Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Granted, I have never been a fan of Real Madrid, but this latest team, under the leadership of José Mourinho, was gaining my respect, until today.
A great team emerges in the face of adversity. Until today against their archrivals of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid had cruised through the Spanish League, and expectations were therefore enormous for the match: two of the greatest teams in the world. But truth is, there was only one great team on the pitch today: FC Barcelona dominated every aspect of the match, and not only the 5-0 score was a humilliation of Real Madrid, but more so the way the Catalonians played around with the helpless Madrid players. It was a show of strength from Barca, but the way it ended for Madrid was not gracious. I understand players can get frustrated, but Sergio Ramos' slaughter of Messi and attack on Puyol at the end was much more than just frustration; it was the pathetic expression of a player that does not belong at this level.
There is only one great team in the Spanish league, and it is FC Barcelona.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Best league...?

Any football fan in his/her right mind should be looking forward to tonight's match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Between them the teams assemble some 13 world champions and some of the best players in the world. It will be a splendid match.
However, for the Spanish football league, this cannot be good. Last season these two teams completely ruled the league, and this season they are again far ahead of the third ranked team. Truth is, the Spanish league is a two-team league, just like the Scottish, where the rest of the teams have just been relegated to be mere spectators. Barcelona and Real Madrid win every week, and the only interest when they are not playing one another, is how large their margin of victory will be.
Thus, the Spanish league may have the two best teams in the world, but it is surely not the best league: when matches between Getafe and Athletic Bilbao hardly raise an eyebrow, and the largest surprise is if Barcelona "only" wins 2-1 against Mallorca, it proves that the league is far less interesting than the English, Italian or German leagues, where competition is much closer, and there is a high standard.
Again, while any fan must love two teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid, in the long run this cannot be healthy for Spanish football at large: there will be disillusion among other teams who simply cannot compete, and interest will fall, in the end creating a smaller future generation of new Spanish players. The Spanish football league, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, would do better to try to create a system like in Germany or England, where TV money is distributed more evenly and there is more possibility for teams to retain young stars. A more equal playing field can only be of interest to Spain!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Portugal destroys the world champions!

4-0 is the largest a defending world champion has lost, and it was repeated tonight, with Portugal's 4-0 trashing of Spain in a friendly match in Lisbon. Granted, it was a friendly match, but just like Argentina's 4-1 victory earlier this year, these are valuable scalps for the winning side, and Portugal in particular.
Portugal was plainly bad in the world cup under Carlos Queiroz, and were almost a walkover for Spain in the last-16. After the world cup, it would take a pathetic start to the Euro qualifiers (tie with Cyprus and a defeat to Norway) before Queiroz was fired, and the new coach Paulo Bento seems to have raised the standard of the side that always has potential but disappoints: in the Euro qualifiers Iceland and Denmark were defeated, and tonight's victory will sure raise the alarm in teams that have to face the rising Portuguese machine.
Spain in the meantime cannot use this defeat for anything in spite of the huge humilliation it is to lose to its smaller neighbour, and even as defending world champions!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Goal number 4000

When Valencia defeated Getafe 2-0 today, Tino Costa scored Valencia's goal number 4000 in the Spanish league. Quite a historical event in an otherwise boring match.
Valencia is now 4th in the Spanish league, behind the local rivals of Villarreal. Anyway, both teams have way to go up to the leading teams of Real Madrid and Barcelona, who will, yet again, be fighting for the title.
In any case, cheers for Valencia. It is not so often these days...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Champions League Group Stages: 4th round

