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El Clasico: Ronaldo Vs Messi

With Real Madrid sitting in first place and 4 points clear of Barcelona, you could say that this Sunday’s upcoming El Clasico is critical for both teams. But let’s be honest, this is a game of two players. Two of the best players that might ever walk this earth. Two players who are both in insane form.  But two players who couldn’t be more different if they tried.

First we have Cristiano Ronaldo. The recently crowned Balon D’Or winner and the leading scorer in La Liga has qualities never seen before in World Football. If one were to create a player in FIFA with a 99% in all categories, you’d virtually be creating Ronaldo. His 6’1 frame and incredible leaping ability make him an unstoppable aerial threat. His speed with the ball at his feet is incredibly impressive as is his speed without the ball. Ronaldo can score off the dribble with a series of fancy feet, or with one of his signature long distance strikes. The type of player that can get behind you with pure speed, can score goals from well over 30 yards out (with both feet), and can score off of a set piece both with his feet and in the air. Ronaldo might be the most versatile footballer to ever play the game.

Then there is Lionel Messi. The 4 time Balon D’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer with 371 goals (at the advanced age of 26). This 5’7 (and that’s being generous) spark plug with explosive quickness can break down any team off of the dribble. What really makes Messi so dangerous is his ability to not be dispossessed. Teams send 3, 4, 5 defenders to stop him, but he gracefully skates by them with ease.

While Ronaldo is known for his array of dazzling step-overs and tricks, Messi is a much simpler player that utilizes basic cuts and chops.

In addition, Ronaldo is one of the most emotional and charismatic players in Football, once even going as far as to push former Barca manager Pep Guardiola during a heated Clasico match. Messi shows very little emotion, even when players viciously hack and slide to take the ball from him.

We can argue who is the better player until the cows come home, but we cannot argue that we are witnessing history. So come Sunday, get your popcorn ready.

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World Cup: A Numbers Game?

With less than 100 days away (and counting), the excitement of the World Cup is starting to come to fruition.  Questions arise in the minds of the millions of Football fans worldwide who anxiously await for the games to begin. How will Spain’s Tiki Taka style of play (led by Barca midfielders Xavi and Iniesta) fair against organized and athletic sides like Germany and England? Or will the Seleção and young Barcelona star Neymar bring the Cup back to Brazil for the first time since 2002.

It is difficult to say who will end up taking home the grandest prize in World Football, but odds makers have coined the Brazilians as favourites with 3 to 1 odds for winning it all. This would be the first time in nearly 16 years that a host country would be crowned champions of the World Cup. The last to do so was an immensely talented French side in 1998, led by central midfielder, Zinedine Zidane. In addition, Las Vegas has given Argentina and 4 time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi 9/2 odds, making them second favourites at obtaining the Cup.

The odds do not favour The United States though, who have much to prove with odds makers giving them a measly 100/1 chance in winning the World Cup. So what can we as fans take away from all of this? Should we just hand the trophy to Brazil, Spain, or Argentina? No. This is the one event in all of sports where the world holds its breath and consistently witnesses the David’s take down the Goliath’s. We have seen countries like South Korea take down Spain and Italy in the 2002 World Cup. In addition, we saw Australia beat Serbia (who were contenders to win it all), as well as Slovakia take down Italy (who also were favoured to make a strong run in the tournament). So in the end, we truly cannot say which country will end up hoisting the 2014 World Cup, but what we do know, is that come Thursday, June 12, the world will be watching.

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They are Roaring at the top while the Heart is bleeding

A quarter of the season has been completed in the 9th Hyundai A-League, with no clear leader at this stage. The top five teams all remain within 4 points of each other. However, after the top of the table clash between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers on the weekend, the Roar are seriously starting to look like title contenders with a convincing 3-1 win against last season’s minor champions.

Brisbane Roar is the team to beat at the moment and will be looking to chase their third championship in four years. The Roar have been in great form and the emergence of teenage sensation Kawme Yeboah and the return of Bersart Berisha from injury is a major reason that Brisbane must be taken seriously.

The Western Sydney Wanderers are continuing their great form from the end of last season, suffering only their second defeat in 20 matches this past weekend. The whole team is assisting each other with nine goals coming from six different players and a solid defensive line keeping more goals out than in. Shinji Ono is again the marquee player making a difference, using his experience to attempt to guide the team to the top.

For Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners, changing of the guard has not given them the start they would have liked in the 2013-2014 season. Ange Postecoglou was named as the Australian Socceroos coach while Graham Arnold is now the manager of J-League club Vegalta Sendai. They currently sit in 5th and 6th spot on the ladder respectively, and the teams are starting to slowly adapt to the new style of football under the new managers.

Melbourne Heart are still struggling under former Socceroo John Aloisi. With marquee signing Harry Kewell having been injured for all but one game they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the league and it may soon all be over for Aloisi. Heart are uncompetitive, well out of their depth and at some times embarrassing. The management need to step in quickly otherwise it could be a similar case to the North Queensland Fury, which would be a disaster for the A-League.

