An absolutely mouth-watering clash in the Stade Gerland this evening as the Galactico’s of Real Madrid take on the team that got the better of them last season Olympique Lyon. Martin Michelot writer for Ligue 1 Talk is confident of the home sides chances.

At the moment of the draw, Lyon fans wanted to avoid two teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid. The former for all the obvious reasons, and the latter because Real Madrid bears a sense of déjà-vu for Lyon fans. The two teams have played each other 6 times in the past 5 years; Lyon has the bragging rights as Les Gones have never lost against the Madridistas, and dealt the Casa Blanca a serious blow last season by eliminating them at the same stage of the competition. Lyon would eventually exit to the hands of Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.

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Another talented writer makes his début on gibfootballshow. Euan Marshall originally from Glasgow and now a resident in South America uses his new found love of Latin football to tell Blackburn Rovers fans all about their new signing Mauro Formica.

Under ambitious new ownership and with some decent form under their belt, Blackburn Rovers have all the makings of a football club on the rise. To go along with the shrewd loan signings of Schalke 04′s Jermaine Jones and the returning Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn have decided to go out and buy a South American attacking midfielder. They did not end up with Ronaldinho Gaúcho, but they have managed to sign an extremely exciting and promising young Argentine, Mauro Formica.

Formica’s recent form for Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina has generated a lot of buzz and interest throughout the football world. His 16 appearances and 2 goals in the 2010 Torneo Apertura attracted suitors from all over Europe, with Rubin Kazan, Galatasaray, Genoa, Blackburn Rovers and Monaco all looking to facilitate his move across the Atlantic. He looked certain to sign for Les Rouge et Blanc in France, but as Newell’s tried to squeeze more money out of the principality club, the move stalled. That was when Blackburn jumped in and made an improved offer which was swiftly accepted by Newell’s. Finally, “El Gato” (“the Cat”) agreed a contract with Rovers which will see him in Lancashire for the next three years.

A Newell’s boy born and bred, Mauro signed his first professional contract with la Lepra in 2006 when he was 18 years old. He has always been highly coveted at Newell’s, and after three years he broke into a regular first team place in the 2009/2010 season, managing 38 appearances and 8 goals in all competitions. However it was not until this season’s Apertura where 22 year-old Mauro really blossomed, becoming a key player in the Newell’s squad.

Formica hails from a nation notorious for hyping up their young talents, with several youngsters tipped to be reincarnations of national football heroes like Diego Maradona or Ariel Ortega. Unsurprisingly, Mauro has not been able to escape this, with several pundits dubbing him (inexplicably) the “new Batistuta”; however the more accurate comparison comes from Argentina’s neighbours Brazil, in the shape of Real Madrid’s Kaká.

Not only does he bear a truly startling physical resemblance to Kaká (everything except the 80s style mullet), Formica also has several similarities to the Brazilian in his playing style. Watching the way he drives at defences, with the ball appearing to stick to his boots, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a young Kaká. He skips past defenders in the same way that Kaká does, naturally and with pace.

However Formica isn’t just a dribbler, he has technique and flair in abundance, making him a fantastic player to watch. He has a tremendous passing range, a great first touch, he hits a great shot from distance, and he is able to pull off deft flicks, back-heels and nutmegs when the situation calls for it. Without trying to over-hype the 22-year old, he really does possess the skill set of a truly world class attacking midfielder.

Mauro Formica belongs to a generation of very talented Argentine footballers, and unfortunately for him this could seriously affect his chances of featuring for the national team in later years. Formica is a number 10, an attacking midfielder, what the Argentines refer to as an enganche, and he’s going to have some serious competition on the international scene. Already Ángel di María has made a name for himself at Real Madrid and has appeared several times at international level, furthermore two of the game’s most promising players will be desperate to fill the number 10 role; Javier Pastore of Palermo, and Erik Lamela of River Plate.

