Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best teams of 2011

Here is my (personal) list of the best football teams of the year 2011:
10) Borussia Dortmund: The Germans won the 2010-11 Bundesliga title playing entertaining football and a very young team. They have nevertheless disappointed in the fall.
9) Manchester City: Proof that money can buy a team, they have nevertheless also worked hard under Roberto Mancini to become a new power in English football. They won the FA Cup and won a resounding 6-1 against their arch-rivals of Manchester United in the Premier League.
8) AC Milan: The Italian giants won the Serie A for the first time in seven years, and seem stronger than they have seemed for many years!
7) Real Madrid: Real Madrid's succes is apparently only measured against their arch-rivals of FC Barcelona. This year saw some crucial matches between these two sides, of which Real Madrid only managed to take the Spanish Cup title. Still, in the second half of the year the team under José Mourinho (whom I still consider the best coach in the world) seems only to have been getting better, although still not enough to beat the Catalonians.
6) FC Porto: The Portuguese side was awesome in the Portuguese league to take the title, and only sealed their strength by taking the UEFA Europa League title as well. In the second half they have looked weaker after selling out some stars, and were eliminated from the Champions League, but are still a strong team.
5) Universidad de Chile: The Chilean side won the Chilean torneo apertura playing very entertaining football under coach Jorge Sampaoli. In the fall, they were extraordinary in taking their first international title, the Copa Sudamericana, playing attacking football that surprised their opponents!
4) Venezuela: Venezuela have always been the footballing midgets of South America, but have this year, under coach César Farias grown to be a team to be reckoned with. In this year´s Copa América they were very unlucky not to make it to the final, and have in the fall taken the first steps to a World Cup by, among others, defeating Argentina for the first time in their history.
3) Santos: The Brazilian side won this years' Copa Libertadores title in a convincing way, and playing positive football they are raising the flag for Brazilian football in an otherwise meager year. They lost the World Club Cup final to FC Barcelona, but that does not take away their extraordinary year.
2) Uruguay: Forget Brazil and Argentina! There is no doubt that Uruguay is the best side in South America! They showed that their 4th place in the 2010 World Cup was no coincidence by taking the Copa América title in a convincing way on Argentina soil, and are clearly ahead in the World Cup qualifiers after some resounding victories!
1) FC Barcelona: No matter what you think about them, FC Barcelona plays awesome football, and has continued so this year, taking the Champions League title after a great victory against Manchester United and taking the Spanish League title. In spite of the pressure from Real Madrid, they crushed them when everyone thought Real Madrid had a chance, and took the World Club Championship after crushing Santos in the final.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Barcelona World Champion

Perhaps it was only a formality that Barcelona should officially proclaim itself the best team in the world in 2012 after their resounding victory against Real Madrid recently. But surely, their victory in the FIFA Club World Championship against Brazilian Santos was no less resounding. The final had been looked forward to, since Santos is also a club that plays entertaining attacking football and has some outstanding players. However, as Barcelona also did in this years' Champions League final, Barcelona seems to be awesome when against teams that are hailed as possible threats to their current footballing hegemony. There was never doubt as to the best team, and Barcelona won 4-0, with another extraordinary match by Lionel Messi, who will probably win the best footballer award of 2012 thanks to all his goals and antics at Barcelona.
Barcelona are surely the best team of 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life and football

In life there are many things you cannot choose: you cannot choose your parents, where you are born, even whom you love is a difficult one: against all logic, a man may fall madly in love with some third-rate, cranky, controlling, selfish, unfaithful and evil bitch with a minority complex.
Football is most often a mere reflection of life itself, where a man walks from happiness to sadness, from expectations to disappointments, and as in life itself, you most often do not choose whom you love: you may end up supporting a third rate, violent, defensive, half-corrupt, arrogant piece of shit team that would make the entire world a favour by playing curling.
But they are still whom you love, against all logic. It is simply proof that football is not about logic, but about love.
I am not trying to defend the fact that all teams I support continue without winning shit, and making me frustrated more often than they make me happy. I am trying to understand why I reflect all lack of success in my life in general, against the backdrop of my love-hate relationship to groups of guys who kick a ball around for a living. Hey, or perhaps it is the other way around? A strange inverse law of attraction? Perhaps a loser like me is simply just attracted to a bunch of worthless losing sides…?

But as in life, hope remains: I am still hoping that one day, maybe one single day, I can walk proudly down the street, with my head raised and my team's shirt on, knowing that on that very day, I was victorious.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Champions League play-off draw

The draw for the Champions League 2011-12 1/16th play-off took place today with the following pairings:
  • AC Milan-Arsenal
  • Napoli-Chelsea
  • CSKA Moscow-Real Madrid
  • Apoel Nicosia-Olympique Lyon
  • Basel-Bayern Munich
  • Benfica-Zenit St. Petersburg
  • FC Barcelona-Bayer Leverkusen
  • Olympique Marseille-Inter Milan
Some very interesting matches indeed! In particular the big matches between English and Italian sides, as well as Marseilles' clash with Inter Milan, and if Basel can continue its surprises against Bayern Munich!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Barcelona is still the best

Before tonight's classic match in the Spanish League Real Madrid had every reason to be optimistic; they were leading the Spanish league, had won their last 15 matches (a record only achieved by Real Madrids' legendary side from the 1960s), and were pumping in goals. They were obviously full of confidence to take a greater lead ahead of their archrivals at home in Madrid.
On the other hand, FC Barcelona was looking to some as a team losing the air of its balloon; only Messi seemed able to score goals, while their defense was looking more feeble.
Many were predicting the decline of Barcelona and the rise of a new Real Madrid side tonight. But everything was put to rest as Barcelona proved that they continue to be the best side in the world.
Real Madrid started well by taking the lead after only 20 second after an awful mistake by Victor Valdes let Karim Benzema score. And they seemed to press on, taking the spaces away and dominating the midfield. But as often happens, it is virtually impossible physically to pressure Barcelona like that, and as the first half progressed, Barcelona started to bite themselves into the match, and Alexis Sanchez scored an excellent equalizer on a Lionel Messi creation.
After this, Barcelona dominated, and José Mourinho seemed unable to find a tactical solution to their dominance. When Barcelona went ahead 1-2 in the second half it was a bit of a lucky punch by Xavi, but seen overall, it was well-deserved. After this, there was only one team on the pitch as Barcelona dominated completely, and the 1-3 victory was sealed by Cesc Fábregas.

It was a great match, seeing Barcelona take out one of the best teams in the world currently. While Real Madrid is still on the lead in Spain, one must wait to next years' "clásico" in Barcelona, where the league will be decided. Until then, both teams will probably wander from victory to victory in a second-rate league which is decided in the two "clásicos".
And first set went to Barcelona.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The surprises

The last round of matches of the group stages of the 2011-12 Champions League had a couple of surprises.
Firstly, Manchester United was elminated for the first time in the group stages of the tournament since the 2005-06 season. More surprising than this fact is nevertheless that it happened against the underestimated FC Basel in the last match of the tournament, where the English side needed only a tie to follow Benfica to the next round. However, the Swiss side was much more efficient, when they went ahead 1-0 early in the match they played a controlled defensive that kept United away for most of the match. Add a bit of luck and a late strike, and Basel managed to win 2-1 to complete Manchester United's sensational exit. In group A, Manchester City was also, less surprisingly, eliminated in spite of their win against Bayern Munich, so there will be no more CL football in Manchester this season.
Another surprise was that Olympique Lyon managed to follow Real Madrid to the next round in group D, after they needed to win with six goals away to Dynamo Zagreb to overtake Ajax Amsterdam (who losing to Real Madrid, could have solved it for themselves). Lyon won 1-7 in Zagreb, but the odd thing is how it happened: One man down, Zagreb nevertheless took the lead, only to see the French equalize before halftime on a gross defensive mistake. In the second half the home side fell mysteriously apart when Lyon scored six goals to take the ticket to the next round. French authorities are now looking into the match for the suspision of it being fixed, a thought that I think must have crossed many football fans' mind, including my own. Sadly, the fixing of matches at this level is not unheard of... It involving French sides is not unheard of neither.
That said, it may be wholly fair, and in that sense, one must congratulate Lyon, but the surprise simply looks too suspicious not to be looked into. I hope it was not fixed though.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The usual story

Every year, around these dates, which incidentally includes my birthday, the Champions League is entering the last round of the group stages. And often, around my birthday, my favorite team of Valencia is eliminated from the Champions League.
Yesterday was no exception; leading up to the match much of the talk had been about the pressure on Chelsea. I must admit, that I never saw it that way. Chelsea were surely favorites against a Spanish side that has not been convincing in the tournament until last rounds trashing of Genk. And my bad feeling about the match were totally confirmed, as Valencia had no chance against Chelsea in the 0-3 defeat, where Didier Drogba scored two of the goals, and former Valencia star, Juan Mata, played a great match against his former teammates.
The difference between the two sides is also an expression of the different levels of the Spanish and English leagues: Number four in the Premier League is far better than number three in La Liga, where the two top teams are really also the only competitive sides in the Champions League.
Another birthday present from Valencia...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


One of the greatest midfielders of all time, Socrates, has passed away at the age of 57.
In 1982, he captained the Brazilian side at the World Cup in Spain. With him as a leader, the team is surely the best side never to have won a World Cup, after they were defeated by Italy in one of the most legendary matches in World Cup history.
A Brazilian triumph in the World Cup always eluded him (he also participated in the 1986 World Cup where Brazil was eliminated by France in the quarterfinal).
In his club career, his main achievements were in Corinthians, but he also played for Botafogo, Fiorentina, Flamengo and Santos.

