Benevento Reminds Us All Why We Love Football So Much.

Benevento Calcio has been through some hard times. Founded in 1929, the club had spent almost all of its history in the Serie C, the third tier of Italian football, with brief spells up into the Serie B, but Serie A was nothing but a distant afterthought for these fans. Then, the club fell on financial hard times, folding in 2005 and needing to be re-established Cleveland Browns style, but as an amateur club. However, for 12 years, the club worked its way back up into the professional leagues, and then all the way up the ranks of Italian football, until, finally, at the end of the 2016/17 season, by way of the playoffs, they were promoted from the Serie B to the Serie A. Never in the Stregoni’s wildest dreams did they plan on playing against the likes of Juventus, Inter, AC Milan, Roma and Napoli on national and sometimes international TV, in huge stadiums like San Siro, in front of 70,000 plus fans, in the Serie A! But it happened.

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However, Benevento have not had the easiest of times in this year’s Serie A season, the gulf in class between them and the other nineteen sides in the top flight well established. In their first fourteen matches, they lost every single one, finding themselves bottom of the league with zero points as Serie A moved on to Week 15. This was the worst start ANY CLUB HAS EVER MADE TO A SEASON IN THE HISTORY OF EUROPES BIG FIVE LEAGUES!!!!!!! (breaking the record of 12 losses in a row held by the 1930-31 Manchester United team, I couldn’t resist pointing out as a Liverpool fan!) So, on Sunday, December 3rd 2017, Benevento found themselves hosting European giants AC Milan at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito, which only seats 18,000 people. These were the kind of moments these fans dreamed of, hosting the likes of Milan, who have won seven Champions League titles, in their tiny stadium. Sure, Milan had just fired their manager and were having a down year, but Benevento had ZERO POINTS. I think most fans went to the match happy to see their club even playing against AC Milan, but not expecting any kind of result.

The first half went as expected, AC Milan dominated, and went into halftime winning 1-0 with a goal from Giacomo Bonaventura. However, Benevento came out fighting in the second half, with George Puscas equalizing just five minutes in. However, seven minutes later, Nikola Kalinic restored the lead to the Rossoneri, and it remained at 2-1 to Milan through 90 minutes and most of stoppage time. Then, in the 94th minute, as the whistle was about to blow, all hell completely broke loose.

Benevento received a free kick, in a promising position outside the box, and their whole team, including the goalkeeper, pushed into the Milan penalty area as they waited for the cross to come in, that would most likely be the last kick of the match. Danilo Cataldi lifted a decent high ball into the center of the box, and it was met by the flashing head of Benevento goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli, who headed it powerfully INTO THE BACK OF THE AC MILAN NET FOR A 2-2 DRAW!!!!!! THE WORST START IN EUROPES FIVE LEAGUES WAS BROKEN! BENEVENTO GOT THEIR FIRST EVER POINT IN THE SERIE A! AGAINST AC MILAN IN THE 94TH MINUTE WITH A HEADER FROM THEIR FREAKING GOALKEEPER!!!! HOLY CRAP! THAT IS WHY WE CALL IT THE BEAUTIFUL GAME! THAT IS WHY WE LOVE FOOTBALL!! I will simply let the video and pictures posted below tell the rest of the story, but I will close by quoting the commentator on the video, “Sometimes in football, you think you’ve seen everything, BUT THEN YOU WATCH A GAME LIKE THIS!”. This is a great story for Benevento, for goalkeepers like me, and just for anyone who truly loves this game, as I assume all my readers do. Forza Benevento! (unless you are a Milan supporter. Cheer up, least this isn’t the worst comeback your club has ever conceded!) ;).

OMG GOALIE SCORES A WINNER

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Just look at the scenes, and drink it all in Benevento. No matter what happens to your club, they can never take this moment from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WANKER OF THE WEEK 2: CHRISTIAN BENTEKE

Hello readers of TSD, I am very sorry for not being active, I am also a college student and finals week is in full swing, leaving me with not that much time to watch that much football and even less to write about it. However, this morning I saw behavior so arrogant and disgusting that I knew studying had to wait, I had to write this article. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, your second edition of Wanker of the Week, this one goes out to…….. CHRISTIAN BENTEKE!

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It is no secret to anyone who has ever talked about football with me that I am not very fond of Christian Benteke as a player. Until this summer, he was the most expensive purchase ever for my club, Liverpool, and I could not stand him. Yes, he has an excellent overall goal scoring record, and is physically very tall and strong, but his style of play is not suited to a big club. He is very slow and not at all mobile, is very bad in the air for someone so big, and offers nothing as a striker in terms of dribbling, pace, tracking back to defend, or link up play. His entire style of play is “cross it to me a million times and I will just stand there and wait for the ball to be played to my feet or head” which works if you are at a small club battling relegation that needs goals, but not Liverpool or other big clubs where so much is expected of your record transfer and playing styles are more complex. However, while I HATED his lazy and primitive style of play on the pitch, I always had respect for Mr. Benteke as a person. He always seemed to try his best and spoke very respectfully of his teammates, manager, fans, and the club, his style just did not fit us, so I was happy for both Liverpool and him when he got his transfer away to Crystal Palace, a smaller club with many fast wingers to give him good service. However, after today, I have lost all respect for him as a person as well as a player, and he can now go to my personal pit of misery. Dilly Dilly!

Crystal Palace has had an awful start to this years Premier League campaign, spending almost all of the season so far in last place. However, they are beginning to pick up momentum and points, and found themselves up to 18th place as they prepared to take on Bournemouth today at Selhurst Park. A win could have taken them out of the relegation zone. The game got off to a very fast paced start, with a penalty from Luka Milivojevic and Scott Dann scoring for Crystal Palace and the ageless wonder Jermain Defoe scoring a brace for Bournemouth, leading to a 2-2 scoreline at halftime. The second half was a lot tighter, with neither team wanting to concede the winner and both wanting to score, leading to a rather cagey affair, and by the 93rd minute it seemed destined to be a draw, when suddenly, Bournemouth’s Charlie Daniels tripped Wilfried Zaha in the penalty box, and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the penalty spot. Selhurst Park held its breath as the fans waited for the penalty, just one man against the goalkeeper, to give the Eagles a very valuable win against a relegation rival.

