Thursday, October 27, 2005

Deportivo's un-surprising victory

David Beckham's suspension was strangely rejected by the Spanish football federation, so there was hope in the Madrid-camp that Real Madrid might come back with a good result from La Coruña. But David Beckham is not the only weak link in a weak team.
Tonight Real Madrid lost 3-1 to a far superior Deportivo La Coruña in the Galician capital. However, this might not be that surprising as some lesser-knowing football enthusiasts might think. Besides Real Madrid bad playing of the last two seasons, Deportivo has a strong statistic at home against Madrid: They have not won in La Coruña since the 1991-92 season.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Excellent football weekend

It has been an excellent football weekend (and I am not only saying this because of my personal joy this weekend).

In the English Premier League Chelsea finally lost a point, to league-trailers Everton. However, Chelsea's lead is so large with 28 points (Charlton on second has 19), that it is difficult to see how they would not win the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspurs is on third spot. They managed a good 1-1 result in Manchester United, after a beautiful free-kick goal by Jermaine Jenas. Manchester United is looking more and more like a second rate team, just as some of it's players get themselves in trouble off the pitch.
Fulham defeated Champions League winners Liverpool 2-0. It seems Liverpool will only be fighting in Europe again this season.
Arsenal won a hard-fought victory against Manchester City. The more bizarre thing in this match was Robert Pires missed penalty. Seems it was not a good weekend for French penalty shooters, as Zidane's pathetic kick against Valencia demonstrates.

In Italy's Serie A, Juventus is five points ahead of AC Milan on top after a strong 0-3 away victory to Lecce.

In the classic battle for Rome, between AS Roma and Lazio, it ended with a 1-1 tie with goals by Francesco Totti and Tomasso Rocchi.

In Denmark, FC Copenhagen continued on top after a narorw 1-0 home victory against little Horsens. On the other hand, defending champions Brøndby kept a strong pressure on Copenhagen after an impressive 5-0 win against FC Midtjylland.

In Spain's Primera División, the most talked about was of course Valencia´s victory against Real Madrid. Valencia was far superior against a Real Madrid side that got two Red Cards: Gravesen after only six minutes on the pitch for his violent attack on Vicente, and David Beckham, for complaining. Seems Mr. Beckham is becoming good at the last, as he has also gotten red cards lately on the English national team. On top of this, Pablo García made a record appearance, becoming the fastest man to be awarded a yellow card in Spanish football. Another record in the match was better: Amadeo Carboni from Valencia became the oldest player ever to play in a Spanish League match. He is 40.

With Real Madrid's loss, the Spanish league is very close. FC Barcelona moved up in the table with 13 points, with a 3-0 victory over 5th placed Osasuna. Top team is still surprising Getafe with 17 points. They continued their impressive performance with an excellent 5-2 victory over Real Zaragoza. It will be interesting how far they can take it.

All in all, a great weekend!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The worst that can happen a football fanatic

It is really bad to see your team humiliated. I was afraid this might happen by watching Real Madrid-Valencia, and so I was in doubt as if to watch it at all. In the end, I decided I might as well be brave and face the potential defeat in Madrid.

So I decided to go to my usual Sports Bar in Accra, Champs. I was more than delighted; the game was excellent. Valencia went ahead on a splendid free-kick by Baraja, after Zidane pathetically missed a non-existing penalty kick. Then Raul equalized on a lucky strike, and Valencia scored again on a non-existing penalty. The game had it all...

Then, 22 minutes into the second half, the staff at Champs decided to switch away from the game... Don't mind they have around 10 TV screens... No, they had to show a movie on all of them. Don't mind they had announced they would show Real Madrid-Valencia. Don't mind there were actually guys there watching the match...

A Sports Bar that does that is a joke of a Sports bar. One thing is that they would not show the match, another to announce it, and then turn it off in the middle of it. I am hereby starting my personal boycott against Champs in Accra. I had always gone there to watch football, and was very fond of the place. But to do this to a football fan is worse than pissing on him. Never go to Champs Sports Bar in Accra.

