Friday, October 30, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: Brazil-Czechoslovakia (1962)

Since 1958 Pelé had become known as the best player in the world, and there were great expectations to the Brazilian national team as the World Cup returned to South America, to Chile specifically.
It was sadly one of the most vile tournaments in terms of fair play and bad refereeing, with some matches that will only go over to history for their violence, notably Yugoslavia-USSR and Chile-Italy.
It was this good to see that Brazil, playing their usual entertaining football, won the championship again, although there were doubts after the first match against Mexico, where Pelé, the 21-year old star of Brazil, was injured and was unable to play the rest of the tournament.
Fortunately, Brazil had other players that could take over, notably the star from Botafogo, Garrincha, as well as Pelé replacement, Amarildo, who scored both goals in Brazil’s first round victory against Spain, whose coach Helenio Herrera before the match had confidently said: “Brazil without Pelé is nothing. Who is Amarildo?”
In the quarterfinal Brazil defeated England, and in the semifinal had faced the host nation Chile, who had shown bad sportsmanship in their 2-4 defeat, playing so harsh that it provoked Garrincha to a red card that he was nevertheless forgiven for, so he could play the final against Czechoslovakia anyway.
Czechoslovakia and Brazil had faced each other in the first round, and tied 0-0, but the Czechoslovaks had not been impressive, and made it to the quarterfinal in spite of losing to Mexico. To their own and everyone’s surprise, including their own, Czechoslovakia had the defeated Hungary and Yugoslavia to reach the final, where Brazil nevertheless remained the favourites.
Still, the central Europeans were eager to play their chance, and were very organized and marking Garrincha very closely, not letting him do his usual rushes down the right side. After only fifteen minutes the Czechoslovak organisation seemed to pay off: Adolf Scherer, who had been their most scoring player in the tournament, made a pass that tore open the Brazilian defense, and Josef Masopust scored coldly (Masopust subsequently went on to become European player of the year in 1962, and the best Czech player of the century).
To everyone’s surprise Czechoslovakia was ahead, but it took only three minutes before Amarildo leveled for Brazil: rushing down the right side, Amarildo made a shot towards the far corner that the Czechoslovak goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf should probably have caught.
Viliam Schrojf, a veteran from two previous World Cups had otherwise been credited with much of Czechoslovakia’s success until then, but was in this final to have one of the worse matches of his career.
In spite of the equalizer, Czechoslovakia remained well-organised, and there were few chances as the second half started. And it was half-way in the second half when Brazil finally broke the Czechoslovak defence: Amarildo got away from a defender near the corner flag, and ran towards the goal; as defenders were approaching him to tackle, he lifted the ball towards the far post where Zito could head the ball into goal.
As the match was coming towards the end, Czechoslovakia did not have much to answer with, and instead Vavá brought Brazil ahead 3-1 on a grave mistake by Schrojf, where he dropped an apparently harmless ball at the feet of the Brazilian striker, who scored easily. Since Vavá had also scored in the final in 1958, Vavá was the first player ever to score in two different finals, a feat that has until today only been achieved by four players (Vavá, Pelé, Paul Breitner and Zinedine Zidane).
Brazil had won their second consecutive World Cup, even without their star, Pelé, and were undoubtedly the best team in the world.

Match Stats:
  • 17th June, 1962 Estadio Nacional, Santiago de Chile
  • Attendance: 68,679
  • Referee: Nikolai Latychev (USSR)
Brazil-Czechoslovakia 3-1
Goals: 0-1 Masopust (15), 1-1 Amarildo (17), 2-1 Zito (68), 3-1 Vavá (77)

Brazil: Gilmar, D. Santos, Mauro, Zozimo, N. Santos, Zito, Garrincha, Didi, Vava, Amarildo, Zagallo
Czechoslovakia: Schrojf, Ticky, Novak, Pluskal, Popluhar, Masopust, Pospichal, Scherer, Kvasnak, Kadraka, Jelinek

Friday, October 23, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: Sweden-Brazil (1958)