As I have mentioned earlier, Formica is a proper South American number 10. At Newell’s he played either behind two centre-forwards or as the left sided attacking midfielder in a 4-3-2-1. He serves as an excellent link between the midfield and attack, and is able to intuitively move into the right areas to receive the ball and then produce the killer pass. He has all the wonderful passing attributes of a great playmaker, and his equally wonderful dribbling skills mean he can go it alone if necessary and provide a different threat to opposing defences.

Certainly the main question regarding Formica’s move to Blackburn is whether he will be able to adapt and thrive in the Premier League. English football is certainly a very different game from what Formica is used to back home, the pace is much higher, with creative players not allowed much time on the ball, and overall the game is a much more physical affair. It is expected that Formica will need some time to adapt, and he may find it hard to make much of an impact between now and the end of the season.

Formica will be hoping to slot into a position similar to his number 10 role at Newell’s. He will have players like Morten Gamst Pedersen and Junior Hoilett to link up with in midfield, and two good forwards to aim at, fellow South American Roque Santa Cruz, and the Croatian Nikola Kalinić. A main part of his success at Newell’s was his excellent ability to link with players around him, so Formica will be hoping to develop the same rapport with his new Ewood Park team-mates.

With all of these qualities and obvious potential, Blackburn will be hoping that the introduction of Formica will bring some real South American class to their midfield to help their push for European qualification. How much of an immediate impact he will make is impossible to know, but with Formica’s style and talent we can be sure of plenty breathtaking moments from el Gato for years to come.

To read more of Euan’s work please have a look at his wonderful website “I like football me” and also catch him on twitter for all the goings on in Brazil and South America. Also soon to join the gibfootballshow podcast ;)

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Another 4 teams went home today, there was a injury time winner, a nail biting finish and two favourites that will meet in the Last 16, another great day in the World Cup. I managed to watch the full Ghana v Germany game, first half of England v Slovenia and the highlights of the other 2 games.

SLOVENIA

0

 

ENGLAND

1

      Jermaine DEFOE (23′)  
         
1.Samir HANDANOVIC     1.David JAMES  
2.Miso BRECKO     2.Glen JOHNSON – Y  
4.Marko SULER     3.Ashley COLE  
5.Bostjan CESAR     4.Steven GERRARD – C  
8.Robert KOREN – C     6.John TERRY  
9.Zlatan LJUBIJANKIC OUT – 62   8.Frank LAMPARD  
10.Valter BIRSA – Y     10.Wayne ROONEY OUT – 72
11.Milivoje NOVAKOVIC     14.Gareth BARRY  
13.Bojan JOKIC - Y     15.Matthew UPSON  
17.Andraz KIRM OUT – 79   16.James MILNER  
18.Aleksandar RADOSAVLJEVIC     19.Jermain DEFOE OUT – 86
         
Subs     Subs  
14.Zlatko DEDIC - Y IN – 62   9.Peter CROUCH IN – 72
23.Tim MATAVZ IN – 79   21.Emile HESKEY IN – 86

MY THOUGHTS

Overall a much better performance for England, Capello would hope there is more to come from his men, from what I saw in the first half they played the best football they have so far, there was 10-15 really good minutes around the time of the goal, but then towards the end of the first half they were reverting to the long ball again and this is what causing England problems cause they then sit back, from the highlights in the second half, Slovenia never troubled England properly till the last 2/3 minutes and no clear cut chances.

Disappointing performance from Slovenia, Birsa looked busy as did Kirm, the front two failed to connect, and Suler was caught out for Defoe’s goal, Radosavljevic was decent in the middle the player who does the dirty work in midfield, and Handanovic made some fantastic saves, especially the save from Rooney’s chance.

Losts of good performances from England, Defoe started sharp, Gerrard was better on the left this time, Rooney did ok but still not as sharp as the English would like, 3 players that stood out were the defensive pairing of Upson and Terry they were terrific, some last ditch tackles, hearts on the sleeve kind of stuff, without their passion Slovenia may have had some more chances. and James Milner was quality, playing some lovely teasing balls in the box, one for the goal, nice to see him return to form after his bad 30 minutes against the USA, he bounced back with style and should keep his place.

