Senegal has Crashed the Olympic Party

Senegal is in their first ever Olympics appearance, and they look to be taking full advantage of the opportunity.  Through two group matches, they have drawn Great Britain and defeated Uruguay, showing the world that they are ready to contend for a medal.

Not long ago when the Olympic soccer squads were announced, Senegal looked a team destined for failure.  While serious medal contenders had called up mega-stars like Neymar, Ryan Giggs, Luis Suarez, and Juan Mata, the African nation had been denied the services of both Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse.

The players had phenomenal seasons debuting for Newcastle of the EPL, but manager Alan Pardew denied them the honor of representing their country at the Olympics.

Surprisingly, the team has played wonderfully without them.  Striker Moussa Konate looks to be both instinctive and deadly.  He scored a brave equalizer to earn a draw with Great Britain in the opening match, and he scored twice against Uruguay from corner kicks.  On the first he poked a loose ball through into the net, and on the second he beat his marker and headed in a goal.

The striker everyone had expected to succeed, Ibrahima Balde, hasn’t found the back of the net yet.  If he can start making an impact, the Olympics could very well be the coming out party for Senegal.  Considering the two strikers left home, Senegal could be well on their way to taking over African soccer in the near future.

The team is also finding success through brutal tactics that involve heavy tackles and frustrating their opponents.  They drew a plethora of complaints from the British team for their tactics, and may well have earned several red cards during the game, but good fortune enabled them to evade trouble and allowed them to scrape a draw.

During the second match facing Uruguay, their intensity was again on display but they were punished this time as Abdoulaye Ba was sent off for dragging down Luis Suarez, who was charging free towards the goal.  Incredibly, the team performed fine after the sending off and strolled to a 2-0 victory.

Although Senegal is not making any new friends during this tournament, I feel that it is hardly their aim.  They are in their first ever Olympics and look like a team that is really going for it and trying to win.

Clearly their physical style is getting into the heads of the opposition and has opened an opportunity for an upset in the group stage.  Facing their last group match on Wednesday against the United Arab Emirates, this team only needs a draw to progress and has their destiny in their own hands, while tournament favorites Uruguay and Great Britain will battle for survival.  Let’s just hope Senegal can avoid another sending off as we enter the defining moments of the Olympics.

GB Olympic Football Crests

I have not heard it mentioned or debated anywhere else; but does no one else think the British Olympic football team badge is very odd?

The Great Britain football team is wearing a plain white crest with a dark blue lion’s head logo and some Olympic rings with text “Team GB London 2012″.  I think this logo really cheapens the team; it looks a like a logo that a pub team might wear in a one-off testimonial friendly match.  It screams to me “we just threw this pick-up team together for a bit of a laugh”.

They are the official team of Great Britain, and they are representing the country; why not just use the Union Flag for the crest.  Just looking at the uniform and crest it makes me feel like the team is nothing more than a gimmick for an afternoon of light entertainment.

The logo represents England with the lion and Scotland with the colors, but where are Wales and Northern Ireland represented in this logo?  I’m not knocking the team or players in any way, this rant is directed at the FA and the designers; someone is trying to be too trendy with this and it is an epic fail, next time please just use the flag.

Most of the other teams are wearing either their plain flag for a badge, or a crest with the flag incorporated into it.

PSG Poised to Dominate French Football

Ligue 1 of France has typically been viewed as a soft competition in the eyes of professional soccer players.  Often disregarded in the wake of Europe’s top leagues like Spain, Italy, England, and Germany, France usually serves as a stepping-stone for young stars to rise to prominence and earn big money moves abroad.  But all this is set to change.  With the squad assembled at Paris Saint-Germain, France will harbor at least one major threat in the UEFA Champions League.

Since the Qatari Investment Authority purchased the club roughly one calendar year ago, they have invested over 200 million Euros into the team through transfer purchases.  Preying mostly on the Italian Serie A, PSG now is home to stars like Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi of Argentina and Thiago Motta and Thiago Silva of Brazil.  Additionally they have collected rising French playmakers like Jeremy Menez.

Their biggest name transfer occurred earlier this month with the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  The large Swede is a world-class striker and scored the best goal of EURO 2012.

