Dec 302014
 

Photo courtesy of @milanello

Milan 4-2 Real Madrid
Menez 23′, El Shaarawy 30′ 48′ Pazzini 73′

 

Some thoughts on the game from forum member ACMILAN1983:

Montolivo’s return has transformed the game. The side was lacking a leader in midfield, he’s provided it and has given a real impetus to the play.

El Shaarawy was outstanding. Two goals aside, his touches, workrate and general confidence was clear to see. His link up with Menez was also excellent.

Menez in recent weeks is showing performances of a true CF. I really wasn’t expecting this one, but since the Napoli match his performances have been consistent and generally he’s playing as a proper forward.

More on the game in the forum

Dec 202014
 

Adil Rami’s injury in last week’s game meant Cristian Zapata started. The first half featured little and even less in attack with what seemed like a conservative counter attacking plan fizzling long before any play started. Two less than half chances of the first half were long range shots by Honda and Philippe Mexes. Roma didn’t threaten all that much either but were the better team. A minor controversy was an apparent Nigel De Jong handball in the box as he rose to meet a cross. The second half started more encouragingly for Milan. Midway through it Pablo Armero got a second yellow for using his hand. A bit lucky that Alex had recovered from his injury and was available on the bench. He replaced Honda soon after the expulsion. Meanwhile Roma had made two positive changes and brought on Adem Ljajic and Mattia Destro for Alessandro Florenzi and Daniele De Rossi. The man advantage and the changes gave Roma more of the initiative. Not surprisingly the hosts had more chances and Diego Lopez made at least important save to preserve the point. In the end the game was more scrappy than attractive.

More match analysis in the forum at http://www.milanmania.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=893

Roma Milan

Dec 152014
 

Fans were perhaps right to wonder why Andrea Poli was getting a start. However Jeremy Menez gave something to celebrate early on. A passing play involving Riccardo Montolivo and Giacomo Bonaventura was finished off well by the Frenchman. The first half was otherwise ok. Early in the second half Bonaventura headed in a Pablo Armero cross to double the lead. As in the first goal the Napoli defence didn’t exactly enhance their reputation. Minutes later Adil Rami was subbed out due to injury but Milan played well and Diego Lopez did well when called upon.

A win and three potentially crucial points heading to Rome for the final match before the holiday break.

Read more about the game in the forums

MilanNapoli

Dec 072014
 

Riccardo Montolivo got his first start of the season after being a sub last game. The defense featured Daniele Boneera again and as feared he had a hand in Genoa’s first goal. A corner wasn’t well marked and Luca Antonelli headed into the corner of the net. The first half was otherwise uneventful with the final ball missing and not much in terms of execution. The second was no different, tactics and purpose seemed to be missing. Andrea Poli and Giampaolo Pazzini replaced Montolivo and Keisuke Honda and that didn’t make much of a difference. Later M’Baye Niang was a somewhat surprise sub for Stephan El Shaarawy. It seemed that Pippo Inzaghi ran out of options both literally and figuratively and just decided to throw the unused Niang. A poor game with all players underperforming … more about the game in its forum thread

Genoa Milan

 

Dec 062014
 

Many years ago as Michel Platini started up the ladder of European and World football first as coach then as organizer of World Cup 1998 many speculated and expressed positive hopes that Platini might eventually succeed Sepp Blatter at FIFA. Times passed and as history has recorded he decided against running for the FIFA job and instead ran against and replaced Lennart Johansson at UEFA. His image was and has remained a clean one, especially compared to the many tainted faces at FIFA and football federations the world. His promises as he campaigned for the UEFA job were inclusive and hinted at a bigger role or chance for Europe’s minnows or small nations. The Europa League was a rebrand of sorts early on and was met with indifference with most. It reshaped the previous UEFA Cup and was to be often dismissed as second class by sponsors, top coaches and teams.

Next, Platini led the charge for another set of changes. The first was the expansion of the European Championship to 24 teams. The World Cup had already shown the absurdity of having 24 teams as it involved third placed teams qualifying for later rounds in a less than obvious format. In UEFA’s case the format was not the only cause for negative reactions but the number itself meant that a hefty 44% (24/54) member teams qualified for a final tournament. A much too big a number that rendered the qualification process less meaningful and at first try in 2014 is already showing its effects with odd qualifying results.

All this was in line with Platini’s “inclusive” promise. He is giving smaller national teams more chances at the big match and participation in bigger events like the Euro finals itself.

Around the same time UEFA presented the idea of having a European Championship held in several countries. Turkey was close to grabbing hosting rights for the 2020 edition but complications and Platini came up with a spread up championship. One can presume an expanded tournament lowers the number of countries capable of hosting a tournament all by themselves therefore arguably that counts as another negative for a 24 team Euro. After all was said and done 13 venues were selected to stage matches and by football standards the list included a few from smaller hosts. Baku Azerbaijan being one example with it set to host a quarter final.

Fast forward to December 2014 and the latest idea truly deserves the confusing term. The UEFA Nations League is the latest reshape of national team calendar and the often maligned friendly fixtures.

In the UEFA Nations League the 54 UEFA members will be divided into groups or divisions based on recent results to play each other on international friendly dates. The complication starts when the format is to be explained, it is as follows and the first edition starts in September 2018:

  • Countries are divided into 4 divisions – 12 teams, 12 teams, 14 teams, 16 teams – with the top countries in group A.
  • Each division will be divided into four pools of three or four therefore each team will play four or six matches within their pool and division.
  • There will be a relegation and promotion between divisions.
  • The games will run from September to November and a final four in June of the following year to determine a winner.
  • There will be an incentive as teams doing well here will be involved in a playoffs for four spots in the European Championships (starting with Euro 2020), one team from each division will qualify for the Euros.

It is perhaps best to just look at the graphic below!

UEFA Nations League

The format of the UEFA Nations League

The fixture list is full with the clubs being most responsible for providing no meaningful rest to players who in turn get burnt out and injured more easily. UEFA, led by Platini, has added layers of confusing formats and competitions which while not without a beneficiary – the aforementioned smaller teams for example – are not helping keep the simple game as beautiful as it has been.

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