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...
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.