World Football Performances of the Weekend
Each weekend world football gives us a handful of talking points that last well into the week.
These items can be anything from poor refereeing decisions to goalkeeping howlers to chants from the stands that catch our attention, for better or worse.
But what I’m concerned about in this space is good, impactful performances from players representing clubs all over the world, and each week during the season I’ll bring you five performances that caught my eye, and maybe yours as well.
These are not, in any way, the “Top five players from the weekend.” Rather, they are examples of positive, meaningful play that either need to be underlined further or dug up for the first time for readers to learn about.
No region of the world is out of bounds. That’s the beautiful thing about football—it is everywhere, all the time with us.
Emmanuel Riviere, Monaco
Monaco are level atop the Ligue 1 table with Lyon, Marseille and Saint-Etienne after two rounds of play, and Emmanuel Riviere is a major reason why.
Signed from Toulouse for a paltry €6 million last January, the 23-year-old former France underage international has already scored four goals for the Principality side this season—twice as many as high-profile acquisition Radamel Falcao.
Against Montpellier on Sunday, Riviere netted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win.
With the match level at a goal apiece, he beat opposing goalkeeper Laurent Pionnier with a shot from just along the 18-yard box in the 44th minute, and he turned Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco’s cross into a goal just prior to the hour-mark for what proved to be the winner.
But he wasn’t done there, and completed his treble with a header from in close with 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, Ajax
Want to become an Ajax legend? Bagging a brace in a 2-1 win over archrivals Feyenoord is a good place to start, and it’s exactly what Kolbeinn Sigthorsson accomplished on Sunday at Amsterdam Arena.
Graziano Pelle’s sixth-minute opener had given Feyenoord an early lead on their hosts, but shortly after the half-hour mark Viktor Fischer drew a foul inside the area and Sigthorsson placed his resulting penalty inside the left post with authority.
Six minutes later the Iceland international had his second, and it ended up being the winner—the 23-year-old expertly placing his header beyond the reach of Feyenoord goalkeeper Erwin Mulder.
Roberto Firmino, Hoffenheim
Roberto Firmino has never represented Brazil at any level, but on Saturday the 21-year-old Maceio-born playmaker (Maceio is located about 2,000 kilometres up-coast from Rio de Janeiro) outshone many of his countrymen—and that’s saying something.
It took only five minutes for him to get on the scoresheet—heading Fabian Johnson’s cross into the bottom right-hand corner of the Hamburg goal.
Five minutes after the restart, and with the match now on level terms, he set up Kevin Volland for what would end up being the winner, and shortly after the hour-mark his pinpoint cross on a Hoffenheim counter-attack allowed Anthony Modeste to add a measure of insurance.
Firmino also earned an assist on Modeste’s second of the day (in the 74th minute) and completed his brace three minutes later when his effort from a tight angle about 19 yards from goal evaded goalkeeper Rene Adler.
Hoffenheim won the match 5-1 and have taken four points from their first two matches to start the season.
Fredy Montero, Sporting Clube De Portugal
Seattle Sounders fans will need no introduction to Fredy Montero.
Between 2009 and 2012 the diminutive forward scored 47 goals for the MLS side, which he also helped to three successive U.S. Open Cups during his time in the Pacific Northwest.
Signed on loan from Seattle by Sporting in July (Sporting also have the option to purchase him outright), the 26-year-old made an instant impact at Estadio Jose Alvalade, scoring a hat-trick in his Primeira Liga debut en route to a 5-1 win over Arouca.
With the two sides level at a goal apiece with halftime approaching, Montero crept unharassed into the goalmouth and tipped a cross from the right flank beyond goalkeeper Igor Stefanovic to open his account in Portuguese football.
For his second goal he fought off a defender to get a head on a ball played from the left in the 70th minute, and with just four minutes remaining on the clock he rounded out the scoring with one of the weekend’s most spectacular goals—playing a game of keepy-uppy between two opponents before smashing the ball into the back of the net from near the penalty marker.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United
Chelsea and Manchester City may be the hot money to win the Premier League in just under nine months’ time, but to disregard Manchester United and star striker Robin van Persie would be foolish, and on Saturday the elegant Dutchman served up a reminder that he remains very much an elite striker at the age of 30.
United, away to Swansea to open the season, opened the scoring in the 34th minute when van Persie, eyeing an arching, Ryan Giggs ball, somehow shifted his body to complete a superb volley that left goalkeeper Michel Vorm with no chance whatsoever.
The Netherlands ace completed his brace in the 72nd minute after a swerving run took him past two defenders and into space on the edge of the 18-yard box, from where he unleashed an unstoppable drive that put United ahead 3-0. They would go on to win 4-1.