International Break Thread

I knowthis is a bit late given that most of the games are over, but what the hey, here’s a nice little space for you to discuss the international break. Asian WCQs, friendlies, and even U23 matches. Have at it, folks. More soon from your favoritest writing crew, perhaps even within this particular post given that there are some highlights worth showing.

First up, Clint Dempsey scoring for the US against Italy, in Italy (h/t Dirty Tackle)

You may not care about Clint Dempsey or the USMNT, but, well, I don’t think that matters, now does it? Plus, he beat Thiago Motta. First time the US has ever beaten Italy and they did it in Genoa against a team that hadn’t given up a goal at home in any of their Euro2012 qualifiers. Say what you will about the team on hand (shouldn’t Balotelli have been there?), but the US did their thing.

Okay, so Barça-related:

Messi gets his first hat trick for Argentina, though with 1 of those being a penalty. Good to see him getting some goals for the albiceleste.

Iniesta with the first was lovely to see. And, as far as I can tell, no one got hurt, which is actually far lovelier.

Abidal played 90 minutes and left seemingly completely intact. This is good.

H/T on both to 101 Goals

Not Barça-related:

The Dutch beat England with 2 wonderful goals from Arjen Robben that are worth watching.

Scott Parker fall down go boom.

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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

105 Comments

  1. Bill
    February 29, 2012

    2 years ago Sabella was spending time by the beach planning estudiantes new season. This was a few weeks after Barcelona had beaten them in the club world cup. A kid walks by, see’s them going over the plans and asks them, “are you still looking for Messi?” Atleast now he doesn’t have to, they are on the same side. Great job Messi!

  2. Helge
    February 29, 2012

    Very impressed by the display of France against Germany.
    Definitely the most improved team since the WC 2010.
    On an individual level, France is not inferior to anyone. And tactically, Blanc has done a brilliant job. I prefer the Spanish way of football, but the disciplined defence and the fast, direct play with that kind of midfielders (Nasri, Valbuena) is also attractive, and [today] succesful. Don’t forget, France had to make do without their fastest player, Loic Remy.

    Messi gets his first hattrick, 47 goals in 46 games this season (27 assists). That’s the only good thing about another poor team display of Argentina.

    Torres is done.

    Based on the friendlies of today, my Euro 2012 ranking is:
    1. Spain 2. Germany 3. Netherlands 4. France 5. England 6. Italy
    France and Italy swapped places 🙂

    • February 29, 2012

      Fast direct play attractive? That’s it! You are officially a Madridista 😉

      • Helge
        February 29, 2012

        It’s not like you invented it^^
        Plus Valbuena and Nasri don’t play for you!

    • February 29, 2012

      Italy are solid and they’ve performed well, they beat Germany in a friendly too remember? They were playing without their first choice forwards, who are Balotelli and Rossi, and who are far better than their other options.

    • nzm
      March 1, 2012

      The last time that Germany beat France was in 1986!

      France is doing well – they have been unbeaten for 18 months now.

  3. blitzen
    February 29, 2012

    So I guess Soldado made his point? 😀

    Poor Torres.

    Off to download the game.

    (Oh, and yay for Messi!)

    • justsayin
      February 29, 2012

      Great game by Soldado.

      He just about put the last nail in Torres’ coffin.
      He is one scrappy player, he’s fast and he’s got a nose for goal.
      LLorente played the whole first half and all he managed to do was lumber around near the goal. LLorente is a sub, plain and simple, someone you put into a game when you’re looking to put in a header.

      Really enjoyed the way the NT is playing. Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Cesc controlling the middle with their short passes and triangles but it was especially nice to see the more aggressive, quick pace of the wingers Cazorla, Silva and even Alba feeding Soldado. Lot’s of talent and creativity there and they all work well together.

      This team could be even better than the Dream Team. From today’s display it seems that this team has what Barca is struggling with which is fast wingers feeding Messi in the middle. Today’s NT had width, speed, ball control and wingers who were not afraid to shoot on goal. It’ll be interesting to see how they progress.

      • blitzen
        February 29, 2012

        At last! Someone who sees Llorente the way I do! I have nothing against him personally, but he is just not a technical player. He has his talents, but he isn’t particularly fast or good with his feet. He plays well for Bilbao because they are a less technical team and they play at his service, but for the NT he does best as a super-sub when a tactical change is needed. I cannot understand why his name keeps coming up on this blog as a possible “Plan B” purchase for Barça. It would be a mistake and a huge waste of money.

        • February 29, 2012

          I see Llorente as a “Plan B” for Barça, and what I mean with Plan B is a super-sub, when we get stuck and need someone to break the bus, we put him in. Unfortunately we can’t buy him with a cheap price.

