Friday, December 31, 2004

Top 10 football teams of 2004

These are my top 10 favourite football teams for 2004:
10) Argentina Olympic team: Olympic champions, deservedly and far ahead of the other teams.
9) Barcelona: A year cut in two season has not given them any titles, but they have risen from a lousy 2003 to become the most exciting team in Europe at the moment, ahead in the Primera Division, and as favourites in the Champions League.
8) Monaco: No titles, but a charming team in the Champions League. A very memorable game was their victory against Real Madrid in the quarterfinals, taking the Southern French all the way to the final.
7) Deportivo Caldas: Surprising winners of the Copa Libertadores, this Colombian side barely lost the Intercontinental final to FC Porto.
6) Chelsea: With Mr. Abramovich spending, they have continued to become better all year, just to rise in this season to the top spot in the Premier League, as well as being very strong in the Champions League. Titles are still missing though, but I do not think for long...
5) Brazil: Can any list like this be without Brazil? This year they won the Copa America, beating Argentina in the final - actually, first time this had ever happened! Also ahead in the South American World Cup qualifiers, makes them an obvious choice for the list
4) Arsenal: Last season by far the strongest team in the Premier League taking the League title, without losing a single match! This made for the undefeated record in the Premier League with 38 matches. However, success in the Champions League has been absent, and they seem to have been surpassed by Chelsea. There is still much left of the season though...
3) Valencia: Same season won the Spanish league and the UEFA cup, to become the best Valencia team ever, as well as the best team in Spain. Have gone a bit down the new season, but continues second in the Primera Division.
2) Greece: A major surprise when they upset everyone to become European Champions. Granted, their style was not exciting, but they did deserve the victory because of their spirited fight, and because in the end, they were the smartest. Have not continued the same though, and might have a hard time qualifying for the world cup.
1) FC Porto: Winners of the Champions League, the intercontinetal cup and the Portuguese league. After the succesful season many stars left the team, including coach Mourinho. Still they continue in the Champions League, with tenacity to defend their title.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Wanderlei Luxemburgo to Real Madrid - lots of work!

Brazil's ex-national coach Wanderlei Luxemburgo is set to be the new coach of Real Madrid. He will be the fourth coach in a year. Third of the season. And from what we saw recently, he will have plenty of work: Losing 0-1 at home to Seville, Real Madrid played horrible. They are now down to fifth spot. Mr. Luxemburgo will surely have a lot of work.

My Top 10 favourite players of 2004

I have compiled a list of my very personal best top-10 players of 2004:

10) Ludovic Giuly: Also had an amazing season on the right midfield of Monaco, making it all the way to the Champions League final. This got him a deserved spot in the French national team, and later on the rising Barcelona team, where he has continued strongly.
9) Arjen Robben: The young Dutchman has impressed me all year, first at PSV Eindhoven, and more so after his change to Chelsea. He was also one of the best in the Dutch team in Euro 2004, although I thought he was not given enough playing time.
8) Roy Makaay: The Dutch striker has been one of the keys to success of this season's returning Bayern Munich side. He continues being as poisonous as a rattle-snake in front of the goal.
7) Xavi: In my view, the best Spanish player this year. In the renewed Barcelona side, he has managed to become the fighting mid-field general, who can make beautiful passes as well as score beautiful goals.
6) Samuel Eto'o: Has proven he is one of the world's leading strikers, especially after his change from Mallorca to Barcelona. In Barcelona, with his speed and technique, he has been amazing.
5) Frank Lampard: has been excellent in Chelsea and in the English national team. He is a very complete player, who scores important goals, puts up a spirited fight and organizes well the game. If he continues next season, he will be one of the foremost players of the Premier League, as well as in Europe.
4) Deco: What a season it must have been for Deco! Was simply the amazing centerpiece of the FC Porto side that won the Champions League. After that, he changed to Barcelona, where he has been an important contribution to the rise of the Catalonians. He did not have a very good Euro 2004 though; in spite of Portugal making it to the final, Deco did not show the strength he had shown in FC Porto.
3) Andrij Schevchenko: A world class striker, who continues bombarding the goals in the Italian league, one of the hardest for strikers in the world. With AC Milan he has also been very strong in the Champions League, and I believe that he will continue to be one of the main striking forces of Europe next year.
2) Wayne Rooney: I was simply amazed by Mr. Rooney during the Euro 2004, when his amazing tenacity brought him forth as a superstar. And I thought the expectations were too high for the youngster when changing from Everton to Manchester United. But I was wrong, which Mr. Rooney showed in his very first Champions League match against Fenerbahce, scoring three beauiful goals. I hope he continues.
1) Ronaldinho: Maybe I need not say so, as so many have said it already: but Mr. Ronaldinho is certainly also my favourite player of 2004.

It has actually been hard for me to make the list, as there have been many great
players this season, whom I could easily have included on this list, like Ruud Van Nistelrooi, Dellas, Paulo Ferreira, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Baraja... So many great players!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Top 10 Football turds of 2004

The football year 2004 has had many good and bad things. As I am on a Christmas break, I will spend the next days giving my TOP-10s of the football year 2004.

As every year, there have been stars, heroes, as well as villains and plain idiots. The last category is what I would charmingly call "turds": And so, I have made my personal list of top-10 football turds of 2004:
10) David Beckham: He is still a great player on the pitch, but the image he constantly gets in the media, makes him an obvious choice for this list. This year it was stories about his extramarital affairs, as well as his bragging about his own 'intelligence' when forcing a yellow card upon himself on an England World Cup qualifier.
9) Ferencvaros fans: Otherwise fans of a great team, they did show their worst side in an UEFA cup qualifier against Milwall.
8) Florentino Perez: Symbolizes all the arrogance of Real Madrid. In the 2003/2004 season he got his "galactic" team together, just to have one of the worst seasons in Real Madrid's history. Then there was the whole soap opera with Camacho as coach for a couple of weeks.
7) Adrian Mutu: a young talented and succesful player in one of the best teams this season, but he ruined himself going for the cocaine.
6) Portuguese stadion security: in a time of terrorism, it was pretty pathetic that a Barcelona man managed to run through the whole security perimeter and across the pitch to Luis Figo, in the EURO 2004 final in Portugal.
5) Stig Tøfting: The former Hamburger SV and Bolton player was having a good season with Danish team AGF, just until a recent Christmas dinner with the whole team, where he again got into a mayor fight, got him fired. So he just made it to this list at the last moment!
4) Christian Andersen and Flemming Østergaard: You have to be Danish to know these two clowns. But when you do, you understand the low level insults of people with small brains.
3) Spanish fans: There has been a grave problem of racism for many years in Spanish football. It came to a head in the November friendly between Spain and England in Madrid, where Spanish fans repeatedly harassed the coloured players. A sick symptom of pathetic Spanish fans.
2) Francesco Totti: Deserves to be high up on the list. He could be a good player, but he prefers to be an unapologetic spitter, kicker and defender of violence against referees. Most idiotic comment this season must have been when questioned about the images of spitting at Christian Poulsen in the Euro 2004, he said "I do not recognize Totti there." I surely did.
1) Luis Aragones: the Spanish national coach, had to defeat Totti by being the most obvious exponent of the unapologetic Spanish racism in football. First his comment on Thierry Henry, and then his defence of Spanish fans attack on coloured players, makes him the nummer one turd of 2004.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

FIFA Player of the year

Just as I had expected (and surely, many others), Ronaldinho, the Brazilian Star in Barcelona, has been awarded the FIFA player of the year award. Mr. Ronaldinho is the fourth Brazilian player, whose name starts with R, who has played for Barcelona, to win this award. This is the stuff conspiracies are made of...
In any case:
Congratulations Mr. Ronaldinho!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Champions League draw

I have said before that I cannot wait for the CL knockout stage, starting on February 22nd. After the draw yesterday, I feel like a little child eagerly waiting for Santa Claus, like Romeo waiting for Juliette, like a shipwrecked waiting to be rescued, or like a blossoming tree waiting for summer.
Surely any good football fanatic is counting the days!

What a draw! Three of the games will be between two former winners of the tournament:
Real Madrid-Juventus: Two legendary teams, with some of the best players in the world. A repeat by the way, of the 1998 CL final, won by Real Madrid.
Manchester United-AC Milan: Both teams have an amazing record both at home and in Europe. AC Milan won the CL only two years ago, while Man U won in 1999. Still they have not faced one another in an important game since the 1960s.
FC Porto-Inter: A hard one for the defending champions, who will have to display some of their finest attacking football to upset a strong Inter defence, with a scary attacking force.

And there is more:
Bayern Munich-Arsenal: The South Germans are looking to return to the strength of former times, and look good this season. Arsenal is still searching for success in Europe. With both strong teams, this will be a hard fight which can go to either side.
Barcelona-Chelsea: Two of the teams that are looking best this season, both in their respective leagues as well as in Europe. Both play amazing attacking football, with an awesome striking force. This could surely become a game to go into the history books.
Werder Bremen-Lyon: Two of the surprises this season. None are to be underestimated, and both have the potential of going all the way. Particularly Lyon is having a great season, with a very strong team.
PSV-Monaco: The young and talented PSV side may continue surprising with their good skills. Monaco will have to display some of the force that got them to the final last season. But with their very skilled players, this will also be a game to watch.
Liverpool-Leverkusen: Matches featuring English and German teams are always good for a spirited fight. Liverpool showed a lot of spirit beating Olympiakos, and will have to show the best against a very strong Leverkusen side, that has already shown how to humilliate Real Madrid this season.

I will not come with my predictions just yet, but just say that there will be emptiness while waiting for February 22nd.

