Catch Seventy7

Sports news and views, and other stuff in life…

Scout Report: Emmanuel Riviere (AS Saint Etienne)

Last time out the focus was Iker Munian, ‘the Spanish Messi’. This week the focus turns to Emmanuel Riviere, who his club hope will quickly become ‘the new Bafitembi Gomis’…

Taking centre stage: Circumstances have thrust Riviere to the fore at Stade Geoffrey Guichard

Position: Striker

Age: 19

Clubs: AS Saint-Etienne

While AS Saint-Etienne were understandably reluctant to sell star striker Bafetimbi Gomis to arch-rivals Olympique Lyonnais during the summer, there were a number of reasons that persuaded the club to relinquish their star player.

The first was the money — €13 million was a not inconsiderable sum, especially considering the striker’s poor form in the previous campaign. That form also contributed to the second reason — St. Etienne had only narrowly avoided relegation in 2009, and French international Gomis had consequently become unsettled. Perhaps the chance to cash in and rebuild was one worth taking.

The third reason perhaps sealed the deal. In Emmanuel Riviere, St. Etienne’s management believed they already had a player capable of quickly inheriting Gomis’ throne.

After all, Riviere had long been touted as a great prospect throughout France. Having grown up on the colony of Martinique, the young striker initially turned heads while making an appearance for his youth team in a national U14 tournament hosted by the world-renowned Clairefontaine academy.

Approached by a number of clubs, Riviere was happy to opt for the most successful in French history. Continue reading

Advertisements

November 24, 2009 Posted by | World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Great Gael Kakuta passes debut test as Chelsea start to dream of future glory

He has been one of the most talked-about young players in world football, for all the wrong reasons. But after an impressive 30-minute debut at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Gael Kakuta underlined exactly why Chelsea had sailed so close to the wind in order to obtain his signature…

We're flying: Kakuta soared at Stamford Bridge under intense pressure

No one can say they weren’t warned.

If anyone had missed the furore surrounding Gael Kakuta that overshadowed the early part Chelsea’s season, Carlo Ancelotti’s comments ahead of yesterday’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers added another reason why the Frenchman has become one of the most talked about young players in world football.

“He (Kakuta) is a very good talent. He is very young and he can be a player in the future of Chelsea with his quality,” Ancelotti said.

“His character is good, he is a quiet boy, and at that age I have never seen a player with this talent,” he revealed.

Coming from Ancelotti, that is some statement. The Italian has observed some fabulous players in his 30-year career in football.

The fact that Kakuta is the best 18-year-old he has ever seen — just last year he was working with another fabulous teenager, AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato — will only increase the expectation around the young winger.

But the France U19 international has already become used to that.

After all, in September he went from being just a highly regarded member of Chelsea’s reserve team to one of the most notorious players in the world.

With FIFA judging out of the blue that Chelsea had broken the rules in luring Kakuta from French club RC Lens as a 16-year-old, the west London club found themselves forbidden from making signings for two consecutive transfer windows.

Kakuta, portrayed in many places as one of the villains of the piece, was banned from competitive football for four months.

Mentally weaker players would have crumbled under the increased scrutiny. But after a brief period of panic, the club’s 2008 Scholar of the Year soon composed himself.

“I think Kakuta suffered for one or two weeks about the situation and then after that he was better,” Ancelotti said.

“He returned to being quiet and calm and stayed with us to train. Still now he is well.

“It was not so important to speak with him, it was important to train with him and he stayed with the first team in this period.” Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Uncategorized, World Football | , , , | 1 Comment

On the big stage, Thierry Henry failed to handle the high standards his career demanded

He’s always presented himself as the gentleman of world football, despite a couple of previously unsavoury episodes. But after manhandling Ireland out of the World Cup, will Thierry Henry ever again be able to match up to the standards demanded of great players?

Villain of the piece: Henry (c) will forever be remembered for events at Stade de France

It wasn’t the way to win a place at the World Cup, never mind lose one.

Nevertheless, Thierry Henry’s illegal intervention during a closely-fought World Cup play-off between France and Ireland was the decisive act in a tie that deserved much better.

From the player to the referee and even the sport, few came away from the night with any credit.

