ten words or less #49

Today’s the first official day of Spring, even though the season actually arrived weeks ago in Ohio (and the world in general… global warming, anyone?). But despite the onset of warmer temperatures and all the benefits that come with them, I’m still having mixed feelings.

soccer fields in the springtime

spring's warmer temperatures mean soccer in the states will finally ends its long winter hibernation.

On one hand, I’m thoroughly looking forward to my Sunday outdoor league starting in the next few weeks. On the other hand, I’m not in nearly good enough shape to make the move to the larger pitch and the additional running it requires. Just the same, while I’m really looking forward to writing about the increased amounts of footie we get to see with the arrival of warmer temperatures in the US and congested fixture lists in Europe, the warmer weather also means that a sizable chunk of my normal writing time will now be consumed by lawn and garden maintenance. The joys of being a full-fledged grown up, right?

So to keep you distracted from your own Spring time obligations, I figured I could pump out a quick TWOL with ten of my favorite links from the last week or so.

Okay, maybe Orlando isn’t so bad a pick for MLS. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Turkey’s Eskisehirspor: the spiritual home of 4chan/Reddit trolls. – dirtytackle.net

Worried that you’re a football fan hipster? Diagnose yourself here. – thefcf.co.uk

Barcelona’s purported ulterior motive: aiding Syrian rebels with arms smuggling.
– theoffside.com

Ganso’s got the vision. – ojogobonito.net

Tottenham and Arsenal have a lot in common this summer. – soccernet.com

My Spurs match-day routine, as seen on The Fighting Cock. – thefightingcock.co.uk

Where oh where will Rolfey end up? – mlssoccer.com

England’s National Training Ground… bloody brilliant. – youtube.com

Digging the “mango” colorway on the new Vapor 8’s. – soccerbible.com

wrong side XI: holding center mid

this is part VII in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

three spaniards, a turk and an italian battle it out for my midfield maestro role.

Since we’ve already talked about the two positions I’ve played for most of my life (wing back and center back), I figured it would be best to start off the midfield lists with the position I always wanted to play growing up: holding central midfield.

Why did I want to be the holding mid? Because that player always seemed to be involved. Whether my team had the ball or not, they looked like they were in the run of play. I jokingly labeled the position “rover” because whoever played there appeared to be allowed to rove the entire pitch. I was always so jealous of that freedom and responsibility.

And though I classified this player as a “defensive” central midfielder in my initial post in this series, it’s important to note that the holding center mid is at times a very offensively minded player. Ignoring his defensive responsibilities for the moment, this player’s sole purpose on the pitch is the crucial role of linking the play between the forwards and the defenders. Of course this means that he must be extremely strong in possession as well as a tactically adept passer.

And to be completely honest, in the system I’ve chosen to implement in this team, this player is much more of an offensive player than a defensive.

But the defense role isn’t to be completely ignored with this position, and I’ve left offensively solid holding mids off this list because they’re defensive skills are lacking (Joey Barton or Jack Wilshire for example). Clogging up the passing lanes and stifling counterattacks before they start in the offensive third are typical tasks that this player will be assigned.

So who’s good enough going both directions to lay claim to this spot? Read on…

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the missing

it’s the game’s biggest stage, and that stage features the world’s biggest stars. well, most of them anyway.

every four year’s, hundreds of millions of adoring fans to watch the brightest stars of football shine during the world cup. unfortunately, some of those star names don’t get the final invite to the the big ball because their team suck, or their team is a little unlucky, or their coach simply won’t bring them along.

whatever the case may be, south africa 2010 will be devoid of some of the best players in the world. it’s kind of like kanye west not being at the grammy’s; you know he’s talented enough to be there, but he just hasn’t earned it.

ibrahimovic will have some excellent company with which to watch the world cup on the tube this summer.

in fact, we came really, really close to almost having the two best players in the world in messi and ronaldo due to their teams drastically underperforming in qualification. luckily, by some divine influence, both of them stumbled their way into the tournament, sparing fifa some major embarrassment.

but we’re not here to talk about who squeaked their way into the tournament. let’s talk about the best players who had the door slammed into their face.

