Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

FIFA: Messi seals yet another Ballon d’Or

Lionel Messi, seen here with the 2010 award, has won FIFA’s Ballon d’Or for 2012

The 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony has been held in Zurich with the undoubted star of the show once again being FC Barcelona and Argentina sensation Lionel Messi. He has picked up FIFA’s top award for individual footballers for the third consecutive year since FIFA’s World Player of the year and France Football’s Ballon d’Or awards merged in 2010, and his fourth overall.

The 25 year old has already achieved more in his career than most players would ever dream of but the personal accolades still keep rolling in for a player whose setting of a new record for scoring the most goals in a calendar year has grabbed lots of headlines despite the relative lack of success for his club side in 2012. Messi, with 41.6% of the vote, beat off challenges from Real Madrid’s Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (23.68%) and FC Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta (10.91%).

FIFA’s Manager of the Year went to Vicente del Bosque, the UEFA European Championship winning coach of the Spanish national team having secured 34.51% of the vote which put him ahead of Real Madrid’s José Mourinho (20.49%) and former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola (12.91%)

In the women’s game top honours went to Abby Wambach, the American thoroughly deserving the accolade following a year in which her goals helped secure the Olympic gold medal for the USA women’s team in London. She won with a 20.67% share of the vote putting her ahead of five-time former winner Marta (13.5%) and compatriot Alex Morgan (10.87%). Coach of the Year went to Pia Sundhage, the Swede having led the United States Women’s national team to their gold medal, with 28.59% of the vote compared to challengers Norio Sasaki (23.83%) and Bruno Bini (9.02%).

FIFA’s Ferenc Puskas award, which goes to the scorer of the goal adjudged to have been the best, went to Miroslav Stoch for his goal against Gençlerbirliği in a Turkish Super League match (see below). He beat off competition from Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao and Brazilian hot shot Neymar, the winner of last year’s award in this category.

FIFA’s Presidential Award, a sort of lifetime achievement award given to an individual, team or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the game, was given to German football legend Franz Beckenbauer. “Der Kaiser” won everything there was to win in the game with FC Bayern München and the German national team and has played a vital role as a coach and as a football ambassador since he gave up his playing career in the early 1980s. The Fair Play award went to the Uzbekistan Football Association whose record in terms of fair play on the field has been exemplary throughout the last twelve months.

Finally, the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for 2012 was announced. This team is voted for by users of the FIFA website:

Iker Casillas (Goalkeeper); Dani Alves, Marcelo, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos (Defence); Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez (Midfield); Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao (Attack)

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Stoppage Time 2012 Player of the Year is Lionel Messi

Posted in European Football, International Football, South America Football by peterbein on December 31, 2012

Stoppage Time’s Player of the Year award could only go to one player, a player who surpasses all expectations of him with each and every passing year. It will be no surprise to see that FC Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi has won the award in a year in which he may not have achieved as much as usual with his club side (Barcelona ‘only’ won the Copa del Rey in 2012) but in which the man himself has created a piece of footballing history by beating the record for the most number of goals scored in a calendar year.

Former FC Bayern München and West Germany international striker Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year had stood since 1972 but was beaten by a stunning total of 91 goals this year by Messi whose individual exploits continually make people wonder just how much better he can become. Is there a chance that the maestro can become the first centurion in the future? One certainly wouldn’t bet against it and with FC Barcelona already a full nine points ahead of nearest challengers Atlético de Madrid in the 2012-13 La Liga title race, and a remarkable sixteen ahead of defending champions Real Madrid CF, could the ease of the current season help Messi achieve even more greatness in 2013? We certainly can’t wait to find out but, in the meantime, check out each and every one of the 91 goals which he scored in 2012.

Messi helps Argentina see off Brazil in seven goal thriller

Posted in International Football, South America Football by peterbein on June 10, 2012

The UEFA European Championships have started in earnest but on the other side of the Atlantic there was only one match that mattered this weekend. The two giants of South American football, Argentina and Brazil, met in a friendly match in New Jersey and thrilled the capacity crowd of 80,000 with seven goals and some stunning football.

The game was a topsy-turvy affair with both teams taking turns to hold on to the lead. Brazil went 1-0 up in the 23rd minute through Vasco da Gama midfielder Romulo only for Lionel Messi to turn the game on its head by the 37th minute with two expertly taken goals. The Brazilians hit back after half-time with Internacional midfielder Oscar and Chelsea transfer target Hulk giving the Seleção a 3-2 lead with a little under a twenty minutes of the match remaining. That, however, was still enough for Federico Fernández to restore parity in the 78th minute before the irreplaceable Messi stunned the crowd with a beautifully struck goal with five minutes remaining to give the Albiceleste the win in an entertaining game.

