Thursday, May 17, 2018

Atletico Madrid champion

On a day like today I do not like living in Latin America: I was unable to watch the Europa League final because it is in my working hours. I was half-following the match on Twitter, and was not surprised in the end when Atletico Madrid basically cruised to a 3-0 victory against Olympique Marselle. They deserve it mainly because of Diego Simeone, who has been heavily criticised this season, but is truly the reason that Atletico Madrid are where they are today: their third Europa League title since 2010; a period that includes two Champions League finals and one Spanish title. Atletico Madrid are the only team that poses a serious challenge to the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but also show how strong they need to be to compete against the two giants.
Since 2014 Spanish teams have won every European final, except for Manchester United's victory last year. It is indeed a testament to the strength in the Spanish league to have four top teams (although Sevilla has fallen this season), but it does not tell about the entertainment of the league. Here I am of the opinion that English, German, and Italian leagues are better. When it involves the big teams, things are just too predictable and easy for the big teams. In the other leagues (except the French) competition is much better, as more teams fight for the title and on a good day anyone can beat anyone. In Spain this is not the case.
So Spanish football is great because of its great teams, and less so because of its league.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The owners of the Champions League

Since the Premier League was introduced in 1992 Liverpool have never won it. Their last League title was in 1990, and their last FA Cup triumph was in 2006. So compared to other English sides Liverpool does not seem to represent the best the Premier League can offer; since 1992 Manchester United has won 13 Premier League titles, Chelsea has won five, Manchester City three, Arsenal three (and 9 FA Cups!), etc. But when you look at the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool, who today qualified for the final against Real Madrid, have been dominant: three finals since 2000, including their legendary triumph in 2005. Only Manchester United have done (slightly) better since 1992 (when the Champions League was introduced in its current form): four finals with two wins (1999 and 2008) and two losses (2009 and 2011). But overall Liverpool's history far exceeds that of any other English side: with five wins in seven finals Liverpool is the all-time best English team in the European Champions Cup/Champions League, as well as the fifth best overall (behind Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona).
It is impossible to say what history means, but it is clear that Liverpool, despite not dominating their domestic league or cup, are simply much better at the biggest European stage than some of the better domestic English sides such as Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal. Liverpool showed their European strength when they eliminated Manchester City in this season's quarterfinals, in a tie that they pretty much always dominated against the new English champions.
Liverpool just seems to be the English side that most "owns" the Champions League, and in the Kiev final they will face the European "owners" of the tournament: Real Madrid have won a record 12 European Champions Cup/Champions League out of 14 finals. They are the defending Champions, having won the last two finals (2016, 2017), and have in fact not lost a final in this tournament since 1981.
And who defeated them in 1981?

The final in Kiev will be huge, not just because these are two of the best sides historically, but also because both sides have been extraordinary in the tournament, fantastic players, and in particular because the two sides facing one another have whom I consider the two best managers in the world right now.

Forget the World Cup Final.

I guess on a personal note, before anyone starts bitching that I say something nice about Real Madrid, I must mention that I will never ever support Real Madrid (except when they play against the one team I dislike more, FC Copenhagen). I am a proud Anti-Madridista!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Club America-Santos Laguna

Today I happened to be in Mexico City, and as America were playing at home on the Estadio Azteca I decided to go to watch the match.
There is something special about being at the mighty and impressive stadium where Pele and Maradona both lifted the World Cup trophy. Where Maradona and Carlos Alberto scored two the greatest World Cup goals ever!
So more than anything it was fantastic to be in this altar of the game.
The match between America and Santos Laguna was important as it was the last match of the league stage of the Mexican Championship, and with both teams qualified, America nevertheless wanted a good result to end with a lower standing opponent. Santos were above America before the match, so a tie was ok for them, and you could see it by the fact that they largely decided to park the bus (altthough Djaniny did create some dangerous chances) in particular in the second half, when America tried to put more pressure on the visitors. But two substitutes made the difference: The young Paraguayan Cecilio Dominguez (who was nevertheless a surprising non-starter) came on and got a penalty that the ex-PSG and Milan player Jeremy Menez (who came in after four weeks out due to injury) scored on to give them the victory.
America ends on second position (behind Toluca) and will be playing the seventh qualified team.

The America fans were great, but watching the Mexican league I still would love to see the splendid Chivas and Rayados fans. I have still not fallen for a Mexican team, but may still with time!