This should have been an easy situation for Palace. Luka Milivojevic is their designated number one PK taker, and he had already scored one earlier today in the first half. I think every Palace fan expected to see the big Serb strolling to the spot with the ball and scoring as he usually does. It really should have been a no-brainer. Then Christian Benteke stuck his nose in. Benteke very arrogantly decided that he wanted to be the big hero, grabbed the ball from Luka (I can’t type that last name anymore) and held on to it, despite all of his teammates and the manager protesting and telling him to give it up. Eventually they had no choice to relent, as he would not give up the ball, and Benteke stepped up to the spot to take the penalty he should have nothing to do with. This is not uncommon, players just step up and take penalties when they shouldn’t a fair amount of times, with Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I know, you couldn’t find a classier and more humble pair of gentlemen in the whole game of football than these two) coming to mind as recent examples of this behavior. However, when you stick your nose in that way, you better be damn sure you are scoring, and Benteke had not scored since April and had missed four penalties already this year. I think you all know what is coming next in this story by now, Benteke took one of the worst penalty kicks I have ever seen in my life. He took a very weak shot straight down the middle of the goal, right into the path of Asmir Begovic for an easy save. Begovic didn’t even really have to dive, just fall down to stop it. At least make the keeper work if you are taking a penalty! His PK had neither power or placement on it, and it cost his team two valuable points as the whistle blew soon after, the match finished a 2-2 draw and Benteke was rightfully booed off the pitch by his own supporters.

HOW NOT TO TAKE A PENALTY 101

This story gets even worse when you hear about its effect on Crystal Palace. With the two clubs below the Eagles, Swansea and West Ham, winning today, Palace are now right back down to bottom of the league. These dropped points will also be a huge momentum killer, right as the club was starting to find some form. If the Eagles are relegated by a small margin then I am POSITIVE everyone will revisit this moment as a potential opportunity for more points that could have kept them up. A club in this position cannot afford to have its starting striker thinking only of himself and causing unnecessary drama on the pitch, only to then single handedly drop points for his club. This will definitely have a negative effect on team morale and dressing room unity as well, in a relegation fight you need everyone to remain optimistic and united, and cannot afford deflating matches like this. You think Luka M. is going to want to pass to or go to battle for Benteke now?! I know I wouldn’t if I were him, I’d tell him to go f*ck himself! What a pighead! His own manager, Roy Hodgson, was rightfully furious, and did not hide that after the match when speaking to the media. He said, “Why did Christian take the penalty? Well, I don’t know the answer to that. I didn’t tell him to take it. We expected Luka to take it, but for some reason Christian wanted to and then he missed it. When you take a penalty away from the designated taker you risk the wrath of your teammates, fans, and manager if you miss it. He is in a bit of a black hole with the supporters now.” When asked if he would tell Benteke not to step up for another penalty, Hodgson replied “He’s been told that already”. Woy Hodgson did not exactly hide his disgust for Chwistian Benteke there, and think about this for a second. Someone must have royally screwed up, if your club is managed by Roy Hodgson, and your club blows a game for a reason other than the fact your club is managed by Roy Hodgson! Palace were starting to build momentum, and are still unbeaten in over a month, but this draw feels a lot like a loss, and now they are back where they started in last place, all because Benteke was so conceited he thought he could win the game all on his own, even when he had no place to be taking that penalty kick. Thanks a lot Christian! I don’t even care about the fact that Crystal Palace have no other true strikers on their roster, Hodgson should promote a kid from the academy and drop Benteke until he learns to be a good teammate. At least that hypothetical teenager would play like Crystal Palace FC meant something to him, not just stat padding goals for himself. What a prick! The fans in South London deserve so much better than him as their clubs record signing, and believe me Palace fans, I know how it feels to have this man as your high profile player, and I sympathize from the bottom of my heart for you.

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For his utter selfishness, stupidity, and just awful kick that cost his club so much, Christian Benteke is The Sturridge Dance’s second WANKER OF THE WEEK! Now he finally has a trophy to put in his empty cabinet back home! When your team is relegated and you cry that nobody wants to buy you anymore, maybe you should think about the fact that clubs don’t want a brainless dinosaur who thinks only about himself and his own glory even when he hasn’t scored in eight months. Piss off Benteke, you overrated bullying fraud. I always knew you were a wank stain on the pitch, but now I know you are a wank stain of a person as well.

 

Wanker of the Week is a feature of the Sturridge Dance where I decided the weeks biggest wanker in the game of football. To prevent myself from naming him every week, I have enacted a self imposed quota of once a month for writing about Dejan Lovren. 

TOP 10 MANAGERS OF THE 21st CENTURY

I have decided to rank my list of the top 10 managers this century. Managers who began their careers in the 1990s are eligible, but their 1990’s accomplishments are not valid criteria for my list. Sit back and enjoy!

#10 MARCELO LIPPI- The Wise One

Mr. Lippi was one of the best managers around at the beginning of this century. He won two Serie A titles with Juventus, and took them to a Champions League Final. Then, when the Italian national team job opened, he took it and led them to the 2006 World Cup title. You might ask, why is he not higher? One, he would be if we included the 1990s when he won double what he won these days with Juve. Two, he is tactically questionable. He is an incredible motivator of a squad, and specializes in keeping a unified dressing room, a major reason why the Italians still won despite all their scandal that summer. However, he is not exactly known as a tactician, he lets his team do the talking while he provides the inspiration. Third, in the 2010 World Cup, Italy were a disaster, not even making it out of the group, and after that World Cup, instead of taking another challenge, Lippi fled for the Chinese Super League. However, his trophy cabinet speaks for itself. I thought long and hard about where to put him, and if it was the 90s he would be top 5, but Marcelo will have to settle for 10.