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FIFA: Messi tops the FIFA awards yet again in 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by peterbein on January 10, 2012
Homare Sawa and Lionel Messi

Homare Sawa and Lionel Messi won the Women's and Men's Player of the Year awards last night

FIFA’s annual awards ceremony took place in Zurich last night and there weren’t too many surprises as to who would come top of the main awards of the evening.

It was obvious to all of the world and his dog that Lionel Messi would come to win the Player of the Year award in 2011 following yet another truly successful twelve months with his club FC Barcelona. The Ballon D’or award will adorn his mantelpiece for the third year in a row but it could easily have gone to any of his club colleagues Xavi or Andres Iniesta due to their consistency, as well as Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo who was conspicuous by his absence at last night’s ceremony. However Messi topped the poll once more due to his amazing ability to stand out in one of football’s greatest ever club sides. His recent performances in this season’s El Clasico against Real Madrid and FIFA Club World Cup final against Santos FC have put to bed the recent question as to who is the best player in the world with Messi getting the better of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar respectively in those games.

A repeat of the historic sextuple triumph of 2009 was almost replicated but for the head of Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2010-11 Cope del Rey final which deprived Barcelona of one trophy last year. Nonetheless the 2010-11 league title was won with an astonishing total of 96 points, four ahead of Madrid, and the UEFA Champions League win was the club’s third in five years. Wins in both the Spanish and European Super Cups at the start of the 2011-12 season took Barcelona’s haul of trophies to four for the calendar year before December’s triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup, which culminated in a 4-0 pasting for South American champions Santos FC in the final, meant that five out of six had been achieved and cemented the club’s recent dominance in world football. On a similar theme the Manager of the Year award went to Pep Guardiola who, three years after taking the job at the Camp Nou, shows that he is still as hungry for success as ever and has raised the bar of how football should and can be played. Upon receiving the award Guardiola said that he would like to share the award with his two challengers for the prize, namely Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson would admit himself that what is happening at FC Barcelona at the moment means that they should grasp the limelight but, outside of Catalonia, Ferguson is still going strong at Old Trafford and showing no signs of slowing down. His continuing exploits at the top of the English and European game saw him recognized by FIFA last night with a special Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year saw Sir Alex win his twelfth Premier League title with Manchester United, which was the club’s 19th English league title overall and saw them overtake Liverpool FC’s total of 18 which had been an English record for over three decades. Although the 2010-11 season wasn’t the most dominant title win during his reign, Sir Alex has at least set the ball rolling for another potential era of sustained success and his charges currently lie second in the English Premier League table three points behind arch rivals Manchester City who they knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend. In a year in which Ferguson was recognized by all and sundry in the football world for the remarkable contribution he has made to football during his 25 years at Old Trafford his peers at the club invoked the most perfect of tributes by renaming the North Stand in his honour and has now been similarly held in high esteem by world football’s governing body.

Sir Alex’s club Manchester United saw two of their players reach the FIFPro World XI in the shape of Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney. The latter was denied the Ferenc Puskas prize for the goal of the year with the prize going to Santos FC and Brazil wunderkind Neymar (see goal below). Neymar didn’t get into the World XI this time but surely his time will come whilst this year nine out of the eleven players came from either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid. Finally the FIFA Fair Play award went to the country of Japan which having started off the year in tragic circumstances following two natural disasters in the form of an earthquake and subsequent flooding, the country paraded itself on the world stage in the eyes of football fans everywhere with the men’s team winning the 2011 AFC Asian Cup whilst the women’s team became 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions from which Homare Sawa stood out to win the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award.

FIFPro WORLD XI 2011

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) – Daniel Alves, Gerard Pique (both FC Barcelona), Nemaja Vidic (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) – Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Lionel Messi (all FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid) – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

NEYMAR’S GOAL OF THE YEAR 2011

Video: Messi’s goals of 2011-12 in two minutes

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 23, 2011

Every so often comes a video which you have to sit and watch and it’s a shame that the following video crams in Lionel Messi’s goals of the 2011-12 season so far in such a short space of time. Nevertheless I thought it a good choice to include on here as it will no doubt prove popular with many people to see the world’s greatest footballer doing what he does best. Enjoy!

