Friday, August 26, 2005

Praise for a referee

I have never been much of a person to praise referees... I believe that in general, referees have been too afraid to admit mistakes, or been notably absent in the debate to suggest ways to improve the game itself.
However, a few days ago, a Dutch referee has stepped into the limelight. Rene Temmink recently stopped a game in the Dutch league between PSV Eindhoven and Den Haag, due to the racist chants of supporters.
That Mr. Temmink did this, shows him as a strong referee and a decent man, who wants to fight the scourge of racism in football with the means possible to him: refereeing. It is about time a referee decides to take a stand.
Furthermore, I can only commend Mr. Temmink on other issues as well. On a recent interview, he was positive on the use of cameras to assist referees: "The referee needs to be able to take the correct decision, and what could be better than a camera. If the assistant is in a position where he can see a monitor and tell whether a ball has crossed the line, then it can only help the referee."
I am extremely happy finally to hear a referee say this. I have always found it to be in the best interest of themselves!
It is the likes of Mr. Temmink which must improve the most beautiful game on Earth. Therefore, I can only nominate him for my football fanatic of the year number 5.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Champions League 05-06: Group draw

With the good and the bad, the last qualifying round for this season's Champions League, took place last night. It is a disappointment for me not to see Brondby in this year's edition, although I must praise the hard fight they put up against Ajax Amsterdam.
After today's draw fort he groups, these look as follows:

The tournament is starting on September 13th and 14th, and there is surely to be some exciting matches. Notice group A, with Bayern Munich and Juventus. Also, Group G, where defending champions Liverpool will be facing Premier League champions Chelsea, and Spanish Cup winners Betis. Group F will have a spectacle of football when Lyon faces Real Madrid, and Manchester United-Villarreal should be another exciting encounter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Valencia out

Last night, Valencia only managed to get a 0-0 at home against Hamburger SV in one of the finals of the UEFA Inter-Toto Cup. After losing 1-0 in Hamburg, Valencia will not be playing any European football this season. This is sad for a team that only a couple of years ago had its best season ever. With a new coach I had hope things would improve, but it seems it is heading towards another meager season. It is sad.

Champions League qualification

We now know the first teams that will be playing the Champions League for the 2005-2006 season:

  • Liverpool: Although a rather pathetic home loss to CSKA Sofia, the defending champs will be there to defend their title.
  • Betis: 2-2 against Monaco, with two goals by Ricardo Oliveira, was enough to give the Andalucians their first stint ever in the Champions League.
  • Rosenborg: A hard fought victory away against Steua Bucharest and the Norwegians are yet again in the Champions League.
  • Artmedia: Another surprise from the Slovakians, who will be interesting to see in the Champions League.
  • Thun: The Swiss surprise trashed Swedish Malmo 3-0, to get their spot in the Champions League. They will be interesting to watch!
  • Panathinaikos: The Greek side did well to get back from 1-3 down against Wisla Krakow.
  • Rapid Vienna defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0, and after 1-1 in the first match, are surprisingly in the Champions League.
  • Udinese will be playing their first Champions League ever, after defeating Sporting Lisbon 3-2.

Quite a few surprises! It is good for the champions League to see so many new exciting teams. I hope to see more surprises tonight…

Thursday, August 18, 2005

World Cup qualifiers and friendly matches

Besides Denmark’s 4-1 destruction of England, there were some interesting matches all over the world yesterday:

  • Netherlands-Germany 2-2: As always, a classic encounter between two great teams. This time, German tenacity got them back from being 0-2 behind.
  • Spain-Uruguay 2-0: Spain displayed some of the best technical football they have had for long time, and is optimistic heading into the last part of their world cup qualifiers.
  • Liechtenstein-Slovakia 0-0: Liechtenstein summed yet another point to the World Cup qualifiers Group 3. They are becoming someone to be reckoned with!
  • Belgium-Greece 2-0: The Mpenza brothers were instrumental in giving Belgium the victory against the European Champions.
  • Argentina-Hungary 2-1: Young super-star Lionel Messi had his debut on the Argentinean national team, and received a red card after 30 seconds…
  • France-Ivory Coast 3-0: Zinedine Zidane is back with a goal, and to make sure we see France in Germany next year!
  • Morocco-Togo 0-1: Winning in Morocco is never easy, and Togo is showing why they are only one step away from going to the world cup next year.
  • Latvia-Russia 1-1: The result was hard-fought to keep pace with Slovakia on second spot in Group 3 of the European World Cup Qualifiers.
  • Tunisia-Kenya 1-0: With the victory, Tunisia rose to the first spot of the African World Cup Qualifying Group 5, ahead of Morocco, with only 2 games left.
  • USA-Trinidad/Tobago 1-0: With this hard-fought victory the USA is firmly on second spot in the North American-Caribbean qualifiers, and will almost surely be in Germany next year.

Many very exciting games! Most friendlies, but many qualifiers for the world cup, have left a lot of pending answers for the World Cup next year!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Denmark against the "Spice Boys"

There are many interesting national team games this evening all over the world. A few are world cup qualifiers (for instance Romania-Andorra and Latvia-Russia), but most are just interesting friendly matches: Take for instance Holland-Germany (with the rivalry between these two countries, one can barely call this a friendly match), Croatia-Brazil, Hungary-Argentina and Sweden-Czech Republic.
In Copenhagen, Denmark is playing against England. For Denmark, this is preparation against the all-important world cup qualifier against Turkey in September. For England, it is also a preparation against their coming qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Wales. In spite of these priorities, the Danes should be hungry for a victory against the Spice-Boys, who defeated Denmark 3-0 in the last-16 of the 2002 World Cup. At least I will be extremely disappointed if Denmark looses again, at home, against such a bunch of Spice Boys.
Good luck, England!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Michael Essien to Chelsea

The long speculations are over, and it has finally happened: It has today been confirmed that Michael Essien, the young Ghanaian star of Olympique Lyon, is joining Mourinho's superstars in Chelsea. The price, apparently around 26 Million British Pounds!! More than what was paid for Didier Drogba.
Michael Essien got what he wanted, and I believe Lyon did the right thing, since Mr. Essien could have potentially be a destabilizing factor, having so clearly expressed his desire to leave. But now he will have to show that he is worth all the fuzz. I have no doubt that he is a great player; but he is young, and will come under great pressure to perform well in one of the world's most competitive clubs in one of the world's most competitive leagues.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Football decoration at my work place

I work in a nice big office in a nice neighborhood of Accra, Ghana. Until recently, the decoration of the premises left much to be said.
Not any more!
Seems a major football fanatic just passed by (and I honestly swear that I didn't do it): In the halls, pictures of Ghanaian footballers have been hung up. These include pictures of Abedi Pele, Anthony Yeboah, Samuel Kuffour, Michael Essien, etc. All to remind us of the great football talent emanating from this beautiful West African country.
At the same time, in the meeting room, a human-size pap-mache statue is sitting with a football. Isn't this great...?
Does my work have anything to do with football? Not at all. But at least I get reminded of fotoball every day now...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Brøndby-Ajax Amsterdam 2-2

What a damned pity!!! Firstly, I could not watch the match (no where to in Accra).
Secondly, after reading about the match, I can see it a bit as a frustrating result. Although Brøndby equalized only in the dying minutes of the match, they were playing much better than Ajax Amsterdam. The Dutch team showed the difference between efficiency and beauty in football.
For the Dutch, the result must be great: they stand to take it all away at home. The game will surely be very difficult for Brøndby. I am trying to be optimistic, but have a hard time being it. I guess on the optimistic side, I can say that Brøndby is fully at the level of Ajax Amsterdam. That should give them a chance for an upset in the Dutch capital. And it has been done before!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Champions League qualifying fixtures