zlatan ibrahimovic – sweden / barcelona
arguably the biggest name on this list, it’s really not that surprising that big swede isn’t booking his flight to south africa. despite zlatan’s obvious talent, can you name a single other player of true quality in the swedish ranks? i sure can’t. and considering that ibra can’t seem to decide if he actually wants to play for the national team, he’s not exactly going to be the one to lead the charge to the finals.

ryan giggs – wales / manchester united
while giggsy’s younger, speedier red devils teammate antonio valencia might be the better player at this point (debatable), i’m going to go with the wise, old welshman for this list. why? two reasons: 1) despite a glittering club career, giggs has never made an appearance at the world cup finals as wales are confined to minnow status, and 2) at the ripe age of 36 he is still one of the most dangerous and creative players in the EPL. i know my praise won’t mask his disappointment of never making it to the big dance, but he deserves the nod either way.

roman pavlyuchenko – russia / tottenham
even though he’s been buried on the bench for a majority of the season at white hart lane, pav’s recent form is hard to ignore. with five goals in his last three games, it’s no wonder former russia manager gus hiddink wanted pav in form for their qualification campaign… unfortunately for roman and russia, he wasn’t.

edin dzeko – bosnia / wolfsburg
so when you play for bosnia, qualifying for the world cup is about as likely as slobodan milošević not commiting genocide. despite making it to the finals in germany four years ago under the banner of serbia & montenegro, the newly independent serbian side is just not quite as solid. however, the future is bright for serbs. led by dzeko, who is one of the most sought-after strikers in the game, they should be considered a threat during the 2012 euro qualification process.

stephen ireland – ireland / manchester city
when the irish were knocked out of the world cup by thierry henryy’s infamous handball assist in the waning moments of their second leg qualification play-off with france, it plunged a country already renown for their heavy drinking into a drunken furor. so close but so far, as the saying goes. and the fact that they made it so far without the nations best player should be a testament to the team’s strength. the mercurial stephen ireland of manchester city has been in personal exile from the irish national team for some time now, and my guess is he would have continued it even if they had qualified.

antonio cassano – italy / sampdoria
what makes cassano different than everyone else on this list? his national team is qualified for south africa, yet he won’t be making the trip this summer with the azzuri. after tumultuous spells at roma and real madrid, the oft controversial cassano has found his form in sampdoria, prompting numerous calls from the media for his return to the national team. however, italy coach marcelo lippi has thus far refused due to his reputation as a team cancer.

luka modrić – croatia / tottenham

modric seems shocked that his croatia didn't qualify... i'm shocked too.

the croatians were a shock exclusion from south africa, being the highest ranked national side not qualified for the tournament (11th as of march 2010). the absence of the spurs playmaker during qualification, due to a broken leg, likely played a part in the team’s poor results. i could have easily put a couple of the croatians on this list (niko kranjčar, dario šimić, eduardo da silva, etc.), but modrić is the engine that drives his club and country, despite being the size of your average pet hamster.

goran pandev – macedonia / inter milan
the diminutive forward has had a rough go over the last few years for both club and country. despite a tremendous goalscoring record, he was frozen out at former club lazio due to a rocky relationship with management. however, his return to inter has been fruitful with the macedonian netting three times in nine appearances. in the national team shirt, pandev shouldn’t ever expect much success as the macedonians just don’t have the infrastructure or talent to compete at an elite level.

andrei arshavin – russia / arsenal
this gunner will be one of the more notable outcasts for this summer’s main event. his flashy style and creativity made him one of the most attractive transfer targets after russia’s deep run at euro 2008. the russians are stocked full of high level talent and had an excellent manager in gus hiddink, making their absence from south africa even more surprising.

emmanuel adebayor – togo / manchester city
adebayor drives me crazy, and i often say that i don’t intend to write about him on my blog if i can help it. but there’s doubting that the city striker is one of the best strikers not making his way to the world cup finals. probably all the better for togo, seeing as how the team were brutally attacked at the africa cup of nations in angola.

honorable mention
shay given – ireland / manchester city
mikel arteta – spain / everton
petr cech – czech republic / chelsea
hamit altintop – turkey / bayern munich
antonio valencia – ecuador / manchester united
josé bosingwa – portugal / chelsea

so in short, i apparently think strikers are the only good players out there. i’m sure i’m completely missing someone on this list, but then again, this is a list of people who are missing out. if you can think of anyone i left out, feel free to share.