Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ruud to win golden boot?

There are many worthy candidates battling out for the Golden boot. Most of them, if not all, would walk into most national teams. Of course the usual suspects such as Ronaldo, Henry and Shevchenko have all been mentioned. My pick for the Golden Boot is the Netherlands’ Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

It's hard to think of a more natural-born goal scorer than Ruud van Nistelrooy. He possesses a goal scoring record any striker would be proud of (He currently has scored 150 goals in 219 games for Manchester United, and 27 goals in 51 games for his country, a record of slightly more than a goal every other game), he also has marvelous technical ability and finishing prowess. Capable of scoring a typical poacher’s goal or with his head, defences all over England and Europe have struggled to contain the Dutchman. Despite spending an extended spell on the bench for his club, he still managed to finish second on the top scorer’s chart in England. Besides, having scored in his last 2 friendly matches, its obvious he is entering the tournament in a rich vein of form.

Physically, I doubt he has ever entered a major tournament in such a superb condition. Due to his recent spat with Sir Alex, he has had the priceless luxury of having an extended rest period. Would the tired ageing legs of Argentina’s Ayala be able to take a Van Nisteltooy free of fatigue?

His spat is also going to drive him mentally. The former PSV man would like to put in a good performance in Germany and use it as a shop window to fetch himself a better contract together with a transfer to another top European club. After all, it seems a matter of when and to who will he be sold to rather than if he would be sold. Moreover, he would also like to show his boss what he would be missing if he gets sold.

The issue of making up for lost time would also be weighing heavily on his mind. In 1998, he was still under the shadow of Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert, whereas in 2002, while in the form of his life, The Netherlands failed to qualify as Ireland beat them to finish 2nd behind Portugal.

Making up for lost time would also be on other candidates too such as Shevchenko and Luca Toni, but Van Nistelrooy has the advantage of a more talented attacking minded team. The Dutchman would be feeding off top quality passes from pass masters such as Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart. With wing wizard Arjen Robben a constant threat on the wing as he has the ability to break past an opponent with his dribbles and skills, he may draw defenders out of position giving Van Nistelrooy much needed extra space. Or he could just whip crosses into the box for him to pounce on.

In the Dutch formation, Van Nistelrooy is deployed as a lone striker and target man. This is obviously to his advantage as all the passes would be to him only. All the balls in the box would be his without needing to share them. This increases his goal scoring opportunities which would increase his chance on taking home the Golden boot. Others such as Ronaldo and Henry do not have this luxury as they have to share the passes with Adriano and Trezeguet respectively, both world class strikers.

He is widely regarded as one of the most prolific striker of his generation. With outstanding finishing ability, excellent reflexes, and superb agility and balance for his height (1.88 m), Van Nistelrooy is definitely a handful for any defence in Germany.


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