Tag Archives: Robbie Keane

Rafa Benitez Named New Interim Chelsea Boss – Is He The Right Man For Job?

Rafael Benitez has been appointed as the new interim Chelsea manager till the end of the season just hours after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked for ‘unacceptable’ run of results.

According to some reports in England, the Blues made an approach to Pep Guardiola earlier this week but the former Barcelona manager insisted he will not be returning to work until 2013. Former Liverpool boss Benitez cut short his appointments in Abu Dhabi to fly to London for talks and he has been appointed as “interim” manager until the end of the current campaign.

A statement on Chelsea official website read:

Chelsea Football Club can confirm Rafael Benitez has been appointed interim first-team manager until the end of the season.

The owner and the Board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives.

The 52-year-old Spaniard is due to meet the players at the training ground in Cobham tomorrow.

The two-time UEFA Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree. He began his managerial career in his homeland, most notably at Valencia where he built a reputation as one of Europe’s top coaches by winning the Spanish League twice and the UEFA Cup. He then spent six years at Liverpool and led them to their fifth European Cup and an FA Cup.

The Spaniard becomes the ninth manager under Russian owner Roman Abramovich and his first match in charge will be Sunday’s massive Premier League clash with league leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Is he the right man for the job?

Yes

There is no compensation to pay, he is free, he is available at the moment so he can come in straight away. But the biggest thing is the fact he is an experienced manager. He has won two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia and then has guided Liverpool to Champions League and FA Cup glory during his five years at Anfield. Another good thing about him is that he doesn’t care about anybody’s egos, he doesn’t care how big a name they are. Nobody bothered him during his Liverpool days and so I guess he can handle the Chelsea players.

Fernando Torres has not at all hit his top form during his time at Stamford Bridge and he may well be the man who could get the best out of him. He is the same man who made Torres the £50million striker at Anfield and he could do the same again. Bringing him in is probably Abramovich’s last effort to get the goals out of his record signing.

No

Giving Rafa the job is not going to be a popular choice at all. The fans don’t like him for two reasons. He and them have a little history that goes back, but also the way his team plays. So he hasn’t got many fans to start with in the first place. But in football, if he can start winning a few games, especially the important ones, then the fans can turn towards you and support you. We will have to wait and see if that happens.

His selling and buying track record is not good at all. He made the move that was the beginning of Liverpool’s decline in 2009/10 when he sold Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid and replaced him by Alberto Aquilani – who was a complete disaster. He has also made some questionable signings during his Liverpool days like Jermaine Pennant (£6m), Ryan Babel (£11.5m), Andrea Dossena (£7m) and Robbie Keane (£19m), so it would be very interesting to see if he is given the money to spend on new players in January. Finally, can he cope up with the mind games of  Sir Alex Ferguson? He failed to do so during his Liverpool days and that costed them the title.

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Predicting Italy v Croatia And Spain v Republic Of Ireland

Yesterday, we witnessed some amazing football action in the Group B. In the first Silvestre Varela scored a late winner to give the Portuguese an important win over the Danes in Lviv and later Mario Gomez scored twice in the first half to send the Dutch on the brink of an early group exit.

Today’s action sees the inform Croatia – who thrashed Ireland in their opening game – take on Italy in Poznan, followed by the defending champions – who drew against Italy in the first game of the group – take on the Republic of Ireland in Gdansk.

Date – 14th June, 19:00 GMT

Stadium – Municipal Stadium, Poznan

Prediction – Both the teams come into this game in high spirits. Italy having earned a huge point against the World champions Spain in Gdansk, while the Croatians having beaten the trickiest team in the group, Republic of Ireland, 3-1 in Poznan. The winner of this game is most likely to qualify for the quarter finals and the Italians are the favourites to do so, as they face the weakest team next. Expect this to be an entertaining game as both side will be playing some attacking football and will be going for all three points. A win for Croatia will mean they are almost through, while a win for Italy will mean they just need to beat Ireland and they are through. Italians will dominate the game and create the best chances, but the Croatians will take the lead from a break of play or a set-piece and it will Nikica Jelavic who will give them the lead in the first half. Italy will bring on Mario Balotelli in the second half and continue to dominate position. The Manchester City striker will setup Antonio Cassano to score the equaliser. The Croatians, who needed a playoff win to qualify for the Euros, will hold on to the lead and grab a vital point from the game. Italians will feel hard done by the result after they dominated most of the game and will feel like two points lost rather than a point gained.

