Group C is a Group of Equals! No one is more equal than the other. The Group has four teams who all have legitimate and realistic hopes of qualifying to the Next Round.

FIFA World Cup








The Group has been viewed by pundits as one of the easiest groups in the Round, but I disagree with that assertion, not just because the teams can all qualify but because we have sides of different qualities pit together.







Japan relies on flair and pace, Ivory Coast relies on its physical and intimidating presence, Colombia a very direct and attacking side, relies on the creativity of James Rodriguez and his Monaco team-mate, Falcao for goals, and Greece, though the least entertaining team in the group, are very organized, soak the pressure and hit on the break. Remember Euro 2004?

Greece,Euro 2004






What a Group!

We’ll Preview the Elephants of Ivory Coast and the Samurai Blue of Japan!

Watch out for the Preview on Colombia and Greece tomorrow.



Ivory Coast






NICKNAME: The Elephants

CAPTAIN: Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba







MOST CAPS: Didier Drogba (118)

MOST CAPS (Current Squad): Didier Drogba (118)

MOST GOALS: Didier Drogba (63)








MOST GOALS (Current Squad): Didier Drogba (63)

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES:  3 Times. Their first appearance was in 2006.


HEAD COACH: Sabri Lamouchi








KEY PLAYER: Yaya Toure-

Forget the Birthday Cake saga! There’s no denying the fact that the Younger of the Toure is one of the best in his position. He can pass, dictate the tempo of the game, score goals, drive pass players, win tackles and this last season, has become deadly from the set-pieces (Free-Kicks), He scored four in total.

Yaya Toure







He was instrumental in Manchester City’s Premier League and Capital One Cup success; finding the back of the net 24 times.

Unfortunately with the National Team, He’s yet to hit such dazzling heights, as he’s most times, just like the rest of the ‘Golden Generation’, gone missing when it mattered most. Ivoriens back home would hope he brings his Club form to the Elephants Camp.

Yaya Toure






He is going to be crucial to the chances of Ivory Coast advancing from this Group.

Should He lead Ivory Coast to success, then he’ll have no worries about eating cake because lots of it would be waiting for him!







OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Wilfried Bony, Serge Aurier, Cheick Tiote and Didier Drogba







ROUTE TO FINALS: Topped Group C in the CAF Qualifying Section with 14 points, 5 clear of Morocco. To however get here, they saw off West African Rivals, Senegal in the play-off 4-2 on aggregate.








Ivory Coast is insanely blessed with a good number of Forwards not just in quantity but in quality.

Looking at those who’ll most likely start, there’s Gervinho who’s coming here on the back of a fantastic début season with AS Roma.

Kalou and Gervinho





Champions League Winner, Kalou is another who’s had a fine season with French Side, Lille and has been unsurprisingly linked with a move to England.

They also have the Chief tormentor, Didier Drogba, who, despite being way past his best, is a defender’s nightmare any day.







On the Bench, they’ve got CSKA Moscow’s Seydou Doumbia and Swansea’s Record Signing and Top Scorer, Wilfried Bony.







For a team with such attacking threat, goal scoring shouldn’t be a problem.

The problem has been getting the best of these players as a collective unit.


Cote d’ Ivoire has over the years been blessed with a good number of full-backs most notably, Emmanuel Eboue.






However, none of them, including the Galatasaray fullback, has come close or has been hyped as Toulouse 21 year old sensation, Serge Aurier and that’s not without a good reason.







His defensive abilities are better than the former Arsenal man and while Eboue is good going forward, Aurier is even better, just at the age of 21.






It is not surprising that he’s been linked with a move to FA Cup Winners, Arsenal (Someone says the same Career Path? I don’t think so)

With the good number of attackers in the Ivory Coast Ranks, He could be an important outlet with his deadly deliveries which the likes of Doumbia, Bony and of course Didier Drogba would relish.






Do you know why Eboue is not going to the World Cup? A certain Serge Aurier just displaced Him!









It’s surprising that a team of serial winners like Drogba, The Toure Brothers, Zokora and Kalou would succumb under the weight of playing for their National Team.

That’s has unfortunately been the case!

The 2006 and 2012 African Cup of Nations Runners-up Medals and Group exits in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups is the best showing of this highly talented team in the past decade.





They tend to choke under the weight of expectation and when you expect the best from them, they contrive to give their worst. Their 2013 Cup of Nations exit in the hands of the Super Eagles of Nigeria is a good illustration of how mentally fragile the Elephants are.

If they don’t manage to sort their mental or psychological issues before the Tourney, don’t be surprised if the Golden Generation comes back with the Golden Tag of being the first side to crash out.


kolo toure






The Central defence pairing of Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora is a disaster waiting to happen. They might have gone through the 2012 Cup of Nations without conceding but against the bigger sides at the bigger stage, the partnership has crumbled or flattered to deceive.






Kolo Toure and Zokora have lost yards of pace and against teams like Japan and Colombia with flair and guile players they would struggle.


How would you say Barry who kept 6 Clean Slates at the 2012 Cup of Nations is a weak link? Does that not sound unfair?







It does not! Until you test him from range, one might not really know the capabilities of the man between the sticks.

He doesn’t inspire confidence from a shaky defence, deals uncomfortably with long balls and shots, prone to flapping crosses and not your best bet for saving a spot-kick.

With all due respect, if Ivory Coast wants to go far in this tournament, then we’ll have to see a rejuvenated Barry or else every shot from range could end up as a goal which would be good for comedy or for Goal of the Tournament.





Over to you Barry! Prove Me Wrong!


Lamouchi is a fine Manager who’s stuck to the aggressive 4-2-3-1 and also has a calming presence.





His undoing is his lack of TOUCHLINE Presence to lead the Big Boys in the Team which is due to his inability to lay his mark on the team.

Also, in a couple of matches, he has shown a disturbing lack of direction as to how the team should play. When the team is expected to go for the broke, they tend to be too cautious. That is understandable considering the weakness of the defence but just imagine what it would be if He could set his attackers free.

I hope his cautionary approach doesn’t harm the Elephants chances.


It’s a tight group though for Cote d’Ivoire it’s not as hard as the Group we were in at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. But having said that, it is far from easy. There is one of the best teams from South America, the strongest in Asia and Greece who are very hard-working and organized and one of the most difficult to play against in Europe.

We want to have a good opening game and we are going to make sure we prepare the players as well as possible so we arrive strong in Brazil.






We want to do better than we did at our last two appearances and make it to the Knock-out Stage”.


Unlike 2006 and 2010 World Cup where the Elephants were thrown into the Lion’s Den (Argentina and Netherlands in 2006, Brazil and Portugal in 2010), this looks a balanced group with the four teams all capable of progressing.

The Ivoriens would fancy their chances of qualifying especially with the strength in attack and one of the best midfielders, Yaya Toure in their ranks.





The defence is a suspect and the way they switch off is also worrying. Against attacking-minded teams like Colombia and Japan, the defence would have to at its best. Forwards like Falcao (if he gets to make it), Jackson Martinez, Adrian Ramos and Okazaki are not known for being generous with chances.

Against Greece, they should see most of the ball but should be wary of being caught on the break .They should avoid conceding first as the Greeks are good defensively.

Most importantly, this is the Golden Generation’s last opportunity. With the likes of Drogba and Kolo Toure most likely to quit after the World Cup, what better way would it be to bow out than end on a high in Brazil.

They’ll have to play as a team and as a collective unit. There’s talent in this side but they’ve relied too much on individual effort.

Should everything fall in place, they have what it takes to advance out of this tricky Group.







Should they advance, Italy, England and Uruguay and maybe Costa Rica lie in wait.


  • Japan and the Ivory Coast have met thrice with the Asian Side winning twice and losing the other one in 2010.
  • The Elephants and Colombia are yet to face at the International Stage. The World Cup would be the first.
  • The same also applies to Greece. The Show piece in Brazil would be the Ivory Coast and the Greeks first meeting.


  • GOALKEEPERS: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Ali Sangare Badra (ASEC Mimosas) and Sayouba Sande (Stabaek)
  • DEFENDERS: Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Arthur Boka (VFB Stuttgart),Benjamin Angoua(Valenciennes), Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor), Constant Djakpa (Frankfurt), Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille),Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (Toulouse).
  • MIDFIELDERS: Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle), Serey Die(Basel), Max Gradel (Saint Etienne),Didier Ya Konan (Hannover),Mathis Bolly ( Dusseldorf).
  • FORWARDS: Gervinho (Roma), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Wilfried Bony (Swansea), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), Lacina Traore (Everton, on loan from Monaco) and Giovanni Sio (Basel).









NICKNAME: Samurai Blue or Zac Japan

CAPTAIN: Makoto Hasebe








MOST CAPS: Yasuhito Endo (141)

MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Yasuhito Endo (141)

MOST GOALS: Kunishige Kamamoto (80)

MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Shinji Okazaki, 38 goals in 73 Caps







FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 5, First Appearance at the France 1998.









KEY PLAYER: Shinji Kagawa:

He might be under used and undervalued at Manchester United, but it’s a different thing altogether with the National Team.

His goal-scoring record is not the best but his ability to unlock the best of defences is World Class.







Much would be expected from him at the World Cup.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki, Atsuto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo

Honda celebrates with teammates






ROUTE TO FINALS: First in Group B in the Asian Qualifying Section


  • They’ve got fullbacks in Yuto Nagatomo and Schalke’s Uchida who get forward and help the attack to devastating effect.







They are a strong side technically; they keep the ball very well and they have lots of flair and creativity.

  • With Midfielders like Honda and Kagawa, the forwards can’t be short of through-balls and lots of creative play.

Kagawa and Honda






  • For all of their technical strength, they lack the physical ability to combat the physical sides. They are prone to being overawed by the macho-men. They’ll have to find a way to navigate past Ivory Coast and Greece who are immense physically.
  • The defence is also a suspect as they lack any top-class Centre Back. They conceded four against Italy in the Confederations Cup despite hitting three of their own and also conceded three against Brazil. Full backs also pumping forward don’t help an already fragile defence as it most times leaves them stretched.







For all the creativity in the side, it’s unfortunate that they lack a classic and deadly Number 9. Okazaki is the main man and most times, the Mainz Forward flatters to deceive. Apart from him, there’s no quality backup.



“It could be better, but it could be worse too.  I’m am not just saying that because we have ended up in the same Group, but I have considered Colombia one of the World Cup Favourites well before the Final Draw.





They are a team that can mount a real challenge for the title, and everybody wanted to avoid them in the Group Phase. The fact everything well smoothly for us when we stayed in Brazil during the Confederations Cup will help a lot with our preparation in terms of travel and logistics.”


They’ll fancy their chances of qualifying. It’s difficult to say which match would be Group Decider as they are all fairly balanced sides with each match having its importance attached to it.







What’s however important is that they guard their rear, because in goal crazy group like this (Except Greece checks them all), it could be come down to Goal Difference.

A few clean sheets won’t be bad!

Should they advance, I doubt if they’ll improve on their Round of Sixteen Performance as the likes of Italy, The Three Lions, Uruguay and who knows, Costa Rica awaits them.







Japan and the Ivory Coast have met thrice with the Asian Side winning twice and losing the other one in 2010.

  • The Samurai Blues and Colombia have previously met twice with the two playing out a nil-nil draw in the 2007 Kirin Cup and the other one ending 0-1 to Colombia in the 2003 Confederations Cup.
  • Japan and Greece have met just once and that was at the 2005 Confederations Cup. It ended 1-0 in favor of Japan.








GOALKEEPERS: Eiji Kwashima (Standard Liege), Shusaku Nishikawa(Urawa Reds) and Shuichi Gonda (FCTokyo)

  • DEFENDERS: Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Yusuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04),        Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96) and Gotoku Sakai (VFB Stuttgart).
  • MIDFIELDERS: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan),Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United),Makoto Hasebe (FC Nuremberg),Hiroshi Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Hiroshi Kiyotake(FC Nuremberg) ,Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) and Manabu Saito (Yokohama F.Marinos).







FORWARDS: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz),Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka),Yuya Osako(TSV Munich 1860) and Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale).


Who do you tip to Qualify from Group C?

Watch Out for the Preview on Colombia and Greece!












The Group A Preview Continues today! We’ll be looking at two sides with varying characteristics; one is a possession based side who plays down the middle while the other side ,an attacking one with lots of their play coming from the flanks.

FIFA World Cup








They are Croatia and Mexico and they complete our Group A Preview.

Come Along!


Croatia National Team







  • CAPTAIN: Darijo Srna
  • MOST CAPS: Darijo Srna (111)
  • MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Darijo Srna (111)
  • MOST GOALS: DAVOR Suker (45)

Davor Suker







  • FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 4 Times. Their first appearance was in 1998.
  • BEST SHOWING AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: France 1998, A Davor Suker inspired team finished third edging Netherlands in the third place match after losing 2-0 to France in the semi-final.


Croatia National Team at the 1998 World Cup






COACH: Niko Kovac- He won 83 caps for the Croatian National Team and captained the side at the 2006 World Cup and the Euro 2008. Drafted in to replace Igor Stimac who had stumbled Croatia into the play off. He led them to a 2-0 play off success over Lars Lagerback’s Iceland.