Brazil didn’t start the sixth World Cup in Sweden very well: on their first two matches they had defeated Austria 3-0 and tied 0-0 against England (this was the first goalless draw in a World Cup), and it came down to their last first round match where they were facing a strong USSR side that still had a chance at the quarterfinals.
Since the Brazilians had looked too convincing in the first two matches, the Brazilian coach put two new players that had not played the first matches on the team: the Botafogo striker Garrincha, who was already known for his incredible dribbling abilities, as well as a 17-year old striker from Santos, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or rather, Pelé.
Although neither of the players scored, they were instrumental in giving Brazil a 2-0 victory against a stunned USSR team, where the captain, Igor Netto, later said that he was stunned at the Brazilians beautiful game.
And this match set the stage for what became a Brazilian theater of beautiful football, where players such as Garrincha, Vavá and most of all Pelé quickly became idols in Sweden. In the quarterfinals Brazil defeated Wales 1-0 on a lone goal by Pelé, and in the semi-final they trashed one of the best French sides in history (with thelegendary Just Fonaine, who became the most scoring player of the tournament, and until 2002 was still the most scoring player in history) 5-2, and again the 17-year old Pelé scored three goals.
Brazil was ready for the final where the entire world was eager to see this marvelous team!
In the meantime, the hosting Swedes had played well in solid victories against Mexico and Hungary and a tie against Wales in the first round. In the quarterfinal they defeated the USSR 2-0.
Not only benefitting from the home-advantage, Sweden also had a team of outstanding players, revolving around the AC Milan captain Nils Liedholm, the Roma striker Gunnar Nordahl (who had played in AC Milan for seven years, scoring 221 goals, and is still the second most scoring player in the history of AC Milan), as well as the ageing but legendary Gunnar Gren, who had played many years in Italy.
In spite of this, Sweden had during the tournament had some problems mobilizing its fans, who seemed to be rather indifferent to the home side’s results.
In the semi-final the Swedes played the defending world champions of West Germany. Finally the Swedish fans managed to get excited about their team, which played one of the most legendary matches in Sweden’s football history. Leading 2-1 Kurt Hamrin cemented the victory by scoring an extraordinary last goal in the 3-1 victory that took Sweden to the final (Kurt Hamrin, who the same year had changed from Padova to Fiorentina, and became one of the most scoring players in the history of the Serie A).
Sweden was excited to be playing the entertaining and popular Brazilians in the final!
It was the first World Cup final to be transmitted live on television, so millions were watching the match which started on a pitch that was wet from an entire day of rain, something that seemed to favour the home team. And when Nils Liedholm passsed through two weak Brazilian defenders after only four minutes, he seemed to confirm this as he brought Sweden ahead 1-0.
This was the first time that Brazil was losing during the entire tournament, and some people were wondering whether this would cause the South Americans to crash. But this didn’t prove the case, as the Brazilians were overly confident of their abilities. Garrincha seemed unstoppable on the Swedish left-hand defence: within half an hour Brazil went ahead 2-1 on two almost identical goals by Vavá, where he only had to push the ball in after flat crossing from Garrincha on the right.
Brazil was ahead by half-time, and second half was the moment of glory for the young wonder Pelé. Ten minutes into the second half he scored one of the most beautiful goals in a world cup final, when he received a high ball in the Swedish area, stopped it with his chest, and while rounding the Swedish defender, tipped the ball over the defender and smashing the ball into the net with a perfect volley.
Only thirteen minutes later, as the Brazilians were showing off their marvelous footballing skills, the legendary Mario Zagallo took advantage of a Swedish defensive mistake to make it 4-1 (Zagallo was in 1970 the first man ever to win the World Cup both as a player and a manager).
Sweden had been defeated, and it made no difference that Agne Simonsson scored for Sweden ten minutes before the end.
Only one minute from time, Pelé sealed his great performance to become a legend of football, by scoring the last goal of the final.
Brazil had won their first World Cup, in Europe, and to this day it is the only time a non-European side has won in Europe.
The World Cup in Sweden was surely the friendliest world cup, and the one that has been played with the best sportmanship. This was amply symbolized by the Swedish fans celebrating the Brazilian victory, and the Brazilian players thanking them by running a victory round with a giant Swedish flag.

