Sunday, May 31, 2009

FA Cup final in Nyborg

You know when you are a football fanatic when you go out of your way to find a place to watch football. As my parents' house in the Danish town of Nyborg is absolute chaos these days because of major re-furbishing, there was nowhere to watch the FA Cup final between Everton and Chelsea. After some great matches, I had decided not to watch it, but instead listen to it in the radio, but as the game approached I became more and more eager to watch it, and just 10 minutes before the match was to start, I decided to go find a place in the town to watch it.
Fortunately the weather was beautiful as I walked firmly, and found one of the main cafés' in town, Café Anton, showing the match in a small screen. I missed Louis Saha's early lead for Everton, but managed to catch Didier Drogba's equalizer and Frank Lampard's excellent second-half winning strike.
Chelsea has thus salvaged something this season by winning the FA Cup title, and that is better than Liverpool or Arsenal. Guus Hiddink has been a great coach, and will be seriously missed at Chelsea as he continues his career with the Russian national team.

But me, I guess I always find somewhere to watch the FA Cup Final...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo's Top-5 excuses for losing the CL final

I don't think that Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo will need my advice, but here are possible suggestions for excuses he can use for having lost the Champions League final against FC Barcelona:
  1. I couldn't focus on the match as I kept admiring Puyol's hair
  2. I want to be just like Real Madrid (because I want to go there) and be humilliated by Barcelona
  3. They shouldn't even have been in the final; only because of a Norwegian referee
  4. My teammates underperformed
  5. Puyol is better at diving than me

Super Barcelona

It was not the kind of dream-final that had been expected, although it was definetly the best two teams in the world at the moment, FC Barcelona and Manchester United. The Red Devils, except for their first 10 minutes were simply not good enough, and apparently had an off-day in every sense of the word. United's normally impenetrable central-defense around Vidic and Ferdinand looked rather unconcentrated and shaky, while Barcelonas' subsitutes in central defense played an impeccable match, and when Samuel Eto'o brought Barcelona ahead, there was really only one team on the pitch! I think the biggest surprise about the match was exactly how superior Barcelona looked against the English champions.

While the Premier League may be the most exciting league in the world, English clubs are not all-powerful in Europe, and that was seen last night in Rome!

Barcelona was awesome, while Manchester United seemed powerless at the offensive power of players such as Iniesta (who simply played perfectly!), Xavi and Messi.

Sadly, Manchester United even ended as apparently bad losers, as tempers ran off with them on completely senseless tackles by Ronaldo, Vidic, and notably Paul Scholes (who should have been given a red card).

The victory is, on top of it all, a victory for offensive and entertaining football. It has been. Barcelona really are the best team in the world, and have crowned the most awesome season with the Champions League.

Congratulations to all Barca fans!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thank you Maldini

You can like AC Milan or not, but anyone should acknowledge that they are one of the greatest clubs of all time. And one of the greatest players ever to play on this great club, Paolo Maldini, has just played his last game for the team.
Mr. Maldini played more than 900 matches for AC Milan, and ends his spectacular career at the age of 40 and undisputed captain of the team (although strangely, some AC Milan fans were there at his final match to insult him, as he had some disagreements with these tifosi during his time at the club).

And what a career!
Seven Serie A titles; eight champions league/cup finals, of which he has won five, and one World Cup trophy with Italy in 2006.
Together with many football fans, I will miss Mr. Maldini: he just seems to have been there almost since I started watching football, and I guess it just is there to remind us that time changes, and even great players have to end at some point.
Thank you Mr. Maldini!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wolfburg champions

This weekend Wolfburg won their first ever Bundesliga title after an impressive 5-1 victory against the UEFA Cup finalists from Werder Bremen. Under Felix Magath, the team has grown, and it is a pity that he will be leaving for Schalke 04 for the next season. It will be interesting to see how Wolfburg will do without Mr. Magath, but also how they will do in next seasons' Champions League, where German teams have not done well lately.
In any case, until then, congratulations to all Wolfburg fans!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Some major leagues had their 2008-09 champions decided this weekend.
In the Premier League Manchester United just needed one point against Arsenal to proclaim themselves champions. It was far from the best match by Manchester United, and Arsenal put up at excellent fight, but in the end, 0-0 was enough for the Reds to lift the Premier League trophy for the 18th time.
In Spain Barcelona didn't need to play to become champions: Real Madrid maintained a meager hope that they might be able to catch up with the Catalans, but in their third defeat in a row, Madrid lost 2-3 to Villarreal, and Barcelona are thus unreachable no matter what happens in the last games. After having trashed Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in the Copa del Rey final this week, Barcelona is looking to crown an awesome season with the Champions League final in Rome.
A similar thing happened in the Italian Serie A, where AC Milan had to win against Udinese to keep the hope that they might reach Inter Milan. However, Udinese won 2-1, and Inter are thus champions for the 4th time in a row.

Congratulations to all fans of these great teams!

Monday, May 11, 2009

World Cup to Indonesia?

