A meeting between two of the best footballing sides in the world, a mouthwatering match-up so let our guest writers talk you through it. In the red corner is award winning writer Sian Ranscombe her blog “From a girl who loves the Gunners” is superb. And she hopes her team can follow in her trophy winning ways.

Up until a few weeks ago, I think both neutrals and fans were largely assuming this tie would be a one-way battle won easily by Barcelona. Arsenal have been inconsistent this season and if they can drop points to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, and let leads slip as easily as they have done, what chance do they stand against the mighty Barcelona?

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So I have to admit when Germany beat England 4-1 I think happy would be the tamed down version of how I was feeling, and as a Scotsman I’m sure you can forgive me of that, we don’t like to hear the media blab on about how good the Premier League is which means England will win the World Cup so when they get knocked out, I think the other Home Nations and Ireland have a mini celebration of their own, now I get a little grief for the “England Bashing” but it’s how I was brought up so it’s not going to change, I live in England, I work in England, the girl I’m marrying is English, it’s just the media really, good to see them knocked down a peg or two.

The one great thing that has come out of the English defeat was the self defecation of the English football system, youngsters not getting a chance, too many foreigners, and the way kids get taught etc. Everything that is needed to create a successful football legacy was deemed to be sub par in the English game, surely though the other Home Nations can be put into the same bracket, we all have the same set-up and if England are being criticised for not bringing through youth, then what can be said for the rest of the teams on the two Islands, Once upon a time top English teams were littered with Scottish, Welsh and Irish players, nowadays they are found at the bottom edge of the Premier League and in the Championship which is no shame as they are good leagues, not quite the same as when Dalglish, Souness, Strachan, McAllister even Charlie Nicholas graced the best teams in the league, right now in the teams that finished in the Champions League places you can find, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson, Gareth Bale and Robbie Keane who of course graced us with his presence in the SPL for half of this season, so out of the top 4 teams, only two of them had players from the other home nations and Ireland, and the list isn’t very long, what has gone wrong with British football.

The complaints also start “It’s those foreigners coming here for big money ruining our game…” Now there is part of this that’s true, the amount of foreigners that have come in has increased year after year and this has taken places away from British players, I have no problem with players the likes of Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabergas, Cristiano Ronaldo and the like, these players are at the top of their game and enhance the league in so many ways, the same as Brian Laudrup and Henrik Larsson did for the Scottish League, however I have a problem with teams bringing in mediocre European or South American players and they sit on the bench get a few minutes here or there and earn good money for the minutes they get, there are a few reasons why this happens.

# 1.Foreign players cost less.

 Look at West Ham this January brought in Benny McCarthy, Mido and Ilan all signed up to score goals.

Benny McCarthy – 5 games – 0 goals

Mido – 9 games – 0 goals

Ilan – 11 games – 4 goals

So 25 games between the 3 and only 4 goals scored, and luckily for West Ham they stayed up, Mido was on loan, Ilan was on a free, and McCarthy cost around £2.25 million, so they got 3 players for just over £2m and they got them 4 goals, around £500,000 not actually that bad a business deal without taking wages into account.

# 2. British Players cost too much

Steven Fletcher – 8 goals in 35 games for Burnley, personally think he had a great season, really stepped up from his days at Hibs and performed at a great level, but he only got 8 goals, and he has just moved to Wolves for £7 million, that’s a lot of money for someone had has a worse goals per game record than Ilan.

Ched Evans – 4 goals in 33 games for Sheffield United, there was great promise for this guy when he was at Manchester City, The Blades paid 3 million pound for Ched a big sum for an unproven player and not exactly the return you would hope.

What I’m trying to prove here is that even though everyone wants teams to play more English/British players it’s not always easy or cost effective, it’s easier to sign a foreigner pay less upfront and get a decent return, why shell out more money for a similar return just to help out the game.

It reminds me of the transfer of Roberto Rios from Real Betis to Athletic Bilbao, Rios was a decent defender but not brilliant, a few teams had shown an interest and were quoted about £4million, then Athletic Bilbao came in for Rios, Rios born in Bilbao interested the Bilbao side with their Basque only policy, Betis uses this to their advantage and charged Bilbao £9 million, a big jump from £4mil, however Betis took advantage of knowing Bilbao had a weakness with their policy.