However, now I am delighted. Valencia won!!! They had not won in Madrid since 1999! But I missed it...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Champions League Matchday 3

This season's Champions League has so far not had many goals, and there are still too many 0-0 games. However, particularly in last night's games, some of the big teams like Chelsea or Real Madrid showed great strength and started putting some goals in.
The result of this round are:
  • Bayern Munich-Juventus 2-1
    Goals: Deisler, Demichelis; Ibrahimovic

Great game by the Germans, although the victory seemed narrow in the end. However, it is never easy to defeat Juve. Demichelis has become an excellent goal scorer in the CL!

  • Rapid Vienna-Club Brugge 0-1
    Goals: Balaban

The Belgians got three points away, and are still alive in the tournament.

  • Ajax Amsterdam-Thun 2-0
    Goals: Anastasiou (2)

Important home victory for Ajax, while Thun will be fighting hard to hang on.

  • Sparta Prague-Arsenal 0-2
    Goals: Henry (2)

Thierry Henry is back! His first goal was amazing, and Arsenal is well on the way to win Group B with 9 points for 3 matches.

  • Panathinaikos-Barcelona 0-0

Many are talking about a crisis in Barcelona. While things are not going their way in the league, a 0-0 away in Greece is not a bad result, as they are still winning the group.

  • Udinese-Werder Bremen 1-1
    Goals: Di Natale; Da Silva Felipe (OG)

The group is very close, although this was Bremen's first point. All teams have a good option at following Barcelona into the next round.

  • Manchester United-Lille 0-0

Manchester United was a great disappointment at home to Lille. Scholes' red card was plainly stupid, and it is becoming obvious that the team's crisis must also have something to do with the player's attitude on the pitch.

  • Villarreal-Benfica 1-1
    Goals: Riquelme; Fernandes

Third tie for Villarreal, but at least now they have scored. Still, all teams in this group (the others are Manchester United and Lille) still have options for the next round.

  • FC Porto-Inter 2-0
    Goals: Materazzi (OG), McCarthy

After losing at home to Artmedia, FC Porto was being discounted in the tournament. However, they have showed that they are very much alive with this great victory against the strong Italians.

  • Glasgow Rangers-Artmedia Bratislava 0-0

A good away point for Artmedia, who is trailing Inter by 2 points for first spot. There could be another sensation on the way from the Slovakians!

  • Anderlecht-Liverpool 0-1
    Goals: Cisse

A very important away victory for Liverpool, with a good goal by Cisse. The Reds are continuing the fight to defend their title.

  • Chelsea-Betis 4-0
    Goals: Drogba, Carvalho, J. Cole, Crespo

Betis did not start bad, but made some stupid mistakes in defence, which a team like Chelsea never forgives. Chelsea is looking more and more scary, and is a serious contender for the title.

  • Real Madrid-Rosenborg 4-1
    Goals: Woodgate, Raul, Helguera, Beckham; Strand

A weak Madrid was losing 1-0 at half time, but came backa gainst a technically inferior Norwegian side. They showed that they do not need Ronaldo to score goals. However, their vulnerability in defence is still obvious.

  • Lyon-Olympiakos 2-1
    Goals: Juninho, Govou; Kafes

Lyon is winning the group with 9 points for three games. Although Real Madrid is getting stronger, the French side has been by far the best-playing in the group so far. They can get very far in the tournament,

  • AC Milan-PSV Eindhoven 0-0

Good away result for PSV. Milan is still winning the group with 5 points, being trailed by both Fenerbahce and PSV with 4.

  • Fenerbahce-Schalke 04 3-3
    Goals: Luciano, Nobre, Appiah; Lincoln (2), Kuranyi

This was a very exciting match, with an impressive scoreline. An important late equalizer for Fenerbahce by Stephen Appiah kept Fenerbahce on second spot. However, Schalke is trailing with 2 points.

We are now halfway through the first round. It is getting more clear who might be in the next round for some groups, and in others, the drama is growing.

Finally, in the UEFA Fantasy Football, my team Football-fanatics has been doing terrible. However, prior to this round I changed 5 players. It seems to have improved the team marginally, so I am still hoping!

