Paulo Dybala nears Palermo exit as bidding war begins

Paulo Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A and has attracted both Arsenal and Juventus.

Paulo Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A and has attracted both Arsenal and Juventus.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Paulo Dybala is set to be the subject of an intense bidding war between Arsenal and Juventus with Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini claiming a sale will take place in April with Dybala’s representatives having been given permission to travel to both London and Paris to seek offers for the 21-year-old forward.

We will sell Dybala by the end of April, Pierpaolo Triulzi has the green light from me and is going to Paris and London to listen to offers, then we’ll evaluate them together.

Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A netting thirteen goals in twenty nine appearances attracting the interest of Arsene Wenger who may eventually be put off by Palermo’s £30million asking price.

Palermo have found the crux of their business model in identifying talented young players from South America and presenting them with a pressure free environment to begin their career in Europe before selling them to a major force for a sizable profit. The names Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani spring to mind as two of the more recent examples of Zamparini’s business model.

It is difficult to see just where Dybala would fit in at Arsenal given the wealth of attacking talent already at the club.

There is a real fear that Theo Walcott may leave the club sooner rather than later with the club’s hierarchy believed to be particularly unenthused at the prospect of dealing with the 26-year-old’s representatives in contract talks once more which would perhaps present an opening for Dybala.

The futures of Joel Campbell and Tomas Rosicky are also in doubt as we approach the summer transfer window with the Costa Rican World Cup star having been unable to impress at the Emirates before being loaned to Villarreal as part of the Gabriel Paulista transfer.

The move itself would represent a significant shift away from Arsenal’s prudent transfer policy over the past decade. Of course the London club have shown their ability to part with huge fees to attract the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez over the past two summers yet spending such a significant figure on a player with just two seasons of top-flight experience is a certain risk which doesn’t entirely fit with Arsene Wenger’s ethos.

The Frenchman has been known to take a chance of players over the course of his spell with Arsenal but never at such a sizable fee with only Francis Jeffers and Jose Antonio Reyes being expensive disappointments at the club. Wenger has often had much more success when taking players for very low fees and moulding them into first-team stars for example Alex Song and Kolo Toure.

It is believed that Juventus remains the player’s first choice with Dybala himself having publically spoken of his admiration for the Italian Serie A and its teams,

As I child I followed all championships, but always chose Italian teams on the PlayStation. I love all the championships for their diversity, but Italy remains the best choice for players from Argentina, especially because of the importance given to tactics.

AS Roma hold an interest in the player too but following last season’s expensive pursuit of Juan Iturbe it would be a surprise if the club were able to commit financially to Dybala and Palermo.

Juventus themselves may well be facing a summer of change with the club expected to reshuffle their forward line. The long pursuit of Fernando Llorente from Athletic Club has ended up being a disappointment with the Spaniard having not replicated the quality shown with the Basque club in Turin.

Carlos Tevez may also leave Juventus this summer with the former Manchester United and City striker believed to desire a return home to Argentina with former club Boca Juniors. Tevez’s contract in Turin runs until June 2016 however the Italian giants may well allow the 31-year-old to leave a year early especially given the quality he has provided in European competition with Juventus set to reach their first Champions League semi-final for over a decade.

If Juventus were to part with the £30million required to sign Dybala it could well be the deal which kick-starts the transfer market in earnest with the futures of Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza then becoming an issue.

Berardi is currently on loan at Sassuolo from Juventus and with the 20-year-old forward having twenty six Serie A goals in his two seasons with Sassuolo it is expected the Italian champions will bring him back to the club. If Juventus were to sign Dybala then there would have to be numerous departures in the forward line to avoid a bloated squad.

Zaza on the other hand is a player who was sold to Sassuolo outright by Juventus on the condition that Juve could buy him back for £11million this summer. Zaza has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Sassuolo scoring eight league goals along with being handed his first Azzurri cap by Antonio Conte. If Dybala was signed it would make such a deal wholly unlikely and could bring Tottenham Hotspur back into play with the London club holding a strong interest in 23-year-old Zaza.

