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Article, Featured, Football, Sports

Featured: Kant-Grip-Iniesta.

Article by Siddharth Bhatnagar

N’Golo Kante has been labelled ‘redundant’ after the Chelsea star struggled to get to grips with Spain’s midfield in France’s 2-0 defeat on Tuesday evening.

David Silva’s penalty and Gerard Deulofeu’s strike secured victory at the Stade de France, while Antoine Griezmann had a goal ruled out after intervention from the new video assistant referee. Kante, meanwhile, showed no signs of slowing up with his incredible work rate, but Chelsea’s midfielder was outclassed by Barcelona duo Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. Kante’s ineffectiveness was highlighted in the second goal as Busquets’ superb pirouette triggered Spain’s attack, leaving the Frenchman chasing shadows for the rest of the move.

“Kante is the best player in the Premier League at the moment and yet Spain aren’t giving him a moment. He’s redundant today”, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince told the press.

“Iniesta is magical to watch, it’s a pleasure to see him play. He’s pulling the strings.”, Ince added.

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Article, Featured, Football, Sports

Featured: GoodBye Poldi!

Article by Tanmay Bhatnagar

While it has generally served Podolski well to have so simple a modus operandi, this approach is also distinctly limited. While he has rarely been short of goals in his career, and has notched some spectacular strikes along the way, true greatness in the modern game requires proficiency in more than one field. Compare Podolski at club and international level to the likes of Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose and perhaps even someone like Mario Gomez, and his all-round contribution on the pitch lags behind in several areas. That doesn’t quite explain how, barring Klose, Podolski has made more appearances and scored more goals than any of them, and indeed many of Die Mannschaft’s all-time greats.

When assessing how Podolski has achieved legend status with Germany, one has to make a stark distinction between his club contributions and his showings for the national team. One of the great contradictions of his career is that, while he has often underachieved at club level, Podolski has almost always been able to step things up on the international stage. For most players, it is the other way around, with many struggling psychologically with the pressures and emotions of representing their country, even if their domestic form is fantastic. Likewise, it is rare that a footballer plays a bit part for his club but nonetheless continues to be selected for his national team, considering that domestic form is one of the most important criteria on which selection is judged.

With Podolski, however, it seems that the normal rules of football do not apply. When he makes his final appearance for Germany on Wednesday evening – starting the game as captain for the first time as they take on England at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund – he will win his 130th cap for Die Mannschaft, well ahead of several acclaimed contemporaries including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm. One does not make this many appearances for Germany without huge talent and in-game intelligence, nor does one score more goals than Jurgen Klinsmann, Rudi Völler and Karl Heinz-Rummenigge as little more than a one-trick pony. Nonetheless, in the time that Podolski has earned this distinguished international record – and won the World Cup, let’s not forget – he has also floundered at several clubs, not least Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Inter Milan.

This unusual state of affairs can in part be put down to coaching and management. Podolski has a famously good relationship with Germany boss Joachim Löw, who ahead of Wednesday’s match in Dortmund has hailed the 31-year-old as “one of the greatest players ever to come out of Germany.” There is another contradiction here in that Podolski was actually born in Gliwice, Poland, and was supposedly keen to play for his country of birth until he was overlooked in his breakthrough season by then-coach Pawel Janas. Germany snapped him up in the meantime, and he has been coached by Löw one way or another in the entire 13 years since making his senior international bow. For anyone who has watched and compared Podolski’s performances for club and country, is it clear that Löw gets something extra out of him that other managers struggle to provoke.

Podolski was never going to become the ideal German footballer, but he somehow managed to find something more for the national team than he did for his club sides, barring perhaps his beloved Köln. Over the course of his first half decade with Die Mannschaft, Löw deployed him as a winger, a forward and a left midfielder, and Podolski showed a versatility for his country which he was accused of lacking first at Bayern, then throughout his time with Arsenal and during his barren loan spell in Milan. Again, this suggests that rather than being inherently limited, Podolski was always able to adapt his game with the right sort of communication and instruction. Joachim Löw understood this better than Podolski’s club coaches, and so the Germany boss found a more complete solution to the conundrum of harnessing Podolski’s skills.

That said, there are other contradictory elements of Podolski’s career that make him seem like a genuine enigma. His positional issues at club level were strange and inconsistent, especially considering that he showed with Germany that he could, in theory, do it all. During two successful spells with Köln he thrived as a star striker, but when he moved to Arsenal he struggled as an out-and-out forward, even after several attempts to cultivate this position for him. Having arrived in the aftermath of the departure of Robin van Persie, many fans thought Podolski would be a more natural successor than Olivier Giroud. Strangely, though, Podolski made very little impact up front, and so found himself shunted out to the left wing where – despite his decent goal return – he struggled with his defensive duties and often found himself in a peripheral role.