Besides his extraordinary skills and vision in the football pitch, Socrates was an extremely charismatic person. He is perhaps the player that best symbolized football in the1980s . His tall, skinny, rugged appearance made him stand out in the crowd, he was educated as a doctor, columnist, writer, and he had strong opinions about politics, where he organized protests against a former Brazilian military government.
Socrates will be missed, but he will always remain a footballing legend. RIP.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Euro 2012 Groups

The groups are as follows:

Group A:
  • Poland
  • Greece
  • Czech Republic
  • Russia

Not the most scary group for the Polish hosts, but one should also look out for the Russians.

Group B:

  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Portugal

Surely the group of death! Germany and Netherlands nevertheless remain favorites to win the group and the tournament, while Denmark and Portugal will be looking to make a surprise.

Group C:

  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Croatia
  • Ireland

The last two world champions are to face one another in a group where everyone will support Ireland, and Croatia must not be underestimated!

Group D:

  • Ukraine
  • France
  • England
  • Sweden

Not an easy group for the Ukrainians, where England are surely favorites, but everyone will be looking forward to England-France!

The tournament starts on June 8th with Poland facing Greece!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Champions League fever!

This round of the 2011-12 Champions League has been splendid, as teams are struggling to get over the last hurdles to the next round of the tournament.
The Premier League leaders of Manchester City have not had an easy time in Group A. A great Napoli side, with two goals by the perhaps best striker in Europe right now, Edison Cavani, defeated City 2-1, and just need to defeat Villarreal to make it to the next round. Bayern Munich made sure they made it to the next round by defeating the poor Spanish side 3-1.
The other Manchester side has also been struggling in group C, and last nights' 2-2 at home against Benfica will make the last match an all-or-nothing against the big surprise of Basel, who will look for the sensation of eliminating Manchester United at home in Switzerland!
In group D, Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid are looking as a serious candidate for the title after trashing Dynamo Zagreb 6-2.
Another Spanish side, Valencia, also trashed another team, Genk, 7-0, in group E. But things are looking bleak for Valencia: Bayer Leverkusen defeated Chelsea 2-1, and are now leading the group before facing Genk in their last match. In the meantime, Valencia will have to pull an unlikely victory in London...
In Group G one of the biggest surprises is on the way, as the Cyprus side of Apoel Nicosia made it to the next round after their 0-0 tie to Zenit St. Petersburg. The Russian side will now face an all-or-nothing match in Portugal against FC Porto, who in spite of defeating Shakhtar Donetsk 0-2 away, must defeat Zenit to make it to the next round.
Finally, AC Milan and FC Barcelona gave us the best match of the CL this season as Barcelona won a great match in Milan 2-3, and are now sure to go on to the next round on the first spot, while AC Milan takes second spot. Still, it is these kind of matches that the CL is all about, and one can only look forward to some feverish dramas in the final round!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Things that do not exist in football

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has made another brilliant comment, this time about the scourge of racism in football, saying that on-the-pitch racism is inexistant.
Already Mr. Blatter has been harshly criticised, but I would like to give my support to the FIFA President by reminding him of other things that do not exist in football:
  • Homophobia

  • Match fixing

  • Doping

  • Sexism

  • Corruption

  • Bad language and swearing

  • Diving

I am sure Mr. Blatter himself could make the list much longer, and of course, since none of these problems exist in football, FIFA does not need to tackle them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Euro play-offs

The last four teams are ready for the Euro 2012 in Poland and Ucraine:
  • Portugal: After 0-0 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Portuguese lived up to the expectations and dispatched the Bosnians with a resounding 6-2.

  • Ireland: The Irish are back in a major footballing tournament, after 1-1 at home against Estonia, which was enough after their 0-4 victory in Tallinn.

  • Czech Republic: Had no problem in qualifying with two victories against Montenegro, 2-0 and 0-1 respectively.

  • Croatia: Their 0-3 victory away to Turkey put the Croatians through, who had to do little at home to make it 0-0.
There were really no major surprises!
The draw for the groups will be on December 2nd!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The smart against the World champions

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching England defeat Spain in a match that put into display the weaknesses of the defending world champions. Undoubtedly Spain is the best footballing nation in the world, and they play a positive football style that closely resembles that of FC Barcelona. That said, they do not have the attacking power of the Catalonian side - that is, they need a Messi (who with his performances for Argentina, should probably be Spaniard). This is not to say that Spain lacks quality strikers, but one must not forget that Spain was (ironically, considering that they are not a defensive side) the team that has won the World Cup scoring least goals ever! In that sense, their victory is founded on their strong defense and the worlds' best goalkeeper in Iker Casillas.
Yesterday, Fabio Capello's English side was surely not the better team, but they were the smartest. In the first half, Spain had all the possession, but chances were missing against an English defensive wall and a strong fighting spirit that has not been a hallmark of English national sides over the last years.
It wasn't pretty, but it was efficient.
In the second half England came a bit more forward, and on a free kick Darren Bent got an excellent header that Pepe Reina could not hold, and Frank Lampard had an easy time scoring in an empty goal.
Spain continued pressing, and did get some huge chances at the end of the match. But at the same time they also seemed to get more frustrated, and the match left the impression of a vulnerable Spanish side. Spain had an easy time qualifying for the EURO 2012, but it was in a very easy group. Since the World Cup, they have lost to every major side they have played: Argentina, Portugal, Italy, France, and now England. Of course, these are friendly matches, and the other sides fight hard to get the scalp of the world champions. Still, Spain is losing too many scalps, and the match from yesterday should leave some doubts as to how strong they will be for the European championships next year.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

South American qualifiers

Argentina is still not likely to go to the World Cup. At home, they did not manage to go beyond a 1-1 against the weakest side in South America, Bolivia, and the Argentines now only have 4 points for three matches. It was a well-deserved trashing that the local fans gave Messi and Company, a group of stars who should be in a circus rather than on a football pitch.
Uruguay on the other hand is unstoppable, and the best team in South America for sure. Luis Suarez continued to be a goal-machine as he scored all goals in their 4-0 trashing of Chile.
Venezuela has its aims at their first World Cup and took another little step with a 1-1 tie against their rivals from Colombia in Barranquilla. Colombia looked better much of the match, but as often with them, they are simply not efficient when it counts, while Venezuela is again proving its professionalism and fighting spirit to get another important result.
I believe Venezuela will be going to Brazil (which does nevertheless not mean that I want them to).
Finally, Paraguay defeated Ecuador 2-1.
The standing in the group seems as tight as it can get:






































































Monday, October 31, 2011

Minnesota champions

After greatly enjoying my last NASL match in Fort Lauderdale, I was happy to follow the Strikers' surprisingly making it to the final of the NASL championship after defeating the huge favourites of Puerto Rico Islanders in the semifinal. The other finalists were also an upset, namely the Minnesota Stars, who defeated the North Carolina Railhawks, who had been the best team in the season.
But as everybody knows, stats do not win football (soccer) matches.
The NASL final is played over two legs, and playing the last leg at home, the Strikers seemed to have a slight advantage, but the 3-1 defeat in the first leg in Minnesota, did not make things easier, and so didnt't enormous rainstorms before the match, that made us worry about attendance, or even a cancellation of the match.
But everybody knows that the football gods have great relations with the weather gods, and it hardly rained during the match.
The match was a disappointment for Strikers' fans. They undoubtedly played their chance, and had near to all the play, but Minnesota had come to play Italian Catenaccio and defend their 3-1 lead. This they did very well indeed, with a very strong central defense, and in the end, the Strikers' seemed more desperate in the face of a match that ended 0-0, but which Minnesota could have won.
It was a disappointment for all Strikers' fans, including myself. I usually have good karma on football teams I visit, and perhaps the Strikers making it to the final was the karma I gave them. I had promised that I would buy a Strikers' shirt if the won the championship, so I am still without one!
NASL Final: Ft. Lauderdale Strikers-Minnesota Stars

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mighty City

I think nobody was expecting Manchester City to win 6-1 against their local rivals, Manchester United in today's derby in Manchester. It was a strange match, which at the score 3-1 for City, the Reds basically gave up and let Manchester City's awesome striking force with Kun Aguero, David Silva and Edin Dzeko, have a field day.
Manchester City are now on top of the Premier League and increasingly seem like a very serious candidate for the title, while Manchester United, still on second spot, will have to try to rise up from the ashes of one of their most humiliating defeats ever.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

South African excuses

I am not going to join the choir criticizing South Africa's Football Association (SAFA) or coach for their inability to qualify to the African Nations Cup. No, instead I am going to commend the coach, Pitso Mosimane, for his apparent strategic abilities: knowing (or thinking....) that 0-0 against Sierra Leone was enough to qualify, he decided to play on the result rather than a victory against a team most people would think would be easy for the Bafana Bafana to defeat.
Modern football. Why win (at home) when you can tie...?
Turns out 0-0 was not enough, since in case of point-equality, the rules were unfortunately misinterpreted: in case of point-equality, the first criteria to decide who is first, is the mutual encounter between the two concerned teams, and not the score. With this calculation, South Africa was out, and Niger was sensationally qualified.
So what did Pitso Mosimane do? Complain that the rules had not been clear. And in such situations, where a coach has not qualified and is proving somewhat controversial, other football associations might distance themselves from their man.
But not SAFA! No, these guys supported their coach, and were apparently not aware of the regulations either, and lodged a complaint to SAFA about the rules.
Stand by your man! Even when it means making a fool of your footballing system! That is what team sport means!
South Africa will not be going to the African Cup of Nations. But Niger will be great to see there.