Friday, December 17, 2004

New Ghana national coach

I was recently going for a late evening run in Accra, near my house, when I had the pleasure of running by the Ghana football Association. Noticing much going on there, I later realized that there had been a presentation of the new national coach of the 'Black Stars'. This is the fifth national coach in two years time.
Ratomir Dujkovic, from Serbia, is the man who will hopefully lead Ghana to its first ever world cup appearance in Germany in 2006.
I hope it works, but Ghanaian national teams seem to be very unstable in spite of the great talent. There is work to do for Mr. Dujkovic, but I wish him all the best!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Player of the year 2004

FIFA, as well as other shortlists, have three players as candidates for Player of the Year Award.
Ronaldinho, Schevchenko or Henry?

I would go for Ronaldinho. This year has been his year. After seeing his magic in Corea/Japan 2002 and in Paris Saint-Germain, it was only a question of time before he would surpass the other Brazilian stars. In a stunning Barcelona team this year, this is just what he has done. In the spring, Barcelona started to win, although too late to get the championship they did end ahead of arch-rival Real Madrid in the Spanish League. This fall, Barcelona and Ronaldinho have kept the pace and have been shining brightly in both the Spanish League and in the Champions League. At the same time, although getting limited playing time, Ronaldinho has been a frequent star in the Brazilian national team, which this year both won the Copa America and is in front in the South American World Cup qualifiers.

Thierry Henry's chance should have been last season. This season, although certainly still a goal-scoring machine, Mr. Henry has certainly been out-shined by rising stars. At the same time, Mr. Henry has not managed to shine in great international tournaments: in the Champions League Arsenal has not made it all the way, and in the Euro 2004 with the French national team, Henry was a disappointment together with his team-mates.

Schevchenko has also had a great season with AC Milan, and continues to prove that he is the obvious choice in the Milanese attack. However, AC Milan is not an entertaining attacking team, and thus Mr. Schevchenko to a certain degree lacks the flair of Ronaldinho, something which is also part of winning the honour. At the same time, while success has been frequent with AC Milan, Schevchenko has never enjoyed success with an otherwise talented Ucranian national team. Absent from the Euro 2004, and not doing too well in the World Cup qualifiers, Mr. Schevchenko is not having success everywhere.

I will certainly go for Ronaldinho. But he only wins because he has been a star shining a bit brighter than the other stars this season.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Champions League first round wrap up

At the start of this season's champions league I made some predictions as to how the groups would fare.
After a fascinating last round, the result of my predictions are as follows:

Group A: The group was closer than I thought. But as I predicted, Monaco won, after destroying Deportivo in La Coruna. Deportivo has been a great disappointment, and must be tired of humiliations from Monaco. Liverpool was extraordinary in the last game against Olympiakos, managing to get 3-1 after being down 0-1. With that result, they took the second spot, just as I had predicted.
Group B: I predicted Real Madrid would win. This looked far-away at one point, but with good fight, Real Madrid managed to get the second spot. Leverkusen was a revelation. They played very fine, and deservedly won the group after defeating Dynamo Kijev. The Ucranians were very strong as I had thought, and it must be disappointing for them to play the UEFA. I had predicted Roma to go on, but thankfully they did not: they were pathetic and uncharming.
Group C: Juventus won the group, as I had expected. They will be very hard to beat, but they are not entertaining. Bayern Munich was much stronger than I thought, and played well to get the second spot. I had predicted Ajax Amsterdam for this, but the youngsters were far from the glory of former times.
Group D: I am proud to say that I had predicted Lyon to win. The French side is amazingly strong this season, and any team will be wrong to believe it will be easy to beat them. They can get very far... Manchester United got the second spot. Just as I had predicted, they were the unchallenged winners of the group.
Group E: Arsenal won the group, which I had also predicted, although they fought harder for it than I thought. I had thought PSV would be second, but they were much stronger than I thought, in particular defeating Arsenal in one of the games. PSV is also a team to watch, and I still think Arsenal will have an early exit again this season.
Group F: AC Milan and Barcelona were unchallenged winners of the group, just as predicted. Celtic and Shakhtar both showed spirit, but Barcelona and Milan are very strong, and look as strong contenders for the title.
Group G: One of this season's disappointments have been the Spanish champions of Valencia. They were very bad in this round, and did not progress after their pathetic loss 0-2 to Werder Bremen. I had wrongly predicted them to win the group. Winners were Inter, whom I also had predicted for the second spot. Werder Bremen have been very strong, and deservedly got the second spot after defeating Valencia both at home and away.
Group H: I had predicted that Chelsea, under Mr. Mourinho, would win the group. They also did, and are looking strong, both in the Premier League and here in the CL. They can indeed get very far. FC Porto edged through on the second spot. The defendign champions have not been looking as strong as last season, but I had expected them to go through.

My biggest mistake was not expecting the German teams to do well. Actually, I had predicted they would all be out after first round. Instead, they are all through. I guess I fell into the old football trap of underestimanting the Germans. Never do that in football...

My UEFA Champions League League Fantasy team, Abruniohene, had a lousy round, and looks to get worse, as many of the teams the players are on, are out. Oh well, at least I was good at predicting...

Cannot wait till February 22nd 2005!!!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

December 7th

I missed the pathetic loss of Valencia at home to Werder Bremen. Why? Because I was following the democratic process in Ghana, by being an observer at the presidential and Parliamentary elections. As the game was starting, I was sitting in a small school in the Volta region. It was dark, hot, full of mosquitos, I was tired, and sitting listening to a guy counting votes for 3 hours.
I could not stop thinking of the game! Today, I see Valencia was pathetic, the team lost without grace, Angulo was shown a red card, and Mr. Ranieri even stated that he understood the attack against referee Anders Frisk in Rome.
This must be time for Mr. Ranieri to be fired. He is destroying a team with proud traditions of team spirit, pride and good football. He was incompetent in Chelsea, and I am tired of him also bringing his negative football to Valencia.

What a lousy day for my 30th birthday.

Monday, December 06, 2004

BBC Documentary: Football and Fascism (review)

I recently watched a BBC documentary on football and fascism in the Europe of the 1930's. It showed how Mussolini, Hitler and Franco respectively used football as a political propaganda tool. As a person with a keen interest in both European 20th century history and in football, it was interesting programme, although the programme at times often rather simplified the hsitorical context, such as the German annexation of Austria or the reasons for the Falagist victory in the Spanish civil war.

But the programme was certainly interesting in regard to how football was used by these regimes as a tool in their propaganda machine. For instance the way in which Mussolini in the 1930's sponsored and pressured Italian football, leading directly to the victories in the world cups of 1934 and 1938.
In 1934 Mussolini directly influenced the Swedish referee Ivan Eklind, who dined with Mussolini before refereeing the final against Czechoslovakia. Mr. Eklind had also been referee in the semifinal between Italy and Austria, where he had gone very far in what he allowed the Italian players to do. The programme strongly suggests that Italy should not have won, but goes on to largely ignore the fact that Italy also was victorious in France in 1938. Italy did have an extremely good team in the 1930's. While the quality of the team always will be put in doubt by Mr. Mussolini's actions, the fact remains that they were victorious in two world cups, and their players were leading in what was one of the world's best leagues at the time.
Austria of the 1930's plays a important part in the programme's part on Nazi Germany. In the 1930's, Austria's national team was one of the bets in the world, led by the charismatic and popular Max Sendelar, one of the greatest players of the time. With the 'Anchluss', that is Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938, many Austrian players were absorbed into the German team. But Max Sendelar became a symbol of Austrian nationalism, and died under mysterious circumstances in 1939. The program focuses much on these mysterious circumstances under which he was found gassed in bed, together with his Italian girlfriend. It is obviously insinuated that he was killed by the Nazis. Nothing has ever been clarified, but the method would be very like the Nazis.
But this is not the only focus on Hitler. As is well-known, the Nazis were exceptional in using propaganda as a political tool. The 1936 Olympics were the first with the massive use of a mayor sporting event to promote the political agenda of the Nazis. The German football team was also part of this political machinery, and the programme alledges that the only football game Hitler ever went to was when Germany sensationally was defeated by Norway in the 1936 Olympics. I guess Norway were the Jessee Owen of football by this great result!
However, the programme tends to exaggerate the importance of this result, insinuating it undermined the regime. While football is a valuable propaganda tool, it was more an expression of the society and politics of 1930's Europe, and not a direct influence on the sustanability of the regime. This is a fault in the programme which is continued in the last part, which is about how Francisco Franco, in Spain, used football, and in particular the success of Real Madrid, as a tool in its relations with the outside world. That the international success of Real Madrid during the 1950's was central in ending Spain's isolation after World War II, is an overstatement to say the least. It ignores the whole cold war and anti-communist context leading US foreign policy at the time.
But that Franco was indeed a Real Madrid fan, and used its success as a stage to show off, is beyond doubt. It is interesting to hear an interview with the great Alfredo Di Stefano, who largely tells the period as he saw it: "We were just playing football, and paid little attention to the politics around us".
Real Madrid's success played an important element in attesting the superiority of Madrid over other Spanish regions, notably Barcelona. Today the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid stems very much from this period, where also Catalan nationalism uses the football of FC Barcelona as a political platform - a fact mentioned shortly, but otherwise largely ignored by the programme.
There is little doubt that Real Madrid had the upper hand in the 1950's, also showed by Real Madrid's amazing team of those years; by far the world's best at the time. Truly "Galacticos" - whose record will probably never be beaten: five European cups and six Spanish championships. Mr. Di Stefano's own transfer to Real Madrid was part of the upper-hand of Real Madrid: Barcelona had confirmed the transfer (according to Mr. Di Stefano himself, he was already ready to go to Barcelona), but at the last moment, there was a mysterious intervention to get him to Madrid. As we all know today, he was the greatest player ever in Real Madrid, which is not a small feat!
The BBC programme is recommendable to anyone interested in the role of politics in football, and viceversa. Politics and football do go hand in hand more often than not. As such, football was also used by fascist dictatorships, and the programme gives a good, although at times simplified, view of how it happened. But it is important to notice that football was just one little element of the political game, and that the use of football as a political tool is in no way an exception to these regimes.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Great Liverpool victory

I have never been much of an Arsenal fan, in spite of the great team and wonderful players they have displayed in the last years. Still I have enjoyed watching them. However, watching them against Liverpool yesterday, they were as much a disappointment as Liverpool was great! After watching a defensive Liverpool in the CL against Monaco, I did not have big expectations, but Mr. Benitez seems to be getting the act together, now that a great Steven Gerrard is back to lead the way.

