South American World Cup Qualifying

South American qualifiers has now passed the half way stage and there were some fascinating games in the last round of fixtures.

The first game I watched was Uruguay and Paraguay and it was very good with both teams evenly matched for a lot of the game and both teams knew they needed a victory. Uruguay’s team is really impressive and they should qualify for the World Cup and could be outsiders for the trophy, with an attacking trio of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani they will cause problems for any defence. With the game at 0-0 all three of these were on the pitch and they were creating chances with Cavani missing a volley that he should have done a lot better with but even though he was in a lot of space he didn’t even hit the target.

Uruguay took the lead from a great volley from Luis Suarez and they thought that would have been enough to finish the game as it was in the 81st minute but Paraguay who were not creating clear cut chances but looked threatening equalised just four minutes later. They also have decent forward players in Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez but neither of them had many chances and Cardozo eventually had to go off injured which could be good news for Newcastle as he is Benfica’s main man and it looked like a hamstring injury which could keep him out for a little while. Edgar Benitez scored the equaliser and he really impressed me when he came on because he had a lot of pace and his movement was causing Uruguay problems.
A draw was probably a fair result but it left Paraguay bottom of the qualifying group and Uruguay in fourth place so they will need to improve results to qualify for the tournament in Brazil.

Argentina also played Venezuela and they stretched their lead at the top of the group to four points, however they have played one more game than second placed Colombia. Yet again, Argentina have a very impressive front three with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi so they probably were expected to beat Venezuela easily. The game didn’t quite turn out that way but a 3-0 win was deserved. Higuain opened the scoring after some wonderful one touch football involving Messi. The second goal came from the penalty spot with Messi smashing it home, then Higuain added a third in the second half.

The interesting thing from this game from me was how deep Messi played, behind him at Barcelona he has Xavi and Andres Iniesta so he knows the creativity is there and doesn’t have to drop deep to get the ball. But for his national side there isn’t as much creativity in Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago, who are both good holding midfielders but they may not see the passes as quickly. Messi was popping up all over the pitch and it did slightly take something away from his game but he still proved he is the best player in the world.

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Who will win the Champions League?

The Champions League has reached the quarter final stage and it is quite wide open at the minute and it is difficult to pick a winner.

Looking at the teams, the favourites are still Barcelona even though they may not have been as dominant as usual in recent weeks. However, they proved to the rest of Europe that they are not going to be easy to knock out. 2-0 down after the first leg, they managed to win the second leg 4-0 and put on a fantastic performance. I do think they can win it but must perform better away from home.

Spanish rivals Real Madrid are second favourite, and you can understand why. They may even be a little annoyed that they aren’t considered the favourites by the bookies but with Jose Mourinho in charge and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch they look a force and will do everything they can to win the competition. For me I think they can win it because in Mourinho they have one of the best tacticians in world football and some may argue that this is his competition.

Third favourite are Bayern Munich and they probably would have been more fancied had they not limped over the line against Arsenal. After securing a 3-1 away win, it should have been comfortable, however they lost the second leg 2-0 and only went through on away goals. This has obviously caused some concern but it really shouldn’t because they have a fantastic team and they may have just been slightly too complacent. Plus there manager will want to leave the club on a high and win the big trophy.

Another team from Germany have also made it to the quarter finals and Dortmund could be the dark horses in this competition. In the last couple of years they have been a breath of fresh air and will certainly give anyone a game. Throughout the squad they have very good players that have been underrated and maybe don’t get the spotlight as much as they should. Players like Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze are just two that have finally caught the attention this season.

In the Champions League there are always fantastic teams and this year realistically anyone could win it. Italian giants Juventus will not want to be wrote out just yet and will feel that they will be picking up the trophy at the end of the season. Experience has been key and they have been very quiet for a number of years now and may have been fortunate with their last draw against Celtic but they still comfortably beat the determined Scottish side.

Even the sixth favourite team have a chance of winning the competition. PSG have the players, they have the manager and they have the experience to win games when they probably haven’t been at their best. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have a big say in where the trophy goes, when he is on form he can be lethal but too often he isn’t quite at it. If he and the rest of their attacking talent like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore backing him up they should score goals against anyone but can they keep it tight enough at the back?

Galatasaray were probably just happy to get to this stage but with recent signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder they may have just set their sights a little higher and they could win the tournament. A lot of people will write them off but it isn’t always the most glamorous club that wins the trophy, just look at Porto when they won it. Also, going to Turkey is never easy and they may get a lot of joy at home in an intimidating atmosphere.

Finally, Malaga are also still in the tournament and for me they are the only team that I don’t believe could win it and that is unfortunate because they did very well getting through the group stages and then knocking out Porto. All the other teams will be hoping to draw Malaga but that could work in their advantage, being the underdog.

It is difficult to bet against Barcelona and they are the team I think will win it but it all depends on the draw, so if they don’t my second pick would be Bayern Munich.

Who do you think will win the Champions League?