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#9 ANTONIO CONTE- The Drill Sergeant

Conte first made his name in the lower tiers of Italian football, getting both Bari and Siena promoted from the Serie B to the Serie A. Then, in 2011, the club he played for, Juventus, took a massive risk and hired him to manage them. Juventus finished 7th the year before, and had won nothing since their big scandal. Conte put a big stop to all that. In his first speech to the team he screamed, “It is CRIMINAL that we are not at least in the top 3. This is f**king Juventus! You should all be ashamed of yourselves! From now on, you only have one thing to do, and that’s what I TELL YOU TO DO! It’s time we stopped being CRAP!” The Bianconeri responded big time, winning three Serie A titles in a row in Conte’s three years there. Conte then took over the Italian national team at its lowest point talent wise. Most of its old veterans had retired, and today’s young talent hadn’t emerged yet. He had to work with Sunderland reject Emmanuel Giaccherini in his squad, and how bad do you have to be if you are rejected from SUNDERLAND? But in Euro 2016, he led the very limited Azzurri to the quarterfinals, beating Belgium and Spain along the way, and they only lost in a penalty shootout to world champions Germany. Then, he took over the job at Premier League club Chelsea, and in year one took the 10th place Blues to the EPL title, with a record number of points won along the way. He completely changed the tactics and mindset of the Blues. Why isn’t he higher? Because he is still young, and can’t yet compete trophies-wise with some of the people in front of him, but he is well on his way up this list. Chelsea-Antonio-Conte-Juventus-Comparison-796864

#8 RAFA BENITEZ- The Underrated One

 

Benitez will never get the appreciation he deserves. He has always had a reputation as being a bit of an underachiever, that has failed when it mattered, but that could not be further from the truth. In 2001, he promoted Tenerife from the Segunda Division to La Liga, leading to Valencia to offer him their job. He won two La Liga titles with Valencia, which is very hard to do in a league so dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid. This led to Liverpool to appoint him as their manager. At Liverpool, he won the FA Cup, took them as high as 2nd in the table, and was world class in Europe. Liverpool defeated the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, and AC Milan in the Champions League under Benitez, and he led them to two UCL finals, winning one and losing one. His UCL victory, in 2005 against AC Milan in Istanbul, is the greatest final ever played, when Liverpool came back form 3-0 down at halftime to win 3-3 in a shootout. Benitez changing the formation at halftime is a major reason why. He then took over at Inter Milan after Liverpool, where despite the fans and players not taking to his methods, he still won a SuperCoppa Italiana. He then took the Chelsea job, where he led them to both third place and the Europa League crown, and if you want to know how hard it is to finish in the top 4 while in the Europa League, just ask the man ranked directly above Benitez! Next, he moved onto Napoli, where he finished third and fifth in his two seasons and won a Coppa Italia, and his transfers proved visionary, with over half of the starting XI of their current first place team being Rafa purchases. He then went to his boyhood club, Real Madrid, where despite only losing one match in 17, he was sacked in January, because Real Madrid is the managerial equivalent of The Apprentice, “You’re Fired!”. He is now in charge of Newcastle United, where despite relegation, he stayed to lead them back up to the Premier League, and they are now solidly mid table in the EPL. Some scoff at his lack of league titles, but I look at his overflowing trophy cabinet and all of his successful rebuilding jobs. Viva Rafa!

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#7 ARSENE WENGER- The Invincible

What a difficult one to rank. If this was 2004, Le Professeur would be the undisputed #1, but if you ask some today, he is not even in the top 10. However, we cannot ignore that this century, Wenger has won 6 FA Cups, 2 Premier Leagues and been to a UCL final, all with one club. He has led Arsenal for 21 years, through good times and bad, and qualified for the Champions League in all but one of those years, all while remaining wholeheartedly committed to his own style of attacking football. Of course, we should not forget his biggest achievement of all, when Wenger guaranteed that Arsenal would go the entire 2003-04 season unbeaten in the EPL, and they did, leading to Arsenal to be nicknamed, The Invincibles. Some say he is now a senile old man, with Arsenal finally out of the Champions League and their squad’s quality declining every year, that he always sells his best players, that the game has passed him by now, and those are all valid points, but this is a ranking of overall achievement, and anyone who goes unbeaten in the Premier League for a whole season, is a top 10 manager.

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#6 PEP GUARDIOLA- The Philosopher

Another impossibly hard one to rank. Some would say he is #1, not just right now but of all time. Others say he is not even in the top 10, dubbing him “Fraudiola” due to his lack of challenges in his career. I have settled for 6 as a compromise. Guardiola’s first ever job was at Barcelona, where he immediately led them to the treble in year one, won another Champions League, and won 3 La Liga titles in 4 years in charge. Next, he moved on to Bayern Munich, where he won three straight Bundesligas before leaving for Manchester City, where in year one they finished third, and are currently at the top of the EPL with a commanding 8 point lead. He is 100% devoted to his philosophy of tiki-taka, short passing, having all the possession, playing the ball out from the back instead of hitting it long up the pitch, and if you don’t suit his style, then he has no time for you. To him, football is a matter of philosophy, and he preaches his beliefs of beautiful football to anyone who will listen. His Barcelona teams revolutionized the way football is played, and you cannot deny he was the coach of the greatest club side ever assembled. So why is he not higher? One, because he hasn’t even been managing for 10 years, and two, because there is some truth in that Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and the mega rich Man City are not exactly jobs that require a lot of challenge. The fact that in his first year in the more competitive EPL he won no trophies doesn’t speak well, though he is proving us wrong so far this year. However, to the haters, you cannot deny his trophy cabinet. Pep will almost certainly rise up as his career progresses, and his style of play is undeniably amazing to watch, but the top 5 have all done what they have done for longer periods of time, in more challenging roles.