You gotta be grateful that the same people running South African football are not running the rest of the country...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I predict that Argentina is not going to Brazil

I have no doubt that if Venezuela had played the same 11 against Ecuador as they did against Argentina, they would have maximum points in the South American World Cup qualification. Now, instead, they have lost 3 points...
Argentina started well, patiently in what in the first half seemed a more tactical game, where the Venezuelans were figuring out how to play the Argentinean side. And in the second half Venezuela put more pressure and were surely the best team as they seemed to surprise Sabella, who had no remedy against Messi disappearing from the match.
(Uh, and did Higuain play at all...?)

There is a long qualification campaign ahead for all teams, and with these results, nothing is clear at all. Uruguay seems the strongest side, while I am beginning to believe that Argentina will not qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Argentina has good players but simply lacks tactical skills, leadership, and desire to play in the national team.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A good day of qualifiers

For the Euro 2012 qualifiers Denmark had to defeat Cyprus, and the match was virtually over after 25 minutes, with Denmark winning 4-0. It ended 4-1, but Denmark did what they had to do, and will now be looking towards a group final against Portugal in Copenhagen next Tuesday. Denmark needs to win to win the group though, after Portugal managed a too difficult 5-3 win over Iceland in Lisbon.
In Caracas, I was unable to watch the match, and I am nervous that I will be unable to watch next Tuesday's match. What I will watch though, are the South American World Cup qualifiers, which I also watched yesterday.
Firstly, Uruguay started against Bolivia with an awesome strike force of Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Edison Cavani, and won 4-2. The next match I watched was Ecuador-Venezuela. Venezuelan coach Farias selection of players for this match was odd to say the least, as if they did not expect to win anyway, and this showed on the pitch, where Ecuador was superior in every respect, and won 2-0. Venezuela faces Argentina next Tuesday. Venezuela has never defeated Argentina, and with their performance against Ecuador and Argentina's outstanding 4-1 victory against Chile, it looks more likely that Argentina will prepare a "Churrasco a lo Vinotinto".
Argentina's new coach Alejandro Sabella started very well indeed: the Argentineans played around with Chile, and Lionel Messi, who scored one goal, connected well with Gonzalo Higuain, who scored three goals. Argentina's potential continues to be enormous, and one can only hope that Sabella has found the magic formula to make the team perform at the level it should!
But next Tuesday will be one of the greatest football days of the year!

Friday, October 07, 2011

The most difficult qualifying group

The South American qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are starting today. Nine teams (Brazil, as hosts, are automatically qualified) are fighting for four and a half spots, and in this continent, there are no San Marinos or Liechtensteins; all sides are highly comptetitive, and surely have a shot at the tournament. The usual favourites are Uruguay and Argentina, where the latter have a lot to prove after their latest debacles. Paraguay, Chile and Colombia all have very strong sides that can defeat any team in the world, while the "usual" small teams, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela all have sides that have grown over the last 15 years.
Uruguay will be opening at home against Bolivia, while Argentina is set for a difficult encounter against Chile. Venezuela, the only team in South America that has never made it to a World Cup has high expectations after their historic performance at the Copa América this year, and will be opening against an Ecuadorian side who made it to their first World Cup in 2002, and are renewing their team.
The difficulty of such a competitive qualification is that you can afford no mistakes. With all teams having a fair chance of qualifying I believe that the teams that will NOT make it, will be the ones that are least able to keep their heads cool, and are able to sue their experience to get those few points or few goals that will end up making the difference between a World Cup participant and a vacationgoer in 2014!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Valencia on top

I managed to watch the Valencia-Barcelona match in Miami Airport while waiting for a delayed flight.
Valencia had started the league well with three straight wins, while Barcelona had lost points to Real Sociedad. But this remained Valencia's first big test, and it did not go as bad as some would expect, as Valencia was the better team in the first half, and were ahead 2-2. They continued playing well in the second half, but with Barcelona pressuring more until getting the equalizer by way of Cesc Fabregas.
It is good to see that Valencia remained on first spot as Real Madrid did not manage to win either, and this has given many hope about the apparent quality of the Spanish league. But I believe this is a fluke: the Spanish league is still a two-team league. Perhaps Real Madrid and Barcelona are having start-up difficulties; perhaps the small teams are starting with naive optimism; perhaps someone has in some mysterious way decided that the league should start with a little surprise... However, be sure that in a couple of months, the usual balance will return, where the only matches that matter for the title are Real Madrid and Barcelona, while the rest of the teams are only there to fight for the Champions League scraps and relegation.
All Valencia fans live with the illusion of a great Valencia side with title aspirations, but we should all wake up! And until then, just enjoy it while it lasts!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ft. Lauderdale Strikers versus the Atlanta Silverbacks

I was recently in Florida and went to see my first American football match, from the North American Soccer League, one of the final league matches before the play-off, between the local side, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and the Atlanta Silverbacks. It was a horrible match until the last few minutes when Atlanta underservedly went ahead, but the Strikers managed a late equalizer. The Silverbacks are the last ones of the league, while the tie was enough for the Strikers to make it to the Play-offs. But more interesting than the match itself was the atmosphere, and to learn about this US professional league, which is "secondary" to the Major Soccer League (MLS) in what for other fans seems to be a strange setup: there is no relegation in US soccer. Instead, it is about whom pays to be in the top league. In fact, the NASL side, Montreal Impact, will from the next season play in the MLS, not because they have ascended (they are leading before the play-offs though), but because of them having a strong financial backing.
I find this strange, and would wonder if it is a hindrance to the development of "soccer" in the USA, considering the enormous potential in the country.
Sadly, Florida has no team in the MLS, although I was surprised to learn of a distinguished history of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers: they were an important team in the 1970s, and among its players have been the legendary English goalkeeper Gordon Banks, legends Teofilo Cubillas and Gerd Muller, and most interesting of all, the great George Best passed through the club in his late gipsy life of a career. It is thus not a club that is unused to seeing some good football, although that was obviously not the case last Saturday! In any case, I am now an unofficial Striker supporter.
ft. Lauderdale strikers versus Atlanta Silverbacks

Monday, September 12, 2011

Good weekend

Barcelona didn't win, so now Valencia, after winning 1-0 in a difficult home match against Atlético Madrid, are second in the Spanish League, after Real Madrid. I know it does not matter much after two matches, but right now I can live with the illusion that it does: Valencia is on top!
One the 21st of September Valencia faces FC Barcelona. They will likely have the referee with them, as it does seem that besides Barcelona's and Real Madrid's awesome power in the Spanish league, the referees do have a tacit agreement about helping these teams to be even more superior.
But so far so good for Valencia.
Less so for the best club but worse team in Denmark, Brøndby, who has started in the bottom half of the Spanish league. However, today they managed to get a great victory against Køge, 5-0, and I really hope that this is what will change Brøndby's fortune. Anyway, hope is all that is left for the teams I support...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Norwegian party-animals

Last week Denmark won a crucial home victory, 2-0 (two goals by Nicklas Bendtner! I didn't know the guy could score any more!), against Norway on the way to the EURO 2012. Denmark now has all the cards to qualify, while Norway has to be very lucky if they are to be in Poland/Ukraine next summer.
As is often the case in these matches, the build-up was further motivated by the neighbourly rivalry between the two nations, for whom the match was crucial.
Thus, it is all the more strange to see now that many players of the Norwegian team were out partying in the nightlife of Copenhagen the day before the match, some of them not getting home until the early hours of the morning.
Notwithstanding that Denmark is a much better football team than Norway, one has to understand the poor Norwegians: Oslo is a pretty boring city where a beer costs some 10 Euros! Can anyone blame these poor guys for not being able to withstand the tempting charm of wonderful Copenhagen???
Hey, next time the Norwegian football team is in Copenhagen, beer is on me!!!! Skaal!!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The city of goals

The city of Manchester has two of the best teams in the world, and with a spectacular start of the Premier League (surely the best league in the world), both teams have become candidates for the title.
On one side, Manchester City has invested heavily into building its new team, and that seems to be bearing fruits: today they played Tottenham, and with spectacular four goals by Edin Dzeko, as well as one great goal by Kun Agüero, the 5-1 victory should be a warning to everyone that Manchester City is going for the top.
The defending champions of Manchester United today had their big derby against the rivals of Arsenal. Arsenal is bound to be struggling this season, considering the many players that they have lost, but today's absolute destruction of the London side was not to be expected. Manchester United were simply spectacular, and won 8-2. Wayne Rooney scored three goals, two of them on direct free kicks, while the new player Ashley Young, scored two spectacular goals in the rout on the Arsenal team, whose defense looked shaky to say the least.
14 goals for Manchester! I know in which city I would place my bets!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The first three points

Valencia has again gone into a new season apparently weakened after the sale of Juan Mata to Valencia. And in a league which will only be about Real Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia must fight to be "the best of the rest" just as last season, and thus qualify for the Champions League.
So after the ended strike, Valencia started the season at home to Racing de Santander. It started well for Valencia who went up 1-0 in the first minute on a goal by Roberto Soldado. However, it all seemed to be heading the wrong way as Racing went up 1-3 in second half. Valencia managed a second, but was still down by one in the last minutes when Roberto Soldado scored two late goals to give Valencia all three points in a dramatic season opener.
I do hope Valencia does well this season!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank you Mourinho

