Sunday, 24 June 2012

Euro 2012 - England vs Italy

Euro 2012 - England vs Italy


Roy Hodgson names an unchanged lineup for tonights game. It will more than likely be one for the purists, rather than those looking for entertaining total football, with both coaches favouring the tactical side of the game.

Expectations have risen for this England side and hopefully the players will not feel the extra pressure in Ukraine. Roy Hodgson's boys qualified with ease in the end but they will now face a tougher task with the Italians.

There was a lot of focus on Ukraine's goal that never was, but all I will say about it is that Milevskiy was offside and in this case two wrongs did make a right. 

Super Mario will start alongside Cassano, but hopefully his Manchester City teammates will be able to wind him up in a similar fashion to the Rooney/Ronaldo confrontation of 2004.

Rooney hopefully will be up to speed after the Ukraine match and will be even more dangerous. The Italian's will know that they cannot switch off for a second unless they want "Wazza" to punish them. Gerrard and Parker will need to keep a close eye on Andrea Pirlo who passing will pose a major threat, outside of the experienced playmaker the Italian side lack anyone else you would consider an natural passer, and this battle will be key.

England have a massive opportunity to make it to the semi finals where they have the chance to re-write Euro '96 history and defeat the Germans. Very few people thought England would do well in this tournament, but we can already be prouder of these "nobodies" than the "golden generation" who failed to produce in any number of tournaments.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Charlton Athletic - Aluko Departure Confirmed, Powell In On Loan, Shackell Bid Rejected

Charlton Transfer News

The transfer window opens in 8 days, and here is an update on some potential Charlton targets.

Sone Aluko

Sone Aluko - Goals and Skills 

The former Rangers winger has confirmed he will not be returning to the club next season. He is expected to follow starlet Rhys McCabe south of the border and Charlton Athletic are rumoured to be heading the queue for his services. He stopped off at home in Birmingham yesterday, hopefully on his way down to London to sign for the Addicks.

Nick Powell

Nick Powell - Highlights 

Manchester United's future star could be about to make a move to London on a season long loan. This seems an interesting move as he rejected a move to London over the summer (Arsenal) in favour of staying up in the North of England when he left Crewe. Chris Powell is not the only person interested in his namesake, with part-time rivals Palace also showing interest.

Jason Shackell


Charlton, Burnley and Cardiff have all had bids rejected for the impressive Derby County defender this summer. The 28 year old captained The Rams in the absence of injured club captain Shaun Barker and, although every player has a price, the club expected Shackell to stay and remain an integral part of the squad next year.  

Friday, 22 June 2012

Euro 2012 - The Bailout Game

Euro 2012 - Greece vs Germany

Unfortunately "The Bailout Game" is not the highly anticipated return of Jennifer Lawrence to our screens. Instead, for our viewing pleasure, it is the most politically charged tie in Greek history, since a bunch of skantily clad Greeks took on the Persians at Thermopylae, takes place tonight. But while they had a charismatic Irishman leading them, this tightly knit group will be without their experienced talisman Giorgios Karagounis, although Robbie Keane sent in a late application to appear for his "boyhood club".

Upfront for the Greeks, 2012 award winning Ashton Kutcher Look-a-like Giorgios Samaras will lead the line, and the former City man will need to give more than blood, sweat and tears if he is to make up for the absence of the 35 year old Karagounis' bubbling energy. Grigoris Makos could replace the most experienced man in Greek football, however, I have to admit I know less about him than Angela Merkel does about all that Greek bailout money.

In defence the Greeks will be relying on their tried and tested method of two defenders charging blindly at the man in possession, while everyone else muddles in behind. This is a gross over-simplification of the Greeks high pressure defensive system, but the worry for them will be that the accurate German passing will pull them apart.
In stark contrast the German system will be a ruthlessly efficient, well oiled machine with possibly the most solid back four in the competition, Lahm, Hummels, Badstuber, Boateng, although the robot from Futurama may be in with a shout after his goal against the Danes. The Germans are superbly choreographed by Joachim Loew, harking back to his Backstreet Boys days, and as a team there does not appear to be a better side in this years competition.