Next week, on August 9th and 10th, we will be witnessing many battles across Europe, to decide which teams will be joining this season's prestigious Champions League. The fixtures will be the following (with my predictions):
  • Manchester United-Debrecen: Manchester United should prevail against the Hungarians
  • Wisla Cracow-Panathinaikos: The Greek side certainly has the experience and players to win, but Wisla should not be underestimated.
  • Vålerenga-Club Brugge: I have little knowledge of Våleranga, and I expect the seasoned Belgians to continue to the next round.
  • Everton-Villarreal: This is one of the most interesting matches, with two ambitious and well-playing teams. It will be a pity to see Everton out, but I expect the well-playing Spaniards to win.
  • Glasgow Rangers-Anorthosis: It is already somewhat a sensation to see the Cypriot side in this stage after they defeated Tranbzonspor. They will surely fight for their chance, but Rangers should prevail and qualify to the Champions League.
  • Malmø-Thun: Two teams from minor leagues, makes it hard to predict. While the Swedes had trouble winning over Haifa Tel Aviv, the Swiss defeated the giants of Dinamo Kijev. Therefore, I would put my money on Thun.
  • Betis-Monaco: Betis has a very strong and entertaining team. So has Monaco, so this will be a great clash. Monaco has experienced many changes in the team since their excellent performance in the 2003-04 season. I think Betis will fight well and get the spot.
  • Brøndby-Ajax Amsterdam: I will put my bet with the heart; Brøndby will win, although it will be a hard match against the legendary Dutch side.
  • Rosenborg-Steua Bucharest: Neither side is at its former strength, but they both have good traditions in European tournaments. At the moment, Rosenborg is looking the weaker though, and the Romanians will win.
  • Sporting Lisbon-Udinese: A Southern European clash. Sporting Lisbon disappointingly lost last season's UEFA Cup final, and should be very motivated to go to the Champions League.
  • Anderlecht-Slavia Prague: An interesting encounter. Anderlecht is my favourite.
  • Basel-Werder Bremen: Basel has done well in the Champions League before, and will not make it easy for the Germans. However, I believe the Germans will pull out a victory, and they will surely be as hard to defeat for any team as last season.
  • Partizan Belgrade-Artmedia: Artmedia is in this round after trashing Celtic 5-0. However, they showed weakness losing the second leg 4-0, and I believe the strong Yugoslav side must have studied them. I believe we will see Partizan in the Champions League.
  • Rapid Vienna-Lokomotiv Moscow: We have been seeing good results from Russian teams the last couple of seasons, and I believe Lokomotiv will be making life hard for other teams in the Champions League.
  • Shakhtar Donetsk-Inter: Sometimes Italian sides underestimate their opponent. Inter could surely do it, but I expect they will win a typical narrow victory.
  • Liverpool-CSKA Sofia: Everybody will want to beat the defending champions. So will the Bulgarians, and the game will be a difficult one for Liverpool. However, with the tactical genius of Benitez, and the cunning of Stephen Gerrard, Liverpool will prevail to defend their title.

The great games are here! No more waiting! Let us have some beers and watch some football!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Zinedine Zidane in the Blue shirt - again

Zinedine Zidane, one of the greatest players in the world for almost 10 years, decided to stop on the French national team last year, after the Euro 2004, during which the French performance was disappointing.
France has been a shadow of its former self ever since. In the qualifiers for the World Cup in Germany next year, they are currently on the 4th spot in Group 4, with 10 points, behind Ireland, Switzerland and Israel. Granted, they are also one match behind Ireland in the first spot with 13 points. But this does not take away the disappointing performance of a highly talented but inefficient French side.
Now, Mr. Zidane might be coming to the rescue. Although he is not his former self, his routine, extraordinary skills, - and even his mere presence -, may be what gives France a boost to complete their qualification for the World Cup.
France's next match is on September 3rd, at home against the Faroe Islands. Although I would expect them to win, Mr. Zidane will be very welcome back in the blue shirt!