Friday, August 28, 2009

Same procedure as every year

Every second or third year Danish clubs do well in Europe. Last year Aalborg Boldklub had an excellent spell first in the Champions League and then in the UEFA Cup, and FC Copenhagen and FC Midtjylland both did well in the UEFA Cup.
So this season there were again great expectations that Denmark could ascend in the ranks of European clubs, perhaps even to the degree of having a team in the CL every year, or even another qualification spot!
Well, keep dreaming unrealistic dreams... Danish club football should not compare itself with Netherlands, Belgium or Romania, but should go one level down, to Austria or Hungary. Perhaps you could also say Cyprus and Switzerland, but these are already showing more steady participation in the European tournaments than Denmark has.

There were high hopes for the three Danish teams remaining in Europe this week. FC Copenhagen had an apparently good shot at qualifying for the Champions League, but were disappointing, not to say pathetic, in their elimination against Apoel Nicosia, where they looked like a team without motivation and power.
Brøndby IF looked excellent against Herth Berlin after winning 2-1 at home, and winning 1-0 in Berlin. But in the last 15 minutes of the match the Germans scored three goals against a Brøndby team that suddenly looked completely physically worn out!
Finally, we had Odense Boldklub, who never had a chance against a superior Italian side Genoa, and after losing 3-1 in Italy, played 1-1 in Denmark. However, the game was marked by physical games bordering violence, in particular the vicious attack on Genoa's Ivan Juric belongs in a criminal court.

So that is what we can take with us from Danish participation in Europe: lack of motivation, low physical strength and viciousness (unless FC Copenhagen, who will be playing the UEFA Europa League, does somewhat decently) .
But hey, surely in a couple of years one Danish team will have another good season, and everyone will be hoping again!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Champions League 2009-10: Group draw

After the last qualifiers have been played, UEFA today made the draw for this season's 2009-10 Champions League. These are as follows:

Group A:

Group B:

Group C:

Groupd D:

Group E:

Group F:

Group G:

Group H:

There are clearly some very interesting matches, and most people have already noticed the Spanish-Italian encounters in the form of Real Madrid-AC Milan and FC Barcelona-Inter Milan, where some rather prominent new players will be playing against their former teams.

Bayern Munich-Juventus, Olympique Lyon-Liverpool, and Chelsea-FC Porto are all quasi-classical encounters in the Champions League (where Lyon and Chelsea are the only team that has not won the CL!). Some other teams that will be very interesting to follow are Dynamo Kiev, Rubin Kazan (the Russian champions, who will be making their first CL appearance ever), Wolfsburg (the German champions, who will also be making their first appearance ever), and Olympique Marseille, the ex-champions and new French champions.

Arsenal and Manchester United both seem to have gotten quite easy draws, but of course, in this Champions League there are no easy teams... Or are there...? It will be be interesting to see whether this new format, with more teams from "small" countries, will be succesful, or if teams such as Apoel Nicosia, Debrecen and Maccabi Haifa will just be in it for the experience!

But anyway, I cannot wait for the Champions League to start on September 15th!

Goodbye FC Copenhagen

In Denmark there has been a lot of talk today of the match between FC Copenhagen and Apoel Nicosia, where the team from Cyprus won 3-1 and qualified for the Champions League, while the (too) ambitious Danish champions were out. This seemed to be a big surprise for FC Copenhagen, who nevertheless have a strong tradition of underestimating opponents when these come from apparently smaller countries than Denmark.
While I do believe that FC Copenhagen totally overestimate themselves, the match showed that while we need to have at least one poor side in the CL this season, it should be the one side who wants it the most. And it was obvious that the team that really had the strongest desire to be in the Champions League, was Apoel Nicosia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Champions League 2009-10 Qualifiers

Panathinaikos and Atlético Madrid played a marvelous 1st leg qualifying match for the Champions League, which was a great preview for the CL. In Athens, Atlético Madrid showed its attacking force and with goals by Maxi Rodriguez, Diego Forlán and Sergio "Kun"Agüero, won a very useful 3-2 against a Panathinaikos side that will surely be a qualitative asset in the Europa League (or of course, in the CL if the manage to get a highly improbable two-goal victory in Madrid!).