Match Stats:
  • 29th June, 1958 Råsunda Stadion, Stockholm
  • Attendance: 49,737
  • Referee: Maurice Gigue (France)
Brazil-Sweden 5-2
: 0-1 Liedholm (4), 1-1 Vavá (9), 2-1 Vavá (30), 3-1 Pelé (55), 4-1 Zagallo (68), 4-2 Simonsson (80), 5-2 Pelé (89)

Brazil: Gilmar, D. Santos, N. Santos, Zito, Bellini, Orlando, Garrincha, Didí, Vavá, Pelé, Zagallo
Sweden: Svensson, Begmark, Axbom, Börjesson, Gustavsson, Parling, Hamrin, Gren, Simonson, Liedholm, Skoglund

Monday, October 19, 2009

The beach ball goal

I was in a pub in Århus, casually, and started watching the Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool. Not long into the match, saw one of the strangest goals I have seen: Glen Johnson shot on goal for Sunderland, and a beach ball that had been thrown onto the pitch got in the way of the ball, changing its trajectory into Liverpool's goal.
Considering that Liverpool lost 1-0, this goal is of great importance (and forget that Liverpool was quite bad - nobody will remember that - only the goal!) for a Liverpool team that is probably not going to win the Premier League this season. The referee has been critiziced for allowing the goal, but the rules are not clear.
What a strange goal!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ghana World Champions 2009!

I lived in Ghana for many years, and it is with happy nostalgia that I have seen that the Ghana U20 team has won the 2009 U20 World Cup in Egypt, by defeating Brazil in the final, 4-3 after penalty kicks! This is the first time ever an African team wins this tournament, and breaks eight years of South American dominance in the tournament, although Ghana was also in the final in 1993, losing to Brazil, and in 2001 (in fact defeating Brazil in the quarterfinals), losing 3-0 to an outstanding Argetninean side in the final.
But Ghana are now World Champions!!!!!
In most of Europe the Cup has had very limited interest, which just shows that Europe has little interest in the stars of the future, beyond the ones they can pay millions to get outside Europe.
And this is a pity, as the U20 World Cup in Egypt has been excellent, and I do not believe the significance of Ghana's victory should be underestimated: after an outstanding 2006 World Cup (when I happily lived in Ghana), Ghana has now qualified for the 2010 World Cup as well. With players in the best European league, a strong domestic league, outstanding youth-talent, and what is arguably the best and most professional football organisation in all of Africa, Ghana has really become the only serious contender for being Africa's first World Champion.
It will be a long road to travel, but Ghana has taken a first step, and I am celebrating with all wonderful people of Ghana!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: West Germany-Hungary (1954)