England through to the last 16 more on who they’ll face later.

USA

1

 

ALGERIA

0

Landon DONOVAN (90+1′)        
         
1.Tim HOWARD     23.Rais M’BOLHI  
3.Carlos BOCANEGRA – C     2.Madjid BOUGHERRA  
4.Michael BRADLEY     3.Nabir BELHADJ  
6.Steve CHERUNDOLO     4.Anther YAHIA – C - Y/R  
8.Clint DEMPSEY     5.Rafik HALLICHE  
9.Herculez GOMEZ OUT – 46   8.Medhi LACEN – Y  
10.Landon DONOVAN     11.Rafik DJEBBOUR OUT – 65
12.Jonathan BORNSTEIN OUT – 80   13.Karim MATMOUR OUT – 85
15.Jay DeMERIT     15.Karim ZIANI OUT – 69
17.Jozy ALTIDORE - Y     19.Hassan YEBDA - Y  
19.Maurice EDU OUT – 64   21.Foued KADIR  
         
Subs     Subs  
7.DaMarcus BEASLEY - Y IN – 80   10.Rafik SAIFI IN – 85
14.Edson BUDDLE IN – 64   17.Adlane GUEDIOURA IN – 69
22.Benny FEILHABER IN – 46   9.Abdelkader GHEZZAL IN – 65

MY THOUGHTS

Only seen the highlights of this one so impossible to comment on performances, but what can you say about this USA team, lost a goal against England after 3 minutes and came back, went 2-0 down against Slovenia and came back and now with a place in the last 16 beckoning it took to the 91st minute and a never give up attitude for the US to advance, Donovan following in Altidore’s shot and he placed the rebound past M’Bolhi.

After the shocking decision to disallow the goal against Slovenia, when Dempsey’s goal was chalked off for offside in the first half maybe the Americans had it in their mind that it wasn’t to be their day, if they did think that it didn’t show it, Bradley charging forward from midfield, Dempsey and Donovan combining and I think they deserved the goal and to go through, although at Slovenia’s expense, they will hope to not have to wait to the 91st minute for a goal the next game.

GHANA

0

 

GERMANY

1

      Mesut OZIL (60′)  
         
22.Richard KINGSON     1.Manuel NEUER  
2.Hans SARPEI     3.Arne FRIEDRICH  
3.Asamoah GYAN OUT – 82   6.Sami KHEDIRA  
4.John PANTSIL     7.Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER OUT – 81
5.John MENSAH     8.Mesut OZIL  
6.Anthony ANNAN     10.Lucas PODOLSKI  
8.Jonathan MENSAH     13.Thomas MULLER - Y OUT – 67
12.Prince TAGOE OUT – 64   16.Philipp LAHM  
13.Andre AYEW - Y OUT – 92   17.Per MERTESACKER  
21.Kwadwo ASAMOAH     19.CACAU  
23.Kevin Prince BOATENG     20.Jerome BOATENG OUT – 73
         
Subs     Subs  
11.Sulley MUNTARI IN – 64   2.Marcell JANSEN IN – 73
14.Matthew AMOAH IN – 82   15.Piotr TROCHOWSKI IN – 67
18.Dominc ADIYAH IN – 92   18.Toni KROOS IN – 81

MY THOUGHTS

Really enjoyable game this, very open some really nice football, shocked it finished 1-0 with the amount of counter attacking football and near chances we saw, with Ghana needing at least a draw to go through, they really tried hard Annan who has really impressed me controlled the midfield always got time on the ball and very smart with the ball, Boateng and Asamoah were busy in midfield always trying to find space and nearly breached the German defence at times, Asamoah Gyan was the main man again and should have at least scored, great movement, great strength, great awareness, just lacked that composure upfront that they need as an attacking threat.

