Tag: Italy

We’re Back! The Icons.com 2015-16 Season Preview

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  John Terry of Chelsea celebrates with the trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England. Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 24: John Terry of Chelsea celebrates with the trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England. Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Ladies and gentlemen, we did it. We got through the summer break. It was tough, sure, but it’s over now. You can put down those barbeque tongs, stick the sun lounger back in the shed and forget all about that fence you probably weren’t going to paint anyway. Because this weekend, in stadiums across the country and around Europe, the football – the proper football – returns. And this season, like almost every season before it, threatens to be one of unmissable drama.

With Premier League legends Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Robin van Persie all parting ways with the English topflight, there’s never been a better time for new icons to emerge and big summer moves aplenty at the Etihad, Old Trafford and Anfield mean there are no shortage of fresh faces among the familiar stars.

At Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea – with leading lights in Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas – bid to become the first team since 2009 to defend their Premier League crown. But they face a strong challenge from a reinvigorated Arsenal, perennial contenders Man City and a much-strengthened Man United, who have added over £83million of talent over the summer.

Meanwhile, a Gerrard-less Liverpool have flashed their cash and captured Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne, among others, while Tottenham will be hoping for more of the same from frontman Harry Kane, who emerged as one of English football’s most exciting young strikers following a frenzy of goals last term.

Newly promoted Watford return to the topflight after an eight year exile while Norwich City look promising after their swift return and there’s more than a sense of intrigue about Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who were excellent as they romped to the Championship title.

On the continent, there’s more glory expected for Barcelona, led by the irresistible and seemingly unstoppable ‘MSN’ trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. As ever, Luis Enrique’s side will need to see off Clasico rivals Real Madrid but with Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale at his disposal, new boss Rafa Benitez must feel confident of a strong challenge.

BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 06:  (L-R) Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar of Barcelona celebrate with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona at Olympiastadion on June 6, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

BERLIN, GERMANY – JUNE 06: (L-R) Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar of Barcelona celebrate with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona at Olympiastadion on June 6, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

The German title race, as in France and Italy, is decidedly less open. With the additions of Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa, Bayern will be incredibly hard to catch, though Kevin de Bruyne’s Wolfsburg and Dortmund – with hipsters’ choice Thomas Tuchel taking over from former hipsters’ choice Jurgen Klopp – will try their level best to keep up.

Paris Saint-Germain look certain to retain their Ligue 1 crown, as Angel Di Maria joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and David Luiz – a deep run into the latter stages of the Champions League is the aim.

Juventus will start clear favourites in Italy but the Old Lady has lost some of her favourite sons over the summer with Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Vidal heading away to varying corners of Planet Football. Rudi Garcia’s Roma have been improving season-on-season and could challenge Juve’s dominance should their squad stay healthy throughout the season.

Beside the Premier League, we should look then to the Champions League for competitiveness, where any number of around five or six teams could feasibly triumph. Though MSN make Barcelona the hot favourites, a lack of domestic challenge could help the likes of Bayern, Juventus and PSG, who’ll each be looking to improve on the continent. Whoever wins, we’re doubtless in for a treat as the best in the world vie for the ultimate prize.



The Greatest Sides Never To Win The World Cup: Brazil 1982

Who cares about the also-rans? Nobody remembers the losers, right? Wrong. They do when they were as talented as… Brazil 1982.

Icons-Memorabilia

Why were Brazil great in 1982?

If ‘Joga Bonito’ was established by the Brazilian World Cup-winning side of 1970, the team that manager Tele Santana assembled twelve years later cultivated it. The players loved the ball and the ball loved them back. Every touch was a caress. Every pass was played with such delicate precision.

The sublime samba skills of Zico, Eder, Socrates, Junior and Falcao were stunning to behold. This was pure footballing nirvana: silky smooth passing and movement interspersed with fancy flicks, spectacular long range strikes, and perfectly executed, curling free-kicks.

1982 World Cup
Initially, Brazil looked unstoppable playing some heaven-sent football based around the beguiling ethos: you score two, we’ll score three. In the first group stage they toyed with the opposition and scored for fun, netting ten times in their games against the Soviet Union, Scotland and New Zealand. The second phase saw them drawn in the ultimate ‘Group of Death’ alongside Argentina and Italy, only the winner progressing. After a sumptuous 3-1 demolition of the defending World Cup holders, it came down to an all or nothing match up with the Italians.

What went wrong?

Because of the better goal difference, Brazil only needed a draw against Italy in the final group game. Even back then, most managers would have adjusted their game plan accordingly, particularly against a team like Italy that had a counterattacking philosophy to begin with. But manager Santana didn’t believe in that. Brazil did their thing. And while the romantic in you says it was right to do so, the fact is that it cost them the game. And with that the World Cup.

In perhaps the greatest World Cup match of all-time against Italy they went behind three times to strikes by Paolo Rossi. Despite scoring two stunning goals through Socrates and Falcao, and needing only a draw to reach the semi-finals, it was too high a mountain against a well-organised defence. Brazil went out, and the world wept.

What happened next?

Zico called that game against Italy “the day football died.” As far as his vision of football is concerned, he was correct.

Brazil began soul-searching again, divided between those who wanted a more European-style game and those who believed they should stick to Santana’s vision. They would oscillate between the two. Four years later Santana would return on the World Cup, together with much of the ’82 team. But by that stage they were a spent force.

At the 1986 World Cup a new South-American star was born, but he didn’t play for the Brazilian team. His name? Diego Maradona.

Other posts in this series:
Hungary 1954
Portugal 1966
Holland 1974