Copa-America-Best-XI

The centenary edition of the Copa América is in the books and, just as last year, Chile are champions of South America by virtue of a penalty shootout victory over Argentina in the final.

There was plenty of talent on display, with some big names flopping, like Uruguay and Brazil exiting at the group stage, and some surprise packages, such as the USA with their run to the semi-final.

Here is our pick of the best XI of the tournament.

GK David Ospina – Colombia

David Ospina had a solid tournament with Colombia, helping his side reach the semi-final before losing 2-0 to Chile. The Arsenal stopper gets the nod for his dependability; while FC Barcelona’s Chilean goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, made some uncharacteristic and costly errors, and Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa saw seven goals fly past him in the quarter-final, Ospina was solid throughout.

DF John Brooks – USA

The American defender overcame heavy criticism for his sub-par defending during last year’s Gold Cup tie against Jamaica, to have an impressive Copa América, as the USA defied the odds to reach the semi-final, before losing 4-0 to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina.

DF Nicolas Otamendi – Argentina

It’s safe to say that Nicolas Otamendi had a less than impressive first season in the Premier League with Manchester City. But the bearded centre-back had a fine Copa América campaign as he formed a strong central-defensive partnership with Everton’s Ramiro Funes-Mori.

DF Gary Medel – Chile

The Chilean enforcer was the defensive general for La Roja. Despite his reputation for being somewhat of a hot-head, the 28-year-old former Cardiff City player stayed calm following Marcelo Diaz’s harsh first-half dismissal in the final against Argentina, and kept his defence in order.

MD Javier Mascherano – Argentina

Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano was faultless for Argentina, reverting back to the defensive midfield role in which he made his name before becoming a centre-back at Barça. The 32-year-old is the lynchpin of La Albiceleste’s midfield, and his influence and experience was again invaluable.

MD Ever Banega – Argentina

Ever Banega followed up a stellar season at club level, in which he guided Sevilla to Europa League success, by carrying his superb form into the Copa América with Argentina. The 27-year-old playmaker will join Internazionale next season on a free transfer, and the Nerazzurri stand to benefit from his creative midfield scheming.

MD Arturo Vidal – Chile

Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal was in fine fettle throughout the Copa América. When he’s at his best, there are few players in world football who can match his box-to-box driving energy. After being surrounded by controversy after crashing his car while allegedly under the influence of alcohol during last year’s Copa, the former Juventus player’s performances in the USA went a long way towards erasing those bad memories.

MD Clint Dempsey – USA

Clint Dempsey is the USA’s long-time talisman, and the former Fulham player was once again the key man for his country. Despite his advancing years, the 33-year-old Seattle Sounders midfielder was one of the standout players of the tournament on home soil.

RW Lionel Messi – Argentina

Lionel Messi’s tournament started a little later than most, with a minor injury meaning he was unable to start the opening two matches. That didn’t stop the 2015 Ballon d’Or winner from netting a hat-trick against Panama after coming on as a second-half substitute. Messi bagged one of the goals of the tournament with a free-kick in the semi-final against the USA. Despite his penalty miss in the final and subsequent international retirement, the five-time World Player of the Year was the shining light of this year’s Copa América.

LW Alexis Sanchez – Chile

Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez was a constant threat for Chile throughout the tournament, peaking in the 7-0 defeat of Mexico and the 2-0 semi-final victory over Colombia. The former Barcelona winger also set himself apart with his tireless work-rate, leading Chile’s high-press and covering every blade of grass in the oppositions’ half of the pitch.

ST Eduardo Vargas – Chile

Hoffenheim forward Eduardo Vargas was immensely impressive in leading the line for Chile. Four goals in the 7-0 dismantling of Mexico in the quarter-final stand out as a highlight, but Vargas also netted twice against Panama and his relentless work-rate was a key factor in Chile’s potent attack.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here. 

twitter: @RyanBaldiEFB

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Bayern-Bundesliga-Dominance

A quarter of the way through the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, the destination of the title already looks to have been decided. Bayern Munich’s 1-0 victory over Werder Bremen on Saturday afternoon was their ninth in nine top-flight encounters – another Bundesliga record set by the Bavarians – with Pep Guardiola’s outfit already seven points clear of closest challengers Borussia Dortmund. The team that has won the last three German championships by margins of 10, 19 and 25 points look to have wrapped up another crown in mid-October.

It is an incredible spell of dominance that does not look like ending any time soon. The Bundesliga, which remains one of Europe’s most competitive divisions from second place downwards, has become monopolised by Bayern, whose combination of status and financial might dwarfs all of their domestic rivals.

The gap between the league leaders and Dortmund was showcased in the pair’s meeting before the international break: Bayern ran out 5-1 winners at the Allianz Arena, simply proving too strong for Thomas Tuchel’s charges, who themselves had begun the campaign extremely well.