Upfront Lukas Podolski will be trying to avoid the curse of the Arsenal strikers, and keep his team in the competition. Alongside him Spanish born Mario Gomez is showing his former nation just what a proper striker can do, and everyone else just who the super plumber is at this tournament. Out on the right Thomas Muller is still trying to find his South African scoring boots and he might not get a better chance than against the Greeks tonight.

The task facing the Greeks tonight is titanic, and if they are to win it will need to be a more miraculous story than if Hercules and Perseus got together to face a gorgon-headed Minotaur. But this is football, and on any given day a miracle can happen, bring on the game and we are one step closer to Sunday!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Euro 2012 - England vs Ukraine

Euro 2012 - England vs Ukraine

 Tonight England face Ukraine with a Quarter Finals place on the line. England fans should be proud of their players for reaching this stage considering Hodgson and his squad have only been together for four games.

The news this week has understandably focused on Wayne Rooney's return from suspension. Rooney is expected to take the place of Andy Carroll in the England starting lineup and will look to link the midfield with Danny Welbeck who has looked isolated at times over the first two matches. In some quarters Rooney is considered England only true world class player, Ashley Cole may have some gripes about this, and although he isn't up to the standards set by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo he should still bring something different to the England side.

Theo Walcott, England's hero against Sweden, has passed a fitness test on his hamstring but will miss out on a place in the starting lineup tonight. James Milner is favoured by Roy Hodgson for his defensive diligence and he will hopefully provide cover when Glen Johnson goes on his lung busting runs. If England need some fresh attacking impetus Walcott and his Arsenal teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will offer nice options from the bench. If the result looks secure hopefully Theo's hamstring will be given a rest in preparation for the Quarter Finals.

Ashley Young will have been put on notice with Walcott's cameo against Sweden. The United attacker has been very disappointing so far this tournament and England cannot afford to carry him through the knockout rounds. England still stand a good chance of winning the group and avoiding the Spanish in the Quarter Finals, although Italy may not be an easier opponent. Sweden will look to make France's lives difficult before they head home.

England's opponents tonight may be missing their 35 year old talisman with the Ukrainian coach claiming Andrei Shevchenko is only 50-50 for this match, but it is hard to imagine that he will play no role tonight. Neither Shevchenko or Voronin will start for Ukraine but they will offer a very dangerous option from the bench. And England must not forget about Yarmalenko and Milevskiy who will threaten the England goal from the off.

With this in mind Joe Hart will need to show his Manchester City form. At times he has not dealt well with the shots that have come his way and he hasn't commanded his area in the way Casillas and Buffon do for their respective countries. Joe Hart has it in him to be one of the best goalkeepers England have ever had and Hodgson will be looking for him to show this on the big stage.

Ashley Cole is set to make his 21st tournament appearance and this experience will be vital. The England left back has made a number of last ditch blocks, but these may be in short supply tonight as Cole will have to keep Yarmalenko quiet out wide on the Ukraine right wing.

Hopefully he will help England hold a higher line against Ukraine which will be key in keeping a clean sheet. Unfortunately they have had a tendency to drop deeper and deeper as the game progresses and if Shevchenko comes on late in this game he will look to take advantage of this.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Charlton Athletic - Calendar Reminders

Charlton Athletic - Calendar Reminders

The fixture list for the forthcoming season was released today and it will see the Addicks begin their return to the Championship on the road visiting Birmingham City at St Andrews. 

You have to go all the way back to 2006 for the last time Charlton started the season on the road, a 3-1 defeat at Upton Park, hopefully Chris Powell's team will have more luck against the Blues.

Next up is a Tuesday night fixture against Chris Powell's former club Leicester at the Valley, and Hull follow the Foxes to the Valley four days later to finish off the August fixtures.

Powell will make sure his men are under no illusions and any hangover from the previous season's celebrations will have to be quickly forgotten. Chris will want to get all his signings in early so that they can gel in pre-season as the match against the playoff semi-finalists will not be a good time for mistakes.