Paris Saint-Germain are a club on the periphery of the Dybala transfer saga with it seeming more likely that the player’s representatives are attempting to drum up interest from the French giants. PSG may wish to rejuvenate their forward line this summer with Zlatan Ibrahimovic approaching the end of his career and Edinson Cavani enduring a second straight difficult season in France.

However given the Financial Fair Play restrictions placed upon the club last year, they have to be very careful in monitoring their spending and with home-grown players regulations always a worry it could be the case that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette would be their preferred option.

Palermo would welcome the cash injection from the sale of Dybala with it still as yet unclear as to whom may replace the skilful Argentine. Former Real Madrid youth prospect Alberto Bueno, now plying his trade with Rayo Vallecano, has been muted as one possible target for the Italian club who sit eleventh in Serie A, just three and four points behind Internazionale and AC Milan respectively, in their first season back in the top-flight.

Palermo may also have to contend with another departure this summer with Dybala’s partner in crime Franco Vazquez also muted to be heading towards the exit door at Renzo Barbera.

My Group Stage Scouting Report featured on UEFA.COM

Hi Guys,

Just a quick update, you can find my scouting report on this season’s UEFA Champions League Group Stage available online at UEFA.com as well as in the print copy of Champions Matchday for January 2015.

Here is the link- http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/newsid=2202605.html , any feedback would be more than welcome.

Chris

Bayern Munich reach near perfection in Eternal City

Bayern Munich's players celebrate in front of the travelling support at full-time. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Bayern Munich’s players celebrate in front of the travelling support at full-time. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Every so often you see something in football that makes your jaw drop, yet next to no words follow. FC Barcelona’s comprehensive domination of Manchester United in the 2011 European Cup final was one such occasion, as was Germany’s 7-1 victory over hosts Brazil in the semi-final of this summer’s World Cup. Last night Bayern Munich forced another such moment with their 7-1 victory over AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, a scoreline which nobody could have predicted.

It was by no means a surprise that Bayern Munich won, that isn’t the issue, it was clear before kick-off that Pep Guardiola’s side has a wealth of talent however this wasn’t a mismatch on paper. Roma, despite finishing second in Serie A last season, are perhaps, due to the exit of Antonio Conte at Juventus, the best team in Italy. Under Rudi Garcia, Roma have returned to Europe’s top table and can be considered, quite fairly, an elite team.

Bayern Munich, however were on another level in the Italian capital last night. It was quite captivating just how close the Bavarian giants came to reaching football perfection, a description solely reserved for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team in more recent times.

Throughout last season Bayern Munich were impressive, winning the Bundesliga title, German Cup and reaching the last four of the European Cup. It is fair to say that in spite of all that success there was always a feeling that something just hadn’t quite clicked into place as yet, this is by no means a criticism of Bayern as adapting to a new coach, especially one as unique and demanding as Pep Guardiola, is always likely to take time.

Last night however felt to me like the line in the sand performance. The moment where Bayern have entered that sphere that most football teams are never able to, the sphere that Guardiola’s Barcelona reached between 2009 and 2011. Everything seemed to click into place.

Interestingly enough it was Roma who started the match the better with the hosts galvanised by Manchester City’s rather inexplicable failure to hold onto a 2-0 lead away in Moscow. A victory from Roma would have sent the Italians to the top of the group with qualification a serious possibility. Gervinho was busy running through the gap of Boateng and Benatia in Bayern’s back four and Rudi Garcia’s side were comfortable in possession inside their own half.

Of course this was just a five to six minute period but it looked as if we were in for a classic cagey, yet enthralling, European tie.

Then with what seemed like a flick of a switch Bayern turned things up a gear. Arjen Robben received the ball inside Roma’s penalty area and punished Ashley Cole for showing him inside to a shooting lane in the most emphatic way possible. Robben arrowed the ball past Morgan De Sanctis and into the far corner. This is the moment Pep changed the game.