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FIFA: Barça outclass Santos to win world title; Al Sadd come third

Posted in Asian Football, European Football, South America Football by peterbein on December 18, 2011

FIFA Club World CupIt may not have been the most difficult challenge that FC Barcelona would have to face in their quest to become FIFA Club World Cup winners. That, however, did not dampen the celebrations as the Spanish and European champions strolled their way past a poor Santos FC team courtesy of a 4-0 victory.

The game was over bar the shouting after the first 45 minutes of the game were played following strikes from Lionel Messi and Xavi, both of whom would go on to win the Golden and Silver balls as the best two players of the tournament after the game, and Cesc Fabregas who helped himself to their third goal on the stroke of half time.

Santos showed slightly more ambition in the second half after being overwhelmed in the first but chances from Neymar and Borges went begging. With eight minutes of the game remaining Barça sealed the deal once and for all after Dani Alves set up Messi for his second goal of the game to complete the rout. South American champions Santos FC were never in the game from the first kick and precocious teenager Neymar found out, just like Cristiano Ronaldo had done a week earlier, that Messi is still the main man on the big occasion.

FC Barcelona’s victory was their second triumph in this competition following their maiden win over Estudiantes de La Plata in 2009. Earlier in the day Asian Champions League winners Al Sadd had claimed third place in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup having got the better of this year’s J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol by virtue of a 5-3 win in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless ninety minutes.

World: Classic rivalries sign off the international year

Posted in International Football by peterbein on November 18, 2010
Spain v Portugal

Portugal and Spain met again on Wednesday in a repeat of their 2010 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match

Three of the great football rivalries finished off what has been an eventful year in international football. Spain, FIFA World Cup winners in 2010, had a short trip next door to Portugal, the team they knocked out of the world’s greatest football tournament at the Round of 16 stage and the country with whom they aspire to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. England, another potential host of the 2018 tournament, wanted to keep up their unbeaten record since South Africa with a home victory against a France side crossing the English Channel with a renewed confidence under new coach Laurent Blanc. The biggest game of them all took place in the unfamiliar surroundings of Doha with South American giants Argentina and Brazil clashing in the capital of Qatar in an exhibition match which the hosts hope showed off their credentials for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored the winner for Argentina

If truth be told the game between South America’s two biggest football nations failed to live up to expectations. Perhaps the lack of the usual passion from the stands whenever these two great teams meet had something to do with the performances of both teams being somewhat lacklustre, or maybe it was something to do with the players not wishing to overexert themselves just a few days before they go back to their club sides in order to resume domestic league action. In any case chances were few and far between but there was one outstanding highlight which proved to be the difference between the teams. With the game having entered second half stoppage time Lionel Messi picked up the ball on the halfway line and performed a give and go with substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi. He promptly fed Messi with a return ball with which the Barcelona star sped towards the Brazil penalty area and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area. The ball squeezed in past goalkeeper Victor and gave Argentina their first win over Brazil since 2005.

In the two all-European affairs there were plenty of goals and lots of experimentation. All of the four teams involved had their fair share of new caps or young players been given a chance to prove their worth in the last friendly matches of the year. At Wembley Stadium the French national team looked a class apart from their English hosts for much of the game and when Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena had given Les Bleus a 2-0 lead the writing was on the wall for the Three Lions. Substitute Peter Crouch did come on to restore some pride as he scored a late consolation goal but Laurent Blanc’s French side did him proud as he tries to restore former glories. England coach Fabio Capello, on the other hand, is increasingly coming under pressure as his stock seems to fall with each inadequate England performance.

For the European and World champion Spanish team there was a shock in store as old foes Portugal, who the Spanish knocked out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, gained some revenge with a 4-0 thrashing of their Iberian neighbours. Carlos Martins gave the hosts the lead right on the brink of half-time and the Portuguese carried on where they left off early in the second with Helder Postiga scoring twice in the 49th and 68th minutes. A late stoppage time goal from Hugo Almeida sealed the deal for Portugal and allowed them to accept the cheers of the home crowd who have not had a lot to shout about in recent months. For the Spanish the friendly result was merely a blip but at least they have played their part in what has been an exciting year in international football.

