer genius. There was so much promise and so many good times. I'm sad it has come to an end. It could have been so much better and lasted so much longer.

Nike's ad:

Inter beats Bayern: What the Champion's League Final tells us about the World Cup

Here are a couple of quick thoughts after today's Champion's League Final.

The nationalities of the winners of this year's Champion's League final may only interest me, but there is something intriguing about this group. Here is the line-up:

Internazionale - Julio Cesar (Brazil), Maicon (Brazil), Lucio (Brazil), Walter Samuel (Argentina), Christian Chivu (Romania), Javier Zanetti (Argentina), Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Sameul Eto'o (Cameroon), Diego Milito (Argentina), Goran Pandev (Macedonia).

First of all, Internazionale is based in Milan, Italy and there are no Italians in the starting 11. Second, they have three Brazilians anchoring their defense, which tells me that Brazil will be very strong defensively in South Africa. Next, the four Argentinians are great players, but the second best Argentinian on the night wasn't picked to play for his country. Esteban Cambiasso was left out by the tactical genius (ha!) Diego Maradona. This tells me that Argentina will have a typically strong side that misses out on the Semi-finals of the World Cup due to poor management. Same story as 2006.

UPDATE: I also forgot to mention that Javier Zanetti was snubbed from the World Cup squad as well. Allegedly, Maradona blamed him for some of the poor results in qualification. There was also rumors that Zanetti overruled Maradona's tactics once the players stepped on the field.

Prior to today's match, I thought that Spain and Brazil were the teams to beat in the World Cup. After watching this game, I'd say Brazil has the edge. They are stronger defensively and in tournaments, that makes a big difference.

Nike's Barcelona Ad

More than a Club.

Nike FC Barcelona Soccer Jersey - Home - 2009/2010 (Medium/Adult)

David Villa to Barcelona: Bad News for Spain as the Rich get Richer

David Villa signed with Barcelona today. It's not a surprise as there have been rumors of him leaving Valencia for a few months. But it is somewhat disappointing as it just confirms that the rich in Spain are getting richer.

Last season, Real Madrid finished with 96 points, the second most ever for a team in one season in La Liga. Who holds the current record? Barcelona. When did they set that record? This last season. Barcelona finished with an unprecedented 99 points and Real was barely behind them with 96. They absolutely dominated the league. Valencia finished in third with 71 points. They were 25 points behind second place Real Madrid. 25 points! Just not even close. Sevilla finished in fourth with 63 points. Over 30 behind Real and Barcelona. So now Valencia, the third place team which could hardly compete with the first and second place teams, is losing their premier striker and leading goal scorer to Barcelona-the team that absolutely dominated La Liga. It's not helping the competition in the league when the two already rich teams, just get richer.

It's particularly unfortunate because more than anything the move is a commentary of the status of teams in La Liga. Mallorca, who finished in 5th in the league, confirmed today that they will be filing for bankruptcy. It has long been rumored that Valencia is also having serious financial difficulties and on the verge of bankruptcy. Finishing third in La Liga and qualifying for the Champions League helps, but they still can't afford to keep their marquee players - like Villa. They need to sell their players to get themselves out of the red. Although they finish well, instead of being able to capitalize on their success and build on it, they still have to sell off their players in order to stay afloat. So they, along with most other teams, aren't about to change the landscape of La Liga anytime soon. We are likely destined to another two horse race before the season even starts.

Finances aside, you can't really blame Villa for the move. As a Real fan it would have been great to see him go to Madrid, not that we need yet another galactico to intimidate Kaka in the locker room. But as a fan of La Liga it would have been nice to see him stay at Valencia to help build up competition in the league. But Villa is somewhat like Fernando Torres and the rumors that he might leave Liverpool. In soccer, a player's prime only lasts a few years. And while it would be nice to see a player show loyalty and stick with a team and help build that team or dig that team out of their woes (Liverpool), it's hard to fault the player for wanting to make sure his prime years are spent with a team that can contend for a title. It's a sad reality, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a player that wouldn't do the same thing if they were in Villa's boots.

Anyways, I've posted this video before, but it's worth posting again especially when you consider that Villa will now be playing up top with Messi. Good night. It's almost unfair. Great news if you are a Barca fan. Bad news for everyone else in Spain as the rich get richer. Not that you can blame Villa though. Most everyone would do the same.

Quick Hits

So much going on in the world of soccer and yet, so few posts. Sorry to the 5 followers. The posting will be more regular leading up to the World Cup and during the World Cup. I'm going to have to get up every morning at 5 to catch the early game and since I'll be up, I might as well post. Easier said than done. Maybe one of the former contributors will rise from the ashes of the dead and provide a stirring post as well. One can only hope for such company in this lone and dreary cyberspace blog world.