All goals were great in Liverpool's 2-1 victory: Xabi Alonso's beautiful hammer from Steven Gerrard's great pass, and also the beautiful passing by Robert Pires to Patrick Vieira for the Arsenal equalizer.

But the best, and here any Liverpool fan might agree, was young Neil Mellor's wonderful first goal in the dying seconds. An amazing strike, and he could not have chosen a better moment!

Arsenal is now five points behind Chelsea in the Premier League. Although too early to say, it seems there is a new champion on the way...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Football in Ghana

I have moved to Ghana. This is not new for me, but it gives me a certain limitation in following much of European football in as much detail as I would like to (particularly Danish football, which for some strange reason draws limited attention to these parts...). However, it is not that I am completely without football: Ghanaians are passionate football fanatics like myself, and the country is crawling with talented players and charming teams.

Some of the other countries in West Africa, like Senegal and Nigeria, have had international world cup success. This has so far not happened to Ghana, although their youth teams have traditionally done very well: Twice U-17 world champions in 1993 and 1995, and they have also done well in Olympic games. For instance in the last Olympic Games, where they tied their Italian counterparts 2-2, were hailed as medal hopefuls, but ended losing to Japan. That has maybe always been a problem for Ghana, that the success of their youth success, has not tranfered to senior level.

Today, there are many Ghanaian players in Europe. Best known is probably Bayern Munuch's Sammy Kuffour, or now German citizen, Schalke's Asamoah. Eric Addo in PSV Eindhoven, John Paintsil in Maccabi Tel Aviv, Yet Ahimful in Turkish Transzopsor, Anthony Obodai in Ajax Amsterdam. There are many more, and I am only learning now. But especially one, Anthony Yeboah, brings great memories, when his magic was in Eintracht Frankfurt who forgets his amazing goal of the year?) and Leeds United.

Right now, Ghanaian club football is ahead: the two main clubs, Asante Kotoko from Kumasi, and Accra Hearts of Oak, will be playing the African Confederations cup (sort of like the UEFA cup in Europe). This will be the first time ever, two teams from the same country willbe disputing the final, so it is a big event here. However, due to coming presidential elections, the game has just been posponed to January. In any case, I do not doubt that the clash between the two African giants will be a great game. Both teams have many years of rivalry behind them, and are by far the best teams in Ghana. I look forward to witness this Ghanaian classic!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Champions League Matchday 5

For this CL round, I only had the opportunity to watch Monaco-Liverpool and PSV-Arsenal. Liverpool against Monaco was quite a bore. Liverpool defends well, but attacked little, so the game did not swim in chances. PSV has been a great positive surprise this season, and I actually expect they can get very far. Although Arsenal was a disappointment, Gus Hiddink's troops did not do more than they had to. Even when two men ahead, they did not lose their cool: they always knew that their quarterfinal spot was secure.

A thing about the first round of this CL is that it is becoming increasingly hard to see a winner: so many teams are incredibly strong! I still would tip Barcelona, although they only got a 1-1 at home to Celtic. But you got to give Celtic the spirit thye play with is great, and Barcelona will have to open up sometimes.

However, some of the Italians are looking strong: Juventus went on to the fifth 1-0 victory in a row! That has to be a record, although it does not seem the most exiting. Inter is sure to go thrugh, while a feverish game awaits between Valencia and Werder Bremen in Mestalla for the next round! Valencia must win by 1-0 or two goals ahead (this is because in case of equal points, the decision is taken for games between the contenders). At least the results went Valencia's way, and it is now in their own hand.

AC Milan is also looking strong, now with the great Argentinian Hernan Crespo, who really returned with strength, scoring two goals in the 4-0 victory against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Bayern Munich is another strong contender. The goal-machine Roy Makaay scored again in the 5-1 destruction of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Nobody will want to play the South Germans, who after a couple of dry seasons, now seem to be back at former levels.

Dynamo Kiev would also count here. They did what they had to do, defeating a disillussioned Roma side in Moscow 2-0. But this group will go to a really exiting finale. Amid appalling continued racist chants from Spanish spectators, Real Madrid could not defeat Bayer Leverkusen, and is now forced to defeat Roma in Rome (or, if they tie, hope Dynamo Kiev wins against Leverkusen). Both Leverkusen and Dynamo Kiev have their own destiny on their own hands, unless Roma saves some face and defeats Real Madrid.

On December 7th and 8th we will know which teams continue as champions, and which are losers!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Glorious Barca!!

I have been saying it for a while: Barcelona has a new Dream team, that has the potential of reaching everything. Real Madrid, with all its 'galactic' players is of the past. This was proved yesterday. A glorious 3-0 victory with beautiful and efficient football. There is now a new king in Spanish football.
Eto'o was simply incredible, cementing the Barcelona victory. This must be a bit hard to swallow for Real Madrid, who last season let him go to Barcelona. Just like with Morientes in Monaco last season, it seems to be old Madrid players who come back to haunt them!

Maybe the fiasco of Real Madrid should not surpirse, thinking back at last season, which was one of the worst in Real Madrid's history. This year, with the great players they posses, it could only be better. However, it is cleat that Barcelona's patience and investment in a stable and harmonic team are paying off.

Visca el Barca!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Spain-England

On the football aspect, a very boring game last night between Spain and England, although a deserved victory for the Spanish team, with an excellent Xavi in control.
Now, the greatest shame about the game, were the pathetic Spanish fans. Their racist shouts have no place in football. But Spain has shown absolutely no willingness to fight racism in football, mostly shown by the national coach, Mr. Aragones', comments earlier this year about Thierry Henry. While a formal regret has been posted on the website of the Spanish football federation (http://www.rfef.es/artavan-bin/Rfef/init), it is still quite unapologetic. And of course, the racist Mr. Aragones did not even want to apologize (Who would have expected he would anyway? He was probably shouting as well...). If FIFA is any serious about anti-racism, Spain should be punished harshly.
Football is a microcosm of society around it. The great things about football, are great things about life: passion, team spirit, competition... Bad things about football, are the bad things about life: loss, violence, xenophobia.
When Spanish fans are demonstrating such behavior, and nobody in Spain seems to mind, there must be something terribly wrong in Spanish society.
Spanish fans are absolutely pathetic.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

fire Ranieri

I am tired of Mr. Ranieri in Valencia. They were wonderful last season, tis season they are very bad. It is of course also because of the leadership, that could not keep Mr. Benitez as coach. But Mr. Ranieri, who had to leave Chelsea in disgrace, was then hired by the team of the year in Spain.
He must go.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The new Barcelona "Dream Team"

With last nights victory of 2-1 at home against Deportivo La Coruña, FC Barcelona has just equalled their best start of the Spanish season ever. This indeed symbolizes the gigantic potential of the current Barcelona team. In the early 1990's FC Barcelona had what is remembered as the "Dream Team" under the legendary Dutchman Johann Cruyff. It was a complete team, with great players like Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov, Amor, Andoni Zubizarreta, Josep Guardiola, Jose Mari Bakero and Txiki Beguiristain. Playing entertaining and attacking football, that team went on to win four consecutive Spanish championships, as well as FC Barcelona's only victory in the Champions League, in 1992 against Sampdoria. In that period, Barcelona was by far the best Spanish side, totally overshadowing the arch-rivals from Real Madrid.

The current Barcelona team, under another Dutchman, Frank Riijkaard, is already being compared to the "Dream Team" of those days. And for now, they are bound to break their first record. I doubt it will be the last. They are very entertaining to watch, and has an amazing attack with Eto'o and/or Henrik Larsson in front, and such marvelous players in the second line of attack as Ronaldinho, Deco and Giuly. Also, Xavi on midfield has been displaying qualities which in my view makes him the best Spanish player at the moment. His superb passes remind of Michael Laudrup, while his tenacity reminds of Jose Mari Bakero. Defense is also looking good, with a never-tiring Puyol doing great work.
But in the end, the best thing about this Barcelona team, is the harmony which seems to surround it. While great players have always passed through the team, there has always been great pressure from the demanding Catalonian fans. Of course, this can still change, bur for now, the team is displaying wonderful football. At a time when so many victories are going to teams that play tactically defensive games, it is refreshing to see a great team like Barcelona play entertaining and attacking football. I hope they get very far with it, and I also think they will.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I wish Nistelrooij was on my team

My team, Abruniohene, on the UEFA Fantasy football, is not doing well. Actually, after last round, only Eto'o scored some good points, with his goal against AC Milan. However, teams who had Manchester United's (other) super striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooij, really got some good points. With four goals, Mr. Van Nistelrooij sank Sparta Prague. With Mr. Rooney and Mr. Van Nistelrooij, Manchester United must have the best attack in European football these days, although competition is hard.
On another note, Real Madrid is really showing that the team is able to fight back in the CL. They did it against Roma, and now managed a hard-fought but well-deserved tie against Dynamo Kiev.
Juventus, after defeating Bayern Munich in Munich, is looking as a serious contender for the title, although four 1-0 victories does not aim at the most entertaining football.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Barcelona-AC Milan: This is football!!!