Friday, October 14, 2005

European World Cup Qualifiers Play-off draws

Today was the draws for the play-off matches in November:
  • Spain-Slovakia
  • Norway-Czech Republic
  • Turkey-Switzerland
Predictions are tempting to make on Spain, Turkey and the Czechs. However, in these kind of matches all teams will try their best to take the three last spots for Germany. The Slovakians have their first game in Spain, which is a slight advantage. The Norwegians are always strong in defence against a Czech side which has been having attacking problems. Finally, the Swiss have been doing well against a Turk team that tends to underestimate other teams - just see their last play-off against Latvia for the Euro 2004.

It will surely be nerve-wrecking games, in particularly for the fans!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

World Cup 2006 Qualifiers

Three more teams qualified for the World Cup 2006 after yesterday’s qualifiers:

  • France: The French destroyed Cyprus 4-0, and with a tie in Switzerland’s match against Ireland, the French swept to top of the group, after much difficulty. First time since 1986 France qualifies “by itself”… (in 1998 they qualified as hosts, and in 2002 as defending champions).
  • Serbia-Montenegro: Defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina in the last match, gave the Serbians the top spot in the group in front of Spain.
  • Sweden: It was very unlikely that Sweden would not qualify before yesterday's match, even if losing to Iceland at home. However, the strong Swedes won a 3-1 victory, and are now ready for Germany.

With these, 27 teams are now ready for Germany 2006. There are five more teams to go, and they will be found among the following:

  • Trinidad/Tobago-Bahrain: This will be the play-off game between the Asian play-off winner and number 4 in the North- Central America zone. I bet Uzbekistan is disappointed it was not them instead of Bahrain, after their victory in the first match was annulled. Instead Bahrain made it through by tying 1-1 away, and getting 0-0 at home.
  • Uruguay-Australia: Uruguay made sure they would get the fifth spot in South America, by defeating Argentina 1-0 in Montevideo in their last group match. Australia has never won a play-off against a South American fifth before, and will again have a hard time against the seasoned double-World Champions.

The draw for the European play-offs will be tomorrow (Friday October 14th), but there will be the following teams in the bowl:

  • Spain: Will be a hard team for anybody to defeat, but hardly impossible. A 6-0 win over San Marino only gave them second spot after the Serbians.
  • Czech Republic: With a resounding 3-0 victory against Finland in their last match, the Czechs squeezed past the Romanians on the second spot.
  • Turkey: With a difficult 1-0 away-victory against Albania, the silver-medallists from 2002, grabbed the second spot in front of a disappointed Danish side.
  • Slovakia: After a nerve-wrecking 0-0 at home against Russia, the Slovakians got the second spot, and will have another chance at qualifying for their first world cup.
  • Switzerland: 0-0 in Ireland was enough for the Swiss to get a play-off match.
  • Norway: The Norwegians were in a group which was easily won by Italy. They will surely have their hands full against any coming adversary in the play-off.

The first three teams (Spain, Czechia and Turkey) are all top seeded, and can therefore not draw one another. Any of the three other teams will surely have a hard time against either of them, but it is certainly not impossible!

By November we should know the final list of countries who will fight for the trophy next summer!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More teams heading for the World Cup 2006

Yesterday, a number of new teams joined the already qualified, to book their tickets for Germany 2006.
All the African teams are ready:
  • Ghana: It was just a formality for the strong Ghanaians to ascertain their participation, by destroying Cape Verde. Go Ghana!
  • Togo: Most Europeans probably hardly know where Togo is... But they won their group ahead of the popular Senegalese from the 2002 World Cup, and shall not be underestimated.
  • Côte d'Ivoire: A very strong team, with Chelsea star Didier Drogba in front. They had some luck in the last game though, as Cameroun missed a last minute penalty against Egypt at home, that gave the spot away to the Ivorians.
  • Angola: Another newcomer that won the group ahead of the strong Nigerians; they will surely be interesting to watch in Germany.
  • Tunisia: The defending African Champs got their spot with a 2-2 at home against Morocco.