Niko Kovac







  • KEY PLAYER: Luka Modric: After an underwhelming first season for Madrid, the Croatian, this last season developed into one of the key Cogs of Carlo Ancelotti Real Madrid.

Luka Modric






The Croatian Public would be hoping the 29 year old brings such form to the Tourney.

–          STATS

–          Real Madrid: He scored 2 goals and assisted 9 In 51 games for the Los Blancos







–      Croatia: Till date, He has won 73 caps and scored 8 goals.

  • OTHERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Mario Mandzukic, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Rakitic, Dejan Lovren and Darijo Srna.






ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished Second behind Belgium in the UEFA Group A Qualifying with 17 points and then beat Iceland 2-0 on aggregate in the play-off


–          In Darijo SRNA, they have one of the most underrated fullbacks in the game. His crossing abilities are equal to none and his defensive abilities are top notch. He’ll be key to Croatia’s hopes of advancing to the next Round.







–          In the midfield they’ve got lots of creativity; Sevilla’s Midfield Dynamo and Captain, Rakitic is coming off a fantastic season with the Spanish side and has linked with moves to top sides like Paris Saint Germain and Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric has developed in a key component of Real Madrid and the passing and creative side of his game is superb. Let’s not forget 20 year Old Inter Milan youngster, Mateo Kovacic, who, despite having an average season with Inter is still one of the bright prospects around and the 2014 show-piece, could see him explode to greatness.








–          For all of the creativity in the midfield, it still lacks balance as there is no defensive midfielder. The likes of Rakitic and Modric are better on the ball than off the ball. It could make the defence come under real pressure especially against the stronger sides. To prevent this, it will better the likes of Rakitic and Modric who would play just ahead of the Defence keep the ball well.







–          Mandzukic’s red card in the Second Leg Play-off against Iceland means he would miss the tournament opener against World Cup Host, Brazil. It’s going to be a big loss as the Bayern Munchen front man has the ability to not only play as a target man but also for his  aerial threat and his ability to bring others into play and would have been a viable option when the Croats have to go long. It will be interesting to see who replaces him.







–          The Left Back position is also a suspect with former Bayern man, Pranjic well past his best and no quality back-up.






–          On Monday, Former Tottenham Player Niko Kranjcar was ruled out of the World Cup after suffering an injury in his side’s 1-0 win over Derby in the play off. The 78 Cap International experience and his ability to score the spectacular would be missed.

  • Kovac’s Reaction:

“It is very special. Brazil in the first game with the whole world watching will be something. We will try to make it difficult for them but it won’t be easy. Look at 2006, though when we gave them a tough game. Dida made some good saves and Brazil needed a cracking goal from Kaka to win. I remember that I only played about half an hour in that game and had to go off with an injury. I hope I’ll be able to have a bit more influence this time.







It will also be a special occasion for Dudu (Eduardo) because I know Brazil still means an awful lot to him.

I think Brazil is the obvious favourites. They are one of the best sides in the world, after all. But Second Place is wide open. Mexico may have struggled recently but are always strong at the World Cup.”

  • GROUP CHANCES: This looks a decent draw for Kovac’s men with Brazil, the only stand out team in the Group. I think it would come down to a second place battle between Croatia and Mexico. However should Croatia slip up against Cameroon, they could be in some problem should they also lose their first against Brazil.






As for the tournament Opener, Brazil should be favourites but should Scolari’s side show too much of nerves then we could be in for some tournament shocker. Croatia to battle it out with Mexico for Second Place!

Brazil V Croatia






–          Cameroon- Yet to Play

–          Brazil- They’ve met on two previous occasions with Brazil winning 1-0 at the 2006 World Cup and the other ending in a 1-1 draw.

–          Mexico-They’ve met on three different occasions with the Croats winning twice and losing the other one. Mexico’s solitary win over Croatia came in the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup (1-0).


–          Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov),Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).

Dejan Lovren





–          Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka(Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld (Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa), Igor Bubnjic (Udinese).

–          Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid),Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic(Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan),Milan Badelj (Hamburg), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka), Mario Pasalic (Hajduk Split), Sammir (Getafe).






–          Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munchen), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina), Duje Cop (Dinamo Zagreb).

  • WORLD CUP ODDS:150/1



Mexico National Team Logo








  • CAPTAIN: Rafael Marquez
  • MOST CAPS: Claudio Suarez(178)
  • MOST CAPS(Current Squad): Rafael Marquez(120)
  • MOST GOALS: Jared Borgetti(46)

Jared Borgetti







MOST GOALS (Current Squad):Javier Hernandez(35

Javier Hernandez







FIFA World Cup Appearances:14( First in 1930)

  •  BEST SHOWING AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Quarter Finals (1970&1986)
  • COACH: Miguel Herrera

Miguel Herrera






  • KEY PLAYER: Rafael Marquez: The 35 year old is undoubtedly the leader of this Mexican Team. After a couple of years of being absent from the National Team, Herrera has made the former Barcelona Defender his Leader, Captain and the first Name on the team sheet.






He might no longer boast of pace and could be prone to occasional moments of madness, but his passing abilities and calm on the ball is nevertheless top notch.









He is set to become the first Player in the history of the game to captain his country at four different World Cups.

–          STATS

–          LEON: He made 25 appearances and scored a goal

–          Mexico: For His Country, He’s scored 15 goals in 120 caps till date.

  • OTHERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Javier Hernandez,Oribe Peralta,Giovani Dos Santos and Raul Jimenez

Oribe Peralta






ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished fourth in the CONCACAF Qualifiers with 11 points and had to play Oceania Side, New Zealand in the play off. El Tri won the play off 9-3 on aggregate to book their ticket to Brazil.







–          Miguel’s 5-3-2/3-5-2 Formation has his full-backs play join in the attacks and play more or less as wing backs. The advantage of this is that it makes their play expansive and with full backs pushing up, the opposition defence would be overloaded or stretched.

–          The midfield looks very strong in depth and talent especially with the like of Leon’s Carlos Pena and Luis Montes pulling the strings.

Luis Montes








–          Up front, they also look strong;Oribe Peralta is a fast-paced, agile and deadly finisher(16 goals in 30 caps),Giovani Dos Santos who tends to play better for Country would be a threat for opposition fullbacks and if Manchester United Forward, Javier Hernandez gets his goal-scoring mojo back, then we could be in for a goal feast.







–          Herrera’s 3-5-2 Formation which allows for overlapping wing backs leaves lots of space behind which could stretch the defence when caught on break and when you are a certain 35 year old Rafael Marquez, and an ageing Francisco Rodriguez then a few goals are bound to leak in.

Carlos Salcido






Diego Reyes who has been tipped as one of next big things has unfortunately not seen much of game time with Porto and could come for the Tournament rusty.

Diego Reyes and Neymar





–          There are question marks over the role Dos Santos plays in this team due to the fact that the 3-5-2 Formation does not allow for a Number 10.Till date, it’s yet to be resolved and leaving someone of Giovani’s International Experience on the bench won’t do the El Tri’s chances any good.

Dos Santos






–          Carlos Vela’s continued absence from the Squad could come back to haunt them.  They might have Peralta and Javier but Vela is someone who can take on defenders, has a few tricks on his feet and can equally score goals. He had an impressive season with Real Sociedad; scoring 21 goals and assisting 14 in 52 games.

Carlos Vela







Mexico usually causes problems for Brazil. We play a style of football that make the Brazilians work but to do that this time, we need to be very strong physically.







The core of the team is provided by the side that qualified and what we need to do now is stay competitive.

When all has been said and done, we are lucky. It’s not a bad group but it’s not easy either. I’m sure the other sides will see us as tough opponents too.

Judging by the style of football they play, the other three teams will let us play our game”

  • GROUP CHANCES: Looking at other Groups it is fair to say this is not the most difficult for Mexico, Brazil being the only team way ahead of the rest. However Mexico struggled terribly in 2013 and qualified through the back door so it’s difficult to predict the Mexico side that will turn up at the Mundial.






If they can pick up the three points against Cameroon, then who knows?Games against Brazil have been close with El Tri winning three of the last seven(discounting the 2012 Olympics Final).Brazil should however, this time around, be too much for Herrera’s men.

It could come down to the last game against Croatia where it could either be a winner take all or a best goal advantaged scenario.


Mexico V Cameroon





The First Game is Key! Failure to beat Group underdogs could spell doom!


–          Brazil: They’ve met 39 times with Mexico winning ten, drawing six and losing twenty-three.

2012 Olympics Final






–          Croatia: They’ve met three times with the El Tri winning once and suffering defeats on the other two occasions.

–          Cameroon: Met just once and were victorious.


–          Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona(Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio) and Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

–          Defenders: Miguel Layun (America), Carlos Salcido (Tigers), Paul Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Hector Moreno (Espanyol),Francisco Javier Rodriguez (America),Diego Reyes (Porto) and Rafael Marquez (Leon)

–          Midfielders: Miguel Angel Ponce (Toluca), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon), Luis Montes (Leon), Hector Herrera (Porto), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul) and Carlos Pena (Leon).

–          Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal), Raul Jimenez (America) and Alan Pulido (Tigres).












5 time World Champion and Host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil were on the 6th of December paired up against Eastern European side, Croatia who they famously beat in the 2006 World Cup thanks to a wonder goal from Kaka.

Kaka against Croatia,2006 World Cup





Others who complete the group are the El Tri of Mexico and Four-time African Champions, Cameroon, who would be looking to improve on a dismal 2010 World Cup Performance.

FIFA World Cup








Most pundits and critics believe this should be an easy ride for Brazil with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon slugging it out for second place.

We’ll be looking at the chances of the four teams in the Group, first with Brazil and Cameroon and then tomorrow, Croatia and Mexico. We’ take a look at their strengths, weaknesses, the head to head and who we tip to progress. Come with us!

The Brazil National Team







  • NICKNAME:A Selecao
  • CAPTAIN:Thiago Silva
  • MOST CAPS: Cafu -142 caps
  • MOST CAPS(Current Squad)-Julio Cesar- 78 Caps
  • MOST GOALS: Pele-77 goals
  • MOST GOALS(Current Squad)-Neymar 30 goals
  • FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES-20, the only side to have appeared in all the World Cup Finals. Their first appearance was in 1930.
  • BEST SHOWING At THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Winners (1958, 1962,1970,1994 and 2002)

Brazil with the 2002 World Cup






COACH: Luis Felipe Scolari (Winner,2002)

  • KEY PLAYER: Neymar: The 22 year old might not have had the best of season with Barcelona (who had?)But he seems to always to always bring out his best in the Brazil Shirt. The chances of Brazil doing well at the Mundial, to a large extent depend on the performances he churns out. If he can manage to replicate his Confederations Cup performance, then Brazil could very well be on their way way to a sixth World Crown.History suggests he’ll do so.

–          STATS

–          Barcelona: He scored 15 goals and assisted a further 15 in 41 games in the 2013/2014 season.

–          Brazil: He’s won 47 caps till date and has scored 30 goals.







OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Thiago Silva, Oscar, Fred,
David Luiz and Marcelo

Thiago Silva






Route to Finals: Automatic as hosts


–          Defence: Unlike other South American Sides at the tourney, the Canarinho boast one of best backline if not the best that would participate at the Tournament. At right back, they have Dani Alves who might not have been his best in the last few seasons but who on his day is still one of the very best around. They also have an experienced back up in Maicon who’s coming off a fantastic season with AS Roma. In the Centre, they have the World’s best defender in Thiago Silva who is known for his impeccable positioning, well-timed tackles and of course his leadership. The Paris Saint Germain Defender is the Captain of the team.

David Luiz against Spain( Confederations Cup Final)





His sidekick is David Luiz, an equally talented ball-playing defender who plays with more maturity in the Green and Yellow Jersey than at his club side-soon to be former, Chelsea. On the sideline are UEFA Champions League Winner and a Key Cog of Bayern Munchen, Dante who would feel a little unlucky to be team-mates with the best defenders around. Also making up a very strong Central Defensive lineup is 27 year old, Henrique of Napoli. The Left-Back position has Marcelo who just a few days ago helped Real Madrid to the La Decima. He’s very good going forward and his partnership with Neymar is telepathic. Maxwell of PSG would be waiting on Marcelo’s wings to seize on any opportunity given to him. He might not be as explosive as Marcelo going forward but there’s no denying the fact that unlike the Madrid Player, the 33 year old offers more defensively. Very Few Teams can boast of this Defensive Line-Up.

David Luiz and Thiago Silva






The chances of Brazil winning a 6th World Cup Crown not only lies on what their talented and gifted attackers do but also what these incredible and no-nonsense defenders do.

–          The Brazilian side is a very physical one and this could be an added advantage especially against sides who love to keep the ball or as its better known, play the tiki-taka. Up Front Fred is a beast who is very dangerous in the air. In the middle of the park, the likes of Paulinho, Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo are very good at harrying the ball off opponents.







The return of Ramires to the Brazil set-up is also valuable in the sense that Brazil now has someone who can drive through the middle and could be very useful on the break or against tiring opponents. Willian, Hulk and to a lesser extent Oscar are also known for their incredible work-rate.