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#5 JOACHIM LOW- Mr. Consistency

When Jurgen Klinsmaan was leading Germany in the 2006 World Cup, hosted there, the general consensus of Germans was that Klinsmaan, the legendary player, was a figurehead, and he got all of his tactics from his assistant, Joachim “Jogi” Low. Klinsmaan was promptly fired after the tournament, because for the likes of Germany to not win the World Cup when they are hosting is criminal, and Jogi took over, and the Germans have never looked back. Since he took over, they have been the models of consistency in the international game. He has led them in Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012, World Cup 2014, and Euro 2016, and made at least the semifinals of EVERY SINGLE ONE! That is wild. Low’s crowning achievement was the 2014 World Cup victory in Brazil, where they defeated the hosts by a whopping margin of 7-1 in the semifinal, and beat no other than Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the World Cup Final. He never keeps a player in the squad unless they are useful to him, which is why, every four years, you see a new Germany team, but still as dominant as the last. He has also done wonders for developing German talent, last summer, in the Confederations Cup, he took his fringe players and U21s to give them playing time, and they still won! Then in the U21 World Cup later that summer, he took a bunch of teenagers, and they won that too! Germany now has one of the deepest talent pools in the world, and I would not be surprised if they went back to back, and won in Russia this summer. One thing is for certain, under Low, they will at least be in the final four.

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#4 JOSE MOURINHO- The Special One

Jose will have my head for this. On Planet Jose, he is number one on the list of anything anywhere, including greatest human being to ever live. I wouldn’t be surprised if at Christmastime, his nativity scene showed Christ being born in Setubal, Portugal in January 1963. He is also the only manager for whom I did not invent my nickname, as he has declared himself “The Special One”. If he takes any comfort in this, the top 3 are all retired or inactive, so he IS the highest ranking one currently coaching. All of Jose’s braggadocio is for good reason, he has won major trophies in four different countries, and accepts nothing but winning. FC Porto shocked the world when they appointed him, considering he has never played the game, and was just a translator. However, he won two Primera Ligas and led them to one of the Champions League’s greatest upsets ever, winning it in 2004, beating the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United along the way. This led to Chelsea bringing him to England, where he won back to back EPL titles. Then he went to Inter Milan, where in two years he won two Serie As, and in year two led Inter to the famed treble. Then he went to Real Madrid, where he won a Copa del Rey and a La Liga, and is the only manager to say he won La Liga ahead of Guardiola’s great Barcelona. Afterwards, he returned to Chelsea, where he won a League Cup and returned the Premier League to Stamford Bridge. Then, after his controversial sacking, he remained in England and took over Manchester United, where in year one he won the League Cup and Europa League, and is currently second place. Mourinho is a master motivator, his players love him like a father. Didier Drogba said “I would honestly kill for Mourinho” and Michael Essien literally called him “Daddy”. He is a master of manipulating the media, and building a siege mentality of us against the world at all of his clubs. However, he is not without his critics. His arrogant style ruffles many feather, and he has been criticized for his defensive style, and love of spending lots of money on talented players, gaining him a reputation as a quick fix but not a long term coach. He also rarely leaves a job quietly, with both Chelsea stints and Real Madrid ending in complete self-implosion and the team falling apart, and it is for that reason he is not higher up. However, all his honors speak for themselves, he is truly a special one. Jose-Mourinho-644644.jpg

#3 SIR ALEX FERGUSON- The Club Icon

As much as this is hard for me to swallow as a Liverpool fan, Alex Ferguson is an all time great. He has won either 7 or 8 Premier Leagues (do you count the 99-00 season?) an FA Cup, three League Cups, and a Champions League, all with Manchester United. He completely made that club what it is, with 26 years in charge total, all of them totally dominant. Man United even have a stand in their stadium named for Fergie. He is also a master of developing and signing young talent, Manchester United always had at least one academy product in their starting XI under him. He also believes in progressive, attacking football, and is a master of “Fergie Time” where United would score an ungodly amount of late winning goals. He trains his team to never give up, saying “I have never ONCE played for a draw!”. He also believed nobody was bigger than the club, no matter how good, when the likes of Roy Keane and David Beckham got too big for their britches, he sent them packing without a second thought. He also always overcame adversity, when Keane and Beckham left, everyone thought the invincibles of Arsenal were the new big thing, but then he found young Cristiano Ronaldo and built his best ever team. When Ronaldo left, everyone thought it was all Chelsea’s but he still won titles with a just OK squad at his disposal. And in his final year in 2013, with mega rich neighbors Man City defending Champions and star Wayne Rooney not signing a new deal, Ferguson boldly bought Robin Van Persie from archrivals Arsenal to ensure he retired a champion. No manager has ever meant more to a club than Sir Alex to Manchester United. index.jpg