The first shot of celebration on camera was between Guardiola and Neuer however it was more a case of Guardiola giving Neuer instructions. One of the keys to Guardiola’s success as a coach has been a quick pressing game and a high defensive line. Bayern’s defensive line had actually been uncharacteristically deep until the goal, to the visible frustration of Guardiola on the touchline, and it appeared that Neuer had been instructed to tell the defence to push up and thus start controlling the game as well as pushing further forward himself.

From this moment we saw a totally different shape from the visitors. Bayern’s defensive line pushed right up to the half-way line and penned Roma into their half.

Two of Roma’s most influential players, Francesco Totti and Miralem Pjanic were taken completely out of the game. This was the beauty of Bayern’s tactical switch. Roma now had no single outlet to retain possession or possibility to clear the ball and regain their own shape.

The only thing Bayern had to worry about was Gervinho nipping into the space between the two centre-halves and beating the offside trap however this is not a sustainable model of attack given the 50/50 nature of being called offside. Again another means of Bayern holding control.

Boateng and Benatia sat on the halfway line whilst Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso pressed with speed and penned Totti and Pjanic into a small circle just inside the left side of Roma’s half, thus taking them out of the game completely. With Roma’s midfield bypassed, Bayern could solely focus on attacking and putting pressure on the two full-backs, Torosidis and Cole, who were both enduring nightmare performances.

Singling out one player can fully illustrate Bayern’s development as a team under Guardiola. Xabi Alonso’s pressing work in the midfield was surprisingly quick for a player not known for his speed. In his position last season was Toni Kroos, a player whom Pep Guardiola was hugely reliant on during that period. However one of Kroos’ weaknesses is his physical attributes, he isn’t an energetic midfielder and doesn’t have the tools to press quickly and then regain a shape.

His outstanding talents all come with the ball at his feet, which in a Guardiola team, may be too one dimensional to excel. With Alonso’s willingness to press came a tactic which took Roma’s midfield out of the game and allowed Bayern to show their footballing dominance in the form of seven goals.

An illustration of Bayern's effective high defensive line. Totti and Pjanic are totally cocooned inside the small red circle, outnumbered by the trio of Bernat, Boateng and Benatia. Alonso and Bernat's pressing work ensure that the pair have no time on the ball as well as forcing Roma deeper and deeper towards their penalty area.

An illustration of Bayern’s effective high defensive line. Totti and Pjanic are totally cocooned inside the small red circle, outnumbered by the trio of Bernat, Boateng and Benatia. Alonso and Bernat’s pressing work ensure that the pair have no time on the ball as well as forcing Roma deeper and deeper towards their penalty area.

What followed was a football team hitting their absolute peak and an opposition team having absolutely no answer. The shots rained in on De Sanctis’ goal and despite a drop in intensity in the middle period of the second-half, the final score could have read a lot worse than 7-1 from a Roman perspective.

Guardiola was keen to urge caution following last night’s result, claiming Bayern “must do better” before labelling the scoreline “an exception” however you would expect nothing less from a coach always in pursuit of total perfection. Last night we saw a football team with natural talent that we have been aware of for the past 2-3 years, however we saw the first real moment of total acclimatisation to Guardiola’s system and one which cannot be reversed and for the rest of Europe, that is indeed a worrying prospect.

Manchester United and Chevrolet Team Up to Auction Exclusive Fan Experiences‏

July 16, 2014 1 comment

Written by Chris Winterburn

Louis van Gaal touched down in Manchester early this morning to officially begin life as Manchester United manager. The experienced Dutchman comes to Old Trafford fresh from a wonderful World Cup campaign with the Dutch national team where he guided a team, not blessed with the masses of quality Dutch sides of the Cruyff, de Boer and Van Nistelrooy eras had at their disposal, to the semi-final of the competition. united chevrolet charity

Manchester United supporters eagerly anticipate the impact Van Gaal will have on the team’s fortunes with speculation surrounding moves in the transfer market likely to intensify following Van Gaal’s arrival at the AON Training Complex. 

Van Gaal himself is eager to start work as soon as possible, not even having a holiday following his adventure in Brazil and he will join Manchester United as the club fly out to America on Friday to begin the club’s pre-season tour.