Germany continued their impressive attack minded football, always finding space, there was always movement off the ball, maybe lacked the danger of Klose up front, Lahm was a general tonight, clearing off the line, charging his team forward a true captains performance, Khedira and Schweinsteiger were sold and dealt well with Ghana’s threat caught out at times though, the defence still looks shaky to me and will come under sterner tests, however the attacking options will cause any team problems, with the wing play of Podolski and Muller accompanied with Mesut Ozil’s guile/skill and wisdom above his years, teams will be scared to play Germany and so they should.

Germany’s reward for winning the group will be a Last 16 tie with arch-rivals England, and what a game that could be.

AUSTRALIA

2

 

SERBIA

1

Tim CAHILL (69′)     Marko PANTELIC (84′)  
Brett HOLMAN (73′)        
         
1.Mark SCHWARZER     1.Vladimir STOJKOVIC  
2.Lucas NEILL     5.Nemanja VIDIC  
4.Tim CAHILL     6.Branislav IVANOVIC  
5.Jason CULINA     10.Dejan STANKOVIC  
6.Michael BEAUCHAMP - Y     13.Aleksandar LUKOVIC  
7.Brett EMERTON - Y     14.Milan JOVANOVIC  
8.Luke WILKSHERE – Y OUT – 82   15.Nikola ZIGIC OUT – 67
9.Joshua KENNEDY     16.Ivan OBRADOVIC  
16.Carl VALERI OUT – 66   17.Milos KRASIC OUT – 62
21.David CARNEY     18.Milos NINKOVIC  
23.Mark BRESCIANO OUT – 66   22.Zdravko KUZMANOVIC OUT – 77
         
Subs     Subs  
14.Brett HOLMAN IN – 66   4.Gojko KACAR IN – 62
11.Scott CHIPPERFIELD IN – 66   7.Zoran TOSIC IN – 77
19.Richard GARCIA IN – 82   8.Darko LAZOVIC IN – 67

MY THOUGHTS

The goals were played during the Germany game, and it looked a half decent game when Cahill opened the scoring, the 2nd goal by Holman a nice bouncing 30 yard strike gave the Aussies hope and a goal in either game and they’d have been through, but the 2-1 defeat of Serbia eliminated both teams from the Group Stage, once Pantelic scored Serbia only need a goal to advance, and they had one ruled off for offside, anda  massive chance for Pantelic at the end where he could have done better, not many clips of Australia troubling the Serbians late on, so it was a good result for Ghana as they then qualify for a game against Greece

Ghana will face the Usa on Saturday for a place in the quarter finals, the winners play the winner of Uruguay v South Korea and one of these four smaller nations will advance to the Semi’s, gotta take one game at a time.

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Well 3 good games today, Dark horses Paraguay strengthened their position, Underdogs New Zealand achieved one of the greatest moments in World Cup history, and Brazil tamed Les Elephants and sent out a message, but the day will be overshadowed but the cheat that is Kader Keita, used to like him as a player at Lille, but moments like that need to be stamped out of football, if FIFA do not do the right thing and ban Keita and let Kaka play the organisation as usual will look like a joke, now back to the games.

SLOVAKIA

0

 

PARAGUAY

2

      Enrique VERA (27′)  
      Cristian RIVEROS (86′)  
         
1.Jan MUCHA     1.Justo VILLAR  
2.Peter PEKARIK     3.Claudio MOREL  
3.Martin SKRTEL     6.Carlos BONET  
6.Zdenko STRBA     9.Roque SANTA CRUZ  
7.Vladimir WEISS – Y     13.Enrique VERA – Y OUT – 88
8.Jan KOZAK     14.Paulo DA SILVA  
9.Stanislav SESTAK – Y OUT – 70   15.Victor CACERES  
11.Robert VITTEK     16.Cristian RIVEROS  
16.Jan DURICA – Y     18.Nelson VALDEZ OUT – 68
17.Marek HAMSIK – C     19.Lucas BARRIOS OUT – 82
21.Kornel SALATA OUT – 83   21.Antolin ALCARAZ  
         
