Thursday, December 29, 2005

Top-10 biggest football mistakes of 2005

2005 has been a year where many have brought negative attention upon themselves in the world of football. This is my top-10 list of the so-called "turds":
  • 8) Jorge Fosatti: Uruguay did not qualify for the World Cup, and is a great football nation that will be missed in Germany. They lost their final play-off match against Australia. Before the play-off match, the Uruguayan coach Fosatti, had been very arrogant and had spoken lowly of the Australia team, only to be beaten on the pitch.
  • 7) Abel Xavier: The Portuguese defender of Middelsborough was tested positive for doping in November, and he was suspended for 18 months.
  • 6) Wayne Rooney: He is undoubtfully a wonderful player. But this year his temper has run off with him too many times, which has brought unwanted attention on him. First was his attack on David Beckham during the Northern Ireland-England World Cup qualifier, and then his foolish red card in the Manchester United-Villarreal Champions League match. It seems lately he has managed to control himself, so I hope he can avoid getting on this list next year!
  • 5) Referee Robert Hoyser: This German referee brought forth the specter of corrupt referees in football. Scandals also emerged in Brazil, but what makes Mr. Hoyser special, is that he was sentenced to 2 years in prison because of his admitting to fixing nine matches. And this was in the country that will host next year's World Cup...
  • 3) Turkish players: More pathetic that their own fans, were the players of the Turkish national team. When the game between Turkey and Switzerland ended, with Switzerland qualifying for the World Cup, the disappointment of the Turkish players turned into blind rage, and they were caught on camera attacking Swiss players. Turkey should be suspended.
  • 2) Italian fans: Racism in football has continued growing this year. While last year it was the Spanish fans, this year it has been in Italy. The issue came to a high in November, when the Ivorian player of Messina, Zoro, was reduced to tears by Inter Milan's fans racist chants.
  • 1) Paolo Di Canio: With racism being the scourge of football and European society nowadays, it is pathetic to see the captain of Lazio, one of Italy's leading clubs, do a facist salute to the openly racist fans whenever he scores a goal. He has been fined and suspended for it, but he says he will continue doing it.
The list has not been that difficult to do. Unfortunately, many have done stupid things this year. I hope there won't be that many in 2006!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Top 10 coolest football people pf 2005

I have before made a top 10 of coolest football personalities of the year. This category is about people, or groups of people, whom I have found have brought positive attention upon themselves in the World of football:
  • 10) Gambia fans: I have to include these on the list due to the stupid stunt the made during the U-17 World Cup in Peru in September: they pretended to have engine problems in a plane, in order to catch a match with their national team. It was stupid, but worthy of a high degree of football fanaticism.
  • 9) Liverpool fans: They were great, and deserved the victory they were given this year with their Champions League triumph.
  • 8) Real Madrid fans: A lot of people will be smiling, knowing my antipathy towards Real Madrid. However, I feel the fans of this team deserve to be on the list due to the display of fairness they showed when Real Madrid lost 3-0 to Barcelona at home in November. The fans simply clapped of Barcelona, in admiration of the amazing football display they had been witness to. Not many fans in the world would do that.
  • 7) Roman Abramovich: The billionaire owner of Chelsea belongs here, because he is a huge football fan. He has done what I would do if I was a billionaire: buy a team, get some great players, the best coach, and try to win everything!
  • 6) Diego Maradona: I have long admired Maradona. He is the main reason I started watching football as I was a child in Argentina. Therefore, I was always sad to see how he was going down the drain. But this year it seems Mr. Maradonahas gotten his act together: he hosts a popular TV show and seems fit. This is probably the greatest battle he will ever win!
  • 5) Rafa Benitez: The Liverpool coach had made Valencia UEFA and domestic champions in 2004. That was apparently not enough for Valencia's leadership to make him stay. But Mr. Benitez took the offer from Liverpool, and in 2005 they have been one of the best teams of the year, notably with their Champions League triumph in Istambul.
  • 4) Jose Mourinho: Mr. Mourinho is arrogant indeed. But he is has a reason to be: he is an amazing coach. At the same time, by his sheer personality, he is taking all the burden off his players, and carrying it all himself. In a world of football, where stars shine shortly, this is very risky, and you have to be a strong personality to do it.
  • 3) Adrian Mutu: The former Chelsea striker almost ruined his career because of cocaine. I have no doubt he has had to fight his way back to the pitch, but he is indeed back on a strong Juventus side.
  • 2) Manchester Fans: My experience with Manchester United fans is very positive, and I have always admired them. This year, they faced the takeover of their team by the media-magnate Mr. Malcolm Glazer. They rightly fear that Mr. Glazer will turn the clud into a money machine, in place of the symbol of the city it is. Although in the end, Mr. Glazer has managed to take over the club, the fans feeble attempts at hindering the takeover were an admirable feat of the fans against the money. At least somebody is trying to show that football belongs to the fans, although this might be a dream long gone...
  • 1) Rene Temmink: Racism in football continues to be a disgrace. All over the pitches of Europe, racism thrives, as a rotten sympton of sick societies. Although UEFA has made feeble attempts at solving the problem, it just seems to grow. Therefore, it was admirable when a Dutch referee, Mr. Temmink stepped in and stopped a match because of the racist chants by the fans. It is seldom a referee shows such character, and Mr. Temmink is a friend of football, and a decent human being. There seem to be too few of both around in the world these days...
This is my list. I was close to being very arrogant and nominating myself. As usual, I have identified everything with football this year: I ditched a cocktail with a Danish Minister for a football game, and I remember my fight with malaria because of a football game. Although I think people consider me a decent guy, I have concluded that football for me has moved beyond passion, and become an addiction...