Fourth matches of the 2010-2011 Champions League Group stages have just been played, and we are beginning to see the contours of each group.
  • Group A: Tottenham Hotspurs managed to defeat the defending champions of Inter Milan 3-1, and are now leading the group on better goal difference than the Italians. In the meantime FC Twente surprisingly won 0-2 away to Werder Bremen. They have five points, and if they manage to upset Inter in Milan in the next round, we would be looking at a sensation! Still, I believe Inter should carry the day in the end, and progress together with Tottenham (and wonderful to see an English team that is not Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal...).
  • Group B: In group B Olympique Lyon had been looking awesome with three straight wins until their match against a reawakened Benfica in this round. In an exciting match, the Portuguese won 4-3 and now has two wins, and it only one point behind German Schalke 04 on second spot, who disappointingly only managed 0-0 with Hapoel Tel Aviv (the Israeli's first point). Benfica will be facing the Israelis in the next round while Shalke will be hosting Lyon. But it all could come down to an exciting last round match in Lisbon between Benfica and Scalke 04!
  • Group C: Manchester United cruised through a 0-3 away victory to Turkish Bursaspor, and are now on first spot with 10 points, one victory away from making it to the next round. Their next match with take the Reds to Glasgow. Rangers will desperately be needing a victory after they lost 3-0 to Valencia, who seems heading steadily to second spot. However, note that with some strange results, we could be looking at a nervewrecking (for me) Manchester United-Valencia in the last round!
  • Group D: A major surprise in group D was that FC Copenhagen managed to get a 1-1 draw with mighty FC Barcelona. Copenhagen are now on second spot one point behind Barcelona with 8 points. Although Barcelona should be able to put through a first spot on the group, things are looking very good for the Danes who have Rubin Kazan away and Panathinaikos at home in their last two matches. These last two teams tied 0-0 in their encounter, and both seem poised for an early exit. But do not underestimate Rubin Kazan! (I am a Brøndby fan, and therefore I have very mixed feelings about Copenhagen. However, I have to congratulate all my FCK friends, in whose place I would love to be right now!)
  • Group E: Bayern Munich defeated CFR Cluj 0-4 away, and are with Chelsea the only team with four straight victories in the CL. In fact with today's victory, the chance of them not winning the group is very slim. This would have to happen by the hands of an AS Roma side that has not been convincing at all this season. They won 2-3 against Basel, but will have to defeat Bayern Munich and CFR Cluj by large margins if they are to take first spot. Although Roma seems in a better position, a defeat to Bayern Munich in the next match could mean that CFR Cluj and Basel could be playing for a possible second spot in the next round!
  • Group F: Chelsea is looking awesome this season, and with a 4-1 victory against Spartak Moscow took their fourth straight win. With a score of 12-2, and the way that they have been playing, it seems unlikely that Chelsea can be threatened on first spot. In the meantime, the fight seems poised for the second spot: Spartak Moscow remains there with six points, but Olympique Marseille took a huge jump on goals (before tonight they had only scored one in the three previous matches) by a 0-7 away win against pathetic Zilina. Next round, Marseille is travelling to Moscow to try to repeat Spartak's 0-1 victory in southern France. It will be a nerve-wrecking match. In the meantime Zilina, with four defeats and a score of 1-15 probably just want this to be over with. Just not good enough for this level!
  • Group G: Real Madrid was looking to completely close down the group in Milan, but in an exciting match they managed to equalize AC Milan's 2-1 lead in the last minute (where famous World Cup final referee, Howard Webb, had yet another match of controversial calls...). With ten points, Real Madrid are nevertheless certain to progress. AC Milan, on second spot with 5 points can theoretically threaten the Spaniards, but they should instead be looking behind them: Ajax Amsterdam are one point behind them, but only two points behind them French Auxerre came alive after defeating the Dutch side 2-1. Auxerre-AC Milan in the next round is bound to be interesting, as will Ajax-Madrid, as all three teams are fighting for the second spot!
  • Group H: Arsenal had three straight wins, and when going ahead early against Shakhtar Donetsk were looking for their fourth. However, the Ukranians, playing at home, fought back to win 2-1, and the top of the group is now looking very exciting, with Arsenal and Shakhtar both with 9 points, and Braga just behind them on third with six points after defeating Parizan Belgrade 0-1 in Belgrade. Braga started the tournament by losing 6-0 to Arsenal, but when they receive the English side at home in the next round, they are hopefully going to be better motivated, seeing that they can completely turn around the group. However, as both Shakhtar and Arsenal have one match each against the poor Partizan side, it is most likely that both of them will progress to the next round.
Some teams are already bound for the next round, some are out, but still need to fight to get there, and the coming matches will be much more exciting!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Finally for Argentina!

Sergio Batista has been caretaker Argentina coach since the firing of Diego Armando Maradona after the World Cup. But amid confusing political maneuvering where Maradona's name has even come up again as candidate amid heavyweights such as Diego Simeone, Alejandro Sabella and Carlos Bianchi, Sergio Batista was today finally confirmed as the coach to take Argentina forward and build up a new team looking at the Copa América 2011 in Argentina.
Batista has not had it easy as caretaker. Working to show he was the best man, he did not experiment much, instead using much of Argentina's veterans and established players. The impressive 4-1 victory against world champions Spain was such a match, where players such as Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso were outstanding, but will hardly be present at Copa América next year.
So the best for Batista and for Argentina is to finally have clarity about the post, and finally look forward. There is no doubt that Batista has the skills to carry the team forward: as a prominent player in the 1986 World Cup side, he has also coached the Under-20 side, as well as the Olympic Gold medalists of Peking 2008.
Surely a lot of challenges lies ahead, but finally this tiny step has been resolved.