A very confident Hungarian side ran on the pitch in Berne for the 1954 World Cup final in Berne, Switzerland: they had not lost a match in four years, and in the four previous matches to reach the final had scored a staggering 25 goals, among them, an 8-3 victory against the other finalists, West Germany, in the first round of the tournament.
In that match the Germans, under the legendary coach Sepp Herberger, had nevertheless lined almost only substitute, not wanting to face Brazil in the quarterfinals, and also played a harsh match to injure the biggest Hungarians stars, notably Ferenc Puskas, who was unable to play until the final.
The Uruguayans in the semifinal had also shown that the mighty Hungarians could be shaken by strong fight and a solid defense, so the Germans went into the final as confident underdogs, willing to play their chance, after defeating Yugoslavia 2-0 in the quarterfinals, and destroying their Austrian brethren 6-1 in the semifinal. Among the German stars were the captain Fritz Walter, the legendary Nüremberg striker Max Morlock, and the striker Helmuth Rahn, who was only called up by Sepp Herberger after the tournament had started.
The Hungarians decided to line up a not wholly recovered Ferenc Puskas for the final, which demanded some changes in a team that until then had been quite solid, but may have proven fatal seen in hindsight against a very solid German team.
However, none of this seemed to matter as the match (which was the first World Cup final that was transmitted live on TV) started: within eight minutes Hungary was up 2-0 on goals by Ference Puskas and Zoltán Czibor, the second goal being a huge mistake by the German goalkeeper Toni Turek.
The Hungarian goals just seemed to make the Germans better though. Within ten minutes Max Morlock and Helmuth Rahn had brought balance to the match, and the Germans dominated the rest of the first half, and things were looking good for the Germans, although nobody really thought that the Hungarians could lose!
Hungary did attack feverishly in the second half, but the Germans defended heroically, and in particular Toni Turek seemed impenetrable on the goal.
Only six minutes before the end of the match Helmuth Rahn received a return ball at the edge of the German area, made one quick move around a Hungarian defender and shot hard and flat towards the lower right goal-corner.
The German commentators screams of “TOOOOOR!” are legendary among commentators.
This remains one of the most legendary goals in German history, as it gave the West Germans the impossible victory against Hungary.
The victory meant a lot for Germans, who had been stigmatised after WWII (they had not even been allowed to participate in the 1950 World Cup), but this gave them something to be proud of, and came to symbolize the recovery of a nation. It was recreated in a 2003 German movie with huge success, “Das Wunder von Bern” (“The Miracle of Bern”).
Germany has since remained one of the mightiest football nations in the world.
The situation was completely different for the Hungarians. The Hungary team of 1954 is arguably one of the best teams in the history of football, and surely the best team never to become world champion. Many of the players from the team had many excuses after the match, from a bad referee (who had disallowed a Puskas-goal for off-side in the dying second of the match), to drugs and black magic.
But truth is that on the day, the German fighting spirit was the best, something that is surely more important to win a World Championship.
The Hungarian “Dream Team” was soon to be dissolved because of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, when most of the players went into exile, such as Kocsis, Puskas, Czibor. Hungarian football, that gave the world such a team, never really recovered from these events.

Match Stats:
  • 4th July, 1954 Wankdorf Stadion, Bern
  • Attendance: 60,000
  • Referee: Willy H.E. Ling (England)
West Germany-Hungary 3-2Goals: 0-1 Puskas (6), 0-2 Czibor (8), 1-2 Morlock (10), 2-2 Rahn (18), 3-2 Rahn (84)

West Germany: Turek, Posipal, Kohlmyer, Eckel, Liebrich, Mai, Rahn, Morlock, O. Walter, F. Walter, Scäfer
Hungary: Grosics, Buzanszky, Lantos, Boszik, Lorant, Zakarias, Puskas, Kocsis, Hidegkuti, Czibor, J. Toth

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Denmark to South Africa: wrap up group 1

Denmark's last match against Hungary was a quite pathetic 0-1 loss (in fact, the first world cup qualifying defeat in Copenhagen since 1981....), but didn't mean anything because of Denmark's 1-0 victory against Sweden last Saturday, that had already given the Danes their ticket to South Africa next year.Denmark was an unfancied team before the qualfiers, and I think everyone, including Danes, would have put their bets on Portugal and Sweden, who have nevertheless trailed the Danes: Sweden was defeated twice, and Portugal only managed one tie with the well-organised Danes.
Because that is what can be said about the Danish team: they fight with spirit, are well-organised, and cold-blooded in the important situations - they follow their luck, and thus are deserved winners of the group.
That said, the Danish team still lacks stars, and when they play bad (like they did tonight, or recently against Albania), they play awfully, something that they can ill-afford in South Africa. However, one of the main reasons they have qualified is that they have been favoured by hugely disappointing opponents in the qualifiers: Portugal is surely a better team than Denmark, but have as usual been arrogant and lacked a fighting spirit that can still cost them their qualification in their coming play-off match.
I am sorry for Sweden, but they have simply been awful, and I really think that this must be the worse team in Swedish history; the players are not that bad, but they play primitively and predictable football, with high balls up to Ibrahimovic, who in spite of his stardom in his clubs, seems to be no particular asset when the tactics are so predictable. Sweden will not be missed in South Africa.
Anyway, Denmark will not be world champions. Depending on the draw, they may struggle to progress from the first round, but on the other hand, the comforting thought for a Danish fan is that the Danes seem to perform best when faced against outstanding opponents, but disappoint against smaller teams. I certainly hope it is the former that they will take with them to South Africa!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Uruguay versus Argentina