I have been down about Valencia for some time. In spite of my favourite team facing an early exit from the CL, I have had an injection of joy, from watching Barcelona-Milan. It was almost bound to be a great game: between them, both teams have 11 players nominated for FIFA player of the year. At the same time, both teams represent two different types of football. Some would critizise AC Milan for being boring and defensive; but as I have argued before, defense is also part of football, and what AC Milan displayed yesterday was masterfully skillful defense, a truly poisonous counter-attack, and a great goalkeeper in Dida (which should definetly undemrine the myth of Brazilians being bad goalkeepers).
On the other hand, we have a truly amazing Barcelona height, which has more potential than the Barcelona "Dream Team" of the early 1990's. They love to play, to pass and to entertain. A true joy to watch, and marvelous to see their ability against such a marvelous team as Milan.
In the end, the right team won though: Barcelona. The team that attacked, and which thereby constantly searched for victory. And in the end, this marvelous performance was crowned by Ronaldinho's superb skill.
Thank you Barcelona and Milan!!!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Valencia

I am almost too depressed after Valencia's incredible defeat at home, 1-5 to Inter, last wednesday... I hardly feel like watching football any more. There is emptiness all around me with this disappointment.
Well, at least it was not a final, and Valencia has the chance to recuperate, by winning the next games in the champions league, as well as defeating Real Madrid tonight on Santiago Barnabeu.
After wednesday, I doubt very much that this will happen. But I must keep hoping.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Levante

Bernd Schuster was a great, albeit controversial, player in both Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, as well as on the German national team. Now, he is coaching the Valencian team of Levante, which ascended to la Primera División this season. They have had a sensational start to the season, and are now on the fifth spot. Actually, they had not been in the higest league since 1965, and after defeating Numancia away 1-3, it was their first away victory in 40 years.
Congratulations Levante, and look forward to more games!

Danish football twits

In Danish football, there is a very controversial man called Christian Andersen. He is currently coaching the team of FC Nordsjælland (another unpronounceable name of a Danish team), where he continues to be a very controversial coach: he has a very antisocial attitude and unpleasant way of addressing people. At the same time, he is very direct, making him a seemingly awful person. However, he has had great results with lesser teams, and in 1999, he was recruited to coach Denmark's biggest club, FC Copenhagen. But on this post, he was fired after only one game. It was then said that he had been fired because of personality clashes with the players. A long period of slandering ensued, particularly between Mr. Andersen, and the uncharismatic president of FCK, Mr. Flemming Østergaard, also known as "Don Ø".
In the last week, the slandering has reached proportions of shit-slandering. Mr. Andersen published a book, boring as it may seem, where he criticized the attitude of Don Ø, as well as other candid remarks on for instance Per Frimann, former boss in the football club AB, and now a central figure on a Danish football TV show, OnSide.
Then, this weekend, Don Ø was on TV with Mr. Frimann, commenting on the real reason Mr. Andersen was fired five years ago. It was apparently because Mr. Andersen was a drunk womanizer during a trip to the Canayr Islands, five years ago. Don Ø could not keep quiet any more.
Now, Mr. Andersen is obviously an idiot. But Don Ø is more so by replying to him in this low way, five years after these events supposedly happened. It is nothing but a low form of revenge, of the kind a real gentleman would be too large to enter into.
It is understandable that both these teams play so bad, and both lost pathetically this weekend (FCK 1-4 to Silkeborg, and FCN 2-3 to Esbjerg). At least fans of either team can be entertained by this pathetic circus of two clowns, when their teams cannot perform. Maybe we will have to be thankful, to them and to OnSide for providing the cannon fodder.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Liechtenstein's victory streak and other qualifiers

Just as we thought we had seen it all with Liechtenstein's tie with Portugal, the Liechtensteiners (what is a person from Liechtenstein called anyway?) continued the streak with a 4-0 victory over Luxembourg. At the same time, Andorra also managed their first victory ever by defeating Macedonia. A warning for Netherlands, Czechia, Romania and Finland?
A historical day for both Andorra and Liechtenstein. My congratulations go out to all fans of these two teams, who are hopefully celebrating!
Portugal had something to show after the tie to Liechtenstein, and made Russia suffer with a 7-1 victory. Scotland continued disappointing by tying Moldova 1-1, while some exiting close games also took place: Italy-Belarus 4-3, Wales-Poland 2-3, Croatia-Bulgaria 2-2, and Northern Ireland-Austria 3-3.
Finally, Spain did badly again, although this time they had no referee to help them (like against Belgium last week), and had to settle with a 0-0 draw against Lithuania.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

European World Cup qualifiers, October 9th

The games in the European regional qualifiers for the 2006 World Championship in Germany, have so far not been overly exciting spectacles of marvelous football. However, after yesterday's games, there are some things worth dwelling at:
-Liechtensten got 2-2 against the strong Portuguese side. This is the first time ever Liechtenstein has not lost a qualifier! It is a huge disappointment for Portugal though, but they must be used to it...
-Ireland managed to get a well-deserved 0-0 in Paris, against a French side which is becoming a shadow of its former self.
-Spain finally got a victory in the qualifier, defeating Belgium 2-0, albeit with a lot of help from the referee.
-England deservedly defeated Wales in a somehow boring game. But a gimpse of brilliance came from David Beckham, when he scored the second goal on a wonderful shot.
-An inefficient Italian side lost away to Slovenia. Slovenia is looking good, but the Italians will surely get ahead.
-The Scottish side is looking as weak as ever under Berti Vogts, after losing 0-1 at home to Norway.
-Denmark got a difficult and important away victory in Albania, and is looking to a tuff game against Turkey in Copenhagen next week. Turkey defeated Kasakhstan 4-0.
-Netherlands only got a tie 2-2 in Macedonia, while the Czech Republic defeated Romania, and Finland defeated Armenia. With that, Group 1 is looking as exiting as ever. On wednesday Finland will face the Orange Army.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Spanish Coach Luis Aragones

In football, horrible things are often said about other people. Fans are usually good at finding names and calling people terrible things. One of the lowest denominators are the openly racist comments. UEFA has correctly tried to work against racism in football. In this context, it is much more deplorable when Spanish coach Mr. Aragonés recently crossed the line by shouting to José Reyes "Tell the Negro that you are better than him", refering to Mr. Reyes' Arsenal teammate, the great Thierry Henry.
Mr. Aragonés in national coach. He represents all of Spain, and the only signal he sends with this, is that these kinds of comments are accepted in Spain. Even though Mr. Aragonés has now issued an apology, FIFA should step in with a warning to the Spanish football federation. When fans do these things, clubs are often fined. Now it is not barely a fan, but one of the top men of Spanish football. It is a deplorable image to send out of Spanish football, and a step backward in fighting racism in football.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ferencvaros-Millwall

Big trouble with fans at the UEFA Cup match between Millwall and Ferencvaros in Budapest. While the Millwall fans are known to be rather troublesome, it does in no way excuse the fact that four were stabbed. I certainly hope they recover and that the perpetrators are found. Nobody deserves this to happen to them when going to watch the greatest sport on Earth.
Most fans of any team are great people (in spite of what I might feel when my team looses...). Therefore, the first to denounce such incidents are the real fans of Ferencvaros and Millwall respectively, in spite of the disagreements engendered by the fights.
It is hard to make an example, but a good thing so far has been to let Ferencvaros play its home games in an empty stadium, and give fines to the clubs, so that they may work harder to take the violent elements out of their fan-clubs.
Please, no real football fanatics need this shit in football.

On a more amusing note, I would recommend all to go into the Ferencvaros website (http://www.ftc.hu/), where you will be welcomed by the "YMCA" in Hungarian... Dunno how proud I would be if it were my club...

Arsenal infighting

Trouble in Arsenal. Apparently, after the Arsenal tie with Rosenborg in the Champions League, Norwegian police had to be called in to separate Patrick Vieira and Lauren, who had gotten into a fight about the Rosenborg goal. It is even worse to think that it is the captain, Mr. Vieira, who should go ahead in not creating disharmony in the team.
I am not an Arsenal fan, and care less if these guys fight and later lose. On the other hand, I do want to see good football, and I know how the press blows things up. It might all be a little brawl between players with a lot of temper. But if all of this is true, it does not seem that Arsenal has the harmony necessary to go all the way to win the CL. In spite of their record in the Premier League, they run the risk of an early exit from the CL.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Champions League Matchday 2: My team

The champions league has really gotten off to an excellent start, and this second round already showed some memorable games.
AS Roma continued deepening its crisis against a Real Madrid team, that was looking pathetic when down 0-2, but showed that the primadonnas are able to fight back. Maybe this victory will be crucial for Madrid's season.
Other teams continued showing strength: Bayern Munich is looking a strong contender, led by an amazing Roy Maakay, and Manchester United is building up a new strong team with Super-Rooney at the forefront. Chelsea defeated the defending champion from FC Porto, and is looking a strong contender to the title.
Two of the strongest contender to the title, Barcelona and AC Milan, both continued victorious against Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic respectively. Playing a different kind of football, the next matchday will see these two great teams facing each other, in what could become an early final...
Dynamo Kiev and Lyon both showed that they are teams to be seriously reconned with: Dynamo Kiev defeated the Leverkusen team that had humilliated Real Madrid, while Lyon got an excellent result from the strong home-team Sparta Prague. At the same time as some of the greater teams disappointed: Arsenal only managed to tie in Norway against Rosenborg, and Valencia lost to Werder Bremen.
The CL has started great, and it will be even more excited!

Now, on a more personal account, it was not such a great round. My team in the UEFA Fantasy football, Abruniohene, did rather badly, considering that I had started off quite well. Some of my players scored, like Saviola and Eto'o. Others did fine, like Nedved and Kaká. But all in all, I could not compete with teams who had Luis Figo or Roy Makaay. One player, goalkeeper Rütsu, even got minus points, after the lesson he received against Manchester United.
Oh well, there are many rounds ahead, and victories for Abrunioehene!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Super Wayne Rooney!

Great games in the Champions League Matchday 2 yesterday. But one player overshadowed all: Wayne Rooney was simply amazing in his debut in the Champions League. Three beautiful goals by the only 18-year old player. I had expressed some doubt at the expectations put on this young player, but he handles the pressure like a master, by scoring the goals. It is really seldom that one feels to have been witnessing the birth of a future super-star, but I feel Mr. Rooney is headed that way, if he can avoid injuries and other problems.
For the sake of football, I hope he continues this way. When he plays my favourite teams, I just hope he has an off-day...