Furthermore, PSG’s main rivals have sold their best players and become even worse!  French champions Montpellier just sold their main striker Olivier Giroud, and 3rd placed Lille parted ways with Eden Hazard, who left for Chelsea (PSG finished 2nd last season).  Lyon has been only a shell of its former self since Karim Benzema left, so the nation looks set to be governed (in football and stately matters) by Paris.

In PSG’s recent friendly against Chelsea, the team looked very impressive.  Although the match ended a 1-1 draw, and of course understanding the fact that this was merely a preseason friendly, the Parisian side largely dominated the proceedings, especially in the first half.

The offensive players looked vibrant and were full of trickery as they completely threw the Chelsea defense for a loop.  They used nifty back heels and played lovely balls over the top of the defenders’ heads and often confused Chelsea.  They were rewarded with a goal after a brilliant run by Pastore, whose shot deflected off the post and fell for Nene to direct home.

Manager Carlos Ancelotti would have liked to have beaten his former club, and they may very well have done that had Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva made an appearance.  This team looks smart and quick and will certainly be one of the Champions League contenders.  Ligue 1 surely is in the bag and will merely serve as practice matches for the major European tournament.  PSG has become a force to be reckoned with and should compete well against major clubs like Barcelona, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich.  Vive La France!

Will New-Look Tottenham Survive?

Tottenham Hotspurs had the unfortunate result of finishing fourth in the English Premier League last season.  Due to Chelsea’s victorious Champions League campaign, the Blues received the final English seat in next year’s tournament, although they finished behind Spurs.  Tottenham was relegated to the Europa League tournament for this season.  Such a sad way to end a once-promising season looks to result in some drastic changes in the team.

Anguished stars Luka Modric, Jermain Defoe, and Rafael van der Vaart could very well depart the club after missing out on a vital Champions League spot.  Modric is currently being linked to Real Madrid in Spain and looks set to leave, especially considering how badly he had wanted to transfer last summer.  How will Spurs deal with the loss of their best midfielder?

Ever since Emmanuel Adebayor has signed permanently, the speculation regarding Jermain Defoe’s exit has grown.  Defoe is aging and is likely to lose that speed that he built his career from.  Adebayor is a menace on his day, but his attitude has to be questioned due to the sheer number of clubs he has moved among in his career.

Rafael van der Vaart has been linked with a return to his former club Hamburg, but money looks to be a serious issue for the transfer to materialize.  New manager Andre Villas-Boas has urged the Dutchman to stay with the club, but once again the lack of a Champions League opportunity could sway the midfielder’s mind.

A greater concern to the club will be the new manager himself.  Former boss Harry Redknapp had propelled the team to the brink of greatness and was simply unlucky to not earn his team a Champions League spot due to the Chelsea victory.  The squad he had assembled was among the best in the EPL, and the team was in the hunt for the league crown for much of the season.

Now that Villas-Boas is in charge, how will the team respond?  Clearly his stay with Chelsea last season erupted in flames as the players had rude farewells following his firing.  Given how the team seemed to rally around his departure, I find the signing rather strange but perhaps he can spark some magic like he did with Porto two long seasons ago.

However the transfer season pans out, we will have a new Tottenham next season.  The club has enjoyed a successful stint in the last few years, but now the team will be under extra pressure to take the next step.  The new boss will need his club to come out strong and prove that the manager switch was the correct move, or else he could very well endure his second sacking in two seasons.

Olympic Soccer to Showcase New Talent

The 2012 Olympics are set to begin soon in Great Britain and will provide an excellent opportunity to watch the stars of tomorrow on a major stage.  The predominantly U-23 setup allows for a vast array of young players to represent their country and catch the eye of scouts worldwide.

The Great Britain team is loaded with youngsters that already play on Premier League teams such as Aaron Ramsey, Tom Cleverly, and Daniel Sturridge.  Led by veteran Ryan Giggs, the team will be looking to win a gold medal on their home soil.  With such as exciting array of young players already featuring at major clubs, Britain will like their chances and should do very well.

Brazil are many odds-makers favorites to win the gold medal.  With soon to be superstars like Neymar, Rafael, and Hulk, who would doubt them?  The team also houses a solid group of veteran players such as Marcelo of Real Madrid, and Thiago Silva of AC Milan.  The Brazilians have never won Olympic gold, though they did earn silver in 2008 and are always candidates to succeed in big tournaments.

