Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book review: Top 10 of Football, 250 lists on the beautiful game

Top 10 of Football by Russell Ash and Ian Morrison

Whenever I enter a local bookstore, I always look if they have any books related to soccer; I just love reading a good book about the beautiful game. While I love biographies and autobiographies, what I especially love are the informational and statistic books, not only are these books a joy to read, but they always teach me something new.

It's hard to find books which carry in-depth information from leagues around the world, books that aren't completely focussed on the English Premiership, or just the World Cup. And when I read through "Top 10 of Football: 250 Lists on the beautiful game" I was amazed, not only did this cover the World Cup and other big tournaments like the European Championships in depth, but it also covered things like the top 10 goal-scorers of the Copa America! And that's just barely scratching the surface of the range and depth of information found in this great book.

I found out that the Belgian league was 4th in the top 10 oldest leagues in the World, behind England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. I learned about Josef Bican, a man only second to Pele having scored an astounding 537 goals in only 358 games! That's about 1.5 goals a game, having Bican on the field assured you at least a goal a game if not more! And that's just one man on one of these 250 fantastic lists!

The mighty Josef Bican
While at first you may think that a book comprised of just lists may be just a bunch of dates and numbers, it's much more than that. This book tells you an amazing statistic like that Arsenal went 49 consecutive games without defeat in the Premier League, then it'll go ahead and break down how the record started, what was going on with the team, with plenty of score-lines and information about the team, time-period, and league. The book also offers is a myriad of lists like the greatest World Cup goals, Champions League firsts, and worst disasters at football stadiums around the world. So it isn't a bunch of dry numbers and names.

There is plenty of information which never ends: from miscellaneous top tens, to historical top tens, this is one of the greatest books about soccer I've ever read. And it is most certainly the most informing book I've ever had, whether it be about the beautiful game's history or money, you're sure to find what you're looking for in this book. So next time you're browsing through bookstores, or you're online wanting to buy a book, be sure that you look for "Top 10 of Football: 250 Lists on the beautiful game" which you can buy here.

Spain push past Portugal with David Villa goal

In 2008 we saw Spain dominate the EUROs, a beautiful possession based dominance which was guided by Xavi and Iniesta along with David Villa and Fernando Torres. Spain have never won the World Cup, and this could be their best chance yet with a team full of skilled individuals. But the Spain that we're seeing in South Africa is a bit different than the EURO Spain, the first thing that's different is the coach; Luis Aragones was the mastermind who won the European championship for Spain, but now Vicente del Bosque is the coach.

While he hasn't changed too much, he's tried dabbling in a 4-3-3 with a more defensive midfield by taking out David Silva and putting in Sergio Busquets. This results in a less dynamic play than their 4-4-2 with Iniesta and Silva as quick moving wingers who slipped passes through defenses for Torres and Villa. But it's not that bad, Spain still play their patient game, just a bit differently...

CAPE TOWN, June 30, 2010 Sergio Ramos (C) of Spain vies with Simao (R) of Portugal during the 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match at Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 29, 2010.
Sergio Ramos on one of his usual rampaging runs
Spain - Portugal

The first half we saw Spain be frustrated with Portugal's tidy defense, passes weren't as perfect as they should be, players lost the ball too often, and Torres was having yet another bad day. Nonetheless Spain still had the majority of possession with their tiki taka passing which was well parried by Portugal's organized defense.

But Portugal had the best chances in the first half, swift counter-attacks often led by Fabio Coentrao who was pure class at left-back for Portugal. Ronaldo always went down easily and he didn't get anything from the Argentinean referee. There weren't any memorable chances, just a couple of headers from Portugal going just wide, and a free kick from Ronaldo which Casillas didn't have too much trouble with.

David Villa celebrating his goal
In the second half, Spain got out of second gear and began to turn it on with David Villa who played on the left side of the attack. del Bosque made a key change in the 59th by taking off Fernando Torres and putting on Fernando Llorente who played more centrally and gave another option for players to use. Eventually Spain got the only goal by maneuvering outside Portugal's box and eventually releasing Villa with a sublime backheel from Xavi. Villa had his first attempt saved but then tucked his second shot his second shot in the net striking the underneath of the bar.

After the goal it was over, Ronaldo was desperately lashing shots wide in his attempt for personal glory and Spain came close to a second with Llorente nodding a header just wide of the goal. Spain were the better team, but it took them some time to exert their dominance over Portugal.

Paraguay edge past Japan in penalty shootout

Japan's Yuichi Komano (R) hits the crossbar during a penalty shootout in their 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against Paraguay at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Komano hitting the bar
For the first time, Paraguay have made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, a historic occasion for the South American team. In fact, all of the South American teams have really shined this World Cup, and even though some won't be in the quarter-finals, the tournament is still being dominated by them.

Paraguay - Japan

A tight and cagey match, if there was one game in the round of 16 that was going to go to penalties, I would've picked this one because of the equality in skill of the two teams. The first half had few chances, Matsui hit the bar from 25 yards out, and Santa Cruz had a good chance go wide from in front of net, but there was nothing too memorable.

Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo celebrates next to goalkeeper Justo Villar after scoring the winning penalty after a penalty shootout in their 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 29, 2010.  REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Cardozo celebrating his final penalty kick
The second half was something to forget, no memorable chances as both teams didn't want to risk conceding and so they went into 30 minutes of extra time. In extra time Paraguay came closest to the goal but there was some brave goal-keeping which pushed the game to penalty kicks.

There was only one miss in the shootout and it was Yuichi Komano who had his shot go too high and hit the bar. Nobody else missed and Cardozo scored the last penalty for Paraguay to let them go through to the quarter-finals and meet either Spain or Portugal.


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