Super Wayne Rooney!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Champions League 2004-2005, Matchday 2

Finally the champions league got started, with some excellent games and major surprises. Tonight and tomorrow, we are off to witness new epic football battles on the green pitches of Europe.
An interesting game tonight is Real Madrid-Roma. Both teams have recently had their coaches leave them after only a few games. Both had an awful start in the Champions League, losing 0-3, although for very different reasons. Tonight, one of these great teams will maybe start to see their continuation in the tournament slip away. And who knows, is there a very short coaching career ahead for someone...?
In the same group, Dynamo Kijev and Bayer Leverkusen will face each other for the group lead. Both teams were strong in the first matchday, but with the strength displayed by Leverkusen, they should have the edge. Never underestimate Kijev though!
Ajax Amsterdam and Bayern Munich, two four-time European Champions face each othe rin another classic match. Both are looking weaker than before though, and will have something to show. Bayern Munich won their first match, but did not look overly impressive. Ajax lost at home to Juventus, and will also have a hard time in Munich.
Monaco-Deportivo last season, ended 8-3 in a very strange game. Neither team started well this season though, and in particular Deportivo is under pressure, after also having an awful start in the Spanish league.
Notice also Manchester United-Fenerbahce, where youngster Mr. Wayne Rooney is set to get his debut in the Champions League, amid great expectations. Actually, there seems to be so many expectations, that the pressure must be inmense on Mr. Rooney.

On Wednesday, Mr. Mourinho faces his old team when leading his new Chelsea side against Porto. There will eb a lot of talk, but I think it will be a good game, with Chelsea getting three points.
The defending Germans and Spanish champions from Werder Bremen and Valencia, are playing in group G. Valencia has looked impressive in both the Spanish league and int he CL so far, and should do well against Werder Bremen.
Another incredibly strong Spanish team is Barcelona, who is facing Shakhtar Donetsk at home in the Camp Nou. They have played beautiful and efficient. Shakhtar Donetsk will have a hard time, but Barcelona should not underestimate the Ucranians.
Milan-Celtic should be another great match. Although winning their first match, the Italians have not been looking too impressive on this start of the season. Although Celtic will have a very hard time, their fight and spirit could upset the favourites from Milan.

As always, enjoy the Champions League!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Danish fans and Mohammed Zidan

Going to a football match, in any league in the world, you ahve to be prepared to hear bad language. It is often the lowest common demoninator which leads football fans in their enthusiasm. Fans know this, and players know this.
Now, there are different kinds of fans in the world. There are Roma fans, an example of bad behavior, and there are the fair and funny Celtic fans.
In Denmark, there is currently one player overshadowing all in the Danish league. Mr. Mohammed Zidan, from FC Midtjylland. Danish fans are indeed a strange bunch, exemplified in the treatment they are giving Mr. Zidan.
Danish fans support their team unconditionally, but at the same time, they always show a distasteful disdain against players from opposing teams, especially if these are great stars with a strong personality. An example which I am ashamed of myself (as a Brøndby fan), was the whistling against Ronaldinho when he came to play with Barcelona in the UEFA cup in February 2004.
Presently, Mr. Zidan is experiencing attacks by fans of every team in the Danish Superliga. While these are increasingly becoming more and more evil, Mr. Zidan is not helping the situation by openly letting himself be provoked.
Notwithstanding this, I understand that it is annoying to have a super player score against your team. The joy of winning, becomes the helpless frustration of just being able to watch while your team (and thus yourself) is humilliated. On the other hand, a great loser accepts the superiority and beautiful football being displayed for us.
Right now, Danish football is as boring and lacking quality as watching paint dry. Mr. Zidan is giving us a bit of spice and high quality football. Let us be thankful to Mr. Zidan, and just hope the Brøndby defenders will be able to face the challenge! At the same time, Mr. Zidan, please just show that you are indeed a super player by not letting them get to you!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Real Madrid in crisis

Today, the front page of the Spanish newspaper Marca, has a picture of a disappointed Raul, followed by the text "Da pena", meaning that Real Madrid is a team to feel sorry for.
The world's (on paper) best football players lost again, 1-2 to Athletic Bilbao. The team does not attack, does not defend, does not fight. Absolutely nothing works. It is really a disgrace for their fans. At the same time, Valencia and Barcelona are both looking awesome.
I have never been a fan of Real Madrid, but I am surprised at seeing how much a team with the best players in the world, can go down so much. I would be awfully depressed if I was a Real Madrid fan. I am not.
Amunt Valencia!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Top Ten World Cup goals

As I had just been thinking about my favourite top-ten world cup goal celebrations, the natural thing occured, that I should also publish my top-ten favourite world cup goals.
This is a bit hard though, as it is very personal on the one hand, and on the other, there are so many... But here it is:

1) Maradona's second goal against England, 1986: A true classic, when The Master himself strolled through half the English team, to score a great and important goal.
2) Dennis Bergkamp, in the quarterfinals Netherlands against Argentina, 1998: a long pass into the Argentina area is taken down superbly by Mr. Bergkamp, and he scores a glorious goal.
3) Eder, Brazil, against the USSR in 1982: I was young, and very impressed by the little tip Mr. Eder gave the ball, before hammering it in from afar, behind a surprised Mr. Dassaev.
4) Michael Owen, England quarterfinal against Argentina 1998: Mr. Owen was only 17 years old when he fought through the Argentine defense with speed power and talent!
5) Jorge Negrete, Mexico against Bulgaria 1986: a classic and gorgeous bycicle kick. Usually it was Mr. Hugo Sanchez doing them, but Mr. Negrete showed he could as well.
6) Owairan from Saudi Arabia against Belgium in 1994: It was a surprising victory for Saudi Arabia, after a wonderful goal by Mr. Owairan, in which he showed technical superiority by strolling through the Belgian team.
7) Claudio Canniggia, against Brazil 1990: Only attack by Argentina in the game, in which Maradona made a superb pass to Canniggia, who struck like a lightning.
8) Iordan Letchkov against Germany in the quarterfinal 1994: A great header which gave Bulgaria a spot in the semifinals.
9) Michael Laudrup, Denmark, against Uruguay, 1986: A brilliant Danish side, with a 21-year old Michael Laudrup, who danced through the Uruguayan defense and scored from a very sharp angle.
10) Carlos Alberto, Brazil 1970 final against Italy: This goal is a classic in the Brazilian combinations. With a short pass from Pelé, Carlos Alberto hammered the ball into the net.

There are many other goals though, which I knowingly have taken out, but which would very much deserve a place in such a list:
-A young Pele's beautiful tip over a defender in the WC final against Sweden, 1958
-Allchurch's amazing first-timer when scoring for Wales against Hungary in 1958.
-Just Fontaine in the semifinal against Brazil in 1958, when he combined beautifully with Raymond Koppa.
-Kurt Hamrin's classic goal for Sweden against West Germany in the 1958 semifinal.
-Jairzinho's hammer against England in 1970, after combining with Tostao and Pelé.
-Archie Gemmill from Scotland, against the Netherlands in 1978 .

There are so many!!! Anyone is more than welcome to add more!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Camacho

I really thought that with Mr. Camacho, things would go better in Real Madrid. He seemed by the kind of hard man they needed to tame those primadonna's who are not performing again.
But seems Mr. Camacho gave up after only 6 games. The situation in the team must be worse than I thought.
New coach will be Mariano García Remón, former goalkeeper in Real Madrid. Will it help? He will have a difficult time, and things look more problematic for Real Madrid in the near future.

Danish football in trouble

Mr. Olsen, the excellent Danish national coach, has for long been complaining about the lack of technical skills of players in the Danish league.
When looking at most games in the Danish "Superliga", Mr. Olsen is absolutely right. Danish clubs are presently in such a crisis, making the Danish leagues into one of the worse in Europe.
For a proud Dane this is hard to accept, but all the more obvious when looking at the realities: the defending Danish Champions from FC Copenhagen (FCK) were humilliated by Gorica from Slovenia in the second round qualifier for the Champions League: after winning 1-2 away, they lost 0-5 in Copenhagen. This was even more humilliating when Gorica was eliminated 0-9 by AS Monaco in the next round...
One of the traditionally best Danish teams Brondby, was also eliminated from the UEFA Cup by the little known Lithuanian team Ventspils. The result is that Lithuania has more teams in the first round of the UEFA Cup than Denmark.
The only Danish team left in Europe is Aalborg B, which is up against a well-playing Auxerre.

Looking at the Danish league, things also look strange: FCK is 9th in the league. Yesterday they lost 1-3 at home to Brondby, and played horribly. The team leading in Denmark is a team with the internationally difficult name FC Midtjylland. They are primarily leading because of the greatest star in Denmark right now, the Egyptian player Mohamed Zidan. His technical skills are so far above the average Danish player, that he will probably leave Denmark soon.

Now, I should be a little optimistic on behalf of Danish football: there are many new young players. Particularly Brondby, with the legendary Michael Laudrup as coach, is giving wide possibility for young talented players in the Danish League. These were the ones who defeated FCK yesterday, and hopefully will help improve the Danish league in the future.

But Danish clubs will continue to be of the 4th division of Europe for many years...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

...and then there is AS Roma

It was interesting to see the two opposites of fan cultures during this round of the Champions League: on one hand the great fans of Celtic, and on the other, the violent tifosi of AS Roma.
I must admit that I have before deplored one of the main players of AS Roma, Mr. Totti. At the same time, I can see the behavior of the fans of AS Roma does not stand back from their players. While I understand the passion of football, I find it utterly unacceptable when fans behave as they did in Rome. I only hope that UEFA will give a swift and harsh punishment to AS Roma.
In the meanwhile, I have no doubt in saying that Roma's fans are a disgrace to football.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Celtic and Henrik Larsson

Great match between Barcelona and Celtic in Glasgow. The good combination of the Catalonians against the spirit of the Scots. But what impressed me the most from this match, wass the welcome the Celtic fans gave to Mr. Larsson. These are fans who do not forget. These are fans who appreciate the love Mr. Larsson has shown for the club.
Mr. Larsson showed his appreciation for Celtic: he scored, but did not show the usual euphoria: he had scored against his friends and he knew it.