        • justsayin
          February 29, 2012

          Agreed, I don’t want to see him on Barca as Plan B, C or D! Just would not work well with our system, too stagnant. I too don’t have a problem with him and he is a classic striker for Bilbao, but he would not be worth the money to come in as a super sub for us.

          Silva, on the other hand, would fit in seamlessly.

          Alonso and Ramos, IMO, seem to work well with this team. Alonso’s long passes compliment the tiki-taka and keep the other teams on their toes, not knowing if to defend deep or not. The wingers are fast and good with the ball on their feet so they can handle those Alonso passes. I liked the unexpected change of pace.

          Ramos, as much as I dislike him on RM, does well on this team in part because VdB forbids him from tackling the way he does for his club team.

          All in all, it seems like all the pieces are fitting in nicely, although they were playing against Venezuela, it appears that the team is pretty solid.

        • Anonymous_69
          March 1, 2012

          I guess some people like Llorente, some don’t. Personally, I think he is great, and I would love him at Barcelona. But mostly, we just need a striker. I think Spain show how much you need a 9 to complement the team. Creative players and dribblers are great, but you need one guy will put away the chances created. Playing Silva or Cesc or false 9 is NOT something Spain should do for the euros. Soldado or Llorente need to be starters.

          Barcelona miss that. I think you underrate Llorente. He isn’t just a giant that heads the ball well. He adds a lot to the build up play, which is crucial for Barcelona. He is mobile and quick with the ball. He is a better dribbler than Villa (not saying much though…) and can run with the ball almost as fast as Pedro. His finishing was off with Spain, but I think he would be brilliant with Barcelona. And not just as a plan B, but as a starter.

      • Ryan
        February 29, 2012

        The first half was pretty lumbering, and I think part of it was Iniesta on the LW. His goal was when he was in the middle, of course! Llorente is the battering ram and aerial threat we all knew he was; a shame he didn’t play together with Navas, but he really should’ve scored a brace in that game.

        I loved how Spain looked in the second half. Alba, Soldado, Cazorla (yeah, he played in 2008, but he still surprises), and Muniain (wohoo!!) all bring some very needed energy to the team. When Del Bosque was just bringing out the 2010 squad for each and every friendly that lack of fire was quite painful to watch. Nothing like some fresh blood to stir things up a bit. 😀

        • February 29, 2012

          Soldado looked like a man on a mission! His movement in the box for all his goals should be studied by young aspiring strikers. Poaching 101!

          • Ryan
            February 29, 2012

            He also seemed to be really enjoying all the service he was getting. Valencia is a fine team, but it must be amazing to play for la Roja for the first time and have that midfield supplying you!

  4. lyd
    February 29, 2012

    the babies had a good day out too. Cuenca and Montoya started and later Tello as a sub was influential in a 3-1 win over Egypt.

    • nzm
      March 1, 2012

      They missed Thiago in the middle though.

      It took Egypt to score first to wake them up.

      Not a convincing game, but they scraped through.

  5. hansh
    February 29, 2012

    I AM SO EXCITED RIGHT NOW AS A USA FAN 😀 Beating Italy for the first time, even in a friendly, is huge. The last 20 or so minutes of the game were incredible nerve-wracking. Michael Bradley had a tremendous game at DM.

    I’m planning to watch the Spain-Venezuela game tomorrow, but I heard Iniesta got the first goal and the Soldier got a hat trick, so that’s great.

    • February 29, 2012

      The two center backs had immense games as well. Can’t say the same for the left back though. The US need to learn to sit deep and counter, not sit deep only. Italy were pushed up so high, I was surprised the pace of the US NT didn’t kill them on the break. Good win non the less. And great determination too.

      • hansh
        February 29, 2012

        Bocanegra and Goodson were very good, and Jonathan Spector did well too when he came in at left back. I thought the US were much better on their counter before the goal, and after that they conceded almost all midfield possession to Italy. It worked today, but I fear it won’t in the future (especially when the offside calls stop going our way).

        • February 29, 2012

          Thought the left back was skimmed waaay too many times. Luckily for him, the two center backs and DM’s were insistent on no pass going through. Add to that the bad crosses, and you will have a better clue over why the US kept a clean sheet.

          With that said, I do agree. Before the goal, they were much better at countering. After that, and towards the last 10 minutes, they even gave up on even having a striker up front and relied on defending. This allowed Italy to play with 2 at the back and to play a line as high as 20 yards past the half way line. In theory, this is very risky. But when the other team doesn’t plan on attacking at all, it works. Not so sure this would work against better opponents with better strikers.