I have always been anti-Madridista, and wished that the team would lose. However, this has not always been easy, as I have had to recognize a team with enormous merits, not only winning titles, but also putting pride in being fair. It has always been a team characterized by many gentlemen who have been involved in the club for whom I can only have the greatest respect: Jorge Valdano, Vicente del Bosque, Raul, Fernando Hierro, Zinedine Zidane, and more recently, Iker Casillas himself, the greatest goalkeeper in the world and a true sporting gentleman.
So with this in mind, I can only be delighted that Real Madrid has decided to lower its standards on fair play and manners to the lowest levels, namely that of José Mourinho. While I have before thought that Mr. Mourinho´s provocative behaviour was part of his competitive mindset and overall strategy, the damage he is currently causing Real Madrid makes one put this into question. This is simply low life idiocy, and incredibly, Real Madrid, a club that should be proud of its traditions, choses to ignore it. If Mr. Mourinho does not win a title, he may leave Real Madrid leaving greater scars to the club than any of the former coaches that have been fired more easily, but were far greater men that Mr. Mourinho.
That said, I am happy that Mr. Mourinho is there, because it makes it so much easier to hate Real Madrid!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Brazil champions

Brazil is the greatest footballing country in the world, and tonight they won the U-20 World Cup in Colombia, after defeating Portugal 3-2 after extra time. The credit for the Brazilians is all the greater considering that Portugal had not conceded a goal the entire tournament, and were 2-1 up. Oscar, the Brazilian youngster from Internazionale scored all three Brazilian goals, and he will surely be on the list for many possible clubs.
Brazil last won the tournament in 2003, and two years ago lost the final to Ghana. They are now back at the top after a tournament in Colombia that has been outstanding, and that surely has seen the emergence on new stars.
Congratulations to the Brazilian youngsters.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The preview

The Spanish Super Cup is a preview of things to come for the Spanish League this season, namely the only thing worth watching: intense and dramatic matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona, fighting for some title, while the remaining teams remain front row spectators.
Never did anyone care so little about a strike in football! Come on, everyone just follows the Spanish league to watch the two giants!

In any case, the match was a drama, and Lionel Messi, who only plays with stamina and heart when he plays for his adopted home of Barcelona, was incredible with two goals and a magnificent assist to Andrés Iniesta in the Catalonian 3-2 victory. Real Madrid were not bad, but could do little to contain the little Catalonian. And while one may be impressed of FC Barcelona's magicians, any football fan should be equally unimpressed about the animals playing in Real Madrid. Pepe has proven before that he belongs in a cage rather than on a football pitch, while he should be joined by Marcelo, whose hairstyle clearly indicates that he belongs in a cave. At the same time, Mourinho may be the best coach in the world, but his provocations are simply tasteless.

Oh well, this is what all this season will be about. I might as well copy and paste this posting for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Advice to Mr. "Bolillo"

The Colombian national coach, Hernán Darío Gómez, has come into controversy in his country after he was caught beating up a lady in a nightclub in Bogotá last week. He has offered to step down after the scandal, but incredibly as it may sound, many people want him to stay on as coach.
Before I want to give my suggestions for what excuses this guy could use to get away with such a crime, I must say that I have never found him a very good coach - Colombia has the talent to do much better than they have done under him, shown by their recent disappointment in the Copa América against Perú, who in Sergio Markarian have a REAL football brain behind them.

But here are my suggestions of excuses to the woman beater:
5. "This is how I would make discipline if I were coach of Colombia´s feminine side"
4. "She threatened to make it obvious that she knew more about football than me!"
3. "If I beat a man he might hit back! Uh!"
2. "Isn't this what you normally do...?"
1. "I am called "Bolillo" because of the size of my balls"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Colombian nightmare?

I was recently in the most wonderful country in the world, Colombia, where the U-20 World Cup is currently taking place. The atmosphere is great as Colombians greet the world with their usual smiles, hospitality and friendliness.
Except if you are Argentine...

I had made nothing of an incident between the Argentinean team during a match against Egypt and the fans in Medellín until, last Saturday, I was sitting in a bar ("The Eight Bells", in Usaquén) waiting for Colombia-Mexico to start, and was surely wanting to support Colombia. I arrived early, waiting for some friends and family, and the match showing was Argentina-Portugal. Although u-20 football fails to excite me as much as other football, I was surely (quietly) cheering for Argentina as the match went into penalty kicks. It started well for Argentina, when Portugal missed two, but Portugal managed to pull up, and won.
I looked around in astonishment as the entire pub in rose in a loud scream of joy. I had to ask one of my recently arrived friends: "Are there many Portuguese in this bar?"
"No, we just do not like Argentineans"
In the match that followed, I wanted to support my dear Colombia, but couldn't help but have a strong sense of spiteful revenge as a far more efficient Mexican side defeated the hosts 3-1, to the enormous disappointment of the fans who had been so delighted for Argentina's defeat.
I am not going to dwell into the 2000 lousy reasons that Colombians have given me for not liking Argentines, but it baffles me. The continental solidarity that makes Africa so wonderful is all but unexistant in a continent of "brothers and sisters".
I do hope that all these Colombians will have nightmares where Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar castigate them with verbally eloquent insults, while Carlos Gardel, Fito Paez, Andrés Calamaro and Gustavo Cerati threaten to beat them up with their guitars, while a giant Mafalda chews them up and spits them out onto a football pitch with Alfredo di Stefano, Diego Maradona, Mario Kempes, and Lionel Messi to polish the other other guys shoes.

Well, at least we all now know that Argentina's and Colombia's u-20 sides are the same shit. The semifinals of the u-20 World Cup will be as follows:
  • France-Portugal
  • Brazil-Mexico

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

USA and Jurgen Klinsmann

Already old news that Jurgen Klinsmann has become national coach of the USA after the ending of the Bob Bradley era.
As a player, Mr. Klinsmann was unconventional, a brilliant striker, completely his own, but still a team player, and indeed, a great guy. These are qualities he took with him as national team coach, where he completely revived German football with the great performance of the 2006 World Cup, which Germany should have won (instead of those Italians...). Since then, Germany has been a different side than what one usually connects with the national team, and in the 2010 World Cup, under Joachim Löw (who was Mr. Klinsmann's assistant in 2006), is a different side, more adapted to a nation that has changed.
Mr. Klinsmann is a personification of the modern German: friendly, openminded, hardworking, individualistic, yet a team player, and willing to try new things.
These are qualities that I believe will serve him well in the USA: he already knows the country and the people well, and he will be given resources and liberty to try new things with the vast amount of talent that indeed exists in the US. Looking forward to the World Cup in 2014 is perhaps too soon, but if he is given time and the resources for the development of young players, I believe he can take the US to the next level, that is, at least a semifinal spot in the World Cup.
It will be interesting to watch!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Another Brøndby flop

Last year Brøndby was eliminated from the Europa League in the most pathetic way, after being up, and then fucking it all up when it counted.
Now, this bunch of useless idiots have done it again, and this time against an even worse opponent than last season, the unknown Austrian side SV Ried. Brøndby had lost the first match 2-0 in Austria, but midway through the second half they were 4-0 up, and one step from the Europa league. But with two goals against the most useless group of talent-less pieces of shit, SV Ried managed to get 4-2, and qualify for this season's Europa League.
Brøndby used to be a flagship of Danish football. Now, it is a club run by incompetents, and a team without talent, spirit or discipline. Worthless

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Batista out

Argentina has one of the most talented group of players in the world, and yet they have done nothing on the national team, and the recent debacle now had its consequences by Sergio Batista being fired as national coach. This is about time; he has been a lousy coach, and Argentina has slid down the world ranking while him coaching them. Next to him, with all his problems and criticism on Diego Maradona (much of which was basically because people didn´t like him, rather than his coaching skills), seems completely misplaced. Maradona was a great coach next to Batista. It seems that Alejandro Sabella is next in line to become coach; it will be interesting to see if he can solve the soap-opera saga that the Argentinean national team has become.

I have five suggestions to what Batista can do next:
  • Become a football journalist for News of the World
  • Clean Julio Grondona's swimming pool
  • Spend all the time in the barber's saloon
  • Sign up for a reality show
  • Coach Paraguay

Monday, July 25, 2011

Football ignorance

I have in general been happy about Venezuela´s performance in the Copa América, mostly because it is nice to see people here so happy for their side. However, I have before said that Venezuela is a footballing ignorant country, and I think that the TV broadcasting today showed it all: while the final between Uruguay and Paraguay was taking place, the TV channel that has shown much of the tournament, kept showing the arrival of the Venezuelan national team, which was being received by thousands of people, who preferred to see these guys than the actual final.
No matter how disappointed a fan may be (and I was not to see any of my favourite teams there), real football fans would watch the final, instead of clapping at some guys who lost 4-1 in the bronze match to Perú yesterday. And this is not to diminish the fact of Venezuela´s great performance! But it just shows to me that Venezuelan´s happiness was more about nationalism than about football interest. This is not uncommon in many countries when they do well; during World Cups suddenly a lot of people are interested in football, and I often hear people saying, "I only like football when it is countries playing".
That is really when you know they are fucking football-ignorant donkeys!
Although many do not seem to get this, football is a sport, and it is not a defining moment for nations! Venezuela is no more or less great after its performance in the Copa América; Venezuela's football team is, and hopefully its almost non-existant footballing culture may grow with this.
And football fans want to watch a football final!