I wish I was a Celtic fan, because they have shown themselves as the most fair and passionate fans. The best fans in the world! At the same time, Mr. Larsson showed he was a gentleman, a great player, who understand the game, and the fans he plays for. This is what truly great players are made of.

Thank you Celtic fans, and thank you Mr. Larsson.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Champions League 2004-2005: First round predictions

Tonight, another exciting season of the Champions League is starting. I am looking forward to the customary Tuesday and Wednesday nights with high-quality football and a pint of beer. For me, this has become a happy tradition!
This will surely be another interesting season, full of surprises. Although I failed in every single one of my predictions last season, I will not let myself be scared, and will optimistically try again. Here are my predictions for the first round of this season UEFA Champions League:

Group A: Although Monaco has sold out a lot of players, they still look strong, and with the experience from last season, they will win this group. It will be close though, as both Liverpool and Deportivo will fight hard. In the end, I believe Liverpool will get the second spot. Liverpool is looking stronger this season, with Mr. Benitez ready to do with Liverpool what he did with Valencia.
Group B: Real Madrid will surely win the group, as they look much stronger than other teams of the group. At the same time, I believe Roma will get the second spot, although they will have to fight hard for it against a dangerous Dynamo Kiev side.
Group C: This group is very intersting, with three of the European top teams. Juventus will win the group, as the Italians have a strong attack, together with the usual 'cattenaccio' defense. The always exciting team from Ajax Amsterdam will get the second spot. I believe that all the circus in Bayern Munich will lead to another disappointing season.
Group D: This group will have a surprise, which is that Lyon will win it. The French champions will be a strong contester this season. However, Lyon and Manchester United will be unchallenged winners of this group, as Manchester United will surely take the second spot.
Group E: In this group, there is one sure winner, which is Arsenal. As usual, Arsenal is hungry to get success in the Champions League. Although I don't believe it will be this season either, I think that Arsenal will start with force in this group. For the second spot, PSV Eindhoven seems to have the best chances.
Group F: AC Milan and Barcelona. These are two of the strongest teams in Europe right now. The Italian champions have become even stronger than last season, and now look as a very good tip for winners of the whole thing. Barcelona has bought new players, and is playing entertaining and attacking football. Both teams should go to the next round, although I find it hard to say in which positions. Shame for Celtic and Shaktar.
Group G: The defending Spanish champions and UEFA cup winners from Valencia will win the group. They will edge ahead of the other teams, because of the strong defense, combined with its new good Italian strikers. Inter will be a bit of a disappointment, although they will edge ahead of Werder Bremen on the second spot. All German teams will be out in the first round.
Group H: This group will be a duel between Mr. Mourinho's current team, Chelsea, and his former team, Porto. Because of the new aquisitions, Chelsea will win the group. However, defending champions from Porto will get to the next round with their second spot.

So, those are my predictions! I hope I am right, but I also know I am often not!
Good luck to the fans of all teams!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Top 5 World Cup Goal Celebrations

A friend recently asked me about my top 5 world cup goal celebrations. This is an interesting topic, as I think a particular celebration is very much connected to the feeling of the fan himself when the goal was scored. For instance, I vividly remember Brian Laudrup's celebration when he scored against Brazil in the WC 1998 quarterfinal.
But I think I have come to my own personal top-5 of celebrations that are stuck in my football-fanatic mind:

5) Diego Armando Maradona in WC 1994, when he scored against Greece. It was with much anger and releif he went towards the camera screaming. I personally felt "The Greatest is back"...

4) Roger Milla from Cameroon did a little dance by the corner flag after scoring in WC 1990 against Romania (this was the first time, although he did it later), really underlined the happiness of playing of this "grand old man"!

3) Liliam Thuram from France, in the semifinal against Croatia in WC 1998. He had never scored on the national team, and scored two goals, to bring France in the final. When scoring, sat down with a hand to his face and looked thoughtful. Indeed a very arrogant but charming Frenchman!

2) Bebeto , from Brazil in the quarterfinal against the Netherlands in WC 1994, when he did the little "wiggle the baby" dance with Romario. It has been done since, but it was the first time, and was kinda cool back then.

1) Marco Tardelli from Italy, when scoring the second goal against West Germany in the 1982 WC Final. I will never forget Mr. Tardelli's face, in complete euphoria, as the camera focused right on him, running screaming towards his teammates! It seemed like an out-of-body experience, and I am sure it must have been

I would really like to hear opinions on this though!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football - My team

On the excellent UEFA webpage, it is possible to make a fantasy football team for the 2004-05 season of the Champions League, which will be starting soon.
The rules are simply that you have 100 million Euros to select 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders and 3 strikers from an extensive list of players at different prices. According to how it goes for the players this season, your team is awarded points. (You can read more on this on http://en.uclfantasy.uefa.com/M/rules.mc).
I have made my team, "Abruniohene" (long story...). It has a healthy mixture of favourite players and players from teams I like, and I believe will get far in the tournament. I am rather proud of the fact that I did not choose any Real Madrid players!

My team looks as follows:
Goalkeepers: Rustu Recber (Fenerbahce), and Musin (Dynamo Kiev) as my substitute. Recber did not do well in Barcelona, but I still consider him a good goalkeeper, who did not cost much. Musin I got because of his price.
Defenders: Marquez (Barcelona), Toure (Arsenal), Evra (Monaco) and Hansen (Rosenborg). Fatih Akyel (Fenerbahce) is substitute. Marquez and Toure are two of my favourite defenders, from two teams which I believe will be at the top (again) this season. Evra had a good season last year with Monaco, and I believe Monaco also will get far this year. Hansen was cheap, and I believe the Norwegians will as usual have a strong defense, although I doubt how far they will get in the tournament.
Midfielders: Poborsky (Sparta Prague), Baraja (Valencia), Nedved (Juventus) and Kaka (AC Milan). Substitute: Van der Schaarf (PSV). I am rather proud of this midfield! Poborsky was strong on a surprisingly strong Sparta side last season. Valencia will surely do well this season, with Baraja as one of the dynamos on their midfield. Nedved is, needless to say, still a wonderful footballer, and so is Kaka, whom I believe is heading towards a great season with AC Milan.
Forwards: Saviola (Monaco) and Eto'o (Barcelona). Substitute: Baros (Liverpool). These have been chosen with my heart, because they are three of my favourite strikers. On the other hand, I also believe they are all three marvelous players. I have great expectations to Eto'o on this season's excellent Barcelona side, and I also believe Saviola will have a glorious season with Monaco!

Although I am happy with "Abruniohene", I have often been mistaken. Also, the Champions League is so full of surprises and new great players, that I might not make it. But I hope I am lucky! In any case, I look forward to some great games this coming CL season!
Good luck to all teams and to all football fans!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Spanish League

The Spanish League started this weekend. It will be an interesting season for one of the strongest leagues in Europe. Last year, many took it for granted that the Super-team from Real Madrid would take the title, because of the many stars.
But if there ever was a lesson from Real Madrid's lousy season, it must be that a team is only as good as its weakest link: Real Madrid had plenty of those last year. This year there has been an attempt to mend these weaknesses with Mr. Camacho and the purchase of star-defenders Walter Samuel and Jonathan Woodgate. At the same time, the return of Fernando Morientes and the purchase of Michael Owen, has made the attack even scarier. However, I do not think Real Madrid is that strong: firstly, while a scary attack, they cannot play with five strikers... Secondly the team is still in need of a central midfielder. In any case, I do expect that we will see some amazing goals from Real Madrid this season, and some better defending than last year.
Valencia was a bit of a suprise last year, but a very well-deserved champion. With Mr. Benitez gone to Liverpool though, I am in doubt that they will keep up the work with Mr. Ranieri, whose overly defensive tactics don't go well with the spirit of Valencia. In any case, the team is strong: a great midfield around Ruben Baraja and David Albelda, and two excellent players on the flanks with Vicente and Rufete. Defense, like last year, will be hard to beat for any striker with Roberto Ayala and Marchena. On attack, Mista had a great season last year, although Ranieri seems to be putting his money on the new purchase from Juventus, Di Vaio. In any case, Valencia will be a strong contester for the title again this year.'
Deportivo La Coruña has been used to a top spot for many years, and I believe the Galicians again will be there. Led by Mr. Irureta for many years, the team has not overly changed form last years: still a broad group of technically good players, who played a memorable game against Milan in the Champions League last season. Valerón, Victor and Mauro Silva form one of the best mid-fields in Europe, and the attack with Walter Pandiani and Albert Luque is pure poison.
A very good bet for the championship this year is Barcelona. After a lousy start last season, Mr. Rijkaard's team finished off second in the lague, after an amazing streak of victories in the spring. With entertaining attacking football, there is great expectation that Barcelona might return to its former glory. And looking at this years team, it looks even stronger than last year: New strikers Henrik Larsson and Eto'o can scare any defense. In midfield, Barcelona has pure magic: new players Ludovic Giuly and Deco, together with Ronaldinho, Xavi and Santiago Motta. In defense, Marquez, Puyol and Van Brockhorst. I personally believe that Barcelona is currently the strongest team in Spain, and the best bet for a champion.
It is a long season though... and there are other teams: watch out for Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid and Villareal. These teams have very strong squads, which I believe can surprise positively this year.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Argentina King of the Olympics!