Subs     Subs  
13.Filip HOLOSKO IN – 70   17.Aureliano TORRES IN – 68
15.Miroslav STOCH IN – 83   7.Oscar CARDOZO IN – 82
      8.Edgar BARRETO IN – 88

MY THOUGHTS:

Not a bad game to kick off the day, Paraguay looked to get forward at all times, some nice play, loved the fullbacks bombing forward all game, Morel and Bonet worked very hard, never caught out of position and happy to join the attacks, the front three of Santa Cruz, Barrios and Valdez played well, Valdez worked extremely hard never giving the Slovakia defence any time on the ball, Barrios played the target man well, holding up the ball, setting up Vera for the first goal, Santa Cruz looked leggy at times for me, not fit surely, but looked at times to be getting it back, maybe he’ll be up to speed come the knockout stage, Alcaraz in defence was a rock in the back four, nothing got past him, good in the air and on the ground, it looks as if Wigan have found a gem, his partner da Silva although caught out in the air at times, nothing got passed him on the ground and it looks a comfortable duo, the midfield trio of Vera, Caceres and Riveros without having too much flair and creativity showed they work hard and will get forward if they see a gap, proved with Vera’s goal a lovely outside of the boot finish and Riveros shot from the edge of the box had power and accuracy.

Slovakia disappointed again, needing to win to have a chance they showed nothing of an attacking threat Hamsik had been pushed further forward but again he was ineffectual, this cut the supply to Sestak and Vittek, Weiss on the right shows he has pace and skill but doesn’t seem to know how to trouble the opposition, I have to say I was disappointed in Weiss Snr’s tactics in not attacking and then it got to a stage where they had no fight left, and only really troubled Paraguay for 5-10 minutes.

Paraguay have basically qualified for the last 16, and they look as if they still have extra gears to step into, Barrios has more to offer still, Cardozo for me should play instead of Santa Cruz as he is really dangerous, I wouldn’t want to play La Albirroja, Slovakia have a massive mountain to climb to reach the last 16 they need to beat Italy to have a chance, although Italy have not been fantastic they have not been beaten, I don’t fancy the Slovak’s chances.

ITALY

1

 

NEW ZEALAND

1

Vincenzo IAQUINTA (29′ PEN)     Shane SMELTZ (7′)  
         
12.Federico MARCHETTI     1.Mark PASTON  
3.Domenico CRISCITO     3.Tony LOCHHEAD  
4.Giorgio CHIELLINI     4.Winston REID  
5.Fabio CANNAVARO     5.Ivan VICELICH OUT – 81
6.Daniele DE ROSSI     6.Ryan NELSEN  
7.Simone PEPE OUT – 46   7.Simon ELLIOT  
9.Vincenzo IAQUINTA     9.Shane SMELTZ  
11.Alberto GILARDINO OUT – 46   10.Chris KILLEN OUT – 93
15.Claudio MARCHISIO OUT – 61   11.Leo BERTOS  
19.Gianluca ZAMBROTTA     14.Rory FALLON OUT – 63
22.Riccardo MONTOLIVO     19.Tommy SMITH  
         
Subs     Subs  
10.Antonio DI NATALE IN – 46   13.Andy BARRON IN – 93
16.Mauro CAMORANESI IN – 46   20.Chris WOOD IN – 63
20.Giampaolo PAZZINI IN – 61   21.Jeremy CHRISTIE IN – 81

MY THOUGHTS:

What a game, what a result for the All Whites, a great defensive performance for the boys from New Zealand, Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid and Tommy Smith were heroes this evening the Italians bombarded the All Whites goal but they held strong and with goalkeeper Mark Paston behind them they had a great evening, Bertos ran himself into the ground on the right hand side, Simon Elliott has the conductor in the middle and the brains of the operation. Fallon and Smeltz had a torrid time upfront wrestling with Chellini and Cannavaro a very physical confrontation and they gave as good as the got.