Bayern took the lead in the 26th minute through Thomas Muller, who soon added a second from the penalty spot. BVB threatened a comeback with an immediate response from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Bayern found another gear after the break, a brace from Robert Lewandowski and strike from Mario Gotze sealing an emphatic triumph.

It was a similar story in the weekend’s clash with Werder, even if the narrow scoreline suggested a closely-fought encounter. Muller’s winning goal was the 29th Guardiola’s men have scored this term; with just five conceded, Bayern have an extraordinary goal difference of 25 after nine matches.

There is a debate to be had about whether Bayern’s imperiousness is a positive or negative thing for the Bundesliga. The 25-time German champions’ strength has allowed them to assemble a squad of truly world-class talent – from

between the sticks, Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba in the backline, Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal in midfield, Arjen Robben on the flanks and Lewandowski and Muller up top – that can compete with anything the rest of Europe has to offer.

Sport, though, is about competition; as German football writer Raphael Honigstein noted recently, the sheer brilliance of many of the side’s performances may attract overseas interest in the league, but the lack of a genuine title race at the top is likely to eventually lead to those viewers switching off. While Bayern’s quality will always make them worth watching, many consumers are likely to prefer watching games involving the likes of Barcelona or Manchester City if the points at stake are likely to be pivotal to their chances of finishing the season top of the pile.

The issue could accelerate calls for a European superleague involving the continent’s biggest clubs, something that many believe is bound to happen at some point in the coming decades. If Bayern – and, indeed, the rest of the Bundesliga – no longer believe the current arrangement is working for them, it is not too difficult to foresee a situation whereby they push for more regular games against other elite outfits.

For now, the Champions League probably sates that desire; if Bayern continue to dominate German football for years to come, however, a breaking point may not be too far away.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball

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Nike-v-Adidas

The dust has settled and FC Bayern Munich are the clear and deserved winner of the German Klassiker. While Bayern fans and players are ecstatic about Sunday’s 5-1 win over their closest rival, the large majority of German football fans lament the possibility of another boring title race in Germany’s Bundesliga.

Of course Bayern players have little worry about the feelings of the fans of the other 17 clubs in the Bundesliga, and as it is often the case in this day and age many Bayern players tweeted and facebooked pictures from their dressing room celebrations.

One such tweet, however, could now have a major consequence for Jerome Boateng, Joshua Kimmich, Thiago, and Douglas Costa. The tweet was posted by Jerome Boateng (@JB17Official), and Arturo Vidal (@kingarturo23) to 3.5 million followers and shows the above mentioned players holding towards the camera the very boots that they used to dismantle Borussia Dortmund just moments ago.

The first impression is that this is a spontaneous moment of joy over having beaten their once closest rival in the title race. On second glance it becomes apparent that this picture is part of a guerrilla advertisement campaign by Nike—Vidal’s tweet simply read Nike!!! (see here).

The problem with both Boateng’s and Vidal’s tweet, however, is the fact that Bayern is not only sponsored by Adidas, but that Adidas is also a share holder at FC Bayern Munich—the company holds 10% of Bayern’s shares.

Even though Nike is the largest sporting goods company in the world, Adidas has been dominant in football, where the German company holds the exclusive sponsorship rights to the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA European Championships, and Champions League. Furthermore, by signing deals with Manchester United and Juventus Turin, Adidas has recently managed to snap up two major equipment deals from Nike. In Germany—other than Bayern—Adidas also sponsors the Bundesliga and the German national team, meaning that Adidas is firmly rooted in Europe’s biggest economy. Hence, Nike has resorted to so-called guerrilla marketing when it comes to placing their brand at Bayern.

When Bayern signed Mario Götze, who is also sponsored by Nike, from Borussia Dortmund for £31.5 million in 2013 the player showed up to his official presentation at his new club wearing a white shirt with a big Nike slogan on it. Adidas protested, and both the club and Mario Götze had to officially apologize, and pay a fine—for which Nike probably handsomely compensated him. As for Nike, the whole affair became an even bigger marketing gag as the news of Götze sporting the Nike swoosh at the Adidas clubs travelled around the world, and made notable headlines in all major newspapers in Europe.

Now it appears that Nike has once again managed to usurp Adidas’ sponsoring supremacy at Bayern. Despite the fact that the five players wore their Adidas clothing while showing their shoes to the camera—although in Vidal’s case it was nothing more than a towel—the guerrilla marketing will have some consequences as the five players will most likely get a costly reminder after the national team break on how to celebrate without plugging Nike in the dressing room after a match. Especially given the fact that the five accidentally also managed to include Bayern’s CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the photo as he entered the dressing room just as the photo was taken. He will likely not be amused to explain his shareholders once again how Nike is able to continue its guerrilla war at Germany’s largest club.

About the author – Manuel Veth

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and Editor in Chief @FutbolgradLive and writes about the economics and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet football. You can find his work at Futbolgrad.com.

twitter: @homosovieticus

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