In South America, Argentina and Brazil were joined by two teams:

  • Ecuador: With 0-0 in Quito against Uruguay, the Ecuatorians have made it to their second world cup in a row. In 2002, they were out in the first round, but after defeating a strong Croatian side.
  • Paraguay: After defeating Venezuela away 1-0, they will be participating in their 7th world cup, third in a row.

There is still a strong fight for the fifth spot in South America, which gives a play-off match against Australia. The contenders are Uruguay, Colombia and Chile. I will not hide my strong sympathy for Colombia, who will be facing Paraguay in Asuncion on Wednesday.

In Europe, Germany and Ukraine have been joined by six teams:

  • Netherlands: With an impressive 2-0 victory in Prague, the Orange machine (and their great fans) will be a welcome nation in Germany.
  • Italy: The Italians are now qualified with a typical 1-0 victory against Slovenia.
  • Portugal: Maybe the Portuguese were not out for revenge against little Liechtenstein (after their 2-2 in October 2004, Liechtenstein's first point ever!), so although their 2-1 home-victory may seem meager, it still booked them tickets for Germany.
  • Poland: The Poles were already mathematically qualified, and they did not play yesterday. They still have one match against England, to fight for the first spot of the group.
  • England: With a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Austria, the English are mathematically qualified, at least as one of the best runner-ups. Next Wednesday's match against Poland is about the honour of who wins the group.
  • Croatia: Their third World Cup in a row, after defeating the strong Swedes 1-0 in Zagreb.

Sweden and Serbia-Montenegro are both only one step away from qualifying. In the meantime, France is having difficulties in Group 4, which is now being led by Israel. Other teams are struggling for the runner-up spots, and thus a play-off match: Turkey, Denmark, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Russia, Romania, Czechia. All these teams still have a lot of sweat and hardship ahead of them...

In the Central- and North American zone, one new team joined the USA and Mexico:

  • Costa Rica: The Ticos were an entertaining team in both 1990 and in 2002, and will be very welcome in Germany. They qualified last night after a resounding 3-0 victory against the USA in San Jose.

The number four of this zone, will get a play-off match against either Uzbekistan or Bahrain. It is now Trinidad and Tobago, closely followed by Guatemala.

The Uzbekistan-Bahrain match (which had to be re-played due to a strange referee decision) ended 1-1, so it still remains to be seen which of these four nations we will see in Germany. But it will certainly be a newcomer.

We now have 24 teams out of the 32 to go to Germany. Next Wednesday and Thursday, we will know a few more!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cape Verde-Ghana

Before Ghana went into the last World Cup qualifier, there was still a theoretical chance they might not qualify: If Congo defeated South Africa, and Ghana lost by enough goals, Congo would be in instead of Ghana. But The Black Stars made no doubt as to which team belongs in Germany next year. In a great show of strength, Ghana destroyed Cape Verde 4-0. Their first world cup, and they will be a team to be reckoned with.
And Ghana is not the only West African place where there will be celebrations: with a 2-3 away win to Congo, Togo also qualified for their first World Cup. The same did Ghana's Western neighbor, Côte d'Ivoire, who benefitted from Cameroun's draw at home to Egypt.
Angola also qualified for their first World Cup ever, in a group ahead of the seasoned Nigerians. So there will be many new African teams in Germany next year, and they will be strong.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Viva Mexico!

The final of the U-17 FIFA World Championship in Peru was a rather one-sided affair. The young Mexicans destroyed the defending champions from Brazil 3-0, to claim their first ever Youth World title. It is truly a great moment for Mexican football. Their team has been excellent throughout the tournament, and we might see more of some of the players in the future: Giovanni Dos Santos, the Mexican playmaker, who is already in contract in Barcelona. Also however, one should mention the Brazilian striker Anderson, the tournament's best player, whose early substitution due to injury in the final proved crucial for the match.

In the game for Bronze, the Netherlands defeated the charming Turks 2-1.

It has, as usual, been an entertaining tournament. Many of these young players will not make it to the world stage, but they must surely be thanked for their abilities and sportmanship!