The first game of the season seems a long way off, with Euro 2012 yet to finish and the Olympics yet to begin, but hopefully the weeks leading up to the season will pass quickly as the excitement builds at The Valley ahead of Charltons return to the Championship!


Charlton Athletic - Transfer Rumours

Charlton Athletic Transfer Rumours

It has been very quiet so far this summer, at least in comparison to last year, but that is probably expected with the transfer window yet to open and the European Championship going on.

An early rumour had Chris Powell targetting Bolton's experienced winger Ricardo Gardner, however, this now seems unlikely with the Jamaican international released from his contract and no official approach from the Addicks has been mentioned.

Another persistent rumour seems to be Keith Andrews. The Republic of Ireland international will be returning from the European Championship this week to decide his future. He has rejected the opportunity to rejoin West Brom as he looks for a new challenge. He has shown flashes of premiership ability in Ireland's matches and it is likely a lower half Premiership side will take a gamble on him.

  Sam Baldock has seen his opportunities limited after picking up an injury early last season at Upton Park. He is now looking to relaunch his career and Chris Powell is said to be a long term admirer. Rumours of West Ham's interest in Charlton right back Chris Solly have lead to a talk of a potential player exchange, however, the Charlton man has denied the rumours on his twitter account. If Charlton do attempt to sign the striker West Ham will look to recoup much of the 2 million they paid for him at the start of last year.

A more recent rumour has seen Charlton linked with Rangers winger Sone Aluko. The pacey winger has an eye for goal and can fill a highlight reel on his own. With Rangers changing to the ownership of a new company he could now leave the club on a free and would offer Charlton a different option to Captain Johnnie Jackson on the left. An interesting fact about Sone Aluko, his sister Eniola Aluko used to play for the Charlton Ladies team between 2004 and 2007.

Finally, one of the quieter rumours out there sees Charlton linked with Leeds wide man Ramon Nunez. "El Principito" impressed on loan at Scunthorpe and former boss Simon Grayson saw potential in the Honduran international rewarding him with a contract extension until the end of the 2011/2012 season. Unfortunately Simon Grayson was relieved of his duties during the season and his replacement, Neil Warnock, told the player he was free to look for a new club when his contract expires. Nunez has 44 caps for Honduras, scoring 5 goals.

Euro 2012 - Group C Preview

 Euro 2012 - Group C Preview

Link to watch the Live Games

A quick look at the table before we begin:

Ireland are going home, but they will be hoping that they can salvage some pride after two bad results against Spain and Croatia, a good start to the game will be key, they cannot afford to concede another goal in the first 5 minutes.

Italy will be looking for a big win and someone to win the other game in Group C. A 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia will make things very difficult for Italy. Balotelli hasn't shown the better side of his game for Italy, and is likely to miss out because of it.

Spain and Croatia enter their game knowing a 2-2 draw will more than likely see them through. Both camps have denied any claims of collusion but their game will be treated with suspicion until the final whistle goes.

Spain vs Croatia

Over their first two games, Spain have had 70% of possession, in other words they have held on to the ball for more than 2 hours! England in comparison have only had the ball for a measly 1 hour 15 minutes. Still, we are better than Ireland, who have only had the ball for 1 hour 1 minute...

The midfield trifecta of Iniesta, Silva and Xavi will look to dominate the midfield. A lot has been made of Xavi's passing statistics which has resulted in Iniesta almost being forgotten by commentators. If Croatia buy into the hype and forget Iniesta it will be at their peril, as he leads Spain in attempts on goal, and Fabregas could bring a different element if he replaces part of the trio at any point, with 2 goals in 2 games.

Fernando Torres answered his critics in his start against Ireland with two goals and he could be set to thrive. "El Nino" lives in the channels with his teammates feeding him through balls and no team has been more effective at this than Spain. The Spanish have completed 17 through balls per game so far in this tournament, more than second and third combined, despite playing a game less than both.

A lot of Croatia's hope will fall on the shoulders of Mario Mandzukic. The big Croatian striker is joint top goalscorer at this years tournament with 3 goals. What may be surprising is that he has only had four shots at goal, leaving him with the best conversion rating amongst the top goalscorers.