#2 CARLO ANCELOTTI- The Serial Winner

Don Carlo has done it all. This guy has won trophies in all 5 of the major domestic leagues, winning the whole league title in four of them. He is also one of only two coaches (besides Liverpool’s own Bob Paisley) to win three Champions League titles. And he has done all this in the 21st century! He started at AC Milan, his boyhood club, where he won a Serie A, a Coppa Italia, a SuperCoppa Italiana, and two Champions Leagues, appearing in a third final as well (thanks Rafa!). After 8 years there, in which he built Milan into one of the finest teams of this era, he moved onto Chelsea, where he won the Premier League and FA Cup in his first year. After Chelsea scandalously sacked him for failing to repeat, he joined the ambitious new Paris Saint-Germain project in France, leading them first to top 4 and Champions League qualification, and then to the Ligue 1 title, before leaving for the glory of Real Madrid. In his first year there, he won the Copa Del Rey and his third Champions League, and the clubs 10th, forever writing his name in history as the man who won La Dacima. He was then insanely sacked the next year for only finishing second, as if there is any shame in finishing behind MSN in their peak, despite Cristiano Ronaldo publicly asking for him to stay. I swear to god Real Madrid is insane with their managers. He then moved on to Bayern Munich, where he won the Bundesliga and German Super Cup. He is a believer in attacking football, his teams relentlessly press you to win the ball. He also treats his players like adults, and listens to them when things go wrong, and has shown a willingness to adapt to the teams he has not be stuck in his ways, and versatility is a sign of a great coach. When his old Milan formation did not suit the Chelsea players, he listened to their complaints, and changed it, leading to them winning the double. Wherever he travels to, he brings trophies. He is currently out of a job, but has not yet retired, and one thing is certain, wherever he goes next, he will win there.

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#1 VICENTE DEL BOSQUE- The Legend

Vicente Del Bosque is our number one, as he is the ultimate winner. He took charge of his boyhood team Real Madrid right as they were starting to purchase their famed Galacticos, and led them to two La Liga crowns and two Champions Leagues. With the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and the Brazilian Ronaldo playing absolutely dazzling football Real Madrid ruled the world. However what did that club, in its infinite wisdom do? They sacked him, for having the audacity to actually call out and bench the Galacticos when they were not performing! Real Madrid did not win a trophy for four years after Del Bosque’s departure, and we will never know how long that great team would have dominated if he stayed. However, his clubs loss was his country’s gain. He was appointed the manager of Spain and under his watch, Spain became the greatest international team to ever play. He won Euro 2008, Euro 2012, the 2009 Confederations Cup, and the 2010 World Cup. From 2009-2013 Spain did not lose a single match! He brought Barcelona’s tiki-taka to the international stage, and no team could keep up with Spain. In an era where El Clasico was at its most bitter ever (shoutout to our number 6 and 4 on this list), he was able to get his Barcelona and Real Madrid stars to work together for the good of the country. He proceeded to lead Spain in the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros, and then after that he retired, having won everything there is to win in the game. There are so many great managers in this list, what sets Del Bosque apart? The fact he won the biggest trophies both for his club, and for his country. He is the only manager this century to win his domestic league, Champions League, World Cup, and Euros. That is absolutely amazing. Viva Vicente! 1504452_w2

That has been my personal ranking of this century’s top 10 greatest managers. If you disagree, please feel free to let me know! Thanks for reading.

 

Liverpool 3-0 Southampton: MATCH RECAP

Well, we have had a very entertaining international break, but I for one am thrilled to have club football back! I will recap all the major events of this weekend in club football once it is all wrapped up, but let me dive into my first matchday analysis of my beloved Reds, as they took on Southampton at Anfield today.

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I must admit, when I first saw the teamsheet, I was scared to death. Yesterday, when I heard that Joel Matip had gone out with an injury, I thought “Ok that is bad, but we will be fine. Joe Gomez has been brilliant at center back for England, it is time for Jurgen Klopp to play him in his natural role” However, when I saw the teamsheet I did not see Gomez next to Ragnar Klavan, but Dejan Lovren instead. It was at that very moment that I thought, Southampton are gonna win this aren’t they? Lovren is so mistake prone I doubt he can even get out of bed without falling on his arse.  I was also dissapointed to see the in form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left on the bench, in exchange for our “Captain”, the backwards passing extraordinaire Jordan Henderson, who at this point I think we can all agree, the only time his name should ever be in the same sentence as Steven Gerrard’s is “Jordan Henderson is not in the same stratosphere as Steven Gerrard as a player and captain for Liverpool”. I was happy to see Philippe Coutinho back from injury, but overall, at kickoff time, I was very nervous, and expecting to be filled with rage.

The first half hour of the game went about as I expected, Liverpool had a lot of the ball and did nothing but piss about with it, Southampton stayed back and defended and largely stopped us from creating anything, with Virgil Van Dijk winning lots of balls in the air and snuffing out attacks (cue “Welcome to Heartbreak” by Kanye West). Then, in the 31st minute, Dusan Tadic was robbed in his own half by Roberto Firmino, who then found Klavan, who passed to Gini Wijnaldum, who squared it to MOOOOOOOO SAAAAALLLLLLAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! Salah curled it into the net from outside the box. Ten minutes later, Salah ran onto an absolutely amazing through ball from Coutinho and finished, to give the Reds a comfortable 2-0 lead at halftime. Liverpool did not let up, and absolutely dominated the second half. They got their well deserved third goal in the 68th minute, when Firmino’s shot was parried right into the path of Coutinho by goalkeeper Fraser Forster (yes, sometimes when I curse the very existence of Simon Mignolet I realize things could be much worse), and Coutinho tapped it into the open net for an easy goal for himself. The rest of the game was largely just a formality, two teams going through the motions waiting for the final whistle, and I was thrilled at what turned out to be a dominating win. Lovren didn’t even make a single mistake for once, besides almost injuring our future defender Van Dijk. I did not have any criticisms for once, except for the second coming of Christ Daniel Sturridge getting no playing time. Well in REDS!