This evening Uruguay and Argentina are facing each other in Montevideo, Uruguay for the final qualifying match of the South American World Cup qualifying group. Uruguay is currently on fifth place, one point behind Argentina on the fourth place, which qualifies directly to South Africa. Therefore, Uruguay needs a victory, while Argentina is not necessarily sure of keeping its fourth place with a tie, as Ecuador could theoretically pass them with a victory against Chile. Still, considering the Chile-Ecuador match, Uruguay is still in danger of being completely eliminated; a fifth place (for Argentina, Uruguay or Ecuador) will give a play-off match against either Honduras or Costa Rica.
Everything is neverthless at play for Argentina and Uruguay, two giants of world football, who are also the two countries that have faced one another the most times in history. This will be their 198th official encounter since their first one in 1902, and Argentina has won 87 times, 51 have been ties, and Uruguay has won 59 times.
Many of their encounters have been important matches, such as Copa America finals, Olympic matches (the most notable being the one in 1928, when Uruguay won gold in the final against Argentina), and World Cup matches - most notably the final of the 1930 World Cup that Uruguay won at home in the very same stadium where the match will be played this evening.
Be sure that it will be another drama!
Vamos Argentina!!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy like a Christmas Chicken

I am happy like a Christmas Chicken that Denmark qualified for the World Cup in South Africa after a deserved 1-0 victory against a very poor Swedish side in Copenhagen. Cheers!

Greatest World Cup matches: Hungary-Uruguay (1954)

The 1954 World Cup in Switzerland is still the one where most goals have been scored per match. This was not only an expression of poor defenses, but also for the fact that there were some extraordinarily offensive teams participating in the tournament.
Two of these strong attacking teams were to face one another in the semifinal: Hungary and the defending world champions of Uruguay.
The South Americans had arrived to Switzerland with an experienced team that was, if anything, stronger than the side that had won in Marcaná four year ago. In the first round the Uruguayans had destroyed Scotland 7-0, defeated Czechoslovakia 2-0, and in the quarterfinal played an extraordinary game against the always-strong English, and won 4-2.
At this point, before the semi-final, Uruguay could in fact bring forth the fact that they had never lost a match in a World Cup!
Hungary was nevertheless not going to be an easy match. The Central Europeans were undefeated in nearly four years, and had even been the first team to defeat England at Wembley, 6-3 in 1953.
The team was indeed the envy of the entire world.
In their first three matches the Hungarians had scored a staggering 21 goals, winning 8-3 against West Germany, 9-0 against South Corea, and 4-2 against Brazil in a match that came to be known as the “Battle of Bern”, one of the most disgraceful matches in World Cup history.
To this day, Hungary remains the team that has had the highest goal-scoring average in a World Cup, and Sándor Koscis, the top-scorer of the tournament with 11 goals, the most prolific player per match with 2.2 goals!
The match between Uruguay and Hungary was to be an hommage to the game, with many at the time calling it the best match in history. It was undoubtfully the match that any football-fan would have preferred as the final. And this was even the case as two of the stars were unable to play the final: Hungary’s playmaker Ferenc Puskas and the Uruguayans legendary captain Obdulio Varela were both out due to injury.
The Hungarians started attacking feverishly, and seemed they would overrun the Uruguayans. After 13 minutes this bore fruit as Zoltán Czibor received a header from Sándor Kocsis in the area, and cooly placed the ball in the left-hand corner.
After 1-0 at half-time, in the first minute of the second half Hungary seemed to have sealed off the match when the three-time goalscorer from Wembley, Nándor Hidegkuti, scored on a spectacular diving header.
However, the Uruguayans had learned never to give up, and the legendary Juan Alberto Schiaffino on a confident side, that managed to put pressure on the Hungarians. Only fifteen minutes before the end Juan Hohberg got space in between two defenders on a pass by Schiaffino and scored.
Uruguay was now full of confidence while the Hungarian masters looked shaky. Four minutes before the end Juan Hohberg again sqeezed in between the two central defenders and scored the equalizer for Uruguay amid the desperate Hungarian defenders. According to legend, Hohberg passed out from the excitement and fatigue of the goal!
The match had completely changed, and had to go into extra time, and at first it seemed that the Uruguayans had everything going for them: Uruguay had been milimeters from going ahead when they in an extraordinary Hohberg-Schiaffino combination hit the post. However, the Hungarian magicians then started exerting more pressure, and Sándor Kocsis scored twice on headers, to give Hungary the 4-2 victory that brought them into the semi-final.
Uruguay’s players were graceful in their defeat to the best team in the world: the great half-back Jószef Bozsik, later recalled how he had almost cried of emotion when Schiaffino came to congratulate him at the end of the match: “It was the most beautiful, the most humane match of my life.”
Many commentators agreed, and at the time many people remembered this as the match of the century.