After watching such quality from these two teams, any football fan would have to wonder why in the world either Atlético Madrid or Panathinaikos have to be out, when either FC Copenhagen or Apoel Nicosia will be there... In their dead-boring 1st leg match FC Copenhagen won 1-0 at home, and I think anyone should only watch the 2nd leg match if they have sleeping problems.

Not many people have been noticing that after Real Madrid and Manchester City, Olympique Lyon have been the team most investing in new players this summer, after losing some of their former stars, Juninho and Benzema. And some of these new players showed that Olympique Lyon is again a team to count on this season: Lisandro Lopez, Miralem Pjanic and Bafe Gomis all scored in Lyon's 5-1 victory against Anderlecht. It will surely be interesting to watch the French team this season!

Arsenal won an important 0-2 away victory against Celtic in Glasgow, and the youngsters will again be facing a season in the CL, where they can surely defeat anyone on a good day.

Sporting Lissabon and Fiorentina tied 2-2 in Lissabon, in a match where the Portuguese were left with ten men after Simon Vukcevic was red carded because he took his shirt off when celebrating his equalizing goal to 1-1. Still, Sporting managed to go ahead, before Gilardino equalized to 2-2 for Fiorentina, giving them a good result before the 2nd leg in Italy.

Otherwise, a number of other teams seem well on their way to the Champions League after important away victories in their 1st leg qualifiers: VFB Stuttgart (defeated Poli AEK Timisoara 0-2), FC Zurich (defeated Ventspils 0-3), Debrecen (defeated Levski Sofia 1-2) and Maccabi Haifa (defeated Red Bull Salzburg 1-2).

The Champions League is underway, and after a summer without football and watching a great match tonight, I cannot wait for it to start!

Monday, August 17, 2009

"It takes time to make a flower"

The English Premier League season started this weekend, and on BBC I heard an interview with David Ginola, who referring to Manchester City's massive investment in new players, nevertheless didn't believe that they would be fighting for the title this season: "It takes time to make a flower", he said poetically, and many other clubs that have invested massively in new players may want to listen!
Manchester City nevertheless started the season with an away victory against Blackburn, and I think that if anyone is going to challenge the big four, it has to be Manchester City, and I think it will be very exciting to see how they do with all the new big egos on their team.
After letting Ronaldo go to Real Madrid, Manchester United is not looking as awesone as the last three seasons, and they may have to fight more to retain their title. Wayne Rooney is one of the players that will have to take on a bigger role, and it started well with him scoring in their narrow 1-0 victory over Birmingham.
Chelsea is again looking to take the title, now with Carlo Ancelotti as coach. Their star Didier Drogba looks in great shape for the new season as he scored both goals in Chelsea's 2-1 victory over Hull.
Liverpool missed many chances in their 1-2 away loss to Tottenham Hotspurs. Although Liverpool will surely end in the top four, I do not believe they will take the title: Liverpool is better as a cup team, and they will continue losing in matches that they should win.
Of the big four, Arsenal is perhaps the one that is less talked about as they have not bought many players. Still, they started this season strongly with a 6-1 away victory against an Everton side that should be stronger. Emmanuel Adebayor may be gone to Manchester City, and Arsenal may be lacking in quality strikers, this seems not to have affected them as the season gets underway!
I would certainly watch out for Arsenal, where Arsene Wenger is again building up a powerful young squad!

