The Top Five Goalkeepers From the 2018/19 Serie A Season

szczesnyù

The 2018-19 Serie A season has come to a close, so it is now time to go position by position and rank the top five players in each role.

We start with the last line of defence, the goalkeepers.  Continue reading

Four Talking Points Ahead of Napoli’s Clash with Juventus

juventusnapoli

Stars collide on Sunday in Naples at the Stadio San Paolo as Juventus and Napoli will author another chapter in their heated rivalry.

Back in late September, the Partenopei, led by Carlo Ancelotti, leapt out of the gates early with a Dries Mertens strike 10 minutes into proceedings in Turin. From there on however, ‘the Old Lady’ established dominance once again over their league rivals, as Mario Mandžukić equalized then grabbed the lead before Leonardo Bonucci put the bow on the victory with Juve’s third in the final quarter-hour.

Entering this tie, the Bianconeri hold a firm grasp of first place with a 13 point advantage over Napoli and sit in pole position to make it eight straight Serie A titles. Despite that, Ancelotti men will press on and look to exact revenge from earlier in the season against a Juventus side hoping to catch fire again after a rough patch of form.

Here are four talking points ahead of Napoli vs Juventus: Continue reading

Colombia’s thrashing of Poland delivered wake-up call to Poles

Poland

Poland crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, just as quickly as they returned after 12 years away from the competition.

The Poles entered the tournament as FIFA’s 8th ranked nation, a position most felt they weren’t entirely deserving of when you consider their WCQ opponents. Perennial powers like Spain (10), England (12), Uruguay (14), Mexico (15) and Colombia (16) – who delivered the fatal blow to the Biało-czerwoni’s World Cup hopes last Sunday 3-0 – sat behind Poland in the rankings, perhaps showing the flaws embedded in FIFA’s ranking process.

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Group H: Lackluster Poland fall to Senegal 2-1 in opener – the Biało-czerwoni player ratings

Poland-vs-Senegal

Poland’s return to the World Cup after 12 years away did not go according to plan as their Group H opener resulted in a 2-1 defeat to Senegal, with manager Adam Nawałka’s side looking less than impressive.

Here are the Polish player ratings from the match:

Wojciech Szczesny (GK, 5.0): The Juventus keeper wasn’t tested all that much in this affair, but was caught out in no mans land on the back pass from Krychowiak which led to the eventual winner from M’Baye Niang.

Lukasz Piszczek (RB, 5.5): Poland’s veteran right-back offered very little going forward and was uncharacteristically sloppy with his passing.

Michal Pazdan (CB, 6.0): Of the four defenders, Pazdan performed the best, although he endured his own share of troubles in the build-up from the back. It is quite clear that Poland’s backline does not operate with the same confidence and solidity without Kamil Glik.

Thiago Cionek (CB, 4.5): Filling in for the injured Glik, Cionek was granted the opportunity to prove he can hold his own on this stage, of which he failed at it. Lackadaisical, and with little urgency to move the ball around, the SPAL defender should probably have been benched in favour of Bednarek.

Maciej Rybus (LB, 6.0): Early on, Rybus seemed determined to plunge forward and serve as an outlet in the build-up which Poland struggled mightily to get going at times. However, he spent the majority of the match just trying to keep to his defensive duties and not let Senegal get in behind.

Grzegorz Krychowiak (MID, 5.0): A disappointing display from Poland’s veteran destroyer. Far too error-prone and surrendered possession in areas of the pitch where it proved costly – especially the mistake which put both Bednarek and Szczesny in a bad spot.

Piotr Zielinski (MID, 5.5): As Poland’s main playmaker, Zielinski did not enjoy enough of the ball at his feet in more advanced positions where he could be that supporting player Lewandowski and Milik needed. Instead, the Napoli man was assisting in the midfield, leaving a void in the final third where it was desperately needed.

Jakub Blaszczykowski (MID, 5.0): A very quiet day for the long-serving Polish international on his 100th appearance for country.

Arkadiusz Milik (MID, 5.0): Milik, like Lewandowski, was often very isolated and unable to operate centrally or combine with other teammates to leave his mark. Just 35 touches in total for the young Pole who is expected to play a big role in this tournament. Nawałka must find a way to get Milik on the ball more and able to influence like we are accustomed to seeing at Napoli.

Kamil Grosicki (MID, 6.5): Hands down, Poland’s most energetic player. Grosicki made several runs down the left channel early on in this one, and looked lively. To no surprise, the 30-year old was the supplier of Krychowiak’s headed goal. However, if Poland are to advance from this group, he can’t be the most influential player in the side.

Robert Lewandowski (ST, 5.5): The Bayern Munich star was starved of service throughout, often just being closely man-marked by Kalidou Koulibaly who did well in blanketing him from getting involved. Zielinski and Milik will need to ramp up their play and ensure that their captain can get the goalscoring chances needed to mirror his WCQ exploits.

Substitutes

Jan Bednarek (CB, 6.0): Perhaps he could have done better to keep Niang in front of him on the second goal, but Bednarek was overall pretty solid off the bench for Poland – and probably would have served as a better partner for Pazdan in the back based off his form in the friendlies leading up to this competition. Expect the Southampton defender to get the starting nod over Cionek vs Colombia should Glik not be ready.

Dawid Kownacki (ST, 5.5): The 21-year old relieved Milik with roughly 15 minutes to get his feet wet. Kownacki saw a fair amount of the ball, and looked confident which bodes well for the next time he is called upon.

Bartosz Bereszynski (RB, 5.5): Sampdoria’s starting right-back came on for Piszczek in the 83rd minute with Poland chasing the game and finally playing with some urgency going forward. Bereszynski could very well find himself starting in the next match vs Colombia should Nawalłka elect to tinker his tactics, because after this collective effort, it is most definintely required.

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Seven Polish internationals from Serie A to feature in World Cup

Polska - Litwa

After 12 excruciating years, Poland have made it back to the World Cup, returning as a dark-horse in the competition after topping their group in WCQ and currently being ranked 8th in the FIFA rankings.

The Biało-czerwoni have the most Serie A representatives (7) among the 32 nations heading to Russia for the 2018 edition of the tournament, and since 2008 when there were 0 Poles plying their trade in Italy’s top flight, 14 are now active on the Peninsula in what appears to be an evolving trend by the year.

Here are those seven Polish internationals manager Adam Nawałka has called upon to make the trip to Russia. Continue reading