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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

England World Champion!

Before today's u-20 World Cup final in South Corea we knew we would have a new World Champion. Neither Venezuela or England had ever been in a final at youth level. Venezuela had never been in a final at all, showing the incredible strides Venezuelan football has made in the last 15 years, while England had not been in any final since their legendary World Cup triumph in 1966.
So whoever won it would be special. Both teams had reached the final unbeaten, with Venezuela having a strong scoring and attacking record.
The Venezuelan side nevertheless seemed more stricken by the occasion than the English lads, who dominated first half, also taking the lead on a goal by Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Everton. This was in the face of a poor Venezuelan defense, who was saved by goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.
In the second half the Venezuelans put more pressure on an English side that also seemed to grow more nervous, and there were many mistakes as the match progressed. It was more intense than beautiful, and only English goalkeeper Freddie Woodman seemed cool when he saved a penalty kick from Adalberto Penarando (the big Venezuelan star was a frustrating sight today), and became the best goalkeeper of the tournament and a hero for England.
England won 1-0 and are World Champions.
I was supporting Venezuela, but it was a well-deserved victory for England, who should take advantage of having such a talented pool of players. In the meantime, Venezuela made it to a final, and lost it. They have a base of players to fight for their first World Cup, perhaps in 2022, but I would not count on it.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Masters of the Universe

I watched the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus  in a bar called Lila Brown in Monrovia. Not many people and a pleasant atmosphere, but as Liberia is entering rainy season the satellite signal was unfortunately quite bad, and it was difficult to enjoy the game in full.

After the first half the score was 1-1, and it still looked as the match could go to either side: Juventus had dominated the start of the first half until Ronaldo's excellent counter-attacking goal. Mandzukic made the outstanding equalizer, and with such a goal one could justifiably expect anything to happen.
But Real Madrid turned up the volume in the second half, and won 4-1 against a Juventus side that proved broken after only letting three goals in during the entire Champions League season. Cuadrado's unfair red card against Ramos' disgraceful acting did not make any difference, except the feeling of Real Madrid players being allowed to do whatever they want with impunity. Sergio Ramos does not deserve to be called a champion.

Despite Ramos, this is Real Madrid's 12th title, and the first time the Champions League is won twice in a row. It seals the club as the best in the universe. They have been very solid during the season, all thanks to the genius of Zinedine Zidane, who must surely enter the annals of one of the greatest managers of all time, alongside that of one of the greatest players of all time.
I truly admire Zinedine Zidane. What a pity he is with Real Madrid....

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Champion Wenger

Lately Arsenal fans have been trashing their manager over 20 years, Arsene Wenger. For yet another year Arsenal did not win the Premier League title, and for the first time in 19 years they did not qualify for the Champions League.
Not matter what, today Arsenal won the FA Cup, 2-1 in the final against the PL champions from Chelsea. This is the 7th FA Cup title under Arsene Wenger, now the most-winning FA Cup manager ever.
So is this a team with no titles???
I really do not understand Arsenal fans' criticism of Wenger, as their mediocre club could never have done better. Has Manchester City done better with all their money and fancy managers????
Arsene Wenger is the best manager that Arsenal will ever have, and they should be thankful about this latest title. Because if Wenger leaves, Arsenal will be waiting many many years before they win any other title.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Europa League Final

Tonight I watched the Europa League Final in a bar in Monrovia, amid massive rain, which made it difficult to listen to the commentary, but at least it was possible to watch the match and drink beer.
Manchester United were not likeable as they played on their far superior experience against an Ajax Amsterdam side of charming youngsters who were surely up past their bedtime. Ajax hardly had a shot on goal as their naive attack crashed against Mourinho's defensive wall, in what was a bit of a disappointing final, as it never seemed Manchester United's victory was in any doubt whatsoever.
Manchester United are now in the Champions League next season why they, and Mourinho, can add another European title to their stack.
And in Monrovia, the rain continued.