I can see the same thing happening in England with this new 25 man squad quota with 8 home-grown players, either teams will buy foreign but earlier like Fabergas and bring them through, or the big clubs will get taken to the cleaners and charged extra for any English players they show an interest in, because the smaller teams know they need to buy English, It’s a vicious circle, and I’m not sure how you break it.

Poor Coaching

I think what the Premier League are trying to do with this rule is encourage teams to bring through their own players, develop them and therefore not need to buy expensive foreigners unless of course they are at the top of their game. All in all this is a good idea, however there needs to be a lot of changes to the way British football is run before we will see any effects, there have been many stats thrown about with the number of UEFA trained coaches in this country compared to the other top nations, it’s a disgrace that there are not more properly trained coaches, there is a great chapter in the book “The Italian Job” by Gabriel Marcotti and Gianluca Vialli about the famous Italian training centre, the name escapes me just now, but all coaches are made to go their for a 2 year course to learn the intricacies of the game and make sure they are fully prepared for life as a football manager, there needs to be something put in place like that in this country, don’t just give people like Gareth Southgate a job because he was a player, he should have been made to go away learn his trade and build his way up, and now he’s a pundit for ITV, not a successful career in management.

A few years ago I looked into doing a UEFA badge as a means of maybe getting a job a some level of football club, the price I found was £2000 compared the level 2 Basketball Coaches licesne I am soon to go for which costs £160 and will give me the ability to coach any Basketball team in Europe, just a little bit of a difference, so I don’t blame people for not jumping onto these course, so what are the other countries doing right that people are jumping on them, it’s not like the credit crunch only effected the United Kingdom, something is wrong somewhere.

When I was a kid playing football, training consisted of running, conditioning work more running and maybe at the end if you were good you got to play with the ball, I was picked at a Centre Half because I was fat, surely putting me against usually the best and fastest players upfront is not a good idea, I was actually better on the right as I had a decent right foot, once came on as a sub, set up two goals, next game I was back in the centre of defence.

The one thing I was told when playing at centre half was “if the ball comes to you, just hit it as hard as you can up the field!” what a genius my manager was.

Of course that was over 10 years ago and I really hope the standard and method of coaching has improved, from what I hear from Kids, Dads and some research etc for all the good coahces there are out there that are trying to play the game the right way, there are still a large majority that play the old fashioned way, pump the ball forward and chase after it

Basketball Priciples

Now I’m 28 so it’s been a while since my football days, however I have the honour right now of learning to be a Basketball Coach for Leeds Carnegie, been going for a year now, and It’s such a different mindset, we pride ourselves on player development, not on the results we get, we had an Boys U13, U14 and U15’s team and a U14 girls team, and out of the 4 teams we probably lost more games than we won, however we had 25 players go on to play for Yorkshire, which is a vindication of how we go about setting up our teams, they may not be the best teams but as individuals they are fundamentally sound and when they grow up to be 18/19 or older and hopefully go on to bigger and better things, they will be able to learn all the team principles they needs because they will have the fundamentals locked down.

From what I can see this is not what is taught in football, players will skill and individual talent are known as “greedy” “selfish” players and they need to be more team oriented, and the skill and expression is drilled out of them from the ages of 12/13 onwards then when they get to a higher level they all play the same way have the same British mentality, and yeah they might go on to be good footballers, however we will never see a player of the likes of Iniesta/Messi come through that system.

I am not saying the Basketball system is perfect as lots of teams don’t have the same principles that we do at Leeds, and most have a very “British” mentality, small players are bad, big and strong players are could, and they very quickly type cast players before they even develop, looking at the Dutch performance last night in the World Cup final looking at Van Bronckhorst got me thinking of his adaptability, started off if I’m right at Feyenoord and could play Right-Midfield, moved to Rangers, played more centrally, then onto Arsenal, became more of a fullback, then last night he started the World Cup Final at Left Back as the captain of his country, how many British players could have adapted like that, I like to think it’s the Dutch mentality of “Total Football” and interchanging positions that gave him the ability to adapt and continue his career, it seems players like James Milner that can play more than one position baffle the football hierarchy the ability to perform and multiple positions seems to hinder his chances at playing, a ridiculous notion a very British notion.