Manchester United and Chevrolet are teaming up alongside ‘Charitybuzz.com‘ a charity auction site to give six lucky Manchester United supporters the opportunity to bid for exclusive fan experience packages for Manchester United’s pre-season tour match with Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium on August 2.

The auction is to support ‘United Way’ in Southeastern Michigan, an organisation which strives to improve lives by mobilising the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.

Here are details of the auction and how you can get involved:


Chevrolet Offers Ultimate Manchester United Experience
Proceeds of ticket packages auctioned for Manchester United-Real Madrid match to benefit United Way for Southeastern Michigan

July 8, 2014 — Chevrolet will offer six exclusive ticket packages for auction, including a once-in-a-lifetime “Ultimate Manchester United Fan Experience” for the highly anticipated match against Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium as part of the Guinness International Champions Cup (ICC) .

Proceeds from the auction hosted at Charitybuzz.com will benefit United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Soccer fans can place bids now through July 22 for a chance to win one of six ticket packages that include four tickets to the match, hospitality, pre-game access and more. Complete auction details are available at Charitybuzz.com/ManchesterUnited .

As the Official Shirt Sponsor of Manchester United, the team will wear Chevrolet-branded shirts during the Aug. 2 match that also feature a commemorative United Way badge. Each auction winner will receive one of the game-worn shirts from the team’s new kit, which debuted earlier this week.

“Like the athletes who give their all on the field and the lifelong fans who go the distance to support them, Chevrolet wants to connect everyone with the spirit that makes soccer the world’s favourite sport,” said General Motors President Dan Ammann, chair for the 2014-15 United Way for Southeastern Michigan Workplace Campaign. “From backyards to the ‘Big House,’ Chevrolet is proud to support our local communities and United Way.”

The auction extends GM’s and the GM Foundation’s ongoing support of United Way and its mission to improve communities and individual lives by focusing on education, financial stability and such basic needs as food and shelter.

In 2010, the GM Foundation pledged its largest grant ever – $27.1 million to United Way for Southeastern Michigan to establish a “Network of Excellence” in seven Detroit-area high schools. The grant is also helping to advance early childhood education in the area. Over the last two years, GM employees and retirees have contributed more than $11 million through the company’s United Way campaign, and have donated more than 7,200 hours of volunteer service at the Network of Excellence schools since 2011.

“United Way for Southeastern Michigan is honored to partner with Chevrolet for the Manchester United auction packages — these are two of the most storied and beloved brands in the world,” said Michael J. Brennan, president & CEO, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “With the same spirit that soccer fans unite to support their team, we are committed to uniting the community in support of making Greater Detroit one of the best places to live and work. We are deeply grateful to GM for their partnership and for this exciting opportunity to move our mission forward.”

The Manchester United ticket packages available for auction include:

Ultimate Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt – Signed
Meet & Greet with Manchester United Players
On-field Mascot escorting player on field (7-13 year old)
Attend Open Training Session
Four (4) tickets to a match at Old Trafford Stadium

VIP Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt
Four (4) tickets to a match at Old Trafford Stadium

Executive Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt – Signed
Meet & Greet with Manchester United Players

Fred the Red Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt
On-field Mascot escorting player on field (7-13 year old)

Super Fan Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt

Red Devil Package Four (4) tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt
Attend Open Training Session

Head over to www.Charitybuzz.com/ManchesterUnited in order to take part in this auction for a what is a fantastic cause, and you may be lucky enough to win one of the aforementioned Manchester United exclusive fan experience packages.

Germany and Argentina look to end respective World Cup droughts in Rio de Janeiro

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Tonight sees the culmination of a month’s worth of hard work, drama and sheer excitement as the 2014 World Cup final takes place in Rio de Janeiro, however host nation Brazil are the notable absentees from their own showpiece event following their 10 minute capitulation against Germany in the 7-1 semi-final defeat. Instead, Brazil’s fiercest rivals Argentina will step into the cauldron of footballing history that is the Maracana and look to end a 28-year wait for World Cup success by overcoming Germany in a repeat of the 1986 final.Maracana-World-Cup-Schedule

Germany too have a World Cup drought of their own with the European giants having not lifted the famous trophy since 1990 despite reaching the 2002 final but coming up short against Brazil in Yokohama. Joachim Lowe’s side have looked irresistibly brilliant at times this tournament, but have also flattered to deceive, particularly in the Group Stage matches against Ghana and the United States.

