Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
There was never any doubt was there? Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi has been awarded the 2009 Ballon D’Or by French magazine France Football.
The 22-year-old became the first Ballon D’Or winner from Argentina, eclipsing runner-up and last year’s winner Cristiano Ronaldo by a record 240-point margin.
The award’s 96 jurors gave Messi 473 points out of a possible 480, a near unanimous verdict, the magazine said.
The win caps a brilliant year for the soft-spoken left-footer, who helped Barcelona to a Champions League title with nine goals, as well as La Liga and the King’s Cup.
Spain’s 2-1 friendly victory over Argentina on Saturday was further evidence that the European champions are going to take some stopping if they are to be denied their first ever World Cup triumph.
Vicente del Bosque’s men will have the bruises to show that ‘friendly’ was perhaps not the best word to describe an exciting and competitive match that was lucky to finish with 22 men still on the pitch.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona will appear in person before a disciplinary hearing at FIFA headquarters on Sunday to explain his foul-mouthed outbursts (plural) following the win over Uruguay in Montevideo last month.
The result, at the very end of an 18-match campaign, finally clinched Argentina’s place at the 2010 World Cup after they had looked in serious danger of missing out for the first time since 1970. Maradona “celebrated” with an expletive-laden tirade at the hapless touchline reporter who went to interview him.
Gonzalo Higuain reminded Manuel Pellegrini of his worth at the weekend, scoring both goals for 10-man Real Madrid in their 2-0 victory over Getafe.
The Argentine youngster was Real’s top scorer with 22 league goals last season, but was making only his third start in nine league games on Saturday.
Unusually, the final night of European World Cup qualifying is a bit of a damp affair. Most of the groups have been decided, with by and large just the second-places, and play-off berths, up for grabs.
Undeterred, we shall keep you up to date with what’s going on in Europe as a prelude to the really serious business of the night … the decisive match in Montevideo, where Argentina are playing for their lives against Uruguay.
The above picture was the defining image of Argentina’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Peru in the rain on Saturday, and perhaps Diego Maradona’s tenure as national team coach to date.
For many in Argentina, Maradona’s reactions are indicative of an approach to the job that is too emotional.
Marcelo Bielsa’s feats – leading Chile’s national team to the third spot in the World Cup qualifiers and just one win from a ticket to South Africa 2010 – have turned him into one of Chile’s most beloved figures. Men say he should run for president; women rank the introverted coach a sex symbol.
His popularity is backed by numbers. A poll in El Mercurio newspaper ranks Bielsa the best trainer in Chile’s soccer history, above Nelson Acosta who took the team to the second round of France 1998 and Fernando Riera who led “La Roja” to the third spot in Chile 1962.
Some of football’s biggest names, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are in danger of missing out on next year’s World Cup, as countries such as Argentina, Portugal and France struggle in qualification.
Most, if not quite all of them, may make it in the end, of course, but for a bit of pre-weekend qualifier fun, here’s my stab at a world XI wtill fretting over their places at South Africa 2010.
Is Martin Palermo’s amazing winner for Boca Juniors on Sunday, a header from nearly 40 metres that bounced just once on the line of the six-yard box on its way into the net, worthy of an entry into the Guinness Book of records?
This is a question Argentines have been asking, while TV sports chat shows have been running footage of other remarkable goals and moments in the career of the 35-year-old striker.
Diego Maradona says that on the compact Rosario central pitch Argentina will pin Brazil against their goal. They do up to a point, with masses of possession, but Dunga’s men demolish them in lethal counter-attacks with Maradona watching in glum silence and Argentina return to River Plate for next month’s key World Cup qualifier against Peru.