Match Stats:
  • 30th June, 1954, La Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Attendance: 37,000
  • Referee: Benjamin Griffiths (Wales)
Hungary-Uruguay 4-2 (After Extra Time)
:1-0 Czibor (13), 2-0 Hidegkuti (46), 2-1 Hohberg (75), 2-2 Hohberg (86), 3-2 Kocsis (111), 4-2 Kocsis (116)

Hungary: Grosics; Lorant, Buzanski, Lantos, Bozsik, Zakarias, Kocsis, Czibor, Hidegkuti, Budai, Palotas
Uruguay: Maspoli; Santamaria, Martinez, Andrade, Hohberg, Schiaffino, Cruz, Carballo, Borges, Ambrois, Sauto

Thursday, October 08, 2009


On Saturday the two viking nations of Denmark and Sweden are facing one another in an all-important World Cup qualifier in the European qualifier group 1. Denmark is leading the group with 18 points, three more than Sweden on second place (and with Portugal and Hungary on third and fourth place respectively, with 13 points each).
Two points in the last two matches against Sweden and Hungary are thus enough for Denmarj to qualify for South Africa: If Denmark defeats Sweden the last match against Hungary. A tie will also be good for Denmark, although they will then have to avoid losing to Hungary.
Sweden needs a victory, but that may not prove enough in case Denmark defeats Hungary, as Denmark has a better goal difference than the Swedes, who are therefore called to attack.

Earlier in the qualifiers, Denmark defeated Sweden 1-0 in Stockholm, in a match where the Swedes were pathetically bad, more than the Danes being good. Both teams are similar in the sense that they rely on solid organisation, tactical discipline and strong physique to level their lack of footballing skills. The only superstar of either team is FC Barcelona's Zlatan Ibrahimovic who on the national team has not really been any good, without quality players to play behind him. However, be sure that with their back against the wall the Swedes will fight for their victory, while the Danes have to perform much better than their pathetic performance against Albania in their last qualifiers.

Added to the importance of the match, there is the traditional between the neighboring countries. This match will in fact be the match number 101 between the two nations since their first encounter in 1913 (which Denmark won 8-0!). The encounter number 100 was the one Denmark won in Stockholm, but the teams have also had some excellent encounter lately, notably a Euro 2008 qualifier in Copenhagen in June 2007, which at the score 3-3 was stopped when a drunken Danish "roligan" attacked the referee, and Sweden was subsequently awarded a 3-0 victory by UEFA.
All in all the record is of 37 victories for Denmark, 45 victories for Sweden, and 18 ties, with a score of 182-165 in Sweden's favour, but I certainly hope that the record will improve in Denmark's favour on Saturday!
Go Denmark!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Pelé versus Obama