–          The Coach: Luis Felipe Scolari is one of the three Coaches at the Mundial to have ever lifted the Trophy either as a Player or as a Coach having won it in 2002. With the pressure that comes with being hosts especially if it’s the Brazil National Team, having someone who has been there before would not necessarily take away all the pressure but who have a calming effect on the Players who know that the Big Boss is there to take the pressure off.

Scolari with the 2002 World Cup







The link-up between Marcelo of Real Madrid and Neymar of Barcelona as earlier stated is telepathic and should run fear into opposition defenders whose minds would be at sea as to whether to anticipate a cut-back or a drive down the middle.

Neymar and Marcelo







–          Apart from Fred up front, the attack is bleak and could be a source of worry in the latter stages of the Competition should the Number 9 get injured or run out of steam.






The last time and only other time Brazil hosted the World was in 1950 and they lost to heavy underdogs, Uruguay in the Final after been heavily tipped to demolish their South American Rivals. Though that final match-up is highly unlikely this time around, it would be interesting to see if the pressure from the Brazil Public would spur them to greatness or would harm them. Once again, just like in 1950, they’ve been talked up, especially since they whitewashed La Furia 3-0 in the Confederation Cup Final, as favourites for the World Cup. It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure. Would it get to them? Or would it spur them to World Cup Greatness? The next few weeks would decide.






This Brazil side lacks natural width as the likes of Neymar, Hulk and Willian love to cut in. The width comes from their fullbacks. This lack of width could make it difficult to break narrow and well-organized teams and when they eventually use their full-backs, could leave open to been caught on the break. Lucas Moura would have been that man but unfortunately, he’s not on the plane to Brazil.

Lucas Moura






SCOLARI’S REACTION: “The draw was not up to me and that is why I wasn’t worried beforehand. But when you see some of the other groups, I think we can say we haven’t done badly. England, Italy and Uruguay is the toughest Group.






We open against a European Team which is my preference. Everyone knows Croatia; they pass the ball and they’ve got good touch. They’ve been in a few World Cups now and they’ve got people who play for Europe’s top teams.

Cameroon have given Brazil and a few other teams a hard time before and then we have Mexico, who are traditional rivals of ours and still very dangerous. We’ve had some classic matches with them over the last 20 years, so that’s another warning for us.

Before I can start thinking about the Round of 16, I’ve got to think about México, Cameroon and Croatia. If you start thinking about the others, then you’ve taken your eye off the ball and that could be fatal in a World Cup”.

  • GROUP CHANCES: Brazil should have no problem getting out of this Group as Winners. Croatia despite the appointment of Kovac have struggled a bit. For all their physical presence, Cameroon doesn’t the same technical ability as the Five Time World Champions.

The Brazil National Team





Brazil have struggled a bit against Mexico most notably in the 2012 Olympics Final. The likes of Oscar and Neymar played in that Final and Brazil’s 2-0 over the El Tri at the Confederations Cup was really hard fought. On a positive note, Mexico has also been disappointing and qualified for the mundial through the back door.

Scolari might have said they should not get too far ahead of themselves but I’m sure they’ll want to top their Group to avoid a potential Round of Sixteen Tie against World Champions, Spain. Brazil to win Group A!



10th June, 1976


24th June, 1994(FIFA World Cup)

3-0 (W)

13th November, 1996


31st May, 2001(FIFA Confederations Cup)


19th June, 2003 (FIFA Confederations Cup)



17th August, 2005


13th June, 2006(FIFA World Cup)



They’ve met 39 times. Brazil have been victorious on 23 occasions, drawn 6 times and lost 10 times to Mexico.






–          Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar(Toronto FC,on loan from QPR), Jefferson (Botafogo),Victor (Atletico Mineiro)

–          Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid),Daniel Alves(Barcelona),Maicon(AS Roma),Maxwell, Thiago Silva(both Paris Saint Germain), David Luiz(Chelsea-Paris Saint Germain),Dante(Bayern Munchen)and Henrique(Napoli)

–          Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham), Ramires, Willian and Oscar (Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City).

–          Forwards: Bernard(Shakhtar

Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fliuminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St.Petersburg)









Cameroon Logo







NICKNAME: The Indomitable Lions

  • CAPTAIN: Samuel Eto’o Fils
  • MOST CAPS: Rigobert Song (137)
  • Most Caps (Current  Squad):Samuel Eto’o (115)
  • Most Goals Samuel Eto’o (55)
  • Most Goals (Current Squad):Samuel Eto’o (55)
  • FIFA World Cup Appearances :7 (First in1982)


The Cameroon Team at the 1990 World Cup






COACH: Volker Finke

Volker Finke






PREFERRED FORMATION:4-2-3-1 or variants of it

Roger Milla at the 1990 World Cup






KEY PLAYER: Samuel Eto’o Fils: At the age of 33, he might no longer have that explosive pace but there’s no doubt that whatever Cameroon achieves would be solely down to the Eto’o we see in Brazil.

Samuel Eto'o







–          CHELSEA: He scored 14 goals and assisted seven in forty-one appearances.

–          CAMEROON: Till date, He has 114 caps with 55 goals to his name.

  • Other Players to Watch Out For: Aurelien Chedjou, Benoit Assou- Ekotto, Stephane Mbia, Alex Song and Vincent Aboubakar.

Alex Song






ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished top of Group I with 13 points, 4 ahead of Libya and then dismissed the threat of the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, 4-1 in the play-off to book their ticket.


–          Like most African Sides, the Indomitable Lions boast of very physically strong side with immense fitness and a strong work-rate.






They also look strong in the midfield with the likes of Seville’s Mbia, Barcelona’s Alex Song, Jean Makoun and Joel Matip of Schalke 04.







They’ve also got decent Defenders in the shape of Galatasaray Chedjou who Chelsea Fans won’t forget in a hurry. There’s also Assou-Ekotto who on his day is decent option.








–          They lack options up front. Samuel Eto’o who is no doubt one of football greats has lost a yard of pace and can’t be relied solely upon to deliver the goods. Vincent Aboubakar looks decent but he’s still the young and inexperienced at this level and has scored only two goals in twenty-two caps. One begins to wonder who is going to chip in the goals especially if the Former Barcelona player goes missing or is marked out.






Alex Song who plays the Creative Role for Cameroon has been a non-factor for Catalan Giants, Barcelona. Would his lack of playing time haunt the Central African Side or would it make him fresh?

–          The Squad is also an ageing one with nothing less than six players in their thirties or above it and a couple just approaching the third decade of their lives. While experience comes with age(though not in every situation),it would be interesting to see how they hold their own against fast paced teams like Mexico and Brazil and should they progress, a team in Group B.





This one is more of a Continental Problem. Issues relating to bonuses, In-House rifts could derail their already slim chances of progressing.

  • FINKE’S REACTION: “The matches against Croatia and Mexico are the biggest ones for us. Brazil is favourites and they’re going to win the Group.

Obviously, we’re going to give it our best against them and who knows, we might get appoint, but they are a great team and they’ll have their fans behind them.







I don’t think there’s much to choose between Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon; those games will be crucial.

At the end of the day, being in the same Group as Brazil is a great experience.

We’ll be getting a lot of attention!”


In 2010, in Group E, Cameroon picked up 3 losses in a Group that had the likes of The Netherlands, Denmark and Japan. Looking at that, a point picked up in this Group should be an achievement.

The Cameroon National Team




This time around, though still the weakest on paper, the likes of Croatia and Mexico have also struggled . If the Croats and Mexico carry such form into Brazil, then Cameroon will fancy of getting at least four points.

Doing that would however be some feat!

Finke has said they’ll get a lot attention. Hopefully it won’t be for the wrong reasons.


–          COUNTRY         PLAYED          WON               DREW                    LOST

–          BRAZIL                5                       1                       1                            3

–          MEXICO             1                        0                       0                            1

–          CROATIA- Yet to Play


–          Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Guy Roland Ndy Assembe (Guingamp),Sammy Ndjock (Fethiyespor),Feudjou Loic (Coton Sport)

–          Defenders: Allan Nyom(Granada),Nounkeu Dany (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue(Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille),Jean-Armel Kanya-Biyick (Rennes), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR),Gaetang Bong (Olympiakos)

Assou Ekotto





Midfielders: Enoh Eyong (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes),Joel Matip (Schalke 04), Stephane Mbia (Sevilla, on ,loan from QPR), Landry Nguemo (Boredaux), Alexandre Song( Barcelona), Cedric Loe (Osasuna), Edgar Salli(RC Lens)

–          Forwards: Samuel Eto’o(Chelsea), Eric-Maxime Chupo-Moting(Mainz 05),Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy),Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient),Pierre Achille Webo(Fenerbache),Mohmadou Idrissou(Kaiserslautern),Fabrice Olinga(Zulte Waregem)

Samuel Eto'o






Watch out for the Preview on Croatia and Mexico tomorrow!


By Soladoye Samuel

All roads lead to Paris on Sunday, the 25th day of May, 2014 as 128 male singles’ tennis players enter the first round of the Roland Garros. It is the second grand slam of the year and it promises to be fireworks at the Stade Roland Garros until the 8th day of June, 2014 where only one man will stand alone in the arena, not of sand and blood in the old Roman gladiatorium, but of red dust; the Philippe Chatrier court.









This piece previews the action by taking a look at the chances of the top guns during the tourney as well the possibility of an outsider carting away with the crown on the 8th day of June.  That will be attempted presently but a brief consideration of the peculiarity of the tournament itself is necessary.


The French Open is the only clay-court grand slam of the year and the slow nature of the surface bears significations. It is the most physically demanding of all tournaments on tour as a match is potentially a five-setter with the fifth incapable of being decided by a tie-breaker.





. The slow nature of the surface and high bounce give little room for short points and as a result, clay court matches are characterised by long rallies and this is a phenomenon that cannot be ruled out at the Roland Garros. It is also noteworthy to point out that the slow nature of the surface necessitates that a player hunting for the crown at Roland Garros must be astute defensively and this fact explains the advantage the surface grinds out to baseliners.







The foregoing fact is responsible for the usual inability of the guys with the big serve or the serve-and -volleyers to impose their games on the clay court against the very best on it. It explains the inability of the likes of Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Boris Becker as well as Stefan Edberg to win a title at the Stade Roland Garros. In fact, Pete’s best result in Paris came in form of a semi-final showing in 1996. It is therefore not surprising that only Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer have won both the French Open and Wimbledon in the Open era.






The nature of the surface also has ensured that the weakness of Rafael Nadal serve, particularly his second serve, over the years has had no grave consequence for the greatest on clay. The defending champion is Rafael Nadal and maybe it is needless to tell you that; but I just did. 

Stade Roland Garros







Rafael Nadal,2013 French Open








The world no. 1 and defending champion enters the draw in Paris in the hunt for his 5th straight Roland Garros title which would take his overall French open titles to 9.






There is definitely a love-affair between the duo of Nadal and the La Coupes des Mousquetaries and the affair seem unbreakable. The Spaniard has only lost once in Paris where he has made his home over the last decade; his safest refuge. He has won 8 out of 9 possible titles since making his debut at Roland Garros in 2004 at the age of 18. The only loss in Paris came against a certain Robin Soderling who was runner-up to eventual winner, Roger Federer.







That bite on the trophy is what we have got used to and we lie in wait to see whether or not there is a Robin-esque feat in the offing; Robin is simply the name but, unfortunately, it is not in the realm of English folklore.  In Paris, Rafael Nadal has compiled an incredibly dominant 59-1 record; Unbeatable?

There are however concerns, not as to his credentials on red clay,  but as to the aura of invincibility that has characterised his game over the past decade as to whether or not it has been lost as this clay-court season for Rafael Nadal has been a catastrophe.

Rafael Nadal,Madrid Open






Don’t be carried away by that. By anybody’s standard, a clay court title in Madrid and a match record of 11-3 on the red dust is a perfect way to enter into the draw at the Roland Garros but there is only one Rafael Nadal. On the red clay, he is the greatest the sport has ever seen. This season marks the first time in the past decade that Rafael Nadal has lost more than two matches on clay in the same year.

Nadal congratulates Djokovic after the latter beat him at the 2014 Rome Masters






His loss to Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Rome Masters means that out of his four usual clay court tourneys: Monte Carlo, Barcelona Open, Madrid Masters and the Rome Masters, he only managed to win one; Madrid Masters. In Madrid, there was no Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer withdrew due to the birth of Lenny and Leo. The major cause for concern will however be the fact that he has struggled against players he hitherto dominated not only on clay but on other surfaces as well. He lost to Nicolas Almagro in the quarters at Barcelona failing to find his rhythm against his countryman after an impressive first set. Prior to that loss, Nadal held a 10-0 ATP head-to-head record over Almagro. In the Principalities, he lost to David Ferrer in the quarters and that marked his first loss on clay since 2004 against the same man he easily dispatched in straight sets in the final to capture his most recent French Open title. In Rome, he also struggled in wins over Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray. But these haven’t changed the fact that Rafael Nadal remains the favourite in Paris. He has posted a 34-6 match record this season with three tour-level titles.