Mexico will be contenders as well and have a solid group of youngsters waiting to explode on the international scene.  Comprised mostly of Mexican league players, they boast stars like Marco Fabian, who has impressed with Chivas and has scored many goals during Olympic qualifications.  Also, Giovani dos Santos will be present.  Although he has found few opportunities at Tottenham, the forward is an amazing trickster who would love to prove himself at this competition.

Spain should also be considered as a favorite.  The senior team has won countless trophies but their U-23 side has shown that this dominance is likely to continue.  The team will feature EURO 2012 hero Jordi Alba, as well as a few other Barcelona youth players like Cristian Tello and Oriol Romeu, who now plays for Chelsea.  Their goalkeeper, David de Gea, starts for Manchester United and has a bright future as well.

Uruguay could also be well poised to place strongly in the Olympics.  Led by Luis Suarez, the nation bolsters defender Sebastian Coates and a group of players from Italy’s Serie A in Gaston Ramirez, Edinson Cavani, Arevalo Rios, and Abel Hernandez.  Uruguay reached the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup and won the 2011 Copa America so their fans will have high expectations entering the Olympics.

Another player worth watching will be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon.  The young striker had a superb 2012 African Cup of Nations leading his side with three goals to the quarterfinals.  He has also played well for his French team Saint-Etienne.  The 2012 Olympics could be his coming out party.

Many fantastic players start off as no-names until an event like the Olympics comes about.  The soccer world is soon to be introduced to a new group of stars, many of whom are set to embark on fantastic careers.  Although the tournament doesn’t hold quite the names as the EURO tournament did, it will still provide an excellent grounds for dramatic soccer matches.

Tamudo Professional Grade Soccer Shirts

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Which Youngster Shined Brightest at EURO 2012

In addition to being perennial stomping grounds for Spain, major international tournaments like EURO 2012 can serve as proving grounds for young professionals to gain fame and secure transfers to major clubs.  With much of the world tuned in, those few games are often the most vital of any young player’s career.

Recently, players like Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil, Andrey Arshavin, and Alexi Sanchez featured in major tournaments and earned big money moves to clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.  EURO 2012 also enabled a new crop of young professionals to shine, and a few are likely to embark on a similar path as their successful predecessors.

One such player is Alan Dzagoev from Russia.  Already a key man at CSKA Moscow, the 22 year old burst onto the international scene scoring three goals in Russia’s first two EURO 2012 matches.  Unfortunately, a loss to Greece in the final match resulted in Russia’s elimination even though they had a better goal differential.  Thus the tournament was cut short for Dzagoev, but he clearly drew notice from a host of major clubs and has already been linked with Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United.

Alan Dzagoev is an attacking midfielder and would improve any team with his smart passing and deft finishing.  At such a young age, he could develop into a world famous star if he seals a move to the right club.

Another exciting new player at EURO 2012 was Mathieu Debuchy of France.  The Lille right back had an outstanding performance against England in the country’s tournament opener which clearly drew interest from the English Premier League.  Earlier this year, Debuchy was heavily linked with Newcastle, but now it seems as if Chelsea or possibly even Inter Milan are set to swoop in and lure the player to a bigger club.

Chelsea would be a fantastic place for the Frenchmen where he could linkup with his former Lille team mate, Eden Hazard.  The tandem led Lille to a Ligue 1 championship in 2011 and would love the opportunity to help Chelsea improve upon their recent league troubles.  Debuchy’s attacking prowess makes him an intriguing talent.

Probably the most exciting player to emerge from EURO 2012 was Jordi Alba of Spain.  Alba was able to start each match at left back for the Spanish side after an injury to Carlos Puyol.  Those expecting a drop in quality were horribly mistaken.  Alba’s speed and technical skill helped Spain lift the trophy.  In addition to excellent defending, Alba also had an assist against France and a wonderful goal against Italy in the final.  He made a daring 60 yard run out from his own half and collected a brilliant Xavi pass and eased the ball into the net like a classy veteran.

Barcelona has already gobbled up this talent just last week, but we can expect lots of chatter about the destination of Dzagoev and Debuchy.  For these players, EURO 2012 was a tremendous success.  The soccer world will soon become quite accustomed to their names.