El Gran Clásico: Barça regain advantage over Real Madrid

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 11, 2010
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored the first goal in FC Barcelona's 2-0 win at title rivals Real Madrid

The game didn’t quite manage to live up to the hype but it still provided an important outcome as FC Barcelona won the latest version of “El Gran Clásico” with a 2-0 victory away at eternal rivals Real Madrid CF thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Pedro either side of half-time. The win gives Barça a three point lead at the top of La Liga with seven matches left to play and although the title is far from over the Catalans do have the psychological advantage of having the better head-to-head record over Los Blancos having won both encounters against Real Madrid this season. Those results will decide the title in the event of both teams finishing level on points this season.

Although the headlines will be dominated by Messi’s contribution more credit should be given to the role played by Xavi Hernández who further cemented his position as one of the world’s great playmakers, whose distribution in this encounter was as near to faultless as it could get. His beautifully timed chip over to Messi in the 33rd minute allowed the Argentinian superstar to control the ball on his chest before steering it past Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas from just in front of goal. The home side had the chance to equalize not long after but Xabi Alonso could only manage to head over the bar from close range when the goal was at his mercy. Despite the statistics showing that Real Madrid had the most chances in the first half FC Barcelona were far from troubled in a game which they controlled with their superior possession and strong defence. The game was practically over as a contest when Xavi (who else?) provided the killer pass to Pedro which the young starlet beautifully shot low past Casillas in the 56th minute to double Barça’s lead. Having scored in every competition in FC Barcelona’s sextuple winning year Pedro has now also scored his first goal in “El Gran Clásico”, a record that any player would love to have at the end of his career, never mind a 22 year old.

At this point Real Madrid decided that they needed to attack and, for a while, they did create a couple of chances but the ever-improving Barcelona custodian Victor Valdes was comfortably controlling everything that Real threw at him, whether it be crosses into the box or shots from long range. Even Real Madrid’s £80 million (€94m) signing Cristiano Ronaldo was easily shut out by the Barcelona rearguard. His trademark free-kicks failed to trouble the keeper or the wall in front of him and his impact on the game was limited. As Real Madrid chased the game their opponents were able to soak up any pressure and hit the home side on the counter attack. Xavi provided Lionel Messi twice in the last twenty minutes of the game with a pair of fantastic opportunities which Messi should’ve scored but for some good goalkeeping by Spain’s numer one Casillas. Very late in the game it looked like Real Madrid’s talisman Raul had finally provided them with a lifeline but his goal was chalked off becuase of a handball by substitute Karim Benzema, a decision the Frenchman was seen to clearly disagree with by gesturing at the linesman. At the end of the game there were just four hundred people within the capacity 80.000 crowd who were celebrating up in the heavens of Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium as FC Barcelona had secured the win which takes them one step closer to a 20th Spanish league title.

FIFA Club World Cup Review

FC Barcelona

At the third time of asking FC Barcelona become World Club champions

It was a case of third time lucky for FC Barcelona as they sealed their maiden triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Their opponents, Copa Libertadores champions Estudiantes de La Plata, were so close to winning the trophy themselves after leading the contest for so long. However the Catalans rounded off the final leg of an unprecedented “grand slam” of trophies by scoring late in reglaur time and rounding off the game in extra-time.

The first half of the game started with no real flow due to the number of fouls being committed on both sides. The first thirty minutes saw few real chances and it resembled the proverbial game of chess. However the deadlock was broken on 37 minutes as Mauro Boselli headed in a Juan Manual Diaz cross from the left to give “los Pincharatas” a 1-0 lead and they saw this lead through to half-time.

In the second half Estudiantes seemed determined to hold on to their lead allowing the European champions as much time and possession as they wished, with the Argentines hoping to break on the counter attack. For so long the rugged Estudiantes defence kept wave after wave of “Barça” attacks out of reach and their defensive tactics appeared to be paying off. However the breakthrough for Barcelona came very late. In the 88th minute Pedro managed to loop a header over goalkeeper Albil into the top right hand corner and the hoardes of Barcelona fans in the stadium were ecstatic.

Barcelona started the extra-time period in much the same fashion as they’d ended the regulation period. Ibrahimovic and Toure had shots blocked in the first period of fifteen minutes. It wasn’t until five minutes into the second half of extra-time until Lionel Messi was able to pop up with the game’s decisive moment. Dani Alves’ right sided cross was chested home by the Argentine superstar from close range and the Catalans could sense that their day had finally come after two previous disappointments in Club World Cup finals.