Darijo Srna and Tottenham's Luka Modric will look to supply the ball to Mandzukic at every opportunity possible. Luka Modric has not lived up to his premier league reputation over the first couple of games, but if he wants to force a move to La Liga he will not get a better opportunity to to impress the Spanish sides than against their national team.

An interesting statistic regarding Spain, they have not conceded more than 1 goal in a competitive game since the World Cup in 2006. When France beat them 3-1.

Italy v Republic of Ireland

 Ireland have been very disappointing in this tournament. Their better players have failed to live up to their Premiership reputations and that has resulted in an early exit to the tournament. Damien Duff takes the Captain's armband on the occasion of reaching 100 caps, and Giovanni Trapattoni will be hoping he can celebrate in a similar fashion to Podolski last night.

Shay Given has been very poor at what is likely to be his last major tournament but it is hard to imagine him having three bad games in a row. Given will be required to make a number of saves tonight as Italy look to score as many goals as possible to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the final 8.

Di Natale starts up front for the Italians, and he must be wondering why he didn't start sooner considering Man City's Balotelli has been misfiring in the first two matches. The tireless striker may be 34, but the Italians have looked a better side when he has been on the field.

The experienced Andrea Pirlo will continue in his role as midfield playmaker looking to feed the ball through to Cassano and Di Natale upfront. The Italian is also the only player to have scored a freekick in this years competition.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Euro 2012 - Group B Preview

EURO 2012 - Group B Preview 

Lets take a look at the Group B table before the matches start:

Similarly to last night each team has the chance to progress through to the next round, or catch the next flight home. Germany have the easiest task and Holland have arguably the hardest, but as the Greeks showed everyone last night, nothing is certain in football.


How they can progress:
  • A win or draw will send Die Mannschaft through to the quarter finals as group winners
  • If they lose and Portugal fail to win
  • If they lose by one goal, and Portugal only win by one, while scoring more goals than Portugal
How they can go home:
  • In it's simplest form, a 1-0 defeat to Denmark, and a win for Portugal
  • A defeat to Denmark by more than 1 goal, any win for Portugal

How they can progress:
  • They win or draw, Denmark lose to or draw with Germany 
 How they can go home:
  • A loss to Holland will result in either Holland or Denmark taking the runners up place in Group B
  • Portugal draw while Denmark beat Germany
How they can progress:
  • They draw or win while Portugal lose
  • If both Denmark and Portugal win (Interestingly if they both win with the same goal difference and goals scored the winner of the group will be decided by UEFA coefficient, with Denmark beating Portugal by two points)
  • They lose to Germany, while Holland beat Portugal without getting a better goal difference than Denmark
 How they can go home:
  • Portugal match or better their result
  • Holland win and achieve a better goal difference than Denmark, while Denmark lose to Germany
How they can progress:
  • Holland have to win, and win big, 1-0 will not be enough, and even if they get the result they need Germany still have to do them a favour and beat Denmark
How they can go home:
  • If they fail to win it is over
  • If Denmark win or draw Holland will be packing their bags tonight
  • A 1-0 win, while Denmark lose 1-0 to Germany, will see Denmark go through thanks to their UEFA coefficient
Well with all that out of the way, lets get down to the games

Denmark vs Germany
Who would have thought that we would be here, the last games in Group B and Denmark could still make it through to the Quarter Finals, is a repeat of EURO '92 on the cards? If that is to happen Denmark will have to win at least one game without Dennis Rommedahl, the mercurial former Charlton midfielder. His lightning pace would have certainly caused any number of problems for Jerome Boateng's replacement.
Michael Krohn-Dehli's trickery and pace has caused both Holland and Portugal problems, scoring the only goal against the former while setting up Nicklas Bendtner's first goal against Portugal. Mats Hummels will have the difficult task of keeping him quiet and he cannot afford any lapse's in concentration like the one that allowed Robin Van Persie to score in Germany's previous game.