The race for hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has started, with the following countries already offering to host: USA, England, Australia, Russia, Spain/Portugal, Mexico and Japan. With 2010 in South Africa, and 2014 in Brazil, one the following World Cups will likely go to Asia, and a few days ago Indonesia apparently came out as a candidate.
Indonesia has never been to a World Cup, except in 1938, where they participated as the Dutch West Indies, and is ranked 139th in the world in FIFA's last world ranking. While they may improve over the next years, Indonesia is clearly not a football nation, and they should not get a world cup unless they improve their football and display greater interest for the sport.

Of course, South Africa, an exclusive rugby and curling nation, has been given a World Cup for 2010, so why not give it to Indonesia, where the major sport is badminton?
It is like giving Mali the ice-hockey world cup.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Valencia-Real Madrid

Last night Valencia outplayed Real Madrid in Mestalla, and won 3-0 on goals by Mata, Silva and Baraja (a gorgeous strike). It is true that after losing 2-6 at home to Barcelona, Real Madrid has little to play for, but that doesn't make Valencia's victory less important! With three matches left of the league, Valencia is positioning itself for a Champions League spot, and even putting pressure on Sevilla in third place. A victory such as this against Real Madrid should only increase the players' confidence ahead of what will surely be a dramatic match next week against the local rivals of Villarreal, who are also pursuing a Champions League spot!

Amunt Valencia!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The bundesliga

I follow the German Bundesliga superficially; I always have. This season the Bundesliga is more exciting than ever; differenly from all other European leagues, that seem pretty set or just a petty fight between two, or max three, teams, the German league is a contest where many teams have a shot at the title with only three matches left!
This season's sensation, Vfl Wolfburg is still top of the league with 60 points, and may still win their first title ever under Felix Magath. However, the defending champions, the southern German giants of Bayern Munich, in spite of a poor season (where coach Jurgen Klinsmann was recently fired), are second, with 60 points as well, and looking to put pressure on Wolfburg. And putting pressure on these two teams, are Hertha Berlin and VfB Stuttgart, on third and fourth place, with 59 and 58 points respectively, and thus with a good chance of taking the title as well. For Hertha Berlin, the major team from the capital, it would be great to take the German title they have never taken since the 1930s. VfB Stuttgart won the title in 2007, and is eager to win it again.
Finally, Borussia Dortmund and Hamburger SV have 55 point each, and also a chance of taking the title (although I must add, that as I write this, HSV has one match less, and thus, potentially 58 points. HSV is playing against Werder Bremen, and will surely want revenge after being denied the UEFA cup final spot last weekend when losing 2-3 at home!).
There are some exciting matches in the last three rounds: Wolfsburg-Dortmund and Bayern Munich-VfB Stuttgart. The two top teams are the ones with two home matches, while Hertha Berlin and VfB Stuttgart has two away matches, while Hamburger SV also has two (on paper easy) matches at home, and one away.

In any case, the Bundesliga is currently the most exciting league in Europe, and is probably only going to be decided in the last round, and be sure that all the teams will do their utmost to get the title!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"Dommeren er købt"

There has already been much talk about last night's Norwegian referee, Mr. Henning Ovrebo, and I must add some thinking myself: I think that it was a pity and bad luck for Chelsea that they didn't win, but I preferred Barcelona. At the same time, I think that the referee was incredibly bad for both teams, but of course, it was more felt by Chelsea, who should have had two penalties called (and not six like some people are saying!).
Bad refereeing is unfortunately not an unseen phenomenon, and in particular not regarding Mr. Ovrebo, who in the Euro 2008 made such a poor performance on the Italy-Romania match, that he was not given any more matches in that tournament...
Need I say more...?

In the many years I have been a football-fan, I have always had a problem with referees. I have always found it suspicious that the apparently impartial guys in black have such an important role in the outcome of the matches, and at the same time there is so little on the part of the referees themselves in trying to improve their own position (for instance, referees are notably against using technological aids to improve refereeing). Also, I have always found it suspicious that referees who are consistently bad, are rewarded again and again by getting more and more big matches, just like happened with Mr. Ovrebo, or has even happened with the infamous Danish referee Jens Larsen.
Many friends of mine, have always made fun of me of when I have insinuated "partisanship" by referees. Because of this, I find it quite amusing that so many people (including Danish TV3 commentator Preben Elkjær and Chelsea player Bosingwa) now have few quarrels in insinuating corruption by Mr. Ovrebo in last night's Champions League semifinal.
Most referees are good and do their best, and very few are corrupt, but some are incompetent, what I personally just think Mr. Ovrebo is. But at the same time, I would be very careful about totally dismissing the possiblity of foul play. Unfortunately, it has been seen at top level in Europe in many instances:

  • In 1984 Anderlecht (with three Danish players) defeated Nottingham Forest in a scandalous match in the semifinal of the UEFA Cup. The referee had been paid off by an Anderlecht official, something that only came to light 13 years later.
  • In the 2006 Italian football scandal where Juventus was forcefully relegated, many referees, among them Italy's referee representative for the 2006 world cup, were found to be involved.
  • In 2005, a match fixing scandal erupted in Germany, where the referee Robert Hoyzer, admitted to having fixed a number of matches, notably a cup match between Hamburger SV and Paderborn, where the former, leading 2-0, had its best striker red-carded and two doubtful penalties against them, made them lose the match 2-4. The scandal had connections to gambling.
  • In the 1994 VA-OM scandal, where Olympique Marseille were forcefully relegated, it was proved that players had been bought. Nothing was directly proved about referees, but the extent of Olympique Marseille's corruption and match-fixing was enormous.
  • In 1995, Dynamo Kiev was suspended from the Champions League after approaching a referee in trying to bribe him.
This is just what is known, and what I can immediately think of.
I can also think of a number of matches I have seen throughout my life where, looking at the broader picture, I suspect foul play; this includes a number of World Cup and European club matches.
While I think it happens more often than we think, I don't believe there is a wider conspiracy deciding the outcomes of the leagues, but rather, I think it happens on match-by-match basis, but I also believe that UEFA and the national football associations are not to keen to study the incidences too much, in order not to bring the game into disrepute. Whatever is done, is done quietly, and only selected few instances get out.
But finally, I do think it is naive to believe that in a sport that moves millions and millions of Euros, it is bound not to happen! Fortunately, I do believe it is the exception rather than the rule.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The consistently bad referees

Two great matches, with four great teams, and two consistently bad referees.
In the match between Manchester United and Arsenal, it didn't matter that much, because Manchester were truly the best team in their 3-1 victory, but Darren Fletcher's red card was only the major among many mistakes of the Italian referee.

In the Chelsea-Barcelona match the problem was bigger. Not that 1-1 is an unfair result overall (I was hoping and still happy that Barcelona progressed to the next round), but the problem is that any football fan is left with a bad taste when the referee in such a way takes all the headlines. And in spite of the penalties the Norwegian gentleman didn't call, the calls also went against Barcelona, as the red card to Abidal was totally out of place (here one must add that Drogba's and Anelka's diving and acting probably didn't help, although a good referee should manage to see through that). So the frustration of the Chelsea players and in particular the Chelsea fans is understandable: today they were the better team! They simply played excellently, disciplined and tactically great - the mistakes is that they should have scored on the chances they had, and when you don't, you lose.
But what an amazing srike by Michael Essien!
On a final note, I would also like to congratulate Barcelona. I have long admired how they have played this season, and in spite of the fact that Chelsea was the better team, Barcelona showed character today, as they kept fighting and playing even when all the odds seemed against them; I didn't think the Barcelona team would have such character (I thought they were a bunch of pretty boys playing on humour), but they did, and now we can really look forward to the final in Rome of the two best teams overall in this season's Champions League.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Outstanding Barcelona

I had never thought that Barcelona would win against Real Madrid like this: 2-6 in Madrid is a score of historic proportions for the two rivals, and I have no doubt that this current Barcelona team is likely to become the best in the history of the Catalonian giants. They were simply outstanding!
At the same time, Real Madrid, who had otherwise won many victories and put pressure on Barcelona, proved to be a disappointment, and the next month or so will likely become a period of self-reflection. The merengues have had a hugely disappointing season, have suffered some humilliating defeats to Liverpool and Barcelona, and it seems that they are no longer among the European top.

Barcelona is one step from the Spanish title, will soon be playing the Spanish cup final, and remains an important candidate for the Champions League title. Nevertheless, the latter will prove much more difficult when they face Chelsea on Wednesday in London; Chelsea will be much better organised and disciplined, and with their home support, will surely be difficult for Barcelona (and I think Chelsea is a slight favourite). But Barcelona proved today that they are a truly amazing team, and if anyone has a chance of pulling a good result at Stamford Bridge, it is this Barcelona dream team!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Football and swine flu

The panic that is gripping the world as we face a global swine-flu pandemic has hit football! (I guess we cannot remain an island from the rest of society, as much as all football fans would love to).
In a match in the Copa Libertadores between the Mexican side Chivas and the Chilean side Everton, a Mexican player snotted and spit on on a Chilean player, while saying he would pass him the swine-flu (check it out: - it is really disgusting)

Don't you just miss the days when players would just get into a good old fight...?

Danish Cup final in Copenhagen

This week Aalborg B qualified for the Danish Cup final, where the northern Juts will be facing FC Copenhagen. FC Copenhagen is Denmark's richest and strongest club, effectively in the way of making Denmark a one-club country.
The Danish cup final is always played in Parken, Denmark's national stadium, which, incidentally, is also the home-turf of FC Copenhagen. This will undoubtfully give the Copenhagen side another added advantage in the cup final, which Allan Kuhn (AaB's reserve coach) has also been out criticizing. Just because of this, the cup is already close to being in the hands of FC Copenhagen.

I find it a pity that they don't do a variation of venues for the final each year, kind of like they do with the UEFA Cup or the champions league. The Danish Cup final is only a Danish event, but it should belong to the entire country, not only to Copenhagen, and I think there would be many potential venues for a final, like Odense, Århus, Herning, Brøndby, and yes, even Aalborg.