Predicted Final Score – Italy 1-1 Croatia (Cassano ; Jelavic)

Date – 14th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – PGE Arena, Gdansk

Prediction – This is an important game for both the teams. Both teams come into this game at the back of a disappointing result in their previous game. Spain were held on to a draw by Italy, while Ireland were outplayed and thrashed 3-1 by the Croatians. This will be a very tough game for the Irish as they play against the best team in the world. As expected Spain will do what they do best – dominate the game and keep the possession. The Irish will find it tough to play their natural game and will have to defend for most of the game and hit the defending champions on the break if they have to get anything from the game. But it won’t be that way as Andres Iniesta, who was impressive against the Italians, will score the opener and then David Silva will make it two just before half time. Robbie Keane will bring Ireland close to a goal but will be Iker Casillas. Cesc Fabregas, who scored the equaliser in the Gdansk, will score the third goal and wrap up the game for the Spaniards. This win will see Spain go on top of Group C with Italy and Croatia sharing a point earlier, and this defeat would mean the end of Ireland’s hopes of making it through the group and qualifying for the knockout stages.

Predicted Final Score – Spain 3-0 Republic of Ireland (Iniesta, David Silva, Fabregas)

Predicting Spain v Italy And Republic Of Ireland v Croatia

We had our first upset of the tournament yesterday, when Denmark defeated Netherlands in the opening game of Group B. While the second game of the ‘Group of Death’ saw Germany scrap out a 1-0 win over Portugal. Today, it’s time for the likes of Italy, Croatia, Republic of Ireland and defending champions Spain to take the field in Group C.

Our first match of Group C is a mouth-watering  affair which sees current World and European champions Spain take on the 2006 FIFA World Cup champions Italy in Gdansk, followed by the clash between Slaven Bilic’s Croatia and Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland in Poznan.

Date – 10th June, 19:00 GMT

Stadium – Arena Gdansk, Gdansk

Prediction – Spain come into this tournament as the favourites to defend their title, but they kickoff their campaign with their toughest group game against Italy. Like we saw yesterday during the Germany-Portugal match and have seen in the past, when two big teams clash against each other so early in the tournament, the game is always a cagey affair and don’t expect it to be anything better than it. Spain have by far the best midfield in the world, but at the same time Italians have Andrea Pirlo, who can single handedly change the game with one pass. If the game is to go by anything as expected then it’s going to be Spain dominating the possession with their tiki-taka style of play and the Italians to defend for the most of the game and try to hit on the counter. Spain’s domination and possession football will help them in taking the lead through their World Cup hero Andres Iniesta. But the Italians will attack more and finally get the equaliser in second half and it would be Mario Balotelli to do so.  Spain will continue their domination but will fail to beat Gianlugi Buffon and the game will end in a draw. A fair result in the end.

Predicted Final Score – Spain 1-1 Italy (Iniesta ; Balotelli)

Date – 10th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Municipal Stadium, Poznan

Prediction – Ireland are placed at 80-1 odds to win the finals, but there are very few teams who could match the passion of the Irish players and the fans. Ireland face a tough challenge in Croatia in their opening game. Both the teams are expected to go back home after the group stages and knowing both of them face Italy and Spain up next, expected this one to be an open game. Both teams would go for the win, knowing a win today will be huge for their chances of staying the tournament. Game is expected to be an end-to-end affair with both teams attacking. The Irish players have the passion which helped them qualify for the finals but the Croatian players have the experience of playing in the major tournaments. Robbie Keane will give the Irish the lead in the first half but Croatia will equalise just before the interval through Nikica Jelavic. Croatia will come out and dominate the game in the second half and former Tottenham man, Niko Kranjcar will make the scoreline 2-1 just after the hour mark. Keane and co will come close to finding and equaliser towards the end of the game, but in the Luka Modric and co will hold and grab an important win in their first game of the tournament.

Predicted Final Score – Republic of Ireland 1-2 Croatia (Keane ; Jelavic, Kranjcar)

UEFA EURO 2012 Team Preview – Republic Of Ireland

Population 4.5 million Area 70,273km2 Capital Dublin Currency Euro Official Language English

FOOTBALL FACTFILE

Football Asocciation Football Association of Ireland (FAI) Official Site http://www.fai.ie Year of formation 1921 Euro Ranking 15 World Ranking 18 National Stadium Aviva Stadium, Dublin Well-known club sides Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne Dundalk Leading goalscorers Robbie Keane (53), Niall Quinn (21), Frank Stapleton (20) Most capped players Shay Given (120+), Robbie Keane (114+), Kevin Kilabe (110+) European Championship finals attended 1988 Best European Championship performance Group Stage 1988 Playing Record in European Championship P112 W45 D33 L34 Odds of winning UEFA EURO 2012 100/1

JOURNEY TO POLAND/UKRAINE

It’s been two decades since Ireland were last involved in a European Championship, memorably beating England in their first match in 1988 with a well played Ray Houghton header. And it’s been 10 years since they were last involved in a major competition, going out on penalties to Spain in FIFA World Cup 2002 after Robbie Keane had scored a 90th minute equaliser.