Anyways, like I said, a lot has happened in the world of soccer and I've wanted to comment on many things. Here are just a few quick hits:

1. The near post, upper V goal.

I love these goals. Luka Modric scored one of these goals for Tottenham in their final game of the season. Tottenham has already clinched 4th place so they went out and laid an egg against Burnley. But Modric's goal was just a beauty. It's such a hard goal. Usually a player in that position will go far post on the ground to try and beat the keeper. When a player is coming from the side angle the goalie usually has the near post covered (although not really in this goal since the goalie is shifting over rather slowly) and thus the best option is for the player to shoot low and around the goalie to the back post. Sometimes however, the player chooses the lower percentage, higher difficulty, yet usually more exciting shot right into the top corner of the near post. There is about a 2 foot window above the goalie and the shot has to be hard enough so that the goalie can't even get his hands up in time. The player doesn't always pull it off, but when they do, it's just lovely. (Goal is at the 40 second mark)

2. The Michael Ballack injury.

Seriously such a bummer. Injured during the last game of Chelsea's season and now he has to miss the World Cup. So sad. Worse than the Beckham injury because Ballack is Germany's captain. It wasn't even a guarantee Beckham would have made the squad (although it was likely). But Ballack would have actually contributed to the team's success. Granted, he is a little old in soccer years (33), but he would have helped on the field. Now, he's just there for "moral support." It's also worse than Beckham because this came on the last game of the season. The next competitive soccer game for Ballack would have been the first game of the World Cup.

To add a little drama to everything, the man that injured Ballack - Kevin-Prince Boateng (on the left) - although from Germany, is opting to play for Ghana in the World Cup because his dad is from Ghana. It just so happens that Ghana and Germany are in the same World Cup group and they play each other on June 23rd. Over/under this guy gets elbowed 11 times by all 11 Germany players on the field? Or that he gets a nasty tackle from behind. Just look at this guy. Just looking at him makes you want to elbow him. If it was someone like Deco or Messi, it might be hard to be upset at the person, but this guy? I'm sure the Germany coach will have no problem finding a volunteer to give him a hard foul.

3. Ribery out for the Champions League final.

Franck Ribery was red carded in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. The Champions League suspended him 3 games for his dirty tackle. Ribery sat out the second leg of the semifinal and then appealed his suspension once Bayern Munich reached the final. Normally, I don't agree with the Champions League on their card policy. I hate the way the Champions League suspends a player for a game because the player gets a yellow card in two consecutive games. I think they should stick to two yellows in one game equal a red card and a 1 game suspension. So if a player has already served their 1 game suspension for a red card, usually I would say that he should play. But I just re-watched the play and it's just gross (the tackle, not Ribery). The extended suspension is warranted.

4. Spain is on the move.

Fabregas and David Villa to Barcelona? Torres to Chelsea? David Silva to Man United or Real Madrid? All of those players could have gone to Man City had they finished in fourth. Oh, what could have been... Anyways, it's not really a surprise that these players might be on the move. Most people expected this. But Torres, you know I love you. So pick your new team wisely. Don't make it hard to love you.

Chelsea Deservedly Wins the Title

Well, the season is over and Chelsea, deservedly, has won the title. Entering into Sunday's final game, Chelsea needed a win over Wigan to win the Premier League title. Not only did they win, they put up and 8 spot and won 8-0. Just complete domination. Not that Wigan is the toughest team in the league, but 8?! That's always impressive. Of course, once a team is down by 4 or 5 and its in the second half, are they even trying anymore? The game didn't matter to Wigan. Of course they wanted to win, but they didn't have much riding on the line, not like Chelsea at least. So once you are down by 4 in the second half and it's the last game of the season, what's your inspiration for continuing to put forth much effort? Four, eight, who cares? All the players want is for the 90 minutes to be up so they can leave for their summer holiday in Ibiza.

But Chelsea was deserving of the title. They ended up beating Manchester United by a point. The next closest team, Arsenal, was ten points behind United. So it was really a two-horse race by the end of the season. But Chelsea was more deserving of the title because they beat United both times they played this season. It's actually sort of like Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga. Barcelona currently leads Real Madrid by 1 point in the standings and there is one game to play. However, no team in La Liga is even close to Real and Barcelona. They lead by almost 30 points over third place Valencia. That lead, in and of itself, brings to light many of the current problems in La Liga. No two teams should be that much better than the rest of the clubs in the league. That aside, if Barcelona somehow slipped up this weekend and Real won, Real would win the title. But Barcelona beat Madrid both times they played this season. So as a Madrid fan, I actually don't really want Barcelona to lose. Perhaps that doesn't make me a "true" fan as I should always want a title, no matter how we get it. But what's the satisfaction of winning the title if you lost both times to the team that finished in second? You won, but you would know that when it mattered, the other team was better than you, they just had one more lapse than you did. If anything, it would just give you an undeserved boost of confidence. There would be a false sense of accomplishment which could be more destructive than anything. Consistent champions don't get there by other teams losing. Sometimes they need the help of other teams and they need them to lose. But champions get there by winning and beating those other teams. Although its always sweet to see your rival lose and its bitter to see them win the championship, it's better than winning the championship but feeling unsettled about it because you know you didn't quite earn it.

