May 30, 2012, 2:45 PM EDT
Man that matters:
Andrés Iniesta: Seriously, it’s impossible to choose between Iniesta and Barcelona midfield mate Xavi. The coin toss landed “AI,” so here you go.
Both players represent the gold standard of midfield possession, masters of astute spacing, the critical first touch and pinpoint connections. They are the cornerstones of Spain’s “generation of brilliance” the indispensable building blocks on which Spain’s flummoxing, mobile passing game has been arranged. Both are set-up men more than goal scorers, although Iniesta certainly turned up with a massive moment of goal-scoring glory; his extra time blast from in close against the Netherlands was a historical World Cup game-winner two summers back.
June 10: vs. Italy (Gdansk, Poland)
June 14: vs. Ireland (Gdansk, Poland)
June 18: vs. Croatia (Gdansk, Poland)
Foursome of knowledge:
- Periodic dips in friendlies might be concerning, but nothing seemed amiss during a trouble-free qualifying jog, one that ended perfectly at 8-0 and a plus-20 goal difference. Manager Vicente del Bosque’s world champs finished a cool 11 points ahead of distant second place Czech Republic. Of greater concern than indifferent performance in meaningless friendlies are two key injury absences. First is center back Carles Puyol, regal and imposing at once but not available. And forward David Villa is out, too; he was Spain’s leading scorer in qualifiers with seven goals in seven matches.
- Choices to replace Villa include … uh, oh … start the Fernando Torres debate in 3, 2, 1 …: Torres has spent most of his 18 months at Chelsea thoroughly underwhelming everyone. So does Del Bosque go there? Or does he turn to in-form Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente or even Valencia’s Roberto Soldado?
- Are we past worrying about the Barca-Real fissure that has long been the bane (or at least the worry) of Spanish soccer? Surely successive championships in major tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010) have allayed the restive. If not, here’s the count: Spanish champs Real Madrid has five men, runner-up Barcelona has seven. Perhaps it helps that Spain’s defense is built around Real men while the midfield is largely a Catalan production from Barcelona.
- We all spend so much time drooling over Spain’s classy passing and brilliant offensive potential that we tend to forget: goalkeeper Iker Casillas is surely among the world’s best. Spain’s captain just back-stopped Real Madrid’s La Liga crowing, and he recently became the most capped Spanish man yet, with 129 international appearances over 12 years.
Where they are going:
It seems to come down to two things. First, how hungry can you be if you’re already full? That is to say, is the drive still alive and kicking after having accomplished so much, especially after such a punishing march through La Liga, Champions League, etc. (Not much of which ended well for the Barca men; Real captured La Liga glory, at least.) The other element seemingly standing between Spain, the tourney favorites, and the chance at an unprecedented third successive major tournament trophy: those talented and confident Germans.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF), Víctor Valdés (FC Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool FC).
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF), Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Valencia CF), Álvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid CF), Raúl Albiol (Real Madrid CF), Juanfran (Club Atlético de Madrid), Javi Martínez (Athletic Club).
Midfielders: Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid CF), David Silva (Manchester City FC), Santi Cazorla (Málaga CF), Jesús Navas (Sevilla FC), Cesc Fàbregas (FC Barcelona), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona).
Forwards: Fernando Llorente (Athletic Club), Juan Mata (Chelsea FC), Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC), Pedro Rodríguez (FC Barcelona), Álvaro Negredo (Sevilla FC).
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT
21-year-old striker may turn to the 2.Bundesliga to get his young career back on track.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT
Injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for slumping Colorado.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT
James Rodríguez’s opener is pulled back in the 81st minute, sending the rivals to the Calderón even.
Aug 19, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Steaua Bucharest, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg earned first leg wins.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
Tesho Akindele won the league’s honor, leaving is with one question: How? Teammate Fabián Castillo was clearly FC Dallas’s (and the league’s) best player.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
A pair of Liverpool midfielders let down their owners, while Hull was the key to big, big scores.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Demba Ba had the gumption to try and score one of the earliest goals of all-time in Besiktas’ UCL match against Arsenal on Tuesday
Aug 19, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
Swimming with sharks, and knowing his fishing companions faced death, Kim Thomsen leaned on the fact that he wasn’t swimming alone.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer claims Marco Reus is headed to Manchester United… next summer.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT
Hours after apologizing for trying to force a move to Manchester United, Argentina defender Marcos Rojo is commenting on said move.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT
The MLSE boss has been good for Toronto FC, bringing in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, and is denying a report that he’s leaving town.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:24 PM EDT
Mackay’s hiring at Palace would be a reunion with sporting director Ian Moody, the latter also unceremoniously replaced at Cardiff
Aug 19, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is among the new names on the list.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Playing in the Championship club’s first two matches, both losses, Emerson Hyndman is being hailed as an ‘old head on young shoulders’
Aug 19, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
When Norway hosts the United Arab Emirates in Stavanger on Aug. 27, it could see Martin Odegaard break a 104-year old record.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Good news or just politics as usual for DC United fans?
Aug 19, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT
Brad Guzan had a better weekend than Tim Howard, as the Yanks in the Premier League witnessed a mixed bag of fortunes.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:46 AM EDT
Could players from Norwich City and Napoli be heading to Harry Redknapp’s Premier League side, along with Niko Kranjcar?
Aug 18, 2014, 11:58 PM EDT
Life after Luis Suarez isn’t too bad for Liverpool thanks to this guy…
Aug 18, 2014, 11:39 PM EDT
Pinto sends out Tweet stating: “On my way to the USA to enjoy a new experience! Go for your dreams.”
- Spanish Super Cup: Late goal allows Atlético to claim first leg draw at Real Madrid 0
- UEFA Champions League Roundup: Arsenal held; Athletic takes 1-1 draw out of Naples 0
- PST Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Fabián Castillo 0
- Liverpool, Barca target could become youngest capped in Norway history 2
- Americans Abroad Wrap: US teenagers go distance for Fulham, Utrecht 0
- Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating the Premier League’s return (and a Mickey Rourke encounter) 3