  6. BarcaOwl
    February 29, 2012

    Go figure. The first time I sleep through an Argentina game and Messi scores a hat trick. Oh well, there’s always Youtube. 😛

  7. K_legit in Oz
    February 29, 2012

    GOLdado!
    Hard to believe that dude missed an open goal against us in the Mestalla!
    Deadly!

    • Oil_Can
      February 29, 2012

      He also scuffed his penalty too, makes you think about Messi’s penalty against Valencia, not everyone is perfect.

  8. February 29, 2012

    Haha Soldado comes in and scores a hat-trick while missing a penalty in 45 minutes. Torres out.

    I like this Spain team actually. I liked the Euro 2008 side more than the WC 2010 side, and I like this side a lot more than the WC 2010 side as well. I think they should keep playing these players- Alba on the left, Silva in, Xavi with just one DM, Soldado and Villa up front. Just like the Euro side, only Soldado seems better than Torres ever was for the national side where he’s always been nowhere near top form even though he scored the winner in the final.

    Casillas; Alba (Capdevila 2008), Pique, Puyol, Ramos; Busquets (Senna 2008), Xavi, Iniesta, Silva; Villa, Soldado (Torres 2008)

    • Nik
      February 29, 2012

      Agreed. I hope VDB will drop Alonso moving forward. Spain are just so much more fluid and potent with just Busi than the both of them.

      • blitzen
        February 29, 2012

        Normally I would agree with you, but I actually think this is the best I have seen Xabi Alonso play for the NT in a long time.

        • K_legit in Oz
          February 29, 2012

          Fuck off Alonso, him and ruining the flow with his shite close control and overrated ‘passing skillz’..

          • blitzen
            February 29, 2012

            No need to be rude about it. Did you even watch the game? He played well. Credit where it’s due.

          • February 29, 2012

            He was good today cos he was playing the metronome instead of a defensive midfielder. Because Xavi wasn’t playing. Alonso is a brilliant player who is an enormous luxury to have on the bench as a metronome sub for Xavi but that’s his role for Spain imo, a metronome for when Xavi is out. When Xavi is in the side he’s redundant cos he doesn’t really offer much more compared to the likes of Silva, whereas when Xavi isn’t in the side he offers something the others don’t.

        • Nik
          February 29, 2012

          That’s fair, but I’d rather have Silva, Fabregas, Cazorla etc in the side over him. Even though he played better today than he usually does, I feel he’s a bit redundant with the Xavi-Busi partnership.

        • Anonymous_69
          March 1, 2012

          I support VDB’s double pivot, as long as there are two attacking fullbacks. That’s why for the Euros, I would like Puyol to be a starter, and keep Ramos on the right. Unless VDB trusts Iraola enough, which might be even better.

          But I don’t think Xabi Alonso should be a starter. Sure, he has nice long passing. And credit where due, he did okay. But his defensive skills are very limited, he is slow, and I feel Javi Martinez should be starting next to Busquets. They can form a much more powerful partnership. Busquets-Martinez is a lot more energetic, provides waaaay better tackling and tracking, more security in set pieces, a potential box to box option… Also, in Alonso-Busquets, Busquets stays back and Alonso contributes attack. If it was Martinez-Busquets, Busquets would take the more offensive position, and I feel he can contribute a lot more to the speed and flow of the game (even thouh Alonso has better long passing…)

    • February 29, 2012

      I liked the Euro 2008 side more than the WC 2010 side, and I like this side a lot more than the WC 2010 side as well.

      Yeah, me too! I know they won the WC, but I wish their performance was more entertaining like Euro 2008.

      Casillas; Alba (Capdevila 2008), Pique, Puyol, Ramos; Busquets (Senna 2008), Xavi, Iniesta, Silva; Villa, Soldado (Torres 2008)

      This looks awesome. Cesc will be sad though. One of the reasons why he wanted to play for Barça is to show VdB that he can play together with Xavi and Iniesta.

    • Ryan
      February 29, 2012

      Del Bosque won’t drop Alonso, but he has subbed him out late in games when he needs more firepower. The doble pivote is here to stay folks.

      Soldado looked great, but I want to see how he plays with Villa. Torres may never have been as great as the good Liverpool player, but he did well creating space for el Guaje. Are Soldado and Villa too similar to complement each other?

  9. Miguel
    February 29, 2012

    Both dos Santos bros are playing for ¡México! ¡Ya se armó! right now.

  10. Off the topic. I was going through real Madrid’s remaining fixture. There is still hope for us, only if he remain focused on our away trips. Also we may need a bit of luck, maybe more than a bit. In all their recent away matches they have struggled away from home. But they somehow managed to win those, or should I say that the opponent managed to lose! We need the luck there.