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Three things I learned from the match today

  1. Liverpool are starting to find their form

Since our nightmare 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham, in which I decided I would take 4 more years of Donald Trump if it meant never having to endure the waste of a human being that is Dejan Lovren trying to defend again, Liverpool have played very well. They have now won their last 4 games 3-0, 3-0, 4-1, and 3-0. That is 13 goals scored to only one conceded, and we are now only a point off the top 4. We are finally starting to finish all the chances we missed at the beginning of the year, our defense has looked improved (KNOCK ON WOOD), and we are quietly going about a very good period of momentum. Granted, Huddersfield, Maribor, West Ham, and Southampton are not the most daunting opponents, but it is good to get back to winning ways. There is still work to be done, our defense still needs work (YOU DONT HAVE TO GET ON THE BUS BACK TO SOUTHAMPTON VIRGIL), and the games against Sevilla and Chelsea next week are a real test of how much we have learned, but I am quietly optimistic. We are winning games in a dominant fashion, and Klopp can now finally unleash his big 5 of Salah, Coutinho, Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Adam Lallana for the first time this year. Things are looking up Reds!

2. Southampton are awful

I like Mauricio Pellegrino a lot. He is a former LFC player and coach, and I truly believe he is a good manager, but he is in the wrong job. Appointing a very defensive minded coach to a club which already has a good defense, but needs work on the attack is a bad idea. His ideas can work well at clubs suited to his style, but someone so keen on defending is not the man to fix such a stuttering attack. Southampton didn’t even get a single shot on target today against OUR DEFENSE, and it says something when their starting striker today hasn’t scored a goal since February. Their attack just looked completely out of ideas, and things need to change fast. I think now might be the moment when the Saints realize their model of selling anyone at the right price, because there are always cheaper alternatives, is just not sustainable in the Premier League. Sad!

3. Mohamed Salah is the King of Egypt

What more can be said about this guy. He has now scored more goals to start his Liverpool career than anyone in LFC history, beating the record of Robbie Fowler, a man so good the Kop literally nicknamed him “God”. He has scored more goals than any LFC player since Luis Suarez left us, and it is only mid November! He is the top scorer in the whole Premier League!!! This man is just out of this world. To think we only needed to spend 32 million pounds on him! The gods Isis and Osiris built a pyramid in his honor. King Tut has a framed picture of Mohamed Salah in his tomb. Cats bow down at the feet of Salah. He is the best signing this club has made since Suarez, and I can only hope his insane goalscoring continues. Long Live our Pharoah, MOHAMED SALAH!

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Liverpool Lineup

GK: #22 Simon Mignolet

RB: #66 Trent Alexander-Arnold

CB: #6 Dejan Lovren

CB: #17 Ragnar Klavan

LB: #18 Alberto Moreno

CM: (captain) #14 Jordan Henderson

CM: #5 Georginio Wijnaldum

CM: #10 Phillipe Coutinho

LW: #19 Sadio Mane

RW: #11 Mohamed Salah

ST: #9 Roberto Firmino

Substitutes:

#1 Loris Karius (GK)

#7 James Milner

#12 Joe Gomez

#15 Daniel Sturridge

#21 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

#23 Emre Can

#29 Dominic Solanke

Manager: Jurgen Klopp

 

Southampton Lineup

GK: #44 Fraser Forster

RB: #2 Cedric Soares

CB: #17 Virgil Van Dijk

CB: #6 Wesley Hoedt

LB: #21 Ryan Bertrand

CDM: #14 Oriol Romeu

CDM: (captain) #8 Steven Davis

LAM: #11 Dusan Tadic

CAM: #19 Sofiane Boufal

RAM: #22 Nathan Redmond

ST: #7 Shane Long

Substitues

#13 Alex Mccarthy (GK)

#3 Maya Yoshida

#10 Charlie Austin

#16 James Ward-Prowse

#20 Manolo Gabbiadini

#23 Pierre-Emilie Hojbjerg

#33 Matt Targett

Manager: Mauricio Pellegrino

Man of the Match Award: MOHAMED SALAH!

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An ode to Gianluigi Buffon

No. No. No. No. OH PLEASE GOD NO!! Say it ain’t so! Please, God, tell me that this didn’t happen. Tell me that the international career of, in my opinion, the greatest goalie to ever live, is not going to end this way! This must all be a bad dream right?

Sadly, this is the real world. Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup, losing 1-0 on aggregate in their qualifying playoff to Sweden, and Gianluigi Buffon’s international career is over. When he announced he would retire from football after this coming World Cup, nobody even dreamed of the possibility that that would mean his career would be over before the World Cup even started. But it is, and football is worse off for it.

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How did it get this way? How did such a storied career come to an end in such a devastating fashion? Three words, Gian Piero Ventura. Italy’s now ex-manager makes Jurgen Klinsmaan look like Joachim Low. Italy may not be the dominant World Cup winning team they were 10 years ago, but this team is beyond good enough to make it to Russia. This man’s decisions were enough to get him locked in a mental asylum. He consistently failed to pick Jorginho for the national team, despite him being one of the most in form midfielders in Europe at the moment, on the grounds that because he was born in Brazil he was not Italian. By the time he was finally pressured to select him, it was too late for the Azzurri. Jorginho’s passing ability might have come in handy during all those qualifiers they blew don’t you think? He also has never once started one of Europe’s finest wingers, Lorenzo Insigne, in his XI, and when Insigne does get playing time, it is always out of position. He only got 15 minutes of time in BOTH LEGS of the Sweden playoff, and that was as a midfielder. Maybe play a world class winger on the wing Ventura? This situation got so bad that in the second Sweden game, when Daniele De Rossi was summoned to come on off the bench, he screamed at Ventura “What the f*ck are you doing putting me in there, we need to WIN” before pointing to Insigne instead. Has this idiot ever watched a Napoli match? They are in first place in the Serie A, and Insigne and Jorginho are a major reason why. He also had Andrea Belotti, one of the hottest prospects at striker in the world, and Ciro Immobile, currently the leading goalscorer in all of Europe at his disposal, and failed to play them up top together during the Sweden games. This mixture of idiocy and xenophobia from the manager has led to an all time great’s Italy career getting about the worst sendoff possible.