The valiant Irish players can hold their heads high—but that will be scant consolation considering the devastating manner of their defeat.

It was worse that the pivotal moment came in extra-time, after Robbie Keane had clawed Ireland back onto level terms after an admirable team performance.

With questions of offside in the build up to a free-kick being delivered into the box, Henry looked to have misjudged the ball’s flight—before his hands came to the rescue.

The first contact looked instinctive, with the French No. 12 arguably knowing little about it on a conscious level.

But the second touch with his still-outstretched left arm was clearly deliberate, and set the ball perfectly for him to then slip the ball past the onrushing Shay Given with the outside of his right boot.

William Gallas, barely a yard out, had the simplest of jobs in nodding the ball into the open net.

For some, the fact Henry wheeled away and celebrated the goal was the most distasteful aspect of the whole scenario.

If the incident itself suggested the Barcelona forward was a cheat, then the public way he enjoyed the moment certainly confirmed it.

With referee Martin Hansson turning down Irish players’ prolonged appeals for hand-ball, the goal stood and France held on to book their place in South Africa next summer.

After the game, unsurprisingly all discussion was focused on Henry. Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

David Beckham deserves 1000 caps if brings the World Cup back to England

Ever since he relinquished the captain’s armband  — and arguably even before then — David Beckham has been a divisive figure for observers of the England national team. Yet as his playing days draw to close, the current Los Angeles Galaxy star has the chance to achieve something no English footballer has ever managed…

Still the main man: Beckham's influence extends far beyond the football pitch

As happens without fail every four years, World Cup talk is dominating English football.

For the players in and around manager Fabio Capello’s national squad, the focus is on making the plane for South Africa next summer.

For those lucky enough to be all but guaranteed their seat — and there are a few — the focus is on launching a bid to win the big prize on the horizon.

For the Football Association, the situation is slightly different.

While the directors of English football’s governing body are still devoting considerable resources to give  Capello everything he needs to launch a strong challenge next summer, they are also focusing equal attention on launching a successful World Cup bid of their own.

Instead of 2010, the FA is looking to 2018, when they hope they can bring the World Cup back to England for the first time in 52 years.

When England hosted that last tournament, in 1966, Bobby Moore famously lead the Three Lions to their solitary triumph in the game’s biggest tournament.

And hopes are high that, after so many years of hurt, a return of the final to a new Wembley might yield the same famous old result.

That long wait to host, as well as England’s self-proclaimed status as the ‘home of football’ (something that has been deliberately underplayed during campaigning so as not to offend) would seem to give the bid more weight than that of its rivals.

Couple that with the fact it has an unrivalled collection of world-class stadiums and infrastructure to call upon, and, on paper at least, any bid from the sceptred isle would appear to be a winner.

But in many respects, England and the wider United Kingdom is not currently in the best of health. While many other European and world nations are slowly steering their ship clear of recession, the United Kingdom is still waging a seemingly losing battle with high unemployment and floundering industry. Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)

After Atletico goalkeeper David de Gea, we move across Spain to cast an eye (or even two) over the burgeoning buzz surrounding Athletic Bilbao’s slippery attacker Iker Muniain…

Feet of fury: Muniain has burst onto the scene in Spain

Feet of fury: Muniain (right) has burst onto the scene in Spain

Age: 16

Position: Left or right winger, second striker

Clubs: Athletic Club Bilbao

Bursting on to the scene to become the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history, diminutive Athletic Bilbao prodigy Iker Muniain immediately earned himself the moniker “the Spanish Messi”.

Such comparisions seem to be de rigueur for talented young footballers these days, even if Muniain’s record-breaking goal and ability to play on either wing might more accurately make him “the Spanish James Milner”.

Either way, the boy has some serious talent.

Just 16 and standing barely 5’5” tall, Muniain has nonetheless exploded on to the scene this season in a way that has major clubs across the globe sitting up and taking notice.

The well respected football website, IMScouting, said of Muniain, “it is clear that this young player is a true gem, a genius who is destined for stardom in the near future.” Such praise does not come lightly. Continue reading

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2010

It’s one of the most hotly anticipated head-to-heads in football, but it only comes around once a year. PES has the historical advantage, but in recent years FIFA has become the consensus top dog. What have the Konami boys got in store this time?

pes2010_e3_4

Claiming the title: But is PES 2010 really a return to former glories?