Top 10 Best teams of 2005

I have already made my list of the top 10 best players of 2005. Something I have found much more difficult, was to make my list of best teams of 2005. There have truly been some remarkable team performances in 2005. My final (and as always, very personal list) is as follows:
  • 7) Olympique Lyon: The French side has won the French league and been very strong in the Champions League. They are one of the teams to watch next year.
  • 6) Brazil: It is difficult to make a list like this without Brazil Although starting the year with some problems, they had an excellent performance winning the 2005 Confederations Cup, and later qualifying for the World Cup. With the many star players on the team, they must be considered favourites to win the World Cup title.
  • 5) Boca Juniors: The legendary Argentinian side is among the top teams in the World. This year they finished greatly by winning the Argentinian tournament, as well as the South American Cup after a dramatic match against UNAM Pumas from Mexico.
  • 4) Chelsea: In 2005 the London club with the many stars won their first Premier League title in decades. Still the club is far more ambitious, and the Champions League is their targets. The team has started the new season strongly, and they are heading straight for a new Premier League title.
  • 3) Barcelona: The Catalan side has played entertaining and attacking football, and their stars are shining brightly. Most of all Ronaldinho. The team took a deserved Spanish title, and they have taken a strong lead in the Spanish league. They also won their group in the Champions League, and we will be witnessing a clash of champions between Barcelona and Chelsea in February.
  • 2) Liverpool: Liverpool lived up to their history. And they gave us the most memorable game of the year, and one of the most dramatic finals in history. I will never forget their victory in the Champions League in Istambul, coming back from being behind 3-0 against AC Milan, and finally winning on penalties. I thank Liverpool for such a great football-experience!
The top five positions have been especially difficult to place. In the end I gave Sao Paulo the top spot for having won two of the most prestigious international titles, as compared to Liverpool, who only won one. Also, the only reason I ranked Barcelona above Chelsea, is that I like Barcelona better...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Best Player Top 10 of 2005