But enough talking about the failures of Italy, it is now time to pay tribute to an all time great. Lets list all of his many accolades, shall we? Buffon is one of the greatest keepers of all time, with diving saves that defy belief, unbelievably quick reflexes, and quite simply, some of the best pure shot stopping ability the world has ever seen. Starting his career at Parma, he quickly made his name as one of the best young keepers in Europe, leading to Italian giants Juventus to pay 52 million euros for him, still an all time record fee for a goalie. He is still at Juventus to this day. He has won the Serie A goalkeeper of the year award 7 times, UEFA goalkeeper of the year twice, been in the UEFA team of the year 4 times, been in the World team of the year 3 times, been both runner up and third place in Ballon D’Or voting, still the highest a goalkeeper has ever finished in that award, and he has even won the UEFA Player of the Year award itself, in 2002-03. He has the most clean sheets in Italy history, most clean sheets and consecutive clean sheets in Serie A history, and will break the Serie A all time appearance record by the time this season is over. He has the fourth most appearances of any international player ever, and the most of any European player. He has won 4 Coppa Italias, 6 Supercoppa Italianas, one Europa League, 10 Serie A titles, and of course his greatest achievement, winning the 2006 World Cup. Italy had an incredible team, but nobody was expecting them to win it all, because Italian football was rocked by scandal that summer. But they did, and a lot of that was down to Buffon. He only conceded 2 goals in the whole tournament, one was an own goal and the other a PK. So he conceded NO GOALS FROM AN ACTUAL SHOT ON TARGET DURING A GAME IN THE WORLD CUP! That is mindblowing! His one handed save in extra time against Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup Final will be forever remembered as one of the most clutch saves ever, and he won the tournaments Golden Glove award. What an amazing career! Gigi is a role model to goalies anywhere, like me.

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Best Saves of Buffon

But Buffon is more than just a legendary goalie, he is a class act, incredibly loyal, and a pretty good poet too. When he broke the Serie A most minutes without conceding a goal record, he did not brag, but instead wrote a poem thanking all of his teammates for all the good work they did. That isn’t even the only time he has written poetry, he once composed an ode to the goal he protects, which included the lines “From the day I turned my back on you, I began to love you. I swore to protect you. To be your first and last line of defense” and “I always thought of your wellbeing above my own”. You would think he was writing to a lover instead of a net between some metal sticks! What a guy! In what would turn out to be his final game, when Italian fans booed the Swedish national anthem, Buffon loudly applauded it to shut them up. Also, when Italian players were talking during the French national anthem one time, Gigi shut them up. He has also been an incredibly loyal servant to Juventus. In the Italian football scandal of 2006 I mentioned previously, also known as Calciopoli, Juventus was found guilty of ensuring they had favorable referees for their matches, sometimes even locking refs in closets for 48 hours before games to ensure they favored Juve. As punishment, Juventus were forcibly relegated from the Serie A to the Serie B. Their manager and most of their stars jumped ship and left for other big teams, but Buffon shocked the world when he announced he was going to stay with the club and stick it out. He was 28, in the prime of his career, coming off a summer where he had just won the World Cup. Any team in the world would have killed to have him as their goalie. But he stayed, and played in the second tier of Italian football with Juventus, leading them back up to the Serie A. Imagine how many trophies he would have won if he hadn’t sacrificed personal glory to rebuild his club! He might have actually gotten that monkey off his back and won the Champions League, the one trophy he has yet to win, despite making it to the final three times. I am sure he thinks about that every day, all the Champions Leagues he would have won had he gone to Barcelona or Real Madrid. But he stayed, and that shows all time great leadership and incredible character.

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Finally, Buffon truly loves his country. I have never seen any athlete be so openly patriotic and proud of where they come from as Gigi is for Italy. If you have never seen him belting out the Italian national anthem before a match, have you even truly lived? He is completely out of tune, but he does not care, he screams that anthem out at the top of his voice every single time. Watching him sing is honestly a highlight of any Italy match. Also, just look at his interview after Italy failed to qualify. He was standing there, tears streaming down his face as if his mother died. You could feel the pure hurt in his voice. This man loves his country, and he deserved to compete in one last World Cup for the Azzurri.

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SING THAT ANTHEM GIGI

Buffon will be 40 years old at the end of this season. His career has spanned 23 years. He has been playing for so long that a whole generation of Italians have known no goalie on their team but him. His replacement on the national team will be 18 year old wonder kid Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was actually named after Buffon! His contract with Juventus is up after this year, and they signed a goalie last summer. It looks like the writing is on the wall for a great career, and all anyone wanted was to see his last match be on the games biggest stage in Russia, competing for one last World Cup with his beloved Italy, then going off into the sunset. Sadly, that just was not to be. However, we should not cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened. Gianluigi Buffon is an all time great goalkeeper, and despite the horrible end, we were fortunate to see him play, and should remember his great career, rather than how it finished. I know I will watch the last Juventus game this season now, and probably shed multiple tears, as should anyone who loves this game. Grazie Gigi, for all you have done for football!

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WANKER OF THE WEEK #1: Sylvain Gbohouo

In Group C of African World Cup Qualifying, Morocco was on top of the table with 9 points, and the Ivory Coast was right on their tail with 8. Conveniently, they played each other in the last round of qualifiers, with the winner off to Russia and the loser staying home. I wouldn’t have been terribly upset if Morocco won, as one of my favorite old co-workers was Moroccan, but the Ivory Coast have been my favorite team in Africa since I began following this sport, so I was rooting on the elephants. The game was played, and Morocco won 2-0 sending them to the World Cup, as a result of some truly PATHETIC goalkeeping from our inaugural Wanker of the Week, Ivory Coast goalie Sylvain Gbohouo.