Last week Rio de Janeiro was awarded the hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games in a close contest with Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago. All countries had brought leaders and celebrities to Copenhagen to promote their bids. The US President Barack Obama even came to promote Chicago, that nevertheless, to many people's surprise, were the first to be eliminated.
Prior to the decision, Pelé had said about the presence of the US president: "If they have Obama, we have Pelé."
Of course!!!! I would much rather meet Pelé (although I would probably not vote for him): Pelé is a King, a Legend, a living Star!!! In comparison to that, Obama is just another mediocre salesman.
I am personally delighted Pelé and Rio de Janeiro won.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Viva Sevilla

Real Madrid had started the Spanish season with five consecutive victories before yesterday's match against Sevilla, just as the defending champions of FC Barcelona, and I think that most outside observers of Spanish football considered that the Spanish league will be a question of FC Barcelona versus Real Madrid, and all other teams are just to be observers. However, this clearly ignores that FC Barcelona has been as awesome as last season (they have still won all their matches after defeating Almería this weekend), and that Real Madrid, in spite of its victories, has not really gotten its game flowing, while other teams are strong too.
One of the teams that is to try to bid for the title, Sevilla, played Real Madrid last night. Before today's match Sevilla had only lost one match (on opening day to Valencia), but had since won everything. And last night they continued on their winning streak while stopping Real Madrid's, when winning 2-1, on goals by and outstanding Jesús Navas and Renato, taking the second spot in the league behind Barcelona.
Real Madrid reminds of the "Galacticos"-team: Full of stars who don't really play together, and thus entirely dependent on one star doing something spectacular. One of these stars, Cristiano Ronaldo, was not playing last night, and a continuosuly shaky defense was only saved by the world class goalkeeper Iker Casillas, without whom Real Madrid could have suffered a huge defeat.
There is only one team in Spain, FC Barcelona, and they are the team to beat - not Real Madrid.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Good Brøndby victory

The last seasons have been quite disappointing for any fan of Brøndby. Living abroad much of the time I have only followed indirectly, but have been disappointed to see Brøndby defeated and far away from the Danish title, but entered this season full of perhaps vain hope. Until now, Brøndby has been wavering, much as many of the other teams in the Danish league, where the top seven teams are within five points of each other within the first ten rounds.
Last weekend Brøndby was destroyed 4-1 by one of the positive surprises of the Danish league this season, Silkeborg IF, who nevertheless should never be so much better than Brøndby.
Today Brøndby played FC Nordsjælland - not a top team but nevertheless with some very good players. I had a careful optimism and hope of a narrow victory, but was delighted to see an enterntaining match where Brøndby's strikers, who have been rather disappointing, finally struck: Morten Duncan Rasmussen scored four goals, and Brøndby carried away a victory of 6-3, giving hope again that the team may be strong enough to compete for the title.
Brøndby are now on third place, two points behind Esbjerg of first spot, and equal to FC Copenhagen.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: Brazil-Uruguay (1950)