It’s been a tough time on next gen consoles for Konami’s once lauded Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. While PES 6 on the Playstation 2 was arguably the finest version of the game to date, sequels on the latest range of consoles have often failed to liveup to the hype.

What is more, their Canadian-based rivals at EA Sports have had no such troubles, with their previously mundane FIFA franchise going from strength-to-strength in recent years. FIFA 09 was arguably the first time in the history of the rivalry that the Wayne Rooney-backed game was better than the Fernando Torres’ preferred — will this year prove that to be a blip, or the state of things to come?

The good news, if Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka and his team will see it that way, is that on the whole PES 2010 is a superior game to FIFA 09. It’s the same joyful playing experience of old, with passes zipping around with ease and games never feeling the same.

Long range shooting, something that EA have never really managed to get to grips with, is the same blast it has always been. When the ball bobbles free outside the box, the sense of nervous excitement is palpable — anything could happen as the ball is fired goalward — and provides a tension that also contributes greatly to making multiplayer such a great experience.

There are areas for improvement, many that have long need some attention. The typical lack of licences will anger some more than others — especially as things seem to have regressed in recent years with La Liga no longer fully licensed. Goalkeepers are also the same erratic bunch of past versions, and consequently some otherwise good goals feel ‘cheap’ as replays highlight the ‘keeper’s woeful reflexes. Continue reading

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Reviews, Video Games | | Leave a comment

Scout Report: David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)

The focus shifts from attacking midfielder Javier Pastore to one of the most hotly tipped young goalkeepers in the world, Atletico Madrid prodigy (and Football Manager starlet) David de Gea.

strong_CONTRATO_strong_David_Gea

Full stretch: De Gea's physical attributes make him an imposing presence in goal

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 18

Clubs: Atletico Madrid

Life is never boring at Atletico Madrid. As Sid Lowe will undoubtedly tell you, there is almost no end to the drama the club is involved in — and usually of its own making.

After the departure of former No. 1 Leo Franco in the summer, Atletico were keen to find a suitable replacement to shore up their defence. With youngster David de Gea considered a huge talent by his coaches, many thought the club would opt for a short-term solution between the sticks.

But after signing Valladolid’s impressive stopper Sergio Asenjo, who many in Spain see as the heir to Iker Casillas, the club now finds itself with two outstanding young keepers who are set to fight over the No. 1 jersey for years to come.

Asenjo cost the club €5 million in the summer, and so unsurprisingly the 20-year-old quickly grabbed the starting role under then-coach Abel Resino. He is likely to keep his place under new main man Quique Flores, but already in his germinating Vicente Calderon career has been challenged by his emerging understudy.

After all, the 19-year-old, nearly 6’3” De Gea has all the physical attributes required of a top goalkeeper. He showed his shot-stopping skills on his debut, where he saved a penalty (that, admittedly, he gave away) in his side’s 2-1 win over Real Zaragoza.

“I made my debut in the Vicente Calderon, and I stopped a penalty,” De Gea said.

“This is a dream for me. We must continue improving from here. This win will allow us to enjoy a peaceful week.” Continue reading

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Sport, Uncategorized, World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Tom Brady gets the job done, but what next for the NFL International Series?

After another successful game on these shores, the NFL seems confident enough in the potential of the International Series to consider taking it to the next level. But, after a sizeable number of fans left Wembley early after the game was already won, is there really a next level to reach?

NFL_NE_TB_Wembley

Crowd pleaser: UK fans were once again drawn to the NFL's glitz and glamour, as Wembley once again played host

The third NFL International Series match at Wembley went with the form book, as quarterback star Tom Brady led his New England Patriots passed the much-maligned Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady’s three touchdown, 308-yard textbook performance was only blotted by two underthrown interceptions. But it was still more than enough for the Patriots to ease to a 37-7 win as Brady’s opposite number, Josh Johnson, struggled to keep pace.

The 22-year-old former fifth round pick threw an interception on just the Buccaneers’ third play of the day, an error that was returned for a touchdown by Pats cornerback Brandon Merriweather.