The year is coming to an end, and it is time to give my own personal compilation of top 10 football players of the year. Most of them are newcomers, but others were also on my 2004 list:
  • 10) Didier Drogba: Chelsea has rightfully been criticized for playing overly defensive. But they still have a very powerful striking force, and the best one is Didier Drogba. This year, he has confirmed himself as one of the best strikers in the world. Furthermore, he has been part of the Ivory Coast team that qualified for their first World Cup ever.
  • 9) Lionel Messi: The Argentinian youngster is certainly the newcomer of the year. He was the best player for Argentina's U-21 team that won the World Championship in the Netherlands in July. He had some problems starting in Barcelona, due to questions on his status as "extra-comunitario", but has shined since on the great Barcelona team. He will surely be a player to watch in 2006!
  • 8) Juan Roman Riquelme: The former Barcelona player was a very important player in the Villarreal side that qualified for its first Champions League ever. At the time of writing, Villarreal had won their first round group in front of Benfica, Lille and mighty Manchester United, and is set to play Glasgow Rangers in the final-16 in February. Mr. Riquelme was also an important player of an Argentinian national team that had an excellent spring, becoming the first South American side to qualify for the World Cup after a marvelous 3-1 victory against Brazil, where Mr. Riquelme scored the second goal.
  • 7) Michael Essien: His marvelous performance in Olympique Lyon in the spring, was rewarded with a highly anticipated change to Chelsea. In the London-team he has been an important defensive player, although his imagine has been tarnished by his recent violent tackles, particularly the one on Didi Hamann. However, it does not take away that he has had a wonderful year. He was furthermore an important player on the Ghana national team that qualified for its first World Cup ever.
  • 6) Frank Lampard: Frank Lampard was also on last year's list. He has continued playing excellent on a Chelsea side that seems un-beatable. Also on the English national team, he has been one of the better-performing players on a team that had some difficulty qualifying for the World Cup.
  • 5) Samuel Eto'o: Topscorer of last season's Spanish league with Barcelona, as well as the leading scorer at the end of the season, he has been another of the important player's on the great Catalan team this year. On another front, the World Cup dream faded for him and Cameroun, so he will be one of the missed great players next year in Germany.
  • 4) Juninho: Has been marvelous in the strong Olympique Lyon team. They have been French champions as well as very strong in the Champions League, where a memorable 3-0 victory against Real Madrid gave them an early lead in a group they easily won. Mr. Juninho is probably the best free-kicker in the world at the moment, and in February, we will see his magic against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.
  • 3) Steven Gerrard: This was a marvelous year for Steven Gerrard. He was the captain of Liverpool's amazing victory in the Champions League final. There was much talk of him changing to a "bigger" club, but he has fortunately stayed in Liverpool. He has continued playing very well into the new season, and will be an important player as Liverpool try to defend their title, as well as for the English side in the World Cup.
  • 2) Adriano: The Brazilian striker in Inter Milan is surely the best striker in the world at the moment. He scores many goals in the Italian league as well as in the Champions League. For Brazil he has also become the main striker, and he is specially remembered for his marvelous strike against Argentina in the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup this summer.
  • 1) Ronaldinho: The Brazilian was also top of my list in 2004. He has continued as a super-player this year, and now the titles have begun coming: with Barcelona he won the Spanish title, and with Brazil he both qualified for the World Cup and won the 2005 Confederations Cup. There is no doubt Mr. Ronaldinho will be a key player in both Barcelona and Brazil as they contend for Spanish title, Champions League and World Cup in 2006.
The list is as always difficult to complete, and is of course my own personal opinion. I would like to hear others though!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spanish League end of year

In the last game of 2005 in the Spanish League, Real Madrid ended a horrible year by losing 1-2 at home to Racing Santander. As thorughout the year, Real Madrid was pathetic, a team without spirit, that doesn't even inspire respect any more. The Real Madrid fans were not happy. It will be a sad Christmas in Real Madrid!
On the other hand, Christmas will be great in Barcelona. They ended the year with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Celta Vigo. Barcelona is playing amazingly, and many of it's players are on the top of their career at the moment. Barcelona is formidable, and heading straight to a new Spanish title in 2006, and they are certainly the team to watch in 2006!
My own favourites from Valencia have been improving lately, and they finished the year with a good 3-0 home victory against Mallorca. This puts them on third spot in the League table, and the team is sure to continue ahead in 2006, although to threaten Barcelona in any way must remain in the realm of hope.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sao Paulo: World Champions

Sao Paulo FC from Brazil, yesterday became World Champions for clubs. In Yokohama they defeated the European Champions from Liverpool 1-0 after a first-half goal by Mineiro. Liverpool played well, and managed to put on pressure on the Brazilians, but they were not sharp enough in front of the goal.
This was the first official FIFA World Cup played with the club champions from each continent. It did not get that much coverage, but the games were generally good. In the end, it demonstrated the utter dominance in club-football by European and South American teams.

Congratulations to all Sao Paulo fans!