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I am getting infuriated just writing about this stupid WANKER! How the HECK, in the match deciding your nation’s fate in World Cup Qualifying, can you suddenly decide to make Loris Karius look like Oliver Kahn in his prime. THESE STUPID SCHOOLBOY GOALKEEPING ERRORS HAVE COST ONE OF MY TOP 5 NATIONS A SPOT IN THE WORLD CUP, ITS BAD ENOUGH AMERICA MISSED OUT NOT THIS CRAP TOO!!!!!!!! He looked like a blind dog attempting to play fetch in goal. Give Morocco credit, their manager Herve Renard is showing once again why he is one of the best managers in African international football, but they were absolutely GIFTED this game. Gbohouo was indecisive to just plain stupid out there, and both Moroccan goals were a direct result of the keeper being born without any brain cells in his head whatsoever. Watch the video in the link below to see just how bad it is.

WANKER GOALKEEPING

Yes. Now you see with your own two eyes why Gbohouo is such a mega-wank. Morocco’s first goal was supposed to be a CROSS. Literally, just a high ball slowly floating in the box, with no Morocco players really even all that close to the ball. It is literally so EASY for the goalie to come out and claim this cross. Even if he did stay on his line, his reaction to that ball was slower than an 80 year old grandma walking out to her car (and yes, I do know from experience how slow that is). If he had moved just a few seconds earlier, he could have gotten down to his right and beat that ball away for a corner. Instead, his indecisiveness and turtle-slow reactions led to a harmless high ball turning into a decisive goal. For the second goal, he came out for the corner kick, then suddenly decided he didn’t want to commit all the way, so he ended up stuck in no mans land like a deer in headlights, as Morocco smashed the ball in for their second goal, effectively writing their ticket to Russia. The video also shows a moment in the second half where Gbohouo fumbled a cross leading to a Morocco shot, with Serge Aurier having to desperately clear off the line. This video didn’t even show a free kick in the first half, where most goalkeepers would have comfortably caught it at their near post, Wanker was much too far to the center and had to desperately palm it away for a corner, the ensuing corner was the one that led to the second goal. So the second goal, a result of goalkeeping error, might not have even happened if it wasn’t for goalkeeping error! They literally teach set pieces and crosses in American youth goalkeeping training, anyone being paid actual money to be a goalkeeper should at least get the basics right. Manager Marc Wilmots will almost certainly be fired as a result of their failure to qualify, but he should have the right to fire his goalkeeping coach first!

So congratulations, Sylvain Gbohouo, you may have singlehandedly flushed your country’s World Cup dreams down the toilet, but at least you can take comfort in the fact you have the prestigious honor of being The Sturridge Dance’s first ever, WANKER OF THE WEEK!!!!!!!

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Wanker of the Week is a weekly feature of The Sturridge Dance, where we name the weeks biggest wanker in the game of football. After a full month, I will post a link to a poll, where readers can decide who the Wanker of the Month is. To prevent myself from picking him every week, I have enacted a self-imposed quota of only writing about Dejan Lovren once a month. Feel free to suggest future Wankers!

 

 

Felicitations, Senegal!

Congratulations to the Senegal national team for becoming the 24th team to qualify for the World Cup!!! The Lions of Teranga have made it to only their second World Cup in the country’s history, with their only other appearance being in 2002.

In 2002 Senegal shocked the world by advancing to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Obviously, the draw for Russia 2018 has not happened yet, so I can not really predict anything yet, but do not be surprised if this year’s squad make a similar Cinderella run. If you have the view that they are just there to make up the numbers in Russia this summer, you are very mistaken, this team has talent.

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Senegal are managed by Aliou Cisse, the 41 year old former captain of their successful 2002 squad. Having a young dynamic manager who understands from experience how to lead this country to success has helped galvanize this team from an international afterthought to one of the two or three best African squads in the world on paper, and the betting favorite for the last African Cup of Nations. (they did eventually lose, though being favorite at all shows how far they have came). However, it isn’t all just down to management, this team has lots of true talent too. The defense is anchored by Kalidou Koulibaly, the 24 year old defender who is already the leader of Napoli’s backline, and they are on top of the Serie A! He has been scouted by practically every single big club in the world, including Barcelona, Chelsea, and Manchester City, and seems to have a very bright future ahead of him, especially as he is the typical modern center back, very technically skilled on the ball and good at passing it out from the back. In midfield they have some talented players as well. Their captain, Cheikhou Kouyate is a big tall man, who is excellent at tackling and winning the ball in the air, and can hit shots from long distance as well. Kouyate is one of the few West Ham players who can actually hold their head high so far this season. Also in midfield is Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye, one of the EPL’s best holding midfielders, who led all of Europe in tackles and interceptions won last season. The attack is probably the strongest part, with another Hammer in Diafra Sakho as striker. Sakho benefits from some excellent service from some excellent wingers alongside him, from the pacy former AC Milan star M’baye Niang, to the new Monaco signing with lots of potential Keita Balde Diao, and of course, the main man, the number 10, Sadio Mane.

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Despite the talent that the rest of the team has, it is Mane who really sets them apart from the likes of say, Ivory Coast and Ghana. Since his big money move to Liverpool, Mane has rapidly risen from a being talent with potential to a borderline world class player. He was rewarded by being named Liverpool’s player of the year last season, and also receiving a nomination for the Ballon D’Or this year. He is a winger with great skill and trickery, absolutely blistering pace, and end product that improves every year. Today’s 2-0 win over South Africa which clinched them the cup was won from a Mane assist, and Mane forcing a South African defender into an own goal. On his day, he is unplayable for any fullback in football to try to stop, and if Senegal want to actually make a serious run in this tournament, Sadio will need to be at his best.

So, congratulations Senegal! It has been a truly remarkable rise! I will not make any official predictions until I know the draw, but with a great young defender, some very tough midfielders, and that fast Mane led attack, I fancy this team to be a Cinderella story, and make it out of the group stages and potentially even further than that. But for now, Senegalese people everywhere should just enjoy the moment, they are off to Russia.

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