Monday, July 03, 2017

Young wisdom against old naivety

I had really wanted Chile to win; I don't think I had been as much against a German victory since 1992. So Germany's victory in the Confederations Cup final hurt. That said, the young German team were clearly the smartest, far outweighing the Chilean experience, who attacked without bite, while the Germans defended patiently and struck when the (awful) Chilean central defense made another mistake.
It was not world champion style, but it showed that the current world champions, besides an amazing youth pool, can play on many strings. Their central defense was particularly strong, with an impressive performance of Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter, who showed that the future defense of Germany is in sure hands.
Chile were disappointed.
I was disappointed.
But nobody can help but be impressed of the German youths.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bravo to Portugal's penalty skills

What I most liked about the Confederations Cup semifinals was to see Portugal's arrogance humiliated. After playing like they had done during the Euro against Chile (pulling a lucky 0-0) they hoped that penalty kicks would carry them to the final, but it was not to be because of a surprising Claudio Bravo (I have never been a fan of him, but thank him for what he did against Portugal. He must have been taking lessons from Willy Caballero) and not least, Portugal's own stupidity.
The manager Fernando Santos made three substitutions (Quaresma, Moutinho and Nani) and these three players all missed their penalties to end it all for Portugal. But even stranger was to not have Cristiano Ronaldo take the first penalty: that is often the case, like Messi in the Copa America final against Chile in 2016, as the captain he stepped up, but only to miss.
So why did Ronaldo not shoot?
Perhaps he did not feel like it. Or perhaps he wanted the glory of shooting the winner. Or simply Portugal was trying something new...
No matter what, it seems arrogant, and Portugal lost as much because of themselves as because of Bravo's skills.
And that is the best thing about the Confederations Cup.
Chile will face Germany, who was nice to Mexico by only defeating them 4-1. At least the Mexicans will avoid Chile, who defeated them 7-0 last time they met in a competitive match!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Old fart's memories

When you can remember something that happened 25 years ago you qualify as an old fart.
I am an old fart now, and I will never forget exactly 25 years ago when Denmark won Euro 1992, in the final against the world champions of Germany.
Every Dane who live then remembers it in his/her own special way that only someone who lived back then will be able to relate to. I was in between countries, a cocky teenager, and in so many ways I remember this as a special year, and this as a special day. Every player from that day has a special place in my memories, and the entire match is something burned into my memory: who I was with and where I watched it and the entire celebration after.
I guess it is a compliment to what football can do; to what football can mean; to what football does; that 25 years after, an old fart like me, having traveled the world, still remember this match as so really special!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Confederations Cup semifinals

There are not major surprises in the two semifinals of the Confederations Cup: the European champions and the World champions each won their groups, followed by the Latin American teams, namely the South American champions and the North American champions. So the semi-finals will be as follows:
  • Portugal-Chile: Portugal seems like a team that really wants to win this tournament, while Chile are certainly also committed, but look shaky. Chile often starts their matches well, but second half often seem tired, and in particular their defense seems vulnerable, led by a Claudio Bravo who does not seem too confident. I think the European champions will make it to the final.
  • Germany-Mexico: Joachim Low is experimenting with this German side, and although they have not looked like the best team in the world, they have made it to the semifinals through victories over Australia and Cameroon, and a tie with Chile. Mexico have been up and down, looked bad against New Zealand, but took points from their European counterparts of Portugal and Russia, and could certainly surprise a German side that is not wholly invulnerable.
The Russian hosts have been a disappointment, only managing a meager victory against a mediocre New Zealand, but were not up to the task against qualified opposition. It does not augur well for the World Cup, as Russian fans will not be motivated if their team is eliminated early on. The African champions of Cameroun were also disappointing, despite low expectations, but it shows that a potential African world champion is very far away. In the meantime Australia did well representing Asia, and New Zealand fulfilled all low expectations of the champions of Oceania.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Confederations Consolation

This will be a summer without major football tournaments, and so the FIFA Confederations Cup is a poor replacement. Nobody seems to really want to win it, as the modern myth that the winner will not be world champion, has really caught on among superstitious footballers. Rather, the biggest sides mostly want to try out some new players, so matches are bound to be a bit dry. Include to this the absence of some of the legends: nobody is saying it out loud, but the only former world champion present in Russia is Germany. The absence of Brazil, Spain, Argentina or Italy just takes some of the spice away.
All this said, I have been watching some matches with interest, only to confirm my cynicism about the tournament: Chile looked good against a dangerous Cameroun, but only seemed to seal victory when Alexis Sanchez finally came on. Portugal looked solid with Cristiano Ronaldo, and are perhaps the team that has most seemed eager to win the tournament. The hosts from Russia have put in decent displays, but are mostly worth seeing because of their fans. Mexico and New Zealand have been poor and Germany won their obligatory victory over Australia 2-3 by experimenting somewhat with some new players.
I hope it gets more interesting, or there will not be much consolation in this football-hungry summer.