Champions League Last-16 draw

The first round of the UEFA Champions League ended with some surprises. The biggest was probably Manchester United's elimination in Group D. Meanwhile Glasgow Rangers managed to sqeeze through behind Inter Milan in Group H, while largely all the favourites continued on from the other groups.
Last week, the draw for the fixtures in the last-16 took place, with some very interesting matches ahead:
Two teams who are currently going through crises in their respective leagues, will be under great pressure to perform in the Champions League. I tip Arsenal to be the better at the moment though, as I do not believe in Madrid after their recent changes.
This will be a classic clash between two of the greatest teams in Europe! Bayern Munich has been looking very strong lately, although the Milanese are never to be underestimated. Both are teams that can make it all the way.
PSV continues from its good performance of last season. However, they will surely have to play their best against a Lyon side that has been simply amazing this season. The French deserve to get very far in this tournament.
Liverpool is playing very well, and will continue figting hard to defend their title. Benfica showed strength however, when defeating Manchester United in their last match. I believe that Liverpool will prevail though.
This is without any doubt the clash of titans. These are the two best teams in Europe at the moment, both leading their respective leagues, and playing awesome football, although very different styles indeed: Barcelona's magic attacking football, against Chelsea's strong defensive style. When they met last season, it was an amazing match, and it is sure to be again. This one is not to be missed!
Glasgow Rangers made it through with their splendid fight. They will ahve to continue doing their best against a Villarreal side who won its group ahead of Benfica, Lille and Manchester United.
The Italians from Juventus are playing well at the moment. Werder Bremen continued from the group by destroying Panathinaikos 5-1, and depending on Barcelona defeating Udinese. The Germans will surely have their hands full against Juventus.
Another classic match. Ajax is not as strong as in former times however, and Inter Milan's awesome strikers, led by Adriano, will be difficult to control for the Dutch defenders.

The first round of matches take place on February 21st and 22nd!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The 2006 World Cup draw

The draw for the 2006 World Cup in Germany took place on December 9th. Although I have been somehow absent from this blog for some weeks, I have keenly followed the draw, and I am very excited to see the groups as follows:
  • Group A: Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador
Apparently not an overly difficult group for the hosts, although Costa Rica is a team to watch. Also Poland will be delighted to defeat their large Western neighbor.
  • Group B: England, Sweden, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago
One of the more difficult groups. England, Sweden and Paraguay are all very strong teams who can win the group. Trinidad & Tobago, in their first World Cup appearance will have a difficult time (although nobody should be underestimated!)
  • Group C: Argentina, Netherlands, Serbia-Montenegro, Ivory Coast
This could easily be dubbed the "group of death". Argentina and Netherlands are two favourites for the title. Ivory Coast and Serbia-Montenegro are both very strong teams. While I do not hide my support for Argentina, I know it will be difficult.
  • Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal
A very interesting group, where Mexico and Portugal must be counted as the clear favourites. It will be interesting to watch the other teams though, in particularly Angola, making its World Cup debut. They will surely give the Portuguese a great fight!
  • Group E: Italy, Czech Republic, USA, Ghana
Another very difficult group. The Czech's are one of the strongest teams in Europe at the moment. The Italians are strong as always, while the 2002-quarterfinalists USA must never be underestimated. Ghana, with a very strong team, will have to display its best on their first World Cup appearance ever. There is no doubt however, that I hope for Ghana and the USA to continue from this group.
  • Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Japan, Australia
The group does not look too difficult for the defending World Champions of Brazil. However, they will start against an always fighting Croatian side, and will be facing some interesting matches with both Japan and Australia.
  • Group G: France, Switzerland, Togo, South Corea
In spite of France's difficulties in qualifying, they must surely be favourites in this group. Switzerland is strong, while South Corea will hope to continue from its excellent 2002 performance. Togo is making its first World Cup appearance.
  • Group H: Spain, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ucraine
Spain and Ucraine are surely favourites in this group. Tunisia, defending African champions may pose a challenge. The Saudi Arabians will have a difficult time.

Kick-off will be on June 9th 2006. Until then, we will start seeing the preparations take place. Then it will be easier to come with some predictions. But it is now getting closer, and time for all fans to start get excited!