The quality of football in Australia is improving as every season goes by and in return the fans are showing their support for the world game down under. The second highest attendance was recorded for a regular round robin game this season in game one when Melbourne Victory played Melbourne Heart in front of a crowd of 45,202 people. The average crowd attendance is currently over 15,300, which is at an all time high and 3,000 more than last year, and if this continues, the crowd attendance will exceed more than 2,000,000 fans for the first time in the A-League.

Image credit: Getty Images
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The NFL Through Week 12

With Week 12 in the books, the NFL playoffs are just on the horizon as teams battle it out for a chance at postseason play.

This week in the NFL featured an overtime thriller and the 19th tie in NFL history. On Sunday night the AFC showcased a marquee matchup between the Broncos (9-2) and Patriots (8-3) that saw New England overcome a 24 point deficit to stun the top seeded Broncos in Foxborough. In the NFC the Packers and Vikings battled for 75 minutes but neither team could secure the win as the score was notched at 26.

The Cowboys’ victory over the Giants on Sunday has them tied for the division lead with the Eagles in a tight NFC East race. With the Giants (4-7) and the Redskins’ (3-8) dismal records and only five games left, it seems as though their hopes of postseason play have faded.

Teams that have surprised everyone this year have been the Panthers (8-3) who now sit one game behind the division leading Saints (9-2) after winning their seventh straight game on Sunday and the Chiefs who are tied with the Broncos for the top seed in the AFC after a two win season last year. These two teams meet in a battle for the division lead this Sunday while the Saints and Seahawks (10-1) fight for the top seed in the NFC on Monday night.

Though the surprising Chiefs and Panthers have enjoyed success this year, powerhouse teams of a season ago have faltered. Teams like the Falcons and Texans who made playoff appearances last year have abysmal 2-9 records with slim chances of making the playoffs.

This year’s Thanksgiving matchups feature the Lions and Cowboys hosting the Packers and Raiders in the early games and the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens battling the Steelers in the night cap. All three games have playoff implications as the Cowboys and Lions look to take control of their respective divisions and the Ravens and Steelers battle for possible Wild Card spots.

Who will come out on top in the next five weeks? We’ll find out as teams continue their quest for the Lombardi trophy on the road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Image credit: Getty Images
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2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifications

We are in the final stages of qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, with some of the tournament favourites already qualified. With Brazil already qualified as the host country, Argentina and Chile join them. Chile will hope that the finals being held in South America will lend a helping hand at the tournament, and it will be interesting to see how stars such as Juventus’ Arturo Vidal and Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez rise to the occasion. Argentina qualified top of their group with 32 points including 9 victories. Uruguay are on course to join the other South American teams after a first leg win against Jordan, scoring 5 unanswered goals including a sublime free kick from Edinson Cavani. With Uruguay’s great performance of fourth place in the 2010’s finals in South Africa, a place in Brazil next year will surely provide football fans great entertainment. If past tournament history is taken into account, these teams will most likely make it into the second round of the competition.

New Zealand was hoping to book a 2nd consecutive place at the finals but will need to defeat Mexico in the second leg of their playoff match by 5 goals, making qualification unlikely. Mexico had a tough qualification round, losing out to Costa Rica and Honduras for 2nd and 3rd place in their group, with USA coming out on top and making it to another World Cup Finals Tournament.

 The usual suspects from the continent of Asia have qualified, with Australia, Japan and Korea Republic all automatically qualified. Iran has qualified for the first time since 2006, and will hope to build on their impressive qualification performance in Brazil.

Just 2 spots out of a possible 5 have been decided in the African qualification stages, with Côte d’Ivoire making it to their 3rd consecutive World Cup Finals and Nigeria becoming the first out of the African teams to qualify. 6 teams are still vying for a place at the finals with playoffs underway. Burkina Faso are hoping to make it to their first finals, and hold a slim advantage over Algeria in the playoffs. Ghana is all but qualified after a 6:1 routing of Egypt in the first leg of their playoff. Things remain tentative between Cameroon and Tunisia, with a goalless draw in the first leg setting up an important second leg to confirm the last available place in the finals.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s stunning qualification performance earned them their first place at a FIFA competition. Scoring 30 goals and conceding just 6, Bosnia-Herzegovina could provide an entertaining spectacle at next year’s finals. Former winners of the competition Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and England all automatically qualified having won their groups, with Belgium, Russia and Switzerland also qualified.

4 places remain undecided, with 8 teams hoping to book their place on Tuesday 19th November. France have a tough 2nd leg, trying to overcome a 2-0 defeat by Ukraine, while Portugal hope to maintain their momentum from their 1-0 win against Sweden in Lisbon to qualify. A showdown waits between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in Solna on Tuesday night. Greece proved a tough match against Romania, beating them 3-1 at home. Romania will need to dig deep during the 2nd leg in Bucharest if they hope to qualify. Croatia remains favourites to qualify against playoff opponents Iceland, but both sides remain equal after a 0-0 first leg.

With Brazil 2014 fast approaching, the finals look to be an exciting prospect with most tournament regulars having qualified as well as some spirited newcomers hoping to entertain on the world stage next year.