He is in the top half of the draw with the likes of Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, David Ferrer as well as Stanislas Wawrinka. A lot is at stake for the man who has just acquired Madrid citizenship. The 28-year old is in the hunt for his 14th Grand Slam title which would take him closer to Roger Federer’s haul of 17 major titles.

Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open







He also faces the battle to retain his position at the top of the ATP rankings with Novak Djokovic on his heels. Anything short of a semi-final appearance for the Spaniard would see Novak Djokovic reclaim the World no. 1 spot regardless of the Serbian’s performance. If Nadal were to lose in the final to another opponent, he would need to hope that the Nole loses at or before the quarterfinal stage. A final between the two will however mean that the winner of the tie takes “ALL”. But Rafa has shown over the years that, if fully fit, he has the shoulders to lighten the burden of expectations. Rafa has 8 titles in Paris and he has won it for the past four years but his last attempt to make it five consecutive titles ended early in 2009. The possibility of a fifth straight title has appeared again and the tennis world is waiting!!!


Djokovic at the Monte Carlo





The world No. 2 would fancy the chance of clinching the elusive French Open title to complete his set of slams having won all other grand slam titles. He looks to become the eighth man in tennis history to win the four grand slams. The Serbian returned to action at the Rome Masters last week having withdrawn from partaking at the Madrid Masters due to a wrist injury that hampered his tournament in Monaco.

Djokovic with the Rome Masters Crown






The win against Rafael Nadal at the Rome Masters signals his recovery from the niggling injury as well as serving as a statement of intent. The Serbian’s best result at the French Open came in 2012 where he lost 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 to Rafael Nadal in the final. In the past three years, he has made it to at least the semis losing his 43 matches winning streak in his productive 2011 to Roger Federer in the semis and losing narrowly last year in five sets to the eventual champion in the semis in what was tagged by many as the “final before final”.

Novak Djokovic in action





He would look to attempt to put an end to Rafael Nadal’s dominance in Paris. The Nole, more than any other man, knows that with a little inconsistency that has crept into Nadal’s play on clay this season, this is perhaps his biggest opportunity to land the French Open title and he has made no secret of the desire to do just that. Four wins in the last four matches against Rafael Nadal will give the man from from Belgrade the much needed confidence if the title comes down to a battle between the top two players in the world and as pointed out earlier, Djokovic could overtake Rafa as the world No.1 male singles tennis player. He enters the tournament having won three Masters’ titles this year at Indian Wells, Miami and recently in Rome at the expense of the king of clayNovak-Djokovic






He boasts of a 24-3 match record so far this season. As expected, the world No. 2 is in the bottom half of the draw. He challenges Joao Sousa in the first round. He could meet Marin Cilic in the third round and Milos Raonic in the quarters. A potential semi final berth against Roger Federer is a mouth watering prospect. Other big names in the bottom half of the draw include Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.






From a tactical viewpoint, the fact that Novak Djokovic who arguably possesses the best returning prowess on tour which is key to the success he has enjoyed over Rafael Nadal recently and he would have to come to courts with the goods if he is to end Nadal’s reign in Paris.







Whether or not Djokovic is ready to stage and capable of successfully leading a revolution in Paris is one other issue that will be on the mind of teeming tennis fans over the next two weeks.








The Swiss No. 1 is one of the possible contenders for the French Open title this year. Last year, he lost 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to Rafael Nadal in the quarters but it is a different Stan this year.

Stan with the Australian Open






He is the only man on tour who can boast of having won a Grand Slam title 2014 having won his first grand slam title in January  after staging a surprising victory over Novak Djokovic in the quarters before besting Rafael Nadal (in the final) 6-3,6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to win the Australian Open.

Wawrinka with the Monte Carlo Title






The French Open is played on what he considers his best playing surface; red clay. With his win at the Melbourne Park, Stan will agree with the writer that a major is won after seven matches and these seven matches are all not going to be against seven of the top ten players; the group of players he hasn’t lost to this year.






In 2014, the Swiss is 6-0 against players ranked in the top ten. He has beaten Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer already this year. The writer believes the record is very much down to the fact that Stan has got his tactics absolutely spot on against the top guns.





He would however have to tackle his record this year against players ranked outside the top ten. He fell to 20-year-old Austrian, Dominic Thiem in the second round at the Madrid Masters. He failed to make the quarters in Rome this year falling to Tommy Haas in three sets. He had exits just before the quarters at the Indian Wells (lost to Kevin Anderson) and Miami (lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov). A positive for the Stan is that he has a Masters’ clay court title this year already after seeing off countryman and friend, Roger Federer in three sets in the final at Monte Carlo.

Stan and Roger,Monte Carlo






He is also the only man to have beaten Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same Grand Slam. He goes to Paris with a 21-5 match record this season with three tour titles. He has been drawn in the top half of the draw alongside the likes of Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and David Ferrer as well as Grigor Dimitrov among others. He opens his title bid against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round. He might meet Fabio Fognini in the fourth round with a quarter final clash with Andy Murray a possibility. Should the Swiss make it to the semi final, there could be a rematch of the 2014 of the Australian Open. Stan is the player who serves us with the wow just as much as the woe. What he would treat us to at the French Open remains unknown. If the 29-year-old harbours any hope of winning the title in Paris, he must rediscover the secret of going past players ranked outside the top ten without losing  the magic that gets him past the top guns. He has broken the Grand slam bubble. Can he add another?


Roger Federer with the 2009 French Open Title






There is a man with 4 kids on tour and not only is he ranked No. 4, he is the fourth seed in Paris. He has also been a runner up at the Stade Roland Garros to the King of clay on four occasions (2006-08, 2011); some coincidence?








He is however not in the running for anything close to four titles at the Stade Roland Garros. He is the only other active winner of the French Open from Rafael Nadal having won the crown in 2009; A poor clay-court player? Absolutely no! Roger Federer crashed out in Paris last year after a dismal performance against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the quarters.

Federer at the Monte Carlo





His year was pretty much messed up in 2013. It is however a different sight of the 17-time grand slam winner in 2014. The back injury that restricted his play last year seems non-existent and the larger frame of his racquet has proved to be an efficient addition to his arsenal. The extent to which the Swiss maestro will cope with high backhands with his one-handed backhand will go a long way into determining the success he achieves in Paris. It is very much unlikely that Federer will venture to the net frequently as he did on the hard-courts to great effect. In my opinion, Stefan Edberg, who could not lay hands on the crown in Paris during his career, is unlikely to be of great help to Federer’s quest for his second French Open title.

The Swiss Great after winning the 2009 French Open







It has however not been the most ideal preparation for the 32-year-old who had to pull out of the Madrid Masters due to the birth of his second set of twins. He made an early exit at the Rome masters crashing out to Jeremy Chardy.

Roger with the Monte Carlo runners-up trophy






A positive is his appearance in the final of the Monte Carlo losing to his Swiss friend, Stanislas Wawrinka in three sets. The slow playing surface and the physically demanding terre batue mean that the chance of Federer adding to his haul of 17 slams is slimmer in Paris than at any other major. Federer who is ranked No. 4 will not meet Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic until the semis and would therefore fancy the opportunity of going past other players.

A potential semi final berth against Novak Djokovic in the semis will be fancied by the Swiss as opposed to a clash with his nemesis, Nadal, who he has only beaten just twice on clay in 15 meetings. On clay against Novak, Federer is tied 3-3 with Roger Federer winning their 2011 semi final clash at Roland Garros. He enters the draw with a 28-6 match record this season. He has a 58-14 match record at Roland Garros. Federer has been drawn in the bottom half of the tourney and thus; a potential semi final berth against Novak Djokovic in the semis. He plays Lukas Lacko in the first round and could meet Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round with a quarter-final clash against Tomas Berdych a possibility. One thing is certain, Fed isn’t the mug in the dirt and you would rule out the maestro at your own peril.

2013 French Open






He has taught us that over and over again with his resurgence this season. The writer expects a decent outing for the Swiss though but does not see him lifting the trophy on the 8th of June. I wish Roger would prove me wrong though.


Ferrer at the Monte Carlo






The Spaniard was the finalist last year losing in straight sets to countryman, Rafael Nadal after seeing off Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the quarters. His inclusion in the list of players who could well pose a challenge to Nadal’s regime at Roland Garros is based on the suitability of his game to clay. The writer however believes that the 5th seed has been very much inconsistent since his final appearance in Paris last year and the draw has failed to be kind to him. He has fallen into the same half with Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and the bright Dimitrov.

Ferrer at the Madrid Open






He fell at the 4th round of the Aussie Open losing to Berdych in four sets. The 32-year-old has a match record of 27-10 this season with a title in Buenos Aires. He will however be boosted by semi final showings at Monte Carlo (after beating Nadal in the quarters) losing to the eventual winner, Stan Wawrinka and Madrid where he lost to Nishikori in three sets. Snapping a clay-court 17-match losing streak against Nadal at Monaco is a very well a morale booster for the world No. 5. Just like Stan has broken the bubble earlier this year, who says Ferrer is out of it. Me? It’s up to David!!!!!!


Andy-Murray-win ( Rome Masters)






Andy Murray might feel a little fortunate to have found himself on this list but for now, this is where the 27-year-old belongs. He is however unlikely to cart away with the title.





He is in the top half of the draw and has shown little promise having made a slow recovery from the back surgery he had last year. He enters the draw with a 21-9 match record this year and still in search of his first silverware this year. He starts off against Andrey Golubev as he hopes to improve on his best result in Paris being his semi-final appearance in 2011 where he fell to Rafael Nadal.





The possibility of the first silverware coming at a major on a surface where he has never won against a top eight player is almost improbable.  The chances of the 6th seed couldn’t be any slimmer this year.


Nishikori,Barcelona Open






With due respect to the likes of Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori, Fabio Fognini as well as Alexandr Dolgopolov, the writer believes that, despite the surge in their level of play and much improved level of consistency against the top guns, Roland Garros has come a little too early for them to win their first major.







I however believe that the stage is set for them to make an impact on the big stage.

Grigor Dimitrov,Monte Carlo







In conclusion, Stade Roland Garros remains Rafael Nadal’s home; his safest refuge. For me, he is still very much the safest bet. He has however been, by his standard, vulnerable this year on clay and Novak Djokovic poses the biggest threat to the dominance of the ‘’King’’ in Paris.






For the first time in years, the possibility of power changing hands in Paris looks more likely than ever. We wait to see if the “treasonable plot” to overthrow the “King” is successfully executed and whether or not the King is vulnerable enough for his defences to be breached.

Follow the writer @iamsammieleo


On the 24th of May, the Spanish Capital would decamp or rather make a short trip to Lisbon, Portugal where Fierce City Rivals, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will contest for the European Club Competition Top Prize.

Real V Atletico






It is the first time since 2000 that we’ll have an all Spanish Final but of more significance, the first final between Clubs from the same city in the Competition’s 59 year History. It’s the El Derbi Madrileno.









It’s going to be a friendly Battle! The thought of Diego Costa squaring up against Sergio Ramos should be an epitome of that!

Ramos and Costa






Let’s take a preview of what to expect, the history of the teams and much more. Enjoy!


  • REAL MADRID: 3rd in La Liga with a point haul of 87
  • ATLETICO MADRID: Won the La Liga for the first time since 1996 by holding defending Champions, Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp. By winning the Spanish top division, they are the first side in 10 years other than Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the League. The last side to do so was Rafael Benitez Valencia in 2004.They finished with a total of 90 points.


Atletico Madrid







  • According to reports, Pepe and Karim Benzema are doubts going into the Final with Carlo Ancelotti soberly admitting to that. Should Pepe miss out, it is expected that Raphael Varane would take his place but it would be interesting to see who replaces Frenchman, should He miss out.
  • Xabi Alonso would miss the Final due to suspension
  • On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will feature in the show piece after overcoming injuries. Big boost!


  • Atletico are sweating on the availability of two of their creative forces, Diego Costa who again picked up a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp and Arda Turan who was first down the tunnel with a knock against the Catalan Giants during the weekend.

Arda Turan





Gabi should return after missing out the 3-1 second leg convincing win at Stamford Bridge thanks to suspension.



GROUP STAGE: Real Madrid was placed in Group B alongside Italian Champions, Juventus, Turkish Giants, Galatasaray and Danish Side, Copenhagen

Ronaldo against Galatasaray(Match Day 1)





A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, a brace from Karim Benzema and Isco’s strike helped Los Blancos to 6-1 away win in Turkey. On Match day two, two goals from Ronaldo and Di Maria secured a comfortable 4-0 win for the Whites of Madrid over the Dane side.

Ronaldo and Carvajal






Match day Three and four was a double-header against the Old Lady. They won 2-1 in Spain and held the Italian side to a 2-2 draw at the Juventus Stadium.

Gareth Bale against Juventus





A 4-1 Home win over Galatasaray secured Madrid’s place in the knockout stage while on the last day of group fixtures, they won in Denmark 2-0.Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goals. They topped the Group with 16 points, won 5 and drew one, scored 20 goals and conceded 5.

ROUND OF SIXTEEN: They faced German side, Schalke 04, the first of their Bundesliga Conquest, in the Round of Sixteen. Los Merengues decimated the Germans 6-1 at the Veltins Arena which made the second Leg a formality.






