Barcelona, Messi top season-ending AP global poll

Updated 30 May 2013
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Barcelona, Messi top season-ending AP global poll

LONDON: Despite failing to win European football’s top prize, Barcelona came out as the top team this season in The Associated Press global football poll.
And with 60 goals in all competitions, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi earned 66 votes more than Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo to top the season-end player rankings.
“Messi’s supreme form until getting injured near the end of the season — a key factor in Barca’s exit from Europe — means he is a more obvious standout for player of the year, especially as Bayern’s success was built more on team and squad depth rather than one outstanding individual,” said panelist James Porteous of the South China Morning Post.
Barcelona has already regained the Spanish league title from Madrid and is on course this weekend to match its rival’s milestone of 100 points from the previous campaign.
The Spanish clubs both exited the Champions League in the semifinals, but Saturday’s winner, Bayern Munich, was four points behind Barcelona in the AP tally of votes since the poll launched in October.
In the first all-Bundesliga Champions League final on Saturday, Munich secured a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, which was sixth in the rankings.
Arjen Robben scored the decisive goal at Wembley Stadium, a year after missing a penalty in Bayern’s shootout loss to Chelsea in the final.
“I’m a little surprised Barca edged out Bayern, given the Germans’ domestic dominance and Champions League win, but Barca were hugely impressive before falling to Bayern in the semifinals,” Porteous said.
“In the last six seasons, either Barca or the team that knocked them out have won the Champions League, and with Neymar arriving, they should be strongly placed to win back the European title.”
The 21-year-old Neymar has signed a five-year deal to join Barca from Brazilian club Santos.
Bayern will be led next season by former Barca coach Pep Guardiola when his yearlong sabbatical ends to replace Jupp Heynckes, who also won the Bundesliga this season with a record points haul.
“Jupp Heynckes must be given lots of credit ... he led Bayern Munich to a fantastic season, made the right choices, kept total control of the team even though the news of his replacement broke in the middle of the season,” said voter Aurelio Capaldi from Italian broadcaster RAI Sport.
“(It’s) hard, very hard, for Guardiola to do better than this.”
No teams from outside of Europe made the top 10 in the end-of-season tally of votes.
Manchester United earned third place, ahead of trophyless Real Madrid, after Alex Ferguson ended almost 27 years in charge by winning a 13th Premier League title.
The leading Premier League player was the striker whose 26 goals helped to secure the title for United — with Robin van Persie third in the rankings, a point ahead of Tottenham attacker Gareth Bale.
AP Global Football end-of-season rankings
10 points for first, nine for second, etc.

Teams:
1. Barcelona, 199 points
2. Bayern Munich, 195
3. Manchester United, 157
4. Real Madrid, 139
5. Juventus, 127
6. Borussia Dortmund, 103
7. Paris Saint-Germain, 74
8. Chelsea, 65
9. Manchester City, 62
10. Atletico Madrid, 45.
Players:
1. Lionel Messi, 191 points
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, 125
3. Robin van Persie, 67
4. Gareth Bale, 66
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 53
6. Edinson Cavani, 49
(tie) Robert Lewandowski, 49
8. Radamel Falcao, 47
9. Luis Suarez, 37
10. Mario Balotelli, 30


Tunisia told to forget about England defeat ahead of Belgium clash

Updated 3 min 18 sec ago
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Tunisia told to forget about England defeat ahead of Belgium clash

  • Tunisia still confident despite last-gasp defeat to England on Monday.
  • Eagles of Carthage come up against highly fancied Belgium.

LONDON: Nabil Maaloul has called on Tunisia to forget about the defeat to England and concentrate on the task at hand: Beating Belgium today.
The Eagles of Carthage lost 2-1 in their opener to England on Monday to leave them needing to get a result against Eden Hazard and Co. in Moscow. Getting a result against the highly fancied Belgians will not be easy, not least because they looked sharp during their 3-0 victory over Panama.
But Maaloul is certain his side can make their mark in Russia, having held England at bay for all bar the last minute.
“If we had got a draw it would have been an excellent result for us (against England), but hopefully this will lead to higher levels of concentration in the coming games,” Maaloul said.
Tunisia will not make life easy for Belgium as they seek to provide a bright spot in a poor World Cup for African sides, with Egypt and Morocco already out.
“We lost a battle, but not the war,” Tunisian forward Fakhreddine Ben Youssef said of the England game.
The Belgians want to win at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow to avoid making their final group game against England on June 28 a make-or-break qualification affair.
Romelu Lukaku netted twice in the victory over Panama, but bar the scoreline, the match was notable for the rough treatment dished out to Hazard. The Belgium playmaker was tightly marked and occasionally clattered by Central Americans.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez hopes the Chelsea player will not get the same treatment from Tunisia.
“It is a worry that in any of those tackles he could really get hurt,” said Belgium’s Spanish coach.
“It doesn’t worry me if that is just their way of trying to stop him.”
History favors the Belgians. They are yet to lose to African opposition at a World Cup, while Tunisia have never beaten a European side at a finals.
The experienced Oussama Haddadi is set to replace Ali Maaloul at left-back in the Tunisian defense and Martinez saw plenty of danger for his team in the north Africans’ opening 2-1 defeat to England.
“They have a lot of bravery and they’re very dynamic,” Martinez said. “The players have a good understanding between each other and they can bring energy and intensity on counter-attacks. They play direct, efficient football.”
After seeing Lukaku and Dries Martens grab the goals against 
Panama, Hazard wants to add some goals of his own.
Hazard, whose younger brother Thorgan is also in a squad considered to be Belgium’s best for decades, is aware of the thirst for success back home.
“We knew it before the tournament. People say that Belgium would win every game but it’s not that simple,” said Hazard. “We want to win, we won the first game and have another one Saturday against Tunisia. We take it game after game.”
Belgium, ranked third in the world, reached the quarterfinals of Brazil 2014 and are aiming to match their previous best of reaching the semifinals at Mexico 1986.
There was some good news for Martinez on Thursday when Barcelona center-back Thomas Vermaelen trained for the first time in Russia.
Likewise Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, who like Vermaelen is 32, is expected to return on Friday.