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!