  11. K_legit in Oz
    February 29, 2012

    Wait Soldado means Soldier? Robert the Soldier… 😀

  12. blitzen
    February 29, 2012

    Oh, and Iker Muniain taking Villa’s number 7 shirt. Kid is ballsy. Love him! 😆

    • Ryan
      February 29, 2012

      He’s Basque, it comes with the territory!

  13. Laurentiu88
    March 1, 2012

    On Xavi and PSG.

    “Xavi has spent his entire professional career at Camp Nou but did reportedly come close to joining AC Milan in 1999 only for his mother to allegedly veto the move.”

    Don’t they assume that his mother will not let him leave this time too :))

  14. blitzen
    March 1, 2012

    Just a few more observations on the Spain/Venezuela game:

    –That was some pretty pretty football. The NT hasn’t played that well in a while. It helps that it was a friendly with nothing at stake, with some well-rested players and some new faces out to prove themselves.
    –Venezuela never really got into it. I’d like to see the possession stats, I estimate something like 75% for Spain. After the second goal the Venezuelan players dropped their heads & never looked much like a threat. Did they even get a shot off in the 2nd half?
    –Fabregas played better than he has in ages. Maybe he is more comfortable with the role VDB gives him (attacking midfielder as opposed to a more “roaming forward” role at Barcelona) as it is closer to how he played at Arsenal.
    –Soldado is a proper goal poacher, isn’t he? His positioning and runs were very intelligent. I was very impressed with him. He must feel like a million bucks right now!
    –Munian had his debut, played about 20 minutes, and was really good. The kid is absolutely fearless, isn’t he? He was all-out attacking right from the start, which is something the Spanish NT has been lacking lately. Made some brilliant runs, showed off his skills and came very close to scoring. I think both he and VDB will be very happy with his performance.
    –Silva continues to excel, as do Busi, Iniesta, Xavi & Puyol.
    –Pique looked great. Why you no play like that for Barça??? Smarten up!
    –Much as I dislike Teh Ramos, he plays well for the NT. Better, IMO, than he does for RM. Probably because, as someone else pointed out, he is not allowed to be such a thug and has to concentrate on actually playing football. Arbeloa continues to make me wonder why VDB keeps calling him up, as he was pretty mediocre, but I guess Montoya isn’t going to get called up again for a while.
    –And finally—Jordi Alba has the LB position at lockdown. I still miss Capdevila in the seleccion, but Alba must now be considered a permanent starter for VDB.

  15. mom4
    March 1, 2012

    Most fun I’ve had during an international break in a while.

    1.
    Messi was messi.
    ”I’m disappointed with the result,” Switzerland coach Ottmat Hitzfeld said. ”It’s always a huge pleasure to see Messi. Except if you’re the coach of the opposing team.” (foxsports.com)
    Still have some concerns about how much Arg have to rely on him. Sergio Aguero helped a lot.

    2.
    USA!
    We take what joy we can in soccer. It doesn’t happen often.

    3.
    Saw some good stuff with Spain’s game.

    4.
    No joy for Portugal. I shouldn’t care. I shouldn’t be this petty. Major character flaw in me I’m sure.

  16. March 1, 2012

    Messi played brilliantly yesterday and his combination with Kun was wonderful. ARG have so many good players in attack – but they really have two players who are truly special and they need to build the team around the pairing of those two.

    Up to now all of the ARG NT managers haven’t used Kun enough. That was a real positive from Sabella yesterday. Now he just needs to stick with it even when Di Maria, etc. are back.

    What Leo said after the match:

    “It’s an honor to wear the captain’s armband for the National Team, to be putting together a nice group where the most important thing is wanting to win.

    With Kun (AGUERO), we go way back, we understand each other on the pitch, we also have a great relationship off it.

    The other thing that worked well for ARG yesterday was the CB pairing. Good to see Garay finally get called up again and play. He’s been very good this season. And given alternatives – he needs to play.

    Now – all that said – Sabella’s overall team selection and system implementation were very disappointing.

    He basically played 8 defenders behind two attackers.

    Sabella turned midfield into a completely pragmatic zone devoid of any creativity at all. Sosa/Brana/Maxi/ Mascherano. That’s just awful and its remarkable for an ARG side to line up that way.

    Basically the system Sabella set up put all of the responsibility for creating on Messi’s shoulders. He basically said to Leo – just go and figure it out on your own.

    Yesterday Messi could do that. But in a real tournament where the result counts and against better opposition that’s just not going to work.

    The way ARG won yesterday is not going to generalize. It’s not a pathway for sustained success. And it’s not going to win them a WC.