As soon as Italy went behind they picked up the pace and hounded the New Zealand, and probably deserved the equaliser, De Rossi’s shirt being tugged by Tommy Smith in the box and the referee pointed to the spot and Iaquinta made no mistake, however after this, I got a feeling from the Italians that they already thought they were winning, they took their foot off the pedal, Lippi brought on Di Natale and Camoranesi at half time, but they couldn’t find the opening, and apart from long distance shots they never got in behind the All Whites back-line, Gilardino had a shocking game and was hauled off at HT, Iaquinta was decent but couldn’t find an opening, I was surprised Camoranesi didn’t start and again he looked busy when he came on, Marchisio for the second game in a row did nothing, just doesn’t look good enough for me.

New Zealand will play Paraguay in the last game knowing a victory will put them through and in dream land, Paraguay probably the most impressive team in the group will be hard to break down, but no one’s writing off the All Whites, Italy need to beat Slovakia to secure progression and Slovakia will have to play 200 times better to trouble the Italians, and I would expect Lippi’s man to go through.

BRAZIL

3

 

IVORY COAST

1

LUIS FABIANO (25′, 50′)     Didier DROGBA (79′)  
ELANO (62′)        
         
1.Julio CESAR     1.Boubacar BARRY  
2.MAICON     4.Kolo TOURE  
3.LUCIO – C     5.Didier ZOKORA  
4.JUAN     8.Salomon KALOU OUT – 68
5.Felipe MELO     9.Cheik TIOTE – Y  
6.Michel BASTOS     11.Didier DROGBA  
7.ELANO OUT – 67   15.Aruna DINDANE OUT – 54
8.Gilberto SILVA     17.Saika TIENE – Y  
9.Luis FABIANO     19.Yaha TOURE  
10.KAKA – Y/R     20.Guy DEMEL  
11.ROBINHO OUT – 93   21.Emmanuel EBOUE OUT – 72
         
Subs     Subs  
13.Dani ALVES IN – 67   10.GERVINHO IN – 54
18.RAMIRES IN – 93   18.Kader KEITA IN – 68
      13.ROMARIC IN – 72

MY THOUGHTS:

Apart from Luis Fabiano’s goal the first half I thought was awful, Ivory Coast showing nothing of an attacking threat Drogba becoming frustrated, even BBC’s highlights showed 2 clips from the first half. Now he second half had so many talking points, I will not be mentioning the cheat though. Brazil seemed to settle down passing the ball around with control and poise, Luis Fabiano’s second goal although it was hand ball it was a great moment flicked over 2 defenders and fired past Barry, some of the passing moves were breathtaking, and they are warming up nicely.

Robinho was quieter tonight than against Korea, Kaka in the second half got some of his sharpness back, setting up Elano for the third, the defensive duo of Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo were so good, bossing the midfield like experts never looking stretched allowing the free flowing football to open up the Cote D’Ivoire, Luis Fabiano played a good game, playing as the big target man that he didn’t do in the first game and deserved his 2 goals, Maicon has been Brazil’s best player so far, charging down the right, his desire to run at every moment helps Brazil open up the defence.

Brazil have now qualified for the Last 16 and they have lots more to show, another 2 gears perhaps, and I would want to avoid them, problems for Dunga, Elano went off injured, not sure how bad the injury was and if Kaka’s red doesn’t get rescinded, that’s 2 of his midfield gone, this is the kind of Plan B the fans wanted Ronaldinho in the squad for.

Les Elephants were poor this evening, Eriksson brought Drogba in and left off the best player from the first game Gervinho, and they never got going until the 2nd half when Gervinho came on, his willingness to attack defenders at pace cause some problems for the Brazilians and it was his breakaway run then led to Drogba’s goal he laid the ball back the cross came in and Drogba’s run was timed to perfection and he headed what could be an important goal for the Ivory Coast.

Not many more performances to talk about, Drogba was frustrated, Tiene was not as effective on the left, Kalou and Dindane didn’t add anything, Like Capello Sven Goran Eriksson’s substitutions left a lot to be desired, mostly like for like, never at anytime did they show a belief that they could win it and they will need to buck up their ideas when they take on the hardworking Koreans in the last group game.

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