One might put this down to divergent tactical systems, or some arbitrary difference in pace and physicality between the Bundesliga and the Premier League. In reality, it was hard to put one’s finger on precisely what Podolski’s problem was, and why exactly he failed to excel. Some said he was too slow, but so fundamental a shortcoming would surely have hampered him at international level (incidentally, he also holds the record for the fastest goal ever scored by the German national team). Some claimed that he wasn’t visible enough, but would inevitably find themselves eating their words when he proceeded to score a box-office volley or a jaw-dropping goal from long range. Some decided that he had neither the concentration nor the application required to kick on, which seemed exceedingly harsh for a player who was deemed good enough to earn transfers to such high-profile clubs. There was perhaps a kernel of truth in this, however, in that international tournaments require rather less stamina than a full domestic season, and certainly during Podolski’s time at Arsenal his fitness was not the best.

Whatever the true source of Podolski’s intermittent club struggles, the contradictions do not end there. Having come through the youth ranks at FC Köln and grown up in the city, Podolski has often used his time off to return to the Rhineland and regularly professes his love for the area. In that sense he is of a homely disposition, and yet he is also an intrepid internationalist who has played in England, Italy and Turkey with Galatasaray, this at a time when many of his Germany teammates have been more than happy to stay in the Bundesliga. Having just finished his spell in Istanbul, he is now set for a transfer to Japan to play for J-League side Vissel Kobe. The cultural difference will no doubt represent a formidable challenge for Podolski to overcome, but his willingness to take on that challenge hardly seems characteristic of a man who lacks intuition, versatility or brains.

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Article, Featured, Football, Sports

Featured: Zizou-venated.

Article by Mudit Vashistha

It has been a happy year- a very happy one. He took over at Real Madrid exactly 12 months ago and, short of winning the league, he achieved everything he set out to by lifting the European Cup and the Club World Cup, breaking the record for consecutive games without defeat, taking the team to the top of La Liga, nicking a point off of Barcelona in El Clasico and generally bringing calm and harmony to a dressing room that was anything but when Rafa Benitez was in charge.

The most impressive thing about Zidane’s year is that no one really expected it. The whispers around the club last January were that for all his ability as a player Zidane just wasn’t cut out to be a coach. His training sessions were routine and likely to bore top players. He was unable to impact on games once the first whistle had been blown and while his past record inspired, nothing much of what he said had anywhere near the same effect.

None of that has been born out by the passing of time. There have been dips. Real were shaky when he first took over and a 1-0 home defeat by Atletico Madrid at the end of February suggested all the doubters had been right. The sight of players jogging back towards their own goal as Diego Simeone‘s side stormed forward to score the only goal of the game smacked of a side not responding to their new coach but two of the slackers from that city derby, Isco and James Rodriguez, suddenly found themselves out of favour as younger keener players such as Lucas Vazquez– who has since made it into the Spain squad– took their places.

Much of what Zidane did towards the end of last season, his predecessor Benitez had tried to do. The current Newcastle manager was also partisan to playing the lively Vazquez instead of the occasionally pedestrian James and he believed Madrid operated more smoothly with holding midfielder Casemiro in the team but whereas Benitez’s attempts to drop big name players to make room for some worker ants were met with resistance by the powers that be, Zidane was given free reign. Who was going to argue with one of the greatest players in the club’s history? No one.

Zidane brought in Antonio Pintus from Lyon and the fitness coach he had worked with at Juventus has played a big part in getting the players right physically. Team spirit has also been helped by a rare summer when there were no big-name signings to assimilate– just a series of bumper new contracts for existing players and Zidane has worked squad rotation to great effect, convincing Cristiano Ronaldo he needs to rest from time to time and giving enough minutes to all players meaning that, with the possible exception of James and Isco, every member of the squad is happy.

It’s true that Real still rely heavily on heroic comebacks and last-minute goals; they don’t dominate games and often switch off for periods in matches allowing their opponents to take control and despite the record and last season’s Champions League success, the football has not always been brilliant but the long winning run and the trophy successes are hard to argue with. It may also be the case that a super coach in the Jose MourinhoPep Guardiola mould is not what Real Madrid need anyway as the team is doing fairly well in the different competitions.

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Article, Football, Sports, Video

#250NEY.

I could remember watching him back then as a teenager, who signed from Everton FC; scoring a hat-trick on his debut. Lot of teenagers and academy players score ‘n’ number of goals in the early stages if their careers or even better, on their debut in the apex order of the ‘Beautiful Game‘ and start their journey with a bang.

An aggressive, goal-hungry teenage Scouser at the World’s best club was surely the talking point back then; tearing apart the Fenerbahçe S.K. back line on his competitive debut. A fine example of hunger, confidence and ambition being orchestrated to the finest detail by the greatest mentor anyone could ever have, Sir Alex Ferguson; resulted in the birth of Wayne Mark Rooney.

 

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