    Basically what Sabella is doing – which one ARG manager after another has done in different ways – is to try to “fix” the problems at the backline by making them Messi’s responsibility. To “fix” the backline they reduce midfield to pragmatics and count on Messi to make up for the loss of creativity.

    ARG was very poor yesterday trying to build out of the back. They just didnt’ have the players in midfield to do it.

    ARG needs to play a systems based game where everyone defends as a unit rather than set up in which some players defend and others attack. ARG keeps lining up in ways which make them prone to turning into a broken formation. In some ways they haven’t made much progress since the Maradona led side got embarrassed by GER in WC 2010.

    ARG has the talent to fix this problem – but its going to require much more imagination than any of the managers seems willing to utilize.

    8 defenders behind Messi and Kun is not a solution. It’s a bandaid at best. A top side will be able to turn that into a broken formation and isolate Messi and Kun from the rest of the squad.

    http://www.mundoalbiceleste.com/Article.aspx?id=2758&title=lionel-messi-a-very-special-day

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 1, 2012

      Pearls of wisdom. Thanks Euler. I did not watch the whole match. But the “team not working as a unit” definitely stuck with me when I watched them for the few minutes that I did.

    • cuqui
      March 1, 2012

      Trenchant as always, Euler.

      Agree completely about Messi and Kun. For the life of me I’ve never been able to figure out why they haven’t started together in every ARG match barring those when Kun has been nicked. Aguero was very good yesterday — Leo plays great with other creative attacking players.

      I’ve partial to Kun-Messi-Higuain. Leo has great chemistry with each of them and I’ve always thought Pipita was underrated. His work rate with the national team has impressed. Do you foresee any formation with those three starting?

    • I didn’t see the match. Only saw the goals, so have no idea how Messi played. There is no doubt that Argentina has to hev more creativity in the middle. But whom? Pastore looks like the only option. But he alone can’t do that. He don’t have it in him to take such burden in a major tournament. That’s why I always believed that if Argentina has to do anything in a proper tournament – Messi has to play the classic No.10 role than anything else. Yes, putting the best goal scorer in the middle may sound stupid, but I don’t think they have any option. One thing this season has taught us is that Messi can play the classic No.10 role to perfection.

      Argentina will only win a World Cup if Messi truly and absolutely emulate Diego as a No.10. May be minus the Hand of God part.

  17. March 1, 2012

    From mom4:

    Your Germany v France game should be a good one. Don’t think France stands much of a chance, though. Sorry. Go Abi!

    Muhahahahahahaaaaaa! Allons enfants de patrie/La jour de gloire/est arrive!

    I know it was just a friendly and all, but still. Allow me a just a wee bit of joy at a rather surprising outcome. Maybe the U.S. beating Italy set the tone for the day, eh?

    • mom4
      March 1, 2012

      If you and King Eric are happy, I’m happy. 🙂

      Btw, who was the captain for France? I hope it was Abi but I had read that he didn’t want it.

      • March 1, 2012

        Hugo Lloris, if my hazy observations didn’t fail me. I got home around 8 p.m. yesterday, and nibbled at all the matches before passing out around 11:30.

        • Helge
          March 1, 2012

          Yes, it was Hugo Lloris.

          I’d have liked to see Mandanda, though. He’s been the best goalkeeper in the CL this season. And also much better than Lloris. I know Lloris is probably the more talented of the two, but he’s not in top shape this year. And this was only a friendly, there’s no better occasion to give Mandanda something back for his great performances with Marseille.
          And then Lloris even hands the captain’s armband to Lloris…

    • nzm
      March 1, 2012

      Well, France had good stats on their side: unbeaten for 18 months and unbeaten by Germany since 1986 – the latter being something worth playing well to uphold!

  18. culegirl3
    March 1, 2012

    So proud of the USMNT 🙂

    I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me about something…I was watching Punto Pelota last night and the topic of who Spain’s style of play is influenced by came up. Is it Barca? Is it Luis Aragones? VdB? Someone on the show even mentioned it resembles the style of Rijkaard. Any thoughts on this?

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 1, 2012

      Spain’s style of play…depends on which club contributes the most players to the National Team. In case of Spain, almost half the team comes from Barca. Jordi Alba, in my recollection is a Barca youth product – so he has the “Barca DNA”. Last game these players represented the Barca style of play Iniesta, Cesc, Busquets, Pique, Jordi Alba
      Subs, or injured: Xavi, Thiago, Puyol, Villa, Pedro ….

      In essence, the style of play resembles how Barca play in its current form. Although Rijkaard has influenced the Barca style of play, and Pep has continued a lot of what he has done, the current style of play is an echo of Pep’s vision of how games should be played.

      But this is happening every where in the world. Everybody is watching Barca play, and want to bring that style of play to fruition. Pep has changed the way soccer is thought of and played forever.