It’s been a long road for the Irish since. They fell well short of qualification for any major until Giovanni Trapattoni instilled a renewed confidence among an ageing and experienced squad. They were cheated out of FIFA World Cup 2010 qualification by Thierry Henry’s handball, but thumped Estonia 5-1 on aggregate to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012.

Ireland suffered only one defeat in the process, a 3-2 reverse against group winners Russia, and between losing 3-2 in a friendly to Uruguay in March and a 2-1 home win over Armenia in October, they kep eight consecutive clean sheets, a domestic record in short, the Republic are a changed side, they’re more resilient, gaining a wonderful 0-0 draw in Moscow, more ruthless, as shown by their 4-0 away trouncing of Estonia, and they are regaining a reputation that makes them one of the most feared minnows on the continent.

HOW THEY GOT THERE

03/09/2010 – Group B – Armenia 0-1 Republic of Ireland
07/09/2010 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 3-1 Andorra
08/10/2010 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 2-3 Russia
12/10/2010 – Group B – Solvakia 1-1 Malta
26/03/2011 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 2-1 Macedonia
04/06/2011 – Group B – Macedonia 0-2 Republic of Ireland
02/09/2011 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 0-0 Slovakia
06/09/2011 – Group B – Russia 0-0 Republic of Ireland
07/10/2011 – Group B – Andorra 0-2 Republic of Ireland
11/10/2011 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 2-1 Armenia
11/11/2011 – Play-Off – Estonia 0-4 Republic of Ireland
15/11/2011 – Play-Off – Republic of Ireland 1-1 Estonia

HOME AND AWAY KITS

GROUP FIXTURES – GROUP C

Sunday, 10/06 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia (Poznan, 19:45)
Thursday, 14/06 – Spain v Republic of Ireland (Gdansk, 19:45)
Monday, 18/06 – Italy v Republic of Ireland (Poznan, 19:45)

FINAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Aston Villa FC), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland AFC), David Forde (Millwall FC).

Defenders: John O’Shea (Sunderland AFC), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa FC), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City FC), Darren O’Dea (Celtic FC), Stephen Kelly (Fulham FC), Paul McShane (Hull City AFC).

Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke City FC), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion FC), Aiden McGeady (FC Spartak Moskva), Darron Gibson (Everton FC), Paul Green (unattached), Damien Duff (Fulham FC), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), James McClean (Sunderland AFC).

Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion FC), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City FC), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion FC).

THE DEFENSIVE ROCK – RICHARD DUNNE

While Robbie Keane is the man with the armband, how Richard Dunne leads the back line will decide the fate of the Irish in a difficult Group C. He enjoyed the adulation of travelling support in Moscow, where his outstanding, unflinching performance helped his country to secure a point. They will need lots more of that spirit against Spain, Italy and Croatia.

THE KEEPER – SHAY GIVEN

Brushed aside by Manchester City after the emergence of England’s Joe Hart, Shay Given has rebuilt his club career at an under-achieving Aston Villa and continues to impress as his country’s number one. Alongside established pros such as Damian Duff, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane, Given has worked hard to be here and won’t be going home without a fight.

THE CAPTAIN & STAR MAN – ROBBIE KEANE

He may have lost a yard or two of his electric pace, but Robbie Keane’s eye for goal remains undimmed. Only Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Miroslav Klose scored more than his seven goals in qualifying, and his goal tally for Ireland is more than doubt that of closest rival Niall Quinn. If the Republic are to have any chance of progressing from what would appear, on paper, to be the second-most difficult group of the last 16, you feel Keane will have to be on top form. Whether he and his ageing compadres can keep up performance levels in the latter stages of the competition is a different question.

THE MANAGER – GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI

One of the best-known coaches in world football, it was something of a surprise when Giovanni Trapattoni turned up in Dublin to take charge of an Irish side in disarray. He led them undefeated, including two draws against Italy, in their FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifying group and was hugely unlucky not beat France in the play-offs. He has gone a step further this year by qualifying for Poland/Ukraine and, if he takes the Republic of Ireland beyond this incredibly tough group, it may be his biggest achievement in management to date.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTION

Group Stage – It would be like a miracle and a shock, if Ireland do qualifying from Group C. Spain and Italy should both prove too strong for the Irish and are the favourites to advance from the group. Republic of Ireland will mostly find themselves fighting it out for the third spot with Croatia. One possibility for them to make it out of the group is, if they can get draws against Spain and Italy and a win in the first game against Croatia. That would surely be enough but it looks highly unlikely.