In any case, it is good to have some of the major leagues of Europe on the way!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Norwegian miracle and other world cup qualifiers

Besides the many friendly matches between countries yesterday, there were also a few World Cup qualifiers. One of these was in the most uninteresting group in the world, namely the European group 9, where Netherlands with seven victories in a row, already qualified ages ago. In the meantime, the rest of the teams are fighting for the crumbs of a play-off match and basically all four of the remaining teams have an option.
Until last night, Norway was last of the group with a mere three points and two (!) goals after five matches. For most teams this would be catastrophic, but turns out that because the other teams (Macedonia, Scotland and Iceland) have been so lousy, Norway could still have hopes of qualifying by winning against Scotland in Oslo last night.
And the miracle happened: Norway doubled their points and tripled their score by winning 4-0. Considering Norwegian attacking power this is indeed a miracle!
Nevertheless, I must say that I believe that whoever draws the second of this group for the play-off will be going to South Africa.

The CONCACAF qualifers were more interesting: Honduras took a big step to South Africa by defeating the leading Costa Ricans by 4-0 (Costa Rica nevertheless remains on first spot) while Mexico, with a 2-1 victory over the archrivals from the USA, took a step to recover from their bad start in the qualification, and are now in line for a play-off match and threatening both the USA and Honduras in the CONCACAF qualifying group!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I just watched a friendly match between my country of origin, Denmark, and my country of birth, Chile. They played in Brøndby stadium, but the Chilean spectators, many of whom had come from Chile, outnumbered the Danes to give a largely Chilean atmosphere at the match. It is a pity that the Danish Football Association, DBU (of course, this is the same association that has never before made a mistake...), inflated prices so much that Danes didn't feel like going.

I had not seen Chile under Argentinean coach Marcelo Bielsa play, but I was impressed: it is understandable that they are second in the South American World Cup qualifier, as they played quick, efficient and entertaining attacking football. One player to notice is the young River Plate player Alexis Sanchez, who played around with the Danish defense, and scored one of the goals in the Chilean 2-1 victory.
Denmark played well, but there were some individual mistakes, perhaps for lack of concentration on some players, that must not happen for the important World Cup qualifier against Portugal on September 5th. On the other hand, some players were solid, notably Jakob Poulsen.

Anyway, Chile won a deserved victory, it was an entertaining match, but it didn't matter much in the overall picture.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

European travels

I have been travelling around in Europe for a month, and although with the break, there wasn't much football on my busy programme, I did nevertheless notice some things:
-I was in Barcelona when R.D. Espanyol inaugurated their new stadium by winning a 3-0 victory against Liverpool. I have always felt some sympathy for Español for being the "little guys" in Barcelona, and was happy to see them play well. But it was nevertheless truly sad to hear, barely a week later, that Español's captain, Dani Jarque, passed away due to heart failure during a training session in Italy.
-While in Barcelona, I also watched FC Barcelona's trianing match against L.A. Galaxy. Barcelona was far superior, presaging a strong next season, although the victory of 2-1 was arguably too small.
-Great free-kick goal by Beckham! Good that he will be back among the stars in Europe, where he belongs!
-And the Ibrahimovic fever has set in in Barcelona, although the Swedish striker has yet to play a match; his shirt can already be purchased everywhere in the Catalonian city. It will indeed be interesting to see how he unfolds in Barcelona!
-I was also in Austria, a country whose football history I still know very little about. I was only in Vienna, and seeing signs of the two city clubs, Austria and Rapid Vienna, I had to find out about their status, only to find out that Red Bull Salzburg won the league last season. While there, Salzburg in fact qualified to the final qualification round of the Champions League after defeating Dynamo Zagreb 1-2, while Austria Vienna continued to the next round of the Europe League qualification, after defeating Vojdovina 4-2.
-Salzburg is up against Maccabi Haifa FC in the next round.
-I was in Berlin as the Bundesliga season 2009-2010 got underway. The locals of Hertha Berlin, who are still hoping to bring a title to the capital, defeated Hannover 1-0 in the season debut, while defending champions of Wolfburg defeated Stuttgart 2-0.

It was a great trip, but now I am also looking forward to all leagues getting underway for the next season!