The Germans put up a better fight but Madrid was still too strong and ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. It finished 9-1 on aggregate.





Quarter Finals: They faced their conquerors in last season’s semi finals, Borussia Dortmund. They won 3-0 at the Santiago but fell 2-0 at the Signal Iduna in what was an unforgettable night. That has been their only loss in what has otherwise been a flawless campaign. It finished 3-2 on aggregate.

Real Madrid





Semi Finals: They faced Current Cup-Holders, Bayern Munchen in the final of their trips to Germany. A poacher’s goal from Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid a slender advantage going into the second leg which was expected to be a battle. What happened?





Braces from Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real to a 4-0 demolition of the Bavarian Giants. Ronaldo scored his 15th and 16th Champions League goal that night and broke the UCL Record for goals scored by a Player in a single campaign. That has till date been their most complete performance in this season’s UEFA Champions League. It booked their ticket to their 13th European Cup Final, the first since 2002 when they beat Bayer Leverkusen. On Saturday; they’ll go in search of their 10th European Crown.







Angel Di Maria





Cristiano Ronaldo- 16 goals

Karim Benzema-5 goals

Gareth Bale-5 goals

Angel Di Maria- 3goals

Isco Alarcon- 3 goals

Sergio Ramos-2 goals

Luka Modric- 1 goal

Alvaro Morata- 1 goal

Alvaro Arbeloa- 1 goal


Group Stage: They were in Group G with Former Champions, Porto, Russian Side, Zenit and Austria Wien.





They kicked off with a 3-1 home win over Zenit and won away 2-1 in Portugal. In their back-to-back matches against Austria Vienna, they on 3-0 in Austria and 4-0 in Spain.

Diego Costa






Their trip to Russia ended in a share of spoils (1-1) while on the 11th of December, 2013, they eased to a comfortable 2-0 over 2004 Champions, Porto. They finished top of the Group with 16 points, 15 goals scored and just a miserly 3 let in.

Raul Garcia





Round of Sixteen: They were paired up against seven time Winners, AC Milan. In the first Leg, a late goal from Diego Costa and a couple of valuable saves from Courtois secured a priceless 1-0 win at the San Siro.

Costa against Milan (1st Leg)





They would however blow away the Italian Side 4-1 at the Calderon to secure their Quarter-Final Slot.

uran against Milan (4-1)





Two goals from Raul Garcia and one apiece from Arda Turan and Diego Costa did the damage.

Diego against Barca (1-1)





Quarter Final: it was an all Spanish Affair as they came up against Catalan Giants, Barcelona. The first Leg at Nou Camp ended 1-1 with Neymar equalizer cancelling out a Diego’s stunning opener. It was all to play for in the second leg.

Koke against Barca 1-0
Koke against Barca 1-0






However at the Vicente Calderon, an early goal from Koke was enough to secure the semi-final slot for the Rojiblancos .Barcelona’s Quarter Final exit was the first time they failed to reach the semi-finals in 7 years (2007) where they lost to Liverpool in the Round of Sixteen.

aKoke and Villa celebrate against Barcelona





Semi Finals: The semi final meeting between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea was one of teams managed by tacticians known for their Counter-Attacking Philosophy.







It certainly lived up to its pre-match expectation. Chelsea held Los Colchoneros to a nil-nil draw in Spain and were marginal favourites heading to the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Torres refuses to celebrate against former side Atletico Madrid





In the Second Leg, everything looked to be going according to what had been written in the script when Former Atletico favourite, Fernando Torres put the Blues ahead but Atletico with other ideas, stormed back and hit not once, not twice but thrice through Adrian, a Diego Costa Spot-Kick and a tap-in from Arda Turan to book their ticket to Lisbon.

Diego Costa









This is Atletico Madrid’s first final in forty years, the longest wait between Finals eclipsing that of Inter Milan(1972-2010).They are still the only undefeated side in this season’s UEFA Champions League. Would that give way? Time would tell!


Ard Turan's goal sealed Chelsea's fate





Diego Costa- 8 goals

Arda Turan- 4goals

Raul Garcia- 4 goals

Miranda- 2 goals

Adrian Lopez- 2goals

Leo Baptistao- 1 goal

Diego Godin- 1goal

Felipe Luis-1 goal

Diego Ribas- 1 goal

Koke- 1 goal


In the 1957/58 La Liga season, the Los Indios (Atletico Madrid) finished second, three points behind Real Madrid. Then, only Champions of European Leagues got to play in the European Cup but because Real were the European Cup Holders, Atletico Madrid were granted a place in the following season’s European Cup. These two teams met in the following season, in the semi final in what has been their only meeting in European Competition. Madrid won the First Leg 2-1 but Atletico won the second 1-0.At that time, there was no away goal rule and a play-off was required. Real Madrid won the play-off 2-1 to advance to the Final. They went on to win it .If the away goal rule had been in force at that time, it would have been the Rojiblancos and not the Los Blancos that would have advanced to the Final.


Real Madrid has previously contested in 12 European Cup Finals while Atletico Madrid has previously appeared in the show piece once.


Real Madrid in1955





1955/56 –Real Madrid CF 4 V Stade de Reims(Parc de Princes, Paris)

1956/57 – Real Madrid CF 2 V AC Fiorentina 0 (Santiago Bernabeu,Madrid)

1957/58 –Real Madrid CF 3  V AC Milan 2 (Heysel Stadium, Brussels)

1958/59 –Real Madrid CF 2 V Stade de Reims 0 Neckerstadion,Stuttgart)

1959/60 – Real Madrid CF 7 V Eintracht Frankfurt 3 (Hampden Park, Glasgow)

1961/62 –SL Benfica 5 V Real Madrid CF 3(Olympisch Stadium, Amsterdam

1963/64 – FC Internazionale Milano 3 V Real Madrid CF 1(Praeterstadion, Vienna)

1965/66 – Real Madrid CF 2 V FC Partizan 0 (Heysel Stadium, Brussels)

1980/81 – Liverpool 1 V Real Madrid CF 0 (Parc de Princes, Paris)

1997/98 –Real Madrid CF 1 V Juventus 0 (Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam)

Real Madrid with the UCL in 2000






1999/00 –Real Madrid CF 3 V Valencia CF 0(Stade de France, Saint Denis)

Zidan's spectacular winner against Bayer Leverkusen







2001/2002- Real Madrid CF 2 V Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1 (Hampden Park, Glasgow)


  • 1973/74 – FC Bayern Munchen 1 V Club Atletico de Madrid 1(aet)
  • 1973/74 –Club Atletico de Madrid 0 V FC Bayern Munchen 4 (replay), (Heysel Stadium, Brussels)

Uli Hoeness of Bayern against Atletico Madrid in the replay







Diego Simeone






The Argentine has been nothing short of excellent in his 2 ½ years as the Manager of Atletico Madrid. Europa League win over Bilbao in 2012 was followed by a 4-1 demolition of Chelsea in the European Super Cup. In 2013, his team edged Madrid in a heated Copa Del Rey Final, their first derby win since 1999.

Diego Simeone






This season, he’s led his team of workers to an unlikely La Liga triumph, their first in 18 years and it’s largely because of the 44 year old that the Los Rojiblancos are in their first European Cup Final in 40 years. Wow!








He never won the Coveted Crown as a Player but he did win the UEFA Cup in 1997 with Inter Milan. Should he lead his team past the finishing line, he’ll join fellow Argentinians, Luis Carniglia and Helena Herrera as the only non-European Coaches to win it.

Should He also lead the Los Colchoneros to a first European Cup Crown, Atletico Madrid will become the fifth Club after Juventus, Ajax, Bayern Munchen and Chelsea as Clubs to have won the 3 main European Competitions.





He employs the 4-4-2 Formation though disguised as a 4-1-4-1 with both Strikers dropping back to midfield to close space and playing through the channels with it. The wide midfielders also play centrally when they don’t have the ball to ensure no space for the opposition and breaking at fast pace with the ball. They are a direct side and dangerous from set-plays. While most teams employ 3 midfielders in order to have better retention of the ball and also for the extra man without the ball, for Simeone and his men, emphasis is not keeping the ball but rather controlling space. Barcelona and Chelsea and even Real have fallen victims to this rather unorthodox but effective tactic with Barca topping that unfortunate list of victims.






It is only fitting that one of the most respected and revered Coaches in European Club Competition will lead the most successful Club in the aforementioned Competition to the Final in search of their tenth European Crown, the La Decima.





He boasts a CV very few can match; as a Player He was European Champion with AC Milan in the 1988-89 and also in the 1989/90 seasons.




While from the dugout, he’s also won it twice both with AC Milan in the 2002/03 season and in the 2006/07 season. He also led the Rossoneri to the 2005 Final where they lost in heartbreaking circumstances to a Steven Gerrard inspired Liverpool side.

This is his fourth European Cup Final, a feat matched by Sir Alex Ferguson, Marcello Lippi and Miguel Munoz. The 54 year old will also aim to join Liverpool Legend, Bob Paisley as the only Manager to have won three titles as a Manager and also attempt to become the fifth Manager after Ernst Happel, Ottmar Hitzfield, Jose Mourinho and Juup Heynckes as the Managers to have won it with two different Clubs.

In his spell at Madrid, he’s gradually moved from the 4-2-3-1 Counter-Attacking formation employed by the pragmatic, José Mourinho to a more expansive 4-3-3 Formation .This formation is a very direct one with emphasis on the flanks and pace.






The referee for this European Final Showdown is Dutchman, Bjorn Kupiers. He was named to be referee for this Final on the 7th of May, 2014

Kupiers with John Terry








He officiated the 2011 UEFA Super Cup between Barcelona and FC Porto and he was also at the centre of things in the 2013 UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea FC and Benfica.

He is the fourth Dutch referee that would take charge of a European Cup/Champions League Final after Leo Horn in 1957 and 1962, Charles Corver in 1978 and Dick Jol in 2001.








It is the capital and the largest city of Population with an estimated population of 547,631.It is also the political centre of the Western European Country, as seat of Government and residence of the Head of State.







Going down the history lane, Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest city in Western City predating other modern European Capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years.

Rainha do Mar as the City is also known, will stage its first European Cup Final for the first time in 47 years(1967) when Celtic beat Inter Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacional. Lisbon also hosted the 2005 UEFA Cup Final at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, home ground of Sporting Lisbon. The Final was between Sporting Lisbon and CSKA Moscow which ended 3-1 in favor of the Russians.


Estadio da Luz





The Estadio da Luz will host the UEFA Champions League Final for the first time. The 65,000 capacity Stadium is the home ground of Portuguese Giants, Benfica.

Estadio Da Luz





The Original Ground which was demolished in 2003 to make way for this one has played Host to European Cup Finals. It hosted the 1992 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final between Werder Bremen and AS Monaco. The German side won 2-0. It also hosted the second leg 1983 UEFA Cup Final where Anderlecht drew 1-1 with Benfica to lift the trophy.


  • Since the advent of the UEFA Champions League in 1992, Spain has been the most successful Nation with six victories in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2011 in Nine Final appearances. Italy is next with five victories in 1994,1996,2003,2007 and 2010 in eleven finals. England has been victorious on four occasions in 1999,2005,2008 and 2012 and lost in 2006, 2007,2008,2009 and 2011 while Germany were winners in 1997,2001 and 2013 and lost in 1999,2002,2010,2012 and 2013.


Real Madrid





There have been four finals between teams from the same country. In 2000,Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 at Stade de France; In 2003 AC Milan edged out Juventus on penalties at Old Trafford; In 2008,Manchester United saw off Chelsea from the spot-kicks in Moscow while in 2013, a late Arjen Robben goal helped Bayern Munchen past Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

In the previous 21 UEFA Champions League Finals, there have been 15 outright wins and the other six decided from the shoot out. A total of 54 goals have been scored, with the most common result being 2-1, which has happened 5 times; there have been four 1-1 draws and three finals have finished 1-0.

No team has played in more UEFA Champions League than AC Milan (six) in 1993, 1994,1995,2003,2005 and 2007.Their victory in 2007 over Liverpool in Athens equalled Real Madrid’s record of three UEFA Champions League titles, a mark FC Barcelona also matched in 2011 after a Final 3-1 over Manchester United at Wembley.

Paolo Maldini’s 51 seconds goal against Liverpool in the 2005 Final is the fastest in a UEFA Champions League Final.

Jens Lehmann (2006) and Didier Drogba (2008) are the only players to have seen red in a European Cup Final.







Ottmar Hitzfield (Dortmund, 1997 and Bayern 2001), Ernst Happel (Feyenoord, 1970 and Hamburger SV, 1983), Jose Mourinho (FC Porto, 2004 and FC Internazionale Milano, 2010) and Juup Heynckes (Real Madrid, 1998 and Bayern Munchen, 2013) are the only Coaches to have won the European Cup/UEFA Champions League with two clubs. Carlo Ancelotti would hope to join them on Saturday.