Size isn’t everything

While looking at the England Basketball website a few months ago I saw an advertisement for players interested in playing for England, the advert said something like, “If you are over 6’ 4’’ and would like to try out for the English team please register your interest here” Now I find that all wrong, you can have all the height in the world but no matter how tall you are, if you’ve not got it, you’ve not got it, what about the 6 foot 2 kid sat at home that reads that, wants to have a try, but because of his height no one will even look at him, what an awful thing to do, yes height is important, it is not the be all and end all, we have a kid who is 5 foot 8 and can touch the rim, and we have a 6 foot 3 kid that can reach the same height, the smaller kid is much the better basketball player and I have high hopes for him, he will need to grow though, however at 14 he’s got plenty of time.

We have got very lucky in the past 2 weeks a kid who is 15 his started coming to our team, he played in Sheffield last year, and stands at a huge 6 feet 8 inches tall, a coaches dream, has some knee problems but he can play, now the problem is at Sheffield he’s only been taught how to be a big man, moves under basket etc, Yes he is the biggest players in our team, however he won’t always be, at 18 he could be playing with two 7 foot giants and no longer able to play the big man, he’ll need to show what else he has, that’s why we teach all the kids the fundamentals of every position, we have a kid called Roshan, he’s that small when he wears the shorts it looks like he’s wearing trousers, however if you give him the ball under the basket he has the moves to outwit the biggest of defenders, now if this kid stretches to near 7 foot, he has the skill set to play any position he wants.

Now lets relate this back to football, look at the World Champions, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Navas not the biggest players in the World, and I can guarantee if they had been British not a chance in hell they would have been allowed to play in the centre of midfield, they would have been classed as wingers, too small for midfield too small to be a striker, and they’re skill and artistry would have been lost to the game, and what a travesty that would have been, the same has happened with Joe Cole, great on the ball, lovely passer, where do England play him, Left midfield, personally I’d give him a role similar to Pedro for Spain let him come inside create things and you’d get the best of him, don’t confide him to the wings, the same principles apply to Cristiano Ronaldo an out and out winger, I remember when he scored a header at Euro 2004 the shock in the commentators voice, a winger won a header, surely not, overlooking the fact he’s 6 foot 1 and good in the air, the mindset of he’s a winger what’s he doing heading the ball.

Bright Future?

Lots of things have to change in this country, the coaching, the academies, the influx of foreign players, however before all that changes the one thing we need to change is the backward thinking that does and always will exist in this country, if nations like Uruguay and Slovenia both with tiny populations can achieve success on the greatest football stage, there is absolutely no reason that with the right structure England, Scotland even Wales and the Irish teams can’t achieve similar results.

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In this world everyone has a different opinion of everything and that’s what makes it a great place to be, if we all agreed about all issues then it would be pretty boring which brings me to today’s game, a game I really enjoyed I thought it was a great portrait of passing football from Spain, impressive defending and counter attacking from the Germans, yeah it didn’t have bags of goals, but it was proper interesting football, I totally understand if some people found it boring or dull, and that’s the right everyone has I respect that, however I would easily watch that game again.

Spain started very bright, and went about attacking the German defence, Pedro in for Torres couldn’t have asked for a better start, a great first touch, and he looked very much in the mood, Villa started in the middle and struggled to find space around the area, in the first half Pedro moved from right to left and always looked to get on the ball, the first chance came when Pedro slipped in Villa, his outstretched foot met the ball but Manuel Neuer was out fast to close them down and make the save. The only other chance to mention was from Andrea Iniesta’s cross when Puyol rose and headed the ball over the ball, a danger sign for the Germans, Podolski and Ozil nearly combined for a breakaway chance but Podolski’s pass was slightly behind Ozil, Ozil also had a penalty shout denied when Ramos collided with him on the stroke of half time, not a penalty for me as Ramos doesn’t actually tackle him, I think Ozil just fell over. An interesting 45 minutes “a chess game” if you will Germany trying to suck the Spanish in and counter, and the Spanish happy to control the tempo of the game but without getting in behind very often, frustrating at times because of the class that Spain have, but still nice to watch.

The second half saw Spain pile on the pressure again but this time they got a bit more joy and cause more problems, Villa and Ramos came close to converting low crosses to the back post, Xabi Alonso came very close with two efforts from outside the box, the Germans were pushed further and further back and found it hard to break out because they were so deep, it was getting inevitable that a Spain goal would come. And come it did, 17 minutes to go Xavi whipped in a corner and Puyol unmarked rose and powered a wonderful header passed the helpless Neuer, his 3 international goal, and I don’t think he’ll score another more important, unless it’s on Sunday.