The semi-final victory against Brazil, whilst a monumental surprise, looked a real turning point for Lowe’s team. Whilst the belief of success had always been there this was a true return to the nature of German teams from days gone by, the more successful teams.

In 2006 and 2010 respectively we have seen Germany try to play with rather more flamboyancy in order to make best use of the current crop of exciting attacking talent that have come through courtesy of the post-millennium restructuring of German football, however this has come at a cost. Gone was the admittedly stereotypical steel and organisation from the German team, mistakes were creeping into performances and players weren’t performing in the important matches.

Lowe has somehow managed to reintroduce these characteristics to the class of 2014 with the attacking flair still evident, there is the perfect balance. The way Germany simply relaxed, remained professional and managed to score seven goals in their semi-final against Brazil proved this and has the European side heading into tonight’s match with fantastic belief.

Argentina on the other hand have had a less than smooth run to the final with the Argentine media absolutely hammering coach Alejandro Sabella for what the perceived to be ‘poor tactics’ in the opening matches whilst others groups criticises the influence Lionel Messi appeared to have not just on his teammates but also his coach.

What cannot be ignored however is how Lionel Messi has dragged his side to the latter stages of the tournament. A lot is made of the mark Diego Maradona left on the 1986 World Cup winning side and many suggest Messi will never be able to have that impact however the Barcelona forward has been outstanding in Brazil.

His last minute winning goal against Iran, his influential second-half performance in the tournament opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina which changed the tide of the match and a orchestrating display against Switzerland in the second round where he provided an inch perfect assist for Angel di Maria’s extra-time winning goal are all moments where Messi has led Argentina from the front.

These are the moments that are remembered for years to come, especially if Messi lifts the trophy in Rio this evening.

There have however been concerns about Messi’s overall fitness heading into tonight’s match with his father being particularly vocal in his concern for his son who he claims is ‘exhausted’. This showed in the semi-final against the Netherlands with the 27-year-old failing to register a touch inside the Dutch penalty area throughout the entire match.

From a tactical perspective this match is so difficult to predict due to the similarities in playing style between the two teams, particularly when not in possession. Both Germany and Argentina love to press an opposing team high up the pitch with Sabella and Lowe both encouraging their forwards to put real pressure on defenders, particularly when a team tries to play out from the back.

In this respect the Dutch played right into Argentina’s hands in the semi-final with the South American’s putting the Dutch defence under pressure early and cutting out the easy build-up pass to one of Nigel de Jong or Georginio Wijnaldum. Even without the epitome of Argentinean energy in Angel di Maria’s absence the team still managed to press effectively.

Germany look to press in a similar manner and tonight’s match may see players having less time on the ball than in previous rounds. This could make for a rather ‘harem scarem’ match with both teams being rushed into making decisions on the ball which makes mistakes more likely or, and we certainly hope this isn’t the case from the view of neutral, we see a rather timid affair with both teams aware of the other’s strengths and on guard against making a mistake.

Argentina will be without Di Maria, which is a big blow, but the return of Sergio Aguero gives Sabella options up front. With Gonzalo Higuain’s shall we say, relaxed playing style, there have been times where Messi has had to kick the team into action. With Messi fatigue issues it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if Aguero is played through the middle as a centre-forward who can bring energy to that area, support Messi and put pressure on Mats Hummels who is still playing through the pain barrier having suffered a knee injury earlier in the tournament.

From a German perspective Toni Kroos has been one of the best players in the tournament. He has played in his naturally unassuming manner and influenced the outcome of every match he has played in. With a move to Real Madrid expected to go through following the World Cup, Kroos has done his worldwide stock no harm this summer and Argentina have to get to grips with him early on. He is almost at an Andrea Pirlo level of being able to dictate matches but rather more crucially he is mobile and can move further up the pitch and orchestrate attacks.