Uruguay champion

In the last World Cup, Uruguay made it to the semifinals as the best South American side. They have now sealed their status as the best side on the continent by winning the 2011 Copa América. It wasn't that they were brilliant, but they were simply the most intelligent and consistent side of the tournament, and in the final there was never doubt about the result as the Uruguayans destroyed the lousy Paraguayan side 3-0. Luis Suárez scored the first goal (and was made MVP of the entire tournament) while Diego Forlán ended his dry scoring spell (he has not scored on the national team since the World Cup) by scoring Uruguay´s last two goals.
Paraguay... they were as pathetic as they have been trhoughout the tournament, where they have relied on luck to make it so far. It is sad for South American football that such a side, playing the most negative football one can imagine, makes it so far, and we should thank Uruguay for sticking a few goals up theirs.

It has nevertheless been a disappointing tournament for football fans in general. Few goals, very tactical games, and not enough of the technical brilliance that should characterize South American football. The two greats, Argentina and Brazil, were enormous disappointments, and both teams should look at themselves to find out what is wrong. Colombia and Chile could not performa when it counted, while the positives were Perú and Venezuela, two smaller footballing nations who will go into the World Cup qualifiers with renewed hopes and strong confident sides. Uruguay will remain favourites; they have an incredibly stable side, and very strong youth sides, so the future looks bright for the best team in South America.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to motivate the Paraguayans

Sometimes there simply is no justice in football. Sometimes the one team that plays like a bunch of violent shits wins, and this has just happened with Paraguay, who has made it to the final of the Copa América by not winning a single match in ordinary time. Instead, they retort to defensiveness, dirty tricks and filthy provocations to make it to the penalty kicks, where their only "good" player (I say so, because you cannot call someone good who plays for such a team), Justo Villar, takes care of business for them.
Paraguay is simply the last shit one wants football to be known for, and the very last thing that one wants to come out of South American football!

Venezuela was far better, specially in extra time, but the football Gods were not with the Vinotinto.
That said, they have been great - the true revelation of the tournament! Venezuelans should be proud, and stand behind their side for the coming World Cup qualifiers. It would be fun for me to meet some Venezuelans in Brazil in 2014, and tell them that I lived in their country when they emerged from the shadows of international football.

I have a suggestion of top-5 things that they can motivate Paraguay´s team with for the final:
5. An education (in Spanish)
4. To change their yellow and red cards into cash
3. Work visas for Argentina
2. To rename the team "Paragay"
1. Paternity tests

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Football tears

I am a MAN, and men don't cry.
Unless it is football of course.
As the last times disappointments pass, although leaving a scar, it leads me to reflect about times when football has, if not made me cry, at least made me so fucking depressed that I swore never to watch football again.
Mostly until the following match…

In no particular order of depression:

1. Denmark_Spain, 1986: I remember this as the very first game where I cried, the greatest Danish side lost 1-5 to a mediocre Spain...
2. Denmark-Spain, 1993: the defending European champions did not qualify to the 1994 World Cup after losing 1-0 on a lame goal to a lame Spanish side.
3. Norway-Brazil, 1998: I could not accept that the greatest footballing nation on Earth lost to a Norwegian side that played as exciting as watching paint dry.
4. Brondy-Widzew Lodz, 1996: To qualify for the Champions League Brondby had lost the Poles 2-1 away. Leading 3-0 at home, it all seemed sure, but it ended 3-2…
5. Brondby-Roma, 1991: Rudi Volley scored a late winner for Roma to deny Brondby a place un the UEFA Cup final.
6. Valencia-Real Madrid, 2000: Real Madrid won 3-0 in the CL final in one of the saddest days of my life.
7. Valencia-Bayern Munich 2001: A devastating penalty shootout gave Munich the Champions League title.
8. Italy-France, 2006: I was a big Zidane fan, and besides being sad that he ended like that, it was sad to see the Italians win an otherwise great tournament.
9. Ghana-Uruguay, 2010: All I can say is that Ghana should have been the first African semifinalists in a World Cup.
10. Argentina-Uruguay, 2011: Fucking piece of shit...
11. Brondby-Sporting Lisbon, 2010: I actually didn’t watch the matches, but Brondby's away victory had given me hope that they were back in Europe, only to be shattered one week later.
12. Argentina-Cameroon 1990: It wasn't the loss itself, but it was the rejoicing of everyone at the time who seemed to hate Argentina, and not thinking that Cameroon had played extremely violent.
13. Argentina-England, 2002: Argentina lost 0-1 to its European arch-rivals, and was out of the World Cup.
14. Argentina-Netherlands, 1998: In spite of a great Dennis Bergkamp loss, I felt Argentina should have made it further.
15. Denmark-Brazil, 1998: If Norway could beat Brazil, Denmark surely should have in this World Cup quarterfinal; they played great, but lost 2-3…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Some people are calling this a historical Copa América. Admittedly, the tactical standard has been high, and all teams have proven hard to defeat. With the big teams not having performed, it seems any idiot can win this cup with discipline and defending. It is not a tournament that has been characterized by the technical skill and flair that South American football is known for. Perhaps those times are gone. The semifinals of the Copa América will not be some that will catch the world's attention, nor live on in the memory of football fans, unless you support one of the teams, or, like me, live in Venezuela.

  • Uruguay-Peru
It is just difficult to have sympathy with Uruguay. A small country whose greatest moment was to win a trophy of eleven kicking a ball in 1950, and who made it to the semifinals of the last world cup on penalty kicks against a Ghanaian side that deserved to win, both for their style, but also for their fair play. If they deserve any reluctant credit for anything, it is for eliminating an Argentinean side that should be in for a big overhaul.

Peru is a team of Guinea-pig eaters, who are mostly in the semifinal thanks to their foreign coach. Truth is that Peru has done nothing in football since the 1970s, and since then Peruvian press and fans have spent most of the time trashing their national side. A team with fans like that hardly deserve a trophy.

  • Paraguay-Venezuela
Against Brazil, Paraguay had one shot on goal to win the match on Brazil's poor penalty shooting. If that is not luck…? Some people have called them the Italians of South America due to their defensive style, but I believe that is to underservedly credit the Paraguayans, who surely barely reach Italy to its heels. If I have to say something nice about Paraguay, it's that they have found two lady fans with big titties to show around in the stadium during the matches; perhaps two of the few women in the country that the president has not slept with.

Every team I support always loses, so I will try not to support Venezuela. Football-wise, they are the only semifinalist that has played half-way entertaining, but has also been lucky.
That said, Venezuela is a baseball country. Before this tournament nobody talked about their footballing side (which was decent, even if anyone here did follow football!), but all of a sudden everyone seems to be an expert. I am happy for Venezuelans, and if they carry through the sensation and win, I will sit on my fucking chair alone and look out of the fucking window to see Caracas celebrating, and wish I were part of it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Messi Top-5 Excuses

Lionel Messi has been very criticised for his role in Argentina's debacle at the Copa América, so I thought I would give Mr. Messi some help in providing some excuses for the performance:

5) "I get confused when not playing in blue-red stripes"
4) "mumble, mumble, mumble"
3) "What do you expect? I am a dwarf!"
2) "Does anyone speak Catalonian?"
1) "There is only one "El Diego"!"

The bitter football fanatic

I cannot not watch football. But I am angry and bitter, so I think that from now on, I am renaming my site the bitter football fanatic. Nobody reads this shit anyway, so I am going to be a hooligan blogger.
And first, I just watched Brazil get eliminated by little Paraguay. Brazil should have won, but Paraguay´s goalkeeper Justo Villar was an impenetrable wall today. And well, I think it remains the first time in history that Brazil has ever missed four penalties in a match!
While it is pretty pathetic that players from the greatest footballing nation in the world cannot shoot a penalty kick, it seems even more pathetic that such a mediocre nation as Paraguay has eliminated the winners of the last 3 Copa Américas. Paraguay plays boring football, and besides Villar, who absolutely had one of the luckiest days in his life, I think Paraguay´s national team is worth as much as a dead chicken.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And I am never watching football again

And this is my last post. It is simply too fucking depressing. All teams I ever support always lose and play like shit.
I don´t even have anyone to watch football with in this football-ignorant country, but it is not worth watching football when it just makes one´s life worse than it already is.
I am going to find another hobby.
Good luck to all you people who will contiue to watch football.

The worst day

I had a bad feeling about today. And indeed, today was a horrible day. It seems all teams I support always lose, and this continues. Colombia lost, but much, MUCH worse, Argentina was eliminated by Uruguay from the Copa América today.
I knew it could happen. Uruguay is one of the best teams in the world, and matches between these two giants are notably unpredictable. However, I was hoping, together with many Argentineans, that this would be the Cup where Argentina would blossom with its team of wonderful players.
But these were simply not very wonderful... First half was Argentina's, but in the second half a ten-man Uruguayan side played with the tenacity and stubbornness that their coach, the legendary Oscar Tabarez, has said characterizes Uruguayans. Argentina seemed unable to break the disciplined Uruguayan side, and if they did, Gonzalo Higuaín would miss, or the outstanding Lazio goalkeeper, Fernando Muslera, would take it.
Uruguay was obviously happy when the match ended and it went into penalty kicks. As in South Africa two years ago, when they defeated Ghana in another match that kicked out one of my favourite sides,the Uruguayans are very sure of their spectacular cool. And indeed, they were far superior and never seemed to miss a beat, winning by a narrow margin when Carlos Tevez missed for Argentina.