From then on, the 85,000 strong Wembley crowd knew the result was not in question.

A second interception from Johnson in his very next series allowed Brady to get away with an uncharacteristically slow start, and once the Pats’ considerable offence got rolling they regularly put points on the board.

Indeed, such was the one-sided nature of the game, both teams were able to change their quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. Brady was replaced by his understudy, Bryan Hoyler, after a solid day’s work had been done.

Johnson, on the other hand, was replaced by Josh Freeman, the organisation’s 2009 first round draft pick who head coach Raheem Morris has high hopes for. With Freeman considered the man for the future, Johnson might not get the starting job back when the Bucs return to action in two weeks’ time.

Few of the fans inside Wembley will spare much thought for the No. 11’s plight, however. It was Brady who was the game’s undoubted star attraction, and he said all the right things in the aftermath of a performance that satisfied the expectant crowd, if not quite blow them away.

“It was like a Super Bowl, all the flashbulbs going off and the fans waving their flags for the first five minutes of the game,” Brady said. Continue reading

October 27, 2009 Posted by | NFL, Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Tom Brady ready to live up to expectations at Wembley, as Tampa Bay fear the worst

The third iteration of the NFL’s experiment abroad continues on Sunday as another two teams venture to London for the International Series. 86,000 fans will be looking to one person — Tom Brady…

Focus of attention: Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Focus of attention: New England Patriots main man Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Tom Brady is coming off the back of one of the best weeks of his career as his New England Patriots travel to the country that resides in their name to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady threw a franchise record five touchdown passes in the second quarter (six overall) of the Patriot’s 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans, before being withdrawn in the third quarter with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Now he gets to fly across the Atlantic and show off his talent to a different, equally appreciative audience.

“I think this is a game we’ve been looking forward to since we heard we’d be flying across the Atlantic to play,” Brady said in an interview on Tuesday.

“It’s not often we fly east to play a game and to play in Wembley Stadium will be great – it’s as historic a stadium as there is in the entire world and all our team is very excited about that.

“This will be a game we’ll all remember for the next 40 or 50 years of our life so we just want to go out there and play at our best.”

Brady and Indianapolis Colts No. 18 Peyton Manning might be widely considered as the two greatest quarterbacks in the modern game, but Brady will have to perform at his illustrious best if he is to impress an English audience that witnessed two other fine exponents of the position last season. Continue reading

October 21, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: Javier Pastore (Palermo)

Last week it was Miralem Pjanic, who might well tear Liverpool apart in the Champions League. Now the focus falls on Javier Pastore, a South American arrival in Italy who looks set for big things…

Ready for lift-off: Pastore announced his arrival with Huracan last season

Ready for lift-off: Pastore (c) announced his arrival with Huracan last season

Position: Attacking midfielder

Age: 20

Clubs: Talleres de Colombia, Huracan, Palermo

Young attacking midfielder Javier Pastore is another in a long line of creative Argentinians to travel to Europe and ply their trade in Italy.

Pastore joined Palermo, capital city of Sicily, in the summer for a reported fee of $8 million, after a scintillating season in domestic football with surprise package Huracan. The 20-year-old was a vital cog as ‘el Globo’ made a valiant challenge for their first title in 35 years.

They eventually finished second behind Velez Sarsfield, but Pastore was nevertheless voted player of the season by the Argentinian sports daily Ole in what was an impressive individual campaign.

Courted by some of the giants of European football over the summer, including Manchester United and FC Porto, Pastore eventually decided to sign with Palermo, who had long been interested in the player. The move was complicated by the midfielder’s contract status — Huracan orchestrated their original move of Pastore from junior club Talleres de Colombia by selling 55% of the player’s economic rights to an investment group and leaving Talleres with the remaining 45% (the move was technically a long-term loan).

Many of the big clubs were put off by this situation, on that is becoming increasingly prevalent in South American football. But not Palermo, who believed the 6’2” attacker’s combination of agility, technical proficiency and creativity was worth spending a sizeable amount of to tie down to a five-year contract, one that should see him remain at the club until 2014. Continue reading

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 1 Comment