Friday, March 16, 2012

A great Bilbao victory

I had not watched the first leg of the UEFA Europa League match where Athletic Bilbao to everyone's surprise defeated Manchester United 2-3 at Old Trafford. Tonight's match, in San Mames in Bilbao, I nevertheless managed to see. And I saw what I had read about: a great Athletic Bilbao team that was superior to a too- disillusioned Manchester side. The 2-1 victory was only too small, and Manchester should thank Wayne Rooney's spectacular late goal for the small comeback.
Seen over the two matches Bilbao has been superior, and it is becoming a very interesting team to follow under the charismatic Marcelo Bielsa. In Bilbao, a team with strong Basque nationalist credentials that only wants players of Basque heritage, Mr. Bielsa has a strong and well-organised youth school that forms the base for creating the type of attacking football that he wants to play. Against Manchester United we have now seen it, and it will be very interesting to see whether over the longer run, Athletic Bilbao can become a much needed challenger to the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. Personally, I believe that they will be much more likely challengers than teams like Valencia, Malaga or Atletico Madrid.
This closes a bad European season for Manchester United, who is surely not used to being out of European football this early! They still have the Premier League title to fight for, and they are bound to give it all in that fight against the other Manchester team, City.
Manchester City are not going to be busy either though: today they also exited European football after only managing to defeat Sporting Lisbon 3-2, and were eliminated on away goals.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Messi five, Leverkusen 1

I am becoming more annoyed at Barcelona, but I do not believe that anyone can doubt Lionel Messi's genius after a night like tonight, where he (with some help from his teammates) trashed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1.
Barcelona had won the first match 1-3 in Leverkusen, and I must admit that I had doubts whether even to watch a match that would undoubtedly have as much excitement as paint drying. Still, I turned on the TV and let the match go as I did other things. In the end, one could not but help watching, even against a very poor Leverkusen side, awaiting for Messi's fifth goal that I think everyone knew would come, to become the first player ever to score five goals in a Champions League game.
Messi is a record-breaker, soon to become the most scoring player in the history of FC Barcelona, and well, to the rest of us, we are just without words.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The good, the bad and the surprise

Jose Pekerman had his debut as Colombian coach with a good 0-2 away victory against Mexico in a friendly match yesterday. Colombia seemed to play with more discipline and were cool-headed in the most difficult situations, taking advantage of their stars, who played with heart, perhaps wanting to prove to the new coach what they were worth. They also took advantage of their strong striking power with goals by Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao and Lecce's Juan Guillermo Cuadrado.
Undoubtedly this victory will give Colombia an important boost of confidence as they begin a new interesting era under Pekerman.
Colombia were good last night!

Venezuela has over the last year had one of its best footballing periods ever, and in my view, it started with a match last June against Spain in Puerto la Cruz. In spite of the 0-3 defeat, Venezuela played a good match against the defending world champions, and when they corrected the silly mistakes that gave Spain the victory, Venezuela went on to surprise everyone at the Copa America, making it to their first semifinal ever. Since, they have also started the South American world cup qualifiers, giving the few Venezuelans justified hope that they can make it to Brazil in 2014.
They will not make it, nor will they be missed, if they play like they did last night against Spain. Spain won 5-0, without a sweat, with three goals by Roberto Soldado, who even missed a penalty! Venezuela was bad, in particular in defense, where they made basic mistakes and were continually outrun made to look by clowns on the flanks. If a match against the world champions cannot motivate a team, then nothing can, and I doubt after last night that Venezuela has the edge that will be necessary to take them to Brazil.
Venezuela were bad last night.

Jurgen Klinsmann is one of the most exciting, yet debatable, coaches in international football, and after he was made coach of the USA, with full control of all teams, many have wondered whether he was the right man to take the USA, with its enormous potential, to the next level of international football. Klinsmann did not start well, but the team has been getting steadily better as Klinsmann finds the right players. In January, I watched USA versus Venezuela, and found the way Klinsmann was trying to play quite intelligent and refreshing. Last night, Klinsmann played a friendly match against the four-times World Champions from Italy in Genoa, and Klinsmann got his first big scalp as USA coach; USA defeated Italy, 0-1 on a goal by Fulham's Clint Dempsey. Although one may say that Italy's coach, Cesare Prandelli, made a lot of experiments, one should not take away this historical result, the first time ever the USA has defeated Italy!
It will continue to be very exciting to follow Klinsmann in the USA.
USA's victory was the surprise.