Nicklas Bendtner will hope to add to his 20 international goals but the sheer physical presence of Holger Badstuber could limit his opportunities in the air, the only way he has managed to score at EURO 2012 so far.

In midfield Niki Zimling faces a late fitness test for the Danish and the hopes of a nation could ride on the results. Playing alongside William Kvist, Zimling will have to work hard all night to keep Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger quiet.
In goal, former Charlton keeper, Stefan Andersen will need to find his best form. At times he has looked unbeatable but minutes later he can make an awful mistake that will cost his team a goal. With Mario Gomez on song Denmark cannot afford any howlers from their number 1.

Lastly, for Denmark, Christian Eriksen will need to find the form that had people saying he could be one of the breakout stars of this tournament. Defensively, the Ajax midfielder will need to keep Germany's deep lying central midfielder quiet. While going forward he will need to distribute the ball well and create the chances for Krohn-Dehli and Bendtner to test Neuer in the German goal. The 20 year old playmaker has been compared to Brian and Michael Laudrup by the one and only Johann Cruyff. Now is the time for Eriksen to live up to his billing and there may not be a bigger stage for him to achieve it, with Denmark facing elimination if results go against them.

For Germany there is a major issue at the back. Jerome Boateng picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and will miss this match against Denmark. Howedes or Lahm could fill in for him, but Joachim Loew is keeping his cards close to his chest, hinting that he may switch to a three man defence, could Arsenal centre back Per Mertesacker make his first appearance of the tournament against returning teammate Nicklas Bendtner.

Between the sticks Manuel Neuer will continue and the 26 year old will hope to show the form which has him ranked as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. When Oliver Kahn retired many German's worried who would take over from the great man. Now, the heir has well and truly arrived.

The trio of Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Ozil will look to maintain their dominance of midfield. Ozil continues to grow and develop since he burst onto the scene at the World Cup in 2010. The experienced Schweinsteiger will continue to be the cool head in midfield and keep everyone else in line.

Thomas Muller may have left his scoring boots in South Africa but his crosses have been greatly appreciated by big Mario Gomez up front for Germany. The Danish fullbacks like to attack so Muller may be required to help out more in defence today than against Portugal and Holland previously, but this may also offer him the opportunity to attack on the counter, where his impact can be truly devastating.

I've already mentioned him but Mario Gomez could certainly play a big part up front for Germany. He has already answered his critics who claimed his goal scoring record did not translate from his club game to the international stage. Dan Agger and Simon Kjaer will have their hands full keeping the big guy quiet.
Head to Head:
  • Germany have won this fixture eight times, to Denmark's seven (not including results as West/East Germany)
  • The last time they played, in August 2010, the final result was 2 - 2, Germany were winning 1 - 0 at half time
  • Germany's biggest win in this fixture is 8 - 0, Denmark's is 6 - 3
  • Denmark and Germany both average 52% of possession over their opening two fixtures at EURO 2012

Portugal vs Netherlands
 Some dismal form from one of the pre-tournament favourites leaves them facing an early exit. Mark Van Bommel could be set to bow out of international football against Portugal. The Dutch Captain will likely also see his Father-In-Law step down from the manager's job if results don't go their way.

Arjen Robben appeared to be unhappy at the decision to substitute him against Germany, walking all the way round the pitch and passed his bench. He will likely face the Portuguese as the Dutch will need all the help they can get, although they will hope that he finally realises there is no I in team.

Wesley Sneijder has failed to set this tournament alight and the Netherlands have sorely missed his passing ability. If they are to get anything from tonights game he will need to be on song and pulling the strings for the Dutch.

Robin Van Persie may or may not be on his way out, according to what you read, at Arsenal, but his form at EURO 2012 will certainly not help his negotiating position. Chances you would expect him to take in an Arsenal shirt have flown wide or straight into the keepers welcoming arms, but the Dutch will hope his goal against Germany will get him firing on all cylinders tonight. Van Persie seemed to improve with the introduction of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Bert van Marwijk will have a decision to make on whether he starts.