The Argentine victory against Paraguay in the Olympic final was expected. Although a boring game against a brutal Paraguayan side, Argentina crowned an awesome tournament with their first ever football gold medal in the Olympics.
Later the same day, and much more surprising, Argentina won the gold medals in basketball defeating Italy 84-69. This came after the great Argentinians had defeated the USA in the semifinal!
In the Olympics, there seems to be a strange focus on the amount of medals won by a country. People get overly happy about winning a medal in a sport nobody has ever heard about...
I would rather win these two gold medals than all other together. Who cares about all other sports? Basketball and football are the two greatest sports in the world, and in my humble view Argentina has swept up as the greatest nation in these Olympics!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Paraguay-Iraq

Sensationally, Iraq has reached the semifinals of the Olympics. They will face a very strong Paraguayan side for one spot in a final.
I have little knowledge of Iraqi football, besides the many stories about the dominance of Mr. Hussein's son in the football association.
Notwithstanding the for me pretty irrelevant political-historical context, I do know that in Mexico 1986, Iraq participated in their only World Cup ever. Back then, they were paired with a group with hosts Mexico, Belgium and Paraguay. They lost every game.
So, meeting Paraguay is not a first for the Iraqi's. In 1986, Paraguay won 1-0, on a goal by the great Paraguayan player Julio Cesar Romero - a.k.a. "Romerito".
Although I haven't seen any of Iraq's matches, I assume that their strength should be a good fight and spirit. However, I think that like in 1986, Paraguay will have the edge, and win a close fight. This doesn't take away that it is great for Iraqi football to be back on the World stage, where they belong.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

superliga strejke

Selvom man jo sympatiserer med arbejdere der forsoger at forbedre deres arbejsforhold gennem en konflikt, er det da trist for sporten...
De fleste hold stiller med anden-hold af spillere som ikke er meldemmer af Spillerforeningen, f.eks. Brondby og AaB i UEFA Cuppen. Paa trods af at modstanderne ikke er store hold, er det da skuffende at dansk fodbold ikke kan monstre starkeste hold naar man skal ud i Europa for at udstille dansk klubfodbold. Dansk klubfodbold er bunden af tredje division i Europa, paa niveau med Finland, Irland, Ungarn og andre andenrangs ligaer. Paa trods af haab om bedre resultater for danske klubber, og maaske en dag igen en plads i Champions League, saa virker dette lysaar vaek med denne konflikt.
Jeg haaber spillerne faar det de vil have, og vi snart kan se noget bold igen!

Michael Owen to Real Madrid - top-10 reasons

The Real Madrid circus of Florentino Perez has done it again: gotten a new star player for the already star-packed team.
I thought that it was over with this kind of purchases after the arrival of a more serious Camacho as coach, and with him more seriousness to the team: the purchase of star defenders Walter Samuel from Roma, and now Jonathan Woodgate from Newcastle.
With the incorporation of the super-striker Fernando Morientes, and already having Ronaldo and Raul, I just want to ask what the hell Michael Owen is good for (than replace a Portillo ceded to Fiorentina)?
I used to admire Mr. Owen a lot. I cannot see what good this is for him. But here are my top-ten reasons for Michael Owen changing to Real Madrid:

1) Posh spice was feeling lonely
2) David Beckham was feeling lonely
3) Set up an English course on the Real Madrid bench.
4) "I always wanted to get to know Italy..."
5) It was the only English name Florentino Perez and Jorge Valdano could pronounce without taking a course.
6) Michael Owen, David Beckham and Jonathan Woodgate are the prologue of a hooligan invasion.
7) If everyone is going to be speaking Spanish in Liverpool, he might as well learn it in Spain.
8) He is a really nice guy, who might make the whole waiting on the bench less boring for everyone.
9) "I am tired of Svennie getting all the women. I need to get away"
10) Food can only get better in Spain.

Olympic quarterfinals

I just saw my first game during these Olympics, when I watched Portugal get humilliated 2-4 by an excellent Costa Rican side.
The quarterfinals for August 21st are as follows:
Mali-Italy
Iraq-Australia
Argentina-Costa Rica
Paraguay-South Corea

As compared with other tournaments, the interesting teams are Mali, Iraq and Australia, who have an otherwise lacking appearance in World Cups (Iraq in 1986, and Australia in 1974).
In spite of the surprises seen so far, I think Argentina stands the best chances of winning. They have many young super-stars as D'Alessandro, Saviola and Tevez, well supplemented by older players like Roberto Ayala and Gabriel Heinze.
Paraguay also stands good chances, as they have shown amazing strength so far. It is becoming interesting to follow.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Olympic football - go Iraq!

I have never been muh of an Olympic football fan. But as a football fanatic, I obviously follow its results, and will watch the final. Often, games are interesting and entertaining.
Although I have not watched any game yet, I have noticed the sensational victories of Iraq, first over Portugal and now over Costa Rica. This has secured this suffering nation a place in the quarterfinal.
I hope for Iraq that they can make it all the way. It would be wonderful if during these hard times for Iraq, a boost of happines could be given through sport. Although maybe too often forgotten, football is a game, to enjoy, and bring together people of all nations.
Go Iraq!!!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Portugal - vice champions of Europe

I am in Portugal. It is after the Euro, so I guess I am here a bit late... However, some of the vestiges are still here, as Portuguese flags are still hanging from balconies as a show of patriotism engendered by the football euphoria of the Euro 2004.
But they strangely seem proud of their second spot; I even saw a t-shirt with the inscription: "Portugal - vice champions of Europe". How good is that? Like Jerry Seinfeld said: "You are the best of all the losers. Ahead of you, nobody lost."
Strange...

Monday, July 26, 2004

Jurgen Klinsmann, new German coach

Jurgen Klinsmann was a great striker. I particularly remember his great goal against South Corea in USA 1994, when he tipped the ball to himself, turned in one move, and scored. Also, in Italy 1990, when he was a one-man attack, after Rudi Voller had been showed a red card.
Now, Mr. Klinsmann has been selected to succeed Rudi Voller as coach of the nationalmannschaft, whom he will have to lead to a World Cup triumph at home in 2006. He will not face an easy task, just as Mr. Voller did not. Germany is in awful lack of great talent, and is producing no strikers, in spite of the legendary ones they have fostered before, as Mr. Klinsmann himself. It will be interesting though, to see what he can do, with organisation, fight and will, things that have characterized German football before.
I hope he is fortunate, because Germany is always a great footballing nation to confront for anyone.
So from here, congratulations Mr. Klinsmann, and all the best!

Brazilian Greeks

Recently, in Copenhagen, I went to a concert with the marvelous Brazilian musician (and Minister of Culture), Mr. Gilberto Gil. In a rainy night, the crowd was a pleasant mixture of Danes, tourists and expat Brazilians. As a great artist, Mr. Gil played an Argentinian tango, in dedication of their South American brothers. Most Brazilians present at the concert, whistled at this dedicaiton to the neighbors.
This just to show that although I want to love Brazilians, I find it hard to. More so after their undeserved victory against a strong Argentinian side in the Copa America (first time that has ever happened) after penalty kicks.
Brazilians have all the reason to think they are the greatest footballing nation. They are. And tonight, they can formally call themselves Champions of The Americas. Congratulations to the Brazilian players. But Brazil is champion, having played like the Greeks, and making a shame at their own traditions of entertaining attacking football. The only team attacking, was Argentina. What an irony thinking of some of the earlier times when "bilardismo" swept Argentina with a defensive style. The roles have changed.Brazil has been loved for playing delightful and happy football. What an irony that they now are turning into the Greeks of Latin America.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Argentina-Brazil

Two of the greatest football nations are playing the final of the 41st Copa America on Sunday: Argentina and Brazil. Time for some numbers on the many encounters...

These two great nations have played 90 times before: Argentina has done marginally better with 36 victories, Brazil has 33, while they have tied 21 times.
While Brazil has won the World Championships an amazing 5 times, ahead of Argentinas two victories. However, in the Copa America, Argentina has a confortable lead with 14 victories against Brazil's 6 (Uruguay has 14 victories like Argentina). More interesting though, is that this will be the 9th final of the Copa America where these two giants face each other. But in the previous eight encounters, Argentina has won every time. Last time was in 1991, when Argentina defeated Brazil 3-2 in Santiago de Chile (Notice though, that this was not a final as such, since the tournament was played as a final group stage).

This time, I believe Brazil stands good chances of taking home the trophy. But the Argentines are stable and good. It will be another great encounter to add to the earlier 90!

GO ARGENTINA!!!!

There are plenty of more statistics and information on the excellent
official site of the Copa America 2004
.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Copa América semifinals

After this weekend's quarterfinals, the semifinals are:
July 20th: Argentina-Colombia
July 21st: Brazil-Uruguay

Two classic games:
Argentina-Colombia, is very special for the Colombians, who have a hard time forgetting their legendary 0-5 victory in Buenos Aires in 1993. The games are usually exciting and intense encounters, and this one will be no different. Persnally, it is a special game: I learned all about football when living in Argentina, and my football-heart is thoroughly Argentinian. On the other hand, I am half Colombian...
Brazil-Uruguay: Two world championship winners. Although a long time ago for Uruguay, it is still the smallest country in the world with the greatest footballing traditions. Encounters between these two great nations have always been incredible; just remember the 1950 World Cup final, or the semifinal in the 1970 world cup.

Shame I will not be able to see these amazing games...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Copa América 2004

Many here in Europe (particularly in Greece) are passing a football hangover after the Euro 2004. However, for those of us who want to keep the ball rolling, there is currently the Copa América, now taking place in Perú, where 12 national teams are competing to become the best American football nation.