After a heroic performance from Javier Mascherano in the semi-final, with Kroos in full flow you would say the Barcelona midfielder has to put in a similar man marking job on Kroos to limit his effectiveness.

There is little left to do other than await tonight’s match. The World Cup final only comes around once every four years however there will be an iconic image. Be that Philipp Lahm lifting the trophy to signal the German approach to remodelling their footballing structure in 2000 was all worthwhile or Lionel Messi, launching himself into the pantheon of footballing gods alongside Diego Maradona, by lifting the famed trophy in Brazil.

World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi strike saves Argentina’s blushes

Lionel Messi celebrates his injury time winning goal. (Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.)

Lionel Messi celebrates his injury time winning goal. (Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.)

Written by Chris Winterburn

Argentina survived a scare this evening with Lionel Messi’s 91st minute winning goal the difference between Alejandro Sabella’s side and Iran in a 1-0 victory for the South American giants.

The Iranians were once again well organised defensively as well as posing an efficient threat on the counter-attack and it wouldn’t have been too farfetched to suggest the underdogs deserved a victory, let alone the draw they so nearly earned.

The similarities between Italy’s performance against Costa Rica yesterday afternoon and Argentina’s against Iran were striking. Argentina had very little tempo when in possession of the ball however still squandered a number of chances in the first-half from set pieces with Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez both heading over the bar from close range.

Iran, as they were against Nigeria in the week, were defensively strong. Javad Nekounam performed well as a holding midfielder, often dropping in at centre-half whilst Alireza Haghighi looked confident when dealing with balls delivered into the penalty area.

Alejandro Sabella after staunch criticism for his use of a 5-3-2 formation at the beginning of the opening fixture against Bosnia and Herzegovina selected Gonzalo Higuain from the beginning however the Napoli forward was almost passenger throughout aside from one chance in the first-half, leaving Messi isolated when withdrawing into a deep midfield position to receive the ball.

Argentina in fairness did have the better of the opening 45 minutes with Iran looking to consolidate a strong defensive display. The aforementioned Higuain chance came just before the half hour with the Napoli forward firing straight into Haghighi’s midriff from close range. Iran’s confidence grew from there with the half closing with Carlos Queiroz’s side going close from a corner through central defender Jalal Hosseini.

The half-time break appeared to have refocused Argentina with Pablo Zabaleta, Marcos Rojo and Sergio Aguero all looking to create a chance in the opening five minutes. From this moment however Iran looked to take control.

Argentina in search of an opening goal left far too many gaps in defence and midfield and should have been punished in the 55th minute when Ashkan Dejagah was denied a penalty. Replays showed a mistimed Zabaleta challenge was in actual fact, a foul. Dejagah had Iran’s next big chance ten minutes later when the Fulham midfielder forced an excellent save out of Sergio Romero following a diving header.

Panic set in to the Argentine team with attacks becoming frenzied and first touches slack. Alejandro Sabella looked to respond by introducing Rodrigo Palacio and Ezequiel Lavezzi but both struggled.

Charlton’s Reza Ghoochannejhad had put in a lot in terms of closing the Argentinean defence down however luck deserted the frontman in the final third with Romero pulling off yet another fantastic stop four minutes from time after another counter attack.

Whilst not the most aesthetically pleasing of playing styles it was difficult not to admire the focus and determination of an Iranian side plagued by off the pitch troubles prior to the tournament. A side, who were reportedly told not to swap shirts at the end of matches due to a financial inability to replace them, looked set to secure their second point of the tournament until a largely quiet Lionel Messi weaved his wand of a left foot.

With just three minutes of added time remaining Messi produced the trademark cut inside onto his strong left foot from the right hand side of the penalty area, taking two Iranians out of the game before curling a shot into the top corner in just the manner he has done so many times before.

Initially the crowd in Belo Horizonte, made up mostly by Argentineans, erupted in a wave of audible delight however the full-time whistle was accompanied by a small amount of discontent from supporters who felt Iran deserved better.