The Germans tried their best to get back into the game, but it just wasn’t there day, Podolski and Klose never got a sniff at goal and Ozil was kept tightly marked by Busquets and Alonso, they will be back stronger in 2 years and they are my favourites to win Euro 2012.

GERMANY

0

 

SPAIN

1

      Carles PUYOL (73′)  
         
1.Manuel NEUER     1.Iker CASILLAS  
3.Arne FRIEDRICH     3.Gerard PIQUE  
6.Sami KHEDIRA OUT – 81   5.Carles PUYOL  
7.Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER     6.Andres INIESTA  
8.Mesut ÖZIL     7.David VILLA OUT – 81
10.Lucas PODOLSKI     8.XAVI  
11.Miroslav KLOSE     11.Joan CAPDEVILA  
15.Piotr TROCHOWSKI OUT – 62   14.Xavi ALONSO OUT – 93
16.Philipp LAHM     15.Sergio RAMOS  
17.Per MERTESACKER     16.Sergio BUSQUETS  
20.Jerome BOATENG OUT – 52   18.PEDRO OUT – 86
         
Subs     Subs  
12.Tim WIESE     2.Raul ALBOIL  
22.Hans Jorg BUTT     4.Carlos MARCHENA IN – 93
2.Marcell JANSEN IN – 52   9.Fernando TORRES IN – 81
4.Dennis AOGO     10.Cesc FABERGAS  
5.Serdar TASCI     12.Victor VALDES  
9.Stefan KIEßLING     13.Juan MATA  
13.Thomas MULLER SUS   17.Alvaro ARBELOA  
14.Holger BADSTUBER     19.Fernando LLORENTE  
18.Toni KROOS IN – 62   20.Javi MARTINEZ  
19.CACAU     21.David SILVA IN – 86
21.Marko MARIN     22.Jesus NAVAS  
23.Mario GOMEZ IN – 81   23.Pepe REINA  

MY THOUGHTS

Pedro was the man of the match for me, always getting open, attacked the German defenders in a way Villa and Torres just don’t do getting them to turn and chase he was like a fly in the ear of the German defence, his passing was on point, had a couple of shots on goal and until the goal he looked like the only way Spain would get a goal, he should have set up a goal for Torres with the Germans pilling forward he was found wide open on the right a 2 on 1 with Torres and maybe youthful naivety got the best of him and he tried to go it alone when he should have squared it, I really hope he starts in the final, he deserves it, capping off a wonderful season for the young Spaniard.

Alonso, Xavi and Busquets were superb running out of words for these guys, Xavi hardly lost the ball all game kept the game flowing with the constant passing, Busquets also played very well closing down Ozil then not giving Schweinsteiger any time on the ball apart from the defensive side his passing was impressive too, usually underrated by most people he is an important part of the Spain side, not sure they always need Alonso and Busquets together.

A quiet night for Villa, he works so much better while operating on the left, but he sacrificed himself for the team, not sure where Del Bosque will play him in the final, he’ll need his star man to be at his best to win the biggest game of them all.

The Germans didn’t play anywhere near the way they did against England and Argentina, they missed Thomas Muller, as well as Trochowski played he just doesn’t have the power and physicality that the Bayern man brings and this slowed down the counter attacking prowess they had showed previously, Mertesacker and Friedrich played well for a duo that have been told they are not that good all tournament they didn’t show any of that and Spain found it hard to get past them.

Klose and Ozil were marked out the game, Podolski never once linked up with Klose which was disappointing. Schweinsteiger and Khedira played a good match, I really like Schweni in this central role, he needs to show a bit more of his attacking side at times however his passing and reading of the game has been second to none in this tournament.

I wanted the Germans to go all the way in this tournament as they had played the best football so far, however they got outplayed this evening by Spain, the best team went through in the end.

FINAL – NETHERLANDS v SPAIN

So we have the line-up of the final game, the “Total Football” of the Dutch and the “Tiki Taka” of the Spanish, I don’t want to jinx it, however it has the potential to be a fantastic final, both teams don’t like sitting back, they have creativity all over the pitch, it will either be end to end, or cancel each other out.

Either way after the game is done we will be looking at the 8th country to win the World Cup trophy and surely that is as special as it gets for the first African World Cup.

I am going to back Holland to win; this however could be their downfall.

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