No player has hit a hat-trick in a UEFA Champions League Final. Daniele Massaro(AC Milan, 1994), Karl-Heinz Riedle (Borussia Dortmund, 1997), Hernan Crespo (AC Milan, 2005) Filippo Inzaghi(AC Milan, 2007) and Diego Milito (Inter Milan, 2010) have hit a brace. However in European Cup Finals, Ferenc Puskas scored four goals in Real Madrid’s 7-3 win over Frankfurt in 1960 with Alfredo Di Stefano hitting a hat-trick. Puskas also hit another Final hat-trick in 1962 with Pierino Prati (Milan, 1969), the other player to have managed a final treble.

Clarence Seedorf is the only player to have lifted the European Cup with three clubs (AFC Ajax, 1995, Real Madrid 1998 and AC Milan, 2003 and 2007). Liverpool’s Bob Paisley is the only Coach to have won it three times.






  • It is important that the Whites of Madrid don’t allow the pressure of the occasion get to them. They must with play calm though that’s easier said than done but it will be very important. I expect Atletico Madrid Players to try work their players up but they must remain calm. I hope Sergio Ramos gets to read this.

Sergio Ramos





They’ll be expected to take the initiative to Atletico Madrid unlike the game against Bayern. They must however be wary of being caught out on the break especially on the flanks. There must be a balance lest Atleti would do to them what they did to Bayern.

They must be quick and get their fast Players on the Ball and not allow the Los Rojiblancos to regroup lest they just have the possession while Atletico could have the most important stat and the Cup.

Defensive Troubles: They must watch out for this especially from the set pieces. The back line though impressive against Bayern is still very much the weak part of this highly talented team. Atletico Madrid has scored a couple from dead balls situations and with the likes of Miranda, Godin, Raul Garcia and Diego Costa they pose a threat.

Maximum Concentration: Atletico are known for their high levels of commitment, dedication and concentration and they like possessed fellows. That same team would most likely turn up on Saturday. It’s now for Madrid not to switch off at any time. If the scoreline is a slender goal margin at half-time, then it’s important they keep up their concentration levels in the first few minutes of the second when Atletico would come out all bursting.





The Big Boys: Atletico Madrid, except jinxed would rise to the occasion so it’s now for the BBC crew and the rest of the team to rise up though in a positive manner.


Atletico Madrid





Exploit the Backline especially in set piece situations

While they won’t play with much pressure due to the fact that their season is already a success, it’s however important they don’t allow the euphoria of the League success to get to them. This is a big opportunity to seal their names in Atletico Madrid’s history book something Club Legend, Luis Aragones would be proud of.






A couple of their players have looked jaded in recent weeks and with the injury list mounting up, it’s only advisable they try settle it in 90 minutes. Taking it to extra time could tell on their fitness levels. However from the way their season has gone, that shouldn’t be a problem as they prefer to do things the hard way.


Apart from winning the Cup which is the most important

thing at stake here,the winners would play Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup (Another Spanish Battle) and also qualify for the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup Championship.










Real Madrid should start as marginal favourites but predicting a winner is too close to call. It’s going to be a close and tight game with a moment of brilliance, mistake or an inspired substitution or even the dreaded shoot out deciding the blockbuster.


Who do you tip to win?

Thank You all for the support. It’s been amazing!



The Oldest Football Knock-out Competition has once again thrown a Final very few would have predicted at the beginning of the season. Arsenal and Hull City would contest the Final of the 143rd FA CUP season.






For Arsenal, this is once again another chance to win silverware and end that trophy less streak that dates back to2005 when they saw off Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side in a nervy penalty shoot-out.

Arsenal with the 2005 FA Cup






For Hull City, this is an uncharted territory as they’ll be making their first FA CUP Final in the club’s 110 year history. They’ll certainly want to make the best of it and take the scalp of another Big Side just as Wigan did last year to money bags, Manchester City.

Hull City






Come the 17th of May, Wembley and the Whole World would witness the mother of all English FA Cup Finals but before then, let’s have a preview and see where the match could possibly be won and lost.



ARSENAL: The Gunners ended their Premier League Campaign with a straightforward 2-0 over Norwich City at the Carrow Road.

HULL CITY: Hull City on the other hand warmed up for this Final with a home defeat to Everton. The defeat was their third successive one. Their last victory was in the FA Cup Semi Final

Not an ideal way to prepare for a Cup Final.



The Gunners began their FA Cup campaign in the Third Round and Wenger’s men have certainly not had it all their way in their journey to Wembley.






They eased past London Rivals, Tottenham in the Third Round at the Emirates 2-0 thanks to goals from Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky.

In the Fourth Round, goals from Oliver Giroud, Santi Cazorla and a brace from German Forward, Podolski ensured a straightforward 4-0 home win against Coventry.

On the 16th of February, goals from the Oxlade Chamberlain and yet again Podolski helped Arsenal to a 2-1 victory over Liverpool which helped gain some measure of revenge for the 5-1 drubbing they had received from the hands of the Reds earlier that week.







They advanced to the sixth Round (Quarter Final) where they hit Roberto Martinez Everton’s side4-1 at the Emirates to book their ticket to Wembley to face current Cup-Holders, Wigan Athletic.

Mertesacker with the equaliser against Wigan






In the semis, a 63rd minute penalty from Gomez looked as if was going to be enough for Wigan but Per Mertesacker, with other ideas, thumped in the equalizer in the 82nd minute to take the match to Extra Time and then the shoot out.

Arsenal after winning the semis








In the 6 meters exercise, the Gunners survived by the skin of their teeth to win the shoot out 4-2. Lukasz Fabianski was inspired form as he kept out the efforts of Caldwell and Collison to ensure his team’s place in the Final. Arteta, Kallstorm, Giroud and Santi Cazorla were successful in their spot-kicks.

The win over Championship Side, Wigan means Arsenal reach the Final for the first time since the 1949-50 Season without having played a game outside London.

Arsene Wenger






This is Arsenal 18th FA Cup Final and they’ve won 10 of the previous 17.Only Manchester United have won more (11)






It’s relatively been an easy and straightforward campaign for the Tigers as they’ve faced only one Premier League opposition.

Hull City






As a Premier League Club, they started their campaign in the Third Round where goals from Aaron Mc Lean and Nick Proschwitz helped Steve Bruce men to win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium .In the Fourth Round, a brace from Matty Fryatt helped the Tigers to a 2-0 win Southend United 2-0 at the Roofs Hall.

On the 24th of February, they saw off Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 at the KC Stadium on replay. They had been to a 1-1 draw at the Falmer Stadium on the 16th of February.

Tom Huddlestone






In the Quarters, Steve Bruce side got their first Premier League opposition in Sunderland and goals in the last 22 minutes from Curtis Davis, David Meyler and Matty Fryatt helped dispatch Gus Poyet side 3-0 at the KC Stadium to advance to the semis for the time in 84 years where they met Sheffield United. It was goal-flurry semis between these the two sides but Hull came from behind to win an eight goal thriller (5-3) and book their ticket to their first ever FA Cup Final.

Hull City Fans


















These two teams have met twice this season and Arsenal has been victorious in those meetings. On the 4th of December 2013, at the Emirates, the Gunners won 2-0 while on the 20th of April, at the KC Stadium, Wenger’s side prevailed 3-0. That meeting was billed as the FA Cup Final Dress rehearsal.






In total, the Gunners and the Tigers have met 13 times with the Gunners victorious on 10 occasions, suffering two defeats, one of which was a shock 2-1 home defeat, thanks to wonder Giovanni goal in the 2008/09 season. They’ve shared the spoils once


ARSENE WENGER: The 64 year old is certainly no stranger to FA Cup success. He won the Cup for the first time in the 1997-1998 season as Arsenal won the Double. In 2002, Arsene Wenger led his Army to a 2-0 victory over London Rivals, Chelsea thus completing another double. Arsenal retained the title in 2003 with a 1-0 win over Southampton.








The last time Wenger won this trophy which coincides with the last time the Gunners won Silverware was in the 2004/05 Final. They edged Manchester United on penalties after the match ended 0-0. He’s also suffered FA Cup Final heartbreak once, to Liverpool in 2001. This is His sixth FA Cup Final and tenth overall Final as Arsenal Boss. Would the Frenchman be fifth time lucky? Does his future at his Club hinge on this game? 90 minutes or possibly 120 or even a shootout would answer the questions.


STEVE BRUCE: This might be the 53 year old first FA Cup Final as a Manager but he’s already experienced Cup glory during his days as a Manchester United Player. He was part of the team that defeated Crystal Palace on replay in the 1990 FA Cup Final

steve bruce in 1990







He also picked up the winners medal in the 1993/94 season when the Red Devils pipped Chelsea to the title. He won for the last time as a Player in the 1995/1996 season, though left in out of the squad, in United’s 1-0 win over fierce rivals, Liverpool.

steve bruce





Like the Frenchman, he also suffered heartbreak in 1995 when his Manchester United lost 1-0 to Everton.


  • Play with a Calm Mind: This Final has been built as Arsenal’s best chance to end their trophy drought as they play a highly unfancied Hull City side. The tag of being clear favorites would carry with it special pressure not only because it is a Cup Final but also due to their 8 year trophy drought; something they will desperately love to get off their back.






It is however important that they don’t allow the pressure get into their heads and minds. They have to play with calm and patience especially if the goals don’t come early. They can’t afford to get tentative.

It cost them in their League Cup Final defeat against Birmingham and almost cost them in the Semi Final win over Wigan.

It’s going to hard as the thought of ending the trophy drought would be on their minds but they can’t afford to let it affect their performance that day.


  • The Big Boys Have Rise To The Occasion How Wenger must wish He has someone like Didier Drogba in his side; someone who would always deliver when it matters. While that is not worth moaning about, the likes of Cazorla, Per, Koscielny, Giroud and Ozil-especially Ozil would have to rise up and deliver. Too many times in big games this season, the big lads have gone missing and Mesut Ozil has often been an epitome of that. This is probably an opportunity for the German and his team to redeem himself. This is a Cup Final and while it might not be the clash of equals on paper, it is still nevertheless a big game. Big Games are where the Men are separated from the boys.







THE FIRST GOAL: The first goal is very important for the Gunners as if they manage to get, it will not only boost confidence a bit but would also calm the nerves of the Arsenal support in the stands.

  • BE PATIENT: Unlike the previous League games where Arsenal saw off Bruce side 2-0 and 3-0, this should be a different proposition as the Tigers would most likely be more alert defensively. It is important for Arsene and his team to remain patient, calm or as it put, cool-calm and collected. They shouldn’t play into the antics of the Tigers of even the counter attacking threat the Tigers might carry.

Wenger and Bruce will go head to head on Saturday



  • Play Narrow: The absence of Theo Walcott has badly hit Arsenal this season. This is because he provides width and stretches opposition defence. His absence has often made Arsenal play narrow with the fullbacks providing width which has been largely predictable and easy to defend against.






The Englishman would miss the final and another Gunner who could provide width, Oxlade Chamberlain is also a major doubt for the game. This means we are going to most likely see the same tactical setup with Ozil and Cazorla playing between the lines to create space.

For Hull City to have hope of getting anything out of this game, they’ll have to play narrow. Congest the narrow spaces to make them go wide which means one thing-crosses. The likes of Ozil and Podolski are not known for creating width and pushing them wide would most likely deprive Giroud/Sanogo goal scoring opportunities. Giroud in particular would be deprived of his usual link-up play with the trio behind him.

Pushing them wide would lead to opportunistic crosses which the likes of Curtis Davis should comfortably deal with. However they’ll have to also double up on the full backs to prevent cut backs.





It won’t be easy to repeat that for 90 minutes but if they can manage, and then they’ll have their chances especially on the break.

  • THAT FIRST GOAL: In any Final, the first goal is always important not because it always wins the match but because it amongst other things forces the opposition to come out which lead to them being caught out on the break.

For the Tigers, scoring the first goal would obviously make Arsenal come out but more importantly, it would be a very big test of Arsenal’s mental strength especially under severe pressure. Arsenal has passed a few mental tests but this would be the most important of them.

Hull City






Scoring the first goal would also send a few jitters among the Gunners fans which could lead to a nervy afternoon for the Arsenal Players.

  • Solve the Defensive Problems: Hull City are not angels and if there is one thing they’ll have prepare for, then it’s got to be the defence. Sheffield hit three past them in the semis and ordinarily that should have been enough but for United’s defensive lapses. Any form of generosity from Steve Bruce men would be punished and it would be very important they stay defensively alert during the game.
  • Forget the Defeats: Hull City can’t approach this match thinking of the League defeats against Arsenal this season. They’ll have to be fearless, and psychologically ready for the Final.





Once they lose the faith, then they’ll have the runners-up medal hung around their neck.

  • Exploit the Arsenal Back line: For all of Arsenal’ improvement in the defence, it is still one of the weakest areas in the side. The Left back position has been much of a suspect this season. The Left back is often overloaded by the opposition fullback and right midfielder. Manchester City and Chelsea have ruthlessly exposed this and while Hull City is not on the same wavelength as these teams, there would certainly be no harm in trying. Arsenal would also play with a high line and that would also be an interesting one for the Tigers especially on the break.