They have just reached the quarterfinals, and I will try my quarterfinal predictions:
Perú-Argentina: Very difficult game for the Argentinians against the home team, that has come from a second spot after Colombia in group A. Argentina also took a second spot after losing to Mexico, but utterly destroying Uruguay and Ecuador. However, a bit with my heart, I will tip Argentina as winners.
Colombia-Costa Rica: The defending champions of Colombia were undefeated in group A, and must surely defeat the Costa Ricans, who got the second best third spot, after a late 2-1 victory against Chile in their last game in group C.
Paraguay-Uruguay: To many people's surprise, Paraguay defeated World Champions Brazil in their last game in group C, to take the first spot. Now, although too often underestimated, Paraguay is a great football nation, and I believe they will defeat Uruguay. Uruguay, the best third, comes from a tie with Mexico and defeating Ecuador.
Mexico-Brazil: Brazil is always good, although they are without many of the stars from Europe. The Mexicans have defeated Argentina to win their group B, and were probably not expecting to be playing Brazil already. It will be an exciting game, and I believe that the Mexicans will manage to defeat the World Champions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The best and worst coaches of Euro 2004

Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Raul... All these were stars who were most notable by unfulfilled expectations in this past European Championship in Portugal. Besides a few notable (and to say the least surprising) exceptions, such as Theodoros Zagorakis, Traianos Dellas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Milan Baros and Wayne Rooney, the Euro 2004 in Portugal can be more characterized as absent of the stars that make football-legends. It was indeed a tournament in which the Greek victory symbolized the superiority of the group – underlining the centrality of football as a team effort. On the other hand, there were stars, and differently from many former tournaments, the real stars of this past European Championship were the coaches. This was indeed more because of the tactical prowess’s of some teams.
In any case, there were both good and bad coaches, and firstly, my top-five of the coaches who flunked:
5) Rudi Voller: I greatly admire Mr. Voller, and I still do. A couple of years ago, he did miracles with the Germany national team in Japan and Corea. This time, however, although clearly lacking attacking resources, Mr. Voller seemed to lack the courage to try something new in the games against both Latvia and the Czech Republic.
4) Iñaki Saez: While Spain lacked a complete team, Mr. Saez contributed to an already weak performance, by not showing that he believed in the Spanish qualities of attacking football. Instead, Spain played cowardly football far below what one could expect from such a proud football nation.
3) Dick Advocaat: Although the Dutch reached the semifinal, one was left with the feeling that there was much more in that team. Particularly, after the excellent period they had against the Czech Republic. Mr. Advocaat should have had more courage.
2) Giovanni Trappatoni: As so often, Italy disappointed. The Italian stars did not perform, and this was not due to the otherwise many lame excuses the Italians came up with. With the players available, Italy should surely have killed Denmark, Sweden and Bulgaria. Instead, two lucky draws and a hard-fought last-minute victory... Just not good enough.
1) Jaques Santini: Very anonymous coach in the shadow of all the French super stars. Seemed he did nothing but set the team. But a coach should be so much more than that!

Now, my top-five star coaches are:

5) Morten Olsen: Mr. Olsen's inspiration is the Dutch football school. He wants his team to have possession and dominate. This way, Denmark managed to dominate many games, even against the Czechs, although the inefficiency and the lack of highly technical players in the end proved fatal.
4) Aleksandrs Starkovs: I had not expected Latvia to perform at all. Instead, they put up good games against the Czechs and the Germans, in spite of the lack of experience and players. They played with spirit and fought well, something which I will credit Mr. Starkovs for.
3) Karel Brückner: In spite of the many stars available, Mr. Brückner never overestimated his team. Instead, he tried to adapt the tactics to the different teams, and showed they could both dominate, fight and defend. In the end, the loss of his "queen" (Mr. Nedved), in the semifinal against Greece, proved too difficult.
2) Luis Felipe Scolari: After the difficult start to the tournament, Portugal grew with each encounter. Mr. Scolari gave his players confidence, and let no one stand out. Not even Mr. Figo, whose replacement Postigo in the game against was a master-piece. On the other hand, did he underestimate the Greek defensive power..?
1) Otto Rehagel: With organisation and coolness, the udnerestimated Greeks deservedly won. Mr. Rehagel was crucial in giving them the will and discipline to go all the way, and showing that a team effort still is the most important aspect of football. Mr. Rehagel is the true star of Euro 2004.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Good news and some bad news....

The good news are is that Saddam Hussein is to be shot...

The bad news are that David Beckham is shooting...

Monday, July 05, 2004

Roskilde Festival: Nephew

I was at the Roskilde Festival all weekend. I guess a person sometimes needs to relax without football.
There is a Danish Band called Nephew. Their concert was absolutely great. Amazign sound, good beat, fun and engaging songs... I would have given the concert highest marks, six stars, but they will only get four. Firstly, the lead singer, Mr. Kvam, was wearing a Chelsea shirt during the whole game. Couldn't you have found a better team!!?? Secondly, he said Brøndby sucks, and every Dane with the least knowledge of football, knows Brøndby is the single best team in Denmark.
I am glad Nephew is a music band. I need to buy their record. But I obviously know much more about music than Nephew knows about football.
Thank you for a great concert though!

Cheers in ouzo for Greece!!!

Greece won. This was the most unexpected thing since the Danish victory in 1992. There are other similarities too. Both teams won with a strong and hearty team effort. While not too exiting to watch - actually a bit boring -, one can only admire the heart, discipline and organisation of the Greeks. Many people complain that this is boring, and will be bad for football. This is not true: firstly, no teams will go out and play like Greece. It takes a lot of discipline, and you need the right players. Secondly, Greece's victory have reminded us all (including myself), that football, in spite of all the hype for particular stars, is a team effort. Why are we so suprprised about this? We focus too much on the individual players, although football is a team effort, a team sport, and any team is only as good as its worse player.
Greece has not been the only one to remind us of this this season. Oporto's victory in the Champions League was also a surprise. Valencia's great season is also better explained by a strong team effort, just as Real Madrid's lousy season is a result of a bad team filled with good players! Once Caldas from Colombia was also a surprising winner of the Copa Libertadores, and now Greece puts the triumph on a season of surprises.
Let us see how Greece keeps up the good work in the next couple of years!
Congratulations Greece!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Semifinal predictions.

Again, I was not wholly right in my tips for the quarterfinals, although I only missed the hugely disappointing French. I try again:
Portugal-Netherlands: Portugal has the confidence, the support and the strength to go all the way, and Netherlands, which is filled with internal strife, will go out. In spite of this, I predict an exciting and intense game as only the orange attacking machine can give us! Van Nistelrooi will be good for a couple of goals, but so will Portugal. 2-2, and Portugal will get a victory after extra time. If it goes to penalties... who knows?
Greece-Czechia: This will be a tactical football wonder. It will be a chess-match between two of the greatest football minds of our time: Mr. Brückner and Mr. Reghagel. The offensive, entertaining and technically-fit Czech attacking machine, against the disciplined organised efficient Greek fighters. If the Greeks can keep their head cold, they will be efficient against the mistakes the Czechs surely will make. Everyone, except the Danes, have been ahead against the Czechs. So will the Greeks, and they will prevail. What a challenge for Nedved and Co.! If they can make it, they will surely be champions... Or what...?
Goood luck to the wonderful fans of all these teams!!

Denmark will not be missed...

...only if you are Danish. I am Danish, but also a football fan. As a Danish, I am disappointed, but as a football fan, it was one of the tournament's most unsympathetic teams.
They compeltely fell apart against the Czechs, whom I will ahve to compliment on such an easy win against a naive adversary. "Let the Danes have the ball. They like to paly it around, but are utterly harmless. They will eventually make a mistake, and then we will strike"; This must surely have been the tactics of the Czechs, and it was perfect.
But mostly, being here in Denmark, I was appalled at the Danish attitude before the game: "the Czechs are weak except for Koller and Nedved..." What is this!? I am quite happy that Mr. Baros, whom I have admired for many years, and who has lost too much of a season on a broken leg, was the one to crush the Danish arrogance (which I cannot understand where came from. The Danes were not bad, but had not reason whatsoever to be arrogant).
Finally, players like Mr. Gravesen and Mr. Groenkjaer will not be missed at all. The simpathy the Danes might have gotten with Mr Totti's stupidity in the first match, disappeared when the Danes started making small revenges and gesticulating at Mr. Nedved. Mr. Groekjaer's provocation when pulling Mr. Nedved's hair is in my point of view at the same level of Mr. Totti's spit, and should be sanctioned as well.
Goodbye Denmark, the rest of the world will not miss you.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Miss Euro 2004

Hey, check out this web-page, where you can vote on the hottest girl of the Euro 2004 (In particular Miss Latvia):
http://www.football365.com/euro_2004/miss_euro_2004/index.shtml
I have voted for Miss France!!! But where is Miss Bulgaria....?

quarterfinal predictions 2

I was not totally right on who would be playing the quarterfinals... I seldomly am... In any case, I will give it another try, now for the semifinals:
ENGLAND-PORTUGAL: I am not going to hide that I am not too fond of the English team, in spite of an amazing Wayne Rooney, whom I look forward to seeing much more in the future. I believe the current English team has forgone earlier English attributes, and is now playing an organised an efficient "cattenaccio"-like style, but incredibly boring... Portugal, on the other hand, is an entertaining and offensive team. Although often unstable, they showed strength after the great pressure in first round defeat to Greece. I believe they will continue doing this, and will defeat the English 2-1.
FRANCE-GREECE: France are overwhelming favourites. Mr. Henry has started scoring, and they will beat the Greeks. But it won't be easy: the Greeks will be well organised in defence, and have some dangerous counter-attacks. I believe France will only win 1-0 after extra time.
SWEDEN-NETHERLANDS: Both teams have shown strengths and weaknesses so far. The Dutch are too happy about themselves, which is a greta weakness. However, Van Nistelrooi has been excellent, and if Mr. Avocaat lets young Robben play, they will defeat Sweden. Sweden's attack, although scary, can be neutralised, and they will. The Dutch will win 1-0.
CZECH REPUBLIC-DENMARK: I want Denmark to win, but I have very little faith in it. Also, the Czechs are a favourite of mine, and I am sad that one of these two teams will have to leave the tournament. But the Czechs have been amazing, even when their reserves beat Germany. With Mr. Nedved back, it will be a difficult challenge for the Danes, who will have to play better than any of their games until now. However, both teams like to attack, so I predict an exciting 3-2 for the Czechs.

Good luck to all!