    • blitzen
      March 1, 2012

      No, seriously, it’s Xavi. After the 2006 World Cup, Luis Aragones made a conscious decision to make Xavi the lynchpin of his team and base the style of football around him (rather than Raul). He decided that the system would need to be changed to accommodate him, from a 4-2-2-2 to a 4-3-3, which was obviously more Barça-like. Aragones relied on Xavi even more than Rijkaard did at the time. It was a drastic change to a short-passing tiki-taka possession-based style because that was the game Xavi needed to play. VDB later changed to a double-pivot system without changing the basic style.

      But if Aragones hadn’t made Xavi the centre of the team’s system, Spain likely wouldn’t have won anything.

      • Blau-Grenade
        March 1, 2012

        Hey Blitzen, I understand where you are coming from. And I can see building a system around Xavi that works. Barca, the club that we dearly love, is pretty much that.

        But there are things that happened in the match yesterday that are the brain child of Pep, like off the ball movement, pressing the opposition to get the ball back. These things are not Xavi, or one person in the team. These things have been envisioned and brought to fruition by Pep, at Barca.

        These things were missing during the Rijkaard time. Maybe it is a combination of Xavi and Pep’s vision. But IMO, and the absence of Xavi on the pitch, it was Pep’s vision that played out on the pitch yesterday.

        • nzm
          March 1, 2012

          Maybe Pep’s vision would like to extend to how the wingers influenced the game yesterday.

          Just sayin’! 😀

          • Blau-Grenade
            March 1, 2012

            Loved the wing play yesterday! Silva was, for parts of the game, hugging the right hand side of the pitch, and Jordi Alba was hugging the left spreading the field of play. Loved that aspect of the game.

        • blitzen
          March 1, 2012

          The point is it was Luis Aragones that made the decision to make Xavi the pivotal player of the team, and Del Bosque who built on that. They chose that style of play before Pep was in the picture. Xavi is not a product of Pep, he is a product of Barça and a style of play that goes back to Cruyff and Rinus Michels. Pep didn’t invent off-the-ball movement and pressing the opponent for the ball, you know. He learned from his elders. I’m not saying that VDB doesn’t rely heavily on Barcelona players or that he hasn’t incorporated Pep’s ideas into his style, but the impetus for the change in style that now defines the Spanish NT was Xavi, and Aragones’ belief that a system built around him was the way to success.

          • Ryan
            March 1, 2012

            Not only that, but the leadership in Spanish soccer finally realized that they had to adjust their strategy to the kind of talent they were producing: short, technically-abled but not quite physical soccer players that needed the short passing to bring out their best abilities. That, and kicking Raul off the team. 😆

    • nzm
      March 1, 2012

      It’s going to be a vote between a new stadium or a re-vamp of Camp Nou.

      Personally, I’d rather see the Norman Foster re-vamp happen: http://www.fosterandpartners.com/Projects/1552/Default.aspx

      However, as that was initiated by the last President and Board of Directors, I doubt that the present President would think much of it!

      The exhibit on the upgrade has disappeared from the Barca Museum.

      • March 1, 2012

        And you know what that means, right? Nice bit of info about the upgrade exhibit, nzm. Thank you.

        • March 1, 2012

          From the Twitters: Barcelona sources deny the club plans to build another stadium or sell the Camp Nou grounds and say the board never discussed this.

          • Laurentiu88
            March 1, 2012

            somehow this news stayed on my mind all day; I liked the Norman Foster project from its beginning. on the other hand the economics of it may tell another story – if indeed these sort of improvements don’t make economic sense then the board should think about a new stadium too.

            just can’t imagine Barca without the Nou Camp!

            made me sad all day. but hey times are a changing.

        • nzm
          March 1, 2012

          It’s not all that’s disappeared, Kxevin. There’s very little in the way of Laporta mentions in the Museum now – especially images of him. It’s like he never existed.

          Of course, the encumbent President is all over the place….

    • mega_tajh
      March 1, 2012

      Really? But to me I saw Rosell in a recent pic with Villar on his re-election.

        • mega_tajh
          March 1, 2012

          Yeah when Villar gave his: “I can’t give more than you ask”

          It was reported they meet in some hotel in Madrid, where the topic was the venue for the CDR. Although the picture for the article could have been old.

  19. mom4
    March 1, 2012

    Well isn’t this just craptastic!

    Updated Mar 1, 2012 12:48 PM ET
    BARCELONA, Spain (AP)
    Barcelona will be without defender Eric Abidal and midfielder Thiago Alcantara for the Spanish league game against Sporting Gijon.