This is a time for reckoning for Argentina. A team of superstars that is obviously not working, least of all Lionel Messi, who is more or less mediocre when playing somewhere where they don´t speak Catalonian. There is no doubt that the much-criticised Maradona was a far superior coach to Sergio Batista, who seems to think that football is only about dressing up and calling up guys with a high salary.
This is a very, very bad Saturday.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Colombian crash against Perú

Colombia has a thing for disappointing when you are expecting something from them. In this tournament they had been great, winning their group ahead of Argentina, and seemingly with some of their players, such as Freddy Guarín and Radamel Falcao, in great shape. On the other hand, Perú had only ended third in its group, working hard, but without impressing. Colombia were huge favourites. But in football in general, and in this tournament in particular, being the favourite has meant little.
Colombia was a shadow of itself. They seemed to play without spirit, and in spite of having some chances, they were too forgiving. Radamel Falcao even missed a penalty, and as the rest of his team, Peruvian goalkeeper Raúl Fernández was concentrated and worked hard. The match ended 0-0 in ordinary time, and in extra time, Colombia continued to play without imagination or clout, even after Perú went ahead 1-0 on a goal by Carlos Lobatón, who took advantage of a misunderstanding between the Colombian goalkeeper Luis Enrique Martinez and his defense. Perú continued solid and concentrated, and in the second half of the extra time went ahead 2-0, when Hamburger SV striker Paolo Guerrero, who played a great match, picked up a ball from the Colombian goalkeeper, ran into the area, and passed the ball to Perú captain, Juan Manuel Vargas, who scored a second for Perú.
Colombia showed nothing.
Now, one has to pay its respect to Perú's players and its coach, Sergio "El Mago" Markarián, who showed that hard work and tactical discipline are still very important if you want to win in football!
Personally, I am hugely disappointed about the Colombian side, but congratulations to the Peruvians!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Copa América Quarterfinals

It has been an excellent Copa América until now, and we can all look forward for a great weekend, now that we have the four quarterfinals:
  • Colombia-Perú
  • Argentina-Uruguay
  • Brazil-Paraguay
  • Chile-Venezuela
Some extremely interesting matches, including one super-classic between Argentina and Uruguay, as well as a for me personally challenging Chile-Venezuela (I was born in Chile and live in Venezuela! Guess who I will support...?).
So if you like good and dramatic football, get some beers, rhum, pisco, cachaca, wine and aguardiente ready, sit back comfortably, and cancel everything else this weekend, which should be all about FÚTBOL!!!!

Great Vinotinto continues!

Venezuela was the only team in group B of the Copa América that before today's final matches was certain to go to the quarterfinals. However, what was not clear was whether they would progress on first, second or third spot.
This being only the second time ever Venezuela progresses in this tournament (and the first time was 4 years ago when they were hosting the tournament themselves), to progress on third spot would be considered a success. However, this Venezuelan side was obviously not satisfied with the leftovers as they went on the pitch against Paraguay today. After only four minutes Málaga's striker, Solomón Rondón, brought Venezuela ahead, and the World Cup quarterfinalists of Paraguay seemed in complete disarray as their usually rock-solid defense seemed open to Venezuelan attacks. It was a pity that Venezuela didn't expand their lead, as Paraguayan efficiency struck back with a messy goal after a corner-kick. Still, 1-1 remained acceptable for Venezuela, although I, as a newly-become Vinotinto fan, was more annoyed at the fact that they were not winning at half-time.
The second half became the best drama of this tournament so far: Venezuela started best, but after another corner-kick, Borussia Dortmund's dangerous striker Lucas Barrios scored a goal that should have been disallowed for hand-ball. Still, Paraguay was proving efficient as Venezuela seemed to become confused about what had happened to the match for them. Not long after, Paraguay scored another goal on a school-book free-kick situation, and it all seemed over for Venezuela. Still, coach Farias insisted on more offensive power and brought on Juan Arango, Giancarlo Maldonado and Miku Fedor. It was this last one who in the 44th minute scored Venezuela's second, and suddenly, in the dying seconds, Venezuela pressed on against the usually cool-headed Paraguayans. In the last second, Venezuela got a corner-kick, and with nothing to lose, sent everything forward, including goalkeeper Renny Vega. And it was in fact Vega who got a header on to Grenddy Perozo, who managed to equalize for Venezuela in the very last second of the match.
I was jumping with myself in my apartment celebrating the goal, although I soon had to admit that it was a lucky Venezuelan side who had given away some silly goals, and until the last seconds, been too nice to the poor Paraguayan defense.
Still: great, GREAT, Vinotinto!!!! I am proud to be here at this time, and can confirm that yet again I have great football-karma on the countries that I live in!

The final positions on the table depended on the last match of the group between Brazil and Ecuador. Brazil did not play a good first half, but managed to score a good goal by Pato, before the talented Felipe Caicedo equalized for Ecuador. In the second half, Brazil finally woke up though, to become the team that everybody expects them to be, and ended winning the match 4-2, enough to give them the first spot in group B, being better than runners-up Venezuela on goal-difference. This means that while Brazil will be facing Paraguay in the quarterfinals, Venezuela will be tested to their best against Chile, who have looked very strong so far in the tournament.
Although the Chileans should know that playing the Vinotinto will be no walkover, the Venezuelans have to work more on not making the mistakes that cost them goals today. If they can correct this, they will surely have a chance of taking yet another historical step for Venezuelan football!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A bright Mexican future

Mexico lost its third consecutive match of the Copa América today, and was for the first time ever eliminated in the first round of this tournament. However, there is much reason to be optimistic about the future if you are a fan of the North American nation. Just before the Copa América Mexico was awesome in winning the North American Gold Cup, with an excellent side with great attacking power. Now, this is not the side that Mexico sent to the Copa América: instead, they sent a largely Under-23 side that was further weakened when eight of its most talented players were sent home for misdeeds with ladies in Ecuador. Still, this weakened youth side was, in spite of losing all three matches, an interesting team, that caused all of its more experienced opponents many troubles.
There can be little doubt that if Mexico had shown up with its strongest side, results would have been different. However, these youths showed that they are already competitive at the highest level.
At the same time as these Mexican youths were playing in Argentina, an even younger Mexican youth side, its Under-17 team, was the triumphant winner of the FIFA World Cup for U-17 after defeating Uruguay's u-17 2-0 in the final.
In August, the FIFA World Cup for U-20 will take place in Colombia, and there can be little doubt that Mexico will be one of the teams to watch out for, and that if this trend continues, Mexico will be looking at a very bright footballing future!

Argentina against Uruguay!

Yesterday's Argentine victory in the Copa América put them in the second spot, where they are to face number 2 in group C. Group C was played today, with Chile defeating Perú on a goal in overtime to take 1st spot, and Uruguay defeating Mexico 1-0, to take second spot. Uruguay, who made it to the semifinal of the World Cup has not seemed too strong, and they had difficulty defeating the Mexican youth side.
But this means that the quarterfinal next weekend will be a repeat of one of the greatest rivalries in football history: Argentina versus Uruguay. These teams, with a proud footballing history have met in numerous dramatic encounters, including world cup qualifiers, Copa América finals, Olympic matches and the very first World Cup final.
There is no doubt that after Argentina's victory against Costa Rica, where the Argentine sleeping giants apparently woke up, and the fact that they are playing at home, makes them big favourites to win. Uruguay has not seemed too strong, and notably their World Cup hero, Diego Forlán seems to be cursed not to score more goals. However, as they showed during the World Cup, Uruguay should never, NEVER, be underestimated. Argentina knows this very well, and knows very well that in matches between these two arch-rivals anything can happen. Who knows? Maybe Messi will have another bad day, while Forlán will find his former force!
No matter what, this is a match that should not be missed by any serious football fans!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Argentina wakes up

Argentina's national team had their backs against the wall against Costa Rica in a match that they had to win if they were not to be the first host-nation ever to be eliminated in the first round of the Copa América. Costa Rica, although playing with a youth side, had in previous matches proved well-organised and disciplined, while Argentina had looked like a mess.
But there was really never any doubt about the result after Argentina went ahead 1-0 at the end of the first half with a goal by Kun Agüero. Until then, Argentina had also dominated against a solid Costa Rican defense, who had nevertheless been lucky in some situations.
In the second half Costa Rica seemed to fall apart, and after Agüero made it 2-0 it turned into a walkover for Argentina, who completely dominated, and 3-0 was not one goal too little for the hosts, who now take the second spot in the group behind Colombia.
Argentina's coach Sergio Batista had made three important changes to the starting lineup: Carlos Téves, Esteban Cambiasso and Ezequiel Lavezzi were replaced by Kun Agüero, Ángel Di María and Gonzalo Higuaín (who nevertheless missed some huge chances!), and this obviously worked much better for the Argentinean side, who although facing a rather lame Costa Rican side, seems much stronger with this lineup. Lionel Messi, who has been criticised a lot seemed much more comfortable with Higuaín in front of him, and in particular with Agüero and Di María running deep (two of the goals came from from Messi passes).
Although I am very happy for Argentina, they still have to convince against stronger opposition in the coming quarterfinal. That said, it is a characteristic of great teams that they are best when they have their back against a wall, and Argentina today showed that!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unstoppable Colombia

Colombia could, with a victory against Bolivia today, make sure that they would be winners of group A, in front of either Argentina or Costa Rica (who are playing tomorrow). Colombia had no problems winning 2-0 on two goals by the FC Porto striker Radamel Falcao. With Falcao scoring goals, a solid defense (they have conceded no goals) and an excellent midfield, Colombia has looked as the best team so far, but it is now, with the knock-out matches, that true champions will come out. No matter what, it is great to see Colombia and its fans doing so well!