The World Cup of 1950 in Brazil was the only one ever that was played without a final. Instead, all four teams in the final round (Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Sweden) played in a final group, where the winner would become world champion. In spite of this, the group went into what was practically a final when Brazil faced Uruguay in Maracana in the last group match on the largest football stadium in the world, the mighty Maracaná in Rio de Janeiro, that had been built specially for this tournament.
Before this final match Uruguay had tied Spain 2-2, and barely defeated Sweden by 3-2. In the meantime, the Brazilians had been awesome: Spain had been defeated by 6-1 and Sweden had been trashed by 7-1 in a match where the later top-scorer of the tournament, Ademir, scored four goals.
In front of 200,000 spectators in Marcaná against their tiny neighbors of Uruguay, Brazil needed only a tie to proclaim themselves as world champions for the first time ever, and nobody really doubted that it would happen: more than 500,000 shirts with the inscription “Brazil campeón 1950” had already been sold; gold watches and limousines reserved for the Brazilian players, parties prepared, the newspapers had already prepared their celebratory front-pages, and the Brazilian national bank had even printed a commemorative coin with the triumph. The security went beyond Brazil, as the president of FIFA, Jules Rimet, had prepared a speech in Portuguese to congratulate the victors.
At the same time, the Brazilians had been so superior before the match that even the leaders of the Uruguayan Football Federation urged their players to play to limit the loss, and that they had done what they could by reaching the final.
This greatly angered the great captain of the Uruguayan side, Obdulio Varela, who urged his companions to do their best and ignore the Uruguayan leaders, whom he refused to talk to after the match that led to a very unlikely result: Uruguay won, and became world champion for the second time.
The game had otherwise started as had been anticipated for the Brazilians: they pressed massively, but were nevertheless unable to score against the Uruguayan and Peñarol goalkeeper Roque Maspoli. Still, Uruguay was barely able to attack, and 0-0 at halftime still made Brazil world champion.
Early in the second half all of Brazil exploded in the expected celebration as Friaca brought Brazil ahead. The legend tells that the Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela picked up the ball, and spent many minutes protesting an unexistant off-side. He later recalled that he had done it on purpose, as they needed to cool down the match against the Brazilian “football machine”. “If not they would overrun us”, he added.
From that moment the Uruguayans started attacking: they had nothing to lose in the inferno of Maracaná.
In the 66th minute the outstanding tehcnical player Alcides Ghiggia, who a years later captained AS Roma in Italy, received the ball on the right hand side and spectacularly got around a defender to make a perfect pass to the Peñarol and later AC Milan striker Juan Alberto Schiaffino, who got in front of the defender to make the equalizer for Uruguay.
The stadium was dead quiet, in spite of the fact that Brazil still had all the odds with them. Obdulio Varela nevertheless recalled “…I saw our rivals who were pale and insecure and I told my comrades that these guys can never win, that we had passed our nerves over to them. The rest was easy.”
Eleven minutes before the end of the match Alcides Ghiggia again outplayed a defender and made a shot at the nearest corner which went in and brought Uruguay ahead 2-1. The Brazilian goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa looked somewhat duped, and was blamed for the goal for many years after. In fact, he was largely despised in all of Brazil, and in an interview in 2000 he bitterly said "The maximum punishment in Brazil is 30 years imprisonment, but I have been paying, for something I am not even responsible for, by now for 50 years.”
Brazil tried to attack during the last ten minutes of the match, but without belief against the Uruguayans who had done what nobody believed to be possible.
As the game ended silence descended upon the Maracaná. People cried, and many suicides were reported in Brazil on the following days. The ceremony to hand over the trophy didn’t take place, and instead Jules Rimet handed Obdulio Varela the trophy amid the chaos of the pitch.
The Uruguayan players didn’t leave the stadium for four hours, afraid of what could happen to them. However, many of the players of the team later recalled that there was no reason for this: when they went out into the streets of Rio de Janeiro the following day, they said that they were only met with congratulatory remarks by Brazilians, who nevertheless didn’t show the same grace towards their own players, who had to live the rest of their lives with this defeat.
This was Brazil’s most painful defeat ever. To this day, Brazil, the mightiest footballing nation of all time, is still the only world champion that has never won the title on its own soil.For Uruguay, this is their greatest victory ever.

Match Stats:
  • 16th July, 1950, Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
  • Attendance: 200,000
  • Referee: George Reader (England)
Uruguay-Brazil 2-1
: 0-1 Friaca (47), 1-1 Schiaffino (66), 2-1 Ghiggia (79)

Uruguay: Maspoli, M. Gonzalez, Tejera, Gambetta, Varela, Andrade, Ghiggia, Perez, Miguez, Schiaffino, Moran
Brazil: Barbosa, Augusto, Juvanal, Bauer, Danilo, Bigode, Friaca, Zizinho, Ademir, Jair, Chico