Club América versus Santos Laguna 
Penalty for Club América

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The first Finalist

Never count Roma out: 5-0 down they managed to pull two goals back to lose 5-2 to Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. So all they need to do now is what they did against Barcelona: win 3-0 in the second leg.
While predictions in football are something to avoid, I predict this will not happen. Liverpool defend better than Barcelona, and Roma coming back from behind a second time would be completely unprecedented in history. Liverpool are almost sure to be in the final in particular thanks to two players who were outstanding today: Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino each scored two goals and made two assists, and are looking hungry for more goals in Rome.
Never count Roma out, but I count them out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Five Hundred Years from now

My Grandfather took me to my first football match. It was not virtual, but on the actual ground, Nick Hornby Arena, for a local derby between Arsenel and Tottenham. It was their first Premier League clash following the Dark Centuries, when Arsenel had struggled in the lower leagues, while Tottenham had gone on to win their legendary 18 Champions League titles in a row, even winning the Penta in 2432 (Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup and the Toto Cup).
My Grandfather was a sucker for Arsenel, just like all our ancestors back for generations. In fact, when nations were eliminated my Grandfather had immediately taken Arsenal (as it was called back then) as his primary identification marker.
"Some suckers take some old nation state, a religion or some city! But not me! I am an Arsenal man, because that is REAL!", our ancestor appears to have said, although no definite proofs have been found in his Life-Social-Media-Footprint that otherwise registered most of his life to an embarrassing level of detail.
I had not really wanted to go to the Nick Hornby Arena. As most kids in our generation, more accustomed to the virtual world, I was more comfortable with the crowds of Avatars in the Immersive Internet, where nothing physical could hurt you.
"Nonsense kiddo", my Grandfather had said. "You will love it! It has happened to everyone in our family! And who knows? You may be the first to see Arsenel defeat Tottenham for three-hundred years!"
I did love it. And I have loved Arsenal ever since. That match in the Nick Hornby Arena became legendary, not just because it was the first victory of Arsenel over Tottenham for 311 years, but also because it was the return of the legendary Arsene Wenger to manage the team.
"Ever since Arsene Wenger left Arsenel in 2018, everything just went downhill", my Grandfather was telling me as he usually did when he wanted to educate me about history.
"The Sea Rising, the Alien Invasion or the Robot Rebellion were just mere details compared to what happened to Arsenel! After 22 years of being one of the best clubs in the world, it just went downhill. Back then fans never knew how good they had it with Mr. Wenger, but they soon knew all right! Only ten years later Arsenal were playing in the lower European Leagues, mainly against other shite clubs from Finland and Catalunya!"
Indeed, things had gone from bad to worse. Arsenal's best result for 298 years was a quarterfinal against FC MidtogOstjyllandGymnastikOgIdraetsforening in the Danish Cup, where they only lost on penalties (and to pour salt on the wound, it was a John Jensen who scored the winner for the Danes).
During the Dark Centuries, when Tottenham was winning everything and an evil Alien Force was ravaging the planet, and people were returning to religion, Arsenal fans had gotten together to erect shrines and pray to Saint Arsene: please come back and lead Arsenal back to glory! It was then that the club had been renamed Arsenel, and initially things had looked good when they made it back to the Championship, where they had stayed for some decades as the Robots, who had helped defeat the Aliens, rebelled when their team of Real Madrid Robots was destroyed in the Champions League final by none other than Tottenham (and to be frank, every Arsenal fan had supported the Robots, meaning that they had fared quite well during the Robot Rebellion).
But it still took another 160 years before Arsenel were back in the Premier League. By then the club had been bought by a Jovian multi-billionaire who promised Arsenel fans all over the Galaxy that he would make Arsenel champions of something, but only managed to get them back in the Premier League after a legendary promotion match against Charlton Athletic played on the low gravity of the Moon (Charlton fans have been complaining ever since that the low gravity was the reason they kept shooting over the goal).
Nobody knows where the idea first came to create a new Arsene Wenger. Some rumours said it was after two drunken Arsenel fans working at the robot facility on Mercury, visited Madam Tussaud's museum, where they had seen a pretty bad wax-android version of Jose Mourinho discussing Relativity Theory with David Bowie. They posted it on Instagram, and soon Twitter-Galaxy was swarming with the hashtag #createanewWenger.
Arsenel fans all over the Galaxy poured all their economic and scientific efforts into the endeavour. Of course there had been many advances in cloning and bio-engineering, but to create a true exact copy of a historical figure had never been successful until these Arsenel fans took over. Some decades later Arsenel signed their new (old) manager Arsene Wenger, and he was to have his debut as manager in a clash against the defending champions of Tottenham.
311 years since Arsenel had last beaten Tottenham I was there when Arsene Wenger led them to a legendary 5-3 victory, and eventually the first title since the FA Cup in 2017 (also under Arsene Wenger).
I was only a kid who fell in love with Arsenel. Since then I have seen Arsenel win 12 Premier League titles, 17 Champions Leagues, 3 FIFA World Cups, 15 FA Cups (where Mr. Wenger beat his own record from the 21st century), and an unprecedented 23 Toto Cups! Five Hundreds years after Wenger left Arsenal, we are again winning because Arsenel can only win anything with the great Arsene Wenger as manager!
My Grandfather is not with us any longer, but today, FA Cup Final 2518, I am taking my own Grandson to Wembley Stadium in Paris to watch Arsene Wenger lead Arsenel to another victory against Tottenham! 

PS: The match ended 5-5 and went into extra time, but we are still awaiting to hear the final result