Arsenal 2 v Hull City 0







Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Podolski, Cazorla, Giroud

Hull City: Harper, Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, Elmohammady, Huddlestone, Meyler, Livermore, Boyd, Sagbo








Wembley Stadium would once again play host to the FA Cup Final. Since the 90,000 seated Stadium was opened in 2007, it has played host to every FA Cup Final since then. These are the Finals

2007: Chelsea 1(Didier Drogba) V Manchester United 0

2008: Portsmouth 1 (Nwankwo Kanu) V Cardiff City 0

2009: Chelsea 2 (Frank Lampard & Didier Drogba) V Everton 1(Saha)

2010 Chelsea 1(Didier Drogba) V Portsmouth (0)

2011: Manchester City 1 (Yaya Toure) V Stoke City 0

2012: Chelsea 2 (Ramires & Didier Drogba) V Liverpool 1(Andy Carroll)

2013 Wigan Athletic (Ben Watson) 1 V Manchester City 0







  • The referee for the 2013/2o14 Final is Lee Probert. He was the fourth official in the 2011 Final between Manchester City and Stoke City.


Lee Probert







This is however the first time the 41 year old would be the Central Referee in the FA Cup Final.



  • Arsenal has reached their 18th FA Cup Final, a feat only Manchester United can match.
  • By reaching the FA Cup Final, Hull City became the 57th different side to play in the Final of this Competition.
  • The last seven FA Cup Finals have produced just 11 goals. All seven have been won by a single-goal margin.





Arsenal has kept clean sheets in each of their last three FA Cup Finals.(Chelsea, Southampton and Manchester United)

  • Just one of the last five debuting Finalists have won the trophy(Wigan, last Year)
  • Hull City have scored just once in their last four clashes with Arsenal in all competitions.
  • The Tigers have won just three of their last eleven FA Cup matches when pitted against a team from the same division(D1 L7)






Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven meetings with opposition from the same League (W5 D1)

  • Nicklas Bendtner has scored in three of his last four appearances for Arsenal against Hull City.



Arsenal would start this game as hot favorites and the gulf between the two sides should help the Gunners end this rather remarkable trophy drought.

Arsenal with the 2005 FA Cup






However any form of stage fright or poor showing and we could be in for another FA Cup shock. The Cup has thrown a few this last few years and it won’t be out of place to witness another one.

All said and done, Arsenal should win the Cup as anything less would be unacceptable.


Arsenal 3 V Hull City 1

Questions of the Day

Which current Arsenal players have played in the FA Cup Final?

Who do you tip to carry the day?

Thank You Very Much!

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The 2013/14 English Premier League has certainly been one of drama, suspense and intrigue from the Title race which was decided on the last day of the season to the relegation dogfight. There have been surprises, comebacks and disappointments. We’ll look at the figures and many more that characterized the 2013/14 EPL season.

Man City with the EPL Crown








  • Manchester City(Champions)
  • Liverpool
  • Chelsea


Manuel Pellegrini with the EPL Title







  • Arsenal







Hull City






Everton (Playoff)

  • Tottenham(Third Qualifying Round)
  • Hull City( Group Stage







  • Norwich City
  • Fulham
  • Cardiff City

Cardiff City Fans






  • MATCHES PLAYED: 380 matches were played over the course of the season.
  • GOALS SCORED: A total of 1052 goals were scored which is at an average of 2.77 goals per game.
  • FIRST GOAL: Daniel Sturridge’s goal for Liverpool against Mark Hughes’ side on the 17th of August, 2013 was the first goal of the 2013/14 Premier League Season.

Sturridge against Stoke






BIGGEST HOME WIN: Manchester City 7-0 annihilation of Norwich on the 2nd of November, 2013 is the biggest victory of a home side in the 2013/2014 season.


city 7 v  norwich 0





BIGGEST AWAY WIN: Liverpool’s 5-0 win at the White Hart Lane on the 15th of December, 2013 is the biggest away victory of the 2013/14 season. Spurs heavy loss to the Reds spelt doom for André Villas Boas who was subsequently relieved of his duties.

  • HIGHEST GOAL SCORING GAME(9 Goals): Manchester City’s 6-3 win over Arsenal and Liverpool’s 6-3 win over Cardiff City at the Cardiff City Stadium are the Highest Goal-Scoring Games in the just concluded English Premier League.
  • LONGEST WINNING STREAK: This honour falls to Brendan Rodgers Liverpool Side who went on an 11 game winning run which included wins over the Manchester teams, Tottenham and Arsenal. That run was however snapped in a ruthless by Chelsea who recorded a deserved 2-0 win at Anfield.









  • LONGEST WINLESS RUN: Fulham, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion take this unfortunate award as the trio at one point of the season went on a 9 game winless run.
  • LONGEST LOSING RUN: That honour goes to Crystal Palace who lost 7 straight times.








  • PLAYER                             CLUB                                                                       GOALS
  • Luis Suarez                       Liverpool                                                                    31
  • Daniel Sturridge              Liverpool                                                                 21
  • Yaya Toure                     Manchester City                                                     20
  • Wayne Rooney               Manchester United                                            17
  • Sergio Aguero                         Manchester City                                          17

Captain Fantastic






  • PLAYER                                      CLUB                                                     ASSISTS
  • Steven Gerrard                          Liverpool                                                    13
  • Luis Suarez                                Liverpool                                                         12
  • Wayne Rooney                         Manchester United                               10
  • Rickie Lambert                        Southampton                                               10
  • David Silva                               Manchester City                                           9
  • Yaya Toure                              Manchester City                                           9
  • Mesut Ozil                               Arsenal                                                                 9



  • Luis Suarez hit the League’s first hat-trick in Liverpool 4-1 home win over West Brom on the 26th of October, 2013.


luis suarez





The Uruguay International hit Four, an obligatory one to be fair in Liverpool’s 5-1 whitewash of Norwich City at Anfield on the 4th of December last year.

  • On the 11th of January at the Stadium of Light, Former City Player, Adam Johnson hit the treble in Sunderland’s 4-1 win over Fulham.
  • Samuel Eto’o hit his first treble in a Chelsea Shirt when the Blues hit Manchester United side by 3 goals to 1 on the 19th of January this year. The first of three Chelsea Players to find the back of the net three times this season.

Britain Soccer Premier League






Eden Hazard also hit his first treble for Chelsea in the Blues 3-0 routine home win over Alan Pardew Newcastle’s side on the 8th of February.

Eden Hazard






On the 1st of March, in a London Derby at Craven Cottage, André Schurrle hit a second half hat trick against Fulham (his first for the Club) as the Blues ran out 3-1 winners.

  • Fulham were once again, on the 22nd of March, recipients of a Player hitting the treble against them. This time around, it was the African Player of the Year; Yaya Toure. He hit the treble in Man City’s home rout of the Cottagers.
  • The last but definitely not the least is once again, Luis Suarez. The latest victim of his treble feast afternoon was Welsh Side, Cardiff. The 27 year hit three in Liverpool’s 6-3 win at Cardiff











PLAYER                                        CLUB             NO OF CLEAN SHEETS

  • Petr Cech                                     Chelsea FC                                             16
  • Wojciech Szczesny                   Arsenal FC                                            16
  • Tim Howard                               Everton                                                      15
  • Artur    Boruc                               Southampton                                       14
  • Hugo Lloris                                  Tottenham Hotspur                          14







  • MOST WINS (27)- Manchester City

Mam City






LEAST WINS (7) –Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion






MOST DRAWS (15) –West Bromwich Albion

  • FEWEST DRAWS (4) –Newcastle United
  • MOST LOSSES (24)- Fulham

Lewis Holtby of Fulham




MOST CLEAN SHEETS (18) – Chelsea

Man City VChelsea





  • MOST GOALS SCORED (102) –Manchester City, an average of 2.68 goals per game
  • FEWEST GOALS SCORED (28) – Norwich City, an average of 0.74 goals per game






BEST HOME RECORD-Manchester City-Won seventeen drew one against Sunderland and lost one to Chelsea.






WORST HOME RECORD (18 Points)-Fulham and Sunderland.

  • BEST AWAY RECORD(35 Points)– Arsenal and Liverpool
  • WORST AWAY RECORD (9 Points)– Norwich City




  • MONTH                                       MANAGER                                 CLUB
  • August                                           Brendan Rodgers                      Liverpool

  • September                                     Arsene Wenger                          Arsenal


Wenger and Ramsey






October                      Mauricio Pochettino                 Southampton

  • November                                     Alan Pardew                             Newcastle
  • December                                    Manuel Pellegrini     Manchester City
  • January                                           Manuel Pellegrini       Manchester City

February                                         Sam Allardyce           West Ham United

  • March                                              Brendan Rodgers                Liverpool
  • April                                                  Tony Pulis                           Crystal Palace









  • August                                             Daniel Sturridge                            Liverpool


  • September                                       Aaron Ramsey                              Arsenal






October                          Sergio Aguero                               Manchester City







November                              Tim Krul                                      Newcastle United

  • December                       Luis Suarez                                  Liverpool
  • January                             Adam Johnson                            Sunderland





February                          Daniel Sturridge                          Liverpool

  • March                  Luis Suarez& Steven Gerrard   Liverpool

Luis and Gerrard

April                                                   Conor Wickham                          Sunderland








Suarez with the PFA award






 Eden Hazard













  • STATS: The 31 year old kept 16 clean sheets in 34 league matches.
  • In February 2014, he won the Czech Footballer of the Year
  • He won the 2013/14 Premier Golden Glove
  • He’s also a member of the PFA Team of the Year.








  • STATS: He scored 6 goals, the most of any full back in the Division and also kept 15 clean sheets. He assisted his team mates twice
  • He is the 2013/14 Everton’s Player of the Year.
  • He also Everton Supporters Player of the Year
  • He made the Sky Sports MNF Team of the Year
  •  He also made the PFA Team of the Year.


cahill against City






  • STATS: He made 30 league appearances, 29 as a starter. In those 30 league games,he kept 13 clean sheets and scored a goal in Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Southampton on the 1st of December,2013.
  • AWARDS: He made the 2013/14 PFA Team of the Year.


Kompany celebrates the second goal against West Ham







  • STATS: Manchester City won 75% of their games with Kompany on the pitch and just 60% in his absence. The Belgian made 28 appearances, scored 4 goals and created two for his team mates.
  • AWARDS:PFA Team of the Year


Luke Shaw







  • STATS: He made 35 League Appearances, didn’t find the back of the net but laid off 3 goals for his team mates.
  • AWARDS:PFA Team of the Year 









  • STATS: He created more chances than any other Englishman in the League(71).He appeared in all the leagues for the Sotton,scored nine times and also had eight assists to his name.
  • AWARDS:2013/14 PFA Team of the Year


Yaya Toure






  • STATS: He made 35 league appearances with 20 goals and 9 assists to his name. He is the second midfielder after Chelsea’s Frank Lampard (22) to reach 20 league goals in a season.
  • AWARDS: PFA Team of the Year. He was nominated in the Personality of the Year Category at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards.


Steven Gerrard







  • STATS: He made 33 League appearances, scored 13 goals with 13 assists to his name. His 13 assists are the most of any player in the League this season.
  • PFA Team of the Year(8)
  • ECHO Sports Personality of the Year
  • Premier League Player of the Month (March)
  • Standard Chartered Player of the Month(March)








  • STATS: He scored 14 times and assisted his team mates on 9 occasions in 34 League appearances. He created 92 chances in the EPL this season. No player created more.
  • PFA Team of the Year
  • Chelsea Player of the Year


Common People.Let's dance!







  • STATS: He made 28 League appearances. He scored 21 goals with 9 assists to his name.
  • PFA Team of the Year
  • Premier League Player of the Month (2)-August 2013 and February, 2014.
  • Standard Chartered Player of the Month (2) – August 2013 and February,2014.


Suarez and Family









  • STATS: He made 32 League appearances scored 31 goals and assisted 12.He scored 3 hat tricks. In December, 2013, He became the first player to score 10 Premier League goals in a month. He scored 4 against Tottenham and braces against West Ham, Tottenham and Cardiff.
  • PFA Team of the Year
  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year
  • FWA Footballer of the Year
  • Premier League Player of the Month (2)-December, 2013 and March, 2014.
  • Golden Boot Landmark Award(20 Goals)
  • Golden Boot Landmark Award(30 Goals)
  • Premier League Golden Boot
  • Liverpool FC Player of the Year
  • Liverpool FC Top Goal scorer
  • Standard Chartered Player of the Month(4)- October-January
  • Liverpool Supporter’s Player of the Year
  • Goal of the Season: His 40 yard volley against Norwich on the 4th of December, 2013.

Pulis with the Award








Rodgers with the award






Questions of the Day

How many managerial casualties did we have in the 2013/14 season?

What was your favourite moment in the just concluded  EPL ?

Who do you think deserves to be in the PFA Team that missed out?

Thank You Very Much!


By Omisakin Ayobami

Unarguably the most exciting team to watch in the Barclays Premier League this season. Having scored the highest number of goals as well as playing scintillating football; humiliating their opponents and being a joy to watch for fans and neutrals alike. Many have compared them to Barcelona or Dortmund though no school of thought seems to be right or wrong as the team has been unique and also similar! Literally, one could say that they have painted the whole league red! Which team am I referring to? Well, your guess is as good as mine; it’s the men from the red half of Merseyside. Yes, Liverpool F.C.

