Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best players of 2012

This is my personal list of favourite players of 2012:

  • 10) Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo is one of the most gifted players of our time, but that is also what makes him so frustrating. He had a marvelous season for Real Madrid when they took the Spanish title, but it seems he only glows when things go well for the team. Perhaps it is a personality or attitude problem, but he will not become one of the best in the world even though he could.
  • 9) Miroslav Klose: At a time where you see more assholes than gentlemen in international football, Klose is a marvelous rarity. The veteran has done very well in Lazio, which is in second place in Serie A, but I mostly include him for a goal he scored against Napoli, where he got the referee to disallow it by pointing out to him that he had scored by hand! A true sportsman!
  • 8) Robbie van Persie: One of the most noted transfers was when Arsenal captain van Persie changed to Manchester United this summer. Both in Arsenal and in Manchester the Dutchman has been a goal machine, and he has been a huge contribution to Manchester United's first spot in the Premier League in the fall.
  • 7) Didier Drogba: One of the reasons that Chelsea has not been as good in the fall is the absence of Didier Drogba who retired to play in China after bringing glory to Chelsea by scoring both in the FA Cup final and in the Champions League final. He is not only missed by Chelsea fans but by any football fan who loved to see this absolutely brilliant striker!
  • 6) Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Ibrahimovic is a unique player. Which other player has given birth to a verb, "Zlatanera"?  He was scoring a lot of goals for AC Milan before his change to Paris St. Germain, where he is currently the top scoring player in the French League as Paris takes first spot. Also, he scored what is probably the most memorable goal of the year in a friendly match against England in November.
  • 5) Xavi: Xavi continues to be the mid-field general of both FC Barcelona and Spain, two of the best teams in the world, not least for his impressive vision.
  • 4) Radamel Falcao: The Colombian striker is perhaps the best striker in the world at the moment. In a revived Atletico Madrid side he has been a goal machine, leading them both to the Europa League title, the UEFA Supercup and a second place in the Spanish league, where his scoring record this season is only second to the mighty Messi.
  • 3) Andrea Pirlo: When the Italian veteran changed from AC Milan to Juventus in 2011 it seemed as if he were reborn. He was the outstanding midfield general on a side that in 2012 went on to win their first Serie A title since 2003, and in the Euro 2012 he was simply superb in leading an Italian side that played a more offensive football than other Italian sides was playing. He would have been the best player of the tournament had he not been dwarfed by the mighty Spanish in the final.
  • 2) Andres Iniesta: It is a pity that the brilliant and elegant Andres Iniesta still has often suffered from injuries during the year, as this prevents fans from admiring one of the greatest players of time. In FC Barcelona he still is outstanding and it was fully deserved when he was awarded the prize of best player of the tournament, as well as his award as UEFA best player of the year, ahead of his team-mate Lionel Messi!
  • 1) Lionel Messi: There is no way around it. This has probably been the best year for Lionel Messi ever (in spite of an absence of titles, with only the Copa del Rey). He was simply unstoppable in scoring goals, making it to 91 goals in the year, breaking legendary Gerd Muller's record. These goals have not only come for Barcelona, but also for the Argentine national team, where he seems to have finally become good after many years of disappointing.

Best teams of 2012

Here is my personal list of the teams I found to be the best in 2012!

  • 10) Tahiti: It was not on the big news much, but in June 2012 Tahiti won the Oceania Nations Cup. It was the first time ever this tournament was not won by Australia or New Zealand, and it will be fascinating to see the unknown Tahitians face some big nations in next year's Confederations Cup. 
  • 9) Mexico Olympic team: It was a hyped London Olympic football tournament, where some of the favourites showed little. The great favourite were Brazil, but the South Americans were prevented in the final from winning their first Olympic gold ever by a better Mexican side.
  • 8) USA Women's side: It is a pity that Women's football only get attention during the World Cup and Olympics. In the London Olympics the quality and drama of football undoubtedly came from the women, where the USA side ran away with gold after defeating the world champions of Japan in a great final. It was a tournament with some fantastic matches and a great winner.
  • 7) Manchester City: Usually the great team in Manchester has been United. But with huge investment by wealthy Arabs Manchester City overtook their neighbours and took their first Premier League title since 1968 in a memorable match against Queens Park Rangers. They were a huge disappointment in the Champions League in the fall, where they fell in the first round, but are still second in the Premier League behind Manchester United.
  • 6) Chelsea: One has to admire when Chelsea got out of some difficult months in the spring by taking the FA Cup and the Champions League title. In the fall, when things started to go sour in the Premier League and in the Champions League, they just fired Roberto Di Matteo. Things seem to have improved a little with Rafa Benitez, but it does not take away that Chelsea is as much a soap opera as a football club...
  • 5) Juventus: The great Italian side won its first Serie A since 2003, and the team has been doing well in the Champions League where they were instrumental in the the elimination of the defending champions of Chelsea in the fall.
  • 4) Atletico Madrid: Over the last years there have only been two clubs in Spain, but now it seems Atletico Madrid, under coach Diego Simeone, may be able to threaten the duopoly. While finishing only 5th in the League, they went on to win the Europa League, and have maintained a second spot in the league throughout the fall.
  • 3) Borussia Dortmund: The German side only seems to be getting better and better. In 2012 they won the "Double" in Germany, winning the Bundesliga with most points ever won by a German champion. While they are currently trailing Bayer Munich and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, they topped a great year by winning their Champions League group in style ahead of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax Amsterdam. 
  • 2) Corinthians: Winners of the 2012 Copa Libertadores against Boca Juniors in the final, they went on to win the FIFA Club World Cup against Chelsea, the first time in five years it was not won by a  South American side.
  • 1) Spain: At the Euro 2012 Spain showed that there is really no threat to their hegemony on the international football stage. This was the third major tournament they won in a row and they won it in awesome style, in spite of the criticisms (including from myself) about their style, where they have too few goals to show for their immense possession.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Corinthians World Champion