And in the women´s World Cup

I have not been able to watch any matches in the Women's World Cup in Germany (nobody shows such sports in South America...), but I have been following on the internet, and was in awe at the surprising result in the quarterfinals today: the defending champions and hosts, Germany, losing to Japan!
In the other match, France defeated England after penalty kicks, to make it to their first ever semi-final in the Women's World Cup, which will surely be exciting! The two other quartefinals are Sweden-Australia, and a modern classic in Women's football, Brazil-USA!
If you live in a place where you are able to watch it, you should not miss it!

(two) reasons to support Paraguay

Paraguay seems to do this for every large tournament now. And well, I can hardly blame them:

I still hope Venezuela wins the next match!

Venezuela on top

I do not know how it is to have Venezuelans on top of me. Maybe I should ask Brazil's and Paraguay's national teams? They are trying it right now!

Group B in the Copa América is on fire. The two huge favourites tied 2-2 earlier today in a match that Paraguay should have won. As for Argentina, this tournament is turning into a huge disappointment for the large collection of Brazilian superstars, who have obviously been more worried about getting fancy haircuts than preparing for this tournament! Most notable is Dani Alves, the Barcelona right-back. If anyone (including myself) criticises Lionel Messi for not being able to play without Xavi and Iniesta, a few comments should surely also go to Dani Alves, who today played, like we say in Danish, like "a broken arm".
He was pathetic, and Brazil can only thank Paraguayan strikers and a splendid Fred for not losing.
And for the first time ever, Venezuela is leading its group in front of the favourites of Brazil and Paraguay. In their first match, an organised and fighting Venezuelan side managed to play 0-0 with what is turning out to be one of the most disappointing Brazilian sides ever (I think that it has not been since 1966 that any Brazilian side has played their two first matches in a tournament without winning!), and a victory today against Ecuador could give the "Vinotinto" the first place in the group.
I think the coach, Cesar Farías, was a genious when surprisingly keeping Solomón Rondón outside the starting lineup, and instead using the much more versatile veteran, Giancarlo Maldonado.
Mr. Maldonado was splendid, and Venezuela played more openly. I was very positive to see that differently from many other teams in the tournament, they were taking many shots from the distance, and it was indeed also a long-range effort by Rodriguez that gave them the well-deserved winning goal!
Venezuela plays well; they have always been the Cinderella of South American football, but have already shown that they are a team not to be underestimated. I watched the match alone in my apartment in Caracas; would love to have celebrated with some Venezuelans, but that is surely too much to wish for in a country where still, most people have little knowledge about football, or know that they are the proud hosts to a talented and organised national team (just like the US!).

Cheers for la Vinotinto! I will have a Solera to celebrate!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Watch out for Costa Rica

Argentina's poor performance has forced the hometeam to be in a situation where they must defeat Costa Rica in their last group match. Since Costa Rica is playing the tournament with an under-22 squad, this may not sound difficult for the Argentinean super-stars, but after having watched Costa Rica take out Bolivia last night, this will surely not be an easy task.
After a first half where Bolivia was in slight control, the Tico youngsters came into full flower in the second half, where they completely controlled the match against a Bolivian side that got increasingly desperate, and ended the match with nine players (and should have been more, as one thug, Rodriguez, should have gotten a red card for outright violence as well). The final result could have been more than 2-0, as the Tico's allowed themselves to miss some great chances, including a penalty.
The best player of the match, Joel Cambell, is a 19-year old to watch: I had never heard about him, but he plays for the big Costa Rican club Saprissa. If yesterday was not a fluke, he is surely a youngster whom many big clubs would be interested in.

Costa Rica now only needs a tie to progress to the next round, while only a victory will work for Argentina in what is set to be a dramatic match! While I greatly sympathise with Costa Rica, I hope that Argentina makes it!

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Argentina and Colombia are two countries that I am so attached to that I can actually sing along on both national anthems. Today, both teams played in the second round of the Copa América in a match where the Argentinean home side was under enormous pressure after their debacle against Bolivia, while Colombia could play more comfortably after their opening 1-0 win over Costa Rica.
The game ended 0-0 and let me start by the more positive things: Colombia was excellent in everything except for the enormous chances that they missed. They should surely have won the match; although they came under some pressure towards the end of the match, their defense around AC Milan's veteran Mario Yepes and Atlético Madrid's Luis Perea was simply outstanding. At the same time, the best player of the match was undoubtfully FC Porto´s Freddy Guarín, who was eternally conquering balls and feeding the ever-dangerous Colombian strikers. If Colombia can play like this for the rest of the tournament, and adds goals to the formula, they are a very serious candidate for the title.
Not so an extremely poor Argentina who can actually be happy about the 0-0; they look like a team of superb individualists that just get together to become mediocre. The performance of some of the defenders was simply unacceptable, while one must ask whether Lionel Messi does indeed feels like playing on any other side that is not Catalonian; today he could not even kick a corner-kick properly, and ran more in the way than anything else. Of course, Lavezzi was at least as bad, while I continue to question whether Esteban Cambiasso should ever have been selected (he has never played a good match for Argentina, and today was no exception). The Argentinean players seemed nervous and frustrated as the match progressed, and it did not help that coach Sergio Batista's changes seemed more of desperation than of any tactical considerations.
The Argentinean fans in Santa Fé gave the Argentinean team a very hard time, and in the end were even chanting to get Diego back. If Argentina continues to play like this, they will not get much further in the tournament, and we will all be singing to bring El Diego back!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The first round of the Copa América

Since I was travelling, I missed the surprise opening match of the Copa América, where Argentina were unable to defeat a well-playing Bolivian side.
However, I was able to watch other matches in this tournament that has, until now, shown that South American football is currently home to some extremely strong and talented national teams.
Although without many goals, the matches have been technically and tactically excellent. Another of the favourites, Uruguay, only managed 1-1 with a Perú side missing its biggest stars, while Chile struggled to win 2-1 against a Mexican youth side. But the biggest surprise, to my personal delight (not least because I have heard so many Venezuelans themselves speak so lowly of their national team, which, in my expert opinion, deserves much better from its football-ignoring compatriots), was Venezuela's 0-0 against Brazil. The Venezuelans fought hard and played with enormous tactical discipline against a Brazilian side that remain favourites, but will have to display some more creativity in attack to open up defenses that are bound to play like Venezuela did.
There are surely to be some more excellent matches, and I surely look forward to see the "Vinotinto" for their next match!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Copa América 2011

One of the most interesting tournaments this year starts tomorrow: the South American championships, or Copa América 2011. It will be hosted in Argentina, and the groups are as follows:

Group A:
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
Argentina are undoubtfully huge favourites playing at home, with a team full of stars, led by the magician Lionel Messi, and hungry to win a trophy they have not had since 1993. Colombia will be an interesting team to watch; they play good football, but have always suffered from a lack of scoring ability, something they will be hoping to remedy with FC Porto's goal machine, Radamel Falcao.
Bolivia and Costa Rica are probably not expected much from Costa Rica is participating by invitation and with a youth team.

Group B:
  • Brazil
  • Paraguay
  • Ecuador
  • Venezuela
Brazil has won the tournament four of the last five times, and with a new and interesting side under Mano Menezes will be looking to playing some more charming football than they did during the world cup.
Paraguay are always a strong team of seasoned players from strong clubs in Europe and South America, and will undoubtfully prove difficult to defeat, and may even be qualified as a dark horse in the tournament.
In the meantime, Ecuador and Venezuela will have to play their best. Both are teams that are growing, and perhaps looking more for a possible classification for the 2016 World Cup.
Personally, I will eagerly watch my current country, Venezuela, with curiosity and a small "Vinotinto"-heart, hoping that I will be here to see Venezuela do great things in football (I usually have a good football karma on the countries I live in).

Group C:
  • Uruguay
  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Mexico
Uruguay was the best South American side at the 2010 World Cup, and arrive in Argentina with almost the same seasoned side. While their 2010 star, Diego Forlán, has not been in his best form lately, they have other strikers who have been spreading fear amid European defenses, such as Luis Suarez from Liverpool and Edison Cavani from Naples. With a solid midfield and defense, led by Fenerbahce's Diego Lugano, Uruguay should undoubtfully be counted as one of the favourites for the title.
Chile will be interesting to watch, now under a new coach Claudio Borghi, after Marcelo Bielsa left. They still have a stong side, where everyone should look forward to see Udinese's highly demanded Alexis Sánchez.
Mexico, newly winners of the Gold Cup, is also participating by invitation, and largely with a youth team who had eight players sent home last week after a ladies night out.
Perú is very weakened by the fact that both of their biggest stars, Schalke 04´s Jefferson Farfán and Werder Bremen's Claudio Pizarro are out with injuries. They will surely have a difficult time.

Anyway, everyone should look forward to some splendid South American football over the next few weeks!

Monday, June 27, 2011

This cannot be!