Liverpool FC





However, what has been responsible for this surprising but welcome brilliance, what did Rodgers do to birth this Red Revolution, what is the secret of a team which at the beginning of the season was not expected to meet the top 4 but ended the season as a major contender? Many claim that the absence of European competitions plus early exits from domestic cup competitions are notable reasons, but are they the only reasons? These and many more are the questions that I would attempt to answer in the following lines…







One cannot help but hail the tactical flexibility he has shown this season. Liverpool do not boast a strong squad like Chelsea or Manchester City, therefore opponents usually have an inkling as to the starting line up but how they will line up is always the unanswered question. Widely touted to clinch the Manager of the Year Award, B.R.’s team has thrived on adaptation and fluidity; that’s something most Premier League teams cannot boast of (now Moyes and Wenger come to mind). Rodger’s philosophy has always been possession football but this season with Liverpool, that has changed to high-pressing and counter-attack.

Liverpool Pressing Against Arsenal (5-1)






The Reds have been devastating on the counter, not only winning the ball in their own half but the opponent’s as well.

High Pressing Game





One cannot pinpoint an exact formation that Liverpool has used and this is because the team has a formation for each situation. In other words, the team’s got different formations for attacking play, when on the defensive, and so on. However, we can still make out a pattern of formations that will be discussed below:

4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 Formation.

This was what Rodgers used in spell at Swansea and he started with that this season. The deployment of a lone striker was perhaps due to the ban on Suarez as Sturridge enjoyed being the focus of attention. The 4-2-3-1 had Lucas and Gerrard as the 2 central midfielders covering the defence as both full backs joined the attack.

4-2-3-1- against Stoke.







However when out of possession, Sturridge drops to the flanks to form a 4-3-3.

4-3-3 without the ball






The result of this was that on regaining possession, Gerrard with his swift but accurate diagonal passes could locate Sturridge on the flank well away from the opponents’ attention and with ample space to run into. This was quite efficient but not overly impressive as a return of a goal per match told the story.

5-3-2 or 3-5-2 Formations.

When the Uruguayan wizard came back from suspension, Rodgers found a solution to accommodate both his top strikers in a 3-5-2 formation (3-4-1-2 variation).








This involved 3 central defenders, 2 wing backs, 3 central midfielders in a triangular form of a spearhead, and then SAS up front.








The team scored more goals but conceded more than before and the frailties of this formation were unmercifully exposed in the 2-2 draw against Newcastle.

In an attacking position, the 3 central defenders spread across the defence, Kolo Toure (being able to play as a right back) moves to the right while Sakho (left-footed) moves to the left and Skrtel remains the only central defender. Gerrard and Lucas offered the defence protection as the wing backs rampaging down the flanks. SAS are allowed to roam freely. In a defensive position, the team potentially has 5 defenders and with the central midfielders, 7 players behind the ball, while relying on SAS and either Coutinho or Sterling to offer the counter-attacking threat. However, where a full back is left exposed, a centre-back covers for him leaving a 4-man defence with either one of SAS drifting to the opposite flank.








4-4-2 Diamond or 4-3-3 variant.

The 3-0 trouncing of Man-United serves as a good illustration of the 4-4-2 diamond formation. The midfield quartet included Gerrard at the base as the pivot or ‘quarterback’, Lucas and Henderson as the central midfielders and a Sterling spearhead. This narrow midfield, coupled with Moyes’ adamant wing play, was Man-U’s waterloo.

4-4-2 diamond






In defensive position, Lucas and Henderson moved to either flank to nullify the attacking threat of the wingers and full backs. Gerrard remained in the middle intercepting passes and dictating the play.

Luis Suarez






In attacking position, the inclusion of Sterling (known for his blistering pace) and the habitual dropping deep of SAS ensured that Fellaini and Carrick came out from their deep positions. This in turn left space between United’s midfield and defence thereby making it possible for those runs by Henderson and Allen to trouble the defence (remember that the second goal came through a foul on Allen after he had been put through by a Henderson throughball). Sterling’s positional play and later that of Coutinho ensured that SAS could either drop deep or drift wide to draw away man-markers and create space in the middle. While in possession, the 2 centre-backs moved wide to cover the over-lapping full backs while Gerrard moved into their middle in a high defensive line (the Achilles heel as a Gerrard slip ensured an away victory for the over-cautious Blues).



Perhaps his best season in recent times, Gerrard improved on his positional discipline and excelled in a much deeper role. He served as the anchor man of this Kop team and sheer strength and perfect tackling ensured adequate cover for the defence but more than that, his long range and diagonal passes plus splendid vision in creating chances made certain that Liverpool’s counter attacking policy was a real threat to opponents. In his newly found position, Gerrard flourished being able to dictate play due to the much space and time on the ball afforded to him in that defensive position. It is indeed remarkable that despite this deeper position, Captain Fantastic has produced more goals (13 vital ones at that) than last season even though more than 90% came from the penalty spot. He also is one of the top assists (12) in the league and has improved on dead ball situations.

Steven Gerrard






His improvement and statistics have been fundamental to the Red’s success this season. In the league, he has won 59.1% of his duels, made 47 interceptions in 33 games, made 93 tackles and won 72 of them, 89 clearances and 15 blocks; he has made 2,127 passes with an 86% accuracy and created 64 chances.

Captain Fantastic






Luis Suarez is one of the Premier League’s most talked about characters—loved and loathed in equal measure, depending on your allegiance. Despite missing the opening five matches of the season, he not only is the division’s top scorer but has equaled the record of league goals scored in a season (31 goals in 32 games) and is about to set a new one.

luis suarez





His dribbling skills, nutmegs, defensive runs, work rate, determination, freekicks and body feints have been unmatched this season and mainly responsible for his team’s top 4 finish.

th (62) luis  suarez










He not only scores but creates chances as well with a number of assists (12) to his credit.

Suarez with the PFA award






He was recently declared the Professional Footballers’ Award Player of the Year (becoming the first non-European to win the award in 30years) as well as the Football Writer’s player of the Year. Many predict that he is the next to the ranks of the Galacticos (fingers and toes crossed).His form, in just one campaign alone, has propelled him into the same sentence as other Liverpool greats in the past quarter-century. He is the league leader when it comes to dribble attempts per match (beating Eden Hazard on 6 per appearance) and when it comes to being on the ball, as a forward, there are few who receive more touches per minute they are on the field than he does. Hazard (1.27 mins) and Wayne Rooney (1.24 mins) are the only two attackers to out-rank him. What else can be said of this remarkable footballer, ah! Yes!, he is a member of the most prolific and feared strike partnerships in England and arguably all of Europe (second to BBC of course!), the SAS.








He is the other half of SAS. More than that, he has been a revelation under Rodgers and his return of 21 goals and 7 assists despite injuries is a testament to his attacking prowess. He is a beast in the box, with his strength giving him an advantage over defenders. His direct running and powerful left foot has terrorized defences this season, and his versatility (being able to play across the front 3) has lessened Rodger’s headaches this season.

Common People.Let's dance!






He will not only be remembered for his dancing steps but also for his commitment and vital goals in a red shirt!

THE sterling STERLING:

I am short of words to describe this teenager. Simply put, Sterling has been sterling. Being touted to be one of the best natural wingers in the future, he has carried the team on his small shoulders at crucial times this season. His brilliant acceleration and overall speed has left opponents rooted and even embarrassed veterans. He’s got 9 goals and 5 assists in 23 starts.






The list is continues but time won’t permit me to talk about the creative and industrious Phillippe Countinho (a pity he could not make the Brazil squad): the relentless, ever-pressing, never- resting and the perfect box-to-box midfielder called Jordan Henderson; he has played in various positions this season, from wing back to central midfielder to attacking midfielder to winger and would have started all of Liverpool’s matches if not for the ban.


The Reds have been a delight to watch except for their opponents. High pressing, fluid transitions from defence to attack and vice versa, nerve racking counter-attacks, great dribbling, determination and a shaky defence has seen a team labeled as contenders for the 4th position to become contenders for the top position.






No matter the position the team finishes in though, the Kop will no doubt look back with pride on their 99 goal haul (perhaps more by the end of the season) that has brought back to them their greatest joy- champions league night football!

Question of the Day

Who has been your most impressive Liverpool Player this season?


Two time Ballon d’Or Winner,  Cristiano Ronaldo  net a brace in last week’s Champions League semi-final drubbing of Bayern Munchen to reach a quarter of a thousand goals for Real Madrid. The double against the title-holders took Him to 16 goals in this season’s Champions League in just 10 games (a UCL record for goals scored by a player in a season).






On Sunday, in a Primera League game against the Los Che, Real Madrid surprisingly fell 1-2 to Valencia and looked to be heading to a shock defeat until Ronaldo intervened with a superb mule kick to rescue a point for the Whites and keep them in the La Liga title race.

Ronaldo against Valencia





The goal was his 50th of the season which means he has found the back of the net 50 or more times for four consecutive seasons. It was also the Portuguese 251st in the Madrid Jersey






We’ll look at the breakdown of all his goals, the unfortunate teams and much more. Enjoy

It's me!!!!






  • 2009/10- 33 goals in 35 games
  • 2010/11 -53 goals in 54 appearances
  • 2011/12-60 goals in 55 appearances (60 is a record for goals scored by a Madrid Player in a season).
  • 2012/2013-55 goals in 55 games
  • 2013/14(till date)-50 goals in 45 games.








What a beauty!





He’s scored 176 goals with his right foot, 46 with his left and 29 have come from his head. Phenomenal!

  • Right Foot Shots- 106
  • Left Foot Shots- 46
  • Header-29
  • Converted Penalty-42
  • Free-Kick-23
  • Long Distance Kicks-5
  • Tap-In-1

Copa Del Rey Final 2011







  • In the La Liga, he’s scored an amazing 177 goals in just 164 games till date. He is currently 14th in the all time list of La Liga Goal-Scorers.
  • He’s scored 51 goals in 50 games for Real Madrid in European Competitions(UEFA Champions League)
  • While in the Copa Del Rey, the 29 year old has scored 20 goals in 26 for the Los Blancos.
  • In other competitions like the Spanish Super Cup, the Portuguese Captain has found the back of the net 3 times in 4 matches.







  • 135 of his goals have come at the Santiago Bernabeu
  • 113 have come in come in away fixtures
  • He’s scored 3 times on neutral grounds.

Cristiano celebrates against Juventus






  • 0-15 -33 goals
  • 16-30 – 47 goals
  • 31-45 – 30 goals
  • 46-60 – 41 goals
  • 61-75 – 50 goals
  • 76-90 – 49 goals
  • Extra Time- 1

Look at Me now!






  • Mesut Ozil- 27 goals
  • Karim Benzema-22 goals
  • Angel Di Maria-22 goals
  • Gareth Bale-9 goals
  • Xabi Alonso- 9 goals
  • Kaka- 9 goals
  • Sergio Ramos- 9 goals

Against Dortmund 2013/14 UCL






NAME              GOALS         MATCHES       GOAL RATIO     PERIOD

RAUL                   323                  741                    0.44                    1994-2010

A. DI STEFANO  305                  392              0.78             1953-1964

C.SANTILLANA      289                 645            0.45          1971-1988

 C. RONALDO       251                 244           1.03                       2009-Present     

 F. PUSKAS                242                 262                      0.92           1958-1966

Against Barcelona 2011/12







  • TEAM                  NUMBER OF  GOAL(S)

20-10 GOALS

  • SEVILLA                                             16
  • BARCELONA                                 14
  • MALAGA                                           13
  • GETAFE                                             13
  • ATLETICO MADRID                12
  • ATHLETIC BIBAO                      11
  • LEVANTE UD                                10
  • OSASUNA                                      10




  • CELTA VIGO                         9
  • REAL SOCIEDAD                9
  • VILLARREAL                          9
  • RAYO VALLECANO         8
  • VALENCIA CF                      8
  • AJAX AMSTERDAM        7
  • RCD MALLORCA               7
  • GALATASARAY                 6
  • REAL ZARAGOZA             6

5-1 GOAL(S)

  • ALMERIA                             5
  • GRANADA                          5
  • ESPANYOL                         4
  • MARSEILLE                        4
  • SCHALKE 04                      4
  • XEREZ CD                            4
  • COPENHAGEN                   3
  • CSKA MOSCOW              3
  • JUVENTUS                           3
  • REAL BETIS                         3
  • REAL VALLADOLD         3
  • APOEL NICOSIA             2
  • ELCHE                                   2
  • FC ZURICH                        2
  • HERCULES                          2
  • SPORTING GIJON            2
  • AC MILAN                            1
  • AUXXERE                             1
  • REAL MURCIA                   1
  • TENERIFE                             1

 Ronaldo and Kaka





  • 4 and above- 2 times
  • 3 goals(Hat trick)-20
  • 2 goals(Brace)- 47
  • 1 goal- 89 times

Take It Easy!





Thank You for reading. We hope you enjoyed it?

Questions of the Day

Do you think the Portuguese will one day be Real Madrid’s all time scorer?

Is it too early to hand over the Ballon d’Or to Cristiano Ronaldo?

 At his Presentation when He arrived






All Stats are correct as at the time of publishing.Thank You!