Brazil's Corinthians have just become Club World Champions 2012 after defeating Chelsea 1-0 in the final in Japan on a goal by Paolo Guerrero. A fully deserved victory as Corinthians seemed like the team that most wanted to win the trophy; Chelsea were good in the first half, and had some good chances that were prevented by an excellent Cassio on the Brazilian goal. But Chelsea seemed not to have studied their opponents! A bit arrogant one might say, after they walked through Monterrey in the semifinal, but they seemed to have no idea about Corinthian's somewhat defensive counter-attacking style that made them win this year's Copa Libertadores. Corinthians is undoubtedly one of the best teams in the world, but Chelsea did not seem to realize that.
Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero was excellent, but in particular Paulinho and Emerson Sheik both were outstanding, and an important reason for Corinthians being able to call themselves World Champions!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

United on top in Manchester (and in England)

The Manchester derby between United and City was bound the be a great match, considering the wonderful players both teams have, their eternal rivalry and the fact that they are 1 and 2 in the Premier League respectively. City were on fire as the game started, but it was Wayne Rooney who put United ahead 1-0 and 2-0 in the first half, ending City's initial dominance, and distancing themselves on first spot.
But last year City won the title by fighting back in the last match, and it was no difference this time. When Carlos Tevez came in for Mario Balotelli it seemed it gave City a boost, and with goals by Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta, they got the match on 2-2, and City's hopes were clearly up as the match was coming to an end.
But in the last minute a free kick by Robbie Van Persie put United in front, giving them a victory that gives them a comfortable six-point lead in the Premier League table.
A great match; only bad thing was the behaviour of the Manchester city fans (why do we call them fans anyway?).

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The classy exit of the champions

The defending Champions League champions, Chelsea recently fired their coach, Roberto Di Matteo, after their latest defeat in the CL, 0-3 to Juventus. This meant that today they had to hope that Shakhtar Donetsk would defeat Juventus at home and themselves defeat FC Nordsjaelland. And under the new coach, Rafa Benitez, the defending champions did all they could to defend their title against a meager Danish side. 6-1 was the final score, but it was not enough.  Juventus won 0-1 in Donetsk, meaning that both the Italians and the Ukranians continue to the next round.
Chelsea are out, but it was a classy exit, and it will be interesting to see Rafa Benitez in his new (temporary) role as Chelsea manager.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Victors and losers

The group stages of the 2012-13 Champions League are coming to an end, and there were some interesting matches today.  In group C Malaga has been unbeaten and were sure to finish first before today's final match against Anderlecht. Things were different for the Belgians, who needed to win to at least get an Europa League spot. It did not help them that AC Milan lost 0-1 at home to Zenit St. Petersburg. Still, it was a splendid match in Malaga, where the Andalucians went twice ahead on two great goals by Duda, while Milan Jovanovic and Dieudonne Mbokani also scored two beautiful goals to equalize. In the end Anderlecht came really close to the victory but were prevented by goakeeper Idris Kamenei.
A great match and a pity to see Anderlecht out, but it will be equally interesting to follow a very interesting Malaga side in the next rounds. AC Milan follows them on second spot in spite of their defeat.
In group D Borussia Dortmund has been awesome and sealed their first spot by defeating a meager Manchester City side 1-0. The English champions are thus out of European football for the season, while Ajax squeezed into the Europa League with poor four points after being destroyed 4-1 by Real Madrid, where it was excellent to see the great Kaka score a beautiful goal for the Spaniards.
In group A Paris Saint Germain defeated FC Porto 2-1 in a group final to take first spot, while in group B Arsenal missed the first spot by losing 2-1 to Olympiakos (who makes it to the Europa League), but Schalke 04 takes first spot with a 1-1 result against French champions of Montpellier.
Tomorrow they will be playing the final matches of the last four groups.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Galaxy MLS champions

This year's MLS final was a repeat of last year's final between LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamos, and it was to be David Beckham's last match for the LA Galaxy. Whatever one thinks of Beckham (a pretty boy, yes, but an outstanding footballer, fighter and representative for his country, whose career is one of the most interesting ever in football) undoubtedly Beckham has had a huge influence on the growth of the MLS.
And the final was indeed an exciting and high quality match. Houston was best in the first half, but Galaxy also had good chances with the incursions by Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan on the passing by Beckham and Juninho. Donovan missed a huge chance in the first half, so it was instead Calen Carr who brought Houston ahead in the last minute of the first half when Adam Moffat totally tore apart the defense on a great pass.
In the second half Galaxy put more pressure on Houston, and fifteen minutes into the second half Omar Gonzalez equalized on a header after a Juninho cross (Omar Gonzalez was the best player of the match). Soon after a Robbie Keane goal was annulled for off-side, but the way was clear, and a few minutes later Galaxy was awarded a penalty when a Dynamo defender made an illegal save in the area, and Landon Donovan scored, clearing himself for his first half miss.
After this it did not look as if Galaxy could be shaken, and in the last minutes of the match Robbie Keane scored the 3-1 goal on a penalty kick. It seemed a bit strange that they would not have let David Beckham kick as a last homage to the great Englishman.
Nevertheless, the victory, and the well-deserved title, David Beckham's second was surely homage enough!