    Abidal returned from his midweek friendly with France with a groin injury that Barcelona says will keep him sidelined for 10 days, while Thiago will be out for an undetermined length of time after hurting his right leg while playing for Spain.

      • blitzen
        March 1, 2012

        He didn’t play. He pulled up in training with a slight knock. Don’t think he will be out long.

    • Ryan
      March 1, 2012

      Is Thiago another hamstring injury victim?

      • nzm
        March 1, 2012

        Pain in his right tibia. Hopefully not another fracture like Villa’s.

    • Jafri
      March 1, 2012

      Bleacher Report. The wild speculation and inane gossip mongering hub of football on the internet.

    • nzm
      March 1, 2012

      I’m not believing the transfer, but it would get interesting if the House of Qatar suddenly started throwing their weight around at Barca, and demanding certain “things” in exchange for their continued sponsorship.

      As they own PSG and now sponsor Barca, why not spread the talent between the 2 teams as well? We may see La Masia graduates also being funnelled to PSG!

      😀

      • Miguel
        March 1, 2012

        I can see Masia kids picking Paris over London.

        • nzm
          March 1, 2012

          Especially the African boys from Eto’o’s Academy who are at La Masia – they already speak French!

  20. justsayin
    March 1, 2012

    Watched the USA v. Italy and already noticed Klinsmann’s influence on the team. Not so much of the kick and run soccer that we saw under Bradley, it looks like the team is starting to string a few passes together, off the ball movement seems to have also improved as they make themselves more available for outlet passes.

    Dempsey played a good game and I’m looking forward to him finally linking up with Donovan to see what they can make happen. Altidore’s performance stuck out for two reasons. One, because for being physically superior to so many of the Italian players, he was so easily dispossessed of the ball. He can’t seem to hold his ground and stay on his feet. I also noticed he tends to go for the easy foul by “diving” instead of trying to fight for the ball. He has poor foot skills and was slow, I didn’t like anything I saw about him in yesterday’s game.

    Secondly, I was even more surprised that the commentators we’re giving him so much credit for “assisting” in the goal. Basically, he had his back to the goal and Dempsey open right in front of him. He simply passed the ball a few feet over to Dempsey. Yeah, I guess you could say that Altidore held the defender off while he made the pass, but there really wasn’t that much to it. Yet, the commentators went on and on about how brilliant he was.

    Maybe I’m just jaded watching Barca and the NT, but I saw very little of him that impressed me at all.

    • cuqui
      March 1, 2012

      Commentators gave him so much credit because Altidore has rarely been able to successfully attempt and execute such a play. Yes, I’m cynical.

  21. On all the people talking about Bayern and Germany’s defense in light of their recent games, which I’m just putting here because it’s also kinda relevant to Barca and our defense (which is also often labeled a not-great defense that looks good because of the midfield but sucks when it actually has to defend etc even in this space):

    I think Schweinsteiger is all the difference, especially for the defense of both Germany and Bayern. The thing is I don’t think there are two different contexts where different types of defenders/defenses are ‘great defenses’. One is like an outpost, the other is like a fence, so to speak. Defenses like Barcelona with Pique, Puyol and Abidal or Bayern have outpost-style defenses. Like how an outpost tower can spot and shoot down occasional escapees but would be helpless under a wave of people. They can close down breaks, balls over the top or quick releases almost impeccably, mop up almost everything that gets through which isn’t a lot, but they’re not as good at dealing with sustained pressure. Defenses like Inter in their heyday are like fences, which would stop a lot of people escaping but a few slipping through may be undetected- they can take relentless bombardment, backs-to-the-wall, almost perfectly, but they aren’t as good at dealing with quick breaks or releasing a pacy striker with a ball over the top or whatever. Those are defenses organized in different ways with defenders that have different skill sets and judging them ‘out of context’ isn’t really a measure of how good they are when you’re trying to predict something like how Germany will do in a tournament based on their play now.

    A defender that’s great at one but not so much at the other will seem poor when circumstances are switched- and Schweinsteiger with both his defensive and his possession game lets Germany/Bayern defense play the outpost role like they did earlier this season when they set defensive records. Without him they’re forced to take on more responsibility and struggle- not cos they are objectively poor defenders but cos their attributes were tailored for an outpost style and they are weak when done otherwise, the same way the Inter defense being awful when asked to play a high line doesn’t mean they were poor defenders. Just like a brilliant box-to-box midfielder struggling in a Barca-style game or a nippy forward struggling in a team that plays through aerial crosses doesn’t make them poor players- we seem to rarely ever offer that distinction to defenders and defenses.

