Saturday, March 26, 2011

Euro qualifiers

I am delighted to say that I have found a nice bar to watch football and drink beer in Caracas, with a great atmosphere, down-to-earth friendly crowd, and most important, beer. It was there I watched Spain's qualifier against the Czech Republic. After many years of success, the Czech have become a quite ordinary team, and Spain's world champions dominated completely. Still, in spite of the fact that David Villa with 2 goals became the most scoring player in the history of Spanish national teams, Spain seems to have an attacking problem! With a possession of 80% and numerable passes, it is surprising that the team does not kick on target more often, and their 2-1 victory seems way too small, also considering that the Czech's were ahead at halftime, after only shooting on target once!
The world champions play well, but one must also consider that they were the team in the history of World Cups that won with scoring the least goals! They are not defensive in the traditional sense of the word, but their defensiveness lies in their extraordinary amount of possession.
There is no doubt Spain will qualify from their easy group, but it will be interesting to watch them against some of the stronger opponents!

Denmark and Norway were playing in Oslo in their qualifying group in a clash of teams that is always bound to bring forth Scandinavian rivalry. I watched the match on Arab TV on my computer, and was happy to see a Danish side that played intelligently and held possession against a Norwegian team that as always, plays some of the most primitive and boring football in the world (if Norway had been the birthplace of football, it would never have become a world sport, but would rather be as popular as cross-country skiing), but are always dangerous. Denmark went ahead, and seemed in control, but in the end the match ended 1-1, a fine result for Denmark, although from watching the match, the Danes should have decided the match. Christian Eriksen, the young talented Danish playmaker is still too young, over-eager, and not cool enough when it counts.
Norway is leading the group with Portugal in second spot, but I do not believe they will hold on to that place. In the end, the battle for second spot after Portugal will take place in Copenhagen between these same Scandinavian rivals.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A very bad weekend

I was not expecting, but merely hoping that Brøndby could pull a surprise against FC Copenhagen. I spite of leading 0-1, it was not to be, and FC Copenhagen own 3-1. Then it was Valencia's turn to round off a bad weekend: at home to Sevilla Valencia needed a victory to keep ahead on third spot, but in a match full of both offensive and defensive mistakes (except by goalkeeper Guaita), Sevilla won 1-0.
I can't wait for it to be Monday...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The last quarterfinalists

The last seven years mighty Real Madrid has been unable to make it to the quartefinals of the Champions League, but 2011 finally saw them get through. Under José Mourinho the team is as good as it has been for years, and one of the teams that has often been a stumbling block, Olympique Lyon, was dispatched with a well-played and offensive 3-0 victory. Karim Benzema scored yet another goal, and is really in a great form at the moment. No doubt that whoever they will face in the quarterfinals, it will be hard, but Real Madrid is hungry.

Chelsea progressed on 0-0 in one of the most boring matches in Champions League history against a team that played in pink shirts.

The defending champions of Inter Milan were the sensation of the round. After losing 0-1 in Milan, and being 2-1 down against Bayern Munich, the Italians managed to turn the entire game around, and ended winning 2-3, and making it to the quarterfinals. No doubt a disappointment for Bayern Munich, who are having a dismal season, but who can only thank themselves for the enormous chances they missed in the first half against Inter.
Inter Milan is keeping Italy's flag high, and are still defending their title!

Finally, Manchester United made it to the quarterfinals after defeating Olympique Marseille 2-1 on two goals by "Chicharito" Hernandez. The win was not surprising, but Manchester United didn't look that superior and had to fight for the victory. It will be interesting to see them against a better opponent in the quarterfinals.

But these are the teams that will be in the pot on Friday:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bad week for Valencia

After falling in the Champions League midweek, Valencia only need to concentrate on keeping the third spot in the Spanish league in order to make it back to the Champions League next season. I got ready for the match against Zaragoza after the gym, a bit in the pool, and the Manchester United-Arsenal match (2-0, putting United in the semifinals of the FA Cup, and also a bad week for Arsenal). I got myself a six-pack of Solera-Verde beer, and was in the mood for a good Valencia match! But I stopped watching at half-time. Valencia played like a bunch of leg-less chicken. Nothing worked, and Zaragoza, who is struggling to get away from the relegation area on the table, won 4-0. Valencia had not lost by four goals since 2008, to FC Barcelona.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More quarterfinalists

It seems that all Italian teams are on the way out of the Champions League: today it was AC Milan. After losing 0-1 at home to Tottenham, the Italians were unable to score in London, and 0-0 was enough for the English to progress to the quarterfinals for the first time ever. Last Italian team left is Inter, who lost 0-1 at home to Bayern Munich, so they will surely have a difficult time keeping up Italy's place in the Champions League.