Portugal have played in a very England-esque way over their first two games. They sit deep and invite the opponent onto them before trying to hit them on the counter. Against a Dutch side desparate to regain some pride, and with an outside chance of qualifying, this could be their undoing.

Pepe scored the crucial opener for Portugal in their last game, and the defender seems to be finding his Real Madrid form. He will have a task keeping Van Persie and possibly Huntelaar out but he does have the ability to pull it off.

Upfront a lot will rely on Cristiano Ronaldo. So far the Portuguese superstar has failed to live up to his reputation and towards the end of Portugal's last match the pressure seemed to be getting to him. Portugal will need the midfild maestro to be at his dominating best if they are to have any hope today or going forward in the tournament.

Head to Head:
  •  Portugal have won six of the teams previous meetings, Holland only one
  • The last time Holland won this fixture, 1991
  • Holland have never lost two EURO group games before

Euro 2012 - Greece to leave the Euro? They might just win it!

Greece to leave the Euro? They might just win it!

Okay I'll admit it, the title is hyperbole. The Greeks struck lucky last night, but their gritty performance was enough to get them a tie with (in all likelihood) Germany in the Quarter Finals.

The result was surprising not only because the Russians were arguably the strongest team in Group A, and after the first round of matches some quarters were considering them as a possible dark horse for the tournament. But also because Greece, who had struggled through their first two matches, were now without their first choice goalkeeper against the most prolific strike force (tied with Spain) in the tournament to date.

To be fair to the Russians their high powered strikeforce did not disappoint, amassing an impressive 31 shots, four more than Spain managed against an underperforming Irish side on Thursday, and completing 605 passes, not quite on the same level as the Spanish but more than double the amount completed by the Greeks. Unfortunately while Spain hit the target 15 times against Ireland, Russian only managed to find the target twice. Upon closer examination a reason for this may be that 69% of Russia's shots came from outside the area, another could be that the head of their strikeforce Aleksandr Kerzhakov will be leaving the tournament having failed to hit the target in 14 attempts.

In comparison, while Greece were second best for most of the first half, when their chance came they took it. Below is a snapshot just before the goal.

Highlighted is the danger zone. Any ball that found it's way into this area was going to cause Russia problems as they had to shift their centre back Ignashevich out to cover Karagounis. At first there is no danger, Greece are attempting to get a second throw in further down the line in the hopes of getting a long throw into the box. The short option has been taken away by moving Zhirkov in behind the Greek midfielder and Denisov preventing any throw to feet. A simple solution would be for Denisov to drop back three steps into the danger zone but we will see as the play develops that he neglects his defensive duty.

This next shot is a few seconds later. Karagounis has done what all good strikers should do, he held his ground as the ball was thrown back into play. Ignashevich can't go straight to the ball without going through his man and conceding a freekick on the edge of his own area. 

As the Russian defender comes around him, Karagounis rolls his shoulder and steps inside, clearly signalling to the referee, and linesman right next to him, that he hasn't fouled the defender. The bonus of this is that Ignashevich is off balance as he heads the ball.

The two red arrows represent what should have happened here. First, Ignashevich should have just put the ball out of play, every defenders first concern is to get the ball away from his own area, and in this situation the best thing he could do is put it out of play. The second arrow shows where Denisov should be going, Karagounis, for all intents and purposes, is now unmarked with an open route direct to the Russian goal. If anything goes wrong, as we are about to see, someone has to try and block him off from goal.

And now the final shot. Ignashevich decides to try and keep the ball in play, while his momentum takes him away from the action. The ball couldn't land more fortuitously for Karagounis and Greece, he now has a clear run at goal and a two pace headstart on Zhirkov. In the middle Berezoutski can't leave his man (circled) and Denisov (also circled), who should have filled the danger zone, has not moved and will continue to make no effort to get back. The Russian's were unfortunate that the ball fell to the most experienced player in the Greek side, but he showed a cool head and a lot of experience to finish the opportunity with aplomb.

If the Germans do make it through I don't see them making the same mistake and they will punish the weak Greek defending far more ruthlessly than the Russians. Later I will preview the Group B fixtures.