Granted, I realize that the Premier League was much different than La Liga. There were a lot of quality teams, not just two teams like in La Liga. One could argue that Man U was deserving of the title because they beat Manchester City both times they played this season, and Manchester City beat Chelsea both times they played this season. Thus, Chelsea "giving" Man U the title by losing is different than Barcelona giving it to Madrid. Maybe I'm off and maybe any championship, no matter how it comes, should be celebrated. I understand if its the Champions League or the World Cup, because that's different. And it's not the championship wouldn't be celebrated, but it wouldn't be that special. When you already have twentysomething league titles, what's so special about one more if it comes as a result of your rival losing, but not because you could beat him? Maybe there is satisfaction and I'm just not seeing it. Regardless, the season is over and Chelsea finished on top. And its tough to argue with the fact that Chelsea deservedly won the title.

Here is Chelsea's impressive finish of the season. All 8 goals in 2 minutes.

Manchester City v. Tottenham: You Couldn't Script It Any Better

For the past six seasons, the same 4 teams ("The Big Four") have finished at the top of the English Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. They haven't always finished in that order, but it's always been those four teams. What's the big deal about finishing in the top 4? Those teams qualify for the Champions League in the next season. The Champions League is a tournament of all the top clubs from all of the top leagues in Europe. The teams still play in their own league (English Premier League, La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy etc.), but in addition, they also play in the Champions League. It's a best of the best league. It's a way to crown the best team in all of Europe. Kind of a big deal. Ok, its a huge deal.

This year, for the first time in a long time, Liverpool won't qualify for the Champions League. There is only 1 game left and Liverpool is mathematically eliminated from making the Champions League. They will likely finish in 7th and qualify for the Europa League (sort of a NIT tournament to the NCAA March Madness tourney. A nice consolation for finishing well, but not nearly the excitement or publicity or glory). The two teams competing for the 4th and final spot are Tottenham and Manchester City. Perfectly enough, they actually play each other tomorrow (Wednesday). A previous game between the two teams earlier in the season was postponed and it was conveniently and dramatically rescheduled for the final week of the season. The two teams do have one more game on Sunday, so the winner of tomorrow's game doesn't necessarily have 4th place locked up, but they control their own destiny.

So here's a look at the two teams:


There isn't much reason to root against Tottenham. I tried to think of one and couldn't. As far as I (and wikipedia) am aware, Tottenham hasn't finished in the top 4 since the inception of the current Premier League in 1992. The best they have finished was 5th, twice. They have always been a good team, but usually somewhere in the middle of the pack. For the most part, they have likable players. You would really have to try to not like them or have some personal vendetta against one of the players if you were upset that they finished 4th. You may have wanted another team and may not be excited that they made it, but it's sort of hard to hate them. One of those, "Well, I would have preferred Team X, but I don't mind Tottenham and at least it wasn't Team Y that made it" teams.

Manchester City:

Manchester City is a Team Y type of team.

First of all, its worth noting that Manchester City is often called Man City. Their coach is named Roberto Mancini. Mancini. Mancini coaches ManCity. This was the reason he was hired right? It's like someone walking into a job interview being named Joe Dodger or Danny Laker. You have an immediate leg up on the other candidates. Who wouldn't hire that person?

But here is why it's possible to dislike Man City: they have money. And tons of it. Granted, there is a lot to like about Man City and a lot of reasons to root for them. They have long played second fiddle to the other team in their city, Manchester United (the Evil Empire of the Premier League). This isn't even like the Mets play second fiddle to the Yankees. The Mets have at least had success in the past. Man City is more like the Los Angeles Clippers. Just terrible for many years and always right next to the Lakers. Finally, a few years ago, a man by the name of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought the team. He's only a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi emirate. The family worth is estimated to be about $500 billion.

Anyways, he bought Man City a couple years ago and like any good owner with endless resources, he started buying many great players. The problem is/was, many were reluctant to go to Man City because Man City isn't part of the Champions League. Some went because the money was good, but Man City couldn't quite attract all the great names. Now however, they are on the brink of being a part of the Champions League. Which is why tomorrow's game is so intriguing. If Tottenham wins, great. That's fun and its a good story for the kids. But if Man City wins, it could dramatically change the Premier League landscape. They could be at the top of the Premier League for years to come. Man City will be a team that has qualified for the Champions League, so all the great players will want to go to Man City because they will get to compete against the other great teams of Europe. On top of that though, the owner has the money for all of those players. If Tottenham wins, their stock will go up and they will probably land some new players. But no one has the resources like Man City. Their owner can go out and buy up all the great players without even noticing. Man City could go to town in the offseason and have their pick of any player. They have the money and they would now be part of the Champions League stage where many of the great players want to perform. There is really no excuse for a player to not want to join. Torres? David Villa? Buffon? Ribery? Robben? The list and possibilities are endless.

Thus, despite their losing history, it's a reason Man City is a "Team Y" and people might not be happy they get in. Man City has essentially bought themselves a birth into the Champions League and will continue to buy their success for many years to come. Doesn't always make a you a likable club. Essentially it just boils down to people being jealous that Sheik Mansour bin Ihavetonsofmoney Nayan isn't their owner, but still, its a reason to root against Man City.

Regardless of the winner, the big 4 are shaken up. It's a bummer for Liverpool fans and Torres lovers (like yours truly), but in this case, any change is good change. Especially when the change comes down to the (second to) last game. Couldn't be scripted any better.
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