The victory spares Argentina’s blushed on an evening when they really didn’t deserve one point, let alone all three however the passage to the knockout stage has been forged by Lionel Messi who looks to be in the goalscoring form to carry his team to the latter stages.

Domino’s Pizza are offering football fans a chance to change goals into prizes this summer courtesy of the brand new, free to download ‘Domigoals’ app.  To stand a chance of receiving great prizes such as:

·        1 goal = £5 off a £15 spend
·        2 goals (brace) = £10 off £20 spend
·        3 goals (hat-trick) = £20 off £30 spend
·        Consolation prize = 25% off £20

Then all you need to do is be ready to tap the app every time a goal is scored during a match and, if you’re one of the first 1000 off the mark each time, you’ll get one of these aforementioned prizes.

Try the app out for yourself, you can download on Android or iOS here: http://www.dominos.co.uk/blog/domigoals-app/

Juan Sebastian Veron talks Lionel Messi and Argentina at the World Cup

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Argentina’s opening victory of their World Cup campaign was not the straightforward result many were expecting from Alejandro Sabella’s side in their home continent. The first-half was a very difficult affair with Sabella’s tactical setup not benefitting Lionel Messi in the slightest, as I discuss here.

This opened up much half-time discussion on just why Messi couldn’t perform at the World Cup, however his second-half display put a kibosh on such talk.

Argentine veteran Juan Sebastian Veron has since spoken to adidas about Lionel Messi and Argentina’s chances in Brazil.

Veron talks to adidas as part of the #allin campaign.

Veron talks to adidas as part of the #allin campaign.

One of the main talking points surrounding Messi’s legacy is his ability to lead his country to glory in a World Cup. People who use Pele and Diego Maradona as measuring sticks suggest that a true mark of greatness is being able to lift the famous trophy and with Argentina disappointing in 2010, it was muted that Messi might not be able to repeat the feat of Maradona.

Veron disagrees, pointing out that the FC Barcelona forward has already achieved more than enough to cement his status as one of, if not the, greatest player ever.

Messi is already one of the best players in history and that will never change.

He holds the key. He doesn’t have to win a World Cup to be regarded as the best ever.

He’s already proven so, and there are many great players who are great players and never won a World Cup. But, it will be incredible to see him win it for Argentina and his team, as well as for his own story.

An encouraging sign for Messi and Argentina is just how well he slotted into Sabella’s 4-2-3-1 system in the second-half. Gonzalo Higuain’s introduction gave him a player to play off and this saw the tempo of Argentina’s attacks increase. It is unlikely Sabella will deviate from this system for the upcoming match against Iran with Messi appearing so confident following his strike against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Juan Sebastian Veron was a key part of the Argentinean footballing setup since 1997. Although he missed the 2006 World Cup in Germany due to difficulties within his club career at the time causing a lengthy dip in form, the man himself says it feels strange not to be involved this time around, “Although I miss playing in a World Cup, for the first time I’m able to see it from a different perspective and really enjoying my time here in Brazil. I’ve been able to watch many great games.”

Argentina were one of the pre-tournament favourites and although the defensive line is lacking in individual quality, a Lionel Messi hitting form at the right time is enough to drive most teams to the latter stages. In the interview Veron suggests that the importance of gaining a victory in the opening group match is invaluable in terms of providing ‘tranquillity’ to a group with the pressure in the remaining two fixtures significantly lowered,

We’ve won our first game which is great, it’s important to start the World Cup winning and it will bring a lot of tranquillity to the next match.

The team also know that a lot more hard work is needed and some improvements are needed.

It’s very important for there to be a balance between our defence and attack and the team needs to stay together as they’re a collective of many components, with many solutions.

I’m confident we’ll do well, but remember, in football anything can happen.

Argentina next take to the field against Iran on Saturday before their final group game against a lacklustre Nigeria side on Wednesday June 25th.

Juan Sebastian Veron was talking as part of the adidas #allin or nothing campaign

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