Schalke 04 defeated Valencia 3-1 to make it to the quarterfinals. On a personal note, this is of course disappointing, but I knew it would be hard after 1-1 in Valencia, and knowing the fact that Valencia has always had it difficult with German sides. That said, Schalke 04 are surely a strong team that will give any team a good fight!
It was to be no different, but I am happy that Valencia this season, after selling out previous' season's stars, did it far better in the CL than I was expecting, and that they seem to be heading back there next season.
Amunt Valencia!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Barcelona and Shakhtar

I think that most people were expecting that Barcelona would be able to defeat Arsenal, which they also did, 3-1 tonight, to qualify for the quartefinals of the Champions League. What less people, including myself, were probably not expecting is that Arsenal would play so bad! In spite of a bad referee, 3-1 was pretty lucky, although Barcelona's attack was also somewhat inefficient; David Villa had a really bad day and Manuel Almunia had a great day in Arsenal's goal after he came in as a substitute. Still, it seems incredible that Arsenal managed to score a goal, when they didn't even have a shot on goal: their goal was an own-goal by Barcelona's Sergio Busquets where he seemed to have had a brain diahrrea, heading it into his own goal.
Arsenal are a great team, and their victory in the first match was well-deserved. However, after tonight's disappointing match, they will not be missed in the quarterfinals.

Shakhtar Donetsk is one of those brilliant but rather unknown teams, that has only become better and better over the last seasons. This season they are undefeated at home, where they have also not lost for more than two years! It was therefore looking good against a lame Roma side whom they had defeated 2-3 in Rome. Although Roma had its possibility with a missed penalty kick, Shakhtar Donetsk was otherwise brilliant and deservedly won 3-0. Roma's players resorted to violent frustration, but a friendly referee forgave them what should have been red cards.
Roma will not be missed, but any team that faces Shakhtar Donetsk in the quarterfinals should not underestimate this strong Ukrainian side!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Excellent Liverpool

Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish is on the rise. Some of the new signings of the season, notably Raul Meirelles, and lately Luis Suarez, have blended well into the team. Today, Liverpool played their rivals of Manchester United, who is leading the league, in what was an expected match in the English Premier League. And this time, Liverpool was simply much better than a quite lame Manchester side: 3-1 was not one goal too little. All goals were scored by the Dutchman Dirk Kuyt, but what mostly characterised the match was an excellent team effort that made Machester United look ordinary.
Liverpool has had a habit of playing well against the big teams, but then pull bad results against smaller teams. It remains to be seen whether Kenny Dalglish can break this habit, as Liverpool is again looking towards the top five spots of the league. After today's victory, there is surely reason to be optimistic for Liverpool.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

While I was gone

I have been travelling, and although watching football as much as possible, have not been able to post much here. Still, many interesting things have happened in the world of football!
  • In the Italian Serie A, AC Milan and Napoli played a match where the southerners had the chance of taking over the first spot. However, they faced a concentrated Milan side where Brazilian Pato was extraordinary and Milan won 3-0 to become entrenched at the first spot, where only a rather unstable Inter seems able to threaten them for the title.
  • The team of the moment is surely Germany's Borussia Dortmund. Last week they defeated Bayern Munich, in Munich, 3-1. They are a young, hugely talented side who are now heading straight for the Bundesliga title!
  • In Spain, Barcelona has again pulled a bit more away after Real Madrid only managed 0-0 with La Coruña. In spite of winning in Valencia, Barcelona is looking a bit more shaky, also looking ahead at the play-off match in the Champions League with Arsenal.
  • The Champions League started with excellent matches. Arsenal's 2-1 victory against Barcelona was excellent, and although my sympathies surely lie in Catalunya, I hope that Arsenal can put up a great fight! I was in Aruba when I saw Lyon and Real Madrid play 1-1, ahead of what will be an interesting match in Madrid. Also, I was unashamedly delighted to see that Chelsea defeated FC Copenhagen, although at the same time, I am nervous about Valencia's options after 1-1 with Schalke 04, no matter how much I sympathise with Raul!
Anyway, back to work and to football!