I am not a fan of the team, but know about football, so: How in the world can it be that River Plate, RIVER PLATE, has been relegated!?!?!!? After some meager years, this last tie 1-1 against Belgrano sealed the Argentinean giants' darkest chapter.
River Plate is one of the most legendary clubs in the world. Like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Ajax Amsterdam, one cannot imagine the national league without such top teams.
How can this be!?!?!?!?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Libertadores final in Cuzco

I have been in Peru over the last two weeks, greatly enjoying that wonderful country, that has so many things to see, try and taste, that I forgot to dwell into their football history. What I did not miss though, was the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Santos and Peñarol. It was indeed a final that had footballing history written all over it, as Pelé's old club faced the mightiest club in Uruguay. The first match in Montevideo had ended 0-0, so Santos were rightfully favourites; besides having been awesome in the tournament, Peñarol had struggled greatly to make it to the final.
I saw the final in a small restaurant in Cuzco, where I had eaten some cuy (guinea pig) before the match. It was a good match: Santos dominated, but Peñarol were fighting tenaciously. In the second half Santos went ahead 2-0, and it did not seem that Peñarol could react, but they did. They pulled one up, and Santos' players did seem unnecessarily nervous in the end, but managed to hold the score and lift the most important South American club trophy to the delight of Pelé and other followers of the club.
As to me, having enjoyed this match, I continued to enjoy Perú!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Not so surprising

The most annoying thing about today's friendly match between Venezuela and the world champions of Spain in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, was its lousy hour: at 4 o'clock in the afternoon most people, including myself, are still in the office, and I had to walk out to see the second half of the first half. Very annoying for the first match ever with the "Vinotinto" where I would support my current residential-country unconditionally against the mighty Spaniards!

It was not a surprising match in the sense that the Spaniards dominated with a lot of possession in the first half, where they were leading 3-0. They had not played extraordinarily, but while the Venezuelans had not been bad either, they had made some beginners-mistakes that always cost when you are playing world class players. Two of the Spanish goals, by David Villa and Xabi Alonso, were on free kicks where the defensive wall and the goalkeeper Vega, were simply lousy - these are mistakes that could prove fatal for Venezuela in the coming Copa America!
In the second half the Spaniards made many changes and seemed both relaxed and tired in the humid heat of Puerto La Cruz, and this opened the match for Venezuela, whose play seemed to flow better with the entrance of Getafe's Miku and the veteran from Borussian Monchengladbach, Juan Arango. Particularly towards the end of the match the "Vinotinto" had some good chances, that a better team would have capitalized on, and which they deserved to have scored a consolation goal on!
Not a bad match for Venezuela. They are not the best team in the world, but surely has talent and good moments. However, they will have a difficult time if they make the mistakes that costs them today - basically that is what today differentiates great teams from good or just average teams. Brazil or Argentina would not forgive them either. In that sense, I hope the match today was a lesson for Venezuela!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Out of this world

I had anxiously been expecting a great game in the Champions League final, which I watched in my new football-hangout in Caracas over a few Soleras. I was not disappointed, although it did not go exactly as I thought. That FC Barcelona was so superior to Manchester United was surprising, and nobody can say that their 3-1 victory was undeserved. The Catalonians controlled the ball superbly, and besides an outstanding Wayne Rooney goal, Manchester United's players were all but invisible. One can say a lot of things about how much space the English defense gave players such as Xavi or Messi for some of the goals, but at the same time Barcelona are splendid in finding open spaces.
The great Sir Alex Ferguson, disappointed but graceful in defeat, immediately admitted that his team had lost to the best team in the world.

In the world? Many FC Barcelona players are out of this world, most notably Messi, and I really do not know what UEFA rules say about using extraterrestial life-forms on your team...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Carlos Tevez show

It is hard as a football fan not to like Carlos Tevez: a small, nice guy from one of the poorest and harshest neighbourhoods, who had a harsh upbringing, but fought against it to become an outstanding footballer. He is a great striker, and his constant fighting for the team, running, tackling, and taking responsibility upon his shoulders, has made him loved in every single place he has played. In all his clubs, from Corinthians, West Ham, Manchester United, and Manchester City now, he has become a hugely important captain, who has carried them to one of their first title for many years, the FA Cup final victory against Stoke recently.
But at the same time this great player is also a moaner, who creates a difficult atmosphere in every team: he has left clubs suddenly, after talking with the press about how unhappy he is, something that is also starting now in Manchester City, where rumours about his leaving for Boca Juniors have started to abound.
It is perhaps because of his upbringing and strong Argentinean mentality, but it is obvious that while he plays extraordinarily, he is not comfortable in England, and it has been said that he is there so that his daughter can get all the things he never had, something you can only sympathise with as a person, but is more difficult to swallow as a fan of one of the teams where you constantly hear him complaining.

There is no doubt Mr. Tevez would feel more comfortable in Argentina, but even in a country where a player like him is adored, he creates controversy. In the national team he has never performed really well, but he was a favourite of ex-coach Diego Maradona, who insisted on using him for the World Cup, sacrificing the mid-field general Juán Sebastián Verón with dire consequences against the dangeous German team during the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal.
Still, such an extraordinary player is difficult to keep out from the team, but that is exactly what Argentinean coach Sergia Batista seems poised on doing in spite of strong criticism from many sides, not least Mr. Maradona. But it does seem that if Argentina is to being the best out of Messi, Mr. Tevez does not fit into the neo-Barcelona style that Mr. Batista wants to implement and try out in the coming Copa América in Argentina.
Any fan will be disappointed not to be able to see such a player as Mr. Tevez, but at the same time, it is a question of the balance of the team which is the most important, and less so the qualities of independent players. And in that regard, keeping Mr. Tevez out may be the least bad option.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Adiós Deportivo

The excitement of the last round of the 2010-11 Spanish league was all about who would be relegated together with Almería and Hercules. It is perhaps telling about how poor the Spanish league is (outside the top 2), that in the last few rounds, up to eight teams were fighting relegation! While there are 21 points between teams number 2 (Real Madrid) and 3 (Valencia), there are only 19 points separating teams 4 (Villarreal) and 18 (Deportivo La Coruña).

Deportivo La Coruña has been a popular top team for 20 seasons in the Spanish top league. The Galician side even won the Championship in 2000, positively upsetting the power of the top teams. But with Real Madrid and Barcelona taking off from the rest of the teams, Deportivo has suffered, and this season has been dreadful, culminating yesterday. Deportivo was at home to Valencia, and needed points to avoid relegation. After a barrage of missed chances, Valencia ended up winning 0-2, and Deportivo became the last team to be relegated. Next season, this great Galician side will play in Segunda División, and the club and their fans will be sorely missed in the top flight!
Hope they will be back soon!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Porto champions

The 2011 UEFA Europa league final probably did not raise much interest outside Ireland (where it took place) and Portugal, from where the two finalists, FC Porto and Braga, came from.
I must admit that the match was also a big disappointment. Porto's 1-0 victory was fully deserved. Although Braga was organised, when Porto went ahead on a goal by the Colombian goal machine Falcao, Braga had nothing to offer in terms of threatening their fellow Portuguese.
FC Porto has been awesome in this Europa League, and adds this title to their dominion in the Portuguese league. This next Sunday they will have the opportunity to take a "small triple", if they win the Portuguese Cup, something they are undoubfully favourites for, if they are not too hungover from this victory!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Repeat final

After Manchester United's perhaps expected 4-1 victory at home to Schalke 04, it is now confirmed that the Champions League final at Wembley om May 28th will be a repeat of the 2009 final, where FC Barcelona defeated Manchester United 2-0. Back then, the English side had been weak favourites, as many expected them to be stronger physically and tactically. But in fact, the Spanish side matched the English side in both respects, and was superior technically.
FC Barcelona is today hailed as the best team in the world, and is probably the slight favourite this time, although one must never underestimate Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as the United side being hungry for revenge.
No matter what, it will be exciting!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The clasico foursome

Four matches between the archrivals of Real Madrid and Barcelona have ended. The first one, the league match (which I did not see because I was barbecuing with friends in Richmond, California), ended 1-1, and with 8-point difference, the league is quite certain to end in Barcelona for the third season in a row.
The final of the Copa del Rey was a 1-0 Real Madrid victory after extra time (I half-watched the match in a bar in Haights, in San Francisco, California). Finally Real Madrid won a title, and to this one must add that it is a title that has eluded them for many years (it was for instance the only title the splendid goalkeeper Iker Casillas had never won). It was in fact a well-deserved victory, and must have given the merengues confidence before the Champions League semifinals, that the entire world was awaiting eagerly.
I watched the first match after (I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon when it took place). It was a disappointment of a Real Madrid team that did not seem to have confidence after their Copa del Rey victory, too much girly behaviour by the Barca players, and a referee that was good, but whose one mistake proved crucial: Pepe's expulsion. Barcelona won 0-2 in Madrid and the most memorable moment of this match was Lionel Messi's splendid second goal, although many will remember Mourinho's sour face.
Mourinho is surely a provocateur. As if these matches were not always surrounded by tension, he is only too happy to throw gasoline into the fire. In my view, it is part of the football entertainment today, but I am not sure it helps the players; there is simply too much spark in some of the players.
Real Madrid started the second match very well (this one, I watched at home), but as soon as Barcelona gets going with their passing game, the balloon runs out of air. It is characteristic for both the CL matches how superior Barcelona was in possession and in passing, and in spite of the good fight the Madrid side put up, the score was only 0-0 at halftime because of some splendid saves by the world's best goalkeeper, Iker Casillas. Still, 1-1 was enough for Barcelona, who may feel that they got a double revenge: against their archrivals whom they had never eliminated from a European semifinal, and against José Mourinho, who has been provoking them so much, besides coaching Inter when the Italian side eliminated Barcelona in last season's CL.

This foursome will surely go into history, as in a few weeks the ultimate rivalry of these two sides was put to the test. However, it further underlines the enormous problem this is for the "Scottish" Spanish league: it is effectively a two-team league. The rest of the sides are only in it for the spoils of the big ones (both sport-wise and economically). The Spanish league is a bore and it will continue to be, except when these two sides meet, as much as any football fan should love to see them play.