Monday, April 18, 2011

Big Games, Big Players

By Bagga Wilks

What differentiated Pele and Maradona from ordinary players was that in the big games, they unmistakably stepped up to the plate. Pele won a few World Cups for Brazil and Maradona did the same for Argentina. Both Pele and Maradona were successful not only at the international level but at the club level.

This week football enthusiasts had a feast of big games which gave top flight players an opportunity to display their greatness. The Real Madrid vs Barcelona game brought together not only tow of the top teams in the world but two of the scintillating offensive players in the world, Ronaldo and Messi. Pepe did smother Messi at times but not sufficient for the fans not to see glimpses of Messi’s greatness.

Ronaldo and Messi both played below par in the 2010 World Cup but one has to consider the long club season, the international matches during the year and by the time the World Cup rolls around, many of the players are saddled with fatigue.

Ronaldo showed his prowess as a footballer and his dexterity as a master of kicking free kicks. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, detrimental to the trailing Real Madrid but the pair will meet twice in the Champions League and in other cup games in the La Liga.

Chelsea vs Manchester United placed a number of top players facing off on the pitch. Torres has not yet been able to find his goal-scoring form. In the second half,Torres gave way to Drogba who scored to put Chelsea back into the game after they trailed 1-0. The sending off of Ramires punctured the Chelsea come-back.

The 37 year old Ryan Giggs was sensational for Manchester United and was a classical example of a big player in a big game playing big. Giggs produced the two telling passes that enabled Manchester United to put away Chelsea 2-1 in the Champions League.

In the semi-final of the FA Cup, Manchester City faced off against Manchester United. Manchester United was without Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs. Sir Alex rested the aging Giggs and Rooney was sitting out his suspension.

The game was decided by one defensive error and a singular great offensive play. Michael Carrick, Manchester United mid-fielder, on the edge of the penalty area tried to square a ball which YaYa Toure read, intercepted, ran at Vidic and Ferdinand and placed the ball between Van der Sar’s legs.

Ya Ya Toure, acquired from Barcelona in the off-season for big bucks was the big player who stepped up big in a big game and enabled Manchester City not only to defeat their cross town rivals but to position his team to win the coveted FA Cup. Manchester City last acquired silverware in the 1970s. He may have also rescued Mancini’s job.

We are at the point in the season when great players have to display their greatness. Too many big players play small in big games and the big player, who emerges larger than life in big games, makes the difference whether a team is remembered among the vanquished or numbered among the triumphant.

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