    (Of course some defenders are great at both backs-to-the-wall pressure and mopping up, like Puyol, Vidic and Cannavaro, but in general defenses are either one or the other- for example why the teams that do well against Barca and their suffocating pressure often suffer against Madrid’s fast breaks and releases, and vice versa- and are often awful when the conditions they are made for are reversed, whether when Bayern/Germany has to play backs-to-the-wall or Inter have to play a high line in a possession game).

    So my main point being, through all this rambling- judging Bayern and Germany’s defense currently is almost futile as a measure of their play in the actual tournament (as CL rivals or Euro contenders) where Schweinsteiger will be present. As a ‘what if he is injured/suspended’ yeah it’s crucial but I really think all of their woes can be laid down to them missing their far-and-away most important player. (I actually think he’s more irreplaceable for Germany than say Sneijder is for Holland or well pretty much almost any other player is for their NT). And because our defense isn’t good at backs-to-the-wall doesn’t make it a poor defense (I mean overall, it has been poorer recently because it hasn’t been doing it’s job like it’s supposed to and players have been off form etc, but that’s form not quality)- it’s very very good at it’s job which is why we have one of the best defensive records in Europe for three years in a row and we shouldn’t judge it by how we do in a different circumstance alone.

  22. Jafri
    March 2, 2012

    Now there’s a rumor going round that Pep and Mourinho are in contention for job of Tottenham manager. TOTTENHAM. That’s a laugh and a half.

  23. Obii
    March 2, 2012

    There has recently been a lot of criticism against Robben at Bayern, and his contract ends in 2013, so wouldn’t Robben be a pretty good buy for Barca? He’s 28, and in the last year of his contract, and it doesn’t seem like he has a good relationship with the current Bayern coach, so he might just come for a relatively cheap amount. Would he be a good fit, and if so, where?

    • blitzen
      March 2, 2012

      We don’t need a player made out of glass, thanks. :roll:

      • Obii
        March 2, 2012

        But Pep is pretty darn good at handling injury issues. He sorted Messi out pretty well didn’t he? Even Cesc has started 27 games for Barca compared to the 29 he played all season for Arsenal last season. It is a factor with Robben, but i’d assume he’d be pretty darn devastating for us on the right wing, with Alexis on the left.

        Or maybe i r dummyface. 😀

        • blitzen
          March 2, 2012

          You’re not a dummyface. 😛

          Robben is an excellent player, but I don’t think he would really bring anything we don’t already have. He has been criticized in Germany for being a selfish player and individualistic on the pitch, not qualities which will get him far at Barça. Then there are the injury issues and the fact that he played for Real Madrid for two years.

          On the other hand, his epic diving ability would take some of the heat off poor Busi. #BusquetsFairnessCommittee

    • nzm
      March 2, 2012

      Nooooo!

      He moves like a Praying Mantis on crack.

      There’s no way he’ll fit into the Barca passing game, and we don’t need anyone who falls over as much as he does.

      • K_legit in Oz
        March 2, 2012

        A praying mantis on crack?..I would throw away my money to see that..

    • blitzen
      March 2, 2012

      It is pretty cute. I have to admit Iker Face is a better actor than Andresito. The starstruck look on his face when he stops the first woman is great. 😆

    • nzm
      March 3, 2012

      Iniesta is doing the voice for a film at the moment. It’s an animated movie, and he’s doing the voice of…. Albino el Pirata! ;.)))

  24. barca96
    March 3, 2012

    I hope Keita plays at DM tonight and not sMasch. It was a disaster the last time out. He’s just not suited to play alone as a DM or maybe he forgot how to play DM 😆

    • nzm
      March 3, 2012

      Catalunya TV3 just flashed this lineup on the screen, and I just walked into the room to see it about 3 seconds before it disappeared, so am not sure if it’s official or best-guess:

      Valdes
      Alves – Pique – Puyol – Adriano
      Xavi – Mascherano – Iniesta
      Alexis – Cesc – Pedro(? I think)

      Wasn’t sure on the Pedro bit because I was trying to see it all before it disappeared!

      • Helge
        March 3, 2012

        I think it’s always a guess, be it from TV3, EMD, Sport or whatever.

        The official line-up is only made public about 1hour prior to kick-off. And we all know how often Pep comes up with a surprise, so this is just another proposed line-up imo 🙂

  25. Helge
    March 3, 2012

    RvP killed Liverpool’s CL hopes in a match which Liverpool should easily have burrowed in the first half. But with the 3rd-worst goal-to-attempts ratio in the European top leagues (behind only AC Cesena and 1. FC Kaiserslautern) you are not made from CL material…
    It was topsy turvy world @ Anfield with Arsenal scoring from their few attempts and Liverpool playing some nice football without converting the chances. The 2nd goal of van Persie is worth a look, absolutely sublime control!

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