The excitement wasn’t quite over as an urgent Estudiantes side finally found some forward momentum to try and take the game into penalties. A free kick was won in the last minute of extra-time and Estudiantes had everybody in the penalty area including goalkeeper Albil. However Juan Sebastian Veron’s free-kick was headed just wide by defender Leandro Desabato and the last chance for Veron Jr. to emulate his father’s achievement of 1968 (see “FIFA Club World Cup – Preview” blog) was over. The final whistle was blown and Barcelona’s fans were rejoicing the completion of an unprecedented sextet of trophies: Spanish League, Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup, Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup. In a little under eighteen months Barça coach Pep Guardiola, already much decorated as a player, had won everything there was to win as a coach. Already in his fledgling managerial career he will go down as one of the legends of the game for this remarkable achievement.

In the other two matches played to close the tournament Asian champions Pohang Steelers clinched third place beating North/Central American champions Atlante CF 4-3 on penalties after the game had finished 1-1 after 90 minutes (no extra-time in this contest). The South Koreans’ success means that the Asian representatives have finished third in the last three tournaments (Urawa Red Diamonds and Gamba Osaka also finished third in 2007 and 2008 resepectively). In the fifth/sixth place play-off, played on Wednesday December 16th, Oceania’s Auckland City continued their dream tournament by beating African champions TP Mazembe 3-2 securing the win with a last minute winner from Riki van Steeden. This ensured the best ever performance by an Oceanian team in the tournament’s history.

“Big Two” qualify for FIFA Club World Cup final

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic started for Barcelona in their semi-final against Atlante of Mexico

The FIFA Club World Cup is well under way now in the United Arab Emirates and, as expected, there will be a showdown between European champions FC Barcelona and their South American equivalents Estudiantes de la Plata on Saturday, December 19th. Stoppage Time looks at the tournament so far.

The tournament kicked off in Abu Dhabi with the Oceania representatives Auckland City FC, who had previously participated in this tournament in 2006, winning the first match against host team Al Ahli FC 2-0 thanks to goals from Adam Dickinson and Chad Coombes. Thanks to that win the New Zealanders had already achieved their main goal which was to qualify for the quarter-finals, in which they played against North/Central America champions Atlante CF (Mexico). Alas they were unable to progress any further as the Mexicans cruised into the semi-finals winning the game 3-0 due to strikes from Daniel Arreola, Christian Bermudez and Lucas Silva. In the other quarter-final it was a Brazilian who helped Asian champions Pohang Steelers (South Korea) overcome a half-time deficit as Denilson’s two second half goals helped see off the challenge from African Champions League winners TP Mazembe (Congo DR) in a close match 2-1.

The big two of the tournament entered at the semi-final stage. First to play were Estudiantes (Argentina) against Pohang Steelers. Although the Argentines enjoyed twice the amount of possession and had nearly three times as many shots at goal as their opponents they were made to work hard by a Pohang side that were tough to break down. Leandro Benitez scored two minutes into first half stoppage time to give “the Students” the advantage at half-time and followed that with his second goal eight minutes into the second half. It was the Koreans’ own South American influence that brought them back into the game when Denilson pulled one back after 71 minutes. However their discipline, or lack of it, proved their undoing as they had three players sent off the pitch. Two of the players, Kim Jae Sung and goalkeeper Shin Hwa Yong, were sent off in the final eighteen minutes of the game and the numerical advantage allowed Estudiantes to cross the line in comfortable fashion and into their fourth Club World Cup final.

Barcelona’s campaign started with a tougher challenge against Atlante CF just four days after they had won their local derby against Espanyol 1-0 in La Liga. The scorer in the derby, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was among the starters for Barça while Lionel Messi, newly crowned European Footballer of the Year winner, was on the substitutes’ bench. However the Mexicans hadn’t come to the Middle East to make up the numbers and they stunned their more illustrious opponents early on thanks to a Guillermo Rojas goal after five minutes. The game ebbed and flowed for the next thirty minutes until Barcelona equalized thanks to a Sergio Busquets strike and the half finished 1-1. However the second half was to be dominated by the “Blaugrana” as Pep Guardiola’s 52nd minute substitution bringing on Lionel Messi for Yaya Toure, proved a masterstroke as the little Argentine made an immediate impact, rounding the keeper to make it 2-1 on 55 minutes. From here the “Blaugrana” began to take charge and they were further rewarded on 67 minutes when some good work by Andres Iniesta was turned home by Pedro from close range making the score 3-1. The remainder of the game was played almost as a Barcelona training session as Atlante failed to trouble the scoresheet any further and it was the giants from Catalonia who sealed their place in Sunday’s final, their third final since 1992, against Estudiantes de la Plata.